As is usually the case with Silly Season, there is little that can be written without the word "speculation" entering the conversation. These standings are far from official, but the point of this article is to project the most likely scenarios for fans wondering if their driver will be guaranteed a spot in the 2009 Daytona 500.
I believe there is now enough information to put together what is likely to be the top-35 standings in Owners Points for Daytona. These will be the cars guaranteed a starting spot per the NASCAR rulebook.
The drivers are another story, with plenty still to be decided. Projected changes in Owners Points standings from the final race at Homestead are as follows.
JTG-Daugherty Racing [in partnership with MWR] #47 (Marcos Ambrose)
Gillet Evernham Motorsports #10 (likely to be A.J. Allmendinger in 2009)
Penske Racing #77 (Sam Hornish, Jr.)
Bill Davis Racing #22 (Dave Blaney, 2008)
Dale Earnhardt, Inc. - Chip Ganassi Racing #01 (Regan Smith, 2008)
Dale Earnhardt, Inc. - Chip Ganassi Racing #15 (Paul Menard, 2008)
My standings are based on the following:
1) The DEI-CGR merger will eliminate two top-35 teams and those are expected to be the No. 01, driven by Regan Smith in 2008 and the No. 15, driven by Paul Menard in 2008. Menard has already moved on to the Yates Racing camp, and there is no word on Smith's immediate future.
Sources at both DEI and Chip Ganassi Racing indicate the four-car operation will include the No. 41, the No. 42, the No. 1, and the No. 8. All four of those cars are already in the top-35.
The most likely scenario at this point appears to be that these two cars will simply "fall away," similar to the No. 13 DEI/Ginn car last year, and that no other team will be allowed to use their points to secure a Daytona starting spot. NASCAR would make the final decision on any scenario in which these points would be used.
Of interest, Jayski.com is reporting today that Bobby Labonte may be the new driver of the No. 41, with A.J. Allmendinger likely staying on with GEM to pilot either the No. 10 or No. 43 (Reed Sorenson would be in the other).
2) Bill Davis Racing's No. 22 team has folded and will not be operating during the 2009 season. This has already happened and is not speculation. Where, or if, Dave Blaney will drive certainly would be speculation at this point.
3) A pending Gillet Evernham Motorsports-Petty Enterprises merger will eliminate the No. 45 team (which was not in the top-35 anyway), leaving GEM with the No. 9, No. 19, No. 10, and No. 43. Though this deal has not been made official, it appears extremely likely at this point.
4) I project that Yates will keep just two teams and either Travis Kvapil or David Gilliland will be out at the Cup level. At this time, I am projecting that Kvapil keeps his ride, but this is mostly based on speculation and rumor.
A third car could potentially be created for Menard though given the current state of the U.S. economy, it seems extremely unlikely. Gilliland could get the ride instead of Kvapil, but indications from Yates so far have been that Kvapil is being retained, which would leave Gilliland out of his Cup ride.
The next page contains the full projected top-35 Owners Points standings:
Position. Car #, Team (Likely Driver, 2009)
1. No. 48, Hendrick Motorsports (Jimmie Johnson)
2. No. 99, Roush Fenway Racing (Carl Edwards)
3. No. 16, RFR (Greg Biffle)
4. No. 29, Richard Childress Racing (Kevin Harvick)
5. No. 07, RCR (Casey Mears)
6. No. 31, RCR (Jeff Burton)
7. No. 24, Hendrick Motorports (Jeff Gordon)
8. No. 11, Joe Gibbs Racing (Denny Hamlin)
9. No. 20, JGR (Joey Logano)
10. No. 18, JGR (Kyle Busch)
11. No. 17, RFR (Matt Kenseth)
12. No. 88, Hendrick Motorsports (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.)
13. No. 6, RFR (David Ragan)
14. No. 8, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. - Chip Ganassi Racing (Aric Almirola)
15. No. 9, Gillet Evernham Motorsports (Kasey Kahne)
16. No. 1, DEI - CGR (Martin Truex, Jr.)
17. No. 26, RFR (Jamie McMurray)
18. No. 12, Penske Racing (David Stremme)
19. No. 2, Penske Racing (Kurt Busch)
20. No. 83, Red Bull Racing (Brian Vickers)
21. No. 5, Hendrick Motorsports (Mark Martin)
22. No. 43, GEM (Reed Sorenson)
23. No. 28, Yates Racing (Travis Kvapil)
24. No. 19, GEM (Elliott Sadler)
25. No. 42, DEI - CGR (Juan Pablo Montoya)
26. No. 00, Michael Waltrip Racing (David Reutimann)
27. No. 38, Yates Racing (Paul Menard; possibly D. Gilliland if 3rd car at Yates)
28. No. 55, MWR (Michael Waltrip)
29. No. 39, was the #66, Stewart-Haas Racing (Ryan Newman)
30. No. 41, DEI - CGR (Bobby Labonte)
31. No. 7, Robby Gordon Motorsports (Robby Gordon)
32. No. 82 (was the #84), Red Bull Racing (Scott Speed)
33. No. (3)47, JTG-Daugherty Racing (Marcos Ambrose)
34. No. 10, GEM (A.J. Allmendinger)
35. No. 77, Penske Racing (Sam Hornish, Jr.)