Racing Who should drive Hendrick?s No. 5?


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Who should drive Hendrick’s No. 5?

Who should drive Hendrick’s No. 5?

by Scott Serrano
PA SportsTicker Auto Racing Editor


The rumor mill is running rampant on who will replace Casey Mears in the coveted No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet next season.

Will it be Mark Martin coming out of semi-retirement to make one last stab at a Cup title? Will Tony Stewart come aboard to turn Hendrick from a super team to a mega super-duper stable? Or will potential free agents Ryan Newman or Martin Truex Jr. get the call?

Whichever driver takes the wheel will undoubtedly have greater success than Mears, who could not keep pace with teammates Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Mears, 30, struggled mightily since signing with Hendrick for the 2007 season. In 53 starts with the Chevy-based powerhouse team, Mears has just six top-five finishes and 13 top-10s. His lone career victory came last year at the Coca-Cola 600.

After finishing 15th in last year’s series standings, Mears was moved from Hendrick’s No. 25 team to the No. 5 car, which had been piloted by Kyle Busch.

Think maybe Rick Hendrick should have kept Busch instead of Mears?

In any event, Hendrick has a list of top-notch drivers to sort through now. The question is which would be the best fit?

Stewart is one of the top drivers on the circuit and would give Hendrick four title contenders instantly. But would he mesh with the current drivers? Stewart is also considering part-ownership of a team which he most certainly would not get from Hendrick.

Newman is a talent who clearly needs a fresh start after stagnating at Penske. But he may not want to be the fourth-fiddle at Hendrick. The same goes for Truex, who is currently the top dog at DEI and may not want to be in Earnhardt’s shadow again.

That leaves Martin. I don’t think Hendrick is keen on having the veteran split driving duties with a younger driver like Brad Keselowski. So if Martin wants to get back into the game full-time, it should be his ride.

But even if it isn’t Martin, Hendrick is bound to be stronger next season, regardless.

THE BIFF IS IN: Scratch Greg Biffle as a potential replacement for Mears.

Moments after Mears announced Friday that he was out at Hendrick at the end of the season, Biffle signed a three-year contract extension with Roush Fenway Racing, ending speculation that he could change teams prior to next season.

Biffle, 38, has spent parts of the past seven seasons racing in NASCAR’s premier circuit for Roush Fenway - one of the series top teams.

After finishing second in the series standings in 2005, Biffle struggled each of the next two years, failing to qualify for the Chase for the Championship.

Some of Biffle’s shortcomings had been attributed to Roush Fenway, a Ford-based team which failed to compete technologically with the Chevrolets of Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing over the last two seasons.

Biffle finished 14th in the standings last year, when Roush Fenway placed just two of its five drivers in the Chase.

But Roush Fenway has rebounded this season. Biffle currently is eighth in the series standings, and three of his teammates - Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and David Ragan - all are in serious Chase contention.

TONY FINALLY A TIGER: After a frustrating first half of the IndyCar Series season, Tony Kanaan avoided the multiple mishaps that led to nine caution periods on the 0.75-mile D-shaped oval to win his first race of 2008 Saturday at Richmond.

Kanaan was leading late in the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway when the spinning car of rookie E.J. Viso clipped his Kanaan and he wound up eighth.

Even more frustrating, Kanaan was leading on lap 105 at the Indianapolis 500 when the car white-walled Turn 3, spun and was broadsided by an approaching car and he wound up 29th. Also, he was running third on Lap 212 at Iowa Speedway when the car spun at the exit of Turn 1 and made contact with the SAFER Barrier, resulting in an 18th-place showing.

“I’m going to enjoy my win for sure,” said Kanaan of his 13th victory in the IndyCar Series, which included five in 2007. “I knew that I had to keep fighting. There’s nothing else I can do. If you’re going to have the season you expect every year, then it’s going to be pretty boring I would say.”

EARNHARDT JR. VS. KYLE BUSCH: Dale Earnhardt Jr. basically replaced Kyle Busch at Hendrick Motorsports. Here is how the two are faring so far this year:

Earnhardt ran 24th at New Hampshire, yet remains third in the standings. He has 11 top-10s and seven top-fives, including a log-awaited win at Michigan.

Busch finished 25th at New Hampshire, and his lead in the standings is 64 points. He has 10 top-fives and 11 top-10s this year, including five wins. Leads Earnhardt by 144 points.

Edge through 16 races: Busch, by 4 1/2 car lengths.

SAY WHAT?: “I guarantee you there’s a crew chief (Greg Zipadelli) down there that they’re hiding sharp objects from right now. He gave me the best car I’ve had since Charlotte. It’s just frustrating. There’s not anybody that’s going to tell you any different than that. There’s nothing you can do.” - Tony Stewart on Zipadelli’s call to pit, costing him a potential win when the race was shortened due to rain.

GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED FINISH: Don’t expect to see wunderkind Joey Logano back behind the wheel of a Nationwide Series car until on July 19 at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis due to previous sponsorship commitments on the No. 20 Toyota. Logano has also not been cleared by NASCAR to drive at Daytona - the site of this week’s race. … The highest finishing Ford on Sunday in New Hampshire was Carl Edwards who ran 17th. Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth was next in 18th. … New Hampshire Motor Speedway sold out its 27th consecutive Cup race on Sunday - good news for New Englanders as both race dates in the Granite State appear to be safe.
I think Landon Cassill would make a good choice because he is a young driver and could make good use of the experiance of the other Hindrick drivers

i agree with you
rgage said:
I think Landon Cassill would make a good choice because he is a young driver and could make good use of the experiance of the other Hindrick drivers