First off, let me give myself a pat on the back for ALMOST getting the Super Bowl score correct for the second time in three years (and yes, I know my spread and total number of points mirrored the Vegas line, but I did not realize that until after I made the pick).
Secondly, Happy Groundhog's Day, an all important day where we figure out how much longer winter is going to last (and a groundhog's shadow is probably STILL more accurate than any meteorologist). Hopefully your life is not the same day over and over again.
And thirdly, on to the business at hand as we look at the drivers who will be running partial schedules during the 2009 Sprint Cup season. The rest of the preview will break down like this: the Mom N Pop teams tomorrow, 10 bold predictions on Wednesday, and Nationwide/Truck previews early next week.
I was going to do a What Really Grinds My Gears entry on the fact that NASCAR continues to allow teams to swap points (thus we have winning combinations such as John Andretti and Front Row Motorsports locked in to the Daytona 500, but not A.J. Allmendinger and the fourth RPM car), but I already complain about the sanctioning body too much.
We also deserve an explanation from NASCAR on how Hendrick is allowed to run a fifth car for Keselowski when Brad is going to be easily using up his rookie eligibility by running for James Finch, unless Hendrick outsmarted them and put the ownership of the 25 car in Finch's name.
You know, it's actually kind of sad to see these legendary drivers of the '80s and '90s struggling both on the track and in the desire to hang up the helmet. In all honesty, Rusty Wallace has been the only one to get it right, going out while still at the top of his game. Don't get me wrong, Bill Elliott is a gentleman, class act, and was once a fine racer, but the time has come for him to move on in life. He said last year would be it, but here we are entering 2009, and Awesome Bill has agreed to drive for the Wood Brothers once again.
The Woods, who have gone from a respectable team at the beginning of this decade to struggling to hang on at the end, have decided to return to running a partial schedule, something they did pre-1980s. The plan is to run Daytona, and mainly 1.5 milers after that. This may not be such a bad thing, because Elliott brought home a solid 12th place finish at Homestead in November. While the sun appears to be setting on a great career for Bill Elliott, hopefully the same is not being said of the Wood Brothers in the near future. One of NASCAR's lasting legacies still has a spot in this sport in my opinion.
Smith won Rookie of the Year honors in 2008 by nothing short of default, as everyone else either was too busy wrecking or packing their bags as fast as possible to get back to open wheel. While the Cato, NY native did not have any top tens, he stayed out of trouble and posted several solid outings, improving as the season moved forward. For a rookie, that is all you can ask. But by not being spectacular, Regan was an easy choice for Teresa Earnhardt to let go when she had to merge DEI with CGRWFS.
2009 sees Regan Smith pairing up with the Furniture Row team, which has run the past three full seasons out of Denver. Not Denver, North Carolina. Denver, Colorado. This is a team with limited resources, and their job is made more difficult by being located two time zones away from NASCARolina. Stepping back in light of the poor economy will turn out to be a bright move for this team, as they can better focus on performing well in the dozen or so races they plan to enter. Pairing up with Smith may be a smart move as well, seeing how he is yearning to prove that he is deserving of a full-time ride.
BRAD KESELOWSKI (rookie) (10 races in the 09, seven in the 25)
Hometown: Rochester Hills, MI
No. 25 GoDaddy.com/No. 09 Miccosukee Resorts Chevy
Crew Chief: Lance McGrew (No. 25)/Marc Reno (No. 09)
Owner: Rick Hendrick (No. 25)/James Finch (No. 09)
I've said it before and say it again, Brad Keselowski is proof that the system is not broken. A young, extremely talented young man stuck with a middling, poorly funded team, who may not be the prettiest or most media savvy person in the world can still get a break. This year, 2009, will see Keselowski's first serious foray into Cup competition, and considering the fact he will be running up to 17 races, Rookie of the Year is a strong possibility.
Obviously, Brad will have great equipment in the seven races he races in the famed Hendrick No. 25. And Lance McGrew has been around with the team for a while, so he can show the future of Hendrick Motorsports the ropes of Cup competition. As for the races with James Finch, it will be intriguing to see how Keselowski responds to equipment that may not be the greatest, although Finch's 09 has been known to hold its own from time to time with the best in the business. There was a rumor that Hendrick would provide engines for the Keselowski/Finch collaboration, but that has not been substantiated. We'll get to see how Brad performs out of the gate right away as he will be behind the wheel of the Finch machine during Speedweeks.