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« Did NASCAR have a great season in 2011 or just a great ending? | Main | Bayne provided greatest racing moment of 2011 for East Tennessee fans »

Looks like Reutimann, Ragan and Vickers were left standing when the music stopped

By admin | December 26, 2011

By Richard Allen

In the children’s game ‘Musical Chairs’ a group of kids walk around a set of chairs as music plays. Once the music stops everyone scrambles to find a seat. The trouble is there is always one less chair than the number of participants so one person is always left standing. That person is eliminated along with one of the chairs and the game continues until one person claims the final remaining chair.

During this off season for NASCAR Sprint Cup racing the game of musical chairs has been pretty intense with drivers, crew chiefs and team owners all playing three different games at the same time. However, unlike in the children’s version of the game, there were far fewer chairs available than the number of participants.

Due to reductions at teams such as Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing along with the complete shutdown of Team Red Bull, there were not nearly enough seats available for everyone to fill which has left some relatively significant names standing after the music stopped.

It used to be that if a Nationwide Series driver could win a single race in that division, he would be almost assured of having a Sprint Cup ride very soon. Now, even race winning drivers in the Cup series are not guaranteed a ride at NASCAR’s top level.

David Reutimann, David Ragan and Brian Vickers have each won races at the Sprint Cup level. Yet, it looks as if they will each go into the 2012 season looking for a chair on which to sit.

Reutimann won a race in each of the 2009 and 2010 seasons for Michael Waltrip Racing. And strangely enough, his team actually expanded rather than contracted during the off season. However, new drivers Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin were brought into the fold which pushed the 41 year old second generation racer out of the Toyota team.

Martin Truex, Jr. will continue to pilot the #56 car for MWR while Bowyer will drive car #15, which has expanded to a full time team, for that organization. Martin and team owner Michael Waltrip will split time in car #55, which is essentially the car Reutimann drove last year.

All of the suddenly available talent, who were also able to secure sponsorship, left Reutimann with no place to sit when the music stopped playing.

Ragan was left out at Roush Fenway Racing when that company reduced its numbers from four full time teams to three. Landing enough sponsors to keep the organization fully funded has proven to be a difficult task for RFR. Package delivery service , UPS, decided to go from primary sponsor on Ragan’s #6 car to associate sponsor on the #99 of championship runner-up Carl Edwards. And more, former Sprint Cup champion Matt Kenseth looks to begin the 2012 season with only partial sponsorship in place on his #17 RFR Ford.

With only what amounts to two and a half sponsors secured, there was no way RFR could run the risk of starting a new season with four cars in their stable. Someone had to be cut loose and that someone was Ragan. That news comes despite the fact that the 26 year old Georgia native won his first Sprint Cup race just this past year in July at Daytona.

Just think what changing lanes a bit too early on that late restart in February’s Daytona 500 may have cost the newly engaged Ragan in the long run.

Of these winning drivers to be suddenly displaced, it is perhaps Brian Vickers who has the most interesting story. His ride at Team Red Bull simply went away when that organization closed up shop at the end of the 2011 season. However, this driver did not help himself throughout the most recent campaign by having well documented on track feuds with championship drivers Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart.

Whether accurate or not, Vickers came off looking like a vindictive and reckless driver who can’t tell the difference between an intentional crash and a “racing deal”. Remember, fans and media allow the bigger stars to spin their story first, which may have trapped Vickers behind the proverbial eight ball in both of these instances.

Whatever the case, Vickers, who has two Sprint Cup wins to his credit, was apparently not on the radar screen of any major team or sponsor during this off season shuffle as his name was rarely mentioned as a potential candidate for any vacant ride.

For children, musical chairs can be a fun way to spend some time at a birthday party or other whimsical event. For Sprint Cup drivers, it can be a cut throat affair that can prove to be a major setback in one’s career.

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11 Responses to “Looks like Reutimann, Ragan and Vickers were left standing when the music stopped”

  1. Russ Says:
    December 26th, 2011 at 9:36 am

    It appears that another byproduct of the top 35 rule, as well as the declining number of major sponsors is the continual recycling of aging stars.(Baseball has a similar situation in its managerial ranks) At some point however, Father Time will have his way and there will be a void of “headline” drivers.
    But perhaps in the short term this is just the supply of talented teams and drivers seeking its natural level.

  2. Offkilter Says:
    December 26th, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    Mikey’s driver selections for Reutimann’s replacement will probably move that team from front-mid to rear-mid. Martin had alot of trouble running in traffic last year in good cars and what little talent Mikey had only came through on the plate tracks in a dominant car.

  3. Sue Rarick Says:
    December 27th, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Pity Kyle doesn’t hire Reutimann to drive his trucks. I could see a double championship from that arrangement. A drivers and manufacturers.

  4. fuzzy Says:
    December 27th, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Mark Martin hit every thing but the lottery last year!Why he can not leave is a mystery to me ?

  5. jay Says:
    December 27th, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Front Row and TRG are seemingly the best rides available now. Apparently, Allmirola is bringing sponsorship to the 43.
    I’d like to see JRM give a guy like Reutimann a chance in the NWseries, kinda like Harvick and Sadler.

  6. Kyu Says:
    December 27th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    I like to think of it more like Reutimann was sitting perfectly comfortable and then some old man came and flipped his chair over.

  7. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    December 27th, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    I still feel bugged that Ragan,Reutimann,Vickers and oh yeah, Casey Mears have 6 Wins and No Job! I feel that there needs to be a teardown of the Top 35 and the Chase.

  8. Chris Fiegler Says:
    December 27th, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Who do you think will replace Aric Allimora in the Nationwide Series #88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in 2012 whem Alimora Drives the #43 for Richard Petty Motorsports?

  9. Justin Says:
    December 28th, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Feel bad for Ragan, seemed like he has enough talent. I always thought Reutimann was over rated, and Vickers is a whiner, he surely wont be missed. Although, some of his overly dramatic and exaggerated recaps of on track incidents were always hilarious. If anyone so much as thought about rubbing the side of his car, he would jump in front of a camera and describe the incident as him being “door slammed”. Classic!!! On second thought, maybe Vickers does need a ride next year

  10. Jim Says:
    December 28th, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Offkilter and fuzzy, you both have the perfect handles for yourselves. Martin might have had decent equipment for a couple races; the Dover races, for instance, but he had a known failure for a crew chief last year. And most of the wrecks he was in were not of his making. Yes, some were, but it happens to the best of them.

    You don’t go from 5 wins and 7 poles one year to zip the next cuz you forgot how to drive or you’re too old. You do that because you aren’t getting the same equipment you were getting the year before and because you were handed a fruitcake crew chief for your last year.

  11. Offkilter Says:
    December 29th, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Jim, i will give you that mcgrew is one of the worst crew chiefs out there, but he dont drive the car and they gave martin several bad fast cars that were at the top of the charts in all practices several times this year and i seen it pissed away with martin ping ponging off other cars in traffic. Other times in tight racing he’d crack the throttle until he found a comfy place to run mid- pack only to finish there with really good stuff. Can’t rememeber the specific races, but it happened, dude. MM is as much to blame as anyone on that team for having a sucky year.