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Minter: Numbers Tell A Story?

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, December 4 2009
The heat might be on for David Ragan in the coming Sprint Cup season. (File photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The heat might be on for David Ragan in the coming Sprint Cup season. (File photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Some Friday observations:

In looking at the final points standing for NASCAR’s top three series, three interesting stats jumped out. In the Nationwide Series, only 13 drivers ran all 35 races. In the Camping World Truck Series, just 15 ran all 25 races.

In Sprint Cup, the number was more like what might be expected. There were 31 drivers who entered all 36 races, with Paul Menard the least successful of the lot as he finished 31st in the standings.

In Nationwide, Eric McClure was 17th in the standings, the lowest of the drivers who ran every race. By comparison to Cup, the 31st place driver in Nationwide, Joe Nemechek, started just 22 races.

In the truck series, Jason White brought up the rear of the drivers who ran every race. He was 16th in the final rundown despite eights DNFs. But he was one spot better than Kyle Busch, who only ran 15 races but won seven of them.

In 2008, David Ragan did so well that even one of his previous worst critics, Tony Stewart, picked him as driver of the year.

Nobody was talking like that this year as Ragan, who finished 13th in the standings, fell to 27th in 2009.

The drop-off led to a decision by team owner Jack Roush to move Donnie Wingo, who has been crew chief of the No. 26 Ford of Jamie McMurray, a team that was shut down to put Roush at the NASCAR-mandated limit of four teams per owner, to Ragan’s team. The previous crew chief, veteran Jimmy Fennig, will take over Roush’s research and development efforts.

The press release announcing the shake-up contained the usual positive comments from the parties involved, but it also seems to be putting some heat on Ragan, who, in fairness to him wasn’t the only Roush driver to fail to meet pre-season expectations. Matt Kenseth won the first two races of ’09, and the five drivers didn’t win again until Jamie McMurray won at Talladega in the fall.

In his remarks, Roush praised Fennig, saying his “experience and judgment are impeccable.”

He wasn’t quite so generous with Ragan, saying he was “anxious to see if [Wingo] can challenge David Ragan and help him to realize the potential he showed in 2008.”

Lately, given the slumping economy, the end of the season has meant the end of the regular paycheck for some who work in the NASCAR industry.

Just days after the season ended, HT Motorsports, which consists of the No. 24 and No. 25 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams, announced that it was cutting its payroll for the off-season. Team owner Jim Harris said in a statement that the move was due to the current economic climate and he hoped the cuts weren’t permanent.

“We are still beating the bushes and have a lot of things in the works,” Harris said.  “But the best thing for us all to do right now is cut back until those things come to fruition.”

Joey Logano didn’t quite live up to the “Sliced Bread” nickname that some tried to put on him. His 2009 season had its shaky moments, but when it was done he had lots to show for himself. He won a Cup race, at New Hampshire. He won five times in 22 tries in the Nationwide Series. He was the top-finishing rookie in 26 of the 36 Cup races, and he finished the Cup season with three top-five and seven top-10 finishes. He ran away with the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award, and at 19 is the youngest driver to take that honor.

His $75,000 reward from Raybestos may not seem like much by today’s Cup standards, but it’s the same amount Darrell Waltrip won for the Cup title in 1982, and Logano’s total winnings from the brake manufacturer are $114,500.

“We had a real rough start and finished 20th in the points, which I guess is OK,” Logano said. “In the beginning of the season if you had told me that’s where we were going to finish I’d have been ecstatic about it, but now you always want better.”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, December 4 2009
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