Cup Stuff Blog

Ruminating All Things NASCAR

Archive for August, 2008

Maybe it wasn’t the best move for Reed Sorensen…

Posted by Keith Murray on August 30, 2008

I just read on Jayski.com where Patrick Carpentier has said that he is pretty much a free agent. This will be the second time that Ray Evernham has not given a new driver the room and opportunity to grow. Casey Atwood was a child prodigy much like Reed is, and he was given one year – 2001 – to prove his worth before being pawned off to the (at that time) number 7 Ultramotorsports satellite team. Atwood was never really given the opportunity to succeed. He finished 3rd at the season-ending Homestead race after leading with just 5 laps to go and being passed by his teammate at the time, Bill Elliott.

Carpentier did not even make it halfway through the season this year before Ray essentially threw in the towel on the 10 car and Carpentier. That is going to put a lot of pressure on Sorensen to excel quickly. I think he can and will do it, but if he stumbles at all, he better hope the Ray Evernham that shows patience to Elliott Sadler is the same Ray Evernham he gets to deal with. Otherwise, he may just be the latest bundle of potential kicked to the GEM curb.

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NASCAR Drops The Ball Again With New Shootout Format

Posted by Keith Murray on August 29, 2008

You can see my article at http://www.insidethepitbox.com

I have watched with some amusement – and some frustration – this week as some of the TV pundits have talked about the new format of the Shootout and how good it is, and also how NASCAR is trying to reach out to the manufacturers. What they have done is turned what has in the past been an exciting race to kickstart the season into an absolute joke.

I have been to several Bud Shootouts in the past, and they are a lot of fun. After a few months of silent racetracks, I want to get back to watching some racing during the winter. I know we have a short off-season, but I remember how I felt back in January when Daytona testing was coming up and I did not want to miss anything that was going on and wanted every little scrap of news that I could find. And when the Bud Shootout came up, it was a great relief to finally be able to see some racing going again.

And now we have this joke being played on us. I knew when NASCAR allowed Bud to keep the Shootout but gave naming rights to the pole award to Coors Light that we would have problems on our hands. It is hard to get two sponsors to go along with the same idea; much less two sponsors that sell the same product trying to keep a format that has been here for years and working together. What were they going to do? Name it the Bud Coors Shootout and Pole Award?

Can we as fans keep at least one piece of tradition in this sport?? Brian France and the boys have taken away so much from the die-hard fans of old; so many traditions like the Darlington race on Labor Day (in exchange for the empty seats at Fonatana – watch this weekend; they’ll be there again) and great racing at Rockingham and North Wilkes, among many, many others. Then they throw out this new car in the name of parity and fairness. They take races away and spit on the heritage of racing in the South. They make drivers into little obedient puppets over the years, and then tell them at the beginning of this year that they want to see some emotion and give them leeway, then when two guys push each other around on the track, they get chastised and put on double, super-secret probation. Yeah. Like they are going to do something to those guys if they continue their little rivalry. Sounds like that woman in a restaurant this week that kept threatening her misbehaving son that this time she was really, really serious and he would be in big, serious trouble this time if he didn’t behave. Those threats keep coming and nothing ever happens. Besides, a little rivalry in this sport could bring some excitement back to the forefront.

I am so sick of hearing about all the race fans staying away because of the bad economy. First of all, this whole idea of a bad economy is being drummed up by the media to help their chosen candidate win a presidential election, but I digress. A race fan will find a way to get to the track if there is something to see and there is actually some racing going on at said track. And now instead of giving drivers some incentive to make a pole (I still remember Cousin Carl’s excitement at winning his first pole because he said he would get to race the Shootout the next year), we are going to get to watch an exhibition of the different manufacturers – the top six in owner’s points from each manufacturer. And instead of watching the guys that got it done with a very fast lap the year before, we get to watch guys that are going to finish the year outside the TOP 35 IN POINTS. If it were to be run based on the points right now, we would get the excitement of watching Jamie McMurray, and Travis Kvapil, and David Reutimann, and David Stremme (if he gets the 12 ride), and – gasp for excitement! – Michael Waltrip. How exciting is that!!! Nothing against those guys, but come on. Give me a break. I would rather watch 12 guys going around the track and fighting tooth and nail than to watch a bunch of field-fillers.

Come on, NASCAR. Instead of trying to squeeze every little corporate dollar from every different sponsor that you can shake down, you could have simply kept the pole award and the Shootout as a package deal and let Coors Light and Bud have a bidding war over who gets it. Instead, we have another instance of racing action suppressed and another reason for true fans of this sport to lose interest in the sport, and in this case, the startup event of the season. Good job, NASCAR. You continue to just squeeze what life is left out of this sport that we all love so dearly.

As always, please remember to pray for our troops in harm’s way whom give us the right to watch and complain about cars driving in circles. Also, be sure to check out my new blog at http://keith48.wordpress.com. Thanks for reading and God bless!

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Follow-up on Sorensen article

Posted by Keith Murray on August 27, 2008

In reply to an email from a reader, I made the following point and thought it would be good to put that here as well:

Sorensen has no real friends left at Ganassi. When Casey Mears left for Hendrick, Reed was the only stock car driver left in the fold. Suddenly, he had a couple of open-wheel foreigners for teammates – not exactly the good-ol’ boy types that Sorensen is used to having around him with his Georgia upbringing.

Sorensen just seems to have lost his will to win, and who knows why? My guess is that his being all alone in that world could have more to do with it than we can see from the outside, and as I said, a change of scenery could re-ignite that fire. Let’s just hope Ray Evernham has more patience with him than he did with Casey Atwood and (becoming more obvious) Patrick Carpentier. Otherwise, Reed could get kicked to the curb by GEM

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Edwards spins Busch out after Sharpie 500

Posted by Keith Murray on August 27, 2008

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Parting Ways Best For Sorensen, Ganassi

Posted by Keith Murray on August 26, 2008

Here is my column for insidethepitbox.com this week:

From the time he was 11 years old, Reed Sorensen has been winning races and championships and dominating in every series he has been in. That is, until he reached the NASCAR level. It is hard to believe that he is still only 22 years old. For this young driver, a change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered to resuscitate his fledgling career.

In 1997, at the age of 11, he won the national championship in the quarter midgets. The next year, after moving to the Legends division, he won 13 out of 25 races on his way to the southeastern championship. Not 13 top fives – thirteen WINS. For those of you that are math-challenged, that means he won more than half of the races that year. That is called ‘domination’, and he did it when he could still not legally drive a car on the highway. In 1999, he competed in 50 events – winning a whopping 30 of those. Over the next two years in the Legends division, he would rack up an astounding 84 victories. That is as many victories in two years as Jeff Gordon has in his entire, illustrious NASCAR Cup career.

In 2002, Reed moved up to the ASA division where he reeled off 7 top-ten finishes in his first 8 starts. In 2003, at the age of 17, Reed drove full-time in the ASA series and won the Rookie of the Year award that year. In 2004 he ran in the ARCA series, picking up his first win at Michigan International Speedway, and also ran five races in the Busch series for Chip Ganassi Racing finishing in the top ten three times in those 5 races including a fourth-place finish at Homestead.

That is an incredible resume for such a young driver. Yet, when Reed moved to Cup, he did not bring the success that he had in every other division leading up to that time. Of course, competition is a lot stiffer at the Cup level than any place that he had ever raced, but to put up such amazing numbers at such a young age and to have the kind of dominating success he had, one would think that would carry over to whatever level he ended up at.

Before you put the blame on Sorensen, keep in mind that in the last 6 years in Cup racing, CGR has only 1 win – that coming last year with Juan Pablo Montoya’s win at Sonoma. Chip Ganassi Racing has closed down the operations of the 40 team of Dario Franchitti indefinitely. Texaco is leaving after this year, ending one of the longest sponsorship relationships in NASCAR. These are all signs of a team operation that is in deep trouble financially.

Making this move could be the spark that both sides need to get their engines firing again. Sorensen can get a fresh start at Gilette-Evernham Racing and at the age of 22, he still has a lot of racing future ahead of him. He is a champion. He knows how to win. But talent alone does not win races. You need team chemistry – especially with your crew chief – along with many other factors to win in Cup.

For CGR, just getting a fresh face in there could push that team back to contention. I really don’t see where either side is to blame for a lack of performance on the track. We will know soon enough if Sorensen has what it takes to make it at the highest level of racing. He will definitely have some good equipment and some great minds to conspire with to see what they can accomplish. He certainly has one of the most impressive resumes of any driver to come along in quite some time. But a fresh start – for both sides – could be the ticket to a better future.

As always, remember to pray for our troops in harm’s way that are protecting our rights and our freedom.

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Carl Edwards gives away trophy from MIS win

Posted by Keith Murray on August 26, 2008

This is a great story:

Edwards gives MIS trophy to wheelchair-bound teen: A wheelchair-bound Michigan teen got a special gift from one of his heroes over the weekend. Pat and Teresa Byrnes took their son Cody to the Michigan International Speedway so he could see his favorite driver, #99-Carl Edwards, race. “Carl happened to be walking by and we gave him a thumbs up and Cody gave him a thumbs up and he saw his flag waiving on the back of Cody’s chair. And so he stopped, turned around and came back and he came over and he signed his wheelchair and he signed his shirt,” said Teresa Byrnes. The Byrnes were already excited that Cody got to meet his hero, but they weren’t prepared for what Carl Edwards told Cody next. “He looked at him and he said, ‘Hey buddy, I’ll tell you, if I win that trophy today, now that’s if I win, I’ll give you that trophy’,” Teresa recalled. The Byrnes say they began to realize Edwards could win the race when he moved from the 27th spot to first place in about 60 laps. Pat Byrnes says that’s the most nervous he’s ever been during a race. Edwards did win that race. Carl Edwards signed the trophy for Cody with the initials NGU, which means never give up. “Cody, everyday he wakes up and sees it. It’s like he’s realizing it’s really his and he’ll get excited and squeal, for someone to work so hard to get that trophy and then to say, ‘Here, you can have it’. That is the kindest gesture anybody has ever done,” said Teresa.(wlbz2.com)(8-26-2008) -posted from Jayski.com

Last year, Carl Edwards did a lot to harm his “aw-shucks,” good-guy image when he faked taking a swing at teammate Matt Kenseth. Kenseth made the comment that a lot of people were seeing the “real” Edwards with that little show. Edwards has always put forth the forementioned image and tried to maintain it – whether it is real or simply a facade. But this gesture to a disabled, teenage fan speaks volumes about the true character of Edwards. Hearing about this for the first time a week and ahalf after it happened makes me think that this was done away from the cameras and without any desire for publicity from it. It was a great gesture on the part of Edwards and he is to be commended for it.

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