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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Edwards beats Schumacher while in world spotlight

Carl Edwards has another accolade he can add to his resume -- he just beat 7-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher head-to-head during the Race of Champions at England’s Wembley Stadium. For those who don’t know, this race pits the best drivers from countries around the world and a wide variety of racing disciplines against each other. While it’s true Schumacher just drives for kicks now and is retired from full-time racing, I bet the grin after he won was among the widest ever on Carl’s face. It’s one thing to beat a great NASCAR driver like Jimmie Johnson in a race, but it’s a new level of success to beat the man who is in the discussion with greats like Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Ayrton Senna, and Juan Manuel Fangio as to who is the greatest racecar driver ever.

Also, Edwards was given an award that labeled him “statistically” the best racer in the world. The performances of more than 150 drivers from NASCAR, Formula 1, World Rally and more were analyzed, and Carl came out ahead of F1 champ Lewis Hamilton and Rally champ Sebastien Loeb (who, by the way, ended up as this year’s Race Of Champions winner). While this kind of award means very little overall due to the difficulty of comparing drivers in different series, it’s kind of cool to see a NASCAR driver get that much respect on an international stage … it’s a nice alternative to the old “taxicabs driving in circles” anti-NASCAR attitude many have overseas. Maybe after seeing the tough transition so many open-wheelers have had when moving to NASCAR, they’re starting to realize it’s actually pretty hard to be a NASCAR driver.

Labonte almost official in #41 car
He has yet to comment, but it appears Bobby Labonte will soon be officially named the driver of the #41 Target Chevy for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. It’s logical, as this is pretty much the only ride left that’s even half-decent and Labonte is a talented driver with a championship-filled resume. Though he’s struggled for the past few years, one can hope he will do better than the underachieving Reed Sorenson did in this car in 2008.

In other team news, the identity of DEI continues to shrink, as all four of the team’s cars will be based out of the Ganassi shop, and the decision to run Chevys (which has been presumed) has been made official. I’m calling it now … within a couple years, if this team even still exists, the name Earnhardt will be gone and it will be strictly Ganassi. It’s clear Teresa isn’t a big fan of the NASCAR business anymore, and many in the business aren’t too fond of her. Though she likely doesn’t deal with most day-to-day operations anyway, if the team starts to struggle these first couple years, she might just want to get out of the sport completely.

So much for that test ban
It appears the first team to openly admit they’ll work around NASCAR’s testing ban is Kevin Harvick’s #29 RCR team. Virginia International Raceway, Heartland Park Topeka, Rockingham Speedway and Sandusky Speedway are just some of the tracks that Harvick may use for testing. Now that the cat is out of the bag, look for everyone else to begin to announce they too will test at tracks not covered by the ban. So basically, this rule -- which was supposed to help teams save money in the tough economy and maybe help the smaller teams out a little -- is essentially rendered meaningless. I’ll give kudos to NASCAR for their effort, but it looks like the ban didn’t go far enough.


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