Phoenix "News" and Notes

--Finally back to real racing!  No, seriously, for real this time!

--After a soggy few days at Daytona, Sprint Cup & Nationwide head out to the desert...where they're calling for torrential rains on Saturday.

--Weather-permitting, this weekend is the debut of group qualifying, thus adding to the drama of who makes the race: Dave Blaney, or Parker Kligerman?

--Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be without his usual spotter this weekend.  The special guest spotter?  Bill Elliott.  Here's hoping Junior doesn't mind hearing the word "awesome" about 400 times.

--This will also be he first race weekend in years that will not have Bobby Labonte involved, for reasons other than "Getting Dingered"

--Oh, and prepare for plenty of "Why are they cutting across the dogleg?" questions.

Spade Racing Movie Previews: Moving into Spring

With a particularly rough winter likely to lead to a particularly damp spring, people everywhere are looking to spend a few hours at the local multiplex.  Here's a few movies coming out with a Nascar-theme.

300: Rise of an Empire:  The star of the Nationwide Series band together to beat back the "Double-Duty" drivers taking away their chances to win, like Joe Nemechek and Landon Cassill.

Need for Speed:  An elite group of racers join for--wait, no, this isn't about racing per se.  This is the Jeremy Mayfield biopic.

Bad Words:  Brian France wages a one man war against the phrase that saps him of his powers--"Things are staying the same".

Enemy:  Richard Petty tries to survive the onslaught by Danica Patrick's biggest fan-base--people who don't watch racing.

One Chance:  Can Kurt Busch go an entire season without pissing everybody off?  Considering that he showed up on Nascar RaceHub with a custom-embroidered sport coat, I'm going to say 'No'.

Noah:  A raucous comedy about how a mid-afternoon rainstorm ruined the plans of tens of thousands of race fans at Daytona--what a hoot!

Sabotage:  The Joe Gibbs Racing drivers star in this modern-take on the classic Beastie Boys video.  With Kyle Busch as Nathan Wind as Cochese.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earns Chase for the Cup Berth

It took a long wait and a wild finish, but Dale Earnhardt Jr managed to race his way into the 2014 Chase for the Cup late Sunday night.
"Making the Chase, that's what it's all about!" a jubilant Junior said in Qualified for the Chase Lane, doused in confetti. "We went into his thing knowing that we had a shot to get one of those coveted Chase berths, and we really proved ourselves today!"
Earnhardt Jr. has been one of the most-successful drivers on the circuit the last few years, knocking off Chase berths at a record pace. However, he conceded that this one was special.
"To be able to make the Chase in 2014, the first year of the new Chase Grid system, that puts it up there with my all-time Chase qualifiers", said Dale Jr.  "To know that we have a 1 in 16 shot to lift the Sprint Cup trophy in November, it just doesn't get better than this."

Rain Wins Daytona 500, Qualifies for Chase

Rain's paint scheme for 2014
After an offseason filled with change, with numerous drivers switching teams, Nascar got a bit of normalcy today, with longtime favorite Rain winning the 56th Daytona 500.
The other driver from Rain's rookie year
"Woo!  We did it again!", said Rain upon exiting his car in Victory Lane.  "I just gotta thank our team, all our sponsors, especially my crew chief Mother Nature--we didn't qualify well, but we knew we had a shot if we hung around long enough!"
With the win--and Nascar's latest adjustment to its Chase for the Cup "playoff" system, Rain is now all but guaranteed a spot in the Chase with its win today.
"Getting into the Chase, it really means a lot to our team", Rain continued to the assembled media.  "We'll just have to keep running well the rest of the season--I know we've had some problems at a few of the west-coast tracks, but if I can dominate at Phoenix every few years, I know I can contend this year too."
Rain already had a strong showing this week, posting some of the most dominating performances in practice.  However, the longtime Nascar competitor posted its first Daytona 500 win since its controversial dual with surprise contender Jet Dryer in 2012.
"In racing, its all about having a great team, having a great car", Rain's crew chief Mother Nature said post-race.  "But its also about having a great driver, and there's almost nobody out there who can dominate a race like Rain can.  We're hoping to contend for a championship this season, and now that we have a spot in the Chase, we know we have a real shot!"
Former driver Tony Raines, meanwhile, was forced to tell everyone again that he's not related to Rain.

Back to REAL Racing!

It's Michael Waltrip's Blue Def Comedy Jam!

Throughout the season, I'll be chatting during (almost) every Cup race at ESPN's Nascar Live! chat as "Spade Racing".  And remember to check back here a little bit after the checkered flag for my post-race recap!

Daytona "News" and Notes

--Finally--REAL RACING!!!
--Now that we're back to the normal racing schedule, I'm going back to MY normal schedule--a "News" and Notes article on Friday, a race recap about 30-45 minutes post-race, and some additional frivolity mid-week.
--While I personally don't have any issue with Austin Dillon driving the #3 car (most of my issues surround his choice of headwear), I think that his "war wagon" is the perfect example of "trying too hard".
--Terry Labonte has said that this will be his final Daytona 500, and that he expects to (actually) retire (seriously this time) after this season.  Well, at least he's going out on top.
--For better or worse, the Daytona 500 usually has the highest number of drivers who do not qualify for the race.  Amongst the big names going home are Michael McDowell and Joe Nemechek, as well as Tony Raines.  Wait, Tony isn't racing Cup, but its just force of habit to list him as DNQing.
--We also saw a rare "Withdrew" reason for missing the race, as the 77 car of Dave Blaney wrecked in practice and did not have a backup.  Silver lining: At least the engine won't have those extra 5 miles put on it.

Nasty Wreck in Nascar Sprint Cup Practice at Daytona

Around 4:15pm there was a small wreck in Nascar Sprint Cup practice at Daytona.  About 15 minutes later, there was a BIG wreck in that same practice session.  Below is footage of the wreck (not mine, and only shown for illustrative purposes)--quality is pretty low-end, but you get an idea what it actually looked like:

The first, smaller wreck involved the 26 (Cole Whitt), 55 (Brian Vickers), and 13 (Casey Mears) cars, as well as, incidentally, Jeff Gordon (see below).  The second wreck involved the 22 (Joey Logano), 27 (Paul Menard), 77 (Dave Blaney), 30 (Parker Kligerman, who got the worst of it), and 83 (Ryan Truex) cars, as well as incidental contact from Matt Kenseth and Trevor Bayne.
via & Alex Cavanna
The worst part of the second wreck was the 30 car going into the catch-fence a la Kyle Larson last year.  Portions of the chain-link part of the fence were destroyed, while a splitter (and other, much-smaller debris) went into the walkway between the fence and the grandstands.  Thankfully, nobody was hurt (fans or drivers).
Three things I never saw happen happened in the process:
1. When the first, smaller wreck happened, Brian Vickers' car lost a roof-flap…which promptly flew like a throwing-star into Jeff Gordon's grill.  Looks like the 24 crew will be able to fix the damage.
2. As you see, during the second wreck, one of Fox's cameras got taken out by the 30 car.  You'd figure that would happen much more often than it does.
3. As a result of the back-to-back wrecks, some teams are low on cars.  Swan Racing only had one backup for two teams, so the 30 car will get the backup, while the 26 will have to be repaired.  Also, the 77 team says they do not have a superspeedway car ready for tomorrow's Budweiser Duels, so they may have to "wheel and deal" to get a race-ready car in the next 24 hours.
Thankfully, of course, everybody is OK, and tomorrow we can all go back to complaining about the on-screen ticker.

Daytona 500 "Bash at the Beach": A New World Ordeal

Suggested Logo
If you caught last night's demolition derby, you probably saw a few brief commercials for something called "Daytona 500 Bash at the Beach", an event being held Saturday night "for the fans".  First, let's take a look at the highlights from's article on the subject:

"Filmed on location with John
Wes Townley and Michael Annett"
--The event is being hosted by Jeff Gordon and Danica Patrick, thus uniting the driver fans hated in the 90's with the driver fans hate now.
--It's a one-hour event airing at 8pm on Fox, thus depriving us of what Florida is REALLY best-known for:  Great episodes of "COPS".
--A few other drivers (Jimmie Johnson, Dale Jr., Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer) will be there, probably leading to some clunky attempts to be funny in pre-recorded "comedy" bits.
--As far as Dale Jr. goes, don't bump into him--if you do, he might knock you down, then apologize to the media a few minutes later.
--Cee Lo Green is the "musical headliner", which would seem to indicate that there's other bands performing.  I'm going to take a wild guess and say that the other bands are probably 3 Doors Down, Sheryl Crow, and/or Kid Rock (with or without a few members of Lynard Skynard).

Now, for those of you who are as white-trash as I am, you probably recognize the name "Bash at the Beach" as one of the biggest pay-per-view events held by World Championship Wrestling.  Ironically, the biggest of these shows was, in fact, held at Daytona Beach, where the concept of the New World Order (no, not the stupid conspiracy theory) was unveiled.  With that in mind, here's my own interpretation: The OWO, the Open Wheel Order:

This makes BK Racing the J.O.B. Squad
"Da Blonde Guy" Kasey Kahne--addicted (to making crappy commercials)

"Big Sexy" Tony Stewart--big guy, always hurt

"Hollywood" Jeff Gordon--the star, formerly an irritatingly pure "good guy"

"Trillionaire" Roger Penske--brings the money

"The Giant" Danica Patrick--nobody really knows why (s)he's there

A.J. Allmen"Dyngyrr"--not as successful, possible drug problems

Brian Bischoff--leader of the group, seems to have no idea what he's doing

Terry Labonte Wins Sprint Unlimited

Proving that good strategy can compensate for an underfunded team, Terry Labonte found himself in Victory Lane after a caution-filled Sprint Unlimited.
"It's great to be back", Labonte said upon exiting his car, the only one with absolutely zero damage.  "We knew this was going to be a wild one, but we needed a lot of things to go our way.  Like having every car wreck, for one."
Rest of the Field: DNF
Labonte ran a single lap before pulling his car into the garage.  By virtue of technically not retiring from the race, the "Ice Man" was able to return to the track and run the rest of the scheduled distance by himself.
"It was tough to get back out there, with all that debris on the track", Labonte continued.  "It was even harder considering there was no pace car", referring to an incident earlier on where the track's pace car caught on fire.  "At first I thought it was just a cool flame-paint scheme, but when I saw the driver jump out, I knew it was bad.  Although, seeing Brett Bodine DNF really took me back to my younger days."
Labonte said that he would take the winning car to next week's Daytona 500, reasoning that the combination of machine and strategy could propel him to another big-time win.
"We don't want to mess with this thing", Labonte said, motioning to his Go Fas Racing Ford, "because we know we have a winner here.  Besides, it's really the only car we have, so I gotta be careful with it."
Labonte said that, if he is able to win next week, he will donate a portion of the winnings to the victims of the war between Australia and Junior Nation.

Sprint Unlimited "News" and Notes

--The 2014 Sprint Cup season is finally here!  And what better way to welcome it than with a meaningless points race using a setup only featured on two other tracks?

--Click here for my Cup series previewClick here for my Nationwide series preview.  Following Nascar's lead, I might post my Truck series preview in about a month.

--19 drivers are entered in this year's Sprint Unlimited.  All 2013 are running except for Mark Martin, who felt that entering the race would detract from his "Salute To You" tour.

--Former Sprint Unlimited winners Tony Stewart and Terry Labonte are both in the event, although Ken Schrader will be sitting out in order to actually enjoy his life.

--Fans will be allowed to vote on the format of the race, the starting lineup, and the final segment's order of restart, although officials are still expecting "Dale Jr." to win all three categories.

--Finally--LET'S GO RACING!!!

Spade Racing 2014 Nationwide Series Preview: Can A Regular Win A Race?

2013's Nascar Nationwide Series action proved one thing--Kyle Busch and Joey Logano really really REALLY needed ego boosts by whupping up on inferior competition.  There's no sign that 2014 will be any different, so that begs the question--can a Nationwide Series regular (someone actually competing for the championship) win a race?  Let's take a look at the odds, from best-chance to worst.

TREVOR BAYNE 6 (Advocare)  Odds 2:1  For the first time Trevor has solid sponsorship to run full-time in a Nascar series.  Here's hoping he won't be annoying all his friends to buy a bunch of V100 drinks.

REGAN SMITH 7 (TaxSlayer, Hellman's)  Odds: 3:1  Last year he contended for the championship, but not for wins.  C'mon Regan--you'll never make it back to Cup with a third-tier team driving like THAT.

TY DILLON 3 (Bass Pro, Yuengling, WESCO)  Odds: 7:2  The rookie with the best shot to make it to victory lane, where an adoring public will watch his gigantic face block out the sun.

ELLIOTT SADLER 11 (OneMain, SportClips)  Odds 5:1  Elliott dropped down to Nationwide to have a shot at winning again.  One more year of mediocre finishes and he'll have to drop down to the go-kart leagues.

CHASE ELLIOTT 9 (Napa)  Odds 8:1  While he doesn't have much experience in a Nationwide car, he has a strong team behind him.  Not to mention the fact that we don't have to deal with lame Michael Waltrip Napa commercials anymore!

BRIAN SCOTT 2 (Shore Lodge)  Odds 12:1  The veteran of RCR's "All Legacy Kid" Nationwide Series lineup.  I can't figure out if that's a good thing or not.

JAMES BUESCHER 99 (Rheem) Odds 15:1  As a driver leaving a successful Truck team for an independent Nationwide Series team, James is one of the top stories going into 2014.  So expect a cursory mention during qualifying and nothing more.

DYLAN KWASNIEWSKI 31 (Rockstar) Odds 25:1  A rookie?  Running full-time for an independent team?  With sponsorship?  What a concept!!!

BRENDAN GAUGHAN 62 (South Point) Odds 25:1  Moving back to Nationwide after showing zero reason why he should in Trucks.

RYAN REED 16 (Drive to Stop Diabetes, Lilly) Odds 30:1  To be fair, everyone is just hoping that he'll run a Wilford Brimley special paint scheme sometime this season.

DAKODA ARMSTRONG 43 (WinField, Fresh from Florida) Odds 50:1  The best way to make your move to Nationwide a smooth transition?  remove all pressure to succeed by replacing Michael Annett.

CHRIS BUESCHER 60 (???) Odds 75:1  Sponsorship is iffy, but I could see him winning one of those oddball non-companion events with about 20 cautions.  Plus, he has his brother to go to for advice on what to do when everyone spells your name wrong.

MIKE BLISS 19 (G-Oil, Tweaker) Odds 100:1  His experience gives him a shot in the plate rac--wait a minute: Tweaker?  Who knew that Jeremy Mayfield sponsored a team.

JEFFREY EARNHARDT 4 (???) Odds 200:1  Well, at least we know he'll be the happiest-looking Earnhardt out there.

ERIC MCCLURE 14 (Hefty/Reynolds Wrap) Odds 300:1  Eric bids farewell to the Nationwide Series after a career highlighted by an seventh-place finish in a race.  Seriously.

JEREMY CLEMENTS 51 (???) Odds 500:1  When the highlight of your career is getting suspended for a racial slur, you know you're in trouble.

JOEY GASE 52 (DB Sales, Donate Life) Odds 1,000:1  Gase drives for Jimmy Means Racing, which technically makes him a Smut-peddler.

LANDON CASSILL 01 (???) Odds 1,000:1  His odds are hurt by possibly sharing this ride with Daryl Harr, as well as having briefly associated with the biggest loser "in" Nascar, me.

BLAKE KOCH 44 (???) Odds 2,000:1  Sure he's (likely) splitting the ride with Will Kimmell, but at least he retains the "Hardest Last Name to Pronounce Right" award.

JOE NEMECHEK 87 (???) Odds 4,000:1  Don't scoff--he has a real shot this year to notch a few top-40's.

MIKE WALLACE 28 (???) Odds 5,000:1  More people would be urging Mike Wallace to retire if more people realized that Mike Wallace was still racing.

JAMIE DICK 55 (Viva Auto Group) Odds 10,000:1  Here's hoping they're able to run the full schedule--their tendency to start-and-park lets ESPN display my favorite graphic on its ticker: Dick-OUT.

ROBERT RICHARDSON JR. 23 (???) Odds 25,000:1  Nascar's most-anonymous driver retains his crown.

"THE FIELD" various (various) Odds 100,000:1  Includes Ryan Ellis (24), Tommy Joe Martins (67), Mike Harmon (74), Willie Allen (76) Chad Boat (84), Matt Carter (93) and Carl Long's mystery driver (13).  May also contain Stuart Kirby, Steadman Marlin, Donnie Neuenberger and/or Steven Wallace.

JEFF GREEN 10 (???) Odds 1,000,000:1  Can he break his own DNF record?

Spade Racing's 2014 Nascar Sprint Cup Series Preview

What's the only thing gimmicky-er than Nascar's new Chase Grid?  The Spade Racing season preview, that's what!

Compiled with the help of Jayski's 2014 Team & Driver Chart

(*Asterisk indicates Rookie of the Year contender)

These four drivers will compete in a single race, winner-take-all event that will determine the championship in a single race.  Its just like the Super Bowl…if the other 30 NFL teams all played in the same game.
Technically, he has TWO Cup
championships (Brooke got half)
JEFF GORDON 24 (AARP, Axalta, Pepsi Max)  Why he's here: People have been saying for a few years now how Jeffy has nothing but bad luck.  But for my money, a millionaire race car driver married to a supermodel with two healthy kids is the kind of guy lucky enough to win a disastrous final event that could be determined by a Parker Kligerman spin with eight laps to go.
JIMMIE JOHNSON 48 (Lowe's)  Why he's here: Jimmie has everything it takes to go for his seventh championship--the drive, the team, the car, even the crew-chief.  However, I have to think that Mike Helton will "Jimmie-proof" the finale just so Brian France can feel like he actually did something right.
DENNY HAMLIN 11 (FedEx)  Why he's here: My pick for Rebound Driver of the Year, Denny seems to have the right balance of cool-under-pressure and killer instinct for this new points system.  Thus, we'll have to endure ten weeks of ESPN stories hounding Denny about his friendship with Michael Jordan.
CARL EDWARDS 99 (Fastenal, Subway, Aflac, Kelloggs)  Why he's here:  Well, Nascar seems to like it when they have a final race to the championship with Carl involved.  But unless they change Homstead to concrete--or allow Jack to use some "special" spark plugs--it'll be another close-but-no-cigar season for the cousin.

Essentially the runners-up group, with the four drivers who jusssst missed out on racing for the championship.  By the way, I had no idea that Mike Helton was such a big ZZ Top fan.
Kyle's long-awaited Derrike Cope
tribute paint scheme
KYLE BUSCH 18 (M&M's, Interstate Batteries)  Why he's here: The downside for him is that the championship still values consistency in the final ten races of the season, something that he has yet to show.  The upside for US is that we'll still get to see shots of his wife.
MATT KENSETH 20 (Home Depot/Husky Tools, Dollar General)  Why he's here: The "runner-up curse" doesn't strike quite so hard this year, with Matt putting together another solid season.  By the way, who'd-a thunk it that the Chase would have been implemented due to Matt not winning enough races, then tweaked due to Matt winning too many races?
TONY STEWART 14 (Bass Pro Shops, Mobil 1)  Why he's here: Tony and SHR bounce back in 2014 with a solid season and a few wins along the way.  Meanwhile, fans everywhere wonder who the skinny clean-cut guy driving the 14 is, thinking that he looks a little like that guy who ran in IRL in the 90's.
GREG BIFFLE 16 (3M)  Why he's here: The Biff has a very Biff-like season, running strong but not strong enough to truly compete for the Cup.  I pick Spring Kansas for the race he wins in 2014 that almost everyone forgets about by August.

Nascar's obsession with the number 4 continues with this grouping, those who are eliminated after the first six races.  If the top eight are feted in Las Vegas, these four should be celebrated On The Waterfront.
"Hi, I'm Brad.  Y'know, you look
a LOT like my brother."
BRAD KESELOWSKI 2 (Miller Lite, Alliance, Wurth)  Why he's here: Nascar's Most-Outspoken Driver will have a much-better year than his crummy 2013, but will still miss out on truly contending for a second championship.  Maybe it'll be Rusty Wallace constantly calling him, bugging him for a second test run.
KEVIN HARVICK 4 (Budweiser, Jimmy John's)  Why he's here: The top new face in a new place rises above the imagined-drama at Stewart-Haas to post some wins in 2014.  Just goes to show you what the white-hot hatred of an ex-boss's son can do for your career.
KASEY KAHNE 5 (Farmer's Insurance, Time Warner Cable)  Why he's here: I'm picking Kasey for the "Pretty good season that somehow gets treated like a major disappointment" award this year.  Oh well--at least he's not dealing with the creepiness that is Ray Evernham's personal life anymore.
CLINT BOWYER 15 (5-Hour Energy, Peak)  Why he's here: After SCRATCHING at the door of the championship for years, Clint's just ITCHING to get back to the top.  However, it'll be a HOT competition just to make the Chase, as MWR tries to rebound from CHEATING.

The bottom-four of the Chase, those who get off to a bad start and don't recover in time.  So basically, the Ryan Newman Group.
Ryan uses his new sponsor's
equipment to take revenge on
Stewart-Haas Racing
RYAN NEWMAN 31 (Caterpillar, Quicken Loans)  Why he's here: Well, just look at the name.
JOEY LOGANO 22 (Shell/Pennzoil, AAA)  Why he's here: Last year's rebound of the year bounces the wrong way this year.  Also, given the number of enemies he made last season, I wouldn't be surprised to see his face bounce off a few fists as well.
JAMIE MCMURRAY 1 (McDonald's, Cessna)  Why he's here: Jamie proved last year that a driver from a mid-level team could win, and now that he's the #1 driver at Ganassi, I think its time.  By the way, expect plenty of uneducated griping online by bitter Dale Sr. fans.  Which reminds me…
DALE EARNHARDT JR. 88 (National Guard, Diet Mtn Dew, Your Name Here)  Why he's here: Yes, he would have won last year's championship if this year's rules were in place.  But until they put twenty races a year at Michigan, he'll have to settle for also running as an also-ran.

Leave it to Nascar to quit after just naming the top four groups--I'll keep you informed as to what drivers belong where!
"I promise that I will disappoint you,
and I won't disappoint you on that."
KURT BUSCH 41 (Haas Automation)  Why he's here: I'd expect Kurt to contend for wins as the Chase draws near, but he'll be kept out by just a bit.  On the plus side, just imagine how many people will rush out to by CNC Machines.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. 17 (Nationwide, Zest, FifthThird Bank, Best Buy?)  Why he's here: Last year's ROTY steps it up a notch in 2014, going from quiet disappointment to quiet overachiever.  Its too bad that we don't know much about his personal life though--things like who he's dating, you know.
*AUSTIN DILLON 3 (Cheerios, Dow Chemical)  Why he's here: Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2014 Nascar Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year!  As for his car number?  Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2014 Overblown Story of the Year!
ARIC ALMIROLA 43 (Smithfield, STP, Air Force)  Why he's here: A delicious sponsor, yes, but its still tough for a mid-level team to contend for the Chase.  But the sponsor IS delicious.  Man, i can taste that F-14 right now!

Finishing outside the top-20 is a disappointment, and these disappointing seasons do not disappoint.
Kyle Larson or Sam Bradford?
*KYLE LARSON 42 (Target)  Why he's here: In the rush to proclaim him The Next Big Thing, people have forgotten that he won a grand total of zero Nationwide Series races last season.  I expect more out of the driver of Joe Nemechek's former ride.
MARCOS AMBROSE 9 (Stanley/DeWalt)  Why he's here: Yes, a driver like Marcos could conceivably win a road course race, then coast into the Chase.  But Marcos would have to win first, and it seems like unless the track is greasy, its not so easy-peasy.  (Sorry).
PAUL MENARD 27 (Menards)  Why he's here: The Thinking Man's Brendan Gaughan continues to run well, but not well enough to contend regularly for wins.  And to think, just a few years ago he seemed on his way to stardom.  Wait a minute, no he didn't.
BRIAN VICKERS 55 (Aaron's)  Why he's here: It'll be great to see Brian back running Sprint Cup full-time, but the MWR team has been reeling since they lost Napa.  Methinks they're going to be putting all their eggs in one Bowyer come mid-season.

Drivers who go to new teams don't always see immediate results--we can't ALL be Matt Kenseth.  Besides, if we were, the media would have to do a lot more fake-laughing at our "jokes".
Possible sponsor for Colorado's
Furniture Row Racing?
MARTIN TRUEX JR. 78 (Furniture Row)  Why he's here: Yes, they made the Chase last year, but that was with a former-champion driver.  Really, the Furniture Row team's greatest individual achievement is still winning a race on fuel mileage, and having THAT overshadowed by a Busch-Harvick brouhaha.
AJ ALLMENDINGER 47 (Kingsford, Charter, Clorox, etc.)  Why he's here: Hey, we're all glad to see Dinger get another shot at a full-time Cup ride.  But he's going to a team that's shown zero speed outside of the plate and road-course events.  Maybe he can make a little extra money haulin' the mail?
DANICA PATRICK 10 (GoDaddy, Aspen Dental)  Why she's here: When you're racing for a top-flight team and you have top-flight sponsorship, anything less than the Chase is a disappointment.  And when you're coming off a rookie season when you were celebrated for a 12th-place finish, this counts as an improvement.
*JUSTIN ALLGAIER 51 (Brandt)  Why he's here: The lateness of the official announcement, the lingering of James Finch, the crumbling of Turner-Scott Motorsports, all points to one thing--THIS will be the guy subbing in god-forbid someone else gets injured.

These are the teams you hear called "doing great for what they have", or "just trying to string some top-20s together", or "suddenly I'm hungry for Long John Silvers for some reason".
Geckos are green.  Coincidence?
Well, yeah, probably.
DAVID RAGAN 34 (CSX, boss's restaurants)  Why he's here: Being mentioned as the example of how a backmarker team can make the new Chase has to be pretty depressing.
CASEY MEARS 13 (Geico)  Why he's here: This team switching from Ford to Chevy is a little like me switching colognes--sure, it'll turn a head or two, but I'm still going home alone (…and possibly with a new restraining order or two).
DAVID GILLILAND 38 (Love's Travel Stops, boss's restaurants)  Why he's here: Coasting on the success of a single Nationwide Series win is like coasting on the success of a successful B-side.
MICHAEL BURTONCHEK 66 (Peak)  Why he's here: Nascar's newest portmanteau looks to challenge for a spot in the Owner's Chase Grid.  Well, assuming that there IS one.  Brian, could you get back to me on that?

This group is made up of four rookies running for teams that will be glad if they can just make payroll every week.  But don't despair, drivers--you could one day wind up the next Hut Stricklin.
"We want Nemechek!"
*ALEX BOWMAN 23 (Dr. Pepper, Burger King)  Why he's here: Note to Alex--when you lose your Nationwide Series ride and you wind up running a Cup car, that doesn't mean you got lucky--that means you'd better keep a lawyer on retainer.
*MICHAEL ANNETT 7 (Pilot/Flying J, Accell)  Why he's here: I don't know.  I really don't know.  Could someone PLEASE tell me WHY he's kept his sponsors THIS LONG?!?
**COLEKER KLIGERWHITT 26/30 (Swan Energy, Lean 1)   Why they're here: I think that if you combine Cole Whitt & Parker Kligerman's stats for 2014, you'll be pleasantly surprised.  Like, "Wow, I had no idea a single driver could post 40 DNF's".
*RYAN TRUEX 83 (Burger King, Borla Exhausts)  Why he's here: Will he make it through the season?  Will he finish more races than he DNF's?  Will anybody care?

Because part-time teams, start-and-parkers, and Josh Wise gotta go somewhere.
"Hi Woods, remember me?
Oh, you don't."
WOOD BROTHERS RACING 21--Trevor Bayne returns to the historic team for approximately 12 races.  And…um…OK, can't really joke about him anymore.
GO FAS RACING 32--Terry Labonte runs at the Daytona 500, followed by someone who'll have to fill Timmy Hill's surprisingly comfortable shoes.
CIRCLE SPORT RACING 33--Brian Scott has this ride at the 500, to be followed by someone who doesn't mind filling in for Idaho's greatest race car driver.
TOMMY BALDWIN RACING 36--Reed Sorenson is likely to hold on to this ride through 2014, but it remains to be seen if kids will continue to eat free at a reasonably priced chain buffet.
CIRCLE SPORT/HILLMAN 40--Landon Cassill is likely to drive this car at Daytona, and who knows what the future holds?  Um, probably a few start-and-parks, to be honest.
PHOENIX RACING 52--James Finch returns to run Bobby Labonte in at least the Daytona 500.  Can lightning strike twice for the single, underfunded team at a plate track?  Answer--no.
??? 77--When you have a team without a name, owned by a notorious start-and-park owner (Randy Humphrey), it just makes sense to have Dave Blaney as your driver.
LEAVINE FAMILY RACING 95--Michael McDowell takes longtime sponsor Black Paint to the team that made Red Paint famous.
PHIL PARSONS RACING 98--Josh Wise, clinging onto the back-end of relevancy as always.