Good morning (or afternoon for you late risers) NASCAR fans and welcome to Day 22 of my 35-day preview of the cars guaranteed a spot in the first five races.
Today we look at a driver who I’m comparing to a high school student, about to take it to the next level.
Let me explain. Martin Truex Jr. enters his fourth (senior) season of competition with the newly merged Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. Why do I say it’s his senior season?
Because just like seniors in high school move on to college, Truex Jr. will move onto another team after 2009.
Trust me, Truex will be the talk of the garage come, oh lets say July. Everyone will be wondering where this talented driver will end up in 2010. His contract with DEI will expire at the end of the year, and he will have offers from everyone.
Where do I expect him to go? I’d say he could be headed to a fourth Gibbs car, a third Stewart-Haas car, or even to the No. 12 Penske Dodge if David Stremme doesn’t fare so well.
It may not even take until July for the media to start questioning Truex, look at last season, it was rumored that he was going everywhere, yet DEI had already opted to pick up his final year on his contract.
Anyway, lets take a look at Truex’s team this year:
Today’s Spotlight: No. 1
Driver: Martin Truex Jr.
Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops (~23 races)
Driver 2008 Stats: Truex earned over $4.7 million in 2008. He managed 11 top-10 finishes and three top-fives en route to a 15th place showing in the points. With an average finish of 18th Truex came close to making the Chase, but fell short in the end.
News: Where to begin. This team has been all over the news in recent weeks. The worst news for the No. 1 team, however, was the loss of Bass Pro Shops to an entire season of sponsorship. The large retail store was originally schedule to be on the car all 36 races, but has since backed it down to 23.
It could be a sign of the tough economic times, or it could be that Bass Pro Shops is tired of carrying the DEI banner. The company had a clause in their contract in which they could back out if two full-time sponsored teams were not fielded along side Truex.
The more obvious news for this team was the merger between Ganassi Racing. Between the two teams, six teams were guaranteed a spot in the first five races. It now appears, they will close half of those and only run three in 2009—the No. 1 (Truex), No. 8 (Aric Almirola) and No. 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya).
The other heartbreaking loss for this team was when former President of Global Operations Max Siegel left town to head up NASCAR’s Diversity Program.
My Prediction for 2009: Truex has a tough season a head of him. Things looked so promising near the end of 2007. He won his first race, was finishing solidly every weekend, and entered 2008 on such a high note. This past season looked like it was going to be great for Truex and he appeared in line to make the Chase for the first time, however a penalty near the end of the season and a few struggles, and Truex was outside looking in—again.
I figure this team will have about the same luck they had in 2008. Look for Truex to content for a few wins (restrictor plate tracks and some of the short tracks), but in the end this team gets maybe one win and finishes somewhere between 13th and 18th in the points.
Will this team remain in top-35: Yes—not sure why I even keep this section around now, I don’t look for anyone to fall out of the top-35 that is this high up.
Up Tomorrow: No. 9 Kasey Kahne
This story also appears on my blog: Sports 101
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