Am I the only one who thinks Patrick Carpentier got a raw deal?
The rookie Sprint Cup driver -- who before switching to stock cars was an open-wheel champion -- was released unceremoniously by Gillett Evernham Motorsports on Tuesday. Despite missing this past weekend's AMP Energy 500 at Talladega, Carpentier had shown signs of progress as the season progressed, often managing to qualify on time because of the No. 10's standing outside the Top 35 in owner points.
After qualifying at Talladega on Friday, Carpentier apparently had words with crew chief/team director Mike Shiplett, who allegedly blamed Carpentier for not making the race. Carpentier, who won the pole for the June Cup race at New Hampshire, shot back by saying he took cars Shiplett said weren't fast enough at Dover and Atlanta and made both races.
After running in the No. 00 for Michael Waltrip Racing this weekend at Charlotte, A.J.Alllmendinger will run the No. 10 for the rest of the season. Carpentier's plans for 2009 are unknown, but I hope he doesn't return to open-wheel racing the way Dario Fanchitti did. Carpentier obviously loves and has a passion for stock car racing, and I think he has a chance to flourish under the right circumstances.
The reason open-wheel drivers struggle in NASCAR isn't a question of talent -- all of them that made the chance, Allmendinger aside, have won championships in other series around the world -- but experience. Open-wheel cars are night and day from stock cars, in terms of weight and handling and engine placement and all those other technical aspects. To expect someone to adapt almost immediately is insane.
Just because Tony Stewart made the switch with relative ease doesn't mean everyone else can. The open-wheel veterans need seat time, whether it's in the Cup, Truck or Nationwide Series. Hell, run some ARCA races if you have to. The open-wheel drivers also are, by and large, on teams that are struggling at the Cup level, which can't help matters.
Here's hoping Carpentier finds his way in NASCAR next season. His talent and personality would be great for the sport.
Pay Your Taxes
Memo to Helio Castroneves: you have to pay your taxes here in the United States. Washington gets kind of upset if you don't -- just ask Willie Nelson.
Some in the media -- okay, the guys of PTI -- expressed shock at how little coverage this has received. They point to Castroneves being one of the more recognizable names in the IndyCar Series, as well as the fact that he won the reality TV show Dancing With the Stars. While that may be true, the simple fact remains: he's an IRL driver, so his star power only reaches but so far.
Now, if this were an NFL or NBA player -- or even a high-profile NASCAR driver -- this would get a lot more attention. Think about it: say you flip on ESPN and see Jeff Gordon under investigation for tax fraud. That's a bigger deal, no? What about if the IRS started pounding on Ray Lewis' door?
Hell, Sidney Crosby would probably create more buzz over something like this.
Not only that, but compared to shootings, robbery and any number of other crimes (like getting all rebellion in the scrip club), tax fraud just isn't all that ... sexy. Sure, Castroneves forgot to pay the federal government, but he didn't kill anyone in doing so (we think).
Still, the PR hit IndyCar will take from this can't be good. That's a sport on the fringe of the national consciousness as it is -- it needs all the good pub it can get.
Hey, I just went an entire post without mentioning Dale Earnhardt Jr. That's an accomplishment worth celebra -- oh, wait ...