When week one of 52 in 2012 starts Monday, Tony Stewart will still own his third NASCAR Cup trophy and Carl Edwards will be chasing or fending him off for his first NSCS championship. Teams will be preparing to test at Daytona. Many crew chiefs and drivers will be getting accustomed to new personnel and surroundings.
The new year will be here.
The active 2011 “Silly Season” will be history, but the consequences of the many changes won’t be known for at least a few races, perhaps many races.
This weekly fast quest will search for who is hot, who has momentum, what team is on the verge, who is ready to surprise and more.
Who’s hot? Tony Stewart is coming off maybe the best performance of his career and is entitled to be still hugging his 2011 Sprint Cup trophy. With Greg Zipadelli as Stewart Haas Racing competition director Stewart will likely be as big a threat as ever to claim another championship. Acquiring new crew chief Steve Addington from Penske Racing for Stewart’s No. 14 makes the team even more formidable.
Momentum is always toughest to sustain, but consistent running up front will pay off sooner rather than later. Several teams carry momentum into 2012.
Where’s mo? Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway with the much improved Roush Yates Ford FR9 engines carry big momentum coming into 2012 even though they will be without David Ragan. RFR put Edwards and Kenseth in the Chase last year while nabbing the Nationwide Series championship with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Many teams have big potential to succeed, but some are ready to perform, maybe even dominate.
Who is on the verge? Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis will finally arrive at Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 in the No. 5 car and become part of brain trust for top equipment. HMS is known for their ability share data among their skilled crew chiefs and team members.
It’s almost impossible to predict what team or driver will overcome negative odds and break away with a big win.
In January 2011 who would have thought Trevor Bayne would win the Daytona 500, Regan Smith would tame Darlington, Paul Menard would outlast all in Indianapolis, David Ragan would redeem himself at Daytona in July and Marcos Ambrose would finally stay up front to take a win in Watkins Glen? All five got their first Sprint Cup victory. That can happen again with other drivers.
Who is ready to surprise? Kurt Busch could remold the 2011 dent in his career that cost him his Penske Racing ride. Busch will bring considerable skills to the No. 51 car at Phoenix Racing. Although this is a single car team, last year driver Landon Cassill was often competitive in mid-pack with many up-front dashes. Busch could return to the winner’s circle and perhaps this year answer all questions to reporters with courtesy.
The departure of A.J. Allmendinger from Richard Petty Motorsports to the No. 22 Dodge replacing Busch at Penske Racing was perhaps the biggest story of the 2011 Silly Season. The pairing of the “Dinger” and Brad Keselowski could create a vibrant tandem for 2012.
Another big 2011 story was the impending release of Darian Grubb from SHR even as they won the championship. Grubb was quickly snapped up by Joe Gibbs Racing and will bring his many years of Chevrolet experience to Toyota. The brain-picking has likely already begun and that may help bring much-penalized Kyle Busch back to form. Grubb will crew chief for Hamlin while Logano gets promoted Jason Ratcliff to assist his efforts.
Certainly more questions than answers exist in all these personnel switches, but multiple changes in 2011 for crew chiefs and drivers might create new chemistry that may result in fierce competition.
Select quote from Greg Ziapdelli for week one:
“Everybody is looking for that magic.” Zipadelli said. “If you don’t make the Chase everybody is making a lot more changes a lot more rapid than what we’ve seen in the past. It’s a product of our sport. The life span of a crew chief is as long as you perform.”
FYI WIRZ Fast Week in NASCAR Series will keep tabs on drivers and teams for you right here—week after week—during the long Sprint Cup season.
Before going forward it’s time to look back in history for a few quotes on advice that might serve motorsports now:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle
“Drive thy business or it will drive thee.” Benjamin Franklin
“By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.” Confucius
FYI WIRZ Fast Week in NASCAR is the select presentation of motorsports topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained from official release materials provided by the NASCAR sanction, team or track representatives. Historic quotes were derived from quotationspage.com