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Jack Roush shakes things up, and puts some heat on David Ragan...and it's time for Danica Patrick to say 'Yeah or Nay' to NASCAR

 Crew chief Donnie Wingo: needs to make David Ragan a winner and fast (Photo: Autostock)


   By Mike Mulhern

   A shake-up by NASCAR team owner Jack Roush and the final contract work by Indy team owner Michael Andretti are the first post-season news items for stock car men to ponder:
   Roush has moved veteran crew chief Donnie Wingo to the head of David Ragan's Cup team, and Jimmy Fennig, Ragan's crew chief his first two seasons on the tour, is moving to the R&D department, which will likely be a very busy place during the off-season, giving rival Rick Hendrick's dominance on the Sprint Cup tour this past season.
   Ragan, after a promising rookie year, struggled during his sophomore season and never quite caught fire....a big deal at a team where his sponsor UPS has been such a prominent part of the sport and highly visible. Getting UPS back into the spotlight may be the big goal here.
   The easy-going Wingo has been the boss of Jamie McMurray's team, first with car owner Chip Ganassi, lately with Roush. Wingo is perhaps best known for his years with team owner Bud Moore and his time with volatile racer Jimmy Spencer.
   Wingo and McMurray broke a long drought with a win at Talladega three weeks ago.
   And Wingo certainly knows the pressure here: "It's an honor to have the opportunity to work with David Ragan next season, as well as our sponsor UPS," Wingo says. "UPS has been a great sponsor in NASCAR for years,  and I'm truly looking forward to the chance
to get the No. 6 Ford the finishes it deserves."
    And, given all those humorous ads UPS likes to take to the Daytona 500 for SpeedWeeks, Wingo and Ragan will be under the gun right from the start. In fact, it'd be nice if they had something to take into the Daytona 500, to back up what the sponsor will be doing. Remember this is the sponsor that had Dale Jarrett for so many season....and this is the sponsor that has watched arch-rival FedEx ride the wind this season with hotshot Denny Hamlin, who made the championship chase and had a shot at the title this season, winning four Cup races, while Ragan, still looking for his first tour win,  wound up 24th in the final standings.
   So, not to put too much pressure here, but bill this mini-rivalry as UPS versus FedEx.
   Roush probably plans a few more off-season changes too, saying he is "looking to build the strongest possible teams, and sometimes we do that by restructuring personnel."
   Fennig, who was Bobby Allison's long-time crew chief, and whose roots in the sport are very deep, is a classic NASCAR old-school guy, not an engineer, like Roush tends to favor...or at least once tended to favor. But the driver-crew chief chemistry is sometimes more important than simple physics and chemistry and algorithms.
   Putting Fennig the R&D department may shake things up there. Roush, like rival Richard Childress, appeared to get sidetracked on the NASCAR engineering line this season, and new direction may be needed. Childress's teams, after he put Scott Miller as head of competition and moved wily Todd Berrier to Jeff Burton's crew chief spot, picked up sharply in the last few weeks of the season.
   Whether Fennig can help spark a similar renewal is something to watch for. But certainly the Roush teams didn't go down the stretch very hot, not like they typically do.
   "Jimmy Fennig's experience and judgment are impeccable, so we made the decision to re-assign him to head up our testing operations, to try and
make that department stronger," Roush says. 
    Part of the reason for the shake-up too results from NASCAR's rule forcing Roush to cut his five Cup team roster to four, which left McMurray on the sidelines.
   As a point to consider in these next few weeks – when NASCAR's Brian France created that four-team limit, it was just a few weeks into the chase a few years back, after Roush put all five of his teams in the then 10-man chase. France was quick to react then; but rival Rick Hendrick just swept through the Cup season not only winning a fourth straight title with Jimmie Johnson but also sweeping the top three spots in the final standings....and if you add in the Hendrick Engineering teams of Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, then Hendrick really had five of his six teams in this chase.
    And yet so far France has been silent on that issue.
   As far as Roush himself is concerned, it looks like the real pressure here is on Ragan to perform better. He arrived on the tour like, as an irate Tony Stewart called him, "a dart without feathers" on the track. But Ragan calmed down and became smoother.
   Now however – especially if NASCAR's new policy, a la Hamlin-Keselowski and Stewart-Montoya, is to 'let 'em race' – Ragan may have to step it up a notch on the track.
   Roush: "We are anxious to see if Donnie can challenge David and help him to realize the potential he showed in 2008."
   In 2008 Ragan logged six top-fives, 14 top-10s, and finished 13th in the standings, just missing the playoffs.

   Meanwhile, on the Danica Patrick front, it may soon be time to put up or shut up. The Indy-car star has been toying with NASCAR team owners all season, with high expectations, even from NASCAR CEO Brian France, that she may come to this side of the sport and run 10 to 12 or more ARCA, Nationwide and/or Truck races, before stepping up to Cup in 2011.
   However there are many skeptics, including apparently even car owner Rick Hendrick, who has been on the point, along with Tony Stewart, in trying to put together a NASCAR deal for Patrick.
   Hendrick insists money has never been a particularly major issue in the Patrick negotiations.
   But he and others hint the real problem may be her dedication. After all she has only won one Indy-car race in her career, and that was on gas mileage in Japan, and she's been running just a 16-race Indy Racing League schedule. She has shown indications that she has questions about NASCAR's rigorous 38-race tour.
   But so far this year she herself has kept silent on it all, letting her business agents do the work.
   One reason put forth for that s that Michael Andretti, her Indy-car team owner, has asked her to keep the NASCAR stuff low-keyed while he completes his own sponsorship deals. Andretti has reformed his Indy-car team to where he is now the sole boss, which Patrick apparently was pushing for.
   And the date Nov. 30th has been pointed to as when Patrick's new Indy deal will become official.
   If so, then Nov. 30th – Monday – is when Patrick will  likely have something to say – or at least everyone will expect her to have something to say.
   And the indications now are that Patrick may well decide to skip NASCAR and all this stuff after all.
   However if she does that, she may be slamming shut the door on this branch of the sport.

Good read on Roush and and

Good read on Roush and and one of the Roushkateers. Ragan is Ra Gone after next year. With FedEx kicking it on the 11 car and UPS, well, not delivering, I can't see UPS ponying up more coin of the realm with the sub-par performance. Fennig couldn't work his magic and if it doesn't happen with Wingo then he'll be a dart without feathers - Ra Gone with the Wind, so to speak.

Is that Nay or Neigh??? Danica loves the spotlight but you gotta race in NASCAR for the whole season or you will be yesterday's boos or news. I don't know what kind of talent she really has and I'm not sure how well open wheel racing really translates to the heavy, slow braking lead sleds raced in NASCAR today - safe but not quick. Thanks for leaving the weekly Danica part short, it is appreciated.

Gee, the kid is just 23, just

Gee, the kid is just 23, just three years around here, and you're going to write him off? Let's give him a few more weeks....the GM tilt on the Nascar tour was quite pronounced in 2009, for whatever reason (and conspiracy buffs have a lot, to judge from some comments around here)....let's let Ford get back on track and then see all these guys stack up. remember, despite mark martin's success at 50, there is a demographic at work here...and too many recycled veterans who get spots because they know how to qualify.
I'd be more concerned about Dale Jr., who's 35, with more than 10 years on the Cup tour, and still hasn't won a championship, than a kid of 23....
And Danica? Well, if she doesn't get her butt into a stock car in the next couple of weeks and get serious about this gig, as far as i'm concerned she's history -- yesterday's news.

What year did Roush put all

What year did Roush put all five teams in the chase? Someone please enlighten me.
The entire Danica Patrick spectacle is a large part of what's "wrong" with NASCAR: It's more and more about the "show" and less and less about the RACE.

That was 2005: Greg Biffle,

That was 2005: Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch.
Tony Stewart (Joe Gibbs) won the championship by 35 points over Biffle and Edwards; Martin was fourth, Kenseth was seventh, and Kurt (after missing the final two races) was 10th. Jimmie Johnson finished fifth. OBTW, Jeremy Mayfield finished ninth in that year's chase.
At Kansas Saturday morning, after the first two chase races, NASCAR's Brian France announced he would limit team owners to fewer than five teams at some point in the future, and he strongly hinted he wanted to limit team owners to three or fewer teams. That ruling was aimed directly at Roush, the only man with more than four teams. That France didn't go with his apparently planned three-team limit was somewhat surprising -- since Rick Hendrick was the only other man with four teams. That France didn't go with the three-team rule led to a rush by other team owners to reach the 'new' four-team max...which led to economic issues that are still dragging on the sport (ask Richard Childress and Doug Yates and Chip Ganassi and Teresa Earnhardt).
While a two-team limit would seem much preferable for the sport in the big picture, Roush's contention is that larger teams have economics of scale and can leverage that to bring new, untested talent into the sport -- like Carl Edwards, who freely says now that he probably would never had made it if not for Roush's position.
Meanwhile France has either been unable or unwilling to strictly enforce that four-team limit: the Tony Stewart-Ryan Newman team is a Hendrick satellite operation -- meaning five Hendrick/HendrickSatellite teams made this year's 12-man chase. But so far, no word from NASCAR on any limits coming.
So NASCAR essentially has four Super Teams, with satellite operations (and it's unclear just how the Yates/Roush/Gillett/Petty thing will shape up).
A bigger problem, I believe, is that NASCAR has let the sport lose so many independent engine operations.
Anyone can build a car or buy a cheap car; the trick is getting on the Detroit engine deal, either with General Motors (which has only two NASCAR engine divisions, or Ford (which has only one NASCAR engine division), or Dodge (which has only one engine division), or with Toyota -- which in fact has three separate engine divisions, with Mark Cronquist at Joe Gibbs', TRD in Costa Mesa, Calif., and TRD in High Point, N.C.
If you can't get a deal with one of those, don't even bother applying to run Sprint Cup. Just ask Carl Wagoner or any of those long-time NASCAR engine men who are struggling with this situation.
Why NASCAR allows Detroit to dictate engine leasing deals like this is beyond me -- France should step in and break up that monopoly fast. That he has allowed the engine monopolies to continue is flat wrong. Yes, Detroit might prefer to have just one or two phone calls to make to North Carolina each Monday morning, instead nine or 10; but frankly I don't give a damn what Detroit might prefer. Is this sport run by the Daytona Frances or by Detroit-Washington?
Just my two cents.

David Ragan is a backmarker

David Ragan is a backmarker at best, who's only talent is attracting sponsorship.

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Aw, come on now, the kid's

Aw, come on now, the kid's only 23...he's got a lot of brian vickers in him, i think -- positive image, yada yada. (hard to recall now but roush people once worried he was too outspoken).

yes, in the Roush pecking order, David came in fifth:
Best Average Finish (going into Homestead)
Greg Biffle 13.971
Carl Edwards 15.286
Matt Kenseth 15.457
Jamie McMurray 21.543
David Ragan 24.171

But, like Dale Jr. (BAF 23.114) says, you tend to finish where you qualify....and qualifying -- this is something i need to delve more into -- last season was more difficult because of the no-testing rule, which limits teams to their weekend practice time at the track, for both race setup and qualifying setup....newcomers, like joey logano, are at a particular disadvantage.
nascar has unfairly tilted the playing field in favor of veterans with that no-testing rule, and unfairly hurt newcomers.

give Ragan the first 10 or 12 weeks of '10, and then call me back and we'll talk some more.

I wonder if Silly Season for

I wonder if Silly Season for 2011 has already started with several notable drivers maybe looking on. Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Elliot Sadler and Jeff Burton all up for grabs for next year. I'm sure most of these spots will be renewed, but what if Kurt Busch, more mature now than the past goes back to Roush. David Ragan is done, unless he win a race, consistently finishes high and make the Chase. If that's the case, would Jamie be welcomed or "offered" back with open arms to team back up with Donnie Wingo?

Tony Stewart offered more brand loyalty with his association with The Home Depot than Joey Logano ever will. If Logano doesn't make the Chase in 2010, will Home Depot head over to Stewart-Haas to rekindle that love again? You know it had to make them sick to see JJ win another championship and love all around to the #48 Lowe's team.

For whatever reason, Jamie McMurray got screwed in this deal at Roush. I just knew Ragan was going to be shown the door and McMurray in the #6. Gotta give Ragan credit for having good lawyer(s) for having a rock-solid contract that obvioiusly Jack can't break without it breaking him.

Re: 2011 -- I hate to say it,

Re: 2011 -- I hate to say it, but there are too many veteran drivers simply being recirculated.
Home Depot I think did a five-year deal with Gibbs based only Logano becoming a superstar, and Joey did a bang-up job his rookie season (better than Dale Jr. and a lot of others). The thing I worry about Joey is that, unless Joe and J.D. Gibbs get things under control, he'll get the big head and become just another prima donna, like teammate Kyle Busch. Even Denny Hamlin is showing a bit of that.
Brand Loyalty and Tony? Well, Army reupped for another year for fewer races than this year, and it's never been a full-time NASCAR sponsor. And all those others sponsorships, well, I know the day of having one full-time sponsor year-long on a car is almost history, but Tony really had it great with Home Depot, and I'm not so sure that he really understood that. Then GM paid an arm and a leg to get him back in a Chevy....and he's been in such a funky mood all fall.....Well, sponsors wants drivers who are user-friendly, and even Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- my people tell me -- has been ticking sponsors off right and left lately.

(Kurt Busch back to Roush? Wow, now that would be a zinger.)

I hope Danica stays where she

I hope Danica stays where she is. I'd rather see Chrissie Wallace get a Nationwide ride and then move up to Cup. Danica's "take my clothes off" for publicity style and unsettling go daddy commercials don't and won't make me a fan.

As a female race fan, I'd love to see a woman come into the sport and get be competitive, but my choice wouldn't be Danica simply because I don't consider her in any way someone that I respect and I sure would never choose her as a role model for a young woman. Successful in her marketing campaign, sure and I guess she's getting what she wants - attention - at least from the way the media and NASCAR has been salivating over her.

I've already gone from being a die hard fan to being a casual fan due to a lot of the decisions that NASCAR has made over the past 5 years, along with the lousy TV coverage. If all the coverage next year is Danica, Danica, Danica or 48, 48, 48, well, I have even less reason to pay attention.

Okay, Danica is no Janet

Okay, Danica is no Janet Guthrie. And I agree Chrisse would be cool for the sport. And I understand your take on Danica' over-the-top approach. (But then in a different vein, didn't Dale Sr. take his persona 'over-the-top' too, and use it to his advantage?) The key in racing is to use everything you've got in your bag of tricks....
Yes, it would be nice to have a 'Penske-perfect'female racer take on NASCAR. And there are a lot of possibilities out there; i go to Lyn St. James' summer seminar at Indianapolis every season and believe me there are a lot of promising young female racers (me, I'd put some money on Jessica Brunelli, Natalie Fenaroli and Alli Owens as racers to keep an eye on).
But, hey, what about Carl Edwards' covershot abs? (LOL)
NASCAR is all about marketing, and Danica is marketing (you've got to love her website -- now that zings!) I think a lot of the resentment in NASCAR about Danica is if she comes over here, she'll take a big bite out everyone's teeshirt sales. (But come to think of it, is anyone even buying race track teeshirts these days?)
I agree NASCAR has bummed out a lot of loyal fans the last few years....and TV hacks are sometimes too much to take (though it's kind of hard to speak your mind when someone's hands are around your throat).
But hang in there...we'll get Danica straightened out for you -- I think she and Tony would make a marvelous pair, don't you?

No offense David Ragan but

No offense David Ragan but this is not the driver Roush needs. He should have tried picking up Truex but he did not. Maybe Roush will go after Kasey Kahne since his contract is up after 2010. Get it together Jack. Ford rules. Thanks Ford for not letting the government take you over. Damn Communists!!!!!

Not sure what happened to

Not sure what happened to Martin Truex Jr. this year, with teammate JPM doing so well down the stretch. But then Chip Ganassi has spent a lot of money in this sport over the years, with little to show for it, so the buck has to stop on his desk, I'd say. So Truex was a Lame Duck? Well, heck, so was crew chief Pat Tryson, and I really admire what Pat and Kurt Busch did down the stretch, in some difficult circumstances.
I disagree on David; he's a good kid, and the Ford stuff this year, for whatever reason (and you can check out some of the other comments on how some fans believe NASCAR tilted toward Chevrolet because of the Washington/bankruptcy situation), just wasn't good enough, and not just Ragan's. Look at Matt Kenseth for the Ford benchmark on consistency; look at Greg Biffle for the Ford benchmark on speed.
Look at how long it took Montoya -- three years, really -- to get it. And he's a world-class racer.
Give David another chance.
But I agree he'll be under pressure to perform quickly...and that's not always the best situation to be in.
Kasey Kahne? I'd agree with everyone (and there are lots) who say he's 'gone' from RPM when his contract is up at the end of 2010. Some have pegged him to go to the Hendrick camp, as third teammate with Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. Kasey is a Hendrick kind of guy.

Danica? Either your a racer

Danica? Either your a racer or your not. A 38 race schedule would not be an issue if you are one. I mean, c'mon! It's not like the drivers have to prepare the car, drive the transporter, set up the car an THEN drive the race, too. Buck up or shut up, girl!

I fully agree. I think

I fully agree. I think Danica's contract limitations on driving other stuff should be up as of Nov. 30....and if she isn't down at Rockingham and Little Rock and Caraway and/or New Symrna the next day, with her helmet and suit, ready to learn this business, i say forget about her. I appreciate work ethic...and I haven't seen much yet here.

Simple explanation here about

Simple explanation here about Hendrick. First, GM filed for bankrupcy. NASCAR needs GM. Ford won the first two races, granted Daytona was rain-shortened. Then the announcement of GM taking money from the Government, who was now being run by someone that NASCAR had not been very friendly with. So, NASCAR needed to show the viability of GM in the sport.
Ford, on the other hand, was making money and being successful. I'm sure some things on the Hendrick cars were allowed to "slip" through inspection. Why do you think the detailed inspections were no longer done in front of the other teams.
As for Stewart, Hendrick spent a lot of GM's money to get them on board. Again, the last thing NASCAR needed was for GM to walk away from its sport.
Heck, Mike, you should look a bit more into that aspect.

Excellent points. Yes. BTW:

Excellent points. Yes.

BTW: this is just what I like about this website -- that the story doesn't end when I put a 30 on it, but it continues, as y'all add to it and expand on it. I really appreciate that, not just on this piece but on the rest of them as well.

And you're right -- I need to be more on the ball. I'll work on that in 2010 (get your SpeedWeeks tickets here: http://bit.ly/906rvM and your California tickets here: http://bit.ly/8F4jiL and your Vegas tickets here: http://bit.ly/8Qm5IU ..... or just follow the circus for free on mikemulhern.net LOL)

Ragan debuted in Cup in 2006,

Ragan debuted in Cup in 2006, ran his first full season in 2007, and 2009 marks the completion of his third full season. So, with all due respect Mike and I do sincerely mean that, but this does make a few of your statements in this article kinda wrong.

Jimmy was his crew chief the first three seasons, not two, and Ragan did not struggle in his sophomore year of 2008, but instead finished 13th in the points and nearly made it into the chase. It was precisely because he had a solid sophomore season that many expected that 2009 would be the year be broke out and got his first win. Of course no one expected Roush, especially given Edward's success in 2008 and Kenseth's wins in the first two races of 2009, to almost disappear from the radar for an entire season.

Ragan actually finished lower in the points this year, his third full season, than he did as a rookie in 2007 when he (by some accounts) led the season in crashes/spins. This therefore makes his precipitous drop in performance in 2009, and to be fair that of Roush as a collective group, that much more of a mystery.

Again, I mean no disrespect, but I keep coming across this perception by folks posting comments on the internet, and even occassionally a journalist, that 2009 was only Ragan's second full season. It wasn't, okay doke :)



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