Silly Season is a strange animal. Generally it starts once the checkered flag drops at Homestead and ends once Daytona begins. Sometimes if someone’s been extra whiny (i.e. Jeremy Mayfield at Penske or Evernham) it begins before season’s end. This year is no different, so here’s a little refresher course on some of what’s gone down since last November.
Aric Almirola to Phoenix Racing, loses sponsor.
If it weren’t bad for luck, Almirola wouldn’t have any at all. After never getting a full-time ride with Joe Gibbs Racing, he arrived at Ginn Racing. The same thing happened there, and he eventually got shuffled out once Ginn was absorbed by the then Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. James Finch saw talent in Almirola and picked him up for 2010 to drive the Miccosukee Gaming Resorts car (the same one Brad Keselowski took to victory lane in a Talladega shocker last year.) Almirola’s troubles followed him when the Miccosukee tribe elects a new leader and immediately ends Finch’s sponsorship deal, which has lasted nearly ten years.
The Bottom Line: What was once going to be a full-season ride for the young driver will probably end up like every other ride he’s gotten.
Jamie McMurray goes back to Ganassi… sort of.
Since 2010 was the year Roush-Fenway Racing had to drop from five teams to four, Jamie McMurray found himself out of a ride as the 26 car was the team to get the axe. With Martin Truex, Jr. leaving the newly created Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, the #1 Bass Pro Shops car was in need of a driver. Ganassi called upon McMurray, who had driven the #42 Texaco Dodge for him before he left for the #26. McMurray would have been a fool to pass this up. Earnhardt-Ganassi cars seem to be a little more user friendly than Roush-Fenway cars.
I say this because of the history of drivers in both cars. Only once has there been an Earnhardt-Ganassi driver that flat out sucked, and that was Jeff Green (Even Paul Menard was a little better.)
Sure, a lot of the rest of them were not that great, but generally did decently. Look at the list of Roushkateers that have come and gone with little to no success: Wally Dallenbach, Ted Musgrave, Kevin Lepage, Chad Little and Johnny Benson. Of course Ganassi’s biggest mistake came in the form of the train wreck known as Jason Leffler.
The Bottom Line: Expect McMurray to do better in the #1 than he ever did in the 26 or the 42.
Richard Petty Motorsports is the Borg, apparently.
Last year, Petty Enterprises was swallowed up by Gillet Evernham Motorsports to form RPM. During the off-season, RPM absorbed Robert Yates Racing (formerly RYR.) This effectively ends Petty’s partnership with Dodge and the 9, 19, 43 and 98 are now Ford Fusions. Is this unusual for Petty? Not at all. The #43 has been numerous different makes and models over the course of its existence (Oldsmobile, anyone?) and nearly every manufacturer has had the blue oval on their hood once already. Of course the only thing left of the team that Davey Allison put on the map is the #98 Menard’s car, which, as always, is driven by Paul Menard.
In other news, A.J. Allmendinger moves from the 44 to the 43 (leaving Reed Sorenson out in the cold) and Kasey Kahne is exploring his options at the end of the 2010 season.
The Bottom Line: If RPM keeps swallowing up teams at this rate, there won’t be anyone left to compete against.
The Big Keselowski.
After pulling a Jamie McMurray last year at Talladega and proving that pre-rookies can still win races, Roger Penske picked up the young Ann Arbor, MI native to drive full time in the 2010 season. The #12 has seen sporadic success over the years, but Ryan Newman’s 13 wins in the car are the most success its had in recent history, but only one of those wins came in the past five years (it was the Daytona 500, though. I don’t hear anyone complaining.) Penske’s teams may seem a little down and out, but Kurt Busch has won six races since taking over the Miller Lite Dodge in 2006 and that’s certainly nothing to gawk at.
The Bottom Line: Keselowski should do fine in the 12, but it won’t be easy. The team has only won three races since Ryan Newman’s 2003 8-win rampage, but that doesn’t always mean anything. After all, look what he did in James Finch’s car.
Martin Truex, Jr. to Waltrip? REALLY?
I really thought Martin was smarter than this. In a boneheaded move akin to Bobby Labonte leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to drive the 43, Martin Truex, Jr. leaves a championship capable team to drive the NAPA Toyota. Now look, don’t get me wrong, I don’t care for Darth Teresa’s (aka: Teresa Earnhardt) crumbling empire as much as the next guy, but in a strange twist of fate the #1 car was the only team at Earnhardt-Ganassi that wasn’t blowing engines or just flat out sucking. Between Steve Park and Martin Truex, so many people drove the 1 car that I could say I drove it in one race and people would probably believe me (and do a better job than Jeff Green.) Maybe the money is better at Waltrip. Toyota does have, as my father says, “stupid money” to throw around.
The improvements since Tad Geschicker’s quasi-merger are quite noticeable, but that’s mainly through Marcos Ambrose (who has proven himself to be quite the capable competitor.) Still, Michael Waltrip Racing is just like Michael Waltrip the person: Loud, larger than life and entertaining, but not very competitive. Of course, nobody deserves success more than Michael Waltrip (maybe Mark Martin winning a championship, but that’s for another article) but really, though. I wish the best for Martin and Michael, but it’s going to be a long, uphill battle.
The Bottom Line: The only person truly benefiting from this is Jamie McMurray, who gets Truex’s old ride.
Other things of interest:
- Boris Said has a new ride, yet again. I will probably announce this every year until the end of time.
- Doug Yates buys part of Front Row Motorsports. Expect this to be as bad of an idea since Harry Ranier tried to start a new race team after selling his old one to Doug’s father Robert.
- Truck series driver Terry Cook looking to go for Rookie of the Year. He’s been in trucks so long, though, that he may be wasting his time.
- BAM Racing rears its ugly head, once again. This time Robby Gordon will run sporadic races sponsored by… Larry the Cable Guy? Seriously, BAM Racing needs to give up. They are to teams what Derrike Cope is to drivers.
- Former Waltrip driver Michael McDowell takes car #55 to Prism Motorsports. They have a technical alliance and also will be fielding a #66 for Dave Blaney. This team is pretty much a field filler operation. Waltrip, incidently is driving a #51 for a handful of races this season and then calling it quits.
- Bobby Labonte driving #71 car for TRG Motorsports. This is pretty much only to bank off of Labonte’s championship provisional. The Stewart-Haas alliance can’t hurt though.
- Braun Racing may attempt to run the #32 for Reed Sorenson later in the season. This is a decent team with a decent driver. If they can qualify, they won’t necessarily disappoint.
- Danica Patrick may drive Hendrick’s #25 later in season if ARCA/Nationwide deal works out well enough.
So there you have it. A look at the big stories during Silly Season and a few other tidbits to satisfy you before the green flag drops this weekend.