Commentary

Familiar faces in new places in 2010

Updated: February 3, 2010, 5:15 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

Jamie McMurray returns to his roots. Martin Truex Jr. believes he is joining a team on the rise.

Crew chief Steve Addington changes teams but stays in the family, so to speak.

Crew chief Pat Tryson leaves a top-5 team in 2009 with hopes of making a top-5 team in 2010.

Richard Petty Motorsports goes for one more merger to switch to Ford.

Young and brash Brad Keselowski hopes to do his talking on the track in his first full Cup season.

New people in new places. Fresh starts and new opportunities.

That's true every year when the Daytona 500 rolls around to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Some work out for the best. Some flop miserably.

But the changes listed above are big ones that could prove significant as the season progresses. Let's take a closer look:

McMurray
McMurray

1. Jamie McMurray -- Most of the success McMurray has enjoyed in Sprint Cup came while driving for Chip Ganassi.

He finished just outside the top 10 in three full seasons with Ganassi and looked like a rising star in the sport. When Jack Roush made him an offer, McMurray jumped at the opportunity.

"I thought going there would be a sure thing," McMurray said on the media tour last month. "I thought I would make the Chase, but we never came close."

It was a difficult split from Ganassi at the time, although Chip doesn't see it that way.

"When we parted we were friends and we stayed friends," Ganassi says of McMurray, who is back in the fold.

McMurray's four seasons at Roush Fenway Racing never panned out, so he decided to go back to the guy who gave him his first shot in Cup.

He takes over the No. 1 Chevy for Martin Truex Jr., a team that finished 23rd in the standings, one spot below where McMurray finished at RFR.

"The environment with Chip probably fits my personality a little better," McMurray said. "I feel comfortable here."

If McMurray can bring the No. 1 car up to the standard of teammate Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 42 Chevy, everyone at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will feel comfortable. At age 33, this probably is McMurray's last shot to prove he can be a contender.

Truex
Truex

2. Martin Truex Jr. -- No one was surprised that Truex left EGR, but almost everyone was surprised when he signed with Michael Waltrip Racing to replace Waltrip in the full-time driving role for the operation.

Truex is convinced he's joining an organization that's about to hit its stride.

"Everything about this place impresses me," Truex said at the MWR shop on the media tour. "I think their equipment is top-notch, their people are top-notch, and the way they go about their business is pretty impressive, to say the least.

"It's just a matter of starting off on the right foot, getting that ball rolling and keeping it going."

Teammate David Reutimann had his best season in 2009, and MWR partner Marcos Ambrose was the surprise of the season.

But Truex takes over a car that has not raced well in three seasons with Waltrip as the driver. Was it the driver? Was it the team? Was it both?

The team changes from the No. 55 Toyota to a No. 56 Camry (Waltrip will run a partial schedule in the No. 51), but the real change is adding Pat Tryson as the crew chief.

Tryson led Kurt Busch to a fourth-place finish in the 2009 standings, a significant achievement since the No. 2 Dodge was the first non-Hendrick car in the standings.

And Tryson did it from his house on weekdays during the Chase, banished from the Penske racing shop after he announced he was leaving.

"It wasn't a great way to do it, but it wasn't terrible," Tryson said during the media tour. "I learned I could do a lot of things from home."

Truex can't say enough good things about Tryson.

"We've been friendly for a few years, but I didn't know much about how he worked and how he went about his business," Truex said. "I've been really impressed with the way he takes care of the guys on the team, the way he interacts with them, the way he works in the shop. I think it's going to be an easier transition than I thought."

3. Steve Addington -- He just chuckles when he hears some people say he's a glutton for punishment. First Kyle Busch, now Kurt Busch. At least Addington knows the drill.

Addington was the fall guy last season when Kyle didn't make the Chase. Now he's moved to big brother Kurt, the Busch who has won a Cup title.

"Kurt is more mature," Addington said on the media tour. "He's the older guy, and he's married. He's happy and content in his personal life, and that makes him a little calmer."

Better ask Tryson about that, Steve. Kurt has lost his cool a few times on the radio during a race. Steve said that's OK.

"Kurt's been through it, but Kyle was in a different situation," Addington said. "He's a young guy making millions of dollars. Heck, I'd be out of control, too."

4. Richard Petty Motorsports -- Things change so fast these days at RPM it's hard to keep up. Mergers in back-to-back years have transformed the entire operation.

RPM now has merged with what was left of Yates Racing and switched from Dodge to Ford, aligning itself with Roush Fenway Racing.

Paul Menard from the Yates shop joins RPM drivers Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger and Elliott Sadler. All the engines will come from the Yates/Roush engine shop.

All the RPM drivers are in the final year of their contracts. This new arrangement has to work for RPM to remain on solid footing. But Foster Gillett, the son of team owner George Gillett, bristles at comments he hears about the team's uncertain future.

"I'm frustrated about the persistent rumors about our organization," Foster said on the media tour. "I don't think it's fair, and it hurts us in getting sponsorship.

"If we wanted to leave the sport, there was plenty of opportunity to do that last year. We have reinvested in this by going to Ford."

Keselowski
Keselowski

5. Brad Keselowski -- NASCAR's newest version of a loose cannon. Love him or hate him, Keselowski will be fun to watch. Brad K will make things happen.

Whether it's starting a feud with Denny Hamlin with some on-track rubbin' or blocking his way to a dramatic victory at Talladega while Carl Edwards' car went flying through the air behind him, Keselowski is not boring.

Keselowski gets a chance to show his stuff this season in the No. 12 Dodge for Penske Racing. Roger Penske knows he's getting a bit of a wild hair in Brad, but Penske's OK with that.

"I'd rather have a guy that I have to hold his belt than a guy I have to kick in the rear," Penske said on the media tour.

Hold on tight, Roger. Brad K wants to launch himself into stardom.

"I'm ready to get back in action on the racetrack with 42 other crazy drivers like me," Keselowski said last month. "I think the sport is about to turn a corner, and I'm really excited to be a part of it. I don't have a magic wand, but I have the heart and the desire to win."

New faces in new places. They just might put on a heck of show.

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He is the author of "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks." He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter