Thursday, October 05, 2006

Schrader has it.

In my earlier post on retirement, I suggested that drivers looking to scale back their schedules in anticipation of their retirement should share driving duties with a developping driver, so the team could remain competetive on a weekly basis and give them a chance for greater success as their career reach their twilights. Without a full time run for a team, you suffer from the Bill Elliott problem - Either race with an inferior team or look elsewhere.

While I still think Mark Martin has the right idea with running a full time Truck Series schedule next year, I remain skeptical about his chances on the Cup Side. Perhaps if he splits duties with Boris Said, something interesting could happen. Splitting the driver duties has served many a Cup driver well in the Busch series, where one week a top tier car will see a big name star like Kevin Harvick or Matt Kenseth, and the next it will be piloted by an up and coming rookie. This meshes well with the developing trend of splitting up major sponsorship deals with the same car -- One sponsor picks it up when the star is driving, and another gets it while the rookie is in the same car. It works equally well with a full time sponsor. The popularity of the star helps endear fans to the rookie, making it easy to root for the rookie so long as the car looks the same as a fan's favorite driver's car.

I can't call myself prophetic - I assumed it was inevitable. But I can't help but smile at the announcement the Wood Brothers made this week.

Schrader will pilot the number 21 for about half the season. The other half will likely go to Wood. (Duh.) It's a good arrangement. It makes sense for Schrader and for the Wood brothers.

With so many legends trying to find a graceful way to exit the sport, and so many sponsorship demands on cars, I see this becoming a major trend over the next few years - one that could radically alter the dynamics of many races as competetive teams go for broke in individual races without (as) much care for points for a couple years.

EDIT: Of course, a Ken Schrader / Ricky Rudd combo for the 21 in 2007 would be an old school fan's wet dream.

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