By admin | September 27, 2009
By Richard Allen
Last year there seemed to be four ‘super teams’ in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup division, and then there was everybody else. Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports each placed three cars in the Chase for the Championship. After that, there was no room for anyone else in the title playoff. It was clearly obvious that those four teams comprised the upper crust of the NASCAR society.
This year, things have changed. Either some of the ‘super teams’ have faded or one in particular has stepped up its game.
In 2009, JGR has only one team in the Chase. Denny Hamlin was the only driver from that organization to repeat as a Chase qualifier.
Of course, the trade of two time champion Tony Stewart for rookie Joey Logano helped play a role in the team’s reduced number of chasers. However, Kyle Busch remains with the team and failed to make this year’s title run. Even though his team has won four races, they were unable to find the consistency to place them in the top-12 when it mattered.
Last year, JGR put three drivers in the Chase and scored ten victories over the course of the entire season. This year, they have a total of seven wins to this point but have only one chaser. The drop off is not as pronounced as two of the other super teams mentioned but they have not done as well as last season.
Roush Fenway Racing has definitely not had the season they were hoping for in 2009. At the start of this year many analysts were looking at RFR driver Carl Edwards as a serious threat to win the title. And he certainly still could do just that but his team’s performance vs. last year has taken a hard fall.
Things certainly started off well for RFR in 2009. Matt Kenseth won the first two events of the season including the prestigious Daytona 500. However, that is where the winning stopped for this organization.
Last year, RFR had three teams to make the Chase and won a total of eleven races. This year they have two teams that made the Chase, but do not look like serious contenders after two Chase races. The team as a whole has only Kenseth’s two victories and has not looked like an organization capable of winning races except on rare occasion, like in Dover on Sunday.
Perhaps Richard Childress Racing has suffered the greatest fall from 2008 to 2009. They too had three Chase participants last year. That was a perfect three for three among their teams. However, the addition of a fourth team this season seems to have really hurt this organization. Their resources appear to have been stretched beyond the limits.
RCR does not have single Chase representative in 2009 and has not won even one Sprint Cup race.
Of the four super teams from a year ago, only Hendrick Motorsports appears to have stayed on pace, or even stepped up their game. Again, they placed three drivers in the Chase. And more, the Stewart-Haas Racing team, which is under the HMS umbrella, placed both of its drivers in the Chase as well.
Sunday’s race in Dover simply provided yet another example of how strong this organization is compared to its competitors. HMS drivers Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin took the 1st and 2nd positions and HMS/SHR took five of the top-10 spots in that race.
So the question is what happened to the super teams?
It looks very much like the HMS team has gotten better and the addition of Stewart and Ryan Newman to the Haas team has just made this organization that much stronger. HMS looks to be in a position to bury its competition in a Wal-Mart sort of way. They are simply getting so big that there is no room for anyone else.
Is it good for the sport for one company to be so dominate? The answer to that is probably not. However, racing is a capitalistic sport and teams that make the best decisions deserve the most success.
The other super teams had better pick up their game very soon or they will be referred to as ‘former’ super teams.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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