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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sorenson on the hot seat, whether team admits it or not

One rumor shot down by a team this week was that Reed Sorenson is on his way out at Richard Petty Motorsports and the team will field three cars next year, or even make the move before this season ends.

The team said no downsizing is planned, and they are committed to Sorenson. But I wouldn’t bet my lunch money on that. Outside of Kasey Kahne and maybe A.J. Allmendinger, that team is full of underachievers. Elliott Sadler was dumped by the team early this year, only to be brought back because he had a contract that they couldn’t break. Sorenson has never done much of note in the Cup series, having earned 0 wins, 5 top-5s and 14 top-10s in 129 career starts. Translation of those numbers is he hasn’t proven he can win, or even compete for wins.

Some of that may be related to the equipment he has been driving, and the fact he started so young – doing his first Cup race at age 19. But even with young guys, you need to see some potential for greatness (for example, like Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and others have shown) to stay on a team’s good side. Sorensen has not shown that, and seems to running in circles on the same mid-pack. He seems on a path to be another case of hype, with lots of promise as he came up through the ranks, but not much payoff at the Cup level. Youth can only take you so far … results are what owners want to see.

I respect that the Petty team must say they are committed to Sorenson. But when logic is applied, in addition to the likelihood that the team won’t have full-year sponsorship for four cars heading into next year, don’t be surprised if Sorenson is cast off by RPM and lands either at a smaller team or in Nationwide next year.

The only way I see that changing is if Sorenson has a breakout second half of the season, and I definitely would bet my lunch money that is not going to happen.

Brotherly advice
Kurt Busch apparently is the more logical of the Busch brothers, having said this week that his younger, more highly traveled brother Kyle should probably stick to focusing on his day job as a Cup driver, instead of criss-crossing the nation every week to racing in Nationwide and Trucks, if he wants to make the Chase.

"For him just to get back to square one, I think if he could focus more on the 18 Cup car, rather than on the Truck and the Nationwide deal, that would help him in the long run,” Kurt said.

Take that advice Kyle. Your brother is a Cup champion, he knows what he’s talking about. A win at Iowa or Memphis or Nashville is a minor accomplishment for you, and only distracts from the dream you really should be focusing on – winning a Cup title.

Grand Prix won’t return to Detroit in 2010
In yet another shot to the local economy, the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix – already off the 2009 Indycar schedule – will also be “postponed” for the 2010 season. The goal is to bring it back in 2011.

“We had hoped that the economic environment would allow the Grand Prix to return to Belle Isle in 2010,” said Bud Denker, Event Chairman of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. “Unfortunately, this continues to be a challenging time to secure sponsorship to produce a world-class sporting event. We remain committed to the future of the race and we are hopeful that the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix will return in the summer of 2011.”

Once again, the problem is money. The sponsorship and support for the race just isn’t there amid all the economic woes facing the Midwest and Michigan in particular.
An event like a Grand Prix, with crowds of more than 100,000 in both 2007 and 2008, is the kind of that helps bring in tourist, earn money for the city and state, and push us back toward a positive economic environment.
According to joint studies conducted by the event and the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Grand Prix generated nearly $53 million in economic impact for metropolitan Detroit in 2007 and over $55.2 million in 2008.

Just as in NASCAR, with so many sponsorships going away (i.e. … Lowe’s is likely to leave as title sponsor of Charlotte Motor Speedway after more than a decade), the racing business is in a tough place right now.

Here’s hoping the Grand Prix can return in 2011, so Detroit-area fans can enjoy a good race and the event can help the local economy.

Come to a race, Obama
Making his third trip to the White House on Monday will be Jimmie Johnson, who will meet President Obama for the first time as the president honors NASCAR’s champion.
I know he’s a busy guy with a lot to deal with, but this would be a great time to invite Obama out to a race.

President Reagan’s grand entrance at Daytona in 1984 is still remembered. Perhaps Obama can show up at the Daytona 500 next year, and do the “Gentleman, start your engines” command.

Massa vows to race again
After many thought his career was over, Formula 1’s Felipe Massa said he is feeling fine in his left eye and wants to race again as soon as possible. So it appears Michael Schumacher’s time in the car as a replacement driver may be short, or not happen at all.

That’s pretty amazing, considering he was near death after his scary accident happened last weekend. In my perfect world, though, we’ll get to see Schumacher out there at least for a race or two, and then Massa can come back. It’ll be fun to see how Schumi can do after three-year break.


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