NASCAR Drivers Feeling the Heat, Take Two
As we sit 14 races into the 2009 Sprint Cup season and rumors begin to swirl around the Cup garage about who will be where with what sponsor in 2010, I wanted to take a look at some drivers who may be feeling the Silly Season pressure for various reasons.
Now in no way am I saying these drivers should be fired. I think they all deserve to finish the season and make a case to either keep their ride or earn a ride somewhere else should they lose their current rides.
No. 26 Jamie McMurray
Sitting 22nd in the current points rundown with only three top 10s to his 2009 record may not seem like the kind of record that would put someone's job in jeopardy, especially given McMurray's history of starting slowly and then picking up momentum towards the end of the season.
But given the current circumstance that Roush Fenway finds itself in with NASCAR enforcing the four team cap on them at the end of this season, it has become apparent that it will be either the 26 or 6 team being either axed or moved to ally Yates Racing's stable.
Should the decision be McMurray, I feel that he will be moved over to that Yates stable and that his current primary sponsor Crown Royal will stick with him in the move.
No. 43 Reed Sorenson
I have been very critical in the past of Reed Sorenson and his performances, or lack thereof, but I have him on this list for more than just his one top 10 in 2009 and current spot of 24th in the NASCAR rundown.
While Reed currently sits second in the RPM rundown behind Kahne and ahead of Sadler and Allmendinger, there are signs that there may be one less team at RPM in 2010 or a shakeup in the current driver roster.
Reed definitely will feel pressure for the rest of the season and will look to put forth an effort that will convince both the team and sponsors that he is worth the financial commitment.
No. 19 Elliot Sadler
My fellow Virginian had a tumultuous start to the 2009 campaign with the controversy that surrounded him and his return to the No. 19 team.
I fear that unless he begins to post more top fives and top 10s and climb from his current points rank of 27th that RPM will once again be looking for a new driver of the 19 if not closing it.
The main thing that can save Sadler or help him find a new ride should he be out of this team after this year is his marketability.
Fans love him especially for his antics on SPEED's Raceday. Sponsors love him because of the extra exposure he brings with his television appearances.
One thing that may help Sadler would be a similar path as current points leader Tony Stewart. Sadler could buy the currently dormant Southampton Speedway from just outside his hometown in Emporia, Va., and use reopening the track as somewhat of a stress relief and a fun side project.
Who knows if that could happen, though there would be much rejoicing amongst VA and NC short-track racers if it does.
No. 12 David Stremme
Stremme returned to Cup this season in an attempt to fill the void left by current fourth-place driver Ryan Newman in the No. 12 Dodge and so far he finds himself 30th in points with a season best finish of 13th at California. Stremme also has three DNF's on his 2009 record.
Stremme currently is the third wheel at Penske Championship Racing as his teammates, Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish, are fifth and 23rd in points, respectively.
If Stremme wants to continue at Penske, a top 10 sometime with in the next four weeks would probably be in his best interest.
Penske is currently riding pretty high on his current development driver and Nationwide rookie points leader Justin Allgaier and if Stremme continues this lack of performance Penske may chose to accelerate Allgaier's development Logano style (trial by Cup series fire).
No. 6 David Ragan
After starting his season on a high with a sixth-place finish at Daytona followed by a 17th at California Ragan began to slip after an early exit at Las Vegas relegated the third-year Cup driver to a 42nd-place finish.
Ragan currently sits 31st in the points rundown and at the bottom of the Roush Fenway stable as McMurray sits 22nd with Edwards, Biffle and Kenseth sitting sixth, seventh, and eighth respectively.
As I stated in the slide about McMurray, one of the Roush Fenway teams will be moved at the end of this season to comply with NASCAR's rule.
While I don't believe Roush will let this young talent who finished 13th in last year's points go, he may be willing to send the No. 6 team with sponsor UPS over to the Yates stable where it would continue as a Roush Fenway ally.
No. 82 Scott Speed
This already has the early indications of another one of Team Red Bull's failed experiments to bring an open wheel driver into NASCAR.
While Speed did show much promise in his days in the ARCA series, minus the Toledo fiasco, he has only shown that same kind of promise once this year when he finished fifth at Talladega.
Speed has not made the field for two races this season (Texas and Darlington) and has 3 DNFs out of the 13 he raced in (Red Bull paid NEMCO to put Speed in the 87 at Darlington).
If Speed wants to have a chance at 2010, he needs to try to pull his head above water by getting the No. 82 back into the top 35 in owner points.
Red Bull has shown they will dump drivers mid-season, but I don't see anything happening to Speed until after 2009.
Who knows Red Bull may be the team who tries to bring Danica Patrick over from IRL and put her in either the 82 or resurrect the 84 and buy someone's owner points, perhaps the fifth team from Roush Fenway should they decide to just close it.
No. 71 David Gilliland
Recently TRG has begun to side with some start and parks due to financial woes and low sponsorship dollars. While this is not good and doesn't reflect well on driver David Gilliland, it is not the reason I have him on here.
With some potential free agents on the market for the 2010 season. Drivers like Elliott Sadler, Jamie McMurray, and Reed Sorenson may be looking for new homes and will bring a loyal fan base and more marketability with then than what Gilliland currently offers.