Last season, one of the closest battles on and off was the battle to remain inside the top 35 in owners points. The Wood Brothers, Petty Enterprises, Furniture Row Racing, and Hall of Fame Racing were among the teams at the bottom of that list.
Petty Enterprises did manage to keep Bobby Labonte in the Top 20 for most of the season, but the No. 45 car, not so good.
Now we look at the list of full time teams for 2009 and many of these names are not there. Bill Davis Racing appears to be gone for all of 2009. Many others have thinned out their schedules.
Furniture Row Racing, 12 races.
Wood Brothers Racing, 12 races.
Many other teams had cut their lineups down. DEI basically cut two cars out of its stable before they reached a deal with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Petty Enterprises has cut the No. 45 car out of its stable. GEM has taken over the No. 43 team and basically bought Richard Petty's name for marketing purposes.
Looking closely, one might think back to Andy Hillenburg, Morgan Shepard, and Carl Long. Field fillers as they were called a few years ago. Will they be back to fill up races at Martinsville and Darlington?
Recently, Tommy Baldwin, formerly of Bill Davis Racing, opened his own full-time Sprint Cup series team. Using Toyota's from Bill Davis's old fleet, he will start the season with Scott Riggs at the reins for the Daytona 500.
First, I though, "How will he get the money?" Then Tommy cleared everything up. "Employees are more willing to work for less," he stated.
I will call them half-price employees. Reports have said that almost 1,000 people from the NASCAR comunity have been laid off since November. Many of then have great skills in the sport of auto racing. Some of them even have championship rings from Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Racing.
Well, they are starting to find work now for sure. Many new teams have been formed in the past month, many of them claiming to be "full-time" teams. Maybe these vacationing mechanics stood on the streets of Concord hold up signs, "Will work for cheap!" Maybe this is where Joe Nemechek gets the idea that he can run a full-time Sprint Cup schedule.
Joe is just one of many drivers who have taken unemployment into their own hands and started their own team. Without any funding, I find it hard to believe that these teams will make it on the track for the entire 2009 season.
Joe Nemechek is a great driver and a great person, but his days have passed. Perhaps this is why he will also be running a full-time Nationwide series schedule.
Jeremy Mayfield has also applied for ownership of a Sprint Cup team. Many Dodges left over from Chip Ganassi Racing are left over. Very cheap. I checked into them. Toyota's from Bill Davis racing are even cheaper.
Should we call these teams field fillers? No. That won't work today with this new car.
Any of these teams can compete. Maybe not for a win or even a top 10 finish, but they can compete.
Phoenix Racing has committed itself to a full season. A team that once only ran restrictor plate races, finishing 3rd in the Daytona 500, is going to try and stick it out for 36 weeks.
Will they all make it? Probably not. But we will see a great show from these teams this season. Some of them might just jump out and surprises us and become a top team in NASCAR's top series in a few seasons. Time will only tell.
All I can say is you had better tune in for the Daytona 500. You never know, a flat tire just might deliver one of these teams a big sponsorship contract and a heavy UPS bill shipping that Harley J. Earl trophy back to Concord.
Oh and did I mention Derrick Cope is on the entry list?