It’s all about Pressure in sports.
Pressure from the fans.
Pressure from the sponsors.
Pressure from your team mates.
As the new NASCAR season ticks ever closer here’s a look at the teams, drivers and in some cases entire companies that have to be feeling the pressure and the need to perform in 2009.
Sports work best when the outcome is unpredictable and NASCAR is starting to the point where you can draw up a short list of drivers who can win a race, and an even shorter list of those who can do it consistently enough to take a title.
Someone needs to step up to challenge the dominance of the big four teams–Hendrick, Roush, Gibbs and RCR. Several drivers have shown glimmers of doing so. Brian Vickers, David Reutimann, Juan Montoya all had good showings last year, but often came away with nothing to show for it.
They need to start posting numbers in the important columns.
In order to achieve the above NASCAR needs all its manufacturers to be as close as possible, and without doubt Dodge is the fourth of the four car makers. They’ve been the maker hit hardest by the flurry of mergers, losing Ganassi to Chevy as it merged with DEI and seeing GEM and Petty come together, losing a team.
The new Dodge COT will have a redesigned nose, aimed at getting the cars nearer the front more often. Especially with car makers looking long and hard at their bottom line the Dodge teams need it to work.
Goodyear need a good year. I was prepared to believe that some of tyre problems last year were down to teams’ setting of their cars or the driving styles of their wheelmen. However, the debacle at Indy was inexcusable, especially at such a big race, and the Chase Talladega race was simply dangerous.
When catastrophic tyre blowouts happen seemingly without warning, anywhere on the track to so many drivers there is something wrong. Hopefully with an extra year with new car behind them the men with the rubber will get things right in 2009.
You could almost hear the glee in the Junior zealot’s voices as Kyle Busch endured his “Chasus Horribilus” last year. His regular season form was nothing short of incredible, a first year in a new team in their first year in a new car and he was the class of the field.
No doubt some will claim that it was down to any advantage they felt Toyota have, but some of it was down to Shrub being at the wheel. Kyle needs to re-find the form that made him THE story for much of last year, otherwise the zealots will reappear and give us all a headache.
In his previous Sprint Cup outings the product that has been sold to us all as Sliced Bread looked more like a Crusty Roll. Now Joey’s graduated to Gibbs’ full time teams he needs to show he deserves to be there.
He might pull it out of the bag, now he’s got an experienced team behind him, but there have to be some nervous faces round the JGR shop.
Of course, the fact he’s been brought up the ranks by the team might save his blushes for a while, but if I was J.J. Yeley, I wouldn’t book my Sundays too far in advance.
Casey Mears spent two years as the third (or should that be fourth) wheel at Hendrick with only a fuel mileage win to show for it, compared to the mountain of wins (and two titles) accrued by his stablemates over the same period.
He’s now moved into another big team (becoming the fourth driver) and has to avoid becoming another fourth wheel.
As everyone knows this is the last year when Jack Roush can keep his five car stable, which means that five must become four. So in this NASCAR game of musical chairs who’s going to be standing when the music stops. Carl Edwards is probably safe, as is David Ragan, who has been with Roush so long he probably bleeds little hat-shaped blood cells.
That leaves the Kenseth, Biffle and McMurray glancing nervously over their shoulders when they should be looking at the track.
It’s the dirty black spectre that’s hanging over NASCAR, as it is the world. NASCAR needs a good economy. It needs the sponsorship for its cars and its races. It needs the fan to be willing to pay to get through the gates and sit in the seats.
There have already been far too many teams go to wall, and there are far too many good drivers who will be watching from a couch every weekend. Of course we all know that the economy isn’t going to turn on a sixpence but it keeps going down then NASCAR might be pulled down with it.