Silly Season: A Game of 'Musical Drivers'
If you make it to a NASCAR Sprint Cup race in 2012, I have one piece of advice for you: Buy a program. It’ll be a good investment and it may be the only way you will know who is driving which car.
Let’s recap this year’s silly season (deep breath): A.J. Allmendinger is going to be driving Roger Penske’s No. 22 Dodge vacated involuntarily by Kurt Busch after his meltdown in last year’s final race. Busch is heading over to Phoenix Racing to drive the No. 51 Chevrolet, and he’d better not cuss at owner James Finch. Aric Almirola is moving over to Richard Petty Motorsports to take over the legendary No. 43 that Allmendinger gave up to go to Penske.
David Ragan and Clint Bowyer lost rides with Jack Roush and Richard Childress, respectively, due to sponsorship woes at those organizations. Ragan, the last domino to fall, landed with Front Row Motorsports this week, while Bowyer found a ride at Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) back in the fall. Roush will run Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in a few races, pending sponsorship, in the No. 6 that Ragan drove last year. Bowyer will be joined by Mark Martin, late of Hendrick Motorsports, who will split time with Waltrip in the No. 55 this year.
Kasey Kahne is moving into Martin’s seat at Hendrick in a move two years in the making. For Martin to land at Waltrip, David Reutimann had to go. He will be in one of Tommy Baldwin’s Chevrolets in 2012.
My informational charts and graphs couldn’t be included due to the constraints of this particular media, which is probably good, since they look like the ramblings of a 3-year-old. Or a drunk monkey.
If you look at the moves, excluding the Kahne thing, which is unique in the fact that it was done in 2010 and was waiting for Martin’s contract to expire, and the Busch/Allmendinger thing, which was a result of Busch’s bad behavior, these moves are all about sponsorship.
Word around the campfire is that sponsor Aaron’s was unhappy with Reutimann’s performance so they prompted the move, even though Reutimann has the only wins for MWR.
Ragan got the boot from Roush when the owner couldn’t find sufficient dollars to run the No. 6 full time in 2012 even though he won a race in 2011.
Bowyer was out at Childress when General Mills announced it was scaling back its involvement with the team. Five-Hour Energy will sponsor his entry at MWR.
It shows the power that the folks with the money have in NASCAR now. Ten years ago, there were sponsors lined up at the door. If one left, there were five more knocking on the door to get into the marketing bonanza. Sure that money bought some influence, but owners were free to dictate their own moves, especially ones like Roush and Childress. Now, you’ve got winning drivers whose team owners can’t sell to sponsors.
Makes you envy Paul Menard and daddy’s money, doesn’t it? By the way, Menard will be back with Childress this year, his first season without a new team in three years.
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