Bristol Motor Speedway: It's the Same New, and Old Stories

Brandon CaldwellCorrespondent IMarch 11, 2009

With four races down in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, there is always the same new story, or well in some cases, the same same story.

Once again, in 2009, like in 2008, the No. 82 Red Bull Racing team (was No. 84 in 2008) is on the outside looking in going into Bristol. After temporarily replacing A.J. Allmendinger last year, with Mike Skinner, it looked like the then 84 team was on their way. Allmendinger got back into the car, and raced it back into the top 35.

Then Scott Speed happened to the team this year.

You could see the frustration in crew chief Jimmy Elledge's face at the Budweiser Shootout this year. They were struggling. Big time, and nothing has changed.

Speed's inexperience in not what this team needed to have a successful 2009, and now with teammate Brian Vickers running so well, and with the success of the team last season, the fingers are starting to point right at Speed.

The No. 5 team is also experiencing the same story.

For the second time in two years, they are faced with a new driver. That new driver, a very skilled veteran, continues to struggle with the Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet.

The only constant of the struggling team?

The sponsor, the championship winning car owner, and the crew chief, who has proved nothing so far.

But not all of these teams are facing the old stories. The No. 39 car of Ryan Newman was expected to have a great start with Stewart-Haas Racing.

The No. 66 team (which is the No. 39 team in 2009), last year was higher in points with driver Scott Riggs, and without the backing of a big sponsor like US Army or a sponsored teammate.

Newman is worse off than the No. 66 team was without him last year.

With David Stremme having a better season than Newman, it shows that maybe the 12 car wasn't the problem after all.

But the biggest disappointment this year has to be Paul Menard.

In this economy, we could see if your team took a step down in 2009. But Menard has $30 million sponsor from the Menard's family business, an alliance with Hall of Fame Racing, a new sponsor for them, and a championship winning driver as a teammate.

All signs pointed to the No. 98 teams being on their way to success in 2009.

With his best finish of the season being 28th last week at Atlanta, Menard has that team looking for answers.

Bobby Labonte and the Hall of Fame team have ran so well this year, why isn't the No. 98 having the same success?

Maybe because they hired a driver with only one top 10 finish in his five-year career?

This is one situation that proves the old adage, money doesn't buy happiness, maybe it doesn't buy skill either. Menard needs to have a top 15 run at a track where his career average finish is 24th.

But with every disappointment, there's also some success stories that go with it.

The No. 71 team of David Gilliland is one of those stories. A team that was put together one month before Daytona, and didn't even have a driver for California when they pulled away from missing the Daytona 500, has rebounded.

With two top 25 finishes this season, David Gilliland is loving keeping his old race team out of the top 35. With the Yates cars being outside, and Gilliland's team in (even after missing a race), Gilliland is proving he belongs in the Cup Series with the sports best.

All Gilliland needs to do at Bristol is finish in one peace, and TRG's success story will continue to Martinsville.

Another virtually unknown race team having success this season is the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports team.

This was a team that went into Daytona without a sponsor, and with a driver, whom they didn't name until about two weeks before Daytona, coming back into the picture giving his fans another day of summer.  

John Andretti has managed to get the most out of his No. 34 Chevrolet.

Window World jumped on board at Daytona, and were so pleased with the results they jumped on for four more races, the last of that being Bristol.

Who knows if Window World will continue beyond Bristol, but it sure is nice to see single car teams still running well, and nice guys like Gilliland and Andretti proving the statement, "nice guys finish last," wrong.

Let's put the past behind us, and focus in on Bristol. There are race teams that are in the middle of this pack, and still some with something left to prove.

The first of those teams being the No. 36 team of Scott Riggs. Tommy Baldwin's organization looked like it was going to stay here for good after the first two races of the season. They made the Daytona 500 in dramatic fashion, and finished in the top 25.

Fontana came along, and they rode the momentum right into that place and raced there too, still running at the finish. But then they missed the next two races at Vegas and Atlanta. Baldwin's team has got to prove if they belong in the Sprint Cup Series at Bristol.

A team just like Baldwin's was that of Jeremy Mayfield. Just making the first two races was a success for this team, but they too missed the next two races, and need to prove to everyone if they in fact are for real, or it was just a nice story.

The No. 8 team of Aric Almirola has the most to prove at Bristol. After getting off to a very slow start in the first three races, Almirola bounced back with a solid 21st place finish at Atlanta.

Now, only being 11 points behind 35th place Martin in owner's points, their fate matters on a very good run at Bristol. They've got to finish at least four positions ahead of Martin, which is a tough task.

But, their are so many teams right there close to the 8 car.

The one to watch is the No. 77 team of Sam Hornish, Jr. Unlike his teammates, Hornish so far, has made people fail to notice his new Dodge nose and engine, and with his best finish at Bristol being 29th, and being only 51 points up on a driver whose only career top 10 came here last season, you could see these teams swap places after Bristol.