Early season breakdown: 5 disappointments

Jay Hart

We're five races into the 2008 Sprint Cup season. What have we learned? Who has surprised us? Who has been a disappointment?

Y! Sports will break it all down, continuing today with the five biggest disappointments so far in 2008.

Thursday: Five surprises

1. The open-wheelers

Much was made of the three Indy 500 champions coming to NASCAR, but so far two of them have mostly been field fillers (Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish Jr.), while the third (Jacques Villeneuve) hasn't made a single start.

Throw in Patrick Carpentier, who's yet to crack the top 35 in two starts, and the difficulty level of making the switch from open-wheel to stock cars is clearly evident.

Time will tell which of the four will have any impact on the sport, but so far their biggest contribution has been in the interview rooms – last year.

2. Jamie McMurray

Okay, so no one was picking McMurray to win the championship, let alone a single race, but to not even be in the top 35?!?

McMurray drives for one of NASCAR's premier teams, is teammates with two drivers in the top 10 (Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth), a third who would be in the top 10 if not for that oil lid incident (Carl Edwards) and a fourth (David Ragan) who is beginning to show promise. Yet for some reason he can't get it together.

Enjoy it while it lasts, because if this continues McMurray will be out of a good job real soon.

3. California Speedway

No, they couldn't help the rain, but they could have prepared for it a lot better by fixing the weeper on the track prior to the race, rather than waiting to do so in the middle of it.

California Speedway was already under fire for its inability to draw a decent crowd. Now, critics have been handed even more fodder to lambaste NASCAR over giving two dates a year to a track that barely deserves one.

4. Commercials, commercials

Fox may get higher grades than ESPN/ABC when it comes to the actual broadcast of NASCAR races, but both networks are killing the coverage with way too many commercial breaks. During the average race, viewers are lucky to get eight uninterrupted laps of racing before missing at least as many laps while sponsors get in their plugs.

To compound things, when Fox does come back from a commercial break, they spend another 30 seconds telling viewers about the sponsors whose ads they just saw.

Note to the networks: Give us picture-in-picture advertising.

5. Chip Ganassi Racing

This one flies under the radar, mostly because not much is expected out of the Ganassi crew anyway. But it's worth mentioning because two drivers – Reed Sorenson and Juan Pablo Montoya – are not being allowed to showcase their talent, if only because they're driving inferior equipment.

Ganassi has been in NASCAR for seven-plus years now, yet after winning five races in his first two seasons as an owner, he's won only once in the last five. It remains a mystery to exactly why his success in open-wheel racing hasn't transferred to NASCAR.

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