By RICH FOLEY
Admit it, you read the headline and you’re asking yourself “Who is Coleman?” That’s how strange this year’s version of Silly Season has become, the time of year when struggling NASCAR teams begin making driver changes in hopes of improving their fortunes.
The “Coleman” in question would be Brad Coleman, current Nationwide Series driver who has been named to take over J.J. Yeley’s seat in the Hall of Fame Racing Toyota beginning this week at Michigan International Speedway. His main qualification for the job seems to be the fact that he is only 20 years old.
It appears almost certain that 19-year-old Joey Logano will take over Tony Stewart’s seat in the Home Depot Toyota for 2009, perhaps even sooner if Stewart fails to make the Chase for the Championship. Logano has a string of success behind him making such a promotion not much of a surprise. Coleman, on the other hand...not so much.
In 23 races in the Nationwide Series this season, Coleman has only one top-10 finish. In 17 Cup starts, Yeley recorded one top-five. It doesn’t look like Coleman is an improvement over Yeley, just younger. Since Logano wasn’t available, Hall of Fame Racing hired the next-youngest driver they could find.
Several drivers, including Ryan Newman, Dario Franchitti, Jeremy Mayfield, David Stremme and Casey Mears, are already looking for a new team for next season. Count on that list to grow longer after the field is set after the Richmond race for the 10-event Chase for the Championship.
Although Stewart ranked ninth in current driver points as the circuit headed to Watkins Glen, he’s fewer than 70 points ahead of 13th and missing the Chase altogether. If he misses, he’s liable to jump to his new team early (or be pushed out to make room for Logano).
If that happens and the rumors that Ryan Newman will be his teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing are true, then Newman will also probably make the jump early as he appears unlikely to make the Chase. That opens up a spot at Roger Penske’s team and puts Scott Riggs out of the Haas team and back in the rumor mill.
Other stories have Kurt Busch, who is also unlikely to make the Chase, possibly leaving the Penske team. If that comes to pass, and Logano and Newman do take the seats they are heavily rumored to be getting, that leaves three driver seats open: two at Penske and one at Richard Childress Racing, which is expanding to four cars next year.
Unfortunately, there would be at least six drivers looking for those three seats, namely Busch, Riggs, Franchitti, Mears, Stremme and Mayfield. If Kurt Busch is doing the math, he’s probably considering staying with Penske as the Childress ride is the only one he would have a shot at.
If Busch stays put, then at least five drivers will be chasing two seats, the NASCAR version of the old children’s game. What’s more, rumors have Michael Waltrip losing sponsorship on one or two of his team cars. If that’s true, then throw David Reutimann and Michael McDowell into the mix, too. That would be the mother of all musical chairs games. And it wouldn’t be “Silly Season” for those not securing a ride for 2009. It would be something far more tragic.