Come down to meet Canadian NASCAR racing sensation, J.R. Fitzpatrick

August 25, 2009

Fans are invited to Ride the Razor, the summer’s most extreme ride, to win NASCAR prize

Schick and J.R. Fitzpatrick are inviting Montreal NASCAR fans to live on the edge and Ride the Razor. The giant 6 x 6 foot Razor – that’s right, a 6 x 6 foot Razor – will take fans for a spin, challenging riders to hang on as it spins, flexes and pivots for the summer’s most extreme ride.

Only the smoothest moves will keep riders mounted, while giant cushioning protects them from any scrapes and bumps. J.R. Fitzpatrick, Canada’s youngest-ever NASCAR Champion, will be on-site to demonstrate how to ride the razor, judging fans skills and signing autographs.

The Schick Ride the Razor will be at the track all weekend but fans are invited to join Fitzpatrick at the Schick Ride the Razor on Friday between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. and on Saturday between 1:45 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. as he watches participants cut it close at the wildest, most extreme ride out there this summer. It’ll be a sharp competition to see who can hang on the longest.

Those who hang on the longest with flare and style will win prizes including NASCAR tickets.
Think we’re kidding? Check out the link to see what really happens when you Ride the Razor.

www.xtreme3.ca

WHO: J.R. Fitzpatrick, Schick Ride the Razor and NASCAR fans

WHEN: Friday, August 28, 2009

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

J.R. Fitzpatrick will be on-site for autographs, to Ride the Razor and to judge which fans have the best moves

Saturday, August 29, 2009

1:45 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

J.R Fitzpatrick will be on-site for autographs

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Fitzpatrick, a 21-year-old Canadian racer from Cambridge, Ontario, holds the distinction of being Canada’s youngest ever NASCAR Champion, having won the CASCAR Championship in 2006, posting one win, five podium finishes and two pole positions. Schick is the title sponsor of Fitzpatrick in the Edmonton and Montreal Canadian Tire NASCAR Series and major sponsor at the Montreal NASCAR Nationwide series races. The Schick logo will appear on Fitzpatrick’s racing suit. The sponsorship is being activated by BOOM! Marketing, headquartered in Toronto.

About J.R. (John Ryan) Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick began the 2009 season with a fourth-place finish in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway, where he led the most laps. This lead to his current opportunity, driving for Kevin Harvick, Inc.’s championship winning team in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Fitzpatrick has eight NASCAR Canadian Tire Series starts on road tracks: he has two wins, five top fives and six top tens. In 2007, Fitzpatrick was voted “Most Popular Driver” at the NASCAR Canadian Tire series in 2007 online by NASCAR fans in Canada.

At age 17 he achieved three top-five, five top-ten finishes and won his first race.  Fitzpatrick, at 16, finished 11th in the CASCAR Super Series points and was second in the Rookie of the Year points.  Fitzpatrick started his racing career in karts and went through the CASCAR junior ranks and then to Lake Model stock cars.  Fitzpatrick utilizes computer games to learn new tracks.  He also wrenches on his own CASCAR cars.  Fitzpatrick was born May 9, 1988, is single and resides in Cambridge, Ontario.

American Le Mans Series Headlines Full Weekend of Racing at Mosport

August 24, 2009

by Lee Bailie With the end of summer approaching, race fans will have the chance to close out their racing seasons with one more action-packed weekend when the Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport featuring the American Le Mans Series returns, Aug. 27-30.

Canada’s biggest sports car race of the year will see battles for season championships on the Series fastest circuit. In the LMP1 class, two Acura-powered teams will continue their season-long competition at Mosport with David Brabham and Scott Sharp of Patrón Highcroft looking to extend their lead points lead with a second straight victory, following their impressive win at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. In hot pursuit are Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud of de Ferran Motorsports, who had their four-race winning streak snapped by Brabham and Sharp in Wisconsin. Toronto’s Tony Burgess will try to spoil the Acura duel when he suits up for the Autocon Motorsports Lola entry.

Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz continue to lead the way in the LMP2 class in their Lowes Fernandez Racing Acura, but the Dyson Racing Mazda of Marino Franchitti and Butch Leitzinger will be aiming to notch their second class win of the season at Mosport while they attempt to hold off their sister car, driven by Chris Dyson and Guy Smith.

In GT2, the battles between teams and marques should be at a fever pitch, as the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche entry of Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Long try to maintain their points lead after a disappointing fourth place in-class finish at Road America. Among their many challengers at Mosport will be the two BMWs of Rahal/Letterman Racing who are coming off first and second place results, along with the two new Corvette Racing C6.R’s and the Risi Competizione Ferrari co-driven by former champion Jaime Melo.

In addition to the American Le Mans Series, six exciting open wheel and sports car and GT championships will take to the track at Mosport featuring many established and up-and-coming Canadian and International drivers.

Making its return to Mosport for the first time since 1994 is the Cooper Tires presents the Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda. This developmental open-wheel series showcases young stars looking to make the jump to Indy cars. Mosport’s Atlantic history is a long and storied one, with a list of past winners that includes Bill Brack, Bobby Rahal and David Empringham among others.

The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and Formula BMW Americas, are U.S.-based open-wheel series that feature rising young Canadian stars such as Gianmarco Raimondo and Alex Ellis in Formula BMW and David Ostella and Michael Furfari in Star Mazda.

The VW Jetta TDI Cup moves over to the Grand Prix weekend after its successful debut at Mosport during last year’s Victoria Day SpeedFest, with a field of up-and-coming drivers competing in identical race-prepared, clean diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta TDIs. Among the talented drivers from across North America that will be at Mosport are Canadians David Richert, Andrew Cordeiro and Jake Thompson.

The IMSA Patron GT3 Challenge featuring Porsche 911 GT3 cars and the sportscar prototypes of the IMSA Lites series featuring Barrie, Ontario’s Kyle Marcelli, round out the weekend schedule.

Mobil 1 presents The Grand Prix of Mosport features lots of fun things away from the track for fans to see and do as well, such as Tech Talks, Driver Chats and autograph session with American Le Mans Series drivers and teams and vendors selling authentic race-related merchandise. The American Le Mans Series race will also feature its famous Open Grid Walk on race day, which allows spectators to mix with teams and drivers on track minutes before the green flag drops. This feature of ALMS racing is unique amongst top-level racing series and gives fans an up-close, interactive experience.

Exciting race week activities are also in store with Mosport’s RaceFest at Brookfield Place (Bay St. & Front St.) in downtown Toronto on Wednesday, August 26 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. RaceFest will feature pit stop demonstrations from the Corvette Racing team and other race show cars from Risi Ferrari and Rahal/Letterman BMW. Among the drivers who will be on hand to sign autographs and greet fans will be Jaime Melo (Risi), Joey Hand and Tommy Milner (Rahal/Letterman) and Toronto’s Tony Burgess (Autocon).

A four-day SuperTicket is just $65 until August 26 ($80 at the Gate) and each ticket includes parking, paddock admission, and entrance to Saturday Night Stock Car racing at Mosport Speedway. Children 12 and under are free when accompanied by a paid adult admission. Single day tickets are also available.

General and family camping areas are available, with full-service washrooms, showers and children’s playgrounds. An advanced three-day weekend general camping pass is just $30 (For tents or pop-up trailers). RVs are $50 for the weekend.

For those looking for a real Mosport VIP experience, tickets to the Grand Prix Club are available for $200. The Grand Prix Club includes a four-day admission and Sunday VIP Hospitality which features a fully catered lunch and beverages, and is located trackside in a tented chalet overlooking the start/finish straight and corner one.

For more information about Mosport ticket packages and camping, call the Mosport Hotline at (Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET) or visit online at www.mosport.com. Tickets are also available at Ticketmaster.

The Snitch Report: Ferrari To Blame for Ross Brawns’ Speeding Ticket

August 7, 2009

by Saraswathi Sirigina… Aflame, Abuzz, Apocalyptic.

The indomitable Snitch who was our insider in the Ferrari and McLaren stables returns once again to bring us a Exclusive.

Ross Brawn, the brilliant Brawn, the head of Brawn GP and the former Chief Strategist of the Ferrari team was caught speeding at 100 mph on a 70 mph A30 road at Sourton, near Okehampton, Devon, on 30 May, 2009.

His case came up for hearing on Monday, and due to his absence has been postponed to September. There is a possibility that his driving license may be cancelled.

On hearing this breaking news, we rushed to get hold of The Snitch to get the inside dope on the totality of the case.

This is the story that The Snitch reports on the Ross Brawn driving license incident. Gear up your seat belts fellas!

On 30 May, Brawn was lazing around his friend’s home when he received a text message from Gordie Blue (name changed for all purposes due to fear of witch-hunt) that there was some funny activity going on in the Brackley works at Northamptonshire and that Brawn should rush back.

The Snitch was able to get us the exact text message, here it goes:

#$%#%#%# Ross, something is funny afoot at Brackley, Bark Back At BREAKNECK [email protected][email protected][email protected]

On getting this message, ths doling Brawn, jumped off the lazy-boy as though stuck by an adler and rushed out the front door forgetting his loafers and with his hair dishevelled.

In his hurry to get to Brackley, Mr. Brawn forgot to thank his friend for his hospitality and for the rare condiment of caviar that was flown from Russia just to warm his palate.

He took the A30, his mind was on that new aero package deal that he was supposed to get from some remote part of Reykjavík, Iceland. That man (name suppressed) was supposed to deliver him the new aero from his workshop that Brawn GP had bought out in a secret deal at a few pence due to the failure of the Icelandic Banks.

He was afraid that something was going wrong, as it is bound to go wrong, Murphy’s Law!

He triple-digited on the speed, that patrol car, O! Mi! and then he reached Brackley.

Gordon Blue was waiting for him. Brawn and Blue rushed to the interior lay of the workshop. They could not find anyone there, nor could they find anything amiss.

Brawn sat down in his executive chair and looked at Blue. Blue avoided his eyes. Brawn asked Blue, “tell me Blue, what’s it?”

Blue mentioned, “O! hum! I think I saw Enzo just before you came.” Ross jumped off his chair, “What?”

Blue said, timidly, “Yeah! yeah! I know it is tough to believe, but that’s the whole truth.”

Brawn said, hotly, “O! Come On! Enzo was dead a long time back.”

Blue, “I know Ross, but it felt like Enzo, floated like Enzo and looked like Enzo.”

Brawn, “OK, what was he doing loitering around our premises?”

Blue, “Must be the fact that we are beating them to pulp in the races.”

Brawn, “Makes sense”

Blue, “The package arrived a few hours back.”

Brawn, clapping his hands, “I am thrilled.”

Blue, “The bad news—Enzo smelled it”

Brawn, “Blistering barnacles, what in holy Moses did he do that for?”

Blue, “Guess his senses told him that it is the package that would make Brawn blast its rivals.”

Brawn, “What did he gain, do you think?”

Blue, “We will know at the Hungaroring”

Brawn, “Brrr…I am waiting to see how our stolen technology is gonna help them.”

Blue, “We can’t prove that they stole it”

Brawn, “Yeah for sure, Enzo is a ghost and he smelled it for Pete’s sake, it’s not like he saw it even.”

Blue, Exactly!”

The Snitch mentioned that this is the reason for Maranello’s podium at P2 at the Hungaroring.

Dario Franchitti-From Pole to Podium

July 13, 2009

By Louis “King of Roncesvalles” Pisano…

The smell of fuel and hot rubber hung heavy in the air around turn 3 and 4, a tight corner of the race in the furthest westerly portion of the track, on Sunday as the Indy cars tore up the streets of Toronto.

Dario Franchitti took the pole position on Saturday in the qualifying round of the Honda Indy Toronto and on race day finished what he started taking the checker flag after the 85th lap. With this win he now sits atop the leader board with 347 points just two ahead of Scott Dixon who finished 4th. Canadians Alex Tagliani and Paul Tracy were running 1 and 2 at one point during the race which of course was exciting for the home town crowd and the cheers from the Bud Camp bleachers rivalled the thunderous sound of the Indy engines momentarily. Tagliani finished the race in 9th and Paul Tracy’s day came to an end on lap 65 when he and Helio Castroneves battling for position coming out of a turn locked wheels and Tracy ended up smashing into the wall leaving them in 18th and 19th respectively.

The Bud Girls were out in full force taking pictures with race fans and were as hot as the rubber being burned on the track.

Danica Patrick, speaking of hot, started the race in 18th after a poor qualifying round, including a crash, and she finished the race surprisingly in 6th on a very physically demanding course. She was signing autographs the day previous and the line up was longer than any other by a mile!

The overall event was off the hook to say the least!

Photos by Paolo Cescato

www.cescato.com

Honda Indy-Qualifying Completed Canadian in Top 6

July 11, 2009

By Louis “King of Roncesvalles” Pisano…
Canadian Alex Tagliani had his best start of the year and finished the qualifying potion of the Honda Indy Toronto in 5th place with a fastest lap of 1:01.6980 not far behind top qualifier Dario Franchitti who posted a time of 1:01.0249. Other Canadian hopeful Paul Tracy ended up in 15th with a time of 1:01.9730 “I am super disappointed” he mentioned, missing out on advancing by one one-hundredth of a second. Danica Patrick who had a minor crash in the practise round on Friday will be starting in 18th place.

Tagliani spoke about his team and the shortened season he has“…obviously the two Canadian races for me are important and coming here and showing what we did today I think is a great tribute to the quality of people that we have on board.”

Another Canadian got himself to the podium today in the Indy Lights Series, James Hinchcliffe finished 3rd in only his 3rd time racing here in Toronto, though he is a hometown boy… “Man what a tough race!” He had a lot of friends and family with him including his father “Extremely proud of him haven’t seen him all day he’s been so busy with you guys and others!”

The big race is tomorrow and should be going off at 1pm weather permitting although the forecast is clear and sunny one never knows!

Photos by Paolo Cescato www.cescato.com

Down with the Sexist Cult of Cheerleaders and Pit Babes!

July 11, 2009

By Saraswathi Sirigina… The North American obsession with cheerleading has been now exported everywhere abroad. This whole idea of cheerleading in North American sports and the cult of the pit babes on the F1 grid has its deep origins in sexist objectives.

First off, one question, how many male pit boys of the range of the pit babes have you seen on the F1 grid? NONE.

How many schools and colleges encourage male cheerleaders? A pidgin amount.

I could very well rest my case after having answered the above questions myself, but then let me do justice to my contention here.

On this web site alone, in the past few days, there have been a few articles with female cheerleaders pictures that have garnered more reads and a great number of POTD votes. So you think I am being stupid! Well, think again and stop being a hypocrite.

Here are some popular opinions I gathered from the web:

The professional cheerleaders’ purpose is to entertain the men, hence no male cheerleaders. Because not that many women traditionally went to professional football games in the past, the owners (all men) never worried about equally entertaining the women or how inappropriate it is to parade scantily clad females at a game. It is still considered a man’s sport, even though many women watch and enjoy the games and have become quite knowledgeable.

The professional cheerleaders are a leftover of more accepted sexist attitudes where men feel entitled to objectify women. In this day and age, when there are competent women sportscasters on the NFL field, the cheerleaders don’t serve any constructive purpose, don’t really make a difference to anyone and should be discontinued. However, don’t expect THAT to happen any time soon.” ~ Helium

So you think I am making a case where there is none. Think again, I am not in the practice of making cases where there are none, I believe in making cases where there is solid grounds for making a case.

How many of the men would prefer to see the same routines of jump, skip, cheer from male cheerleaders? I guess a minority.

And what heavenly purpose are these cheerleaders supposed to fulfill? They are supposed to cheer the teams and make the people cheer the teams. Baloney! A team that has the guts to perform well will perform well even if there are no cheerleaders. Or have you not heard that the Pittsburgh Steelers do not have any cheerleaders?

Did you know that Cheerleading was predominantly a male pastime what with an Ex-President being among the lot? I am talking about good ol’ Texan boy George Bush.

In the 1890’s the first pep club was organized at Princeton University, and it was there where the first organized yell was recorded. The University of Minnesota organized cheerleading and the first school “fight song.”

Women didn’t get introduced to cheerleading until the 1920s, when gymnastics was slowly introduced to the sport. Cheerleading didn’t become a predominantly female sport until the 1950s.

How many of you guys would give that particular slideshow POTD votes and how many reads/hits would it generate. Let us not hide the facts, ain’t it good to open the pandora’s box.

This is my challange to Sweet Mo, come on make a slideshow of the male cheerleaders and show me how many POTD votes you’d get and how many hits/reads you would generate.

I bet you my bottom dollar that it will not be as popular as your female cheerleaders uniforms article.

This itself is enough to prove my case that cheerleading is inherently a sexist practice that is there to showcase not women’s talent as sportswomen but as side objects, no matter that cheerleaders are supposed to be supreme athletes.

Cheerleading in its current form objectifies women and makes them subservient to the players achievements on the field.

The traditional cheerleading outfit is designed to promote sexism. It usually consists of a tight sweater and a very short pleated skirt that is not conducive when a cheerleader does a cartwheel or jumps.

Imagine the female cheerleadrs were to dress in something a little bit more that covers their bodies. Do you think it would become so popular to men to ogle at them? Bunkum! Tell that to the canaries.

Is cheerleading a sport? Nope! Despite the high risk moves and the jumps and all those stuff, it still is sideline activity that sports can do without. It is a bloody indulgence.

Is it supposed to build self-esteem in the cheerleaders? That is utter nonsense! As though there are no other pastimes to create self-esteem.

Those who worship at the Cheerleading cult, have to sell their concept to young college and high school kids, so they will do anything to manipulate their brains and choices by calling cheerleading as a self-esteem building exercise. This is one more brainwashing syndrome.

According to a recent study cited by ABC News, 16,000 cheerleaders get hurt a year. It’s become much more dangerous in the last two decades, with injuries having increased by 110 percent. CBC.ca reported that a girl in Massachusetts even died last year after falling.

Well, well, what have we here? Not just entertainment, is it? SFU settled a lawsuit when Tracy Jensen landed on her head while doing a double back flip at a 1996 practice and has only limited use of her arms and legs. But still, cheerleading is not that bad when you compare it to on-the field football injuries.

Oh, one other thing. How many of the cheerleading squads have ugly, not-so-good-looking, overweight members? And should they have them, would it have become so popular? Come on, be a sport, don’t lie to yourself and don’t lie to score points in this debate. Be honest!

Do you think the Super Bowl is not sexist? Apart from the cheerleading that is supposed to push up male adrenalin, well, try to look into the can of worms.

The advertising, with explicit references to women’s bodies in the Mission Impossible 3 commercial beginning with Philip Seymour Hoffman saying—the first words of the commercial—“Do you have a girlfriend? Cause I’m gonna find her. And I’m gonna hurt her,” or implicit references in the Burger King commercial that says women are tasty in sandwiches, and all the ogling and leering.

Give me a goddamn break when you negate these facts!

Not many high schools have male cheerleaders if one goes by statistics and an article in Teen Ink.

When do women sign on to becoming cheerleaders? In their teens!

I stand by these words written by Allison K., Marblehead, M in Teen Ink:

I do not mean to offend cheerleaders and suggest that they are not talented. I know that it takes great skill and practice to perform their routines. I am merely stating that cheerleading continues and reinforces female stereotypes that our society is supposedly trying to eradicate.

Cheerleading is hard work; it is a time-consuming and difficult activity. However, it is not sending the right message to teen-agers. When they see girls on the sidelines cheering on the males, it sends the subliminal message that girls should play second fiddle to boys and be appreciated only for their appearance.

The message plays out in classrooms and later on when they become part of the work force. Cheerleading is a classic example of an activity that many don’t view as harmful but which actually endangers the equal rights of women.

Our society must become more sensitive to the way girls are objectified. The view that girls are there for the entertainment of males needs to be closely examined. We should be discussing whether an activity such as cheerleading should continue when our society is at such a crucial point in male/female relations.

And how many of these cheerleaders do really know the sport that they are cheering for! God forbid someone should come out with these statistics, then the whole damn cheerleading industry would call for blue murder.

Pit Babes on the F1 Grid

Well, the crazed ol’ men of F1 don’t seem to have the good sense to make the pit babes redundant. Bloody hell, F1 is a sport, it is not a sport where women are supposed to be babes.

The Toyota F1 team hires women engineers, women pit crew and some people who work on their F1 program are women.

Instead of showcasing them or the first woman aero-dynamist, Dr. Antonio Terzi of the ex-Williams team, the guys who control Formula One business are trying to market women as sex objects with the continued presence of the pit babes on the F1 grid.

And some idiotic F1 web sites who try to run their business are the ruin of all of us serious women, because they feature links to these pit babes on their main pages. It is as good as running sleaze joints.

They lack integrity by linking the Formula One sport to women as sex objects and featuring them alongside mainline F1 news.

If they really want to make us women racing fans respect F1 just for the racing, let these idiot guys who rule F1 remove the practice of pit babes.

If they have any bloody guts, let them do this and see. It is not like men watch racing for a glimpse of these pit babes. Or do they?

A Great Read: A Brief History of Cheerleaders and Cheerleading

Your 2009 Sprint Cup Champion Will Be…

January 28, 2009

by Hollis Warren…

4. CARL EDWARDS

Age: 29
Hometown: Columbia, MO
No. 99 Aflac Ford
Crew Chief: Bob Osborne
Owner: Jack Roush/John Henry
Carl Edwards had the competition seeing red in 2008, both figuratively and literally, as his red Office Depot machine led the series in victories and came up just short of a championship. 2009 brings Aflac on board full-time and a new bright green and black paint scheme. Let me tell you something—that scheme is sharp. I was able to spot it from blocks away in busy downtown Manhattan.

Cousin Carl, Bob Osborne, and the entire No. 99 team should once again be a serious title threat in the new season, and I would not be surprised, in the least, if they brought home Jack Roush’s third championship in seven years.
Edwards runs well at pretty much every track (although he is still gaining his footing on the road courses). If there is one thing holding the former substitute teacher back, it would be his tendency to go overboard, at times, behind the wheel.
Yes, you have to be aggressive to win (see Kansas in September) but not at the expense of tearing up equipment and costing your team a good finish. Occasional antics aside, most fans adore Edwards and his victory back flips, so a championship by this team would be highly popular.

3. JEFF GORDON

Age: 37
Hometown: Vallejo, CA
No. 24 DuPont/National Guard Chevy
Crew Chief: Steve Letarte
Owner: Rick Hendrick

The fact that the famed DuPont No. 24 did not reach victory lane—for the first time since 1993—and did not seriously contend for a championship, pretty much sent fans, the media, and the garage into crisis lockdown mode. Was it the end of the dynasty that had ruled the sport for nearly 15 years?

I don’t think the situation is that dire? Gordon, at age 37 (not very old, although it seems like he is old when it appears that he has been around forever), is still one of the top NASCAR drivers.

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Gordon and Letarte put together a strong season in 2007, and if it weren’t for Jimmie Johnson’s Chase domination, would have brought home a fifth title for Gordon. They had a strong grasp on the COT from the very beginning, although getting it to handle well and run fast on the large tracks proved to be their downfall in 2008.
However, during the Chase, there were signs that the team had turned the corner and is capable of contending in 2009. It’s now been over seven years since Gordon’s last championship, and there are whispers that Gordon’s focus is on his life outside of racing—not the job at hand.
That may be the case but let me tell you something—this guy still has the fire in his belly to win and the talent and team to do so.

2. JIMMIE JOHNSON

Age: 33
Hometown: El Cajon, CA
No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevy
Crew Chief: Chad Knaus
Owner: Rick Hendrick
The last three seasons, I have not picked Jimmie Johnson as my preseason Cup champion. We see where that has gotten us, as Johnson enters 2009 looking to win an unprecedented fourth straight championship in NASCAR’s elite division.
Everyone wants to know how they are consistently so good, but I think the answer is quite simple—a smart and talented driver, an even smarter crew chief, and a group of team-oriented support people who work together with astounding chemistry.
Oh yeah, the Hendrick equipment is top-notch as well, and Lady Luck seems to be a big No. 48 fan (although I think Lady Luck runs out for the Lowe’s bunch during the 2009 Chase at some point in time).

Obviously, Johnson should once again be in the thick of the championship battle when the Chase rolls around. This team is awfully quiet for the first 26 races compared to some others, but when the time comes to race for a title, they are more prepared than anyone else.
Give credit to Knaus. I think he has figured out that his team is solid enough to “back in” to the Chase even with a few poor finishes, so he spends much more time making sure his cars are difficult to contend with at those ten race tracks where the championship is decided.
That’s not to say that they slack off during February-September, but they realize much more is at stake in September-November.

1. KYLE BUSCH

Age: 23
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
No. 18 M&M’s/Mars/Interstate Batteries Toyota
Crew Chief: Steve Addington
Owner: Joe Gibbs
Love or hate him, Kyle Busch burst onto the scene in 2008 and polarized the sport like no one since the days of Dale Earnhardt. He ruffled feathers with numerous drivers, but at the same time, won multiple races in not one, not two, but three series.
Rowdy took home eight of the 26 pre-Chase races on the Cup side and jumped out to a huge lead in the points standings, which of course evaporated when the final 10 events commenced.
While we all figured Kyle would still contend for the title when the points were reset at New Hampshire, I don’t think any of us expected the myriad of problems that the team faced in the early stages of the championship run—the 10th place points finish or being shut out of victory lane down the stretch.

While the Chase was a nightmare for the No. 18 team, I think it may have been the best thing that could have ever happened to the talented, but nevertheless raw and immature, Kyle Busch, entering 2009.
Adversity tends to bring out the best in people, and after the disaster of last fall, Wild Thing will be hungrier than ever. This young man is a special talent who has just begun to realize his immense potential during his first season with the Gibbs organization.
Busch has a fire in his eyes like few others; not only does he want to beat the competition, he wants to obliterate it. And, I’ve never seen someone feed off so much negative energy from the crowd before.
A year older and months removed from a series of crushing defeats, I truly believe Kyle “Wild Thing/Shrub/Rowdy” Busch is ready to take the next step and become one of the youngest Sprint Cup champions in history.

Sprint Cup Preview: Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, Mark Martin

January 27, 2009

by Hollis Warren…

5. MATT KENSETH


Age: 36
Hometown: Cambridge, WI
No. 17 DeWalt Tools/USG Sheetrock/R&L Carriers/Carhartt Ford
Crew Chief: Drew Blickensderfer
Owner: Jack Roush/John Henry

2008 was an uncharacteristic year by Matt Kenseth standards. Yes, he quietly put together a solid season, as usual, but the No. 17 team failed to find victory lane and was never really a threat for the championship.

Maybe I cursed them by picking the team to win it all last January. Kenseth will be paired with his third crew chief in three years when Speedweeks commence, as Drew Blickensderfer comes over from the Roush Nationwide program.

I look for Kenseth to rebound in 2009, even as many people are starting to write him off prematurely. A return to victory lane and contention during the Chase are certainly in the cards.

Blickensderfer turned around Carl Edwards’ struggling Nationwide program at the midpoint of the 2008 season, and has worked well with Kenseth in that series the year before.

He is clearly ready to lead an elite Sprint Cup team, something Chip Bolin did not have much success with after taking over for Robbie Reiser one year ago (although to defend Bolin, the guy didn’t have much crew chief experience entering the role as Blickensderfer does).

6. DALE EARNHARDT JR.


Age: 34
Hometown: Kannapolis, NC
No. 88 Mountain Dew AMP Energy Drink/National Guard Chevy
Crew Chief: Tony Eury Jr.
Owner: Rick Hendrick

Junior’s first season at Hendrick Motorsports had its ups and downs, but for the most part, it did not live up to the expectations placed on him when moving to the sport’s premier operation.

The first half of the season was largely successful, if you leave out the fact their only win came as the result of smart pit strategy.

But as the Chase approached, the team started to fizzle and faded to 12th when the final 10 races rolled around in the fall months.

This will be a defining year for Earnhardt Jr. If he doesn’t come out and challenge for the championship, his detractors that are often heard screaming the word “overrated” will have even more reason to criticize him, while even his most diehard fans may be forced to question his place amongst the sport’s elite.

I think he will come out and put forth a better overall effort in 2009, but winning the championship will still be a stretch. Cousin Tony Eury Jr.’s strategy on top of the pit box has long been chastised, and he could be what is holding the double 8 back. Don’t forget, he has three pretty good teammates to beat out as well.

7. GREG BIFFLE

Age: 39
Hometown: Vancouver, WA
No. 16 3M Ford
Crew Chief: Greg Erwin
Owner: Jack Roush/John Henry

After a couple of mediocre years by Biffle standards, he and the No. 16 team came out and put forth a strong showing in 2008, coming home third in points with two victories. Greg is certainly one of the sport’s brightest stars, and he is competitive at almost every track.

Like Mark Martin and Jeff Burton, his chances at winning a championship are starting to evaporate as his age advances, so I am sure Greg Erwin and everyone else on the No. 16 team will do everything in their power to put Biffle in a position to win the title at Homestead.

As long as Biffle makes the Chase, he has to be considered a threat to win the championship. With half the final 10 races being on his long-time bread and butter, the cookie cutter 1.5 and 2 milers, and another two at tracks he won at in 2008 (New Hampshire and Dover), this team has the capability of dethroning Jimmie Johnson.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened, but I have them ranked a little lower this year just due to the fact I see teams like the 17, 18, and 88, which struggled in the Chase a year ago, coming out more prepared for those crucial races in 2009.

8. MARK MARTIN


Age: 50
Hometown: Batesville, AR
No. 5 Kellogg’s/Carquest/Cheez-It Chevy
Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson
Owner: Rick Hendrick

As much as I respect Mark Martin for the person and racer he is, his indecision when it comes to retirement has pretty much been a frustration to me and many others. But nevertheless, we do get to enjoy Mark for at least one more full-time campaign aimed at winning that elusive Sprint Cup.

Can the sentimental pick pull it off? That’s debatable, but Mark should be a threat week in and week out in 2009, and find victory lane for the first time since 2005.

While Martin will be the only full-time driver past the half century mark this season, that won’t be a disadvantage. He is in better shape than some of the guys half his age.

What will be a problem will be the No. 5 team. They are very good, but not as good as the 24 or 48. I’m sure Rick Hendrick will put a lot of effort into giving Mark the chance at winning the championship, but this team has not been a serious threat for the title in years.

Even Kyle Busch was simply a mid-pack Chase driver in this car, and Casey Mears barely finished in the top 20.

Sprint Cup Preview: Ragan, Burton, Harvick, Kurt Busch

January 26, 2009

by Hollis Warren…

9. DAVID RAGAN

Age: 23
Hometown: Unadilla, GA
#6 UPS Ford
Crew Chief: Jimmy Fennig
Owner: Jack Roush/John Henry

David Ragan did not disappoint me in 2008 by living up to my proclamation that he would be the series’ most improved driver. So I fully expect he and the 6 team to take the next step, find victory lane, and qualify for the Chase in the new season. The expectations have most definitely been elevated for Ragan in 2009, as one doesn’t have to look any further than the fact that UPS decided to sponsor him over everyone else that was available.

Putting the weight of the world on the shoulders of a 23-year old could be the recipe for disaster, but if anyone can handle the added pressure, it would be the calm and collected Ragan. And if he starts to stray because of the added responsibility, he will have Jack Roush, his senior teammates, and crew chief Jimmy Fennig there for support. Fennig turned Kurt Busch into a champion and could have won one or two with Mark Martin. His veteran leadership and guidance of a man young enough to be his son has the chance to produce huge dividends in the new year.

10. JEFF BURTON

Age: 41
Hometown: South Boston, VA
#31 Caterpillar Chevy
Crew Chief: Scott Miller
Owner: Richard Childress

Jeff Burton is a great February to August racer, qualifying for the Chase easily the past three seasons. But when the final ten events have rolled around, he and his team have not asserted themselves as serious championship contenders. Burton realizes the clock is ticking on his chances to win a title, and even they appear to be a long shot considering the fact that the last time a driver over 40 won the title was Dale Jarrett a decade ago.

That being said, this is still a quality team that will qualify for the Chase and find victory lane at least once or twice. I am sure Caterpillar feels fortunate to be associated with a winning team for the first time since they sponsored Jeff’s older brother. He will not disappoint. Jeff is certainly a sentimental favorite to win it all (along with a driver who I have yet to preview), but the entire RCR team has a tall mountain to climb in overcoming the Hendrick, Roush, and Gibbs powerhouses.

11. KEVIN HARVICK

Age: 33
Hometown: Bakersfield, CA
#29 Shell Pennzoil/Reese’s Chevy
Crew Chief: Todd Berrier
Owner: Richard Childress

Harvick, once the immature brat, has set a modern-era record by finishing 80 races in a row, a sign that he has matured into a dependable driver who will not take any unnecessary risks to chance a good points day. But while Harvick is always around at the checkered flag, that has yet to produce any Sprint Cup championships, or even serious contention for one. Will that change in 2009? I don’t think so, but look for Kevin Harvick to make another run at the Chase and find victory lane for the first time since the 2007 Daytona 500.

I think there are two big factors holding back Harvick, Burton, and RCR from taking that step from Chase participant to championship contender. One was alluded to by Burton this week, saying that the RCR teams need more speed and horsepower to compete with Roush/Hendrick/Gibbs and end their 15-year championship drought. The other has to be the lack of consistency. The 29 and 31 may have very few DNFs, but they will go weeks at a time without as much as a top 10. That can’t happen if you want to win a championship.

12. KURT BUSCH

Age: 30
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
#2 Miller Lite Dodge
Crew Chief: Pat Tryson
Owner: Roger Penske

It wouldn’t be my annual season preview without a surprise pick to make the Chase. Frankly, Kurt Busch, the 2 team, and entire Penske organization are more capable than what they showed in 2008. You can blame Dodge all you want, but Roger Penske won’t accept running a second-rate team, and if the Blue Deuce doesn’t come out firing in 2009, I am sure some changes will be made to the team’s structure.

Kurt Busch is still one of the best wheelmen in the garage, although he got shuffled out of the picture by his brother and own struggles a year ago. I think he, and his long-time crew chief Pat Tryson, have something to prove to the NASCAR world. This team won’t bring home their first championship, but I look for a rebound in their performance this season. Look for them to be strong at the typical Busch favorites such as Pocono and Bristol, and sneak into the Chase. Also look for them to get back to victory lane, which they only reached in 2008 because of pure luck.

Sprint Cup Preview: Truex, McMurray, Hamlin, Bowyer

January 22, 2009

by Hollis Warren…

13. MARTIN TRUEX JR.

Age: 28
Hometown: Mayetta, NJ
No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy
Crew Chief: Kevin Manion
Owner: Teresa Earnhardt/Chip Ganassi/Felix Sabates

After qualifying for the Chase in his second year, Truex’s third year at the Cup level did not live up to expectations. Many people believed he would take the next step, win multiple races, and contend for a title, even without the presence of teammate and good pal Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Instead, Truex fell to 15th in points, and never tasted victory lane. Grudgingly, he resigned with DEI/EGR for at least one more season, although you have to believe if the performance does not improve, he will take Bass Pro elsewhere.

Martin would have been in Chase contention right down to the wire in Richmond if it were not for a huge points penalty handed down at Daytona in July. The Truex/Manion combination clearly works well, and I look for them to bounce back and win a couple races in 2009.

Qualifying for the Chase will be difficult, but it is not out of the question. Aside from no longer being at the mercy of Teresa Earnhardt and Max Siegel’s questionable decision-making, the merger with Ganassi will not really impact this team, but Truex should enjoy the working partnership with Juan Pablo Montoya.

14. JAMIE McMURRAY

Age: 32
Hometown: Joplin, MO
No. 26 Crown Royal/Irwin Tools Ford
Crew Chief: Donnie Wingo
Owner: Jack Roush/John Henry

Entering his fourth season at Roush-Fenway, the pressure is certainly on Jamie McMurray to take the next step and contend on a weekly basis. While Kenseth, Biffle, and Edwards win races and contend for the championship, McMurray is great some weeks and off others.

If the performance doesn’t improve in 2009, especially with the drivers available at Jack Roush’s fingertips from his development pool, McMurray will likely be out of a job.

But even with that grim reality, Jamie is set up to succeed this season. He will be reunited with Donnie Wingo, who was his crew chief for the three years he spent at Ganassi; seasons that finished in 13th, 11th, and 12th places.

Plus, McMurray became much more consistent down the stretch in 2008 with Larry Carter as crew chief, finishing third in each of the final three races. Look for Jamie Mac and Wingo to hit on all cylinders in ‘09, and do not be surprised if they are in the Chase.

15. DENNY HAMLIN

Age: 28
Hometown: Chesterfield, VA
No. 11 FedEx Toyota
Crew Chief: Mike Ford
Owner: Joe Gibbs

After finishing third in points his rookie season, Denny Hamlin has followed that up with two very good seasons, but inconsistency has doomed him to the back half of the Chase each time.

When he came out of the gate so strong in 2006, I figured that he had the makings of a future Cup champion, but now I am not so sure. Hamlin and the 11 team have seemed to level off, and played third fiddle to both the 18 and 20 last season.

Seeing how Tony Stewart gone and Kyle Busch still just 23, Hamlin is now the veteran by default at JGR, believe it or not. With that comes the extra responsibility of being a leader on and off the track, and I just do not see those qualities in Hamlin.

Denny is never the one to blame when something goes wrong. It’s always someone else’s fought. My assessment may be harsh, but I still wouldn’t be surprised to see the 11 sneak into the Chase once again. There are probably 20 teams capable of making it in 2009, but Hamlin was not one of the lucky 12 to be selected by me.

16. CLINT BOWYER

Age: 29
Hometown: Emporia, KS
No. 33 Cheerios/Betty Crocker/BB&T Chevy
Crew Chief: Shane Wilson
Owner: Richard Childress

All was fine and dandy in Clint Bowyer’s world the past two years. He picked up a Nationwide title, won his first Cup race, piloted the Jack Daniel’s car, qualified for the Chase two years in a row, and had familiar relationships with an absolute hottie.

Fast forward to 2009, and Richard Childress has exiled his youngest Cup driver to the new fourth team, being sponsored by General Mills.

Bowyer will still have the great equipment he has been accustomed to receiving the past few seasons, but making the Chase for a third year in a row will be difficult. He will be working with an entirely new set of people, including crew chief Shane Wilson, without testing to get used to one another.

And I don’t care if you are Childress, Hendrick, Roush, or whoever, adding a new team to an existing operation and being immediately successful is not an easy task. Especially when you have to qualify on time for the first five races.

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