It’s A Tight Chase Race


(photo courtesy of Leon Hammack)

Even though Jimmie Johnson is in close proximity in the standings, Mark Martin subtly reminded the media that he is still leading the points in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.  As they, Martin and Johnson, put some distance between Juan Pablo Montoya (JPM), Kurt Busch, and Tony Stewart, that trio made their presence known at Dover with position gains that further defined the group trying to deny Johnson a record fourth championship in a row.

This year the margin that separates the top five drivers is 106 points.  Each of the top five teams came away from Dover with something to build on for the race this week at Kansas.  Montoya (JPM) moved into third place in the standings via a fourth place finish in the race at Dover.  Kurt Busch, the 2004 Cup Champion, ran to a drama- fifth place at Dover.  Remember his crew chief, Pat Tryson, is banned from the race shop except for the Tuesday post-race briefing.  Tony Stewart moved into fifth place in the standings with his  finish  of ninth in the race at Dover.  Of the rest of the competitors in the Chase, only Jeff Gordon gained on the leaders in the Chase.

Even tough Mark Martin is in the lead, it is of the slimmest margin, just 10 points!  To most observers that is most likely considered a dead heat, in view of the killer instincts of the  #48 Lowe’s Chevy race team!  Johnson and crew have won 15 out of the 52 total races ran during the Chase!  That is dominance, pure and simple!

The championship picture will start to sort itself after this Sunday.  There will probably be a couple of teams that will mathematically eliminate themselves form being a serious contender for  2009.  Nevertheless, the race from Kansas will be as exciting and as thrilling as it was last year when Carl Edwards tried to dive under Johnson, bounce off the wall and drive on to victory, but he failed!


The Rick Hendrick Story

Have you noticed that Tom Cruise has been spotted at several NASCAR races this season?  The TV cameras have picked Mr. Cruise out in the pits of several different Hendrick Motorsports teams this season. Now I remember that ol Tom made a really cool movie about NASCAR a few years ago titled,“” DAYS OF THUNDER. Well, my friend over at NASCAR Bits_And _Pieces, Stuff On Brusim (SOB), Bruce Simmons has uncovered  the reason!

It seems that old Cole Trickle from the movie “Days of Thunder”, aka Tom Cruise, has been  involved in making a documentary about Rick Hendrick and his racing empire of Hendrick Motorsports.  The TV documentary is entitled,” Together: The Hendrick Motorsports Story”.  It is scheduled to be broadcast just prior to the Pepsi 500 from Fontana, CA  at 1:30 pm ET on October 11,2009.

From the short trailor that I have embedded below, it appears to  be a really cool documentary and well worth your time to view it!



Richard Petty Motorsports Teams With a Saudi Prince!


(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)


Richard Petty Motorsports primary shareholder, George Gillett, has signed “an exclusive collaboration” for his stake in the team to Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Saud.  The Prince is a member of the Saudi Royal Family.  This agreement signed Tuesday forms a partnership that will see a NASCAR racing circuit and Richard Petty racing schools in the Saudi Kingdom and elsewhere in the Middle East.

“The Middle East sports market has immense growth potential as eager fans in the region demand access to more diverse, high caliber competition.  I am delighted, enthusiastic, and honored to have the opportunity to partner with such a visionary as His Highness Prince Faisal”, Gillett said after the  signing.

According to many however, the agreement signed Tuesday is the first step to Gillett selling his stake in Richard Petty Motorsports.

As the two were publicly confirming the agreement, behind the scenes, Gillett and Prince Faisal acting on behalf of the Saudi sports investment group F6 he chairs, have begun a process of ‘due diligence’, the examination of financial records, with the goal being that Gillett would be bought out by the end of the year.

“The memorandum of understanding with the George Gillett group will establish an exclusive partnership between F6 group, Liverpool FC and Richard Petty Motorsports team,” an F6 statement read.

The primary deal in the works actually centers on British football club Liverpool that Gillett owns a 50 percent stake in, but the deal would also include Richard Petty Motorsports. As for the British football club, Gillett couldn’t act independently of co-owner Tom Hicks and sell his 50 percent stake without the permission of the Texan. However, Hicks would be willing to allow 25 percent of the club to be sold, an executive familiar with the situation said on Sunday.

The Prince was at Anfield Stadium in England on Saturday as a guest of Gillett, who confirmed that he has secured funding from the Saudi prince for his NASCAR team and an agreement to build Liverpool-branded football academies in the Middle East.

“George Gillett is at the helm of some of the most powerful and celebrated sports brands in the world,” the Prince said. “F6 is energized about the strategic partnership with his groups and seeks to lead the way with our investment partners in identifying the brands, personalities, facilities, and media that will catalyze the evolution of sporting experiences in the Kingdom and beyond, thereby introducing thousands of quality employment opportunities within Saudi Arabia.”

The entire deal is reportedly worth up to $560 million.

Gillett entered NASCAR when he became a primary shareholder in the team once known as Evernham Motorsports in 2007. The name was changed to Gillett-Evernham Motorsports. In January of this year, GEM merged with Petty Enterprises to form Richard Petty Motorsports.

The NASCAR Examiner

What do think about the Saudi Prince taking over Richard Petty Motorsports?  Is Richard Petty going to still be the King, or will he now be downgraded to a Prince?

Who will be their new primary sponsor……Camel cigarettes????

What are the ramifications of this agreement?????


Momentum and The Monster Mile

(photo courtesy of Leon Hammack)
Jimmie Johnson has emerged from the pack of twelve by winning the AAA 400 at Dover, and taking the first step towards winning his fourth consecutive championship in a row!  However, he still trails Mark Martin by 10 points in the championship standings.   Nonetheless, the Hendrick Motorsports #48 Lowe’s Chevy has established itself, as they have for the past four years, as the car to beat for the Championship!  Of the 52 races run so far in the six years of the Chase, Johnson and team have won 15!
Jimmie Johnson’s #48 Lowe’s Chevy was clearly the class of the field at Dover Sunday.  On his way to the victory, Johnson led 271 of the 400 laps that encompass the AAA 400 at Dover!  By having such a dominate car, Johnson, Knauss, and the whole #48  Lowe’s Chevy team has sent a message very loud and very clear to the other 11 Chase contenders!  That message simply states,” we are here, come and get us”!
Could this be the year that history is made with Johnson’s four consecutive championships?  Could this be the year that the oldest champion in NASCAR history is crowned with Mark Martin?  Could Jeff Gordon finally caps off “the drive for five”?  Will this be the year the crowns its first driver/owner since Alan Kulwicki won the championship in 1992?
What do you think?
The answer will unfold in the next eight weeks!

Dover Is Kind To Johnson!


(photo by Leon Hammack)

Because the Hendrick Motorsports #48 Lowe’s Chevy has been so good at short and intermediate tracks in the final 10 races of the year, the Chase tracks, however his great finishes at Dover have been somewhat overlooked.  The defending 3-time champion is looking for his first sweep of Dover since his rookie season, 2002, where he led a combined 358 laps.  Five Chase starts at Dover have brought him a win in 2005 and two other top 10’s.

Johnson was the dominate car in May, leading 298 laps and getting his fourth win in 15 starts there.  In spite of all the evidence that would lead one to believe that Johnson is the favorite for Sunday’s AAA 400 race, the driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevy takes a wait and see approach.

You can’t blame Johnson for being somewhat superstitious.  None of the fall Dover winners have gone on to win the championship, Greg Biffle was the latest example winning the 2008 race.  After all Johnson is trying to become the only driver to win 4 consecutive Championships in a row!

But the #48 Lowe’s team has already made history in the Chase and has reason to be confident in their ability to break “the curse”.  While Johnson would like to sweep at Dover, it is not necessary.   However, a good finish at Dover would put the team in a good position to break through at the 1.5 mile tracks of Kansas and Lowe’s.

If history serves this reporter well, Johnson has won 14 of the 51 races that compose The Chase to The Cup since it was conceived!  Does that make Jimmie Johnson the favorite for the 2009 Championship?  You tell me!  Look where he is standing  in  the Chase standings, 2nd position just 35 points behind the leader.

What do you think about Jimmie Johnson’s chances of making history by winning four consecutive championships?


Is Busch Toast?


(photo by Leon Hammack)

Kurt Busch is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan.

At this point of the 2009 season the #2 Miller Lite Penske Racing Dodge race team is resembling the yearly struggles that haunt those Cubbies and their clubhouse struggles that ensue!  After the Richmond race, it was acknowledged that his crew chief, Pat Tryson, was leaving the team and heading to Micheal Waltrip Racing’s #56 Napa Toyota driven by Martin Treux, Jr in 2010.

Tryson has come out publicly last week stating that his departure from Penske Racing has nothing to do with Kurt Busch.  But listening to the team scanner during the Louden race would indicate that “the driver/crew chief chemistry” has turned into a NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST! The team radio transmissions from the Louden race indicates that Busch and Tryson may, in fact, have some serious issues!  Additionally, Penske has banned Tryson from the Penske Racing facility except, for the Tuesday team meeting.  Pat Tryson has been effectively separated from the entire team, except at the Tuesday meeting and the race track.

It appears that the #2 Penske Miller Lite Dodge is in a downward spiral out of control at a time when the team is trying, in vain now,  to win the 2009 championship!

How can this team survive the deep division?


Could This Be The New Champion?


(photo by Leon Hammack)

With all the attention focused on the 50 year old, twice returned out of semi-retirement, Mark Martin, the #11 JGR FedEx Toyota driven by Denny Hamlin has quietly surged into a contenders role!  Because the team scored a win at “the last race of the regular season”, Richmond, momentum has moved into their race shop!  In the races leading up to The Chase For The Cup, Hamlin’s team has scored 4 top 10’s and 2 top 5’s.  And did I mention that Hamlin finished second at Louden, and is tied with Jimmie Johnson for second place 35 points behind Mark Martin!

In order to be a contender all the way to the finale in Homestead, Hamlin must come out of Dover with a great finish.  Going onto this weekend’s race, Hamlin has four consecutive finishes outside the top 35, including a last place finish in June 2008!  According to NASCAR  statistics, Hamlin has 7 Dover starts with an average finish of 22.1 and leading only 61 laps!  Those statistics are not exactly sterling for this championship contending team.  It is imperative that they overcome this tendency!

Still the entire #11 FedEx JGR Toyota team is extremely upbeat, especially Denny Hamlin.  “We are really good and getting better and I think that sets up for a good run at Dover”, Hamlin reveals.  It’s important that we have a good finish, but at Dover it’s important just to finish”, Hamlin adds.

Even though NASCAR has moved their celebration banquet from New York City to Las Vegas starting this year, if the #11 FedEx JGR Toyota team gets their wish it will be held at, you guessed it, DENNY’S!!

Do you think that this team has a viable shot at winning the championship?  What do you think?


Youth Be Damned!


(photo by Leon Hammack)

Fall is in the air and the temperature in the Northeast is cooling down.  That is, all but the temperature at New Hampshire International Speedway!  Sunday the racing was BLISTERING HOT for one 50 year old driver of the #5 Hendrick Motorsports Kellogg’s/Carquest Chevy, named Mark Martin.

The Chase is on and the racing was hot, fast, and furious.  The 12 Chase contenders came out of the box smoking.  The racing throughout the 300 laps race was both hard and very clean, considering what is at stake at the end of this 10 race segment.

The sentimental “dark horse” just struck one for the old guys!  This one race does not the Chase make, but it is a start!  Remember last year, however, Greg Biffle started out the Chase with two victories only to peter out  in the end.

This race, the starting of the the crucial 10 race SPRINT to the Cup, is going to be laced with several sub-plots that, indeed, will hold our interests for the remainder of the next nine weeks!

Who will prevail at Homestead?  Will there be more “dark horse” winners?  Will history be made with a four-pete?  Will the oldest driver in NASCAR history win a championship?

What’s your take on The Chase to The Cup?


Let The Chase Begin!


Photo by Leon Hammack)

It is almost the beginning of fall in the Northeast when the leaves turn spectacular colors and the road become clogged and snakelike similar to a huge line of ants marching away with their “bounty”.  But this weekend the roads will be clogged with NASCAR fans heading to Louden,N.H, which marks the annual start of  The Chase to The Cup for the  NASCAR faithful!

The sacred 12 have been cast in stone for this annual affair.  But who will prevail at Homestead?  The question will take 10 weeks to answer with, most likely, a few twists and turns in the journey to The Cup.

It appears that the consensus “talking heads” , myself included, think that the front-runners for this year’s Championship are Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Tony Stewart.  Each one of these teams would bring their own flare if they were able to capture the 2009 Sprint Cup Championship.

For Jeff Gordon, it would complete his “drive for five” Championships.  Most likely his last great opportunity, in light of his chronic back problems.  Could Jimmie Johnson complete something that has never been done in the entire 60 years history of NASCAR, 4 championships in a row?  Tony Stewart could be the first owner/driver to win the Sprint Cup Championship since Alan Kulwicki did it in 1992.

There are three “dark horses” that could steal the show in this year’s Chase for The Cup.  The sentimental dark horse is  the 50 year old, Mark Martin.  Another dark horse for this year seems to be the former Formula One driver, JPM, Juan Pablo Montoya.  But the dark horse that just might have the best potential to upset the entire fleet is Brian Vickers.  That team has scored more points in the last 10 races than any other team.

Whom ever you think has the best chance, the one thing that is factual, the team must put together 10 good races.  There are no mulligans!  If you are going to win the championship, top 5’s are a must!  Recall that last year Jeff Gordon averaged a 5.2 finish throughout The Chase and ended up in second place!

Let the Chase begin!


The 2009 Chase Analysis


(photo by Leon Hammack)

The pre-Chase season has ended!  All twenty six races in the 2009 pre-season are complete.  Now it time for the Top 12 to “pull your belts down tight, pull your gloves up over your elbows, flip your visor down, and get focused on the next 10 races”!  “It is time to let the Big Dog eat”!

I am going to try to look at the 12 drivers and handicap their chances, kinda sorta!

There are four teams that start 40 points out of first place.  Those teams are, the #42 Target EGR Chevy of Juan Pablo Montoya (JPM), the #39 Army Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy of Ryan Newman, the #15 3M Roush-Fenway Racing Ford of Greg Biffle, and the #99 Aflac Roush-Fenway Ford of Carl Edwards.  Of those four teams, keep your eye on the #42 Target Chevy of JPM!  That team has been very consistent in their last 10 races and could be a very dark horse in the Chase!  Cousin Carl has that delicate broken “loud pedal” foot that may prove to be a handicap for him as the Chase drags on.

There are three teams that sit 30 point out of first place.  Those teams are the #24 Dupont Hendrick Motorsports Chevy of Jeff Gordon, the #83 Red Bull Toyota of Brian Vickers, and the #2 Miller Lite Dodge of Kurt Busch..  Brian Vickers has scored the most points of any team in the last 9 races, keep your eyes on that team!   Jeff Gordon, a four-time Cup champion, has been very consistent in the finishes in the last half of the pre-season.  Kurt Busch, a past Cup Champion, is rebounding and could have something for the other 11 drivers.

The next group is 20 points back in the Chase.  The #9 Budweiser Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge of Kasey Kahne is just one week removed from a big victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway Labor Day Weekend.  The  #11 FedEx Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Denny Hamlin is coming off a very emotional and momentum type victory at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night.  That victory could give them something for Louden this weekend.

Just 10 points back of the leader is the #14 Office Depot Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy of two time Cup Champion Tony Stewart.  In this same group being 10 points back is the #48 Lowe’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevy of the current defending and 3 time Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson.  Jimmie Johnson has won 14 of the 50 races that have been held in the current Chase format!  That speaks volumes in and of itself!!  But can that team defy all odds and be the only team in NASCAR history to win 4 championships in a roiw?  Tony Stewart has slumped as of late in the season, but still a force to be reckoned with for the Chase.

Alone at the top of the Chase is the 50 years old KID, the #5 Kellogg’s/Carquest Hendrick Motorsports Chevy of Mark Martin.  That teams has been performing very consistently in the last 10 races of”the pre-season”.  Could this be the year that Martin wins his first Championship?  He has finished second on more than one occasion!

This is a very tough one to call!  However, the team that comes out of the box at Louden growling, biting, clawing, and fighting, just might have the best chance to take their team to Homestead with a lead in Chase!

What is your take on this years Chase?  Who is your favorite to win?