About this time of year, it begins to set in. NASCAR deprivation.
I know. It was only a few mere weeks ago that we’d all had it with Jimmy Johnson, up to about here. (Yes, he really is worse than Jeff Gordon. So much so, in fact, that I’m actually beginning to like Jeff Gordon.)
But this past week the ARCA competitors were practicing at Daytona, and Christmas is almost here, which means SpeedWeeks is almost almost here, so . . .
Hope springs eternal and there’s a chance, just a chance, that this coming Cup season won’t be like the last. Maybe Junior will actually do something.
So, here’s the latest, just to stave off withdrawal pains:
Ryan Pemberton has been hired as a crew chief by Michael Waltrip’s race team, having left DEI. He worked with Mark Martin last year and was supposed to be Martin’s crew chief next year. Instead, he’ll be crew chiefing for David Reeutimann, the sole bright light at the end of the Waltrip team’s tunnel last year.
Sam Hornish, Jr., the IRL star who couldn’t make a Cup race for love or money last year, will be making at least the first five this coming year, including the Daytona 500, no matter what. The ever-creative Roger Penske came up with another creative stunt, and asked NASCAR to transfer some of his owner points from Kurt Busch’s car to Hornish’s. How, exactly, NASCAR squares that concept with any notion of principle was not announced. But, it’s probably no worse than buying a losing team, as Michael Waltrip did with Toyota’s money last year. (Anyone who says that NASCAR is resisting the idea of franchise teams, of course, is somewhat behind the times.)
Meantime, in another bow to its history, the Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega will induct six drivers into the Hall: “Red” Byron, the first driver to win the NASCAR points championship, the late Art Arfons, world speed record holder and jet drag racer, “Grumpy” Jenkins, drag racer, Frank Kurtis, Indy roadster builder, “Cotton” Owens, NASCAR chassis builder and inventor of the “front steer” stock car, and Ralph Seagraves. Seagraves was the man who, along with Junior Johnson, steered R. J. Reynolds into NASCAR and helped make the France family’s enterprise what it has now become.