Looking at some potential breakouts in 2009

July 23, 2008 2 Comments

I fully realize there are five weeks of points racing and two full months of competition remaining in the current season, but let’s look ahead to 2009. Here are my picks for breakout drivers come next spring:

Late Models

1. Nick Ingalls ‘ time is coming, and I think 2009 will see him emerge as a bona fide top-five talent. Ingalls has demonstrated more consistency than in previous seasons and obviously is not afraid — or incapable — of running up front. Having Mark Burgtorf has a friend helps, too. Kind of like having Jeff Gordon to lean on if you’re an up-and-coming NASCAR talent.

2. Matt Bailey has really impressed me this season. That 14th-place standing in points is not a reflection of the overall year he has enjoyed. He’s missed a couple of points features, so if you factor in another 70 points or so you’ll see he would (should) be about fifth in the championship standing.

3. Dustin Griffin also continues to improve and he, too, has missed some points races or he would also be in the top 10. Griffin has that first victory out of the way, now he needs to demonstrate that week-to-week consistency.

Modifieds

1. Shawn Deering is a key man to watch in 2009. His climb to top-five status has been steady and thorough. He rarely gets himself in trouble and is respected by other drivers. That first feature victory — and many more after that — should not be too far away.

2. Steven DeLonjay probably should not be this list — he’s ALREADY arrived, even though he is a mere 16-year-old rookie. The sky is the limit for "Little Crank."

3. Jared Schlipman has demonstrated that No. 42s ride can be wicked fast. His only problem has been keeping it on the track on a consistent basis. If mechanical problems can be ironed out for 2009, Schlipman’s natural talent can take that team to a top-eight position, and in this division that is a mighty accomplishment.

Stock cars

I look for an influx of a half-dozen or so new cars next season — maybe more — in a series that will steadily grow in the coming years. Who those new drivers might be could affect this list, but for now here are my picks:

1. Sarah Woodhurst has been one of the most improved drivers in any class since about the first of June. That horrible start she got off to allowed her to slip under the radar. What might help her most is spending two straight years in the same class. We tend to forget she has changed classes in each of the last three years. And we also forget she is just a teenager. She could someday be the track’s first female champion.

2. Levi Long has used this year as a learning season and still managed a respectable eighth-place standing in the points. He’s another teenager to watch.

3. Yet another youngster, Andrew Griffin, has had more ups than downs, but in a series dominated by veterans that lack of consistency has been costly. That shouldn’t be such a problem in 2009. 

Hobby Stocks

1. James Leffew, if he stays in this division, may be the next Eddie Dieker. He’s both fast and talented, and that is a tough combination to beat in any series.

2. Bobby Anders‘ temper can get the best of him, but it’s obvious he can wheel that No. 20 around the 8000 Broadway quarter-mile. Mechanical issues have been a major problem in the second half of the season, resulting in him tumbling to sixth place in the standings.

3. Wes Mayfield is hardly a novice, but in his first year in a hobby stock he has demonstrated one important trait missing from his modified years — patience. Mayfield seems to have realized that to finish first, first you have to finish. He’s been one of the most pleasant surprises of 2008.

KA-CHING!

Here’s a look at the current and recent money leaders among the late models in points races ONLY:

1. Jason Frankel, $5,445
2. Mark Burgtorf, 5,075
3. Justin Reed, 3,115
4. Lonnie Bailey, 2,705
5. Terry Gallaher, 2,675
6. Kevin Tomlinson, 2,630
7. Matt Bailey, 2,595
8. Jason Perry, 2,505
9. Robby Warner 2,465
10. Nick Ingalls, 2,460
On the bubble: Jerry Weisenberger, 2,140, Keith Pratt, 2,110, Bill Genenbacher, 2,075, Dustin Neese, 2,070, Dustin Griffin, 2,025.

2007 LEADERS

1. Mark Burgtorf, $9,840
2. Terry Gallaher, 6,360
3. Lonnie Bailey, 5,095
4. Jason Frankel, 4,440
5. Kevin Tomlinson, 3,950
6. Keith Pratt, 3,930
7. Dustin Neese, 3,885
8. Justin Reed, 3,830
9. Jerry Weisenberger, 3,760
10. Ron Elbe, 3,495
On the bubble: Jason Perry, 3,450, Bill Genenbacher, 3,415, Joey Gower, 3,225, Denny Woodworth 3,165, Robby Warner, 3070.

2006 LEADERS

1. Mark Burgtorf, $10,460
2. Joey Gower, 4,775
3. Denny Woodworth, 4,570
4. Jerry Weisenberger, 4,360
5. Lonnie Bailey, 4,310
6. Boone McLaughlin, 4,180
7. Tom Darbyshire, 3,680
8. Brian Kenning, 3,400
9. Justin Reed, 3,370
10. Robby Warner, 3,280
On the bubble: Kevin Tomlinson, 2,755, Matt Bailey, 2,510, Bill Genenbacher, 2,505, Terry Gallaher, 2,370, Nick Ingalls, 2,025.

TROUBLE IN TURN 3
www.geoffreystephens.com

(Our good friend Geoffrey Stephens has been hard at work. Enjoy his research!)

Ever
wonder how drivers that rarely score a top 10 finish can continuously
find work in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series? Robert Pressley, Hut Stricklin and
the like come to mind when I think about this.

Below is a look at the worst top 10 percentages among those drivers with 100-plus Cup starts:

1. Eddie Bierschwale – 0.85% (117 starts)
2. Tommy Gale – 1.63% (245 starts)
3. Trevor Boys – 1.96% (102 starts)
4. Tony Raines – 2.54% (118 starts)
5. Scott Wimmer – 2.83% (106 starts)
6. Jimmy Means – 3.74% (455 starts)
7. Dick May – 4.32% (185 starts)
8. Kevin Lepage – 4.48% (201 starts)
9. Ronnie Thomas – 4.57% (197 starts)
10. Robert Pressley – 5.37% (205 starts)

Here are the top 10:

1. Lee Petty 77.75% (427 starts)
2. Dick Hutcherson 70.87% (103 starts)
3. Rex White 69.96% (233 starts)
4. Tim Flock 68.98% (187 starts)
5. Herb Thomas 68.42% (228 starts)
6. Ned Jarrett 67.90% (352 starts)
7. Joe Weatherly 66.52% (230 starts)
8. David Pearson 63.76% (574 starts)
9. Dale Earnhardt 63.31% (676 starts)
10. Bobby Allison 62.12% (718 starts)

During the 587 starts Richard Petty made from his title years 1964-1979, he was the top in this category at 75.13%.

Dale
Earnhardt leads the modern era (1972-Current) with a 63.31% in his 676
starts, followed by: 2. Cale Yarborough 63.11% (366 starts), 3. Bobby
Allison 63.03% (476 starts), 4. Jeff Gordon 61.55% (528 starts), 5. David Pearson 60.19% (206 starts).

Top percentages in recent years (30-plus starts):

2008: Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards – 68.42%
2007: Jeff Gordon – 83.33%
2006: Jimmie Johnson – 66.67%
2005: Tony Stewart – 69.44%

Bottom percentages in recent years (30-plus starts):

2007: Paul Menard – 0.00%
2006: Sterling Marlin – 2.78%
2005: Bobby Hamilton, Jr. – 0.00%

CUP CHAMPS BY AGE

45 – Lee Petty (1959), Bobby Allison (1983)
44 – Lee Petty (1958)
43 – Dale Earnhardt (1994)
42 – Richard Petty (1979), Dale Earnhardt (1993), Dale Jarrett (1999)
41 – Joe Weatherly (1963)
40 – Lee Petty (1954), Joe Weatherly (1962), Dale Earnhardt (1991)
39 – Cale Yarborough (1978), Dale Earnhardt (1990), Terry Labonte (1996)
38 – Buck Baker (1957), Richard Petty (1975), Cale Yarborough (1977), Darrell Waltrip (1985)
37 – Buck Baker (1956), Bobby Isaac (1970), Richard Petty (1974), Cale Yarborough (1976), Alan Kulwicki (1992)
36 – Dale Earnhardt (1987), Bobby Labonte (2000)
35 – Richard Petty (1972), Darrell Waltrip (1982), Dale Earnhardt (1986)
34 – Red Byron (1949), Richard Petty (1971), David Pearson (1969), Darrell Waltrip (1981), Tony Stewart (2005)
33 – David Pearson (1968)
32 – Ned Jarrett (1965), Bill Elliott (1988), Rusty Wallace (1989)
31
– Tim Flock (1955), David Pearson (1966), Benny Parsons (1973), Tony
Stewart (2002), Matt Kenseth (2003), Jimmie Johnson (2007)
30 – Herb Thomas (1953), Rex White (1960), Richard Petty (1967), Jimmie Johnson (2006)
29 – Dale Earnhardt (1980), Jeff Gordon (2001)
28 – Herb Thomas (1951), Tim Flock (1952), Ned Jarrett (1961)
27 – Richard Petty (1964), Terry Labonte (1984)
26 – Jeff Gordon (1998)
25 – Jeff Gordon (1997), Kurt Busch (2004)
23 – Bill Rexford (1950), Jeff Gordon (1995)

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  1. Fan From a Distance says:

    Will it ever stop raining? Caution: this post is strickly to vent. Jacksonville was supposed to host a $2000 to win UMP late model event tonight (Thursday) that the red #7 was to race in…..and guess what, too much standing water on the track. Races cancelled.

    Don’t the weather gods know this is late July. It is supposed to be bone dry leading to dry slick racing surfaces. Thankfully, Quincy has been spared. Hopefully this trend continues. Best of luck to all the racers this coming Sunday evening. It would be nice to see Burgtorf record his 200th late model victory at the Bullring.

    The only good news of the week…oil prices are declining albeit I’m not sure if this has hit the pumps yet. What is diesel these days in the Gem City?

  2. Fan From a Distance says:

    Will it ever stop raining? Caution: this post is strickly to vent. Jacksonville was supposed to host a $2000 to win UMP late model event tonight (Thursday) that the red #7 was to race in…..and guess what, too much standing water on the track. Races cancelled.

    Don’t the weather gods know this is late July. It is supposed to be bone dry leading to dry slick racing surfaces. Thankfully, Quincy has been spared. Hopefully this trend continues. Best of luck to all the racers this coming Sunday evening. It would be nice to see Burgtorf record his 200th late model victory at the Bullring.

    The only good news of the week…oil prices are declining albeit I’m not sure if this has hit the pumps yet. What is diesel these days in the Gem City?

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