By Tom Bowles
All year long, teams outside the Top 35 in Nextel Cup owner points have complained about the difficulties they face in making the weekly starting lineup.
Now, it looks like their voices are being heard.
Sources tell Frontstretch.com
that the NASCAR is preparing to make changes to its qualifying procedure by the end of August, setting up a system in which all teams ranked outside the Top 35 qualify together. Eliminating the advantage of the qualifying order, all teams not "locked in" to the field would make their attempts back-to-back at either the beginning or end of the session. The overall starting order would still be determined the same way it is now, but for teams in position to make the field on speed, the differences in track temperature and weather would now be minimized, leveling a playing field that can often be tilted towards certain teams due to qualifying draw. Currently, only eight spots are available in the 43-car field to teams not "locked in" to the Top 35, with twelve full-time teams attempting to secure one of those coveted positions each week.
As for the Top 35 rule's future, there is no official word from NASCAR that changes are forthcoming next year...but sources say teams have been told to prepare for a possible adjustment in 2008, despite John Darby's public statements to the contrary.
Other News 'N' Notes
In the ARCA Series, age hasn't proved an obstacle for everyone. 50-year-old driver Art Seeger from New Jersey landed both a sponsor and a ride at Pocono this Saturday,
has learned. Seeger will drive the No. 48 Dodge Charger owned by legendary James Hylton and sponsored by Scuderia O2,
a New York City ad agency with a strong concentration in motorsports marketing. Seeger will be looking to score his first Top 10 finish in the series while Hylton continues to try and put his team back together after a litany of deals in both ARCA and Nextel Cup fell apart after the 72-year-old's near-miss attempt at making the Daytona 500 this February. Perhaps there's hope for someone like Sterling Marlin after all.
- David Stremme's recent link to DEI came out of the blue - literally. Despite a recent slump, the driver of the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge with Chip Ganassi continues to have strong ties to teammates Reed Sorenson and especially Juan Pablo Montoya; the Colombian has continually credited Stremme for accelerating his learning curve, and that positive feedback alone would seem to keep his job safe for 2008. After a season initially filled with promise, Stremme is without a Top 20 finish in the last eight races, plummeting from Chase contention to 25th in the season standings - but that's still a marked improvement over his rookie season, one in which he spent most of the year outside the Top 35 in points. Meanwhile, our sources continue to claim that Kyle Busch continues is the frontrunner to take over the No. 8 car next year.
- Apparently, Kevin Harvick might have been mad at Tony Stewart after all. Repeated calls from Stewart to both Harvick and wife DeLana were reportedly not returned as of Tuesday night. In a late-race battle for the lead in Sunday's Brickyard 400, Harvick and Stewart banged together, damaging the handling on the No. 29 Reese's Chevrolet and sending Harvick into a late-race tailspin that saw him fall all the way back to seventh place.
Did You Notice?
by Tom Bowles
Editor's Note : In this new column, one of your Frontstretch writers will point out a few short, pointed observations about the Nextel Cup Series each week that you might not have noticed or seen. Hope you enjoy it, and be sure to give us feedback at
edi...@frontstretch.com to tell us what you think. Managing Editor Tom Bowles does this week's edition.
Did You Notice...
That during Sunday's race, Denny Hamlin's pit crew looked like a bunch of confused schoolkids when the car came down pit road out of gas? Not that I would do any better, but it appears the constant criticism and midseason changes have completely sapped this team of any ability to remain confident in a crisis.
Did You Notice...
Chad Knaus' absence from the track making an impact for
perhaps the first time in Jimmie Johnson's career? One wonders if that
car wouldn't have been 100% fixed with Knaus in the saddle on Sunday, keeping that fender from rubbing and the tire from going down. Did You Notice...
Kyle Busch's quickly-denied rumor that he had signed with Gibbs Racing mirrored the bad information Jeff Hammond gave the world on Dale Earnhardt, Jr. two months ago, when he reported the superstar had signed with - you guessed it - Joe Gibbs. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wound up replacing Busch at Hendrick two weeks later - so, by that logic, it's only natural we'll see an announcement about Busch replacing Earnhardt, Jr. at DEI fairly soon.
Did You Notice...
Jeff Burton's humility after the race at Indianapolis on Sunday? While clearly irritated with Kyle Busch over the way he raced him on the track, Burton refused to publicly badmouth him, claiming any post-race discussion he and Kyle had was "between me and Kyle." For once, someone who holds to the old adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
Frontstretch Editor Power Rankings
by The Editors
Frontstretch Top Ten : August 1st
1) Jeff Gordon (4 First Place Votes) (Last Week : 1)
– Fifth Brickyard 400? No dice. Fifth title? Now that's a whole different story...
2) Tony Stewart (Last Week : 3) – Stewart's like the employee that picks up so much slack while you're on summer vacation, you come back to find out he's a threat to take your job.
3) Matt Kenseth (Last Week : 2)
- Another week, another Top 10, another six weeks of lurking under the radar until people realize this team is actually a real championship contender.
4) (tie) Jeff Burton (Last Week : 4) - Ironic Burton is tied with the one man he wanted to run off the road after Indy.
4) (tie) Kyle Busch (Last Week : 10) - Ironic Busch is tied with the one man he nearly
ran off the road after Indy.
6) Kevin Harvick (Last Week : Tie 5) - Completed the most aggressive "congratulatory tap" of all time after the checkered flag Sunday afternoon.
7) Denny Hamlin (Last Week: Tie 5) -
So you think you can change tires? Boy, have I got just the starter pit crew for you...
8) Carl Edwards (Last Week : 7) -
Proved he can drive with nine fingers just as well as with ten.
9) Kurt Busch (Last Week : NR) - No rear bumper? No problem for Busch at Indy...and now the No. 8 team can hear the breathing down their neck.
10) (tie) Jimmie Johnson (Last Week : 9) - For the first time in his career, in need of Chad Knaus to come back from his suspension in a hurry.
10) (tie) Mark Martin (Last Week : NR) - Just look what an off-week merger can do for team morale. OK, so maybe the Hendrick motor helped, too...
Dropped Out : Clint Bowyer
Others Receiving Votes : Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle
Tom and Cami give you the lowdown on what fantasy drivers will make you - and break you - this weekend at Pocono.