Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ginn-DEI Merger Fallout

A lot of people are talking about what the Ginn-DEI merger means to those two teams, the uncertain future of all sorts of drivers, and Ginn's role in the sport overall. I'm getting the feeling the millionaire real estate man has worn out his welcome in NASCAR, or at least destroyed all the good will he built up earlier in the year.

But the biggest, most immediate impact we'll see Sunday won't have anything to do with that. Aside from the question marks relating to Marlin and Nemecheck, this will dramatically change the qualifying situation for the "go or go home" teams. Sure, the 15 car now has Marlin's points, but that's just a swap, but in the end this deal means that 2 cars that were always threats to make the field are no longer there. Plus, I think Nemecheck was in 34th, so that should move the Wood Brothers up into the top 35 either for this week or at least by next week (assuming, of course, they make the race and Ginn doesn't sell the 13's points to someone else.)

That's gotta be a good feeling for the 21 folks, especially with Terry Labonte trumping Bill Elliott's champ provisional this weekend. (I guess I was wrong about Mikey maybe asking DW to drive his car.)

With two Ginn cars off the track, a lot of other folks outside the top 35 have to be a little more confident about making the Brickyard. Nothing's guaranteed, but Ward Burton and Jeremy Mayfield have to be a little more optimistic this week than last.

It'll be interesting to see how this all pans out.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

NASCAR Owner Points

Owner points are very important for many teams, especially those around the top-35 mark because of Nextel Cup's guaranteed spot for those cars. So if the race for the win or the chase is a snoozer on Sunday, watch closer and see the desperate struggle some teams are in to survive. Their battles are often more entertaining than the leaders, because you know for these guys its do or die. It's only a matter of time before sponsorship money dries up for some of those outside the 35. To steal a phrase from strategy guru Robert Greene, these teams are on "death ground." They will go further, try harder, and take more risks because the survival of the team is at steak.

Despite all this drama, and the time dedicated to talking about it on TV, NASCAR owner points don't seem to be prominently displayed on the website. But they are there, and they are updated after each race. So follow this link and bookmark it for the 2007 season:

Right now, Kyle Petty's 45, Ginn & Nemecheck's 13, and the improbably successful number 70 team with Sauter behind the wheel take up 33, 34, and 35th respectively. Right on the outside looking in is the Wood Brother's 21. Now piloted by Bill Elliott, they have the advantage of Elliott's champion provisional. Which is good, because: Bill rarely wrecks, does well at intermediate tracks like we're in right now, and he often qualifies on time anyways. The choice is incredibly smart when you consider that they're 200 points behind the 35th position. So long as Elliott drives the car, you should see them in the field each Sunday.

So that leaves the 37th place team (only a couple points behind the 21) as the most desperate. Their pilot is the perennially underestimated Dave Blaney, who would easily be a multi time winner if luck were on his side a few times. Unfortunately, bad luck continues to plague this team. Despite Blaney's ability to wrangle it into the field each Friday in qualifying, a series of tire blowouts, accidents, and part failures leave them on the outside looking in.

Michael Waltrip's 55 is fucked this year. The penalty from Daytona left them in the negative for a good chunk of the season, especially after a 7 week long string of missed races. Waltrip's season has been the strongest argument against the top 35 rule. Would there have been additive in the engine of his car at Daytona had he been able to simply qualify his way in? The man is almost as good as Earnhardt on restrictor plate tracks. They were made desperate by the top 35 rule from the get go, being a new team with no owner points. They gambled and lost. Many times, Waltrip has qualified in the top 25, yet failed to make the race because of the rules.

Now he's so far behind, he has no hope of making the top 35 this season. Unless they did something drastic. Now that Fox's coverage of the season is done, do you think Mikey will get desperate enough to call older brother Darrell (and past champion) out of retirement to race the rest of the season, at least guaranteeing them a spot in 7 or so races? I doubt it would happen. I don't think Mikey has the humility to ask.

What I can say is, the race in the back of the pack is often times more interesting than that at the front. Pay attention.