Who's Where for 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup (Part 1)

Russell SchmidtContributor IJanuary 2, 2011

David Reutimann appears on target to notch yet another win for MWR in 2011.
David Reutimann appears on target to notch yet another win for MWR in 2011.Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

Racin’ with Russ

With all of the many changes in team lineups for 2011, I’ll go over who’s where in the NASCAR Sprint Cup team lineup for the next several weeks. You might want to save these columns or take some notes as the driver, crew chief and sponsor changes are numerous. I’ll also throw in some opinions as to how I feel these combos will work out.

No. 00—As predicated a few years ago, David Reutimann is panning out to be the real deal with impressive results, despite not working with one of the top shelf teams. The MWR Toyota will return with Rodney Childers as crew chief and Aarons as the major backer. Results? They recorded nine top-10s in 2010 and one win, finishing 18th in the final standings. I’d look for about the same results this year.

No. 1—Jamie McMurray had to be one of the biggest surprises for 2010, with big wins at Daytona, Indy and Charlotte, along with 12 top-10 runs, four poles, 14th in points and nearly seven million dollars in prize money.

Bass Pro Shops and McDonalds are slated to return along with the other major players in what should be a Chase-eligible season featuring more trophies.

No. 2—Brad Keselowski comes off a so-so season in Cup at best, with only two top-10 finishes and finishing only 25th in points. That certainly doesn’t compute for me after he dominated the Nationwide series. Miller Beer remains the primary sponsor, with Kurt Busch sliding over to a new situation in a No. 22 Shell Dodge.

Elevating BK’s winning Nat crew chief Paul Wolfe to crew chief in this Cup team might just gel for more top-10’s, but a Chase entry is out of the question—for now.

No. 5—Veteran racer Mark Martin returns full-time behind the wheel of this Hendrick ride, but after nailing down five wins in 2009, he went winless last season with only a few spots of brilliance, read 11 top-10s and 13th in points.

Lance McGrew will direct Martin in his final season before Kasey Kahne takes over in 2012. GoDaddy, Delphi, Carquest and Quaker State will write the checks as Martin tries to return to form. I’m not sure how this one will work out, but many fans have him as the sentimental favorite to land a few more checkers before hanging’ up the ol' helmet.

No. 6David Ragan is more than likely in a "put up or shut up" performance situation after a dismal showing for 2010. UPS will back the young Roush-Fenway driver with Drew Blickensdorfer as crew chief. A 24th-place finish in points with a paltry three top-10s is just not good enough to stay in this top shelf ride. I don’t see much difference for this combo.

No. 7—Robby Gordon is the perhaps the last of the owner/driver combos in big-time racing. The diverse driver will more than likely not run full-time this year, concentrating more on some Indy 500 and off-road experiences.

Speed Energy Drink (his own backing) is said to provide backing and the team is currently working on changing all of their rides from Toyota to Chevy. Predictions? He’ll be competitive on the two-road racing venues and marginal at best for the limited schedule.

From Rumorville—After seven-plus years of employment with Red Bull Racing, from F-1 to NASCAR, Scott Speed was unceremoniously fired by a fax on November 23. He was under the impression he would still be under contract for the next few seasons, and with this late dismissal, it has all but sidelined this talented driver, as any decent rides are long gone for this year. Speed has initiated a $7.5 million lawsuit for what he would have potentially earned from 2011 to 2013.

The much-anticipated NASCAR Hall of Fame is losing money. Reports indicate it is on track to lose more than a million dollars in its first year, nothing near the initial projected $1.1 million earnings for the first four months. This overpriced project ($195 million) and the $20 admission is all too much, as I said many months ago. What do you think? Drop me a line.

That’s it for this week. Next week’s RWR will continue with Part 2 of Who’s Where in 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup, along with more racing news from around the globe.

Questions? Comments? Contact Russ at racinwithruss@comcast.net.