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    DEC 5-11, 2005

      News from December 11, 2005

    • Sad News: Blaine Blessing, 44, died suddenly of a heart attack on December 6, 2005 at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, IA. Blessing won numerous NASCAR/IMCA championship titles, and sponsored numerous NASCAR/IMCA championship title winners. Blaine was survived by his loving wife, Kristine of West Des Moines; he was a loving father to his five children: Ashley Johnson and her fiancé Nick Dreeszen of Cedar Rapids, Trent Blessing of Solon, Derek McNerney of West Des Moines, Trevor Blessing of Solon, and Colin McNerney of West Des Moines; his father, Harold Blessing of West Union; his mother, Diane (Meyer) Yarcho of Shell Rock. Memorial contributions may be made to Blaine's family who will donate to Feed the Children, and other organizations.(Des Moines Register)(12-11-2005)

    • New Crew Chief for the #21? UPDATE: hearing that David Hyder will be the new crew chief for the #21 Wood Brothers team and driver Ken Schrader. Hyder comes over from the #49 BAM Racing team which Scrader drove for in 2005. Ron Otto was recently named the crew chief for the #49 car. Former #21 crew chief, Michael 'Fatback' McSwain will take on a Team Manager/General Manager type role.(12-10-2005)
      UPDATE: Former crew chief Michael "Fatback" McSwain has been promoted to the position of Race Director for all of the teams under the Wood Brothers Racing/ST Motorsports/Wood Brothers/JTG Racing umbrella. And, David Hyder has been hired as crew chief for the #21 Wood Brothers Racing Fusion and driver Kenny Schrader. The announcement was made by WBR co-owner Eddie Wood. "This was just the logical progression of events," said Wood. "Hyder was Kenny Schrader's crew chief in 2004, and they had a good thing going there. We wanted to keep the relationship between Kenny and David in tact. And at the same time, we are giving Fatback the title that goes with the work he has been doing in getting the Truck, Busch and Cup teams under one roof and ready for competition next year. He has coordinated the move to our new location while maintaining a leadership role in the fabrication and engineering of all of our racecars and trucks. These changes will just strengthen our Little Debbie/Motorcraft/US Air Force team in 2006."
      David Hyder comes to the Wood Brothers operation after working with Schrader as crew chief at Bam Racing for over a year. Before that he was with the Petty Enterprises where he served as car chief for both the #43 and #45 Nextel Cup cars. The High Point, North Carolina native has a history in racing that spans close to 25 years. For 17 years he raced late model stock cars including stints in Hooters Pro Cup and the All Pro Series. "I am so pleased to be able to continue the working relationship Kenny and I started at BAM," stated Hyder. And, I'm looking forward to working Eddie, Len, Fatback and everybody at Wood Brothers Racing. This is really a win, win situation for me." McSwain added, "I'm glad that Eddie and Len decided to hire David. I already know he and Kenny work well together, and this will give me the freedom to work with the five teams we now have in place. It would have been very difficult to work with all the teams and remain as crew chief for the 21, so this is a great solution."
      McSwain has been with Wood Brothers Racing as crew chief for the #21 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team since August of 2004. The racing veteran has been on the Cup circuit since 1992. His first position was as a fabricator for Lake Speed. Since that time he has served as crew chief for various teams including those owned by Jasper Motorsports, Ricky Rudd, Robert Yates and Joe Gibbs. McSwain was born in Lattimore, North Carolina and is a 1986 graduate of Nashville Auto Diesel College.
      Driver Kenny Schrader also gave his stamp of approval to the news. "This is wonderful. David and I had something really good coming together at the end of the season, and now we will be able to work together here. I couldn't be happier with the way things are starting out for the new year." The multi team operation has recently been moved into a new shop in Harrisburg, NC.(Wood Brothers Racing site)(12-11-2005)

    • Motorsports Authentics Completes Merger w/ Action: International Speedway Corporation and Speedway Motorsports Incorporated today announced their 50/50 joint venture, which conducts business under the name Motorsports Authentics, has completed a merger with Action Performance Companies. The transaction, first announced on August 30, 2005, was approved by Action's shareholders on December 1, 2005. The acquisition was structured as a merger of a wholly-owned subsidiary of Motorsports Authentics LLC into Action. Combined with the September 8, 2005 acquisition of the net assets of Team Caliber, Motorsports Authentics is now the leader in design, promotion, marketing and distribution of motorsports licensed merchandise. Motorsports Authentics has licenses for exclusive and non-exclusive distribution with the top teams competing in NASCAR and other major motorsports series. Its products include a broad range of motorsports-related die-cast replica collectibles, apparel, gifts and other memorabilia, which are marketed through a combination of mass retail, domestic wholesale, trackside, international and collector's club distribution channels.(Yahoo Finace)(12-11-2005)

      News from December 10, 2005

    • No shows at banquet disappoint NASCAR UPDATE Gordon excused: NASCAR officials are "extremely disappointed" in Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other drivers who failed to attend the season-ending awards ceremonies. "It was very disappointing to NASCAR and the entire industry that drivers did not show up for various awards," spokesman Jim Hunter said Tuesday. "It shows a lack of respect for the history and tradition of the sport." NASCAR president Mike Helton plans to speak with the drivers who failed to attend last week's ceremonies in New York, Hunter said. The sanctioning body also is considering ways to ensure future attendance. Gordon, who finished 11th in the standings, skipped the banquet because he was in Paris preparing to compete in the Race of Champions all-star event. Actor Will Ferrell, pretending to be Gordon, accepted the $1,075,386 payout -- which included a $250,000 bonus for finishing 11th -- on Gordon's behalf. Gordon's absence was glaring because under NASCAR's new points system the 11th-place driver is awarded a spot at the banquet as a reward for being the highest finishing driver outside of the Chase for the championship. Earnhardt, selected as NASCAR's most popular driver for the third straight season, didn't travel to New York to pick up his award. Also absent were Elliott Sadler and Kasey Kahne, who earned a combined $175,000 in secondary awards. It's not clear what NASCAR can do to force drivers to attend the ceremonies. Among the things being considered is revoking the contingency awards that Kahne and Sadler received and giving the money to the runner-ups.(
      UPDATE: In his first public comments since being criticized by NASCAR for failing to attend the year-ending Awards Gala, four-time Cup champ Jeff Gordon fired back Friday, saying NASCAR gave its blessing for Gordon to skip the dinner at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria so he could compete in an all-star race in Paris the following day. Gordon—who was in the Big Apple Friday for a promotional appearance—said that NASCAR initially had no problem with him missing the Champions Week festivities. “I was in a unique situation where I was 13th or 14th in points, got invited to go over to Paris for that event [the Race of Champions], which I missed out on last year,” Gordon told the Press in an exclusive interview. “I agreed to go, not expecting to be at the banquet for 11th or any other position. And when the conflict came up, I talked to the higher-ups in NASCAR, and they told me, ‘Hey, we understand. You’ve got a commitment and you can’t be here this year.’ I’m pretty disappointed in some of the things that were said,” Gordon said. “I understand that they want to get as many drivers there [as possible], and being a past champion, I want to be there as the champion. But I also want to be there to accept any award that I can.”(Long Island Press)(12-10-2005)

      News from December 9, 2005

    • Summer Shootout Highlights To Air on Speed: Racing's stars of tomorrow will be in the spotlight during December and January as Speed Channel presents 10 one-hour telecasts featuring highlights of the 12th annual Hardee's Summer Shootout. Run on the frontstretch quarter-mile oval at Lowe's Motor Speedway, the 10-week series has served as a training ground for such NASCAR stars as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Reed Sorenson. The programs will be presented in back-to-back one-hour blocks on five Saturday afternoons. The first two rounds will air at 3:00 - 4:00pm/et on Saturday, Dec. 10, with subsequent rounds following at the same times on Dec. 17, Dec. 24, Jan. 7 and Jan. 14. Veteran broadcaster Brian Drebber will anchor the telecasts with former NASCAR driver "Tiger Tom" Pistone providing color commentary. Natalie Taylor will report from the garage area and victory lane. The 12th annual Hardee's Summer Shootout featured three divisions of Legends Cars, three classes of Bandoleros and the Thunder Roadsters. School Bus races were run three times and the wild-and-wacky CRASHCars were in action on seven nights. Several Hardee's Summer Shootout competitors have close ties to the NASCAR community including: Mike Wallace's daughter Chrissy and son Matt; Richard Childress' grandsons Austin and Ty Dillon; Dave Blaney's son Ryan; Randy LaJoie's sons Corey and Casey; Gary Nelson's sons John and William; Mark Green's son Tyler; and Larry McReynolds' son Brandon who was involved in the series' most fierce championship battle. Not to metion Jason Haynes who drove the #19 Jayski car in the Bandolero series. Speed Channel's complete schedule is available at Information about Legends Car, Bandolero or Thunder Roadster racing can be obtained by contacting 600 Racing by visiting PR)(12-9-2005)

    • Carter out at Penske? UPDATE changes: hearing #2 Miller Lite crew chief, Larry Carter has been released from his duties as crew chief at Penske Racing and is looking for work, supposedly Roy McCauley, an engineer for Penske Racingand crew chief for #39 Busch team of Ryan Newman will supposedly be Kurt Busch's crew chief.(12-7-2005)
      UPDATE: Penske Racing South announced today that Roy McCauley will become the crew chief of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge effective immediately. McCauley replaces Larry Carter who will move to a management role within Penske Racing South's operations division. "I am pleased to announce these changes to our racing organization," Roger Penske said. "Roy brings a wealth of technical and engineering experience to the #2 team. Roy and Kurt will be a great team and when you combine them with Ryan Newman and Matt Borland, we are looking forward to building on our recent successes. I want to thank Larry Carter for his contributions as crew chief with the #2 team. His leadership was instrumental in guiding Rusty into 'The Chase' this season. Whereas Matt and Roy will focus on the competition side of our business, Larry will bring a wealth of experience to an important management role within the operations of Penske Racing." The moves of Carter and McCauley were made along with other personnel changes at Penske Racing South as the company prepares its two NEXTEL Cup teams for the 2006 season.(Penske Racing PR)(12-9-2005)

      News from December 8, 2005

    • #77 Team will not run in 2006, Kodak to #2 UPDATE 7 Penske Release: hearing [have 3 weeks ago] Penske Racing South with dissolve the #77 Kodak team at the end of the 2005 season as Kodak is leaving as sponsor. No word on where Kodak will go or where Travis Kvapil will drive. Supposedly Penske will not be a two car [#2-Kurt Busch and #12-Ryan Newman] team for long they are going to develop another young driver in the same ABC [ARCA, Busch, Cup] format that was successful with Newman.(11-16-2005)
      UPDATE: been told this is NOT true..and that Penske Racing worked things out to keep Kodak and that Travis Kvapil will drive the #77 Kodak Dodge in 2006.(11-17-2005)
      UPDATE 2: Kodak has reached an agreement to extend its sponsorship of the Penske-Jasper Racing Nextel Cup team, and Travis Kvapil, a Janesville native, will return as the driver, a team representative said Thursday. A rumor had surfaced one day earlier speculating that the team could be disbanded.(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)(11-18-2005)
      UPDATE 3: have learned that the #77 team has been shut, after Kodak decided not to re-up with the team. No word on Kvapil's plans or if Kodak will remain in the sport.(sources and PRN's Garage Pass Radio show)(11-29-2005)
      AND from a story at Janesville [Wisc] Gazette on 11/18: Deb Williams, director of public/media relations for Penske Racing South, has confirmed that Wednesday's rumor is completely untrue. Meanwhile, Tom Page, the manager of NASCAR marketing for Eastman Kodak, also denied the report. "I have no idea where that came from or how it got started," Page said. "Travis has done a very good job representing Kodak. He is an honest, hard-working driver. We signed a five-year sponsorship deal with Penske Racing in 2004. That's common knowledge."(Janesville [Wisc] Gazette)
      STATEMENT: from Penske Racing: "Penske-Jasper Racing and Kodak are currently working on their 2006 Nextel Cup plans which will be announced in the near future."
      of note: last year is was denied that Brendan Gaughan was being let go, denied that Rusty was retiring after 2005 and a few years ago denied for months that Penske Racing would switch to Dodge,....sooooo.
      UPDATE 4: hearing Kodak will stay with Penske Racing as a major associate for the #2 Dodge driven by Kurt Busch in 2006.(12-1-2005)
      UPDATE 5: Despite repeated denials from Penske Racing, Kodak is pulling its sponsorship, and the #77 team is being dismantled. This is a sticky situation because Doug Bawel entered into a partnership with Penske Racing two seasons ago, and now he's on the outside looking in. The move comes on the heels of a major restructuring at Penske's Mooresville, N.C.-based campus.(Sporting News)(12-5-2005)
      UPDATE 6: Travis Kvapil and the #77 Kodak/Jasper Engines & Transmissions race team will not be part of the NASCAR Nextel Cup scene for the 2006 season. "Penske (Racing South) and Kodak have agreed not to field the 77 Dodge in Nextel Cup racing in 2006," said David Kassnoff, Kodak's manager of communications and publications. "We expect a return in 2007 with a more competitive race team. We are looking to Penske to develop a team that can perform at a high level consistently in 2007." Kvapil could not be reached for comment. Kodak, the longest continuous primary team sponsor in NASCAR, will be reduced to associate sponsorship status for 2006. Kodak's associate sponsorship will appear on the #2 Miller Lite Dodge. Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup champion, will replace [retiring] Rusty Wallace in the #2 car next season. Internet rumors last month said that Kvapil's team would be dissolved. One Kodak spokesman and another for Penske strongly denied those rumors. Despite the denials, the whispers continued. Penske Racing South has not made a public statement regarding the status of Kvapil's team. Kassnoff said an announcement should come later today or tomorrow.(Janesville [WI] Gazette)(12-8-2005)
      UPDATE 8 - Penske Release: With the recent decision by Penske-Jasper Racing and Eastman Kodak Company to not field the #77 Kodak Dodge in the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season, 2005 rookie Travis Kvapil is permitted to seek other driving opportunities. "I want to thank Travis for what he has provided to Penske-Jasper Racing during this year," said Roger Penske. "Travis is a talented driver and an excellent ambassador for our team and our sponsors. While it is unfortunate that we will not field the Kodak Dodge in 2006, I am confident that Travis will find the opportunity to drive another car next year." Kodak, which will continue as an associate sponsor with the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, intends to re-enter the #77 Kodak Dodge in the 2007 NEXTEL Cup season.(Penske Racing)(12-8-2005)

    • #92 to Dodge? reported Chaffin returns: Chad Chaffin, who landed a part-time job in the Nextel Cup Series in 2005 with #92 Front Row Motorsports of Denver, N.C., has hired Chaffin to run the full Nextel Cup schedule in 2006. Front Row has yet to land a sponsor, but owner Bob Jenkins said he is committed to running all 36 races without one if necessary. "We may not be in the top 20," Jenkins said of his fledgling race team, "but we plan to grow and progress." Jenkins owns two North Carolina companies, one that manufactures vinyl gloves, the other a food franchise. He chose Chaffin for the full-time job next season "because Chad's a good driver and he knows how to communicate with the pit crew. That's very important." The team raced Chevrolets this season and is debating going to Dodges next year. In addition to his full Cup schedule, Chaffin also will compete in the NASCAR Busch Series for Goodlettsville-based Wayne Day Enterprises. While Front Row plans to run all 36 Cup races, Chaffin said he may turn the car over to a substitute driver for the two annual road-course events.(Tennessean)(12-8-2005)

    • Jasper's 2006 #77: been told that an announcement was made at Jasper Engines on Wednesday detailing their 2006 plans in which Jasper will supply the transmissions and differentials to Ryan Newman's #12 car and Kurt Busch's #2 car in the NEXTEL Cup Series; the Rusty Wallace owned Busch Series #64 car and the Penske Busch Series ]#39] team, as well as the #77 truck owned and driven by Brendan Gaughan in the Craftsman Truck Series. Penske Jasper Engines will build the power plants for all these teams with the exception of Gaughan's truck team which owns its engine program. Jasper also plans to add an expanded R&D area that will house the NASCAR transmissions and differentials operations. Jasper will not return as a sponsor of the #77 Penske Racing Dodge in Nextel Cup racing.(12-8-2005)

    • NASCAR Teams Looking at Indy to relocate? The motor sports development director for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels confirmed Wednesday one Nextel Cup team considering relocation recently visited Indianapolis, and a second, whose driver finished in the top 10 [Gibbs, Roush, Penske, Evernham, Hendrick], will do so Dec. 15. "We're concentrating on all types of motor sports," said Matt Steward, who in January became the state's first director of motor sports development. "But when you're talking about getting a big hitter, you're talking about a Cup team. We want one." Most of the top NASCAR teams are deeply rooted in North Carolina. But Steward said Daniels, a first-term governor, is committed to attracting a Cup team. "If the deal is right, we will be very aggressive with tax incentives," Steward said. Financial breaks could provide the impetus for a team to move north. Roger Penske's 300,000-square-foot shop is so large, it will be housing the company's Indy-car team, too, by 2007. Rick Hendrick's team is entrenched on family property near Lowe's Motor Speedway. Jack Roush's five-car operation is likely too big to move from its impressive new facility. Ray Evernham's operation, which has an open-wheel background and a history of operating differently than other NASCAR teams, is based in Statesville, N.C. The team recently expanded its existing complex and a spokeswoman said Wednesday she knew of no relocation considerations. A NASCAR team would be a first for Indiana, although a small stock car team based in Warsaw -- ML Motorsports -- recently moved into the Busch Series.(Indianapolis Star)(12-8-2005)

      News from December 7, 2005

    • NASCAR TV deal near? UPDATE 4 OFFICIAL: NASCAR could announce as early as this week a TV rights deal that would see Fox broadcast the first half of the Nextel Cup season and TNT and ESPN/ABC sharing the back half starting in 2007, Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal reports. The sanctioning body could get as much as $550 million a year from TV rights, a 38% increase over the estimated $400 million a year it gets under the current arrangement with Fox, NBC and TNT. The story says industry insiders say the ABC/ESPN commitment alone is expected to be about $270 million a year. TNT and ESPN are expected to air six races each, reporter Scott Warfield writes, and ABC will air the final 11 races, including all 10 events [and Indy] in the Chase For The Nextel Cup.(NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter), so that would be 36 total races: ESPN gets 6, TNT gets 6, ABC gets 11, so Fox/FX would get 13 [plus Bud Shootout and Nextel Challenge].(11-29-2005)
      UPDATE: look for an announcement Thursday, Dec 1st in NYC.(12-1-2005)
      UPDATE 2: NASCAR CEO Brian France said Thursday that NASCAR was on the "final lap" of its TV deal, in which ESPN is expected to replace NBC for 2007 and beyond. An announcement is expected before the end of the year.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(12-2-2005)

      UPDATE 3: Big Apple buzz included the TV partnerships for 2007. Apparently, NASCAR has signed an eight-year deal across the board that will include FOX Sports, TNT and a reunion with ESPN/ABC. FOX will get the rights to the first half of the season, including the Daytona 500. TNT, a NASCAR partner for more than two decades, inherits the next part of the schedule, and ESPN/ABC picks up the final portion of the season, including the Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup. ESPN2 will cover the entire Busch Series schedule, providing much-needed continuity. The return of ESPN promises fans a wide range of programming that was limited to Speed Channel under the current deal. We probably won't know for a while which announcers and analysts will end up where. For example, the NBC regulars can't discuss future opportunities until their contracts expire. Expect Rusty Wallace, who has lent his experience to TNT in the past, to find a role somewhere.(Sporting News)(12-6-2005)

      UPDATE 4 - OFFICIAL Announcement: NASCAR announced the completion of comprehensive broadcast agreements that will benefit the industry and its fans for years to come. Under the new eight year agreements NASCAR races will be broadcast on a combination of networks that includes FOX, SPEED, Turner’s TNT and ABC/ESPN beginning in 2007. “NASCAR’s new network agreements mark a historic moment for the entire NASCAR community,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. “This is a major accomplishment for the NASCAR drivers, teams and track operators that have made this sport what it is today. It represents a significant reward for the competitive side-by-side racing our fans have come to expect. It also validates the marketing and production enhancements our current media partners have brought to the sport. The new broadcast partnership is also good for the fans because they will have so much more NASCAR content from a variety of media and new media sources."
      “NASCAR is proud to continue its relationship with FOX, SPEED and TNT, while welcoming back ABC/ESPN into the family of broadcasters,” said NASCAR Vice President Dick Glover. “By signing deals with three of the largest and best media companies in the world, NASCAR will meet the growing nationwide fan demand for more NASCAR content into the next decade,” Glover said.

      NASCAR expands its relationship with News Corp as FOX becomes the official home of the Daytona 500. FOX’s broadcast agreements for the NFL Playoffs, the Super Bowl, the Bowl Championship Series and American Idol provide an excellent opportunity for cross promotion around the Daytona 500 held each year in mid-February. The deal also includes a brand-new comprehensive multi-media distribution program which includes Internet, wireless and broadband platforms. “FOX is extremely excited to extend its relationship with NASCAR for another eight years, and come 2007 be known as the official television home of the Daytona 500, by far the most watched auto race in this country,” said FOX Sports President Ed Goren. “Our production team has done an amazing job over the last five years to put NASCAR broadcasts on par with America's most popular sports, and we look forward to pushing the production envelope further as we move forward.”

      SPEED will increase NASCAR programming as the continuing exclusive home for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series as well as the new home for the Gatorade Duels, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Pit Crew Challenge and NASCAR Nextel Cup Series All-Star Challenge.

      NASCAR looks forward to continued great exposure and coverage of the sport from TNT, which will be entering its 22nd year with NASCAR, the longest continuous relationship of any media company with the sport. TNT will broadcast six consecutive races in the middle of the season including the July 4th weekend extravaganza, the Pepsi 400 from Daytona.

      ABC and ESPN will provide comprehensive coverage of NASCAR on their numerous outlets. The final 17 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events will be broadcast on ABC or ESPN with the last 10, the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, on ABC. All NASCAR Busch Series races will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN or ESPN 2. In addition, ESPN will bring NASCAR coverage to its full suite of media including its cable TV networks, ESPN360, Mobile ESPN, and affiliated international networks throughout the world. “This agreement totally embraces NASCAR’s multimedia future,” said George Bodenheimer, ESPN Inc. and ABC Sports president and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks. “NASCAR is a strong and growing property, and the ESPN of the 21st century – an array of new media platforms and content outlets reaching fans wherever and however they consume sports – will take the sport to even higher levels of exposure and growth. ABC Sports first exposed sports fans to the racing excitement of NASCAR in the 1960s, and ESPN and the sport grew up together in the 1980s and ‘90s. Our tradition is rich, and our future is bright. To NASCAR, its drivers and fans we say, ‘Welcome back.”
      “NASCAR thanks NBC for its stellar coverage and commitment to the sport for the past five years and looks forward to another great year in 2006,” Glover concluded.

      About the agreements:

      Beginning in 2007, each NASCAR season will be launched on FOX with the telecast of the Daytona 500. FOX will also carry NASCAR “Speedweeks” events including the Budweiser Shootout and Daytona Pole Qualifying. FOX will also broadcast the 12 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races forllowing the Daytona 500.

      TNT will broadcast six consecutive NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races (races 14 through 19).

      The final 17 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points races will be broadcast on ABC or ESPN. The final 10 races, the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, will be broadcast on ABC. The NASCAR Busch Series will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN or ESPN 2, with no less than forur events on ABC.

      SPEED will be home to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series with the exception of two events, which will be broadcast by FOX.

      NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series qualifying practice and “happy hours” will be broadcast on a combination of SPEED Channel, ESPN and ESPN2.

      SPEED will broadcast the Gatorade Duels held each year during “Speedweeks” to determine part of the Daytona 500 starting order.

      SPEED will also broadcast the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series All-Star Challenge and its companion all-star event, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Pit Crew Challenge.
      ESPN will launch specially NASCAR-branded news and information programming.

      All broadcast partners will have new interactive rights, special “season preview” and “season end review” programming rights and other ancillary content. NASCAR fans will be able to receive NASCAR coverage from an expanded range of outlets including highlights and live streaming, content from and on each network’s Web pages, datacasts and newly-developed multimedia programming.(NASCAR PR)(12-7-2005)

    • New #49 Crew Chief: Ron Otto has been named crew chief for the #49 BAM Racing Dodge of rookie driver Brent Sherman. Otto was promoted from car chief. "We are very excited that Ron Otto will be leading our race team in 2006, and working with Brent Sherman," said Beth Ann Morgenthau, who owns BAM Racing along with her husband, Tony. "Brent's potential as a driver and Ron's experience in working with rookie drivers, not to mention his talents and skills mechanically and as an organizational leader, will lead to a great year for our race team," Ms. Morgenthau said. The 41-year-old Otto is a native of Gahanna, Ohio, just outside of Columbus, but has been working in NASCAR racing since he began has a fabricator for Bobby Dotter. Otto is a former car chief for Richard Childress Racing, where he worked with Dale Earnhardt, and has worked with Terry Labonte and Mike Skinner in the past. As crew chief for the startup of Tommy Baldwin Racing in the 2004 Busch Series, Otto began a team with just four people, competed with seven different drivers - including two rookies who had never been in a Busch car - in a single season. "Yeah, that was an experience," Otto laughed, "but one that could help in working with Brent this year. If nothing else, I have an idea of what to expect and areas where I can be the most help. All indications are he has a tremendous amount of potential, and I like the fact he wants to race hard. This is a great opportunity for me and I really appreciate Beth Ann, Tony and (General Manager) Eddie Jones having the faith in me to do this," he continued. "I've watched this team grow and improve over the years, and I know they are solid and headed in the right direction. I know I am not the only one here looking forward to a really bright future." Otto is engaged to Renee Sanders, and has two sons, R.J. and Kacey.(Williams Company), no word on former crew chief David Hyder plans or if he is still with BAM Racing.(12-7-2005)

    • Craven back at PPI #32? Already having turned down what he termed "intriguing offers" to fill full-time rides in Busch and Truck, Ricky Craven's plan is essentially to sit on the sidelines and wait for temporary openings to appear in the Nextel Cup circuit next season. The goal is to impress owners in whatever limited opportunities he has, thereby putting himself in position to secure a permanent seat in 2007. There's an outside chance Craven could return to the Nextel Cup circuit with former boss Cal Wells for the coming season. Talks with the PPI Motorsports team continue, though it's getting late in Silly Season and circumstances would need to change for that offer to be acceptable. Craven is interested in signing a one-year deal with a competitive, multi-car operation that will give him a crack at achieving the coveted win that drives his determination to this day: victory at New Hampshire International Speedway. And he's confident that opportunity will come along. "I absolutely believe I'll be racing again, and I expect to race Nextel Cup," Craven said. "I just don't know where, or when, or who it will be with. At this time it doesn't appear it's going to be full-time in 2006, and I'm okay with that."
      Wells and Craven parted ways prior to the finish of 2004, but the driver would not deny that it is Wells with whom he is currently negotiating his Cup return. As the only driver in the past five years to win as part of a single-car team, Craven said after the split he would return only to a multi-car outfit. He intends to honor that statement -and it could be part of a PPI expansion. "The fact is, Cal and I have had discussions," said Craven, who has raced for eight owners in parts of 11 Cup seasons. "Cal is a friend, and although the circumstances in 2004 were uncomfortable for both of us, we'd certainly entertain racing together again. Part of my criteria is that he become a bigger company, because that is key in all of us having success together. He certainly is headed in that direction. He's working hard to build his race team and his company, and I'm not sure that's going to happen, but I wouldn't rule out racing with the Tide team again. We've had discussions, but we're not there. I think it's a stretch to think that could happen right now." It is expected that Bobby Hamilton Jr., who replaced Craven, will be out of the #32 Tide car next season after he finished 36th, but the point is fast approaching when it will be too tough to start a second team in time for the season opener at Daytona in February.(Concord Monitor)(12-7-2005)

    • Robby sticks with DEI? hearing that Robby Gordon will start the 2006 Nextel Cup season with DEI [Dale Earnhardt Inc.] engines after running well in the final two races. Once Menards engines are ready, he will then go back to those engines.(12-7-2005)

    • #88 for Lopez: The ABC hit show, "George Lopez" will mark its 88th episode on Wednesday, December 7. As part of the tie-in with the number 88, George Lopez will wear a Dale Jarrett jersey on the show and the crew signed a "88" sign patterned after Jarrett's car number.(PR)(12-7-2005)

      News from December 6, 2005

    • Parrott close to a new gig? UPDATE to #43 Petty: Todd Parrott [former RYR crew chief] won't be unemployed for long--he's weighing the options on two crew chief offers and a Toyota research and development role.(Sporting News)(12-5-2005)
      UPDATE: [1999] Nextel Cup Series champion Todd Parrott has been named crew chief for the #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge team and driver Bobby Labonte. Robbie Loomis, Executive Vice President of Operations and a NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion himself, made the announcement. "While few can match him in knowledge and strategy, no one can match Todd Parrott when it comes to the desire to win," Loomis said. "Working together with Paul Andrews (crew chief for Kyle Petty's #45 Dodge and a former NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion) and the talent we have here, we feel we have the ingredients to return Petty Enterprises to victory lane." Greg Steadman, who had been serving as crew chief for the #43, has been named Competition Director for Petty Enterprises and is involved with both race teams. "I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to be a part of Petty Enterprises," Parrott said. "I've been a fan of Richard Petty since I could talk, and one of the most exciting times of my life is when my dad (Buddy Parrott) was crew chief for Richard. When I see the people who are coming into the organization and how hard everyone is working to get Petty Enterprises back to the top, I can't help but be excited to be a part of that," Parrott continued. "Robbie Loomis, Bobby Labonte . . . these guys are coming here for one reason, and that's to win." Parrott, 41, is a native of Charlotte, N.C. Winner of the 1999 NASCAR Nextel Cup championship with driver Dale Jarrett, Parrott begins his 12th year as a leader of NASCAR race teams in 2006. He grew up in the sport and began working on race cars when just 14 years old, developing into one of the top mechanical and strategy-minded names in motorsports.(Williams Company PR)(12-6-2005)

    • Hamlin leaves RCR for BDR? UPDATE Official - Hamlin, Finley to #55 Waltrip: hearing [or have learned] that crew chief Kevin Hamlin has left Richard Childress Racing and will be the new crew chief at Bill Davis Racing for Dave Blaney and the #22 Caterpillar Dodge with former #22 crew chief Derrick Finley moving over to the #55 NAPA Auto Parts Dodge that Michael Waltrip will drive in 2006.(PRN's Garage Pass Radio show/Sporting News)(11-29-2005)
      UPDATE: Following up on last week’s news regarding its recent changes to the #22 CAT Racing team, Bill Davis Racing released more details Tuesday about its 2006 plans for the #55 car, confirming Derrick Finley will serve as crew chief for Michael Waltrip and the #55 Napa Auto Parts crew. Along with Finley, the majority of the crew members who worked on the #22 car this 2005 season will move to the #55 team. “Derrick has done a good job with the #22 car this year. Putting him and his experienced group of guys with Michael is going to make the entire transition back into a two-car team easier for all of us,” said Bill Davis, team owner and president of Bill Davis Racing. “Derrick is a very intelligent individual and a hard worker. I am confident he, Michael and the rest of the guys have what it takes to get the #55 NAPA car up front.”
      “I’m really looking forward to having two teams. Having Blaney and Hamlin’s input is going to be valuable. I’ve known Hamlin for a long time. We’ll work well together,” Finley said. “It’s a big help to be able to take most of my guys with me. We’ll have our core group together with a new driver, which should help speed everything up as far as comfort level for all of us.”(BDR PR)(12-6-2005)

    • Kansas to get the NASCAR Hall of Fame? UPDATE 2: 610 Sports racing show Inside Motorsports in Kansas City Saturday, December 3rd at 12:30pm/cst was the first nationally to break the story that Kansas City, Kansas would reportedly get the NASCAR hall of fame. Co-Hosts Mark Merrell and Ryck Sanders stated that a source had reportedly told them of a meeting in New York this week between NASCAR officials, International Speedway, and Speedway Motorsports Incorporated. Reportedly in that meeting, Brian France, relenting to pressure from SMI president Bruton Smith, reportedly told Smith that NASCAR would award the NASCAR Hall of Fame to Atlanta (an SMI owned track), but that the track would have to give up a race date, and that that race date (Nextel Cup) would go to Kansas Speedway (an ISC owned track) (creating two NEXTEL Cup races at Kansas). Smith at first reportedly agreed to the deal, but days latter reportedly re-approached NASCAR with the idea to take a NEXTEL CUP race date from the Texas Motor Speedway, and move it to Atlanta, leaving Texas Motorspeedway with one date, and Atlanta with the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and two NEXTEL Cup race dates, and Kansas Speedway with two NEXTEL Cup race dates. NASCAR officials, reportedly tired from Smith, pulled the deal, and reportedly will award Kansas Speedway with the NASCAR hall of fame, all according to an unnamed source. The story was related to race fans live on Inside Motorsports, a weekly comprehensive racing show hosted by Mark Merrell and Ryck Sanders Saturday, December 3rd at 12:30pm central. A subsequent story was posted on their web site, [don't see it there], and also presented on KCPT, TV-19, a PBS station in Kansas City during a pledge break by Merrell while co-hosting show featuring the 25th anniversary of Motorweek latter that same day. The show aired live in Kansas City at 2:30pm/cst. The story is unconfirmed by NASCAR and ISC officials as of today's date. They also report that the Sprint Nextel Challenge date would go to Kansas Speedway now as well as the NASCAR Hall of Fame, as the Sprint Nextel All Star Challenge Hall of Fame race (previously the Nextel All Star Challenge at Lowes Motor Speedway) with induction ceremonies, etc as a May date.(Mark Merrell/Inside Motorsports/The Race Report/610 Sports KCSP)
      UPDATE: haven't heard from Kansas Speedway but have heard Kansas Speedway says the story is untrue, and are very upset. They (Kansas Speedway) hope this doesn't hurt their chances of getting the HOF.(12-5-2005)
      UPDATE 2: and a David Poole article refutes most of the above story: Smith says no such meeting happened. "I hope people who know both Brian and I know that we wouldn't talk about junk like that," Smith said Monday. "That's just idiotic reporting. Maybe they won the award for the week where facts do not interfere with a story." But just to make sure, calls were placed Monday to the principal figures involved in the Hall of Fame process. One NASCAR official called the story "nonsense." Another said it "has no validity." See the ull article/report at: Yep, they sure 'broke' that NASCAR Hall story.(12-6-2005)

    • Waltrip and Toyota...meeting with sponsors: Michael Waltrip plans to be a Toyota team owner down the road, and he had productive meetings in New York with prospective sponsors and NASCAR's Jim France. Next year #55 Waltrip will race out of Bill Davis' High Point, N.C., shop with Derrick Finley as his crew chief.(Sporting News)(12-6-2005)

    • FL License Tag NASCAR Hall of Fame News UPDATE: Florida lawmakers are moving forward with a plan aimed at creating a NASCAR license tag to help pay for a stock-car hall of fame in Daytona Beach. Rep. Pat Patterson, R-DeLand, and Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, filed bills Thursday to create the tag and will seek to take up the issue during a special legislative session next week. Supporters hope to use money from sales of the tag -- estimated at as much as $1.5 million a year -- to help finance the hall of fame and bolster Daytona Beach's effort to outbid four other cities for the tourism draw. Daytona Beach also proposed the sale of NASCAR license tags during this year's regular legislative session, but the proposal died after it became tangled in a broader dispute about whether the state should subsidize stadium projects for the Florida Marlins and Orlando Magic.(Daytona Beach News Journal)(12-4-2005)
      UPDATE: Florida lawmakers agreed Monday to consider creating a NASCAR license tag, a crucial step as Daytona Beach makes a last-ditch plea for state help in financing a stock-car hall of fame. The House and Senate quickly voted to add the NASCAR proposal to a special legislative session that began Monday to deal with issues such as overhauling the state's Medicaid system. Hall-of-fame supporters now will have to maneuver the proposal through committees and come back for final votes in the House and Senate before the session ends Friday. A similar proposal died at the end of the regular legislative session in May. Sales of the NASCAR license tag would bring in money -- estimated at as much as $1.5 million a year -- that could be used to help pay for the hall of fame. Daytona Beach is competing with four other cities for the tourist draw and has sought state help as part of its financial package.(Daytona Beach News Journal)(12-6-2005)

      News from December 5, 2005

    • Snowball Deby Winner: Years of near-misses and frustration ended in a satisfying way for driver Eddie Mercer at the 38th Snowball Derby on Sunday at Five Flags Speedway. The Pensacola driver had always expressed that winning the race was his ultimate goal. He completed it with a dominating victory, leading three times for 66 laps, including the final 35. It was Mercer’s 17th attempt to win the Snowball Derby and he claimed the Tom Dawson Trophy. Mercer also became the first driver to win from the pole position since Butch Miller did it in 1987. Last years winner, Steve Wallace [son of Rusty] finished 2nd, followed by Clay Rogers, Augie Grill, Bobby Gill, St. Amant, Ryan Crane, Cale Gale, Scott Carlson and Ronnie Sanders. For more info an results, see

    • Terry Labonte not to run the Bud Shootout: Crew chief Philippe Lopez was thrilled with his new #96 Hall of Fame Racing pit crew's first practice. But Lopez says Terry Labonte will not drive in the Bud Shootout for HOFR, and that's different from what has been in some reports.(Sporting News), maybe in yhe #44 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy?(12-5-2005)

    • Short Lived Sprint Car Series goes poof: Without ever having run a race, the fledgling National SprintCar League has ceased operations permanently and its 13 drivers and teams are scrambling to make decisions for the new season. One week after the Petty family and the Richard Petty Driving Experience withdrew its support from the organization, the decision was made to scrap the plan for a rival tour to the long-running World of Outlaws Sprint Series, which is owned and operated by DIRT MotorSports.(National Speed Sports News)(12-5-2005)

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