By admin | January 31, 2010
By Richard Allen
After this weekend two drivers made headlines that will in all likelihood get them signed by Sprint Cup teams in short order.
Sergio Pena created a wave throughout the stock car racing world with his showing in the Toyota All Star Challenge in Irwindale, California. On Friday the 16 year old got attention by taking the pole position from some of the best asphalt short trackers in the country.
Pena didn’t stop with a strong qualifying run. He led much of the 225 lap event and raced Sprint Cup star and eventual race winner Joey Logano right to the finish as he grabbed 2nd place. He exhibited great car control by racing side by side for numerous laps and rarely making contact with other cars. He also showed the ability to pull off daring moves as needed.
The young high school junior is under the guidance of Max Siegel, former director of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., as part of NASCAR’s initiative to bring minority drivers into the sport.
After such a solid showing, what are the odds that Pena will be signing a development contract with one of the big NASCAR teams? Drivers cannot compete in NASCAR’s top three divisions while under the age of eighteen but that does not keep the teams from signing young drivers for future use.
Pena drove for Revolution Racing on Saturday night. My guess is that his next team will have a much more familiar name.
In the weekend’s biggest race, the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, Joao Barbosa drove for the winning team in the endurance test. He may not have been a household name prior to the race but many more race fans and teams are aware of who he is now.
Look for an announcement sometime this season that Barbosa will wheel either a Nationwide or Sprint Cup car in one of the season’s road course events.
For those who do not believe one race can get someone a ride with a Sprint Cup or Nationwide team, let me remind you of the name David Gilliland. After winning one Nationwide series race he was signed to drive for Yates Racing in NASCAR’s top series.
What are the odds that Sergio Pena and Joao Barbosa will be signed by Cup teams to compete in some form or fashion? I would say the odds are quite good.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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