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Get to Know a Rookie

Today, The Outside Groove continues its on-again, off-again look at the rookie drivers of the 2007 Car of This Evening season.

David Reutimann

Number: 00--I don't know about you guys, but when I think about a driver's potential fully realized, I think of Buckshot Jones.

Sponsors: Domino's and Burger King. Yeah, its a drag having to do appearances with "The King", Burger King's goofy mascot, but David's REAL fear is that his other sponsor will bring back The Noid.

Owner: Michael Waltrip Racing. OK, I know that Mikey's having enough problems as it is, but I'm going to say it--has anyone else noticed how much the MWR logo looks like that of the Wu-Tang Clan?

Previous Racing Experience: David was born in Zephyrhills, Florida, where they apparently build big hills out of zephyrs. He started his racing career in the now-defuct Slim Jim All-Pro Series, where he was subject to daily questions about whether or not he needed a little excitement.* David's big break came when he was signed by Joe Nemechek to drive his Geico-sponsored car (and no, he didn't get to meet the cavemen). Shortly afterwards, he signed with Darrell Waltrip's bearing-backed team in the Truck Series. Three years later, after a long, arduous, and ultimately grueling interview process, he moved up to Cup with Darrell's brother.

Personal Life: David lives with his wife and daughter in Terrell, North Carolina--a town whose name he still does not know how to pronounce.

Fun Fact: Despite his name, David does NOT work for Roto-Rooter.



Black History Month

Lets take a look back at how Nascar honored the contributions of African-Americans to the sport:

--At Daytona, Darrell Waltrip agreed to change his trademark catchphrase to "Booker T, Booker T, Booker T! Lets go racin', I mean MEN!"

--Instead of that commercial with the guy buying one shoe, Nascar showed that commercial with the kid at the go-kart track saying "Sambelnavis" really fast.

--Diecast manufacturer Motorsport Authentics (nee Action) came out with a line of black diecast cars for the occasion. Furthermore, to honor the great black leaders King, X, and Douglass, a number 3 was painted on the side of the car. Meanwhile, to acknowledge the number of African-American males working so well in the pits, the word "Goodwrench" was added.

--Dale Earnhardt Jr. was quietly asked to stop using slang such as "dawg", "off the hook", and "word to yo stepmotha".

--For 28 days, Bill Lester was, instead of being called "The Black Guy", called "The African-American Guy".

--A vein attempt was made to reintroduce Nascar jackets to inner-city youths as "retro-wear".

--Willie T. Ribbs allowed to shoot at Nascar headquarters for 15 minutes.

--Involving great, progressive sports franchises in their sport, such as the Boston Red Sox (last team to integrate, 1959), and the Washington Redskins (last team to integrate, 1962).


Roush-Fenway Breaks "The Curse of the Craven"

After two excruciatingly long weeks, fans of Roush-Fenway Racing were finally able to die in peace--their driver finally won a race, breaking the mythical "Curse of the Craven."
"I can't believe they finally did it!", exclaimed long-time (over two weeks) Roush-Fenway fan Woody Kirk. "This was for everybody who had to wait so long for the team to reverse the curse. Its for me, my dad, my uncles, even my wife. It was a long 14 days, but we did it!"
Several sports writers had claimed that the team was "cursed" by former Roush Racing driver/lobster enthusiast Ricky Craven. As the legend goes, Craven placed a call to Jack Roush shortly after he sold half his team to Fenway Sports Group, pointing out that, as a New Englander, he had "corporate synergy or something". When Roush laughed and hung up, Craven was said to have "cursed" the new team.
"We've never believed in curses here, but it had been tough for all those dozens of hours", said Roush-Fenway part-owner John Henry. "I mean, all those close calls, like when we finished second at Daytona, were just...wait, we don't have Mark Martin anymore? Seriously?"
The broken curse was, unfortunately, not without controversy. In conjunction with his new movie "Fever Pace", actor/professional laugher Jimmy Fallon was allowed to run onto the track after the win. After being run over by a spinning Matt Kenseth, however, the crowd cheered in approval.


"Jimmie Johnson, if that was anyone besides Jeff Gordon, would you have raced them differently?"

"This is what's great about Nascar. This is what the greatest thing about Nascar is. You race to make the Chase. Hello? You race to make the Chase. You don't race it just to win it. That's the great thing about Nascar: you don't race to win, and you can make it if you don't have any wins. You go race to Chase. When you start tellin' me it matters, then go to IRL. Get out! 'Cause it doesn't matter...yet."


20 Years Ago...

Bob Jenkins: "...and a tough day for Chuck Bown, but I'm sure he has a bright future ahead of him. Lets go down to victory lane with Dr. Jerry Punch, and today's winner. Doc?"

Dr. Jerry Punch: "And ANOTHER win for Darrell Waltrip--a shower of confetti here in victory lane. Darrell, let me ask you--if 20 years from now, you were starring in a commercial parody of "The Godfather", wearing a fake mustache and calling yourself 'The Dreamfather' in a fake-Italian accent, advertising a company that sponsors your brother's Busch Series ride, what would you say?"

Darrell Waltrip: "Jeez, I'd say that would be pretty sad. Man, Doc, why'd you have to bring me down like that? If you EVER see me do ANYTHING like that, you have full permission to smack me in the face."


California "News" and Notes

Mike Skinner's analysis of his team's runs at California before his win this weekend--"We sucked here". That's why they call him the great communicator.

Michael Waltrip failed to qualify for Sunday's race when David Reutimann knocked him out of the field. Expect Reutimann to be rewarded with a paid leave of absence.

On the flip side, Johnny Sauter continues his surprising run, qualifying again. Wow, put two guys fired from RCR together, and magic happens. Hope you're listening, Robby Gordon and Steve Park.

For the past few years this race's sponsor has been "Auto Club". Is it just me, or does "Auto Club 500" sound incredibly fake? Like the kind of race a sitcom family would go to see? "Hey dad, don't forget the tickets to the Auto Club 500!"

In honor of LA-based Fox Sports' Nascar coverage, the famous Hollywood sign will be changed to pre-race host Jeff Hammond's nickname.

2:1 Jeff Gordon will have to explain how he claims both California and Indiana as his home state (hey, Jeff, it happens--I claim THREE)
9:2 After this week's complaints about the size of the Shell logo on the 29, the continuing debate over Cingular/AT&T on the 31, and the morality of having Jack Daniels on the 07, Richard Childress will just run a bunch of blank cars.
40:1 John Andretti will somehow find a way to run for Rookie of the Year.


Get to Know a Rookie

This year, Nascar was flooded with a wealth of new talent...and Brandon Whitt. Today The Outside Groove starts an occasional series, Get to Know a Rookie, looking at the young drivers who'll be shaping the future of the sport...until they're fired at age 38.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Number: 42--Remember Juan Pablo, no matter what happens, Don't Panic.

Sponsor: Texaco Havoline--That's Texaco HAVOLINE! He's NOT just sponsored by the gasoline company! That's heresy I say...heresy!

Owner: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates--I always imagine this title referring to the two of them running a roadster in a cross-country race, with Chip as the desperate dad trying to win the race to buy back his family's dream house, while Felix is the lovable sidekick who winds up marrying the lovely Miss Speedley.

Previous Racing Experience: Juan Pablo ran numerous Karting series as a youth, much like Jeff Gordon (while avoiding the goofy mustache). He then moved on to various open-wheel minor leagues, such as Formula Vauxhall, F3000, and CART. After "crossing over" to IRL to win the Indy 500 (wouldn't that make him undefeated?), he moved to F1, running with Williams and, as Larry Mac would say, MAC-laren. Then Ryan Newman plowed him into the wall.

Personal Life: While rather even-keeled off the track, he automatically punches anyone who asks him if he's met Juan Valdez. While a proud Columbian, his celebrity status makes it difficult for him to live there--HE CAN'T WALK DOWN THE STREET IN SOUTH AMERICA!

Fun Fact: Nascar hasn't really promoted this, but apparently Juan Pablo is Hispanic.


Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Finally Meet Joe Gibbs

After years of putting it off, trying, and worrying, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has said that this weekend, at California, he will finally talk to his boyhood hero, Joe Gibbs.
"Man, I've been waiting for this my whole life!", a visibly shaking Junior said. "I mean, I grew up watching those great teams of the 80's that Mr. Gibbs coached. Do you think I should call him Mr. Gibbs? Or Coach Gibbs? Maybe just Coach. Nah, Mr. Gibbs is best."
Junior, a longtime fan of the Redskins, first heard that Gibbs would be at the track on Monday afternoon. He immediately began running through things to talk about.
"I'd love to talk to him about the Super Bowls and stuff, but he probably gets that all the time. I should probably play it cool and just ask him what he thinks the 'Skins will do in 2007. Wait, he probably gets that all the time too. I REALLY want to ask him what he thinks about Art Monk getting robbed by the Hall of Fame again, but I don't want to start things out on a downer."
When pressed, Junior explained that he has had opportunities to meet the coach before, but, in his words, "chickened out".
When I was like 14, Mr. Gibbs--man, maybe i SHOULD go with Coach Gibbs--was at Rockingham with Interstate Batteries, and talked some with my dad. Dad motioned for me to come over, but I was so scared--I mean, its Joe freakin' Gibbs! I hope he doesn't remember me for that.
"Then back in 2003, he was doing some sort of publicity tour with Wix Filters, and he came by Dover Downs through the pits. I would've gone up to him then, but this guy on my team wouldn't stop yakking my ear off. Something about starting his own team and using an octane booster."
Junior plans to "bump in" to Gibbs on Saturday afternoon. He swears he won't back down this time.
"If I don't meet up with him this time, I'll never forgive myself! I just gotta figure out if I should wear the Joe Theismann throwback, or the new Clinton Portis jersey I got for Christmas."


Breaking News: Harvick Passes Inspection

In a move that has shocked the racing world, Nascar has announced that 2007 Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick has passed through the post-race inspection process.
"This comes as a total shock to all of us", explained teammate and rules guru Jeff Burton. "Its just been so rare lately to see a car make it through inspection without incident, you're surprised to see it happen."
Car owner Richard Childress was unable to explain his car's compliant condition.
"We worked hard all week to make sure we were all square and legal", said Childress, "but its still a real surprise to have this not happen. We don't know who's responsible yet, but to be safe we're putting the whole team on a 6-day leave of absence from racing with pay."
Nascar spokesman Jim Hunter were quick to call a press conference explaining the non-ruling.
"We're sending a message here--follow the rules, and you will not be punished. The only thing we found wrong with the car was a badly dislodged rear-view mirror."
Harvick himself was contrite but respectful once reached for comment.
"Once I found out that we had passed inspection, I thought about leaving the track and going home. Then I realized that the race had ended hours ago, so I did."
2nd-place finisher Mark Martin was unavailable for comment, as he was busy wrapping himself in layers upon layers of yellow flags.

Overnight Reaction

7pm What a finish!

8pm One of the 3 greatest finishes in Daytona history.

9pm The greatest finish in Daytona history.

10pm The greatest finish in Nascar history.

11pm The greatest finish in sports history.

12pm The greatest thing in sports.

1am The greatest thing in exhibited entertainment.

2am The greatest thing in the country.

3am The greatest thing in the world.

4am (tape of drivers fighting in the infield, a crash of the top-two drivers on the last lap, and Dale Earnhardt finally winning).

5am What a finish!


Waltrip to the Lab

Nascar has announced that they will reveal the content of the gel-like substance in Michael Waltrip's engine next week. That hasn't stopped the Nascar community from buzzing as to what it might be. Here's some theories:

One Nascar commentator pointed to Waltrip's recent signing of Dr. Scholls as a sponsor as a clue. "Are you gellin', Michael?" "Like a rules felon, I'm gellin'!"

Several crew chiefs have said that the substance was, technically, legal, and was simply the results of putting 87 octane in a Nextel Cup engine.

Independent results from San Francisco's famed BALCO labs have identified two substances--old Eric Clapton albums and those unsellable Lucite diecast cars from the 90's. They've dubbed them "The Cream" and "The Clear".

A Nascar official (John Darby, wishing to remain anonymous), wondered aloud if it was all a simple mix-up of the car's oil cans and Mikey's hair gel.

"If you ever tried to solve an overheating engine by adding cooking might be a redneck."

A consensus has developed amongst many drivers that the actual source of the substance may never be found, seeing how the crew chief of the team is named Hyder.


Daytona "News" and Notes--Waltrip-Free Edition

After a surprising showing in the Duels, James Hylton has announced that he'll be returning to attempt the Pepsi 400 in Joo-lye. While he owns the car, the engine is on lease from Joe Gibbs. Careful, James--go over the mileage limit, and Joe'll hit you with a BIG payment.

ESPN officially restarts its Nascar race coverage Saturday with the Busch Series Orbitz 300. Despite new graphics, cutting-edge reporting, and a tight announcing crew, fans will be most surprised to learn that Brent Musburger is still alive.

As in past years, the Daytona 500 follows a rigid format--eight laps, sometimes less if you don't get a time extension.

Last place gets over $250,000. Over $250,000! Meanwhile, the last place finisher in the season-opening Champ Car race somehow OWES $40.

Fox and MRN are planning pre-races of over an hour long each. With Kenny Wallace sitting this one out, it'll be a challenge.

EVEN--Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s first question after the race will be, "Junior, do you see yourself staying at DEI past this season?"
8:1--Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s first question in Victory Lane will be, "Junior, do you see yourself staying at DEI past this season?"
100:1--Mike Joy will refer to Mike Wallace's car as being "...on the warpath", then be fired by Fox mid-week.


The Real Story of Michael Waltrip

Kids, let me tell you a story. Its the story of a man, an old man, named Jimmy. Now, Old Jimmy, as he was known, used to be a racer. A pretty good one too--he won a few races, and made a little bit of money. While lots of Old Jimmy's friends retired or took other jobs, Old Jimmy stuck at it, racing anywhere they'd have him.
One day Old Jimmy got a crazy idea--he'd race in the biggest race of them all, the Daytona 500! But Old Jimmy was pretty old by now. Who would pay for Old Jimmy to follow his dream? Why, his best friend of course. So Old Jimmy and his friend went down to Daytona to show those young boys a thing or two about racing.
Old Jimmy knew things were going to be rough, but he didn't know just how rough it would be. Old Jimmy's car was pretty slow at the beginning, and he was starting to wonder if he should be trying to race at all. Then the race came--the race that, if he finished high enough, he'd make it to the Daytona 500.
Old Jimmy was so excited! He was doing well! So well, in fact, that he was almost in the race! And with eight laps to go, he WAS in the race, he just needed to hold on!
And what happened next? Well, Old Jimmy got passed by a cheating corporate shill who passed the blame for breaking the rules onto a sacrificial lamb, who he then fired immediately. Old Jimmy wasn't going to run in the Daytona 500. But Old Jimmy wasn't sad. No--he was happy. Because no matter what happens, he could say that he tried his best, and did it the right way.


Michael Waltrip: Caught!

The Nascar world was abuzz today about one thing--Mark Martin's announcement that he will drive for 18 different teams this season. Some people, however, were focusing on other news: Michael Waltrip's massive punishment for cheating. Here's some highlights and lowlights of the story:

--Michael is fined 100 driver points, while his owner, wife Buffy, was fined 100 owners points. Reportedly Michael attempted to transfer the crew chief position to his dog, Country Time, but was unable to in time.

--Speaking of which, Michael's actual crew chief, David Hyder, has been suspended indefinitely. This immediately puts Waltrip along with Matt Kenseth and the Evernham cars as favorites to win the Daytona 500 and the Nextel Cup Championship.

--Waltrip Racing VP of Competition Bobby Kennedy was also suspended indefinitely. In a brief statement, Kennedy defended himself, stating "Some see Toyotas running slow and say, 'why'? I see a Vaseline-like substance and say 'why not'?"

--ESPN provided extensive coverage on the controversy. Here's what I was able to ascertain from it:
1. Rusty Wallace is a HUGE advocate for all drivers not from South Bend Indiana. He's like Michael Irvin without the crack problem.
2. Boris Said looks hilarious in a suit.
3. Marty Smith looks hilarious in a suit.

--Toyota was dealt a major blow in their attempt to ingratiate themselves to the Nascar faithful. Many Nascar fans were disappointed with the foreign automaker, such as fan Christina Salem, who said "...this is the worst thing Japan has ever done to us."

--Michael WILL be able to drive in the Gatorade Duels. So it keeps my ultimate hopes alive--that Michael Waltrip will be beaten in a race by a 72-year-old man.


And the Last-Place Driver in the 2007 Points Race Will Be...


Mr. Boys (yes, that's his real name) is attempting the full 2007 schedule...or so he says. But who is this mysterious driver? Lets take a look:

--Trevor hails from Calgary, Alberta Canada. He's being billed as the worst there was, the worst there is, and the worst there ever will be.

--Trevor is also billed on his website as "Nascar's longest-running Canadian", which is a little like me billing myself as "The Most Influential Person in Nascar from Newark, Delaware."

--Boys' crew chief is Cicero Scott, cousin of NBA coach Byron Scott. No word yet on if Jason Kidd will try to get Cicero fired by the end of the season.

--Scott is also being billed as Nascar's 2nd African-American crew chief, following in the footsteps of Lucius Washington.

--Trevor's last Cup race was in 1993. Look for The Spin Doctors and flannel shirts to make a comeback later this year.

--Boys has a son in racing named...Wheeler. Look out, Wheeler--Tom Cruise is going to fake to the bottom!

--The team is owned by Trevor Boys and Eddie Kucharski. And its called H&K Motorsports. Makes TOTAL sense.


Something Beats a Bud

Its time to reveal my last place driver for 2007, a driver who--
"Hey, Mike--are you going to watch the Shootout on Saturday?"
--is going to really struggle to struggle this season. He'll wonder why--
"Mike--who do you think's gonna win the Shootout tomorrow night?"
--as I was saying, HE'LL WONDER WHY he ever even tried to--
"Mike, where's your 'News' and Notes article for the Shootout?"

(guitar riff)
I went down to the sports bar and saw this Kasey fan,
She was, like, all "the Shootout's on"
And I was, like, "whatever!"
(guitar riff)
Then this chick comes up to me and she's all, like,
"Why are you watching the Pro Bowl?"
And I'm, like, "yeah, whatever!"
(guitar riff)
So later I'm at my job
And this girl comes up
And she's, like, "catch the race last night?"
And I'm, like, "yeah, whatever!"

Cuz this is my
Budweiser Shootout WHATEVER!
And this is my
Budweiser Shootout WHATEVER!
And this is my
Budweiser Shootout WHATEVER!
(guitar riff)
And then it's four AM
Its Sunday morning I'm starting work...
This dude comes up and he's, like, "Tape the race?"
I'm, like, "yeah, whatever!"
(guitar riff)
Then I'm on some message board that afternoon
The moderator sends me a PM and he's like
"Man that race was really--"
And I'm, like, "yeah, whatever!"
(guitar riff)
And then up comes Zafo
I'm, like, "yo, Zafo. Catch the race?"
He's, like, "nah, man'"
And I'm, like, "that's cool."

Cuz this is my
Budweiser Shootout WHATEVER!
And this is my
Budweiser Shootout WHATEVER!


2007 Nextel Cup Championship Preview...Part 5

...And the rest...

36. 66 Jeff Green

Prediction: Jeff will miss the top-35 by mere points. Lets see how he blames Kevin Harvick for THIS.
Bold Prediction: With new Windows Vista, Jeff will be able to crash twice as many times each Sunday.
Fun Fact: Tune in to Court TV to find out why Gene Haas is the REAL intimidator.

37. 7 Robby Gordon
Prediction: Robby will skip the 600 to race at Indy. Then, ironically, he’ll miss the Brickyard 400.
Bold Prediction: To make a point, Robby will go on a starvation diet to get down to the weight of wet-leather-jacket competitor Danica Patrick.
Fun Fact: Speaking of which, did anyone else notice that the guy in the Super Bowl ads is also the guy in the FedEx Denny Hamlin ads?

38. 00* David Reutimann
Prediction: French soldiers of fortune will kidnap David, explaining that they are hot on the trail of the infamous Rue Diamond.
Bold Prediction: David will cause The Big One at Daytona, when a blown tire results in over 20 cars being taken out. It will be known as the Burger King Effect.
Fun Fact: That chicken fries commercial still makes me laugh. Is something wrong with me?

39. 15* Paul Menard
Prediction: Aliens will kidnap Paul, explaining that his car is the only one that can be seen from space.
Bold Prediction: Paul will extricate himself from the brewing feud at DEI by DNQ’ing for a number of races.
Fun Fact: Huh huh huh…’nard.

40. 14 Sterling Marlin
Prediction: Sterling will retire at the end of the year, issuing a simple press release stating, “Boys, ‘M dun”.
Bold Prediction: The accompanying Nascar Scene article on Sterling’s retirement will be titled “Sterling’s Silver”.
Fun Fact: In a desperate attempt to raise more revenue, the Florida Marlins are trying to charge Sterling Marlin licensing fees.

41. 55 Michael Waltrip—Expect big things from Mikey in 2007. Like introducing Derrike Cope as his highly-paid Designated Qualifyer.

42. 4 Ward Burton—Ward’s back, and he’s got his furry little woodland friends to help him!

43. 36 Jeremy Mayfield—Anytime your sponsor owns both 360 OTC and AERO Exhaust, you’re in trouble.

44. 13 Joe Nemechek—You can be Certainteed that he’ll need a Bacardi to make it through this year.

45. 70 Johnny Sauter—Why?

46. 84* A.J. Allmendinger—“I wanna go back to the Champy Cars! I wanna go back! Nobody watched me there!”

47. 49 Mike Bliss—What’s on the trailer on Sunday morning?

48. 78 Kenny Wallace—Suge Knight isn’t involved in this row…yet.

49. 61 Kevin Lepage—Doin’ it for the Catamounts.

50. 72 Brandon Whitt—Carrying on that Shelmerdine tradition.

51. 74 Derrike Cope—Well, he’ll always have his looks.

(And who’ll come in last place? Find out NEXT).


2007 Nextel Cup Championship Preview...Part 4

Today we look at the drivers who make it into the Top 35 for 2008, thus avoiding an off-season of irrelevancy.

31. 6* David Ragan
Prediction: David will have a rough rookie year, but close strong once he’s able to forget the fact that he’s driving a Ford.
Bold Prediction: David’s already looking at the entire 2007 season as a way to prepare for the 2008 season, which is a way to prepare for making the Chase in 2009.
Fun Fact: David spends 15 minutes a day reminding himself that his sponsor is not pronounced “Ayyyye”.

32. 45 Kyle Petty
Prediction: Kyle will enter the Daytona 500 in a stagecoach.
Bold Prediction: To promote sponsor American Spirit (Marathon Oil’s motor oil line), Kyle will begin walking everywhere with a boom box blaring “Real American” by Derringer.
Fun Fact: If released from its ponytail, Kyle’s ‘fro would fill 2/3 of Talladega Speedway.

33. 38 David Gilliland
Prediction: David will run the first half of the season with Ricky Rudd in the passenger seat.
Bold Prediction: To retain the fans of the M&M’s car, David will grow his hair longer, take up hunting, and get an older brother with a funny voice.
Fun Fact: It CAN’T be a good sign that the sponsor for David’s Busch win was called “Hype Manufacturing”.

34. 21** Ken Schrader/Jon Wood
Prediction: Little Debbie is slated to run the car in the Nextel All-Star Challenge, plus run a limited Busch schedule.
Bold Prediction: If this is indeed Kenny’s last season, his retirement tour will be called “Motorcrafting a Force for a Little Wood”.
Fun Fact: Jon Wood had to fill out an application just like everyone else. So there.

35. 83 Brian Vickers
Prediction: Brian will squeeze into the top-35, setting up Red Bull for a dominating run of top-30s in 2008.
Bold Prediction: Brian will secretly regret not asking Robert Yates about getting the 38 ride.
Fun Fact: The point of the joke above was a “Vickers/Snickers” reference.

(This might surprise you, but Part 5 is next)


2007 Nextel Cup Championship Preview...Part 3

After a brief delay to get over a nasty case of Nascar fever, here's Part 3 of our preview, spots 21-30:

21. 19 Elliott Sadler
Prediction: Elliott will continue the great heritage of the 19 car, following in the footsteps of such legends as Jeremy Mayfield, Casey Atwood, and all those guys at Blair Motorsports.
Bold Prediction: Elliott will shock his fans with an unsurprising, completely ground-level race at Talladega.
Fun Fact: Elliott himself is unaware of the irony that he once raced for M&M’s, despite Reese’s Pieces appearing in the move ET.

22. 16 Greg Biffle
Prediction: Greg will put on 50 pounds this year. Damn you Jared Fogle!
Bold Prediction: Just to “spice things up”, Jack Roush will take to following Greg around the pits in a grim reaper uniform.
Fun Fact: Greg has taken a recent interest in fishing, much like several other drivers. “So Biff wants to be a buff?”

23. 10 Scott Riggs
Prediction: Scott will capture his first Nextel Cup win this year. Afterwards, he’ll have his picture taken with it, then release it into the wild.
Bold Prediction: Scott will be constantly referred to by TV commentators as “the driver who did NOT miss the Daytona 500”.
Fun Fact: Just like Mark Martin before him, Scott is a workout buff. So THAT’S why Johnny Benson had so much trouble.

24. 96 Tony Raines
Prediction: Tony will finish highest amongst single car teams in the points standings, and challenge for several wins. Really.
Bold Prediction: Tony will be fired following the season for violating Nascar’s “anyone over the age of 35 is too old” policy.
Fun Fact: Tony Raines, formerly of the 74 car, is now driving for one of the fastest-growing teams in Nextel Cup. How is this possible? It’s the mirrors.

25. 88 Ricky Rudd
Prediction: Ricky has considered naming this season the “Ricky Don’t Lose That Number” tour.
Bold Prediction: Apparently Tony Kornheiser was unwilling to transfer the rights to Ricky’s original choice, “I’m Back for More Cash”.
Fun Fact: Snickers isn’t just a sponsor. Its what Ricky will hear when he says he’s gunning for the Nextel Cup.

26. 41 Reed Sorenson
Prediction: Reed will team with David Stremme to push Ganassi Racing back to its rightful spot ABOVE Ginn but BELOW Evernham.
Bold Prediction: Reed will become the first driver since Ted Musgrave to back off on a chance to win a race.
Fun Fact: When asked why, Reed will explain that naming his associate sponsors in Victory Lane would take “…at least 40 minutes.”

27. 18 J.J. Yeley
Prediction: JJ will compete as the odds-on favorite for the 2007 Most Irrelevant Driver award.
Bold Prediction: Part of JJ’s lack of early success stems from his inability to give up the power slide.
Fun Fact: JJ STILL doesn’t know why everybody at University of Maryland hates him.

28. 40 David Stremme
Prediction: To spice up his image, he’ll start going by “Dave” around Bristol time.
Bold Prediction: Race fans who’ve eaten at Lone Star Steakhouse will understand why they’re now associated with Tums.
Fun Fact: Every time David Stremme is shown on television, Tim Fedewa cries.

29. 22 Dave Blaney
Prediction: To spice up his image, he’ll start going by “David” around Bristol time.
Bold Prediction: Toyota will finally reward Bill Davis for sticking with them through all the tough times with a free undercoat on a 2008 Camry.
Fun Fact: If Erin Crocker defected to BDR and ran this car, wouldn’t that make her the CAT-woman?

30. 01**Mark Martin/Regan Smith (**--multiple drivers)
Prediction: All the attention goes to Mark, while most people barely know Regan is with the team. Kinda like the government’s views on Iraq and Afghanistan, eh?
Bold Prediction: Mark will run (amongst all three series), a Chevy, Ford, Toyota, Dodge, Pontiac, Edsel, and Tucker.
Fun Fact: Mispronunciations on TV of the name Ginn: 2.5 per race weekend.

(Part 4 next)


2007 Nextel Cup Championship Preview...Part 2

For Part 2, we look at the points standings from 13th through 20th place, the guys who wish the Chase was expanded to 70 drivers or so:

13. 2 Kurt Busch

Prediction: Kurt will deal with narrowly missing the Chase by picking up garbage on the side of an Arizona highway. Damn community service.
Bold Prediction: Bristol domination will continue, and so will simmering, barely contained rage from Jimmy Spencer.
Fun Fact: After last year’s successful surgery to pin his ears back, Kurt spent this off-season implanting a chip in his brain to make fans like him.

14. 11 Denny Hamlin
Prediction: Denny will continue his mastery of ALL Nascar tracks shaped like a triangle.
Bold Prediction: In support for the Washington Redskins, Denny is preparing to overspend, fail miserably, and refuse to deal with a legacy of racism (note: written by a lifetime New York Giants fan).
Fun Fact: Even Denny doesn’t know why his car is painted black.

15. 9 Kasey Kahne
Prediction: Kasey will retain his status as a teen idol. Meanwhile, Bill Elliott will retain his status as a geriatric idol.
Bold Prediction: Kasey’s season will spin out of control once he realizes how much Ray Evernham looks like a skinny Fred Willard.
Fun Fact: By virtue of his winnings in 2006, Kasey officially became the richest reality TV star of all time not affiliated with the USFL.

16. 25 Casey Mears
Prediction: Casey will score his first win, and it WON’T be by pissing off half of the Nascar fan base.
Bold Prediction: Casey’s win will electrify his 10 fans who don’t have another favorite driver.
Fun Fact: The dreaded Mears Gang is wanted on weapons charges in 14 states and 2 provinces.

17. 44 Dale Jarrett
Prediction: Dale will be the highest-finishing Toyota in the points standings, thusly making him the least-popular driver in the sport.
Bold Prediction: Toyota will go winless in 2007, prompting executives to invest 59 kajillion dollars for 2008.
Fun Fact: If Dale doesn’t put up big numbers this year, he could be forced to Race the Truck…for Germain.

18. 42* Juan Pablo Montoya (*--rookie)
Prediction: JPM WILL win a race in 2007. Its true. So get your angry, racist message board posts ready!
Bold Prediction: Juan Pablo will flatly deny that, for a period in the 90’s, he went by the nickname of “Monty BurnsRubber”.
Fun Fact: Texaco Havoline users everywhere will finally have someone they can relate to—a millionaire Columbian.

19. 26 Jamie McMurray
Prediction: Jamie will continue to be that driver who is considered a superstar, but hasn’t won in four years.
Bold Prediction: Jamie will become that driver who drives best over a few ice cubes, gently swirled.
Fun Fact: Jamie isn’t even the most famous person from his hometown of Joplin, Missouri—that title goes to Langston Hughes. Just another part in The Outside Groove’s Salute to Black History Month.

20. 43 Bobby Labonte
Prediction: Bobby will nearly win a race, but lose when he realizes how hideous his car looks with that paint scheme.
Bold Prediction: This just might be the year Bobby achieves his goal of meeting the Honey Nut Cheerios bee. Just might be. Just might.
Fun Fact: Bobby was nearly removed from the 43 car last year after giving an interview where he failed to say that Petty Enterprises was “…turning the corner”.

Part 3 Tomorrow