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Archive for Thursday, May 31, 2007

Who’ll be next?

These drivers could join Casey Mears in winning their first Cup race soon

May 31, 2007

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Now that Casey Mears has become the first driver to get his initial Nextel Cup race victory this season, the natural question becomes, Who's next?

Casey mears celebrates winning the Coca-Cola 600. Mears earned the victory - his first in Nextel Cup competition - Sunday in Concord, N.C.

Casey mears celebrates winning the Coca-Cola 600. Mears earned the victory - his first in Nextel Cup competition - Sunday in Concord, N.C.

Fourteen of the top 40 drivers in the current Nextel Cup standings do not yet have a victory on their resume. Here are the three who we think are most likely to join Mears in the winner's circle in the next couple of months:

Juan Pablo Montoya

Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

Car: No. 42 Dodge

Season summary: He's 22nd in points and hasn't led a lap all year. But he did finish fifth at Atlanta and eighth at Texas.

Where he could win: The reason Montoya is listed first is that the season's first road-course race comes up at Infineon Raceway at the end of June. Montoya will be less of a fish out of water among the drivers he competes with there than he has anywhere all year. He's every bit the road course "ringer," and maybe then some, of the guys who've been running Nextel Cup road course races for years. But unlike most of those guys, he's got a top-tier, full-time team and pit crew working with him.

Where he could surprise you: Pocono has some road-course characteristics to it, doesn't it? Michigan looks a lot like California, too, so it won't be totally foreign to Montoya.

Clint Bowyer

Team: Richard Childress Racing

Car: No. 07 Chevrolet

Season summary: Five top-10 finishes have him 10th in the Nextel Cup standings, highest among those without a victory. His best finishes were sixths at California and Atlanta, and his other three top 10s all came in Car of Tomorrow races.

Where he could win: Dover would seem to be the most likely venue for a Bowyer breakthrough. He finished eighth in the Nextel Cup race there last fall and also has finished second, fourth and first in his past three Busch Series starts on the one-mile track. This week, he'll use the Car of Tomorrow in Sunday's Cup race, and RCR's program with that car hasn't been that far off.

Where he could surprise you: Indianapolis. Bowyer started on the outside of the front row and finished fourth in last year's Brickyard 400. He also finished ninth at Chicagoland last July.

Martin Truex Jr.

Team: Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Car: No. 01 Chevrolet

Season summary: He's 16th in the points, so with a hot summer he could race his way into contention for the Chase. Right now, he's the best driver DEI has signed for 2008.

Where he could win: He won two Busch races at Dover and had a sixth there last fall. But that's a Car of Tomorrow race this year, and DEI hasn't exactly hit the ground running with that program. Still, among the options in the short-term future that looks like the best bet for Truex.

Where he could surprise you: Daytona. Truex has done a lot of nice things in Cup and Busch cars at Talladega. His record isn't as good at the other restrictor-plate track, but experience with success can breed confidence in that discipline.

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