2012 AND THE CAR VS. DRIVER QUESTION

 

How many times have you heard this: “If so-and-so just had some decent equipment to run in, maybe he’d win.” Of the #20 car dominating the Nationwide Series, Clint Bowyer only half jokingly once said, “A monkey could drive that car.” How much of the NASCAR winning equation is the car- or the team- and how much of it is on the driver? 2012 will offer a lot of interesting fodder for that discussion.

Will Kurt Busch pilot his new James Finch ride into first place finishes in 2012? Will the arrival of Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin help take Michael Waltrip Racing to the next level?  What about the impact of Kasey Kahne’s move to HMS on his career? Will A.J. Allmendinger "break out" at Penske? With the possible exceptions of Kahne and Allmendinger, many fans think the others are taking a step backward instead of forward, UNLESS….

 

Of course, you accept the premise that the driver matters more. It’s not hard to imagine that Kurt Busch will go to the edge with a greater sense of confidence than a Landon Cassil. We’ll see how much further forward a former champion can take a team that has largely gotten by on youngsters or past-their-primers just clicking off laps.

With Bowyer and Martin (into a part-time gig) at MWR, you get a nice combination of an upper tier talent with a cagey, yet respected veteran. Some would contend that David Reutimann lacked the closing skill to be a consistent winner, and Michael Waltrip? Well, let’s just remember it was no less than Bowyer who once  said his new boss was the "worst driver in NASCAR."How much difference will Martin and Bowyer make alongside teammate Martin Truex? Truex can look brilliant for 200 laps, but alas, most races are generally 300 to 500. Many have blamed the equipment. The season to come may provide to date the best test of  what Waltrip really has.

Allmendinger’s move gone over well with fans, and more than a couple of wags suggest the one-time Red Bull and Richard Petty neophyte will really get a legitimate chance to see what he can achieve. No doubt the move to Penske has been a boon for Brad Keselowski, and after years of toiling for start-up Red Bull Racing and the unsettled RPM, one would expect A.J. to exhibit a much different attitude than his predecessor. Many believe he will be the Sprint Cup’s next first-time winner, and a great fit with Kez

The boost Kahne may get from moving to Hendrick Motorsports may launch the star into a new stratosphere. Kahne has always managed to win wherever he’s gone, a pretty impressive feat considering that it seems the poor guy’s entire career has existed in the realm of organizational chaos. Conventional wisdom suggests there’s a perfect combination of car and driver.
 
One would think that in today’s NASCAR, it wou;d be impossible for a super driver to win sub-par piece. On the other hand, there have been good drivers jump into good rides, and it made little difference. How much of an impact will this silliest of silly season have on teams and drivers? There will be no end of speculating until the season starts, and it could very well re-shape the competitive landscape in the same way tony Stewart did when he bolted Joe Gibbs Racing for what became SHR.

Other articles by Jim McCoy include:

Songs As NASCAR Awards- 2011 Edition
NASCAR Letters To Santa
Kurt Busch May Find Himself On An Island