Got a bad case of Ã¢â‚¬ËœNASCAR Withdrawal SyndromeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢? Hang tight, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only 21 days left until the 50th running of the Daytona 500 and we will, once again, be talking NASCAR, arguing NASCAR & getting our general fill of everything NASCAR.
When NASCAR fans look back on the 2007 season, most often the first story that comes to mind is Dale Jr. leaving DEI. In no particular order hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a look at some of the other moments that rounded out the 2007 NASCAR season:
Chaos in Canada as Robby Gordon & Marcos Ambrose Lock Heads
Who could ever forget the chaos that was the inaugural Busch Series race in Canada? Whenever thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s controversy on the track, one of the first names that always comes to mind is Robby Gordon. LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s face it, controversy ignites the sport of auto racing. LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s take a moment to recapÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.
It was down to the last six laps from the finish in the inaugural event in Canada when Marcos Ambrose spun Robby Gordon to retake the lead as the caution flag waved for a multi-car wreck behind them. NASCAR officials placed Gordon 13th for the restart and, of course, Mr. GordonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s take on the situation was very different. Once the green flag waved, it was RobbyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s turn to get into Marcos Ambrose. Naturally, NASCAR stopped scoring RobbyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s car & Kevin Harvick was deemed the winner of the race. Only thing was, Robby Gordon wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t aware that Kevin Harvick had won & proceeded to do a burn-out to celebrate his Ã¢â‚¬Å“winÃ¢â‚¬Â.
The Name GameA fresh start at the beginning of the 2008 season for NASCAR drivers also marks the beginning of new title sponsors for two of the NASCAR Series.
After 25 years of sponsoring the Busch Series, Busch Beer exited its title sponsor role & handed the reigns over to Nationwide Insurance. NEXTEL will also be replaced by Sprint.
Not long ago, Craftsman also indicated it would be departing from the Truck Series after the 2008 season. Just like Busch, Craftsman was the only title sponsor in the history of the series and so finding a replacement will be an arduous task.
Anyone Want to be a Partner?
In an effort to find more capital to run their race teams, several organizations acquired partners this year. Most notably, the Fenway Group became part of Roush Racing and Evernham Motorsports partnered with George Gillett to become Gillett-Evernham Motorsports. However you want to look at it, NASCAR is becoming one big franchise. With each passing season, the cost to operate a NASCAR team increases dramatically & team owners are left searching for new ways to keep their heads above water.
Did you say Toyota?
It almost seems hard to believe that at the completion of the 2006 season, the buzz surrounding the garage area was about Toyota emerging into the NASCAR scene.
Definitely lacking the competitive edge, ToyotaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first on track Cup season can be remembered as a disappointing & frustrating year for both Michael Waltrip, Bill Davis & Red Bull Racing.
In light of their misfortunes, by seasonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s end, the questions & harsh criticism as to whether Toyota actually belongs in NASCAR had all but disappeared Ã¢â‚¬â€œ well, almost.
Gibbs Makes the Switch to Toyota
Late in the 2007 race season, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that they would be switching to Toyotas in the 2008 season. Also coming on board will be Hall of Fame Racing (Joe GibbsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Satellite team).
Heading into the Daytona 500, Toyota will have five Toyotas locked into the field. Of course Michael Waltrip Racing & Red Bull Racing will, once again, have to qualify on time.
A New Engine for Chevy
ChevyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s NASCAR teams traded in the SB2 (small-block/2nd generation) engine that was used by GM Cup teams since 1998 for the new R07 engine. Work on the new engine began in 1999 and was the first engine specifically built for Cup competition.
Chase for the Cup gets newFormat
During the formats first 3 years, top 10 drivers in points after the 26th race of the season qualified for the chase; in addition, any other driver outside the top 10 but within 400 points of the standingsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ leader was also eligible. In 2007, the top 12 drivers in points qualified for the chase & the 400 point cut-off was eliminated. All top-12 drivers point totals were re-set to 5000; each then received a 10 point bonus for each race victory they had during the first 26 races.
NASCAR Tweaks the Points System
Wins throughout the season were more valuable in 2007 as NASCAR awarded a five point increase from previous seasons. (185 points, 5 point increase) Factoring in the five-point bonuses available for leading at least one lap & leading the most laps, the race winner could earn a maximum of 195 points. This meant that a possible 25 points could separate the first & second place finisher.
The COT Vs. The Hauler
What do you do when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re loading up your hauler for a race & your car doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fit? Well as many teams found out, they had a few options: load the COT on the hauler with smaller tires, purchase a brand new hauler altogether or convert their current hauler to accommodate the new COT.
Johnson Wins Ten Races in 2007
Having snagged ten wins, including four in a row, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no wonder that Jimmie Johnson was chosen as the 2007 driver of the year. Johnson became the first driver to win consecutive championships since Jeff Gordon in 1997 and 1998, clenching the title by finishing seventh in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Kyle Busch Heads to Joe Gibbs Racing
Another driver making headlines was Kyle Busch. Although Kyle Busch had a contract with Hendrick through 2008, he was released from Hendrick Motorsports in order to make room for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle was left scrambling for a new ride.Up until KyleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s announcement that he would become the newest member of the Joe Gibbs stable in 2008, many rumours surfaced on the fate of the young driver.
Juan Pablo Montoya Becomes the First Hispanic to Win A NASCAR Event
Not one but two road course wins for Juan Pablo Montoya in 2007 (one Busch, one Cup). It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t his win on the road course in Mexico that made the headlines, but the fact that he is the first Hispanic driver in the history of NASCAR to win an event in one of its top tiered series.
Jr. to Teresa: Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m Outta Here!Ã¢â‚¬Â
Echoed thoughts & opinions were heard everywhere after Dale JrÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s announcement on May 10 that he was, indeed, leaving the family business.
Already a household name, Dale Jr.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s fate made headlines everywhere. Many possible numbers were tossed into the air, along with predictions of where the popular driver would end up. Sales of #8 merchandise skyrocketed 110% as fans and collectors alike couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t snag enough #8 memorabilia.
Then on June 13th, Dale Jr set the stage for his future plans. During a press conference at JR Motorsports, Jr announced that he would be joining Hendrick Motorsports with Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears in 2008.
As Jr begins a whole new chapter in his racing career, only time will tell how his move plays out, but being the most popular driver for 5 straight years, anything Earnhardt does tops the Richter scale. In other words, be ready to get your fill of Jr mania in 2008.
Ready or not the Car of Tomorrow is hereÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ to stay!
It may have been called many names, including ugly & a box, but ready or not the Car of Tomorrow hit the track in 2007.
Built from the ground up over a five year span, the COT made its debut at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 25th (13 times @ oval tracks less than 1.5 miles, 2 road course events & once at the 2.66 mile Talladega Speedway). The intent was to introduce the COT gradually, but that all changed when teams had to flip-flop between the current car and the COT and keeping up with both programs was a difficult task.
With 16 races to its credit, the COT will hit the track on a full time basis beginning in 2008. The Car of Tomorrow now becomes the Car of Today. The redesigned NASCAR stock car is bigger, but is it really better?
The 2007 NASCAR season had far too many more highlights to mention. In the end, the racing was spine-tingling for the most part, the buzz surrounding the sport greater than ever, and we can expect much of the same in 2008. Rest assured that in 21 days, all symptoms associated with NASCAR Withdrawal Syndrome will surely be cured.