Offseason Driver Movement

by Richard Garcia on February 4, 2008 @ 08:12:41 PDT

 


Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports

Car: No. 88 Mountain Dew/AMP National Guard Chevrolet

Contract: Five years

Former Team: Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Fantasy Impact: Positive

Analysis: In what was the most surprising move in the sport, Earnhardt announced that he was leaving DEI, the company that his father built from the ground up. He joins Hendrick Motorsports, which already boasts two top-notch drivers in Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Earnhardt failed to post a first place finish in 2007, managing seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10 finishes. He should be able to learn a lot from his new teammates considering all Hendrick drivers visited Victory Lane; the team totaled 18 victories last season.

Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing

Car: No. 18 M&M's/Interstate Batteries Toyota

Contract: Three years

Former Team: Hendrick Motorsports

Fantasy Impact: Neutral

Analysis: The addition of Earnhardt to the Hendrick team meant that Busch was no longer in the plans of Hendrick after the team and Busch weren't able to agree on a contract extension. He signed with Joe Gibbs Racing to join a talented group of drivers that includes Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin. Busch became the first NASCAR driver to win in the Car of Tomorrow, and he did it at the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway March 25. Busch, like Stewart and Hamlin, will be driving a Toyota for the first time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career.

J.J. Yeley, Hall of Fame Racing

Car: No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota

Contract: Three years

Former Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Fantasy Impact: Negative

Analysis: Yeley leaves the Joe Gibbs Racing team to join a single-car team owned primarily by two Arizona Diamondbacks executives - general partner Jeff Moorad and executive vice president Tom Garfinkel. Moorad and Garfinkel recently acquired a majority stake in the team from NFL Hall of Famers Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. Yeley will lose some of the resources that he had with JGR, but all indications are that HOF will remain affiliated with Gibbs in 2008. Like JGR, HOF Racing will also make the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota this year. This is one of those cases where the driver may take a step backward going to a lesser team, but the team has made itself better by bringing in Yeley.

Jeremy Mayfield, Haas CNC Racing

Car: No. 70 Haas Automation Chevrolet

Contract: One year

Former Team: Bill Davis Racing

Fantasy Impact: Positive

Analysis: Mayfield struggled to produce with BDR, which made the transition to Toyota last season. He managed to qualify for 17 races, failing to register anymore than six laps led and accruing four DNFs. The 38-year-old Mayfield will reunite with former teammate Scott Riggs and former crew chief Dave Skog, whom Mayfield worked with while at Gillett Evernham Motorsports. Haas has an engineering alliance with Hendrick Motorsports, where they get their engines and chassis. The change of scenery and equipment could put Mayfield in line for a better season, considering he can't do much worse.

Scott Riggs, Haas CNC Racing

Car: No. 66 Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches Chevrolet

Contract: One year

Former Team: Gillett Evernham Motorsports

Fantasy Impact: Neutral

Analysis: Riggs' season ended sooner than expected after qualifying for 27 races; he finished with more DNFs than wins, poles, top fives and top 10s combined. Gillett released Riggs near the end of the season in favor of open-wheel driver Patrick Carpentier after Riggs managed to fall out of the top 35 in points. This season he replaces Johnny Sauter, who managed to get into the top 35 in owner's points last season. Fantasy owners may be discouraged by the fact that Riggs had the owner's exemption last season and didn't do anything with it, but racing for a new team has seemed to ignite a fire under the 37-year-old.

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About Richard Garcia

Garcia served as a managing editor for KFFL. Prior to his time with KFFL, Richard worked in managerial roles with both Frito-Lay Inc. and UPS. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in public relations from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona and fulfilled his internship requirements with the Los Angeles Kings Hockey organization in 2001.

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