I see Ford’s announcement of the Mustang coming to the Nationwide series as yet another example of the manufacturers trying to show NASCAR fans how important they believe our sport can be to them selling product. The Mustang obviously has been a very popular car. I think it’s pretty cool and phenomenal.
In my mind, this does a number of positive things. I think you will see the other manufacturers following suit. This will also give Ford a distinction between the two series. Additionally it gives Ford another marketing angle. I think it’s great that Ford is leading the way on this. I really think the fans will get behind and support this.
I am a fan of whatever will help jump-start our racing again. I was around when we used to run the pony cars. The Mustangs and the Camaros used to race against the Cup cars back in the day because we didn’t have enough cars to fill a field out. So on short tracks, NASCAR used to let the Grand American type series cars race against the Cup cars. I was at North Wilkesboro counting laps for Tiger Tom Pistone when he was driving a Mustang. Tiny Lund in a Camaro beat Richard Petty that day to win the race.
What about a new player?
Following BMW’s statement of leaving Formula 1, with what they have done here in our country putting people to work, with manufacturing plants in place and their history in motorsports going back so far, I think it would be exciting to possibly see them enter NASCAR racing.
The BMW brand is recognized not just here in the United States but worldwide, so if they wanted to put their hat in our ring, I see nothing but positives coming from it. It’s just the continuing evolution of our sport. Again, I think it would be great for BMW, if they were willing to take a look at it and give NASCAR a chance.
We’ve said this for a few years now and wondered who would be the next one to follow Toyota into NASCAR. To me, BMW would make a lot of sense. It’s not just car manufacturers, but drivers from other series that want to be in NASCAR. It’s the competitiveness that drives them.
Juan Pablo Montoya is a perfect example. People have given him a hard time the last few years for being in our sport. Is he different from what our sport is accustomed to? The answer is probably somewhat because he raced in a much different environment than what we have in our series.
That being said, the common denominator is Juan Pablo is a competitor. He wants to be successful with this series. Every other series he has been in, he has succeeded. His success has been limited over here. It’s been somewhat hit and miss. But now, I think he believes that not only can he race with these guys, but he can beat these guys.
The Montoya surge
I am really looking forward to what I believe will be the No. 42 car and Juan Pablo making the 2009 Chase. I think we will see a totally different driver in Juan Pablo when that happens. I think Indy last Sunday was a pretty good indicator that you better watch out. He’s not just a road race ace anymore. He has figured this thing out. He’s starting to make it happen in a lot of different places. He and his crew chief Brian Pattie make a great combination.
I don’t think folks really understand the depth of Juan Pablo’s competitiveness. It doesn’t matter if he is playing video games with his kids, playing paint ball, playing golf or racing his Cup car, Juan Pablo plays to win. He is a very competitive, driven individual.
That team did struggle at Pocono early on back in June. They made some changes during the race and pulled out a good finish. I have to believe that now we have made the swing to start coming back to the tracks for a second time, we will see who has been doing their homework to improve. So I think a lot of people will keep their eyes on Juan Pablo this weekend because of how extremely strong he was at the Brickyard last Sunday.
The No. 42 bunch needs to stay focused on posting another top 10 or top five in their trek towards making the Chase after Richmond in September. As I have said in past weeks, that bunch is big-picture racing and it shows. They can’t lose sight of that. Instead of being able to take some risks like Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and others, right now it is much more important for the No. 42 team to say they are 2009 Chase contenders.
I think the same guys we saw have success at the Brickyard are the ones we need to keep our eyes on Sunday at Pocono. Watch the Hendrick cars across the board. Watch the Stewart-Haas cars. I will also be watching Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards.
Even though the No. 88 blew an engine at Indy, keep your eye on them this weekend. At Indy they practiced, qualified and raced well. That’s a bright spot for them, especially when you also factor in that Dale Jr. wasn’t feeling well. I still think Junior can play a role as spoiler in this Chase. Getting to Victory Lane would be a great step in getting the media off his back and I think that would be a huge plus not only for him but that whole team.
FOX race analyst Jeff Hammond led Darrell Waltrip to two of DW’s three Winston Cup championships as his crew chief. They also teamed to win the 1989 Daytona 500.
For autographed copies of Jeff Hammond’s book “Real Men Work in the Pits” plus magnets, hats and more, check out www.dwstore.com.