DEC 1-7, 2003
THE PAST NEWS! YESTERDAY and BEYOND..
OTHER PAST NEWS PAGES
- Snow Ball Derby was won by Charlie Bradberry in Pensacola, FL at Five Flags Speedway, more info/results at www.snowballderby.com and at speed51.com
- It's a Baby Girl for Andrea and Ryan Pemberton: Andrea Pemberton, wife of #01 U.S. Army/MB2 crew chief Ryan Pemberton, gave birth to the couple's first child -- Payton Lucia -- Dec. 3 at Carolina's Medical Center University in Charlotte. Payton weighed in at 6 pounds, 9 ounces and was 19 inches long. Mother and daughter are doing fine and were released from the hospital today (Dec. 5).
- Another Baby - Congrats: Joshua Joseph Sitler born Dec. 1 9:22am/et. He was due February 5th, but decided to come early. He is 2 lbs 12 oz and 15.5 inches long. He's doing well, breathing for the most part on his own. He's super active. Mother is doing well. Joshua is Chad Sitler's son, Chad works for Knight Ridder and helps keep the Jayski server running.(12-4-2003)
- More on the #77 - Dec 18th UPDATE 2: There's going to be more clarification in the next couple of weeks about where Kodak is going. A lot of rumors have speculated the company was going to wind up with Jack Roush, but the sources [Jeff Hammond has] heard are now saying pretty emphatically that it will wind up going over to a third Penske car. Been told that an announcement will come on December 18.(FoxSports)(12-2-2003)
UPDATE: The Penske-Jasper Motorsports deal to share ownership of the #77 team and bring it under the Penske and Dodge umbrella is all but completed, ThatsRacin.com has learned. A formal announcement of the merger should be made within two weeks. NASCAR Truck series driver Brendan Gaughan is to join the team, sources said. “We should know a lot more very soon. Until then, there isn’t much for me to say,” said Penske vice president, Don Miller, in New York for this weekend’s Winston Cup awards ceremony. Miller and team owner Roger Penske have said they were considering a third Nextel Cup team next season after being approached by Kodak, which could be the team’s sponsor. Sources said the remaining issues in the Penske-Jasper deal included contracts with the sponsor and a new driver as well as those related to the #77 team and its current driver, Dave Blaney. Blaney would not remain with the team under the new deal. However, he may well join another Cup operation, sources said. Who would serve as crew chief as the new team remains unclear, but sources said Gaughan’s Truck series crew chief, Shane Wilson, and Bill Wilburn, who recently stepped down as crew chief for Penske Cup driver Rusty Wallace, were both under consideration.(ThatsRacin.com), have also heard Steven Lane could be the new crew chief.(12-4-2003)
UPDATE 2: hearing the # could be changed to #72, some rumors have John Andretti running some races in the car, but have heard nothing to back that up, most rumors and reports still have Brendan Gaughan in the car and Gaughan's Truck Series team looking for a new driver to run the full CTS season in 2004, could be Gaughan's Grand National Division, Winston West Series driver, Scott Lynch.(12-6-2003)
- Kenseth collects more the $5 million in NYC: NASCAR Winston Cup champion Matt Kenseth collected $5,138,640 in point fund money at Friday night's NASCAR Winston Cup Series Awards Ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria, which boosted his season winnings to $9,422,764. Kenseth's point fund payout - from NASCAR and series sponsor R.J. Reynolds - is part of a record overall payout of approximately $21 million. RJR is ending its 33-year entitlement sponsorship of NASCAR's premier series at the end of the year. Kenseth, driver of the #17 DEWALT Ford, also received $246,000 via various contingency awards on Friday morning, during the annual Myers Brothers Breakfast in the Waldorf's Starlight Roof. Kenseth's season race winnings amounted to $4,038,124. His career winnings stand at $19,096,585. NASCAR Top 10 runner-up #48-Jimmie Johnson received a point fund payout of $2,149,180 from NASCAR and RJR. Third-place finisher #8-Dale Earnhardt Jr. got $1,679,910 from the NASCAR/RJR fund (NASCAR PR)(12-5-2003). See the chart for more:
||Earnhardt Jr., Dale
- Other Honors:
- R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., whose Winston brand of cigarettes has been the sponsor of NASCAR's top series for 33 years, won the Myers Brothers Award as stock car racing's outstanding contributor.
- Driver Ricky Craven, who has raised money for a variety of children's charities with an annual snowmobile ride, was given the $100,000 USG Person of the Year Award.
- Ryan Newman, who won 11 poles and eight races - both series highs in 2003 - was given the $100,000 Bud Pole Award and the $100,000 Mobil 1 Command Performance Award.
- The $75,000 Mechanix Wear Pit Crew of the Year Award went to the No. 17 Roush Racing team of series champion Matt Kenseth, while Kenseth picked up $75,000 for the Waste Management Picking Up Places Award that goes to the driver who improved on his starting positions the most during the year.
- Mike Maiwald, engine builder for the Jeff Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet, got $80,000 as Clevite Engine Builder of the Year.
- Jimmie Johnson, second to Kenseth in the season points, was given the $75,000 Outback Steakhouse Bloomin' Favorite Driver of the Year Award.(ThatsRacin.com)(12-5-2003)
- Sad News - Racing champion 'Iggy' Katona dies at 87: Egnatius "Iggy" Katona, the winningest driver in Automobile Racing Club of America Series [ARCA] history, died Thursday in Daytona Beach, Florida. He was 87. Katona, who earned 79 career series wins, also held the all-time series championship mark with six titles in 1955, '56, '57, '62, '66 and '67. In addition, Katona became the oldest superspeedway winner in history with his third victory at Daytona in 1974. Katona's amazing string of series wins stretched from 1953 to 1974. Throughout his incredible career, Katona finished in the top-10 in points an astonishing 21 consecutive times from ’53 through ’73, a record still untouched today. In addition to his six titles, Katona finished runner-up in championship points in ’54, ’60, ’63, ’65 and ’70. Katona also finished third in points in ’53, ’59, ’64 and ’71. He is survived his wife, Betty; sons Jim and Ron; eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. There will be no services. "One of my father's requests was that we not put him on display," said Ron Katona. "But that was my father. He did things his way, and there's no sense in changing up now. If that's what he wanted, that's what he'll get." Messages of condolences may be sent to Ron Katona, 264 Bern St., Port Orange FL 32127.(ThatsRacin.com)(12-5-2003)
- Points Change? UPDATE 2: not sure if this was a joke or what, seemed off the wall, but on Speed Channel's Inside Winston Cup, Jimmy Spencer [and he sounded serious) said while at Homestead he was talking to NASCAR's Brian France, and was told that NASCAR 'may' change the Cup drivers points system where after the race at Richmond in Sept 2004 with 10 races left, the slate would be 'cleaned' and the top 10 would be locked in and they would run for the title. NOTE: have heard NOTHING on a change like this, no idea how it would work or what happens to the points with the drivers 11th and back, if this is serious or just a tongue in cheek to saying how crazy it is to change the points system when two out of three national series had such close points battles. Not looking for comments, debates or new system ideas, just reporting what was on the show.
UPDATE: Been told this is seriously being discussed.(11-18-2003)
UPDATE 2: NASCAR is considering a dramatic change in how it determines the champion of its top series, studying a plan to make only the drivers in the top 10 after 26 races eligible to run for the title over the season's final 10 events. Sources told The [Charlotte] Observer that, while no decision has been made and that NASCAR could still keep intact the system it has used since 1975, it is weighing a major overhaul. When applied to the past eight seasons, the most sweeping plan under study would have produced a different champion than the old system five times, including this season. That plan would advance the top 10 drivers following the Sept. 11 race at Richmond into a 10-race "postseason." Points earned in the first 26 races would be erased or evened up in some manner so points earned in the final 10 races would determine the champion. If this year's top 10 went back to zero after the September race at Richmond, Matt Kenseth would have seen a 418-point lead erased. Michael Waltrip, 785 points back in 10th at that juncture, would have gone to the first "playoff" race at New Hampshire on equal footing with Kenseth and the eight other drivers in the top 10. And Jimmie Johnson, who wound up second behind Kenseth in the final standings, would have won the title with 1,569 points over the final 10 races. Johnson would have been the guest of honor at Friday night's awards ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. Kenseth would have finished seventh.
Earlier this year NASCAR chief executive officer Bill France Jr. indicated changes to the championship were likely after the 2003 season. France later stepped aside and turned the CEO job over to his son, Brian France, who said Thursday NASCAR is comfortable with its system despite criticism for its emphasis on season-long consistency. Kenseth won only one race in the 2003 but finished 90 points ahead of Johnson, who won three races. Ryan Newman, who led the circuit with eight victories, finished sixth in the final standings because he also had seven races where his No. 12 Dodge was not running at the finish. Top NASCAR officials are scheduled to meet in New York City Saturday to look at possible changes in the system. France said Thursday a final decision on changes to the points system could be announced as late as mid-January.
The first reports that such a system might be considered came from driver Jimmy Spencer on a television show that aired the day after the season's final race at Homestead Miami Speedway. Because the change seemed so radical, however, Spencer's comments drew marginal attention [except on Jayski]. Now it is clear the plan has advocates at the sport's top levels.
After 26 races a year ago, Kurt Busch was 12th in the standings. Over the final 10 races, however, Busch had 1,563 points -- more than anyone who would have qualified to race for the title over the final 10 races. Eventual 2002 champion Tony Stewart, who was fifth after 26 races, had 1,479 over the final 10 races. Brian France said Thursday any system NASCAR adopts would have to choose a "credible" champion. But if Busch scored more points in the final 10 races than Stewart, would that have damaged the credibility of Stewart's title? Because of that situation, officials are looking at possible ways to allow for a "wild card" contender to earn his way into the title chase.
Of the Winston Cup champions crowned since 1996, only Gordon in 1998, Bobby Labonte in 2000 and Stewart last year would have would have also won titles under the 10-race postseason system. Sterling Marlin would have won the 2001 title instead of Gordon. Labonte would have won in 1999 instead of Dale Jarrett. Jarrett would have won in 1997 instead of Gordon and Gordon would have won in 1996 instead of Terry Labonte.(full article on ThatsRacin.com and see another column at FoxSports/Sporitng News: Turning a marathon into a sprint)
AND Bill France Jr., retired chairman of NASCAR but still a power in the stock car sport, isn't convinced the points system needs to be changed.(See full story at NASCAR.com)(12-5-2003)
- Most Popular Driver UPDATE and the winner is.........................: 2003 Grands! Biscuits NMPA NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award to be announced Friday, Dec. 5, 2003, at 8:30am/et and will be presented to the winning driver in New York City. Votes are in, and one driver will receive the 2003 Grands! Biscuits National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award. Most Popular Driver Award dates back to 1956. It began as a simple poll of the drivers and grew to incorporate all NASCAR Winston Cup competitors. Later, it included all NASCAR members. Today, it’s a prestigious award voted on by racing fans nationwide. This year, more than three million votes were cast by thousands of fans nationwide.(Williams Company PR)(12-3-2003)
DALE EARNHARDT JR. The votes are in, and race car fans across the country have named Dale Earnhardt Jr. the 2003 Grands!(R) Biscuits NMPA NASCAR Most Popular Driver. The announcement was made today during the National Motorsports Press Association's (NMPA) Myers Brothers Awards Breakfast at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. While Earnhardt Jr. finished third in the top on-track honor in major league stock car racing, he led throughout the Most Popular Driver fan balloting for the highest off-track honor in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. The driver of the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet maintained a solid first place as voting closed mid-November for the only fan-based award in professional motorsports.
"It means a ton to see the support I've received from the fans," said Earnhardt Jr. "I know that no matter how bad things have been in my life that week or if I've struggled with the race that weekend, it's always helpful to hear the cheers when I walk across the stage during driver introductions."
Earnhardt Jr.'s win also marks the first time both a son and a father have received the Most Popular Driver honor. Racing legend Dale Earnhardt won the award posthumously in 2001.
"The NASCAR fans are a smart bunch. They choose their favorite drivers based on who that driver is as a person and what they represent," Earnhardt Jr. continued. "I try to remember that every day. This means a lot to me that the fans have supported me in such a big way. It was emotional for me to have to accept this award on behalf of my dad in 2001, but it will feel a lot better being able to accept the award this year."
From the fan votes to at-track enthusiasm, it's clear Earnhardt Jr. creates excitement on the racing circuit. "I don't think anyone is surprised Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the Grands!(R) Biscuits NMPA NASCAR Most Popular Driver," said journalist Kenny Bruce, president of the National Motorsports Press Association. "He came close to winning a year ago, and anyone who has listened while he was introduced at races would know that the fans really seem to love him. We are grateful to all of the NASCAR fans who were part of the voting process, and we feel they made a good choice."
For the second year in a row, more than 3 million votes were cast by thousands of race fans nationwide via the Web site, www.mostpopulardriver.com. Pillsbury(R) Grands! Biscuits, the second-year sponsor of the award administered by the National Motorsports Press Association, has worked since voting launched with the season-opening Daytona 500 to increase fan exposure and created new ways for consumers to get involved. "It's been a great honor for us to bring this award to the fans and recognize Dale as their favorite driver," said Annie Zipfel, marketing manager for Pillsbury Grands! Biscuits at General Mills. "We'll continue to share the excitement of this announcement with fans by posting award ceremony highlights on www.mostpopulardriver.com. After all, the fans are really what this award is all about."
Following Earnhardt Jr. in the 2003 Most Popular Driver Award final standings were drivers Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick in second and third place respectively. Rounding out the top ten in descending order of votes were Steve Park [and with no ride for 2004?], Tony Stewart, Michael Waltrip, Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, Kyle Petty and Bobby Labonte. More than 50 drivers received votes. NASCAR's Most Popular Driver Award dates back to 1956. It began as a simple poll of the drivers and grew to incorporate all NASCAR Winston Cup competitors. Later, it included all NASCAR members. Today, it is a prestigious award voted on by racing fans nationwide. Through the years, the voters' choices have ranged from the obvious to the surprising. Bill Elliott edged out Earnhardt Jr. to win the award in 2002. Elliott won the award 16 times before retiring his name from the Most Popular Driver Award voting at the beginning of the 2003 Winston Cup series. Richard Petty won the award nine times. Other past winners have included such notables as Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip.(Business Wire)(12-5-2003)
THE TALLY? Following Earnhardt Jr., who received more than 1.3 millions votes, in the 2003 Most Popular Driver Award final standings were drivers Jeff Gordon (348,629 votes), Kevin Harvick (213,511 votes), Steve Park (152,541 votes), and Tony Stewart (142,899 votes). Rounding out the top ten in descending order of votes were Michael Waltrip, Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, Kyle Petty and Bobby Labonte. More than 50 drivers received votes.(Williams Company PR)(12-5-2003)
- Evernham Announces 2004 plans; Kahne to the #9; Elliott to a limited schedule:
Elliott to run limited schedule in Evernham Motorsports Dodge
Kahne succeeds Elliott as driver of the #9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge
Baldwin joins Evernham as team director for Kahne’s #9 Dodge team
Evernham Engines to supply engines for Kahne’s Busch Series Dodge
Evernham Motorsports announced its lineup this morning for the 2004 NASCAR season. The lineup will include NASCAR legend Bill Elliott, who will run a reduced race schedule in an Evernham Motorsports Dodge; NASCAR Busch Series standout Kasey Kahne, who will succeed Elliott as the driver of the #9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge; Jeremy Mayfield, who will continue as driver of the #19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge; and Tommy Baldwin, who will join Evernham Motorsports as team director for the #9 Dodge team.
Elliott announced his intentions to run a limited schedule for several years and remain with Evernham Motorsports as mentor and coach to the team’s drivers. Elliott’s role will expand in a business capacity with Evernham Motorsports, lending his talent in a variety of endeavors on and off the track. Details of Elliott’s participation as an Evernham Motorsports Dodge driver in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series still are being finalized. Initial plans call for a limited schedule with Ray Evernham and director of competition Sammy Johns overseeing the on-track program for Elliott.
Elliott, the 1988 Winston Cup champion, also announced plans to include fan events in his 2004 schedule. In a show of appreciation for their unending support, Elliott is planning several celebrations to thank his loyal following for their devotion during his four decades of NASCAR competition. More details will follow once sponsorship is secured and Elliott’s final schedule is determined.
Kasey Kahne assumes Elliott’s role as driver of the #9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge. In addition to running a full Nextel Cup schedule in the #9 Dodge, Kahne will compete full time in the NASCAR Busch Series next season. Evernham Engines will supply the #38 Great Clips Dodge with engines for 2004.
Tommy Baldwin joins Evernham Motorsports as team director for Kahne’s Cup operation. “Ray and I have known each other for a while,” said Baldwin. “The opportunity for us to work together never seemed to present itself like I wished it would have. I’m just glad it did this time. Our visions are the same, and I think you’ll see that translate well on track.”
As previously announced, Jeremy Mayfield remains in the #19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge for Evernham Motorsports in 2004, with Kenny Francis returning as team director.
Evernham is pleased that Elliott will remain with his organization. “I’m fortunate that things have fallen into place like they have,” said Evernham. “Bill and I worked closely to make sure we were taking this company in the right direction, but I also wanted to make sure that he had the space to really make the right decision for himself. In making that decision, I think we as an organization have made some strong personnel moves. Kasey Kahne is a bright, young star in this sport, and he will accomplish a lot with guidance from one of the best in the business. Tommy Baldwin is an asset, and I feel very lucky to have him on board. And, we have a solid base with Jeremy Mayfield and Kenny Francis returning as well. With these moves, we are on track with the vision I have for this company, and these additions only make us stronger as we move into 2004.”(Evernham Motorsports site)(12-4-2003)
UPDATE 2: Some confusion remains on what number cars Elliott and Kahne will drive in Cup competition. Elliott said he'll continue to drive the #9 Dodge in events he enters, but Evernham announced Thursday that Kahne will drive the #9 Dodge. Since Kahne will race the full 36-event schedule, it's likely he'll either drive cars with two different numbers (he'll drive in an alternate number car in events that Elliott races in). Potentially, Elliott might have to take a different number. A third option is keeping Elliott in the #9 and giving Kahne a similar number like #09 or #90 or #91 [already used by the team]. The only non-confusing element is that Jeremy Mayfield will remain in the #19 Dodge. Adding to the confusion was Elliott's take on the whole matter. Early in Thursday's teleconference, he remarked that "Kasey Kahne will be the driver of the 9 car." Moments later, Elliott said, "Right now when I run I'll run the 9; Kasey will run the 9 when I'm not racing. We've got a plan, but we're still trying to put it all together." For his part in all this, Evernham said: "Since it's not a retirement tour (for Bill Elliott), we haven't worked out all the car number stuff yet. We're still looking for partners to come on board with us, so they would certainly have some input on the number. Bill is going to run 10-15 races. On the day Bill Elliott decides it's going to be his last race, he will drive the No. 9." He will likely skip the season-opening Daytona 500 and the second race of the season at Rockingham, and make his first start of the year in the third race at Las Vegas. He also foresees running at places like Michigan, California, Pocono and Indianapolis.(ESPN)(12-5-2003)
- SAFER at more tracks by end of 2004: NASCAR president Mike Helton, in his annual state of the sport address, said the sanctioning body's goal is to have steel and foam energy reducing (SAFER) barriers installed at every track where recommended by the end of 2004. "There may be one or two doubting Thomases," Helton said, "but it's hard to argue with the facts. The effectiveness of the new barriers is real."(ThatsRacin.com)(12-5-2003)
- New Stewart Driver for USAC: Josh Wise's open-wheel racing career got a big boost this week when he was chosen to be the driver of a team former NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart is forming to compete in the USAC National Midget series. Wise, 20, of Riverside, said by phone that Stewart called him Tuesday night, but no contracts have been signed because "they're just beginning the process of putting the team together." Stewart, who won the USAC Midget, Sprint and Silver Crown series titles in 1995, also owns a two-car USAC Sprint car team, a World of Outlaws sprint car team and is part-owner of a USAC Silver Crown car. Danny Lasoski is the driver of the Outlaws entry and Cory Kruseman was a teammate in the Sprint car series to J.J. Yeley, who also drove Stewart's Silver Crown car. Yeley, who emulated Stewart by winning all three USAC titles this year, is moving into NASCAR next season. Wise said Dave Steele, who won the recent Turkey Night Grand Prix at Irwindale Speedway, will replace Yeley for the pavement Sprint car events, but no one has been named to drive in the races on dirt. Wise said he would welcome that opportunity, but that isn't in the plan at this point. "I'm going to do the whole National Midget deal," Wise said. "I'm pretty excited. It's what I've wanted to do for a long time and I'm finally getting to do it."(Press-Enterprise)(12-5-2003)
- TV Guide: there are four NASCAR Championship Covers for TV Guide this week: Matt Kenseth, Brian Vickers, Travis Kvapil and Cup rookie of the year Jamie McMurray. See newstands for the issue which are on sale now.
AND Four Collector's Covers with This Season's Nascar Champions Distributed In Portions of Country; Other Areas to Receive The Simple Life Cover. The story: GROWING UP FAST (pg.42) In the high stakes world of NASCAR, prevailing wisdom has traditionally held that experience made drivers better suited to a title run. But this year, a crop of young champs, including Winston Cup winner Matt Kenseth and Winston Cup Rookie of the Year Jamie McMurray, is turning that maxim on its head. Still, championships require a driver who has at least learned the mature lesson of consistency. Kenseth, who posted only one victory in 2003, finished close to the front in enough races to walk off with the title. "Before  started, I thought, given the kind of year we had in -winning the most races but being inconsistent-that we would learn enough as a team to still be competitive but to be more consistent," he tells TV Guide. "On bad days, instead of me messing up and going in the sandtrap at Watkins Glen and finishing 40th when we had a Top 3 car, finish eight if that's the highest you can go with it. Don't go past your limits."(TV Guide PR)(12-4-2003)
- #30 Driver? UPDATE 3 it's....Johnny Sauter: hearing the #30 AOL RCR Chevy may be driven in 2004 by Johnny Sauter? Not sure how this would effect his Busch ride in the #27 Brewco ride...if it happens.(11-19-2003)[more rumors on the #30 Team News and Links page]
UPDATE: Jason Keller said he has discussed a probable vacancy at Brewco Motorsports with officials of that Busch team. The Brewco opportunity appeared with the apparent decision by driver Johnny Sauter, who had agreed to drive for the two-car team next year, to move to the #30 Nextel Cup cars owned by Richard Childress.(Greenville News)(12-3-2003)
UPDATE 2: Johnny Sauter, who left Richard Childress Racing just last month, will return officially today. And with a promotion, no less. Sauter, the youngest driver from the Necedah, Wis., racing family, will be introduced as the driver for Childress' #30 Chevrolet entry in NASCAR's top division, the Nextel Cup Series, next season. The announcement will come during a news conference Thursday morning in New York.(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)(12-4-2003)
UPDATE 3: NASCAR team owner Richard Childress announced today Johnny Sauter will drive the #30 AOL Chevrolet for the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series season and will compete for the 2004 Rookie of the Year Award. “Johnny Sauter has been a big part of RCR’s success the last few seasons,” said Childress. “The move to the Nextel Cup is the next step in his promising career, so I wanted to make sure that step was taken with us. Johnny is the type of driver that fits the RCR mold so I know he’ll do a great job in the AOL Chevrolet.”
“Driving for RCR and AOL in the Nextel Cup Series is just an unbelievable opportunity for me, really a dream come true,” said Sauter. “RCR has been my home since Richard took the chance a few years back and put me in that Busch car. There isn’t another team I would want to race for in my rookie year.” Childress also announced Kevin Hamlin will become Sauter’s crew chief, moving to the #30 AOL team from the #31 Cingular Wireless team. Hamlin led Robby Gordon to a 16th-place finish in the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup point standings, claiming both road course wins. Since joining RCR in 1997, Hamlin has nine Winston Cup victories, claiming wins with every driver with which he has worked. Hamlin will bring his entire 2003 #31 crew in making the move to join Sauter on the 2004 #30 AOL team. "We're delighted that a promising young driver like Johnny Sauter will be in the seat of the #30 AOL Chevrolet. Pairing Johnny with an experienced crew chief like Kevin Hamlin will allow the AOL team to win races and aggressively compete for the Rookie of the Year Award in 2004," said Richard Taylor, Senior Vice President of Brand Marketing for America Online. "Our partnership with NASCAR is a great fit with our AOL for Broadband high-speed offerings, and we look forward to continuing that partnership with this new team next season."(RCR PR)(12-4-2003)
- Promotion at RYR: Robert Yates Racing announced today that Bill Seaborn has been promoted to Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for the organization. Seaborn's responsibilities include the management of RYR's sponsorship sales and service, product licensing and corporate marketing. With more than 22 years of experience in the sport, Seaborn served in various capacities at NASCAR, Inc. including marketing, licensing and public relations. Additionally, Seaborn was Vice President of Action Performance Companies, Inc.(RYR PR)(12-4-2003)
- Wilburn to be re-assigned? UPDATE 3: hearing current #2 crew chief, Bill Wilburn, will not be the #2 Miller Lite Dodge crew chief in 2004, but will be be re-assigned within the organization, no word on any candidates yet.(10-24-2003)
UPDATE: during rain delay coverage, NBC interviewed Rusty Wallace, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, and Wallace said Wilburn would be back in 2004 as his crew chief and that they have 2-years invested in working together.(NBC Rain Delay Coverage)(10-26-2003)
UPDATE 2: Rusty Wallace refuted recent reports that crew chief Bill Wilburn would be leaving after the season. Wallace hasn't claimed a victory since Wilburn became his crew chief at the beginning of 2002. "We've got a lot of time and effort invested in Billy Wilburn, but we're getting better and better together," said Wallace, who is winless in 94 races. "There's been a lot of controversy on the Internet about Billy, but he's a friend of mine. He's a good kid, and we've got a good race team."(Richmond Times Dispatch)(10-27-2003)
UPDATE 3: Bill Wilburn, crew chief for Winston Cup driver Rusty Wallace, said Saturday he plans to sit down with his driver after the season is over to determine whether he will return next season. Wallace and Penske Racing co-owner Don Miller have expressed confidence in Wilburn over the past week. Wilburn, however, said he wants to make sure Wallace is pleased with the team's direction.(ThatsRacin.com)(11-8-2003)
Wilburn out? UPDATE 4 yes: hearing that #2 Miller Lite Dodge crew chief Bill Wilburn has decided NOT to return as Rusty Wallace's crew chief in 2004.(12-3-2003)
UPDATE 5: Miller Lite Team Penske Dodge driver Rusty Wallace confirmed today that his team is engaged in an "active effort" to land a new crew chief for his Penske Racing South Team for the 2004 season. "We had a lengthy discussion and the situation with Billy is as amicable as it can possibly be," Wallace said of Bill Wilburn, his crew chief for the last two seasons. "Billy will continue to be an active team player with us and he will be a big asset as he has always been. He will remain as a key member within our organization. The bottom line was, after studying our team situation at great length and laying out our plans for the future, we concluded that this change was necessary," Wallace added. "Bill felt that it was in everyone's best interest that he go ahead and tell all the guys on the team what was occurring -- or going to occur -- and I applaud him for that. With Billy deciding to make it known that he would not be returning in the crew chief position and with our desire to launch an active effort to find the best person available to fill the spot, we just felt it was appropriate to get all of this out in the public. This is the best way to handle it -- to present the facts as they are -- and not see the rumor mill churn out hearsay, half-truths and innuendo."(Tom Roberts PR)(12-4-2003)
- Waiting on Kodak; Burton to the #30? #99 to close? UPDATE 3 Burton staying: Kodak holds the key domino in the Cup garage. If its sponsorship goes to Penske, it's possible Penske would field a third team, in conjunction with Jasper Engines and with driver Brendan Gaughan [see #77 Team News and Links page for the rumors on this]. Though Dave Blaney signed a contract with Jasper last September, his future is uncertain. If Kodak's sponsorship goes to Roush, it would lock in Jeff Burton. Burton, though, appears to be the driver Richard Childress has been waiting for to drive the #30 AOL Chevy [although rumors have Johnny Sauter in the car also], if Burton's #99 team can't land Kodak or another sponsor [rumored sponsor for #99: Astra Zeneca.(Yahoo Sports/Sporting News)
UPDATE: being told the #99 does not not get a sponsor within the next few days Burton will go to the #30 AOL Chevy and AOL will extend their contract from thru 2004, to thru 2006, otherwise Sauter would probably end up in the #30 and hearing the #77/Kodak/Gaughan deal is pretty much done and Kodak has made their decision. No word on what Blaney will do or his plans.(12-1-2003)
UPDATE 2: being told the #99 could be the next team to shut down if no sponsor is found.(12-2-2003)
UPDATE 3: The #99 team at Roush Racing has no sponsor for 2004, but it still has a driver. Jeff Burton said Tuesday he'll stay with the team he's been with since 1996, taking his name out of the speculation about the #30 AOL Chevrolets owned by Richard Childress. Childress has a news conference scheduled for Thursday in New York City to announce a driver for that car for next season. Sources have told The Charlotte Observer that Johnny Sauter is now the leading candidate for that position [see my #30 Team News and Links page for past rumors]. "I am committed to Roush Racing and Roush Racing is committed to me," Burton said. "We are in a position that we need to put a sponsor on our car. ...But we will field a well-funded, championship-contending race team next year. We are full-speed ahead." Burton did not specifically address the open seat in the #30 Chevrolets, but did say that other car owners have expressed interest in having him drive for their teams. "That has been flattering," Burton said. "But my allegiance is with Roush Racing. When things have been good, we've done them together, and when things have been bad we've gone through them together." Burton said that he is confident his team will sign a sponsor, but said Roush has assured him the #99 will run a full schedule in 2004 even if no sponsor can be signed.(ThatsRacin.com)(12-3-2003)
UPDATE 4: Roush Racing and NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Jeff Burton announced today that Burton will remain with Roush and the #99 team heading into the 2004 season. Burton signed a multi-year contract with Roush back in September and he continues to
be committed to Roush Racing and the #99 team. "My commitment to Roush Racing is strong," said Burton. "I have said all along that Roush is where I want to be and that's where I'm staying. Jack (Roush, Owner) is committed to this team and so am I. We've built
something that really means a lot. We spent last year re-building and we are looking to capitalize on it in 2004 and return the #99 Ford
to victory lane where it belongs."
Roush Racing will continue the search for a primary sponsor for the #99 Ford while Burton and the team move ahead with off-season
testing and preparation. Roush Racing President Geoff Smith remains strong in his conviction that there will be a sponsor for the #99
team in the near future. "We are very disappointed by the poor business climate for primary sponsorship in the Nextel Cup Series." Smith continued, "The #99 program is the best program out there right now and Jeff Burton is in the upper 20th percentile in his worst season finishing 12th in the overall point standings. We can't imagine that a primary sponsor won't join us in 2004. Roush Racing is making an investment to continue the operation of the #99 team with Jeff Burton as the driver in 2004 to try and pursue the first Nextel Cup." Burton is also confident the team will have a sponsor soon, thus putting to rest the rumors. "We are not approaching this year as if we don't have a sponsor," Burton said. "I'm confident we will finalize something soon and until then we are full speed ahead in our quest to win the Nextel Cup Championship. Our testing, preparation, car building and people hiring is just like it has been. We are committed to signing a sponsor and until then we are business as usual. No one should question our resolve, determination or ability."
(Roush Racing PR)(12-4-2003)
- #31 Crew Chief? UPDATE: Changes were already in the works at Richard Childress Racing. Although a driver has not been selected for the #30, sources say Kevin Hamlin will be the new crew chief. Chris Andrews, who was Robby Gordon's engineer on the #31 Cingular Chevy, is expected to become the crew chief for that squad with a more experienced crew chief to become team manager later.(Yahoo Sports/Sporting News)(12-1-2003)
UPDATE: Richard Childress Racing announced today Chris Andrews, former RCR team engineer, will begin his rookie crew chief season in 2004 with Robby Gordon and the #31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet team. In addition, to round out the rest of Team Cingular Wireless, the majority of the 2003 #30 crew members will join Andrews and Gordon to run for the 2004 NASCAR Cup championship. "Robby got used to working with an engineer instead of a crew chief from his days of driving Indy Cars so this will be nothing new to him," said Richard Childress, president and CEO of Richard Childress Racing. "Chris and Kevin Hamlin were successful last year working side-by-side with Robby on the Cingular Wireless team and I see Chris making a smooth transition to calling the shots on his own. I think Robby and Chris working with the crew from last season's America Online team can be a very successful combination." An Evansville, Ind., native and 1992 graduate of Purdue University’s School of Interdisciplinary Engineering, Andrews has been an employee at Richard Childress Racing since 1999. One of the first engineers hired to join RCR, Andrews has worked with every Cup and Busch team but started focusing most of his attention toward the #31 Cingular Wireless team the latter part of the 2002 season after the #29/#31 crew swap took place. “I have known Robby for almost 10 years now and we have worked great together the last year-and-a-half so I am ready to just keep moving forward and work for a win every weekend in 2004,” Andrews said. “This is a great opportunity Richard is giving me. I am very excited and optimistic about what lies ahead because we are building great race cars and a great team.”(RCR PR)(12-4-2003)
- Mears Wins: Casey Mears [driver of the #41 Target Dodge], who was in the Canary Islands for the Michelin ROC Nations Cup, won the ROC America Challenge powered by Centrix Financial. The challenge took place Friday night before the Nations Cup and pitted Mears against his Team USA teammates Boris Said and Travis Pastrana, along with the 2003 Baja 1000 winner Ryan Arciero.
After winning the ROC America Challenge on Friday, Mears along with Said and Pastrana competed in the Michelin ROC Nations Cup. This race was created to find the “World’s Fastest Nation” and each country is represented by a circuit racer, a rally (or off-road) driver and a motorcycle rider. Team USA powered by Centrix Financial were defeated in the semi-finals three heats to two by the eventual winners the All Stars team.(Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates PR)(12-4-2003)
- Elliott Announcement on Dec 4th? UPDATE 4: hearing Bill Elliott's 2004 plans will be announced in New York City during the Winston Cup Banquet week [Banquet is on Dec 5th]. Whether Elliott drives or not, he will supposedly remain with Evernham Motorsports in some capacity. Much depends on what happens with Kasey Kahne and Ford.(11-25-2003)
UPDATE: Evernham Motorsports, including Ray Evernham, Bill Elliott and Jeremy Mayfield, will announce its driver lineup for the #9 and #19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepids for the 2004 season at the Winston Media Center at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC on Thursday, December 4 at 9:30am/et.(Golin Harris PR)
UPDATE 2: Jayski was told that Eliiott is supposed to run 8-10 races in the #91 Evernham Dodge, so that rookie Casey Kahne can run the #9 with owner's points.(12-2-2003)
AND the Athens Banner-Herald [as is NASCAR.com and the AP] is reporting that: Bill Elliott will announce his retirement Thursday from full-time driving on the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, Morris News Service has learned. Elliott will hold a news conference in New York as part of the NASCAR Winston Cup awards show, ending months of speculation by saying the 2003 campaign was his last. The 48-year-old driver will be replaced by Kasey Kahne, 23. Kahne recently won his release from Ford Motorsports and will drive on the NASCAR Busch Series for Brad Akins and on the Nextel Cup Series for Ray Evernham, sources close to Dodge confirmed.(Athens Banner-Herald)
BUT USA Today reports: Former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott is expected to announce today that he will run a partial 2004 schedule with up-and-coming driver Kasey Kahne taking his place with the Evernham Motorsports team. Kahne, 23, is trying to get out of his contract with Ford because Evernham's team runs Dodges. Elliott could run up to 15 races next year, if the team finds a sponsor for a third car. Kahne and Jeremy Mayfield would be the regular drivers. Elliott wasn't available for comment.(USA Today)
Elliott Chat: NASCAR.com will host a LIVE chat with former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott, Thurs., Dec. 4 at 10:45 AM ET. Elliott is reportedly announcing his retirement as a full-time NASCAR driver, at a press conference tomorrow morning in New York. The chat will follow the press conference.(12-3-2003)
UPDATE 4: Former Winston Cup champion Bill Elliott will run a limited schedule next season and take an active role in the development of his successor at Evernham Motorsports, NASCAR sources confirmed Wednesday. Elliott, 48, is expected to reveal his plans at a news conference Thursday morning at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, site of Friday night's Winston Cup awards ceremony. Elliott's move to a limited schedule – which may involve more than one season, depending on sponsor issues and Elliott's desire to continue racing – makes way for the arrival of NASCAR Busch Series driver Kasey Kahne at Evernham. Kahne, 23, will drive the #9 Dodge the entire 2004 Nextel Cup schedule, sources said. The races Elliott runs, perhaps as many as 10 a season, will be in a third Evernham entry, the number of which has yet to be determined, sources said. In Thursday's announcement, Elliott is expected to make clear his limited schedule is not a "retirement tour," per se, sources said. Instead, Elliott's role at Evernham will be more as a mentor for Kahne and Elliott will take on a more active role as a business partner with team owner Ray Evernham, sources said. Evernham, Elliott and Kahne were traveling to New York on Wednesday and unavailable for comment. All three, as well as Evernham driver Jeremy Mayfield, are expected to attend Thursday's announcement. After a sometimes-testy public dispute with Ford, it appears the contract issues have been resolved, at least to the point that Kahne is able to drive for Evernham's Dodge organization. Kahne will also continue to drive for Akins next season in the #38, which will move to Dodge and utilize Evernham engines.(Thatsracin.com)(12-4-2003)
- New Elite Sponsorship: AutoZone Inc. has signed a deal to become the title sponsor of the NASCAR Elite Division, a racing circuit that is two tiers below the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Because of the deal the division will be known as the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division.(Commercial Appeal)(12-3-2003)
- Another artist in the works? Sam and Denise Bass' baby arrived on Saturday, November 29 at 9:16am/et, his name is Samuel Mark Bass, Jr. and they are going to call him Mark. He weighed in at 6 lbs. 13 oz. Mom and baby are fine. More about Sam at Sambass.com.(12-3-2003)
- more Congrats: Megan and Brian Englehart of RCR welcome a set of twins. Megan is the #31 PR person and Brian is the gasman for the #29 car.(12-3-2003)
- Allison book in 2nd print: "Bobby Allison: A Racer's Racer" by Bobby Allison with Tim Packman is in its second print! Due to overwhelming demand the publisher has ordered a re-print only 2 months after release. Bobby's stories and photographs have brought back fond memories to those who were around during the "good ole days". And the book has given others a first-hand look at a legend who has helped make NASCAR the fastest growing sport in America. However, those who've bought the book have raved most about the CD. Listening to Bobby tell a story only the way he can has been called "laugh out loud" and "hysterical" (amazon.com). Officially licensed by NASCAR. With the demand for the book increasing, Bobby Allison and Tim Packman are headed to Buffalo, NY this weekend for four book signings in two days. After doing a radio and TV blitz on Friday morning, the two will stop by Clarence Central High School, where Packman graduated from in 1982, in the afternoon to donate a book to the school's library. Also, three December signings in the Charlotte area have been added. For more details about the Buffalo and Charlotte signings, log on to www.BobbyAllison.com for times and locations.(12-3-2003)
- #1 and Andretti in 2004? UPDATE 3 DEI announcement: Dale Earnhardt Inc. also has been pursuing Kodak, but sources say it plans to run John Andretti in the #1 car regardless of Kodak's decision.(Yahoo Sports/Sporting News)
UPDATE: am hearing that DEI is now considering a partial schedule with Andretti as driver in the #1 Chevy.(12-1-2003)
UPDATE 2: hearing that DEI has decided to shut down the #1 team and has released many  of the team members. Supposedly plans are to now run a full Busch schedule with Martin Truex Jr. and to possibly run some cup races with him. Also heard the team will run a seven race schedule and Andretti would drive those races.(12-2-2003)
AND supposedly Chance 2 Motorsports will run a full schedule in a quest of the NASCAR Busch Series championship in 2004. Martin Truex, Jr. will be the primary driver and Earnhardt, Jr. will drive a second car for superspeedway races at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Also, the #1 Chevy will be run under a different marketing program next year only participating in special races. John Andretti will drive in the Daytona 500. Truex, Jr. will also participate in seven Cup Series races in 2004 to prepare for a full-time move to the series in 2005.
UPDATE 3: For the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup and Busch Series seasons, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. has announced changes to two of its four teams. Chance 2 Motorsports, co-owned by Teresa Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., will run a full schedule in a quest of the NASCAR Busch Series championship in 2004. Martin Truex, Jr. will be the primary driver and Earnhardt, Jr. will drive a second car for superspeedway races at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Also, the #1 Chevrolet will be run under a different marketing program next year only participating in special races. John Andretti will drive in the season-opening Daytona 500. The new plan also calls for Truex, Jr. to run five - seven Nextel Cup Series races in 2004 to prepare for a possible full-time move to the series in 2005. "This is the approach we decided to take looking toward the 2005 season," said Teresa Earnhardt, President and CEO of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. "We are going to strengthen our program for the No. 1 car and get that back to the status of Earnhardt standards. From a marketing standpoint, this is a great opportunity for a company to get involved with a Nextel Cup team. And, a young driver such as Truex Jr. in our No. 1 car will be the perfect place to utilize that strategy. Truex, Jr. competed in six Busch races with Chance 2 Motorsports this season garnering two top-five finishes and three top-10s. He closed the season with two, consecutive second-place finishes. By competing in just seven races this year, Truex Jr. will be eligible to compete for Rookie of the Year honors in Nextel Cup in 2005. Dale Earnhardt, Inc. has won two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and two NASCAR Busch Series championships. "I'm really looking forward to run for the Busch championship," Truex, Jr., 23, said. "After six races with Chance 2 in 2003, I was really pleased with the way things went and how we performed. Some of our finishes didn't reflect what we are truly capable of achieving on the track. But, we'll have 34 races next year to capitalize on what we learned this year together. I have the best equipment, crew chief and team anyone could ask for in the Busch garage. We ended the season on a positive note with two, second-place finishes." Teresa Earnhardt was on top of the team's pit box during the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway when Truex, Jr. finished second. "The Chance 2 team and Martin have shown they are capable of competing up to the standards we strive to achieve here at Dale Earnhardt, Inc.," Earnhardt said. "Committing to a full season in the Busch Series will better prepare us to meet the high standards of the No. 1 team in 2005."(DEI PR)(12-3-2003)
- Craven to test at Kentucky CORRECTION: Kentucky Speedway says Ricky Craven is scheduled to test PPI Motorsports' Nextel Cup entry Wednesday and Thursday. While testing is closed, the track says fans can watch from the front of its fan center. The team, which fielded the #32 Tide Pontiac for Craven this season, is scheduled to switch to Chevrolet next year in the wake of General Motors' decision to end its Pontiac NASCAR program.(Winston Cup Scene Daily Newsletter)(12-2-2003)
CORRECTION: being told the dates for this test are wrong and the #32 will test at Kentucky on Dec 17th and 18th after wind tunnel testing on Dec 10th. Fans can watch from the front of the Turn 3 Fan Center.(12-3-2003)
- NASCAR's Annual Awards Banquet Airs on TNT: NASCAR fans are in for a treat during the first week of December as "NASCAR Fanshop", and QVC's "For Race Fans Only," two popular direct response shows featuring NASCAR diecast and other collectibles, come to the Big Apple for live broadcasts on December 4th and 5th, respectively.
"NASCAR Fanshop" will air live from New York City's Waldorf-Astoria, featuring "NASCAR on Fox" commentator Jeff Hammond. The program and will air from 9:00 - 11:00pm/et on SPEED Channel. The episode will offer merchandise related to NASCAR 2003 Winston Cup Champion Matt Kenseth.
QVC's "For Race Fans Only," which will be broadcast live from the Waldorf-Astoria on December 5th at 8:00 to 9 p.m., will showcase "Victory Lap" merchandise that commemorates NASCAR's long-time series sponsor, Winston, along with other licensed merchandise featuring the NASCAR Top 10.
The live taping of these shows is just one part of a slate of NASCAR activities in New York during Champions' week. The week will culminate with the NASCAR Winston Cup Series Award Ceremony being taped from the Waldorf-Astoria on December 5th. The awards ceremony, attended by NASCAR's Top 10, and featuring musical guests LeAnn Rimes and Harry Connick Jr., with a special appearance by Kiefer Sutherland, will air on TNT at 9 p.m. EDT. TNT broadcasts several NASCAR races throughout the season.
"We are pleased that 'NASCAR Fanshop' and 'For Race Fans Only' will be a part of the festivities in New York honoring champion Matt Kenseth and the NASCAR Top 10," said Mark Dyer, VP of Licensing and Consumer Products for NASCAR. "Bringing these shows to the Waldorf-Astoria is a natural extension of the success the programs have had all year long."(NASCAR PR)(12-2-2003)
- National Guard to the #16? Grainger Out? UPDATE 2: it appears that the Army National Guard will be going to the #16 Roush Racing Ford and driver Greg Biffle, being the primary associate for several races with the option to be a primary for a few select races. Supposedly Grainger will still be on the car but will spilt it's primary sponsorship with National Guard. See much more about the 'Guard rumor' past news on my #16 Team News and Links page. Also hearing USPS and Subway [Sandwiches - Jarred] could be part of the sponsorhip package.(11-18-2003)
UPDATE: been told that Grainger will not sponsor Greg Biffle or the #16 car in 2004.(11-26-2003)
UPDATE 2: there will be an announcement concerning Greg Biffle and Roush Racing on Wednesday, Dec 10th [NOT 3rd] about the 2004 season and the #16 team.(12-2-2003)
- Congrats: Leland (Lee) Anthony Raines was born today at 1:30pm/et to Sue and Tony Raines, Mom and baby are doing fine, seven + pounds and 22 inches long.(12-2-2003)
- Burton and Roush to run some Busch races: Roush Racing announced today that Cottman Transmission will sponsor Jeff Burton and the #9 Ford for four Busch Series races in 2004. The limited schedule includes Darlington (Mar. 21), Fontana (May 2), Dover (Sept. 23) and Atlanta (Oct. 31). "I'm really excited to expand my relationship with Cottman Transmission moving into 2004," said Burton. "It's great to get back in the #9 Ford and race a limited Busch Series schedule next year with Cottman. I'm looking forward to putting the #9 Cottman Transmission Ford back in victory lane." In 2003 Cottman Transmission had a personal services agreement with
Burton which will carry over into 2004 along with their four race sponsorship of the #9 Ford. Todd Leff, President and CEO of Cottman Transmission embraces the opportunity to build on an already successful partnership. "Jeff Burton has been a great representative for Cottman Transmission over the past two years." Leff continued, "And our dealers are really excited to be taking the relationship to the next level." Cottman Transmission was founded in 1962 and is the nation's fastest growing chain of transmission repair centers. With more than 400 locations coast to coast, Cottman specializes in every phase of transmission work, including manual and automatic transmissions, American and import vehicles, front-wheel and four-wheel drives. For more information on Cottman Transmission, go to www.cottman.com. In addition to the four races with Cottman Transmission, Burton will also run three races with the Pennzoil colors for a total of seven Busch Series races in 2004. This revives the #9 team that ran away with five wins, two poles, eight top five and nine top 10 finishes in just 14 starts in 2002. "I'm really looking forward to 2004," said Burton. "We have a lot of exciting things happening in 2004 with a lot of great sponsors and to get back in the #9 Ford is just awesome."(Roush Racing PR), doesn't sound like Burton is leaving Roush Racing for RCR if he is doing a Busch deal.(12-2-2003)
- Green signed? UPDATE: hearing Jeff Green has signed with Petty Enterprises to drive the #43 Cheerios Dodge in 2004.(12-1-2003)
UPDATE: Picking up where he left off at the end of 2003, Jeff Green will drive the #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge in 2004 for Petty Enterprises. Kyle Petty, CEO of Petty Enterprises, made the announcement today. The 41-year-old Green, a native of Owensboro, Ky., first climbed behind the wheel of the Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge at the tough one-mile Dover (Del.) International Speedway, and knocked down a 16th-place finish. The fact he and the ‘Helping Hands’ crew were able to come together so quickly was not lost on Petty Enterprises, or the rest of the Winston Cup garage. Green finished the season with Petty Enterprises, developing a rapport with crew chief Gary Putnam and the rest of the team, and helping develop strong morale. “We just kind of clicked,” Green said. “Gary and those guys have a lot of knowledge and experience, and we communicated well from the very beginning. Having those races together this past season should help us a lot as we start 2004. I am excited to be part of Petty Enterprises, to drive the famous number 43, but most of all, to be working with some very talented people.” Petty said he was excited as well.
“As Jeff spent more time in the car, and as he and Gary and the Cheerios guys worked together, it started to become pretty obvious he was the best choice we could make for a driver,” Petty said. “He knows how to win races and he knows how to win championships. We feel we can give him the people and equipment he needs to be successful, and we’re looking forward to a great relationship.”
“We are thrilled with Petty Enterprises’ decision to put Jeff Green behind the wheel of the #43 in 2004,” said Laurie Greeno, Vice President of Motorsports for General Mills. “We are excited to work with Jeff and are confident that he’ll be a good ambassador for Cheerios, Betty Crocker and other great General Mills brands featured on the #43 throughout the year.” Green goes into the 2004 season-opening Daytona 500 as the defending pole award winner, and is eligible to compete in the Bud Shootout of pole winners from the 2003 season [no word what car he will drive as Petty cars do not carry the Budweiser sticker]. He has completed two full seasons of NASCAR Cup racing, notching four top-five and 10 top-10 finishes over the past two years, as well as winning $5.2 million.(Williams Company)(12-2-2003)
- Kodak to scale back on the #4 BUT have a new sponsor lined up: Morgan-McClure Motorsports general manager Larry McClure confirmed Monday that the #4 team will have a new primary sponsor for the upcoming season. The current 18-year marriage between Kodak and the Abingdon-based M-M organization has been one of the longest in the sport's history. "We should have our major sponsor signed by Dec. 8," McClure said. "A few details are still being worked out. And Kodak will still be an associate sponsor on our car for the next three years." McClure did not divulge details on the length of the new sponsor package. As for the other big question mark at M-M - who will be the driver next year - stay tuned. Veteran Kevin Lepage, who finished the season as the driver of the #4 Kodak Pontiac, actually visited the sprawling race shop Monday morning. "Kevin is still on top of our list right now," McClure said. "He has done the best job for us. Over the last six races, we had an average finish of 24th in the points and that's about the best we did all season. We had some opportunities to finish better in several of those races, but we were competitive and feel pretty good about what we accomplished." Veteran crew chief Tim Brewer will return in the twin role of team manager and crew chief as Morgan-McClure switches back to the Chevrolet banner this season. "Right now, Tim is wearing those two hats," McClure said. "If Tim chooses to put somebody else in the crew chief position, that will be his call. The rest of the pit crew is pretty much intact." Bristol native Chris Carrier and longtime crew member Mark Prater are no longer with the team. Carrier began the 2003 season as the crew chief. After dealing with numerous interview requests and questions in recent weeks, McClure is eager to quell the speculation regarding the financial backing. "I am real excited. This is going to be a high-profile sponsor who hasn't been in the sport before. They have a lot of promotions planned, including a marketing push on TV," he said. "We've been working on this for about two months and we look forward to the announcement. It's been a good relationship for us and Kodak," McClure said. "I wish the best for Kodak. They are going to be a major sponsor with another team. We've all seen the Internet reports, but I have no idea what team that will be. We will just see how it goes for Kodak and for us." It also appears that Eric McClure, son of team co-owner Jerry McClure, will compete in several NASCAR Busch Series races.(Bristol Herald Courier)(12-2-2003)
- Sporting News Pubs: Sporting News has partnered with NASCAR to develop and distribute three racing publications: The NASCAR Review and The NASCAR Nextel Cup Preview magazines, and The NASCAR Record and Fact Book. Preview is the first NASCAR-related title under the Nextel banner, which takes over for Winston as the series' sponsor starting in 2004. The $7.99 mag will debut in January, with an expected circulation of 400,000. Review, slated for release this month, will have a circulation of 250,000.(Media Post)(12-2-2003)
- Sad News: Buddy Helms, a stock car racing pioneer who entered a 1946 Hudson Super Six into the first NASCAR sanctioned race in 1949, died at the Ryder Trauma Center on December 1 at the age of 87, just two weeks after he had been honored as the oldest living NASCAR driver in a special parade lap at the Homestead-Miami Speedway prior to the "Ford 400" Winston Cup season finale. "It was the most exciting day of my life!" he was to comment after circling the newly banked track in a 1965 Ford Mustang convertible. The appreciative race fans screamed his name as he cruised across the finish line. Helms was critically burned in a gasoline accident at his Fort Lauderdale home on November 18, while replacing a fuel pump on a vintage Chevrolet marine engine. He fought a valiant battle to live until succumbing to congestive heart failure on Monday. In addition to that opening Charlotte race, the North Carolina native also drove in Atlanta, Martinsville, North Wilkesboro, and Hillsboro. Car owner Sam Rice selected Buddy as relief driver for renowned racing legend, Fireball Roberts, in NASCAR's first "Southern 500" at the newly opened Darlington Speedway in 1950.
He was chief mechanic for daredevil Buddy Shuman, who finished in the top ten points standings in 1952. He was the "set-up" man for Buck Baker's winning Oldsmobile at Darlington in 1953, and was called upon again by perennial contender Speedy Thompson to build the winning Chevrolet that won the "Southern 500" in 1957. After moving to South Florida in 1958, he worked closely with legendary boat builder Richard Bertram to perfect the revolutionary "Deep V" hull that became the industry standard for all fiberglass hull designs that followed. He remained in the marine industry until his retirement in 1975. A memorial service will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, December 4, followed by a special remembrance service in Charlotte, North Carolina on Saturday, December 20, at Myers Park Presbyterian Church.(Yahoo)(12-2-2003)
- Kenny Wallace and Stacker 2 to Present $5,000 to FDNY Station 23: NASCAR fans continue to recognize the heroic deeds of the Fire Department of New York City two years after the Sept. 11 tragedy. Stacker 2, “The World’s Strongest Fat Burner” and sponsor of the No. 23 cars that competed in NASCAR’s top two divisions this year, asked fans to donate $1 to FDNY Stationhouse 23 at five NASCAR races this season. The fans responded with donations totaling $5,000.
Stacker 2 Dodge driver Kenny Wallace and Bob Emilian, vice president of retail marketing for Stacker 2, will present a check for $5,000 to the Thomas R. Elsasser Fund on behalf of FDNY Stationhouse 23 in a Dec. 3 ceremony at the firehouse. Capt. John Bendick of Engine Company No. 23 will accept the check for the foundation. The Elsasser Fund supports families of active FDNY members that died while not in the line of duty. Race fans in the midway area during a race weekend in which this fundraiser was being held came to the Stacker 2 Splash of Energy Tour display and donated $1 to “The Lion’s Den,” Fire Department of New York City stationhouse number 23. Fans were also entered into a drawing to win a helmet signed by all Winston Cup and Busch Series drivers. All proceeds from this drawing went directly to the firehouse.
The program was developed by NVE Pharmaceuticals, the parent company of Stacker 2, in order to pay tribute to all the men and women that were lost in the Sept. 11 attacks. The cars of Stacker 2 drivers Wallace and Scott Wimmer carried a special “The Lion’s Den” decal throughout September as a tribute to the heroic Station 23. “It is such a great thing that Stacker 2 is doing for the fallen heroes of 9/11,” Wallace said. “Stacker 2 really is passionate about giving back to society, and that is why they are such a great sponsor. I am proud to drive for them.” The program began at Dover (Del.) International Speedway in conjunction with The Stacker 200 presented by YJ Stinger, a 2003 Busch Series race. The other four tracks that hosted the program were Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.; Memphis (Tenn.) Motorsports Park; Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. “This program is near and dear to everyone’s heart here at NVE because of our close proximity to New York City,” said Bob Occhifinto, President/CEO for NVE. “We all knew people that lost their lives in the terrible attack on our country. We feel it is our duty to try to repay all the heroic men and women who put their lives on the line everyday for the citizens of the United States.”(Keystone Marketing PR)(12-2-2003)
- Kenseth in USA Today Ad: To honor 2003 Winston Cup Champ Matt Kenseth and his #17 Roush Racing teammates for their outstanding year, Smirnoff Ice Triple Black has taken out a full-page color advertisement in USA Today, which will run in its December 4 edition. The ad contains a black background with a large, white #17 in the upper half of the page. The seven is crossed out in red, and a red number sign is next to the No. 1, which reflects Kenseth’s Winston Cup points finish. The bottom half of the advertisement contains the Smirnoff Ice Triple Black logo with the message: "Congratulations to Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 Roush Racing Team, 2003 Winston Cup champions, from your fans at Smirnoff Ice." The driver’s Ford Taurus racecar is positioned below the message, and the brand’s responsible driving campaign tagline "Be Smart, Drink Responsibly" is positioned in the bottom left-hand side of the ad.
"The Smirnoff Ice Triple Black family is very proud of Matt and the entire No. 17 Roush Racing Team," said James Stammer, Smirnoff Senior Brand Manager. "It was a fun and exciting championship season, and we were happy to be along for the ride."
Kenseth drove his No. 17 Smirnoff Ice Triple Black car in seven of the Series’ 36 races this season, promoting the brand’s responsible drinking program.(Alan Taylor Communications PR)(12-2-2003)
- AMW offers money back Guarantee: America’s Most Wanted Motorsports once again is offering a unique motorsports sponsorship opportunity, a money back guarantee. “This is not a new concept by any means”, stated Scott Davis of AMW Motorsports, “I saw that Rockwell Automation had put together a similar plan for their racing program and I congratulate them for their creativity for their sponsors, but I felt that we could do more. We have a guaranteed media value that could exceed $3 million dollars, a cause marketing plan, plus a race team, so I felt that we could be successful offering a money back guarantee as well.” As theirs in similarity, our “Money Back Guarantee”will be derived from the total media value, and if AMW Motorsports does not deliver 100% of a corporation’s sponsorship dollars invested in the form of media value, AMW Motorsports will refund the Total Dollars Invested. The media being offered is just part of the program. The opportunity to associate a corporation with John Walsh and his team, and the ability to build marketing and media advertising opportunities around the sponsorship provide the chance to significantly multiply corporations ROI.(more info at Body Dynamics Racing site)(12-2-2003)
- Announcements This Week:
Next Thursday is shaping up to be a day of answers in NASCAR. News conferences scheduled for next Thursday morning by Richard Childress Racing and Evernham Motorsports at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City should shed some light on several lingering questions left over from the 2003 season.
RCR will start the morning addressing its #30 AOL Chevrolet team in Winston Cup, announcing its new driver for the 2004 season and crew chief, sources said. Although the driver situation remains clouded, sources confirmed Kevin Hamlin, currently the crew chief with RCR's #31 Cup team, will move to the #30 in the same role.
RCR's announcement will be followed shortly by another from Evernham Motorsports.
The scope of the Evernham announcement remains unclear, but sources confirmed the future of veteran Bill Elliott, who drives the #9 Dodge for Evernham, will be addressed at the event. For the past several months, Elliott, 48, has been contemplating retirement, or at least a reduced schedule for the 2004 season.(ThatsRacin.com)(11-26/12-1-2003)
- New #77 Crew Chief? hear Steven Lane is close to being named new crew chief at the #77 Ford [to be Dodge], once the Kodak sponsorship goes into place. He was with Petty Enterprises until a few weeks ago, but worked for Penske prior to that as a car chief.(12-1-2003)
- Florida newspaper loses appeal over Earnhardt autopsy photographs: The Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from a student-run newspaper that wanted autopsy photos of race car driver Dale Earnhardt. The newspaper had challenged the constitutionality of a Florida law passed after Earnhardt's death, barring public access to autopsy pictures. Before the law, Florida had allowed the public to see the photographs for 90 years without any problems, attorney Thomas Julin told justices in a filing. He said the access was used to uncover medical examiners' negligence or criminal activities. The paper sought the photos as questions arose over how the racer died and whether better safety equipment might have saved him. The seven-time Winston Cup champion died on Feb. 18, 2001, when his car hit the wall on the final turn at the Daytona 500. Doctors said he died instantly from head injuries. Lawyers for Earnhardt's widow, Teresa, said that the court's ruling against the newspaper did not involve federal constitutional issues and the Supreme Court should stay out of it. Under the newspaper's interpretation of free speech rights, the lawyers said, "the First Amendment ceases to be a bulwark of freedom, and instead turns it into a nuclear warhead used to eradicate the very freedom it was meant to protect." Supporters of the law, which has been copied in other states, say the measure protects families from seeing a relative's autopsy photos in newspapers or on the Internet. Under the law, unauthorized viewing or copying of photos can bring a $5,000 fine. The court is hearing arguments this week in a similar case, involving access to photos taken after the death of Clinton administration White House attorney Vincent Foster.(ThatsRacin.com/AP)(12-1-2003)
- Ganassi's Move: Mooresville business officials say they hope the Chip Ganassi Racing building, which sits in a prominent location among Race City USA's NASCAR shops, won't be vacant long. "It will be loss, but we're hopeful that another company will buy their existing building," said Melanie O'Connell Underwood, economic developer for the Mooresville-South Iredell Chamber of Commerce. "Although it's not a given, the building is made for racing." Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates confirmed last week that it has accepted roughly $370,000 in incentives from Cabarrus County and Concord to move to a new and larger facility closer to Lowe's Motor Speedway. Ganassi Racing, which supports NASCAR Winston Cup drivers #40-Sterling Marlin, #42-Jamie McMurray and #41-Casey Mears, employs about 150 people in Mooresville at a high-profile location just inside the main entrance to Lakeside Park. The business park is home to several dozen racing teams. The larger Concord facility, which is already der construction, will have up to 350 employees. The team had also been looking for places to relocate to in Mooresville, having outgrown its Lakeside Park site. In April, Ganassi struck a tentative deal to move into the vacant Matsushita Compressor Corp. plant in Mooresville, but those plans fell through despite incentive offers from Iredell County and Mooresville. Underwood showed the team the high-tech Matsushita building, which manufactured electronics. But Concord's incentive –a 65% property tax return over four years- with an airport and speedway were factors in the decision to move. "They're going to be looking for a hangar at the Concord Airport," Underwood said. Right now the airport, a popular location for NASCAR team jets, is in the process of lengthening a runway to accommodate longer flights. "The airport, I think that's a huge driver in this project," said John Cox, CEO of the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce. Ganassi racing has occupied its Lakeside Park location since 1994. In 2000, Chip Ganassi bought majority ownership of the team. Previously known as Team SABCO, the organization was initially a NASCAR research and development team that Felix Sabates bought from Rick Hendrick in 1987.(Mooresville Tribune)(12-1-2003)
- #31 Crew Chief? Changes were already in the works at Richard Childress Racing. Although a driver has not been selected for the #30, sources say Kevin Hamlin will be the new crew chief. Chris Andrews, who was Robby Gordon's engineer on the #31 Cingular Chevy, is expected to become the crew chief for that squad with a more experienced crew chief to become team manager later.(Yahoo Sports/Sporting News)(12-1-2003)
- Schrader staying; Sponsor close for BAM: BAM Racing G.M. Eddie Sharp says Ken Schrader will remain in the No. 49 Dodge and the team is close to announcing a sponsor.(Yahoo Sports/Sporting News)(12-1-2003)
see the Nov 24-30, 2003 Archived News Page
see the Nov 17-23, 2003 Archived News Page
see the Nov 10-16, 2003 Archived News Page