Few believed that the drama of Dale Jr.’s switch to HMS before
the 2008 season would be toped; well this year’s silly season
may have done just that. An economic crisis added to the usual
driver frustration’s and sponsor troubles to create the perfect
storm. We saw a two time champion leave his only team to become
an owner driver, HMS acquiring yet another superstar, and an
influx of startup teams.
The drama started almost immediately with rumors of Tony
Stewart leaving the team that gave him his two Championship
teams to receive majority ownership of Haas racing to form
Stewart Haas Racing. An Interesting note, the owner and namesake
of Haas racing is currently incarcerated after committing tax
fraud. Stewart signed frustrated Penske motorsports Driver Ryan
Newman to drive the SHR ARMY no. 39 Chevy. Stewart will drive
the no. 14 Chevy with Old Spice and Office Depot as sponsors.
Meanwhile, Roger Penske signs David Stremme to fill
Newman’s vacated no. 12 dodge. This season the once blue Alltel
No. 12 will fly Verizon Wireless colors (Verizon wireless bought
Alltel during 2008) but have Penske Motorsports decals to comply
with Title Sponsor Sprint’s Grandfather Clause. Roger Penske
also ensured struggling sophomore driver Sam Cornish a top-35
owner’s points spot by buying Bill Davis motorsports and with it
the owners point of the former no. 22 Toyota. Bill Davis will
retain a minority interest in the rechristened Penske
Coach Joe Gibbs of filled Tony Stewart’s Home Depot no.
20 with Joey “Sliced Bread” Logano. Logano won in only his 3rd
Nationwide series start in 2008 and helped the Joe Gibbs no. 20
win the NWS owners championship. However the driver many have
dubbed the next Jeff Gordon has struggled in his few Sprint cup
starts near the end of the 2008 season. Joey Logano has the
potential to be great, but J.D. Gibbs decision to put him in the
cup series with so little experience posses a possible career
ending challenge, just ask Casey Atwood.
Mark Martin departed from both DEI and a part time
schedule, deciding to run the full 2009 season in Rick
Hendrick’s Kellogg’s no. 5. Martin has become the sentimental
favorite to win the 2009 Sprint Cup, but emotions aside what
makes this season any different than any other season where
Martin failed to deliver. Not to mention he will be starting
with a new team and competing with drivers half his age.
Mark Martin’s departure along with Paul Menard’s move to
Yates racing (taking his dad’s sponsor cash with him) left DEI
with four cars, there drivers, and one sponsor. Quite the
dilemma for what was once a true contender, the solution?
Merger. DEI merged with Chip Ganassi racing and Front Row
Motorsports to create Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. Perennial under
achiever Martin Truex Jr. joins Juan Pablo Montoya and Aric
Amirola for the full season, with John Andretti in the no. 34
making a Daytona 500 appearance and Who knows how much more
depending on sponsorship. EGR with drive Chevy’s, dropping
dodge another three cars.
In the same vein, Historic Petty Enterprises merged With
Gillette Evernham to Create Richard Petty Motorsports. Reed
Sorenson finds himself wheeling Petty’s own no. 43. Khane
remains in the Budweiser no. 9 and after a near lawsuit Elliot
Sadler stays in the no. 19. Surprise success A.J. Allmendinger
will drive the no. 44 dodge with limited sponsorship. A.J. will
try to run a full season but that is contingent on sponsors.
Prior to the RPM merger, GEM attempted to join the band wagon
and switch to Toyota, but
NASCAR nixed to move seeking to slow the declining number of
chargers in the garage.
At RCR, Casey Mears will Drive the Jack Daniels no. 07
while ’08 NWS Champion Clint Bowyer goes to the brand new
Cheerios no. 33. New sponsor Cheerios did not want Mears who had
driven for Kellogg’s last season driving their car,
necessitating the driver switch.
In the Ford camp, Yates racing expanded to include Paul
Menard in the no. 98 with his dad’s hardware chain as sponsor.
Hall of Fame Racing formed an Alliance with Yates leading to
Bobby Labonte driving the no. 96 Ask.com Ford out of the Yates
garage. Travis Kvapil Remains in the no. 28 while Gilliland is
out of the no. 38 Ford, with owners points going to Menard.
MWR’s David Reutimann got a number change, switching
back to the number 00 made famous by his father. JTG Daughtry
racing will race the no. 47 Toyota out of the MWR garage with
awesome aussie Marcos Ambrose behind the wheel. Scott Speed with
be Brian Vickers teammate ate Red Bull Racing in the no. 84.
As a result of mergers and closings there is an excess
of unemployed crew members and used cup cars. Numerous part
timers, as well as a couple of upstarts like Jeremy Mayfield
have taken advantage of this and committed to running the full
season with and without sponsorship. As of the Daytona 500 there
will be 44 full time teams, much more than anyone expected under
the economic climate. As of one week before the Great American
Race, 57 are entered to fight for the dream in Thursday’s