NASCAR Cup heads into 2008, part 2

NASCAR Cup heads into 2008, part 2

NASCAR Sprint Cup 2008: Preview - Part 2 We'll keep up the momentum as we get through the final single digit car numbers and work our way into the teens. We'll start with the No. 9 and end with the No. 21 in the second installment of the 2008 ...


NASCAR Sprint Cup 2008: Preview - Part 2

We'll keep up the momentum as we get through the final single digit car numbers and work our way into the teens. We'll start with the No. 9 and end with the No. 21 in the second installment of the 2008 season preview.

Kasey Kahne.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

In some cases, where things aren't quite set yet, we'll just include all scenarios in that category to keep the confusion to a minimum.

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No. 9 - Kasey Kahne
Team: Gillett Evernham Motorsports

Kasey Kahne has had a roller coaster career in NASCAR. Coming in on a hot streak he instantly won over all the fans hearts with his second place finishes and boyish looks. Kahne did well handling the pressure of taking over where Bill Elliott left off, but his second and fourth seasons in Cup have not been stellar. Kahne obviously has the talent, in 2006 he had six victories and was a playoff contender. After the technical and engineering meltdown of 2007 where Gillett-Evernham was using old data to design their chassis, Kahne and his team started to turn things back around with eight finishes of twentieth or better in the final eleven races.

Ray Evernham has always been able to find success and if Kahne can work well with team director Kenny Francis, he could be back on track for a playoff run in 2008. Although, Kahne and the Evernham team did not perform well with the new car.

Kahne had a poor season in 2007 and still finished 19th in the driver standings. He should finish 11th - 15th in 2008.

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No. 10 - Patrick Carpentier
Team: Gillett Evernham Motorsports

I highly doubt that Patrick Carpentier can make the same transition that Juan Pablo Montoya made in 2007. Plus the #10 is 37th in owner points right now, so Carpentier will have to qualify in the first five races of the season to make the field. Carpentier has little experience in stockcars and his second place finish during the Grand National race in Canada isn't enough to justify his move to Cup. Carpentier has done a decent job qualifying on time but he has never been anything besides a back-marker in Grand National or Cup.

I expect this to be a rough year for Carpentier and the #10 team in 2008. With Evernham being one of the most business minded type of owners in the sport, Carpentier could be out of his ride before the season is over if he doesn't perform.

Patrick Carpentier.
Photo by Kurt Dahlstrom.

If you don't think Evernham would do that, look at Scott Riggs and Jeremy Mayfield. Mayfield made the playoffs two years in a row, then was kicked out of his equipment so Kahne could perform better on the track and financially for Evernham. When Mayfield couldn't compete at the same level he was used to in Kahne's old equipment, Mayfield got the boot.

Carpentier and the #10 team shouldn't finish higher than 35th - 40th. They have the budget to show up every week and they'll have to make races eventually.

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No. 11 - Denny Hamlin
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Denny Hamlin burst on the scene in 2005 while trying out for the #11 seat. He became fulltime in 2006 and drove his way into the playoffs and finished third in the championship in his first full season of competition.

In 2007, Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford showed success with the new car and won a race at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Hamlin continues to impress and is always on top of his game, although with the switch to Toyota, there is some unknown coming up in 2008 for Hamlin and his team.

Hamlin is too talented to struggle for long and will keep his team heading towards the playoffs.

Hamlin should finish 11th - 15th in 2008.

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No. 12 - Ryan Newman
Team: Penske Racing South

Ryan Newman and Penske Racing South are probably jumping for joy with the arrival of the new car. Newman showed signs of strength and being able to compete with the leaders again in the new car and finished 13th in the final standings. Now working with Roy McCauley, Newman should once again be able to compete for wins and a chance at the post season in 2008.

Newman should finish no worse than 11th - 15th in 2008.

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Pitstop for Paul Menard.
Photo by Bob Heathcote.

No. 15 - Paul Menard
Team: Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Paul Menard gets to team up with Doug Randolph and hopefully these two can turn this program around. After merging with Ginn Racing, Menard was the benefactor of owner points and is now locked in to the first five races of 2008, which should greatly help his chances at staying in the top 35 even with an average finishing position of 26.8 in 2007. Menard struggled in 2007 missing six races throughout the season, and might have missed more had he not received the owner points.

With Menard's inexperience and being the third car at DEI, it will be another tough season for the #15 bunch, Menard will most likely finish 31st - 35th.

It is going to take some serious effort to get this team above water in 2008.

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No. 16 - Greg Biffle
Team: Roush Fenway Racing

It is so tough to predict where some of these borderline contenders will finish in 2008. Greg Biffle had an average year for him, maybe even less than average, and he still finished the season in 14th. Biffle won a race, had a pole, and earned over four million dollars in 2007.

There is a lot of uncertainty for Biffle in 2008 though, his sponsor, 3M is only signed for 23 races and his contract with Roush-Fenway is up after the '08 season. Biffle could move to DEI and it is obvious he is looking. He isn't going to make a decision on staying with Roush-Fenway until he sees how his team is running before he starts making plans for 2009.

Greg Biffle.
Photo by Action Sports Photography.

Biffle can still get the job done and during the Dickies 500 in November, Biffle went 12 laps in a row where he overtook another car.

It is going to be tough to call and with Roush-Fenway's new car program being less than that of Hendrick and Gibbs, this could be another year of struggling for Biffle and Greg Erwin.

This is a pretty low prediction for Biffle, but he might finish 16th - 20th and go packing for greener pastures.

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No. 17 - Matt Kenseth
Team: Roush Fenway Racing

Matt Kenseth is Mr. Consistent, how many times can we say that. Although Roush-Fenway has not announced who will be the crew chief for Kenseth in '08, Kenseth will continue to be as solid and competitive as always. Kenseth proved to be competitive in all of the new car races and should once again easily make it into the playoffs.

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Kenseth will finish 1st - 5th at the end of the 2008 season; Kenseth is too good to struggle.

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No. 18 - Kyle Busch
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Another one of the most talented drivers in Sprint Cup, Kyle Busch should be able to put things together and finish well in his first full season at Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch will have the mentoring of Tony Stewart who came in as brash and talented as Busch is, to help him mature as a driver and string together solid finishes.

It isn't as if Busch had a poor season, he finished fifth in the 2007 standings and won the first race in the new car. Busch has been good everywhere he goes and with his raw talent, he should be able to shine and help bring Toyota and his new crew chief Steve Addington along with him.

Busch has the fifth best driver rating (97.8) in Cup, was the fifth strongest driver over the last six races of 2007 (863 points scored), and has the third best rating of quality passes during the 2007 season (1753).

Busch is young, talented, and capable of adapting the best to the new car.

He should finish 11th - 15th in 2008 with the struggle of learning how to go fast in a Toyota, or, he'll win the championship.

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No. 19 - Elliot Sadler
Team: Gillett Evernham Motorsports

If Elliot Sadler's boots are made for walking, that is just what they are going to do if he doesn't get it together this season for Gillett Evernham Motorsports. Sadler finished 25th in the 2007 championship and posted his best finish of sixth, in the 2007 season opening Daytona 500. It was one of two Top-10's for the entire 2007 season; his other was an eight at Kansas, the 29th race of the year.

Sadler was in the same boat as Kahne when it came to having old data being used on the new cars and Sadler didn't perform well in the new car either.

I know Sadler is good, he made the playoffs in 2004, but since then, Sadler hasn't had much to write home about.

Hopefully Sadler improves, but the #19 bunch shouldn't finish higher than 16th - 20th.

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Tony Stewart.
Photo by Kurt Dahlstrom.

No. 20 - Tony Stewart
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Tony Stewart once again will team up with Greg Zipadelli for 2008, and with their track record of success, Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing, hopes to keep that combination together for a long time.

Tony Stewart lead the fith most amount of miles in 2007 (1309.51), ran the fifth most amount of laps on the lead lap (9388), and had the fourth most amount of quality passes (1750). Stewart also had the third best driver rating (100.9) and had an average running position of 11.732 to compliment his average finishing position of 13.1

Stewart won three races in 2007 and had 11 Top-5's and 23 Top-10's. Stewart's only problem in 2007 was once again, rookies.

Stewart should easily make the playoffs again and if things go as needed, he could win his third championship and finish better than 6th - 10th.

We'll just have to wait and see when Bowyer pays him back.

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No. 21 - Bill Elliot [Daytona +], Marcos Ambrose [12 Races], Ken Schrader [?], Jon Wood [?]
Team: Wood Brothers

The famous Wood Brothers once again call on Bill Elliott to pilot the team's car for the season opening Daytona 500. Past that, there hasn't been much announcement on the driver lineup for 2008. Marcos Ambrose continues to impress in his ability to adapt to these heavy stockcars and has gotten the nod from the Wood Brothers to run 12 races in 2008, although which twelve, have not been determined.

The #21 car is currently 36th in owner points and will have to qualify in on time, Elliot has champion's provisional status, but he is not first in line to receive those if he needs them.

The #21 bunch had bad luck last year and with a few breaks, they would have stayed in the Top-35, it is a very uncertain 2008 for the #21 car and I think it is a safe bet to say the team will finish 35th - 40th in 2008.

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In part three, we'll handle the No. 22 car all the way through the No. 41 car.

2008 is already looking to be another strong season in Sprint Cup.

Note: All statistics provided by NASCAR.com, USAToday.com, and Jayski.com.

See also: Part 1

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About this article
Series General , NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bill Elliott , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Ken Schrader , Greg Biffle , Ryan Newman , Patrick Carpentier , Jon Wood , Scott Riggs , Kasey Kahne , Marcos Ambrose , Paul Menard , Ray Evernham , Eric Gilbert , Denny Hamlin , Bob Heath , Greg Erwin , Kyle Busch
Teams Team Penske , Roush Fenway Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing