NASCAR Cup heads into 2008, part 4

NASCAR Cup heads into 2008, part 4

NASCAR Sprint Cup 2008: Preview - Part 4 Welcome to part four, the last portion of this five part commentary that will handle drivers and the predications for them in 2008. Today's portion will cover No. 42 through No. 99, a little bit longer...


NASCAR Sprint Cup 2008: Preview - Part 4

Welcome to part four, the last portion of this five part commentary that will handle drivers and the predications for them in 2008. Today's portion will cover No. 42 through No. 99, a little bit longer than normal, but that is okay, I am a horrible planner and was never good at division.

Juan Pablo Montoya.
Photo by Christopher Sink - Cakewalk Photo.

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. 42 - Juan Pablo Montoya
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing w/ Felix Sebates

Juan Pablo Montoya made the best possible transition for someone with such limited stockcar experience and won two races in 2007. Although both of them were at road courses, he had a few good runs at non-road courses. A second place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was his best finish at an oval during 2007.

Montoya aggravated a lot of drivers and ruffled a lot of feathers with his aggressive driving style but he continued to show the trademark driving style of being a winner with his attitude on the track. He also finished a respectable 20th in the drivers' championship, and Montoya's average finish was also a respectable 22.7 for his rookie season.

Montoya should have a much stronger season his second go-round in Cup and it might not be a stretch to think Montoya could make the playoffs this year; he was the 2007 Rookie of the Year, so he has a grasp on things.

Just to be safe as I still think Montoya has a lot to learn (and a lot of bridges to mend); he should finish 11th - 15th.

I realize I have now chosen six drivers to finish 11th - 15th, but I am not perfect, I am sure it'll all work out in the end. We'll see what Donnie Wingo and Montoya do in 2008.

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No. 43 - Bobby Labonte
Team: Petty Enterprises

Bobby Labonte is teaming up with a new crew chief in 2008, Jeff Meendering. Labonte is signed through 2008 and his experience seems to be helping to turn around Petty Enterprises. Labonte had a quiet season in 2007, finishing 18th overall and earning three top-10's, very solid for this team.

With help from Gillett Evernham in the engine department, Petty Enterprises is continuing the slow climb back towards the top.

Labonte should have another solid year and finish 16th - 20th.

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No. 44 - Dale Jarrett
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

See No. 00 / No. 44 in Part 1

Although, I am starting to doubt myself that the No. 44 group will finish 26th - 30th in 2008, which might have been a bit optimistic.

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Kyle Petty.
Photo by Bob Heathcote.

No. 45 - Kyle Petty
Team: Petty Enterprises

Kyle Petty finished 35th in the driver standings and the No. 45 car finished 35th in owner points. Quite fortunate for this group as they are locked into the first five races of 2008. Petty will once again broadcast some races for TNT in 2008 and it might give Chad McCumbee a chance to run a few more races.

Don't expect much out of this team in 2008, they'll be battling to stay 31st - 35th for most of the season.

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No. 48 - Jimmie Johnson
Team: Hendrick Motorsports

With back-to-back Championships, Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson are signed till 2010 with Lowe's Home Improvement, and you name a stat that is good, he is probably leading it.

Johnson won 10 races in 2007, yes 10! It was almost not noticeable till the end of the year when NASCAR told us how many races he won. It was an incredible year for the driver of the No. 48 car. Johnson earned the most money and had the highest driver rating (110.3) in Cup.

Look for Johnson and Knaus to be in the hunt for a third championship in 2008, lets see if he can do the 'hat-trick'.

Johnson will finish 1st - 5th in 2008, if it is a really poor year, he'll finish fifth.

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No. 49 - John Andretti
Team: BAM Racing

John Andretti is signed to run the full season for this single car operation that hasn't show any success in any major NASCAR level. They are looking for a primary sponsor so give them a call!

Andretti and the No. 49 team will finish 41st+ in 2008.

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No. 55 - Michael Waltrip
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

Pole winner Michael Waltrip.
Photo by Action Sports Photography.

Michael Waltrip and the No. 55 Toyota team really are looking to rebound after a disappointing 2007 campaign. Involved in scandals on the track and incidents off the track, Waltrip hopes that things can be strictly focused on success in 2008. Waltrip earned the pole in the fall Talladega race and looked to get stronger with Toyota after scoring two top-10's in 2007.

Waltrip will be teaming up with Paul Andrews as the crew chief and hopefully this team can get into the top-35 in owner points.

Waltrip should finish 31st - 35th in 2008, and that would get him some great momentum heading into 2009.

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No. 66 - Scott Riggs
Team: Haas CNC Racing

It seems as though the better days have come and gone for Scott Riggs in Cup competition. Riggs was in a competitive car with MB2 Motorsports and then when he signed with Gillett Evernham, everyone expected him to breakout and perform to his ability. Well even in solid equipment, Riggs never put together much in his two years with Gillett Evernham.

At least Riggs is locked into the first five races of 2008.

Riggs should perform well with Bootie Barker and hopefully they can give Gene Haas something to cheer about while he is on vacation.

Look for Riggs and the No. 66 bunch to finish 26th - 30th in 2008.

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No. 70 - Jeremy Mayfield
Team: Haas CNC Racing

It is good to see a good guy finally landing a decent ride again. After proving to the world that he is a talented driver and can compete for championship, Ray Evernham fired him for business reasons and Mayfield spent the next two years in a turmoil situation, searching for a decent ride that could continue to show his talent.

Jeremy Mayfield.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

Remember, Mayfield is no slouch, he moved Dale Earnhardt Sr. out of the way at Pocono for a win. He has the aggression and desire to get the job done, and he can still do it.

Mayfield will be teaming up with Dave Skog in 2008 and Haas CNC Racing will see an overall performance boost with the benefit of Hendrick Motorsports engines.

Since there will be a slight learning curve with Skog and Mayfield getting in rhythm, Mayfield and the No. 70 bunch will stay in the top-35 but they will compete for 31st - 35th overall in 2008.

Don't expect me to be wrong though and Mayfield to challenge for a few top-fives or maybe even a win in 2008.

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No. 77 - Sam Hornish Jr.
Team: Penske Racing South

Sam Hornish Jr. had a horrible entry into Cup in 2007 and might team up with Chris Carrier as crew chief in 2008 to hopefully turn that trend around. Hornish does have some track time at some of the Cup circuits with his previous motorsports background but it shouldn't be too great of a season for him in 2008.

Hornish is locked in to the first five races of the year by taking Kurt Busch and the No.'s 2 points but he should still finish 35th - 40th in 2008.

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No. 78 - Joe Nemecheck
Team: Furniture Row Racing

Joe Nemecheck and Furniture Row Racing are looking to step things up in 2008 after agreeing to use Hendrick Motorsports engines in 2008. Nemecheck is signed through 2010 but the No. 78 team is out of the top-35 in points.

Nemecheck and the No. 78 should finish 41st+ in 2008.

***

No. 83 - Brian Vickers
Team: Red Bull Racing

Brian Vickers and the No. 83 bunch looked to perform well whenever they made the race but things started to fall off at the end of 2007. Vickers will be teaming up with Randy Cox in 2008 and we all know Vickers has enough talent to get the job done; they just have to find the right combination.

Losing Doug Richert was a huge blow to this team as they competed for victories and top-10's a few times in 2007. Look for Vickers and the No. 83 bunch to 35th - 40th in 2008.

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No. 84 - A.J. Allmendinger
Team: Red Bull Racing

A.J. Almendinger.
Photo by Bob Heathcote.

A.J. Allmendinger got off to a rough start in 2007 and never really recovered, finishing 43rd in owner points and only making 18 races. It was a much better second half of the season than the first though and hopefully Allmendinger can use the experience he has from 2007 to turn things around in 2008.

This will be another building year for the No. 84 team and they should finish 41st+ in 2008.

I really hate writing this team off as I know Allmendinger is a good guy, but it is going to be rough for them when Allmendinger had an average finish of 31.6 in 2007. I am really pulling for Allmendinger to turn things around in 2008.

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No. 88 - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Team: Hendrick Motorsports

The Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans have been patiently waiting for this portion of the 2008 preview to come around and hopefully I won't disappoint anyone in my preview here.

Earnhardt Jr. was ready to move on from DEI late last year as his performance on track did not match his finishing results with engine problems. After watching his future teammates in their superb Hendrick COT's, it probably only made Junior want to hit the door quicker. I know it was a sad time for him as he had to leave the only Cup team he had ever driven for, but those memories will be quickly lost when he starts to challenge for wins every week and once again for a season championship.

I am going to go out there and say it, look for Earnhardt Jr. to challenge for the 2008 Cup championship with Hendrick Motorsports and Tony Eury Jr. Earnhardt Jr. should finish 1st - 5th in 2008.

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No. 96 - J.J. Yeley
Team: Hall of Fame Racing

I don't think anybody knows what to expect out of this group in 2008. Yeley didn't move too far from Joe Gibbs Racing as Hall of Fame Racing will be using Toyota in 2008 and engines from Joe Gibbs Racing. Yeley and HOF will also maintain support from Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008, and this might be what this small team needs to keep hanging in their with the larger teams.

Yeley showed signs of talent that is needed to be at Cup in 2007 and finished 21st in the 2007 driver standings. Yeley earned one pole, one top-five, and three top-10's in 2007, along with an average finishing position of 22.6, not so bad.

I think Yeley and this group can turn things around in 2008 and he'll put together a solid year in 26th - 30th.

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Race winner Carl Edwards celebrates.
Photo by Action Sports Photography.

No. 99 - Carl Edwards
Team: Roush Fenway Racing

Carl Edwards was the Roush Fenway driver to look out for in 2007 and then when the playoffs came around, he fizzled out. Edwards still had three wins though, two of them in the new car. Bob Osbourne returns as the crew chief and these two have worked well together in the past.

Edwards might be the sleeper in 2008 and just to be safe, he'll finish 6th - 10th in 2008, but he could make a run at the championship if they figure out how to beat those Hendrick drivers.

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Well now we have all the drivers done.

In part five, we'll handle the teams, and then do a recap of where the drivers and teams should finish at the end of the 2008 season.

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

See also:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

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About this article
Series General , NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Red Bull Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , Team Penske , Furniture Row Racing , Hendrick Motorsports , Roush Fenway Racing , Michael Waltrip Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing , Hall of Fame Racing