The Frontstretch Newsletter: November 20th, 2008

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Nov 20, 2008, 1:13:37 AM11/20/08
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THE FRONTSTRETCH NEWSLETTER
Presented by Frontstretch.com

The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!

November 20th, 2008
Volume II, Edition CCXXIV

Today's Top News
by Tom Bowles

Carl Edwards' Silver Crown Driver Injured In Off-Track Incident

20-year-old USAC driver Cameron Dodson was seriously injured Wednesday in a motor vehicle accident in Indiana. The driver for Carl Edwards' team in the Silver Crown Division, Dodson remains in critical condition at an Indianapolis-area hospital after his personal car veered off the road and into a ditch 20 miles east of the state capital.

Late this afternoon, Cameron Dodson's PR manager Michelle Petroff issued a brief statement.

"On behalf of the Dodson family and everyone who has the pleasure of working with Cameron, we would like to thank the local and motorsports communities for their immediate care & concern," she said. However, no specific updates have been given on  the specific severity of Dodson's condition out of respect for privacy during this difficult time.

For those wishing to send cards, please address them to: Cameron Dodson, C/O Rising Star Management Group, 6199 SW Leland Ave., Des Moines, IA, 50321.

The 2007 Rookie of the Year in Silver Crown, Dodson competed in a limited schedule this season behind the wheel of the No. 199 car for Edwards. He most recently finished second in the Silver Crown race at Phoenix this November, the Copper World Classic in which he won his first career event back in 2007.

Shepherd Plans Full Nationwide Series Assault In 2009

Despite failing to qualify for the last three events of the Nationwide Series season, Morgan Shepherd and his Faith Motorsports team plan to return to NASCAR's second-tier division in 2009.

"It's probably hard for the average fan to see the positives in the last three weeks, but there is so much happening behind the scenes," team co-owner Dana Tomes said on Shepherd's website following the team's failure to make the field at Homestead. "There are a lot of changes we are working on; unless something unexpected happens, you will see Morgan Shepherd back in the Nationwide Series full-time next year in what we believe will be a very competitive car."

Shepherd started out the year as a start and park team, but began running the distance for races in the second half of the season after an infusion of funding from NASCAR veterans Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, and Dale Jarrett. The 67-year-old finished 29th in the season-ending point standings, scoring a 13th-place run at Talladega and one other Top 20 finish in 27 starts.

The veteran last won a Nationwide Series race in 1988; he has 15 wins overall and 67 Top 10s in 240 career starts in that division.

Today's Featured Commentary
What's Vexing Vito: Yay! The Season Is Over! I'm Devastated

by Vito Pugliese

I'm conflicted.

The 2008 NASCAR season is finally over; but "finally," for me, has a few different meanings this November. Mainly, it has been a hectic and exhausting year, balancing working and writing while trying to maintain some semblance of a semi-normal social life. But this has been -- after 26 years of watching this sport -- the most painfully long season I can remember. I feel that there were more lows than highs, unfortunately; but then again, such is the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in at this point in history. I am also taken aback by some of the irony and coincidence – whatever label you wish to apply to it -- that I have seen this year in NASCAR.

First of all, let's take our champion Jimmie Johnson. No, he isn't exactly the most charismatic fellow out there; but then again, what are you looking for: a guy who wins races and championships who represents the sport well, or someone to ignite a revolution in some Third World craphole? Johnson does not demand absolute submission and respect, though after winning three consecutive titles and tying one of the all-time legends of the sport, he would have every right to. It also makes me shake my gigantic 7'-7/8" hat-sized head that people would actually question whether or not he is one of the all-time greats in the sport. To date, Johnson has won 40 races, three consecutive titles (and for all intents and purposes, could have won five by now), all by the age of 33 years old.

How old was Yarborough when he got that third championship? 39 years old. By that time, he had 59 wins as well. What do you think Jimmie Johnson will be able to accomplish over the next six years? Sorry, folks; but he's just that good.

Meanwhile, Junior Nation was pumped when 2008 began -- this was what everybody was waiting for. Finally, he has the best equipment, his cousin Tony Eury, Jr. calling the shots, and no longer had to succumb to the browbeating of the wicked stepmother. There were no more excuses for him; it was time to follow in the footsteps of Daddy.  Well, Junior comes out of the box strong at Daytona, winning the Bud Shootout and his 150-mile qualifying event. He then wins a race and qualifies for The Chase; but a few exploding tires later, the guy sits 12th in the final standings (7th under the traditional format), and people are calling him a failure.

For what?!

Not sure if you noticed or not, but his teammate, four-time champion Jeff Gordon, didn't even win a race this year; and for the most part, ran worse than the No. 88 car all season long. Scratch off that No. 88 decal, and you'll find a No. 25 under it from last season. Come to think of it, Casey Mears didn't do a whole lot in the No. 5 car this year, did he? Had it not been for a few botched pit calls and Kyle Busch's bumper, Junior very well could have won four or five races this season. Would people be satisfied then? Unlikely. They'd probably say, "Well, why didn't he win eight?" or, "Well, he better, look whose car he's driving." Meanwhile, Jeff Burton, the driver who wears the distinction of being the ideal Chase competitor because he will Top 6 or Top 7 you to death, finished sixth in points. I find that appropriate.

To me, the major stories this year were the Goodyear fiasco at The Brickyard -- the biggest debacle since… well, the Formula One fiasco involving Michelin -- declining attendance, and the economic downturn. The latter continues to affect NASCAR far into the offseason, as just a couple of days ago, nearly 200 people were laid off. But the one bright shining spot and the one redeeming value that's been often overlooked was the Craftsman Truck Series (now known as the Camping World Truck Series for 2009). But if there was ever a year that epitomized what that division is all about, it was the final year of Craftsman's involvement in 2008. The title came down to an end of race green/white/checkered finish – the format that had become the hallmark of this series – between Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday, Jr. The racing seen throughout the night was some of the best all season, and a testament to why diehard fans always point to the trucks as, "the way things used to be." I was sad to see it end, but overjoyed to see Johnny Benson win the title by just seven points after several years of trying. Heck, even Ron Hornaday, Jr. seemed happy to see him win it. If there was any disappointment that yearlong battle, it was that one of the two principles in this fight had to come up short.

And while I am glad to finally get a break here to recharge the batteries for a few months, I am also a bit sad as well. My Sundays have a big hole in them now, one that the Detroit Lions could never be able to fill even if they do fulfill my 0-16 perfect season. So, as much as I am ready for long winter's racing nap, I can't wait to check out the speeds reported in preseason testing for 2009 and ... oh, that's right.

No more testing.

Well, I'll be glad when we get started at Daytona again in February for Speedweeks and The Great American Race. In the meantime, thanks to all of you for reading, and for your comments and e-mails. Have a safe and fun holiday season, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Every Thursday during the season, find out what's Vexing Vito; and if you've got a comment, an opinion, or even a good topic, Vito can be reached at vito.p...@frontstretch.com.

Got NASCAR-related questions or comments?
Send them Matt Taliaferro's way at matt.ta...@frontstretch.com; and if you're lucky, you'll get your name in print when he does his weekly column answering back to you – the fans that keep Frontstretch afloat. Fanning The Flames returns Thursday with a whole new set of Fan Questions and Answers!

FRONTSTRETCH LINE OF THE WEEK
The Best Line From A Story You Need to See 
from Top Ten Things I Want To Say About The 2008 NASCAR Season by Jeff Meyer

8.
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. This is either the start of something better than either had by themselves – OR – a massive train wreck waiting to happen. DEI was a once proud and formidable contender in the Cup garage that has become nothing more than an "also ran." Chip Ganassi Racing, which never really was anything super special in the Series, also seems to have a super fast revolving door when it comes to personnel. Me, I'm standing aside and betting on the train wreck.

IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS, BE A NASCAR RACING EXPERT!
How, you ask? The answer is simple: read up on the teams and drivers you love the most, right here on Frontstretch.com! Every day, Kim DeHaven and her helpers Beth Lunkenheimer and Tony Lumbis post reams of PR from teams across the NASCAR-o-sphere.  Here's just a sample of the race reports for this week's featured races.

Driver Reports
Hornaday Finishes 8th at Homestead; One Position Shy of Championship
Ambrose, Kingsford, JTG Daugherty Racing Enjoy Top 10 Finish

Looking Ahead
Bires Makes Strong Pitch For Future Aboard Tom's Snacks Ford
Menard To Drive No. 98 Yates Racing Ford Fusion In 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Competition


Track News
The racetrack of champions: 2008 IMS winners sweep season titles

Manufacturers
Ford Homestead Trucks - post-race quotes - Braun wins rookie of the year title

Want More?
Sprint Cup | Nationwide Series | Craftsman Truck | Tracks PR | ARCA, IRL and more


TODAY ON THE FRONTSTRETCH:


Fanning The Flames: Closing The Inbox On The 2008 Season
by Matt Taliaferro

Scott Speed Driver Diary: Learning From Jimmie Johnson In 2008 While Looking Forward To 2009
by Scott Speed

Kenny Wallace Driver Diary: Grateful For 2008's Highlights

by Kenny Wallace

Rick Crawford Driver Diary: I'll Keep An Eye On The Casino For You...

by Rick Crawford

Fantasy Picks 'N' Pans: Get A Head Start On 2009 With A 2008 Stats Review

by Bryan Davis Keith and Mike Neff

Frontstretch On The Radio:
Join Patrick Snow, Matt Taliaferro, and Tom Bowles one final time in 2008 with our Athlon / Frontstretch podcast presented by Pepsi. We'll take a look back at the final race of the year, judge where Jimmie Johnson's third straight title ranks in the history books, and sort out the offseason pink slips to figure out exactly what teams are in jeopardy as the '09 season comes around.

Unsure when to tune in for the podcast? Well, the newest version usually comes out by Thursday night and gets archived at racetalkradio.com each Friday. Download us by heading over to http://www.athlonsports.com/racing/inside-racing-powered-by-pepsi, and don't forget to listen in on iTunes each week!! We're under "Athlon Racing Podcast."

FRONTSTRETCH TRIVIA:

Q. These sets of brothers have won championships in NASCAR's top three series.  Who are they?
Check back Friday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Wednesday Answer:

Q. These drivers have won championships in two of the three top NASCAR series. Who are they?
A. 
Bobby Labonte is the only driver to win a championship at both the Cup (2000) and Nationwide (1991) level, while Greg Biffle and Johnny Benson, Jr. have both won in the Craftsman Truck and Nationwide Series. Biffle won his Truck title in 2000, while Benson took his in 2008; the two won Nationwide Series titles in 2002 (Biffle) and 1995 (Benson), respectively.

Frontstretch Trivia Guarantee: 
If we mess up, you get the shirt off our backs!  If we've provided an incorrect answer to the Frontstretch Trivia question, be the first to email the corrected trivia answer to tri...@frontstretch.com and we'll send you a Frontstretch T-Shirt ... FREE!

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Coming Tomorrow in the Frontstretch Newsletter:
-- Top News from Kurt Smith
-- In Case You Missed It from Kurt Smith
-- Trivia, links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, and more!

Tomorrow on the Frontstretch:

Driven To The Past by John Potts
No need to source his tales of past racing glory: John IS the source as Frontstretch's resident flagging expert! This week, keep your seat belt fastened, because it's going to be a bumpy ride!

Holding A Pretty Wheel by Amy Henderson
In future NASCAR history books, you're going to find more than a few paragraphs on Jimmie Johnson. Join Amy as she writes a couple.

Happy Hour: The Official Journalist Of NASCAR
by Kurt Allen Smith
Join Kurt for Happy Hour this week before your memory fades; Kurt's providing us the soon-to-be forgotten stories of 2008!

David Starr Driver Diary by David Starr
David is back to sum up his 2008 Truck Series season, and looks forward to 2009 driving the No. 11 Zachry Toyota.

Voices From The Heartland by Jeff Meyer
Frontstretch's resident satirist recovers from yesterday's postponed column to give NASCAR a talking to one last time before his offseason hibernation.

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Got something to say about an article you've seen in the newsletter? It's as easy as replying directly to this message or sending an email to edi...@frontstretch.com. We'll take the best comments and publish them here!
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