Are we talking racing? or Silly Season?
As I write this, the Sprint Cup cars are on the track and Dale Jr is the fastest car in this session. Yes, the boys in the booth are talking about the track, the car set ups and the fastest cars, but they just can't stay away from the Kasey Kahne story.
So, let's get some of the facts out of the way.
1. Kasey Kahne has signed with Hendrick Motorsports to drive the number 5 in 2012 and beyond.
2. Mark Martin is contracted in the number 5 car through to the end of 2011.
3. Every other HMS driver is contracted through multiple seasons, so there is no other HMS ride available for Kasey in 2011.
4. Stewart-Haas Racing is currently a two car operation, but has made no secret of the fact that they intend to become a four car operation in the future.
5. Stewart-Haas Racing has, in the past couple of weeks, been hiring pit crew members.
6. Mark Martin has said he WILL be racing past 2011.
From the facts above, one could connect the dots and come to a logical conclusion - that Kasey will drive for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2011, then moving to HMS while Mark moves to the third SHR car. However, nothing has been decided yet, and probably won't in the next few days. Everyone anticipates it will happen over the next 6 weeks.
But, there are more than just these players in the mix. Dale Earnhardt Jr has a contract, minimally, through to the end of 2011 with HMS. Danica Patrick drives for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series and did well in the car in the races she ran, although she didn't get the desired finishes. So far this year, she isn't doing as well in the IRL. Kelly Bires was recently released by JR Motorsports and Jamie McMurray will run the 88 for nine races the rest of this year. Landon Cassill is in the number 7 when Danica isn't, but all of this driver shuffling is a little confusing.
Will Danica make the jump to NASCAR? Undoubtedly. When? Well, as we can see there are a lot of factors to be considered. Would she want to move directly to Sprint Cup? One would hope not, running well in Nationwide just isn't the same as running well in Sprint Cup. Will JR Motorsports remain primarily a Nationwide operation until the end of Jr's contract with HMS and then move up to Cup, presumably with Jr and Danica as the drivers? That is certainly a possibility. After all, Jr would continue his affiliation with HMS, we would think. Whether an affiliation with HMS would be enough for Danica would be another question.
The only thing we can conclued right now is that the possibilities are almost endless.
So, back to racing at Texas for this weekend. As I indicated above, Kyle Busch has had a monopoly on Texas in the Nationwide series. And in the time it took me to post the Kasey Kahne bits, he became the fastest in the Cup practice. If he wins his fifth in a row, he will joining Dale Earnhardt, who won five in a row at Daytona, and Jack Ingram, who won five in a row at South Boston Speedway. Kyle won the last Nationwide race, at Phoenix, in a finish that could almost be described as unbelievable. He will definitely be the favorite for tomorrow's race.
Jimmie Johnson has shown he has the strength to become a five time Sprint Cup Champion - in a row - and it is up to the rest of the teams to shut him down. So far, no one has shown consistent strength enough to do so, but the season is early and there are those who have shown promise. Our leaderboard from a couple of weeks ago has changed drastically, with Paul Menard falling out of the top 12. He currently sits back in 15th, having lost four positions last week. The top twelve looks a little more like what one would expect at this point, with a few notable exceptions. But for each driver in the top twelve that is expected, we have consider someone who is out that we think should be in.
Wait...did that even make sense? Let's put it this way, the announcers on SIRIUS have said more than once that they could make up two completely different groups of top twelves, and I have to agree. Every driver who is currently in the top twelve deserves to be there. However, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Juan Montoya, David Reutimann, Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne are all drivers who were predicted to be in the top twelve. So who of those who are in should be out, to make room for someone who is out?
I guess that's why they call it competition.
The spoiler will get a chance to show if it really is a good move this weekend. We've seen it on the short tracks, but Texas, at 1.5 miles is an intermediate track, and speeds are much higher than at the short tracks. NASCAR has made a modification to the spoiler, adding what announcers have called a Shark Fin. It runs down the rear deck lid and is said to stop the car from turning around, by allowing the teams to adjust the rear sideforce.
Practice can show the teams what they have, and how they can use it, but only when they start racing will they really find out how the car handles.
My picks for the weekend are probably kind of obvious. I'll take Kyle for the Nationwide race with my dark horse being newcomer to the 09 car, Chad McCumbee. Again, not for any specific reason, just cuz I like him, and being in a new ride, he will not doubtedly be trying to show him what he has.
My pick for the Sprint Cup race is Mark Martin. Mark has said his car is really good and when Mark says that, well, he is usually understating the obvious.
What about you?