Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mears, Vickers just doing what they need to do

It often amazes me how people react to things.
Just about everybody seems to believe that Casey Mears is going to wind up driving the No. 25 Chevrolets for Hendrick Motorsports next year, and that certainly jibes with everything I’m hearing, too. The rumor mill also has Brian Vickers, who’s getting out of that ride, going over to Team Red Bull to drive a Toyota.
The basic reactions to both presumed moves have me a little puzzled.
For starters, there seems to be a little bit of a backlash against Mears in some circles because a couple of weeks ago he was saying that he was trying to work out a way to stay with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. And now, as soon as a job comes open at Hendrick Motorsports, he’s changing that tune.
Well, I wasn’t party to his negotiations and, in fact, I’ve yet to actually speak to Mears myself since all of this happened. But what, exactly, is he supposed to have done that’s wrong?
Mears has a contract with Ganassi that’s up at season’s end. The reality that is NASCAR these days is that any driver whose contract is up can’t wait much longer than this far into the final year of his deal to get something locked down for his future. So Mears has undoubtedly been talking to other people in addition to Ganassi to make sure he does what he has every right to do – find the best possible opportunity for himself to succeed at the Nextel Cup level.
If he said a few weeks ago that his first option was to stay where he is, maybe that was before somebody at Hendrick passed the word that a slot could be coming open.
Or, perhaps, Mears didn’t want to say anything about having that possibility in mind because he didn’t want to put Vickers and his team in the rumor mill jackpot. That’s precisely what would have happened, of course, if Mears had even hinted that he might be looking at moving to Rick Hendrick’s team.
I do feel for Donnie Wingo, the crew chief on the No. 42 Dodge team who lost Jamie McMurray last year and now will lose Mears after this season. That’s tough sledding for a crew chief and his guys, to keep having to adjust to a new driver.
But let’s be honest about all of this. Last year at Watkins Glen, I watched Mears sit through a press conference where it was announced that he was going to be shuffled to a fourth team that Ganassi planned to begin and be asked to start the 2006 season without having the points he’d amassed in the No. 41 Dodges.
Remember that? McMurray was still going to be in the 42, David Stremme had the 40 and Reed Sorenson the 41. Mears was going to be shuffled to a car sponsored by Home 123. That all changed when Ganassi agreed to let McMurray go to Roush Racing for this year, but Mears wasn’t exactly treated like he was the pick of the litter.
Hey, I don’t blame Ganassi for doing what he needed to do, just like I don’t blame Mears for doing the same thing.
No, Mears has not won a Cup race yet. He probably would have at Homestead last year had it not been for a phantom debris caution from NASCAR, but that stuff happens.
Vickers hasn’t won in a Cup car yet, either. But that doesn’t mean Team Red Bull or any other team looking at him should ignore the fact that Vickers is still young and has a lot of ability. If he drives a Toyota in 2007 and beyond, it may take a couple more years for him to get that win, who knows. And it may never happen.
Personally, I think the Toyota teams are going to get ripped by some fans no matter what they do. What if Team Red Bull went out and “stole” a top-name driver with a bunch of wins on his resume from an existing team? That’d be another example of Toyota trying to “ruin” the sport, wouldn’t it? But if the Toyota teams hire drivers who haven’t had tons of Cup-level success, some critics are going to talk about how they’re giving ridiculous money to drivers who haven’t done enough to deserve it.
There is not a “driver shortage” in NASCAR right now. There is, however, an imagination shortage. There are few obvious choices to fill the various openings that exist or will exist in the Cup ranks. In the absence of these, fans and media perceive that mean good choices don’t exist.
But they do. And the owners who successfully navigate their way through the changes that are coming are the ones who’ll be successful down the road. That’s going to involve having the ability to recognize potential and provide opportunities for that to take root and grow.



Monkeesfan said...

Casey Mears officially signed with Hendrick today. As for Ganassi, the whole Watkins Glen botch shows a team in some disarray.

Mears' decision to go to Hendrick's #25 is a risky one because of the curse that hangs over that car since Tim Richmond had to leave in August 1987 - since Richmond's two 1987 wins in the #25 that car has won four times with Ken Schrader (and it says a lot about how uninspired Schrader's racing is that one has to look them up to know they're there), one with Jerry Nadeau, and one with Joe Nemechek.

Tiredawg said...

I did a little history of the 25. Really lame. Brian Vickers would do better going to RYR. Reason being he would be a great fit. Elliott as the "elder" and the "young gun" Brian. Viockers has the credits that make him a good driver for a struggling team with ties to Roush. Just my opinion, then again we all know what opinions are compared to. Have a good one peace, Dawg.