What's New in NASCAR?
So, what's new?
First and foremost, and covered to death, is the signing of Danica Patrick to JR Motorsports. She's had a practice session at Daytona, and once she figured out the differences in getting in and out of the car- between Indy and NASCAR - by all accounts she did very well. She'll make her ARCA debut at Daytona in a couple short weeks, but her Nationwide debut will wait until California. Danica wasn't the only female in an ARCA car at Daytona, either. the Cope twins, Milka Duno and others also took in the testing session, but were lost in the hoopla that surrounded Danica. The ARCA race on February 6th will undoubtedly be one to watch.
A few teams have had to make changes, continuing the trend that unfortunately started last year when the recession went into full effect. At this time last year, it was unsure if we would see a full entry list on any given weekend. In fact, the field fillers made a quiet return - cars who start the race, run a few laps and drop out, to take home just enough money to allow them to show up again. Teams that have closed shop include the 26 of Roush Racing (they've sold the team points to the Latitude 43 Race Team, establishing a "comprehensive services contract") and the 07 of Richard Chidress Racing, although there is hope the car may run in a few limited races. Casey Mears is still working on finding a ride for 2010, but Jamie McMurray has signed with Earnhardt Ganassi to drive the 1 car vacated by Martin Truex Jr. Unfortunately, it isn't just the drivers who are struggling, but all the crew memebers, engineers, Crew Chiefs that were once at home in the NASCAR garage have found themselves displaced and in the unemployment line.
It doesn't look as though things will improve any time too soon, and the newer owners of NASCAR teams need to readjust their thinking. It's wonderful to come into the sport and want to be successful, but the likes of George Gillett haven't seen the success they envisioned, possibly because of the lack of reinvestment. Ray Evernham recently said in an interview with NASCAR.com that he sees the future of NASCAR teams being multiple owners. He also stated that he thinks NASCAR has been a tad greedy,
"Some might say that NASCAR has been a little greedy. But to be fair to NASCAR, the sport lost not only Bill France Jr., but also Bruce Kennedy [Lesa France's husband], who played a huge role in keeping things stable there. Brian [France] is smart enough to do the job, but does he really want to do it? That's what a lot of people question. [NASCAR president] Mike Helton can do it, but he wears a lot of hats already. He has a lot on him. NASCAR is going through a little bit of an identity crisis at the top at the same time the economy went in the dumpster. ... We hit a peak, it's coming down, and it'll go back up, but not at the same trajectory."
Amid the unemployment, however, there is hope for a few people. Reed Sorenson thought he would be one of those without a ride, but he announced last night on NASCAR Hub that he has a ride for 5 Cup races and a bunch more Nationwide races with Braun Racing, in the number 32 Dollar General car. Other drivers have moved or returned to the feeder series, while other open wheelers, such as Nelson Piquet Jr and Vitor Meira explore stock car options.