The ‘Chase’ begins this weekend at New Hampshire

From the Crossville Chronicle – Crossville, TN. Friday September 14, 2007

By Joe Dunn / joe@onpitroad.com
The first 26 Nascar Nextel Cup races of 2007 were the qualifiers for the Chase, the battle to be in that field of 12 eligible for the coveted title. A top finish at New Hampshire is important – but not crucial – for a Chase driver’s championship hopes. Kurt Busch won the 2004 New Hampshire race and Tony Stewart finished second in 2005. Jimmie Johnson finished 39th during his championship season, but was able to battle back after finishing first or second in five of the final six races
Jimmie Johnson’s win on Saturday night at Richmond was his sixth of the season, giving him the top seed in the Chase. Johnson will start the Chase with a 60-point bonus – 10 points for each victory. All 12 drivers in the Chase had their point total reset to 5,000 following Richmond. Ten bonus points were added for each win. Eleven of the 12 drivers in the Chase have earned bonus points based on at least one victory. Jeff Gordon (four), Tony Stewart (three), Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch (two apiece) are the only other Chase drivers with multiple victories. Clint Bowyer is the only driver in the Chase without a victory this season.
The garage at Richmond last week was buzzing with lots of news and rumors, several announcements for 2008 were revealed and many non announced items were spreading all over the garage and media center. Some of those announcements were;
Robert Yates Racing announced that Robert Yates would retire at the end of the season, with his son Doug Yates forming a new company, Yates Racing that would acquire the race teams, cars and points for 2008. The merger announced at the end of July with Newman, Haas and Lanigan has already been dissolved to make way for the new organization. In announcing the new company Doug Yates made it clear that the relationship with Roush-Fenway will be much closer.
Ricky Rudd was in Richmond with his arm in a sling from his accident at California. Although he said that there was a chance of him being back before the end of the season, it is unlikely. Kenny Wallace was in Richmond subbing for Rudd and will be in the 88 car again this weekend. Wallace had hoped to land the 88 ride for 2008, but Yates announced that Travis Kvapil has been signed to drive the car in ‘08.
The rumor of David Stremme being let go by Ganassi Racing with the loss of Coors as a sponsor was coupled with news that Ganassi has been in talks with Dario Franchitti, Indianapolis 500 champ and husband of actress Ashley Judd. The unofficial word from team sources is that a 5 year deal has been agreed to with Canadian Club whiskey as the sponsor.
Michael Waltrip racing’s David Reutimann is another name being heard with the strongest being a candidate for a fourth Richard Childress car. I did a story on David back in April where he expressed satisfaction with the MWR organization yet acknowledging the struggles. I spoke with David at Richmond and he is still optimistic about his future with the team. “ There has been some of that (talks with other teams), but we’ll have to see how that works out.” replied David, “I know Michael and the guys are working hard to try and have me back at MWR and we’ll just see how that adds up. We’re running out of time, but hopefully next week we’ll have a much better idea what future is.” Despite the troubles that MWR has been experiencing this season with missed races and less than stellar performances, David remains upbeat about the organization. His performance in the Busch series, where he is second in points, has been spectacular and truly a bragging rights point for Toyota. On the Cup side, David has been the best performing driver for MWR. Although he is overshadowed by the popularity of Waltrip and Jarrett. Several bad luck finishes for Reutimann have diminished the on track performances he has turned in. David has proved himself to be a Cup quality driver and whatever 2008 brings, David has the talent to make it in this sport. Will that success come with MWR, nobody can say, but if he is offered the chance to go with a Childress type organization I think he would be ill advised to pass it up.
With Toyota signing Joe Gibbs racing last week, many think it will be a boost for the struggling Toyota teams, however unlike in the truck series that is really no inter-team sharing of information. For teams like MWR and Red Bull it is obvious that they need that extra support that Toyota gives to the Craftsman Truck Series teams but is missing in Nextel Cup.
On the local racing scene, now that Crossville Raceway has closed and Wartburg Speedway has ended it regular weekly racing program and Mountain Raceway has switched to Friday nights Spring City has suddenly come to life. Last Saturday saw the largest car count and fan count that the track has seen in years. They will be back at it again Saturday night and plan to continue into November. They will be holding a special $1000 Limited Late Model race on Saturday September 29.
Wartburg Speedway will try again next Friday, September 21st to run the $3,000 Super Late Model Advance Auto Parts Thunder Series race, along with a $2,000 Sportsman, $500 each for Pure Street and Pure Mini, and the $300 “On Pit Road Photos” Front Wheel Drive race.