Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sprint Cup review at the one-quarter mark in the NASCAR season

Sunday's race at Talladega marked the one-quarter pole for NASCAR's Sprint Cup series. Here are some highlights and lowlights from the season's first nine races:

Biggest surprise: Until Sunday it might have been the early slump by Dale Earnhardt Jr., or the top-12 place in points for Zephyrhills' own David Reutimann. But really, the only right answer is Brad Keselowski's upset victory at Talladega. Leaving aside the scary, fence-bending ending with Carl Edwards, the race was only Keselow­ski's fifth Sprint Cup start and first at a restrictor-plate track. His best Cup finish coming in was 19th, and his previous four starts were in the No. 25 car for Rick Hendrick. He's the first driver since Jamie McMurray to get his first career top-10 finish with a victory.

Biggest disappointment: Richard Childress Racing got all three of its drivers into the Chase for the Championship last season, and all finished in the top six in points — Kevin Harvick was fourth, Clint Bowyer fifth and Jeff Burton sixth. Burton in particular had a renaissance, winning twice and leading the standings for a month. But 2009 has not been as kind to RCR, which added a fourth car for Casey Mears. Harvick is 20th in points and Mears, driving Bowyer's old No. 07 car, is 21st. Granted it's early, and Bowyer, now driving the No. 33 Chevrolet, has three top-five finishes to stand eighth in points while Burton is ninth. But the team hasn't gone this deep into a season without winning since 2004, when it finished winless.

Biggest loss: Seeing as it is in the middle of NASCAR country, it only makes sense that the Charlotte Observer would be one of the most influential newspapers covering the circuit. But David Poole made its coverage even more relevant. He died of a heart attack Tuesday at age 50. In addition to his work with the Observer, Poole hosted the Morning Drive show on Sirius NASCAR Radio. Dale Earnhardt Jr. paid the ultimate tribute Tuesday: "David Poole was as much a fixture in this sport as the actual cars themselves."

Biggest controversy: NASCAR's latest talking point is the rebirth of an old one. Restrictor-plate racing again became a point of contention at Talladega Superspeedway with Carl Edwards' flight into the fence on the final lap of the Aaron's 499. Perhaps the reason this issue won't go away — aside from TV ratings — is there is little agreement on what to do about the tight packs and big wrecks that restrictor plates breed. Jimmie Johnson said this week: "I don't know how we fix it unless we take a bunch of tractors out there and knock down the walls, knock down the banking, and make the track where you have to let off (the gas)."

Area ups and downs: David Reutimann of Zephyrhills is driving for a team that had little success in its first two full seasons. Aric Almirola of Tampa was driving for a bunch that had formed out of two teams that have seen some good fortune. So what has happened to the bay area's Sprint Cup drivers in 2009? Reutimann, who drives the No. 00 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, has had his two best career finishes (fourth in Las Vegas; eighth at Phoenix) and sits 11th in points. Almirola's No. 8 team for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing never finished in the top 20 in eight races. And that was the good news. The program then suspended its operations because of a lack of sponsorship.

Times wires contributed to this report.

Sprint Cup point standings

Through nine of 36 races. The top 12 drivers through 26 races make the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Kurt Busch 1,299—

Jeff Gordon 1,294 5

Jimmie Johnson 1,235 64

Tony Stewart 1,232 67

Denny Hamlin 1,190 109

Kyle Busch 1,124 175

Carl Edwards 1,119 180

Clint Bowyer 1,098 201

Jeff Burton 1,092 207

Greg Biffle 1,081 218

David Reutimann 1,077 222

Matt Kenseth 1,063 236

Tonight's race

Russ Friedman 400, 7:30, Richmond (Va.) International Speedway

TV: Ch. 13

Sprint Cup review at the one-quarter mark in the NASCAR season 05/01/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 2, 2009 3:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs' O.J. Howard ends big day with BP, first pitch for Rays


    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard is known for his athleticism at 6-foot-6, 251-pounds. As an outfielder, he took his Autuaga Academy High School baseball team to the state tournament in Alabama as a junior.

    On Monday, after a little instruction from Steven Souza, Jr., the left-handed hitting Howard started making …

  2. Arm problems in the past, USF rides pitching into AAC baseball tournament


    TAMPA — By his second relief inning in last year's season opener, USF right-hander Ryan Valdes had lost the fizz on his fastball.

    USF senior right-hander Ryan Valdes, an Alonso High alumnus, is one of three prominent Bulls pitchers flourishing after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. [USF Athletics]
  3. Ryan Fitzpatrick likes Bucs weapons, believes he's a good fit


    Ryan Fitzpatrick’s experience playing for six other NFL teams is what made him attractive to the Bucs as a backup to starter Jameis Winston. But if he has to play, the former Jets quarterback is happy about all the weapons on Tampa Bay’s offense.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick is happy about all the weapons on Tampa Bay’s offense.
  4. For starters: Rays vs. Angels and Trout, with Odorizzi on mound


    After losing Sunday's game but winning a third straight series, the Rays open a four-game series tonight against the Angels and Mike Trout.

    RHP Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, RHP J.C. Ramirez for the Angels.

    Evan Longoria is getting a DH day, so the Rays have rookie Daniel …

    Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays.
  5. Lightning's Swedes live their dream in Worlds


    You could see it in his face.

    Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman screamed as he hoisted the World Championship trophy Sunday afternoon in Cologne, Germany, and it looked like an exhale that was years in the making. Stralman kissed the forehead of Swedish teammate Joel Lundqvist, the joy unmistakable.

    Victor Hedman of Sweden celebrate with his teammates after scoring the opening goal in the gold-medal game against Canada.