Tag: Harry Scott Jr.

Steve Addington follows path of many NASCAR drivers who did not fulfill expectations

Much of the Silly Season moves in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series took place during the actual racing season this year, so with few driver moves left to make, crew chief shuffles came front and center after the season finale.

Stewart-Haas Racing made the biggest announcement of the first week of the offseason when it released Tony Stewart’s crew chief of two years, Steve Addington, two days after Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and signed Chad Johnston to be the crew chief for the No. 14 team in 2014, among several crew chief changes the organization made that include Rodney Childers to the No. 4 team with Kevin Harvick and Daniel Knost to the No. 41 team with Kurt Busch.

Johnston had been the crew chief for Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 56 team at Michael Waltrip Racing, but that job fell apart after the race-fixing scandal late in the Sept. 7 race at Richmond International Raceway caused full-time sponsor NAPA to leave the team at the end of the year.

The No. 56 team dissolved, as Truex and his pit crew will move next season to the No. 78 team at Furniture Row Racing, which finished 10th in the final points standings with the eldest Busch as the driver.

Addington did not find a job with a history of nearly as much success. He will be the crew chief of the No. 51 team at Phoenix Racing, which has not yet announced a full-time sponsor or driver for 2014, although it will likely by Brandt with Justin Allgaier in the driver’s seat.

That move is certainly a fairly steep drop from Addington’s position with the No. 14 team and his jobs with Busch in the No. 22 car at Penske Racing from 2010-11 and with Kyle Busch and the No. 18 team at Joe Gibbs Racing from 2008-09.

Addington began his full-time crew chief career at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2005 with Bobby Labonte but went three years, including the next two with J.J. Yeley, before he got his first Cup series win in 2008 with Kyle Busch.

Busch won 12 races in his two seasons with Addington but never finished better than 10th in the points standings. Kurt Busch won four races in his two seasons with Addington but finished 10th both years.

In 2012, Stewart won three races as the Cup series reigning champion but fizzled in the Chase and finished ninth in the points standings.

Addington faced tough circumstances in 2013, as he had to work with four different drivers because Stewart broke a leg during a sprint car crash in August and missed the final 15 races of the season.

However, Addington’s career has been defined by missed opportunities, and those bygone chances now have him with a second-tier team that has not finished better than 25th in the Cup series points standings and had nine different drivers in a 2013 season that had former owner James Finch sell the team to Harry Scott Jr.

Both Busch brothers and Stewart were favorites to contend for the championship during their seasons with Addington because they often had successful regular seasons that put them in position to contend for the title, but they faded during the Chase every single year.

Addington could get those drivers, who have a combined four championships among them, into the Chase, but he could never have much success with them once they got there.

Regardless of the factors that contributed to those Chase swoons, Addington is now in the same spot as drivers who had opportunities with top teams but fell short of expectations.

Drivers such as Yeley, Michael McDowell, David Reutimann, David Stremme, Regan Smith, Elliott Sadler and Reed Sorenson, among others, all had rides with large, multi-car Cup series organizations at least at one point in their careers, but they are now with underfunded teams, start-and-park teams or even Nationwide Series teams.

For now, those drivers languish in mostly bad rides with hopes of one day getting another chance at the big time, and now Addington is in that same spot.

He might have decent success with Allgaier in 2014 and could contend for a top 20 spot in the points standings with the would-be rookie driver, but those standards are far below those he’s had at any other point in his Cup series career.

Photo credits: Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR, Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR, Jerry Markland/Getty Images, Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images, Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR, Chris Graythen/Getty Images and Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.

Justin Allgaier about to get most important opportunity of his career, could change course for driver development

After nearly six full years in the Nationwide Series, Justin Allgaier is about to finally get his shot at the big time.

The co-owner of his No. 31 car in the Nationwide Series, Harry Scott Jr., announced Wednesday he had purchased Phoenix Racing and its No. 51 Cup series car from James Finch, who has tried to get out of the sport for much of the summer.

And with that decision, Allgaier will get the chance to drive that No. 51 car Sept. 14 in his Cup series debut at Chicagoland Speedway, before he takes the wheel at Charlotte and Talladega later in the season, as well.

A three-race audition is not much, for sure. Scott has not revealed who will drive the other seven races once he takes control of the organization after the Sept. 7 race at Richmond International Raceway that closes out the regular season.

However, Allgaier will still get his first chance to take the green flag in a Cup series race and show what he can do in a Cup series car.

Shoot, it worked for Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who along with his back-to-back Nationwide Series championships, drove the No. 21 Wood Brothers car to an 11th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 in May 2011 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In an era when drivers such as Joey Logano and Kyle Larson sign Sprint Cup Series deals before they have even completed a full season in the Nationwide Series, Allgaier has taken the old-school path to NASCAR’s top level.

He has raced for big-time owners such as Roger Penske at Penske Racing from 2008-10 and Scott at Turner Scott Motorsports since the beginning of the 2011 season, but he never got the chance to move to the Cup series even though Cup series flameouts such as Sam Hornish Jr., Reed Sorenson, Regan Smith and even Erik Darnell got a chance to race at the top level before landing back in the Nationwide Series.

But, if Allgaier does get a chance to race for Phoenix Racing or any Cup series team in 2014, he will be an increasingly rare case of a driver who has plenty of experience in NASCAR’s lower ranks before he made it to the Cup series.

The old-timers and purists in the sport will love it, and he just might set a new trend in the sport, although that ideal has huge hurdles to cross since sponsors often demand to have young, fresh drivers in their cars regardless of their experience.

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing’s decision to put Larson in the No. 42 car for the 2014 season is a perfect example. Juan Pablo Montoya was a hot commodity in the bright red Target car when he first came to NASCAR full time in 2007, but his shine has worn with just two wins in 241 races.

But instead of hiring a driver with Cup series experience such as Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman or A.J. Allmendinger, or even choosing a current Nationwide Series who used to drive in the Cup series such as Elliott Sadler, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing took a huge chance with Larson.

Perhaps that decision will work and the river of inexperienced drivers will continue to flow, no matter how slow.

But if Allgaier shows promise in his limited opportunities this season, maybe Cup series teams will start to want drivers to have a little more time in the development series so as not to overwhelm them when they do get their chance in the Cup series.

That just might be better for everybody involved.

Photo credits: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR, Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR, Chicagoland Speedway, Jerry Markland/Getty Images and Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

Move to No. 51 car wouldn’t be steep drop for Ryan Newman

Phoenix Racing owner James Finch announced Wednesday he has sold the team that operates the No. 51 car in the Sprint Cup Series, and while he didn’t name the new owners, he might have helped open a spot for the driver who most recently found out he will be unemployed.

Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart announced July 12 that Kevin Harvick would run the No. 4 car for his team in 2014 with sponsorship from Budweiser, but current teammate Ryan Newman would not return to the organization next season.

That leaves Newman as the most intriguing free agent of Silly Season so far, and his name is likely to be attached to just about every potential opening throughout the sport. He has already been linked to Richard Childress Racing as a potential replacement for Harvick in the No. 29 car, and now his name has come up as a possible fit for the No. 51 car in 2014.

Of course, Newman is a qualified candidate for any and all rides for next season, from the three-car organization of RCR to the single-car team at Phoenix Racing and anything in between.

At first glance, a move to the No. 51 car might seem to be a significant step back for Newman considering he was the Rookie of the Year in 2002, won the Daytona 500, has won 16 races and is third among active drivers with 49 career poles.

However, the No. 51 car could be just as competitive as Newman’s current No. 39 car with new owners and a primary sponsor.

Finch said the mystery owner, which could be revealed Friday or Monday, has never run a Cup series race, but he or she or they have a driver and sponsor lined up.

One of the most logical scenarios wouldn’t involve Newman or any other Cup series driver. Harry Scott Jr.’s name has swirled in the rumor pool about the No. 51 car almost since Finch announced he would sell the team or shut it down by the July 28 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Scott is the co-owner of Turner-Scott Motorsports, which currently fields cars in the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. Most notably, the organization runs the No. 31 bright orange car sponsored by Brandt and driven by Justin Allgaier.

Allgaier has driven for that organization in the Nationwide Series since the beginning of the 2011 season and has won twice. He already has the sponsor and the move to the Cup series could be relatively seamless.

That move would also eliminate most rumors about driver movement in the offseason, and Newman would be back to looking at being in a third or fourth car at RCR or some other organization.

But if Newman does wind up in the No. 51 car in 2014, it won’t be as big of a step back as it would first seem.

Newman is currently 19th in the points standings with just two top-five finishes in 19 races, and he has led 30 laps in the entire season.

The No. 51 team is 26th in the owners standings while having five different drivers in those 19 races, but A.J. Allmendinger, who also could be a candidate for that seat in 2014, finished 16th or better in the first four races of the 2013 season while driving the No. 51 car.

This car runs Hendrick Motorsports engines, as do the Stewart-Haas Racing cars, so it will have just as much power under the hood as Newman’s current car.

Also, a primary sponsor would do wonders for the No. 51 car, which has run sponsorless for much of the time since Finch changed the car from No. 09 to No. 51 early in the 2011 season.

Also, new owners could breathe life into the car both financially and with more resources. Who’s to say it wouldn’t even add a second car for the 2014 season? Multi-car operations are nearly always more successful than single-car teams. Perhaps Scott could find a second sponsor and quickly grow the organization.

Of course, Newman would likely be a candidate for a second car, as would just about any driver that doesn’t have a ride lined up for next season.

Either way, Newman would not be headed for a Kurt Busch-type situation where he would languish with an underfunded team if he ends up with the new version of Phoenix Racing in 2014.

 

Photo credits: Tom Pennington/Getty Images, and Motorsports Images and Archives.

‘Texas’ Terry Labonte could buy Phoenix Racing: What’s this mean?

– By Brandon Caldwell

Team owner James Finch has said that his No. 51 Phoenix Racing team has a buyer to continue racing after the Sprint Cup Series race July 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

One of the buyers is supposedly current co-owner of Turner-Scott Motorsports, Harry Scott Jr.

The other name being linked with the team is two-time Sprint Cup champion and current part-time driver Terry Labonte.

“Texas” Terry will be making his 885th career start on Saturday evening in Frankie Stoddard’s No. 32 car.

Terry has dabbled into ownership in the Cup series before when he teamed up with Billy Stavola in 2010 and created Stavola-Labonte Racing. The team ran 3 races in 2010 and dismantled after that.

This is a good sign for the sport. The more owners this sport has, the better. Scott has a lot of money and is currently an owner in the Nationwide Series. I expect the No. 51 team to keep their association with Hendrick Motorsports, which Labonte drove for from 1994 through the 2006 season.

What does all of this mean? Well, I think it means that we will finally see Justin Allgaier make his Cup series debut. Allgaier has been running the Nationwide Series full-time since the 2009 season. He’s yet to make his Cup series debut, but he has backing from his sponsor Brandt. We could potentially see Allgaier make the jump to Cup for five to seven races this season and run for rookie of the year in 2014.

We could also see Labonte run more, as well. If he’s a partial owner of the team, then he can essentially run for free and not have to hire a driver, and even at the age of 56, he’s still a pretty good one.

One more thing that could happen is Terry’s brother, Bobby, could drive for the team. Remember, there’s three more races that A.J. Allmendinger has to run for Bobby’s current team JTG Daugherty Racing in 2013.

Bobby Labonte could drive the No. 51 in those races and give them some well-needed, veteran feedback on what the new team needs to do to compete better.

Remember, Bobby is currently without a deal for 2014. He could come over to the No. 51 car full time next year. He’s only missed one race since 1993. Terry has run 36 races (not including Saturday at Daytona) since 2008. With those numbers, Bobby could be easier to sell to sponsors because he has stayed in the sport long enough to say it hasn’t passed him by. There’s no question in a lot of people’s minds that Bobby Labonte can still compete for wins in NASCAR. With enough funding, they could be a shocker in 2014.

This potential sale is important for the sport. If Allgaier can move his sponsor, Brandt to the Cup series next year and Bobby Labonte comes over in a second car, then there’s no question that this team can compete.

Two teams are better than one. If they have one car, don’t expect much improvement, but they would likely stick around for a while. Harry Scott and Steve Turner could also use this as their Cup team and build from here, and that could be the next big Cup team.

That would sure be fun to see.