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    DECEMBER 15-21, 2008


    • 2009 Cup Schedule Announced, 4 "off" weeks: NASCAR announced today its national series schedules for the 2009 season, which features realigned dates for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Truck Series. In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series there will be a three-way date swap between Atlanta Motor Speedway, Auto Club Speedway (formerly California Speedway) and Talladega Superspeedway.
      • Atlanta’s second 2009 race will be held on Sunday, Sept. 6, taking the Labor Day weekend slot now held by Auto Club Speedway.
      • Auto Club Speedway’s second race will be Sunday, Oct. 11 – the fourth week of the “Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup,” a slot formerly held by Talladega.
      • Talladega’s second event will move to Sunday, Nov. 1, making it the seventh Chase event – the slot formerly held by Atlanta.
      “The 2009 schedule reflects realigned dates that are good opportunities for everyone involved in our sport – fans, sponsors, tracks and teams," said NASCAR President Mike Helton. The season begins with a tripleheader weekend at Daytona International Speedway capped by the running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 15. In addition to that season-opening event for the Sprint Cup Series, the Truck Series starts its season on Friday night, Feb. 13, followed the next afternoon by the Nationwide Series opener. For all three series, the season will conclude with another tripleheader weekend, at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20-22.
      Other key NASCAR Sprint Cup dates in 2009:
      • The 31st annual Budweiser Shootout at Daytona – a non-points event – will be held on Saturday, Feb. 7.
      • On the evening of Saturday, Sept. 12, Richmond International Raceway will again host the “Chase cut-off” race, affording the last opportunity for drivers to qualify for NASCAR’s championship playoffs.
      • New Hampshire Motor Speedway will host the first races in both the “Race to the Chase” (Sunday, June 28) and the Chase (Sunday, Sept. 20).
      There also will be an additional off-week for NASCAR’s premier series in 2009, prior to the Labor Day weekend event, giving teams a final break before a 12-week stretch that will end the season. Because of the way the calendar falls, NASCAR Sprint Cup teams will have a total of four off-weeks during the 2009 season.
      The NASCAR Nationwide Series will have a 35-race schedule. Changes from this year include a new event at Iowa Speedway on Aug. 1, replacing Mexico City; a switch of the Atlanta Motor Speedway event from March to September; and moving the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve event in Montreal to Sunday, Aug. 30.
      The NASCAR Truck Series in 2009 again will have 25 races, with one realigned date: The series’ late-season race at Atlanta will be replaced by a night event at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday, Aug. 28.(NASCAR PR)(8-19-2008)

      see my 2009 Unofficial Sprint Cup Schedule page for dates and some rumors on my 2009 Schedule News and Rumors page.

      News from December 21, 2008

    • Ambrose voted Australian Driver of the Year: Marcos Ambrose has been voted as the Australian Driver of the Year by Australian motor racing magazine Auto Action for the second-consecutive year. Ambrose, who is currently at home with his family in his hometown of Launceston, Tasmania, won the award by receiving 41 percent of the vote, which was decided by readers of Auto Action as part of the magazine's annual 'Racer of the Year Awards' issue.(Marcos Ambrose PR)(12-21-2008)

    • Newman Foundation raises over $155,000: #39-Ryan Newman raised $155,000 for conservation and animal welfare efforts at the Ryan Newman Foundation’s Fourth Annual Charity Gala and Auction on December 12 and the Third Annual Charity Fishing Tournament on December 13 in Mooresville, NC. The gala, which was presented by Alltel Wireless, featured a concert by country music singers/songwriters Bridgette Tatum and Danny Myrick. Three hundred and nineteen fishermen competed for the grand prize which was Ryan Newman’s Z-20 Ranger Boat. Alfred Kiesling of Mooresville, NC and Cliff Kirby of Catawba, NC won the tournament and took home the grand prize package, valued at $45,000. 90% of the proceeds raised will be used to fulfill the mission of the Ryan Newman Foundation Endowment—to educate and encourage people to spay/neuter their pets and to adopt dogs and cats from animal shelters; to educate children and adults about the importance of conservation so the beauty of the great outdoors can be appreciated by future generations; and to provide college scholarship funding through the Rich Vogler Scholarship program to students interested in auto racing careers. Ten percent of the proceeds will be donated directly to the Humane Society of Iredell and the Humane Society of Catawba County, both located in NC.(RNF PR)(12-21-2008)

      News from December 20, 2008

    • Labonte done deal at Earnhardt Ganassi? UPDATE hold up?: Bobby Labonte has talked to Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing about their #41 opening, but said Tuesday a deal with the Sprint Cup team isn't imminent. "There are a lot of things that have to develop to make it happen," Labonte said in his first comments since leaving Petty Enterprises on Dec. 11. "Talks are happening, but that's not happened yet," Labonte said in a telephone interview. "I feel like they've got a great program, it's just a matter of they have to put their deal together before I come into the picture."(USA Today)
      BUT: Bobby Labonte will drive the #41 Target Chevrolet for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing in 2009, joining Martin Truex, Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya and Aric Almirola as part of a newly merged, four-car team. Labonte has not commented since announcing his split from Petty Enterprises last week, and the new Earnhardt-Ganassi operation remains in a virtual media lockdown. However, multiple sources close to the situation tell Sirius Speedway that a deal to put Labonte in the #41 is signed, sealed and delivered, after receiving the approval of sponsor Target. Work has already begun on the necessary promotional infrastructure -- photo shoots, marketing campaigns, ancillary programs, etc. -- for the coming season.(Sirius Speedway/Motorsports Soapbox)(12-17-2008)
      UPDATE: been told Labonte has talked to Earnhardt Ganassi Racing about the #41 ride, but is not close to signing and is still entertaining other offers and rides.(12-18-2008)
      UPDATE 2: Sirius Speedway reported earlier this week that veteran Bobby Labonte will drive the #41 next season, and he remains the leading candidate for the ride. However, a sponsor Labonte hopes to bring to the team has not yet come through, putting the partnership – at least temporarily -- on hold.(Sirius Speedway/Motorsports Soapbox)(12-12-2008) Comment here

    • Ginn Racing leased engines from Hendrick in 2007 at $12.8M base: If you’re looking to lease engines from Hendrick Motorsports for a NASCAR operation, you’d better be prepared to open up your wallet. A legal battle being played out in North Carolina courts is offering rare insight into the usually secretive world of the sport’s finances as the Hendrick operation seeks compensation from the Ginn Racing team that wound up as part of Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2007. According to a contract filed as part of the case, the Hendrick engine lease agreement with Ginn Racing called for Ginn to pay a base rent of $12.8 million in 2007 and $13.7 million in 2008 to lease engines for its three Sprint Cup teams and one team in what is now the Nationwide Series. The fee covered Cup engines for 36 race events and up to nine tests or special events and Nationwide engines for 35 events, according to the contract filed as part of a lawsuit by HMS Holdings against Ginn Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. over the termination fees resulting from the Ginn-DEI merger in July 2007.(Scene Daily)(12-20-2008) Comment here

    • Johnson running Rolex 24 again: It would make sense if Jimmie Johnson spent his Thursday before Christmas gearing up for the holidays at his North Carolina home. Instead, Johnson waited for fog to clear in North Carolina and Texas before flying to Fort Worth for a planned practice session at the Motorsport Ranch in Cresson. Johnson, NASCAR’s three-time Sprint Cup champion, was trying to prepare for the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January. For the second consecutive year, Johnson will take a break from the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet to join Lewisville-based GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing in the team’s bid to win the 24-hour race.(Fort Worth Star-Telegram)(12-20-2008) Comment here

      News from December 19, 2008

    • Texas World Speedway sits silently during testing ban: With the news that NASCAR has banned testing at its sanctioned tracks for its three national series in 2009, a few people wondered if that might mean increased curiosity in Texas World Speedway, which last hosted a Cup event in 1981. But if Sprint Cup teams have shown increased interest in testing at the 2-mile oval that is a carbon copy of Michigan International Speedway, they haven't made that known to track president Bill Mather, who hadn't even considered the idea of NASCAR teams visiting College Station until he read a recent magazine article about the testing ban. "I have been focusing on the testing business but the Autoweek story was the first time I ever thought about NASCAR," Mather said. "NASCAR's a different world to me. I've never met anybody affiliated with NASCAR. I'd like to. But I've been focused in on the road racing world. None of [the Sprint Cup teams] have set foot on the track, I can tell you that much."
      Built in 1969 and repaved in 1993, Texas World Speedway mainly hosts regional sports-car events, testing for Star Mazda and American Le Mans Series teams and driver education courses. However, a portion of the superspeedway -- particularly 22-degree banked Turns 3 and 4 -- were unsuitable for high-speed testing because of bumpiness. But Mather said a recent 35-foot wide, 2,200-foot long grinding of the track surface in those areas has hopefully corrected those flaws. "Our oval will be hopefully test ready [by the first of the year]," Mather said. "We've just finished grinding [Turns] 3 and 4, which allows us to run our Grand Prix course, also. Turns 1 and 2 are in pretty good shape. The problem is that our Grand Prix course runs Turns 3 and 4. When the grinding company came in, they said to us, 'This is really good asphalt. It's amazing how good this asphalt is for its age.' And that made me happy, because I can't justify the cost of repaving it." Mather said some spot grinding was also done to Turns 1 and 2. This week, a process known as asphalt rejuvenation will be applied to the banking, a section of the road course and the paddock area.
      NASCAR ran eight races at Texas World Speedway between 1969 and 1981. Three of Richard Petty's 200 career victories came on the 2-mile oval situated approximately 100 miles northwest of Houston. In 1980, Cale Yarborough won a 400-mile race that featured no caution flags. Also, Mario Andretti set the world closed-course speed record at 214.158 mph while qualifying for an IndyCar event in 1973, a record that stood for 12 years.( Comment here

    • SPEED signs Dave Despain thru 2010: SPEED signed veteran motor sports broadcaster Dave Despain to a new two-year deal, keeping the popular host of the Sunday night program Wind Tunnel on the team through 2010. Closing in on 450 episodes of his popular fan-participation show Wind Tunnel, Despain has interviewed everyone who is anyone in the world of racing. Three-time NASCAR champ Darrell Waltrip has made the most guest appearances (9), followed by Jeff Gordon (7), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (7), Funny Car king John Force (6) and open-wheel veteran Paul Tracy (6). Longtime motor sports writer Robin Miller has enjoyed the most co-hosting appearances at 13. "I love the fact that the voices on Wind Tunnel cover the entire racing spectrum; from the fans in the stands, to the folks watching on TV, to the big time stars putting on the show to the movers and shakers who make it all happen,” Despain said. “We stick our noses into every nook and cranny of racing and always seem to find something interesting." Wind Tunnel opens its 2009 season Feb. 15 at 9pm/et.(SPEEDtv PR)(12-19-2008) Comment here

    • NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fests Scheduled For Jan. 16-17: Race fans will receive a sneak peek of DIRECTV Speedweeks 2009 as well as the new NASCAR racing season on Friday, Jan. 16 and Saturday, Jan. 17 with the annual NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fests at historic Daytona International Speedway. Fans can get their “racing fix” prior to DIRECTV Speedweeks 2009 and the 51st annual Daytona 500 with numerous activities with their favorite drivers from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series in the Sprint FANZONE located in the heart of “The World Center of Racing.”
      Among the activities planned for both days include:
      * Interactive fan forums
      * Autograph sessions
      * Show cars, displays, music
      * Online auction
      * Blood drive
      In addition, Richard Petty Driving Experience will be on track with ride and driving packages available. The ride-only packages can be purchased on-site while the driving packages must be purchased in advance at 1-800-BE-PETTY. Tickets, which go on sale Saturday, Dec. 20 at 9 a.m., are $15 with autograph session availability limited to only 100 people per driver in advance. To purchase tickets and request access to the special autograph sessions, call 1-800-PITSHOP.(DIS PR) More deatils and driver dates/times on my Driver Appearances page.(12-19-2008)

      News from December 18, 2008

    • NASCAR settles lawsuit with Grant: At a mediation held in New York on December 3, 2008, Ms. Mauricia Grant settled her discrimination lawsuit with her former employer, NASCAR. Ms. Grant was represented by her attorneys Morelli Ratner PC. NASCAR was represented by Jackson Lewis. Neither NASCAR nor Ms. Grant admits liability or wrongdoing by way of the settlement. “We’re glad to have the case settled on mutually acceptable terms,” said NASCAR Managing Director of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston. “NASCAR remains dedicated to maintaining a professional work environment for all employees at all times and we wish Ms. Grant well in her future endeavors.” The specific terms of the settlement agreement remain confidential and both sides agreed not to publicly discuss the details of the case or the terms of the agreement going forward.(NASCAR PR)(12-18-2008) Comment here

    • NASCAR to begin tougher drug testing in January: NASCAR will test drivers for performance-enhancing drugs next month under a tougher policy that also bans using illegal drugs and abusing prescription medications. NASCAR likely will test drivers the third week of January, and crew members must submit results from an approved lab by Jan. 16, according to documents obtained Thursday by The Associated Press. A NASCAR memo sent to teams lists specific banned substances for which crew members must be screened. No similar guidelines were issued for drivers, as NASCAR reserves the right to test competitors for anything. Under the old policy, NASCAR had the right to randomly test based on suspicion of abuse. Under the tougher guidelines first announced in September, everyone will be tested before the season begins, and random testing will continue throughout the year. NASCAR expects to randomly test 12 to 14 individuals per series each weekend in 2009. The memo, dated Dec. 8, is the first time the new policy has been laid out in writing and specifies who falls under the guidelines. Those who must be tested before Jan. 16 include: pit crew members, including "over-the-wall" crew members, the crew chief, car chief, team members responsible for tires, fuel and pit crew operation, spotters and race-day support personnel that includes engineers, engine tuners, shock specialists, chassis specialists and tire specialists.
      Among the substances those participants must be tested for are:
      - Seven different amphetamines, including methamphetamine and PMA, a synthetic psychostimulant and hallucinogen.
      - Three drugs classified under ephedrine.
      - 13 different narcotics, including codeine and morphine.
      - Ten different benzodiazepines and barbituates.
      - Marijuana, cocaine, zolpidem, nitrites, chromates and drugs that can increase specific gravity.
      No such list exists for the drivers, but spokesman Ramsey Poston confirmed NASCAR will test for performance-enhancing drugs. The driver testing, which will be administered by NASCAR, had been scheduled for preseason testing at Daytona next month. But because testing has been suspended for 2009, NASCAR likely will screen drivers when most are in Charlotte next month for the annual media tour of race shops.(Associated Press)(12-18-2008) Comment here

    • Labonte done deal at Earnhardt Ganassi? UPDATE No not done: Bobby Labonte has talked to Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing about their #41 opening, but said Tuesday a deal with the Sprint Cup team isn't imminent. "There are a lot of things that have to develop to make it happen," Labonte said in his first comments since leaving Petty Enterprises on Dec. 11. "Talks are happening, but that's not happened yet," Labonte said in a telephone interview. "I feel like they've got a great program, it's just a matter of they have to put their deal together before I come into the picture."(USA Today)
      BUT: Bobby Labonte will drive the #41 Target Chevrolet for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing in 2009, joining Martin Truex, Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya and Aric Almirola as part of a newly merged, four-car team. Labonte has not commented since announcing his split from Petty Enterprises last week, and the new Earnhardt-Ganassi operation remains in a virtual media lockdown. However, multiple sources close to the situation tell Sirius Speedway that a deal to put Labonte in the #41 is signed, sealed and delivered, after receiving the approval of sponsor Target. Work has already begun on the necessary promotional infrastructure -- photo shoots, marketing campaigns, ancillary programs, etc. -- for the coming season.(Sirius Speedway/Motorsports Soapbox)(12-17-2008)
      UPDATE: been told Labonte has talked to Earnhardt Ganassi Racing about the #41 ride, but is not close to signing and is still entertaining other offers and rides.(12-18-2008) Comment here

    • Dodge sticking with NASCAR UPDATE: The news Wednesday from Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., was grim -- the company will close all 30 of its manufacturing plants for a month beginning Friday because of sagging sales -- but indications are the company's involvement in NASCAR will not change. An individual with knowledge of the situation said the closings will not alter Dodge's involvement in NASCAR. Dodge has contracts with Gillett Evernham, Penske Racing and Petty Enterprises. All will be honored next season. "Dodge will be back next year," the official said. Chrysler said in a release Wednesday that tighter credit markets are keeping potential buyers from the showrooms. With a slowing demand, the company said it must match production and save cash. "Chrysler dealers confirmed to the company at a recent meeting at its headquarters that they have many willing buyers for Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles but are unable to close the deal, due to lack of financing," the company said in a statement. "The dealers have stated that they have lost an estimated 20 to 25 percent of their volume because of this credit situation." Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. announced late Wednesday afternoon that it will shut down 10 of its North American assembly plants for an extra week in January because of the slumping market in this country. The annual two-week holiday shutdown will now be extended through Jan. 12.(ESPN)(12-18-2008)
      UPDATE: Chrysler plans to slash its overall NASCAR budget by more than 30% in 2009, Dodge Motorsports director Mike Accavitti told on Thursday. That reduction is due in part to the team-merger between Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing, which removes Ganassi's former three-team Sprint Cup operation from the Dodge fold. (Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing will run Chevrolets.) But Dodge will also cut back on at-track car displays, track sponsorships and promotions. It will, though, continue to support Penske Racing, Gillet Evernham Motorsports and Petty Enterprises as planned, Accavitti said. "We'll definitely be on the track in 2009," Accavitti said in a phone interview. Chrysler announced Wednesday it would, starting Friday, shut down all 30 US-based manufacturing plants for a month. Accavitti said that will have no bearing on any NASCAR relationship. Accavitti said Dodge evaluates return-on-investment annually "on every dime spent on NASCAR" to determine whether NASCAR should remain part of its advertising plan. Some wonder how cash-strapped automakers can choose to spend on auto racing when the market is so poor. To date, Accavitti said NASCAR has helped move product. And, he continued, there is but one way out of the current abyss: sell more cars.(in part from Comment here

    • Testing at the Rock: GEM tested Tuesday and Wednesday at Rockingham Speedway with #9-Kasey Kahne and on Wednesday, Stewart-Haas Racing was at the track with #39-Ryan Newman testing. Bill Elliott was behind the wheel Wednesday of his own ARCA car early in the test session to get a base line set up and then assumed the role of driver coach for Casey Roderick the 16 year old phenomenon who was getting his first laps on a superspeedway. Roderick is hoping to come back next spring and race in the Carolina 200 ARCA Series race on April 19th, 2009 as well as the season ending ARCA race on October 11th, 2009. The first race of the 2009 season for the Rockingham Speedway is the Polar Bear 150 on New Year’s Day. For more information visit Comment here

    • Earnhardt laps field in consumer index: #99-Carl Edwards and #48-Jimmie Johnson made gains, but #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr. remained the runaway leader in the Davie Brown Index, which quantifies an athlete's relevance to consumer behavior. In polling of avid NASCAR fans conducted after the 2008 season by the Charlotte-based Millsport sports marketing agency, Earnhardt ranked first in awareness and nine "attribute" categories: appeal, notice, trend-setter, influence, trust, endorsement, aspiration, exposure and passion. The DBI also is used to quantify Hollywood celebrities, and Millsport vice president Ken Cohn says Earnhardt is creating a separation from other drivers unlike any celebrity the agency has seen. "Avid fans are at least 20% more passionate about Junior," Cohn says. Rounding out the top five in overall scores were #8-Mark Martin, #20-Tony Stewart, #31-Jeff Burton and Johnson, who advanced two spots from a NASCAR DBI survey in the spring that also was led by Earnhardt. Edwards, who finished second in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series, jumped 14 spots to sixth overall, ahead of #24-Jeff Gordon, #43-Bobby Labonte, #9-Kasey Kahne and #45-Kyle Petty.(USA Today)(12-18-2008)

    • Reutimann Presents Donations to Charities and Local Schools: David Reutimann, driver of the #00 Aarons Toyota in the Sprint Cup Series and the #99 Aarons Dream Machine in the Nationwide Series for Michael Waltrip Racing, hosted his Fourth Annual Charity Golf Tournament, Cook Out and Auction at Silverado Golf and Country Club the weekend after Thanksgiving in Zephyrhills, FL. The festivities consisted of a cook out and sports memorabilia auction, followed by a golf tournament. In total the festivities raised around $78,000 for local Florida based charities. This past Friday David Reutimann received the opportunity to present to his affiliated charities, including All Children’s Hospital of Florida, Camp Boggy Creek, Zephyrhills Pregnancy Center and Kid’s Go to Camp. In addition, David donated $3,000 to six local Pasco county schools. “I’m blessed to be able to give back to so many. It’s rewarding to give back to my community and schools that I myself attended,” said David Reutimann.(PR)(12-18-2008)

    • Munter to test for Hylton: EM Motorsports and Hylton Motorsports announced that Leilani Münter has been hired to test the team's 2005 Ford Taurus during this weekend's ARCA Series open test at Daytona International Speedway. James Hylton, 1966 NASCAR Cup Rookie of the Year, will be Leilani's mentor and coach throughout the weekend. Hylton is scheduled to attempt to make the Sprint Cup Daytona 500 race for EM Motorsports.(PR)(12-18-2008)

    • Comparing NASCAR's Three-Peats: When Jimmie Johnson won the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he joined Cale Yarborough as one of only two drivers to win three straight championships at NASCAR’s highest level. A comparison of the two feats shows a few similarities along with numerous differences.
      The Similarities
      * Adaptation to Change. Both drivers won their championships shortly after major changes to the sport. Yarborough won his after two different changes – the reduction of the number of races in 1972 and the implementation of the current point system in 1975. Johnson won his after the introduction of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in 2004 and during a period that saw the introduction of a new NASCAR Sprint Cup car (2007-08).
      * Foreshadowing Success. Both drivers came up just short prior to their breakthrough. Yarborough finished second in the point standings in 1973 and 1974 before his first championship in 1976. Johnson finished second in 2003 and 2004 before his first title in 2006.
      The Differences
      * Varied Competition. Statistically, Johnson’s championships have come during a much more competitive era. Over the last three seasons, there have been more races, larger fields and more race and pole winners than during Yarborough’s championship era.
      Though Johnson’s championships have come in seasons that had only six more races each, there were almost twice as many unique race winners (20) during his stretch as there were during Yarborough’s (11). Additionally, there were twice as many unique pole winners (30) during Johnson’s three-year run than there were during Yarborough’s (15).
      Yarborough Races Pole Win Top5 Top10 DNF
      1976 30 2 9 22 23 5
      1977 30 3 9 25 27 0
      1978 30 8 10 23 24 2
      Johnson Races Pole Win Top5 Top10 DNF
      2006 36 1 5 24 24 3
      2007 36 4 10 24 24 4
      2008 36 6 7 22 22 1

      * Tighter Races. Johnson’s era features some of the most competitive racing in the history of NASCAR’s premier series. While the number of lead changes per race remains relatively the same, the number of leaders during Johnson’s reign is more than twice that of Yarborough’s. Johnson’s era also shows increases in cars running at the finish and finishing on the lead lap. The number of cars finishing the race has increased by almost 75%. The average number of cars on the lead lap has increased 10-fold. Additionally, every race during Yarborough’s championship years had fewer than 10 cars finish on the lead lap, and 17 of the 90 races had just the race winner on the lead lap. In Johnson’s years there were just four races with less than 10 cars on the lead lap and not a single race saw the leader on a lap by himself.
      Year Leaders Leaders Per Race Lead Changes Cars on Lead Lao Cars Running at Finish Lapped Field
      1976 24 6 20.6 2.23 21.07 9
      1977 23 6 20.2 2.03 21.3 2
      1978 26 6 21.23 2.47 21.9 6
      2006 48 10 21.78 21.42 36.75 0
      2007 51 10 20.03 20.72 36.92 0
      2008 50 11 21.06 20.75 38.56 0

      * Individual Statistics. Yarborough did have slightly more impressive numbers with regard to individual performance, but that is likely due to the higher level of competition during Johnson’s championships. Both had 10-win seasons but Yarborough had more poles, wins, top fives and top 10s as well as one fewer DNF.(NASCAR PR)
      Year Races Ave Cars in Field Pole Winners Race Winners
      1976 30 35.27 11 8
      1977 30 35.4 9 7
      1978 30 35.47 9 7
      2006 36 43 15 13
      2007 36 43 18 16
      2008 36 43 15 12
      (NASCAR PR)(12-18-2008) Comment here

      News from December 17, 2008

    • Mansfield cancels 2009 Truck race: from the Mansfield Motorsports Park site: Due to the economic times that we are all facing, Mansfield Motorsports Park will not be hosting the 2009 NASCAR Truck Race. We will begin processing refunds immediately. Please accept our apologies and please be patient while we are going through the refund process. We apologize for any inconvenience.(12-17-2008)

    • Kahne to visit school: During the week before Christmas, while most NASCAR drivers will be enjoying their off-season plans, Kasey Kahne will be reminding teens about the importance of safe driving during the hectic holiday season. As part of the Allstate Teen Safe Driving Pit Stop program, Kahne will be visiting the junior-class students of East Forsyth High School in Kernersville, N.C., on Thursday, Dec. 18 to remind them that the holiday season is a dangerous time for teen drivers. During the past eight holiday seasons, from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day, there have been over 5,000 teens involved in fatal crashes throughout the United States. In the state of North Carolina alone there have been 172 teens involved in fatal crashes during the same time span. The driver of the #9 Dodge in the Sprint Cup Series will be joined at the event by SPEED TV’s John Roberts. The two will show students a video of NASCAR crashes, participate in a Q&A session and test the students’ driving/racing knowledge during a trivia game. Kahne and Roberts will also highlight how Allstate can help identify the risks that teens take when they get behind the wheel through its Parent-Teen Driving Contract and local Allstate agents. In its final stop of 2008, the Allstate Teen Safe Driving Pit Stop is a national partnership between Allstate and Gillett Evernham Motorsports to visit schools across the country and promote teen safe driving to teens and their parents. In addition to Kahne’s participation, GEM driver Elliott Sadler and team owner Ray Evernham have also headlined the events throughout the season.(Taylor PR)(12-17-2008)

    • Petty-GEM Deal Off? UPDATE denied: Sirius Speedway has learned that the much-discussed merger between Gillett Evernham Motorsports and Petty Enterprises has run aground. Anonymous sources say that GEM laid off approximately 50 employees today, and that its Nationwide Series team will either be eliminated or cut back dramatically. In addition, multiple sources say that GEM’s #10 Sprint Cup team and driver Reed Sorenson will also run only a partial schedule. While not commenting on the reported demise of the Petty deal, Gillett Evernham Motorsports CEO Tom Reddin confirmed today that major changes are underway. "We are a Sprint Cup team first and foremost, and winning in that series needs to be our primary focus,” he said. “The Nationwide Series is a fantastic series and we certainly look forward to racing a partial schedule in 2009, but we will not run the full season next year. We will remained focused on putting all of our effort behind the Cup program in 2009. GEM is very fortunate to have nearly all of our Cup sponsors returning in 2009 in addition to the new arrival of others." Reddin said that GEM will also restructure its engine department for 2009, to align with a reduced number of engine leasing customers next season.(Sirius Speedway/Motorsports Soapbox)
      AND Over the last week, Gillett Evernham Motorsports released 65 employees between its Nationwide Series team and engine shop. Due to a downturn in the economy and the inability to secure sponsorship, GEM was forced to cease operation of its NNS team on Tuesday. GEM is still in open discussions with Petty Enterprises regarding a possible merger. However, the option of Petty Enterprises not leasing engines in the future led to the company's decision to downsize its engine department by nearly half. The organization will continue to employ nearly 300 workers at its Statesville, N.C. facility and field three teams in the Sprint Cup Series with drivers Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler and Reed Sorenson, who will join the team from Chip Ganassi Racing in 2009.(FoxSports)(12-16-2008)
      UPDATE: been told by GEM that the #10 car will run the full Sprint Cup season and that the GEM-Petty merger talks are going well and the deal is NOT off.(12-17-2008) Comment here

    • Robby Gordon to Toyota? UPDATE 2: hearing Robby Gordon Motorsports will switch from Dodge to Toyota. No word if they will be aligned with another Toyota team.(12-11-2008)
      UPDATE: Robby Gordon Motorsports announced that they will partner with Toyota beginning in the 2009 Sprint Cup Series season for the #7, which is guaranteed a spot in the season opener Daytona 500. “We are excited to be partnering with Toyota in NASCAR in 2009. After watching their progress last season, we decided that a switch to Toyota was the right package for our team,” commented Robby Gordon, owner of Robby Gordon Motorsports. “We are confident that fielding a Toyota Camry will add to the success of our organization and the competitiveness of our performance on the race track.”
      “I’ve known Robby as a driver, team owner and fierce competitor since 1990,” said Lee White, President of TRD, U.S.A. “We’ve raced together in Off-Road, IMSA, SCCA and Indy Car and have shared many memorable challenges and victories. It will be exciting to see how the association between Robby, his team, Toyota and TRD will develop in 2009. I promise you that it will not be boring to watch.” Toyota's first involvement with Robby Gordon dates back to 1989 when he became the youngest grand national sport truck driver to win a championship in a TRD-powered Toyota truck.(RGM PR)(12-16-2008)
      UPDATE 2: Les Ungar, Toyota’s National Motorsports Manager told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway Tuesday that Robby Gordon will be welcomed into the Toyota camp, and will receive the same technical support and information as the manufacturer’s other teams. “Robby will be reimbursing us for the engines he receives, and he will receive technical support from Toyota Racing Development the same as everyone else,” he said.” “Like any manufacturer, we are obligated by NASCAR to step up and make the parts and pieces available as part of our agreement to be active in this sport.”(Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway)(12-17-2008) Comment here

    • New Crew Chief for Kenseth? UPDATE: Nationwide Series pit boss Drew Blickensderfer has been promoted to head the team. Chip Bolin, who held the position last year, will go back to work as an engineer at Roush Fenway Racing. Although Blickensderfer started 2008 as crew chief for Roush's #17 Nationwide Series team, he swapped places with Pierre Kuettel and joined Carl Edwards' #60 team. The pair went on to win seven of the final 19 races.(FoxSports)(12-16-2008)
      UPDATE: Roush Fenway Racing has named Drew Blickensderfer crew chief for Matt Kenseth’s #17 DEWALT Sprint Cup team for the upcoming 2009 season. “We are really looking forward to Drew coming on board with the #17 DEWALT team,” said Kenseth. “Drew brings a great work ethic and high level of enthusiasm to our team. He has been waiting for the opportunity to become a crew chief in the Sprint Cup Series and I know he’ll make the most of it. I had the chance to work with Drew for a couple of years in the Nationwide Series and he is one of the hardest working guys in the garage. He has a passion for the sport, and I know he will be a great addition to our #17 team.” Blickensderfer served the past three seasons as a crew chief in Roush Fenway’s highly successful Nationwide Series program. He helped guide Danny O’Quinn to a Raybestos Rookie title in 2006, before teaming with Kenseth in the Nationwide Series for the next year and a half. The duo earned three victories in the series, before Blickensderfer moved over to Carl Edwards’ No. 60 team midway through the 2008 season. There, he helped guide the Edwards’ team to seven wins in their last 19 races and a second-place finish in the Nationwide Series point standings. With the addition of Blickensderfer, Chip Bolin – who served as the crew chief on the #17 Sprint Cup team in 2008 - will return to his previous post as team engineer, where he was instrumental in helping guide the team to a Cup championship in 2003. “Chip has been one of the biggest assets to this team since the beginning,” said Kenseth. “Both as an engineer and crew chief, he has been instrumental in our championship run in 2003 and our making the Chase every year since. We are looking forward to adding Drew to the mix and everyone on this #17 DEWALT team is committed to working together and to running up front next season.”(Roush Fenway Racing PR)(12-17-2008) Comment here

    • EGR will run Chevy's; all move to Ganassi's shop UPDATE: Director of Dodge Motorsports Mike Accavitti told Sirius NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway Tuesday that Chip Ganassi Racing will race Chevrolets as part of its recent merger with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Accavitti's announcement was the first public admission of an anticipated manufacturer change by the Ganassi team. (Sirius NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway)
      AND The new Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team will run Chevrolets and work out of the Chip Ganassi Racing shop, a team spokesman confirmed. The team still has not named a driver nor a crew chief for the #41 car nor has it named a crew chief for the #8 car driven by Aric Almirola. It also still needs sponsorship for Almirola and a half-season sponsorship for #42-Juan Pablo Montoya. The new organization resulted from a merger of Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing, which was announced in mid-November. Neither the shop location nor the engine package is a surprise. The Ganassi team has been a Dodge organization since 2001, the first full season after Chip Ganassi bought a majority interest in Sabco Racing from Felix Sabates. Dodge had a contract with Ganassi at least through 2009, but Dodge officials had indicated that they would let Ganassi out of its commitment if it was in the best interest of the team.(SceneDaily)(12-16-2008)
      UPDATE: The newly merged Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Team is keeping busy early in the offseason with the relocation of two of its cars to another shop. The cars for Martin Truex Jr. and Aric Almirola's teams will be moving from the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. West shop to the Ganassi Racing shop in Concord, NC. "We've moved our equipment and we're going to run out of Ganassi's shop in Concord," Truex Jr. said. "Things are moving along. We'll just have to wait and see, but so far things have been going pretty well." The move will combine the DEI teams with Ganassi's #41 team and #42 team, of Juan Pablo Montoya, in the state-of-the-art 183,000 square-foot facility, which opened its doors in 2003. "Bono (Kevin Manion, Truex Jr's crew chief) and Juan Pablo's crew chief Brian Pattie are good friends, they've been for a long time and they're really excited to work together," Truex Jr. said. "I'm excited about that. So far everything seems to be going pretty smooth." Sponsorship still needs to be set for some of the cars, including Montoya's, which only has 19 races set with the Wrigley Chewing Gum company. As for Almirola, the search for sponsorship is still on after the U.S. Army departed the team to head to Stewart-Hass Racing in 2009. "We've got several sponsors that we've been talking to and we've been giving tours of the shop and wining and dining them," Almirola said. "We've got several people interested so that's good news, but, just nothing set in stone right yet." The Ganassi cars will make the switch from Dodges to Chevrolets, which is the same manufacturer DEI has fielded since its existence. The team will still utilize engines from Earnhardt-Childress Technologies. "We're continuing to get our motors from the Earnhardt-Childress Racing Technologies, which has been really, really awesome," Almirola said. "Our motors last year were really, really good every weekend. It's not very often you get a race car driver not complain that he wants more motor. We did not struggle for motor at all this past year."(RacingOne)(12-17-2008) Comment here

    • #29 team expects to test at least 10 times in 2009: Todd Berrier, crew chief for Richard Childress Racing’s #29-Kevin Harvick, expects that his team will test at least 10 times next year despite NASCAR’s ban on testing at all tracks that host its Sprint Cup, Nationwide, Truck, East and West series. Berrier expects his team will look at options such as the Virginia International Raceway and Heartland Park Topeka (Kan.) road courses, along with Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina and the half-mile Sandusky Speedway in Ohio. None of the facilities is covered by the ban. “The places you can test, you’re going to test,” Berrier said in a phone interview Monday. Berrier expects the #29 team to test several times throughout the season at non-NASCAR venues and possibly before the season begins, weather permitting.(SceneDaily)(12-17-2008) Comment here

    • UTI Foundation Awards the First Brienne Davis Memorial Scholarship: The Universal Technical Institute (UTI) Foundation today selected Kenna Primm of Greenwood, Ark. as the first Brienne Davis Memorial Scholarship recipient. Named in honor of the UTI graduate and NASCAR Sprint Cup official who died tragically in April of this year, the $10,000 scholarship will fund a portion of Primm’s technical education at UTI’s NASCAR Technical Institute, NASCAR Tech in Mooresville, N.C. This month, Primm will graduate from the University of Arkansas with a degree in marketing and begin a 10-week internship at Daytona International Speedway in January. She will start at NASCAR Tech on April 20. Upon completion of her technician training, she plans to combine both her marketing and technician degrees and pursue a career in the motorsports industry. The UTI Foundation supports education excellence and the considerable need for qualified technicians. The $10,000 Brienne Davis scholarship is awarded annually to one qualified female student who wishes to enroll in the NASCAR Technical Automotive Program. Additional information is available on the UTI Foundation website at PR)(12-17-2008)

    • Part of I-85 in NC named For Richard Childress: Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett joined N.C. Board of Transportation member Nancy Dunn and other state and local officials to dedicate a 5.5-mile section of I-85 from U.S. 64 to Lake Road (State Road 2085) in Davidson County as the Richard Childress Freeway, in honor of the former NASCAR driver and current team owner Richard Childress. A ceremony officially naming the highway for Childress was held at Richard Childress Racing in Welcome on Tuesday. “Richard has been a great contributor to the sport of automobile racing, North Carolina’s growing wine industry and the economy of Davidson County,” Tippett said. “Naming this stretch of I-85 for him is a fitting tribute to the many ways he has given back to this state and its communities.” Childress is the president and owner of Richard Childress Racing. His race team, based in Welcome, has won 12 NASCAR championships including six Sprint Cup, five Nationwide Series and one Craftsman Truck series. Childress is also the owner of Childress Vineyards, located in Lexington. The vineyard, which opened in November 2004, has received several industry awards and was recently named one of America’s Top 25 Tasting Rooms by Wine Enthusiast. Through his efforts and dedication to the local community, Childress has helped create more than 500 local jobs and made the Childress group of companies one of Davidson County’s top five private employers. He has also directly invested more than $100 million into the local economy and recently donated $5 million to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center to initiate the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma. The Davidson County Board of Commissioners requested the road naming, and the N.C. Board of Transportation passed a resolution dedicating the stretch of highway in Childress’ honor in July, 2008. (RCR site)(12-17-2008) Comment here

      News from December 16, 2008

    • Bud Shootout Changes: With Earnhardt Ganassi Racing going to Chevy and Robby Gordon Motorsports going to Toyota, #42-Juan Pablo Montoya [from Dodge to Chevy] will fall out of the 2009 Budweiser Shootout and the #10-Gillette Evernham Motorsports Dodge will move in. See what the lineup looks like now on my 2009 Budweiser Shootout page.(12-16-2008)

    • The Unofficial NASCAR related Layoff Count since end of season:
      (exceptions noted)
      Dale Earnhardt Inc -- 116
      Ganassi -- 76 + Nationwide team
      Gillett Evernham Motorsports -- 65
      Petty Enterprises -- 65
      Bill Davis Racing -- 60
      Richard Petty Driving Experience -- approx 45
      Roush Fenway Racing -- 40-50
      Hendrick Motorsports -- 19
      Furniture Row -- 25 [approx]
      Earnhardt-Childress Racing Technologies -- 25 [approx]
      Wood Brothers -- 22
      Stewart-Haas -- 16
      Richard Childress Racing -- 15
      Red Bull Racing -- approx 15
      JTG Daugherty Racing -- 12
      Michael Waltrip Racing -- 12
      Ernie Elliott Inc [Ganassi engines] -- 9
      Joe Gibbs Engines -- approx 5
      Hall of Fame -- heard many were let go this week, no number yet
      Yates -- Unknown
      See my Racing Schools/Jobs page for news, postings, links and more including Racers Form Support Website, Motorsports Employment Task Force and more.(as of 12-16-2008)

    • Less wrecks in 2008: Accidents and spins in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series fell to their lowest levels in five years, USA TODAY database research shows. The taller, boxier, sturdier new-generation car, which began full-time duty this season after a 16-race trial in 2007, was involved in 211 incidents resulting in a caution, according to data compiled from NASCAR race reports. That's a 12% drop from last season and marked the lowest total since 2004, when the 10-race, playoff-style Chase began. Wrecks during this year's Chase also fell 33% from 89 in '07 to 60 this year, the lowest in the playoff's five-year existence. One huge surprise was Rookie of the Year Regan Smith, who had the third-lowest accident rate (12%) and became the first Cup rookie to finish every race. Rookie Sam Hornish Jr., a former Indianapolis 500 and three-time IRL IndyCar Series champion, topped the list with 20 accidents in 34 starts (59%). Drivers with the highest total of crashes and spins in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, according to USA TODAY database research:
      2008 -- Sam Hornish Jr.*
      2007 -- David Ragan*
      2006 -- J.J. Yeley*
      2005 -- Michael Waltrip
      2004 -- Robby Gordon
      2003 -- Steve Park
      2002 -- Steve Park
      See more at USA Today.(12-16-2008) Comment here

    • New associate sponsor for Vickers: The familiar blue paint scheme of the #83 Red Bull Toyota driven by Brian Vickers will sport a new logo for the 2009 Sprint Cup Series season as Mighty Auto Parts joins Red Bull Racing Team as an associate sponsor. Since 1963 Mighty has provided automotive service professionals with leading-edge sales tools, renowned training, outstanding business acumen, and parts and products that have helped some of NASCAR’s finest drivers to victory lane. Red Bull Racing Team will utilize Mighty's technical expertise to engineer professional performance- grade air and oil filters designed to endure the grueling demands of the racetrack. "I see a natural fit between the philosophies of Red Bull Racing Team and Mighty Auto Parts,” said Ken Voelker, President of Mighty Auto Parts. “The opportunity to partner with a company such as Red Bull Racing that brings passion, an inventive style of thinking and marketing acuity to everything they do, mirrors Mighty's own modus operandi. We look forward to developing a long-term relationship with RBRT, continuing our long-standing relationship with Jay Frye, and seeing the results of such a synergistic partnership." Mighty has been involved with NASCAR and Red Bull Racing Team General Manager and Vice President Jay Frye for ten years, most recently as an associate sponsor of Mark Martin at MB2. “It is a privilege to continue my relationship with Mighty,” said Frye. “As a team we have high expectations for next season; the quality products Mighty provides will help improve our on-track performance and take us to that next level.”(RBRT PR)(12-16-2008)

    • Logano to test at Daytona for ARCA: Joey Logano, 2009 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Candiate, is scheduled to among the more than 40 drivers expected to take part in the three-day ARCA Series test on Dec 19, 20, 21. The test is open to the public. Guests can purchase a tram-only $10 at Daytona 500 Experience for transportation into the Sprint FANZONE inside the infield of Daytona International Speedway.(ARCA PR), Logano is scheduled to run the ARCA races at Daytona and Pocono in 2009,(12-16-2008)

    • Kyle Busch named to 4th qtr Pocono Spirit Award: #18-Kyle Busch’s generosity to a former driver prompted voters to name him the fourth-quarter recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association Pocono Spirit Award. Busch was recognized for donating $100,000 to Sam Ard and his family after tying Ard’s single-season victory mark with his 10th win of the NASCAR Nationwide Series season, a win that came at Texas Motor Speedway. Ard, a two-time series champion, suffers from both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, creating massive medical bills. “Sam Ard is one of the pioneers of this [series], and to be tied with at 10 wins is something that’s pretty spectacular and really, really special to me,’’ Busch said after the win. “I’m going to try to help him out and see what I can do. It’s not much, but it’s something that can try to help.’’ The NMPA Pocono Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. Each year, quarterly winners are selected, and an overall winner is selected by a vote of the NMPA membership. The 2008 overall winner will be announced during the NMPA's annual convention and awards ceremony in January 2009. Also receiving votes were Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon and NASCAR. Sprint Cup driver Juan Pablo Montoya was the first-quarter winner. Longtime NASCAR photographer T. Taylor Warren was the second-quarter winner, and team owner Richard Childress claimed the third-quarter honor.(SceneDaily)(12-16-2008)

    • Bruton Smith's daughter charged with DWI: The daughter of NASCAR racing mogul Bruton Smith has been charged with DWI in connection with a crash last week that left her seriously injured. Anna Smith remains hospitalized at Carolinas Medical Center. On Tuesday, Huntersville police charged her with DWI and driving with a revoked license. The accident on Dec. 10 happened on Gilead Road near Beatties Ford Road around 5 a.m. Authorities found Smith's wrecked vehicle off the road in a field. Smith was reportedly thrown about 40 feet from the car.(

      News from December 15, 2008

    • Sports Biz Most Influential, France 9th: NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian France is ranked ninth on Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal’s list of the 50 most influential people in sports business. France was ranked 10th last year by the magazine. The magazine’s item on France in this week’s issue reads as follows: “The foreword to the 2008 season was written when Brian France proclaimed NASCAR’s intent to get back to the roots of the sport. France set the tone in January by reaching out to those hard-core fans who felt left behind when NASCAR grew beyond its regional roots over the last 10 years. A NASCAR branding campaign followed and many of the sport’s stakeholders, from tracks to network partners, worked that theme into their promotions and broadcasts. With an industry that depends so heavily on sponsorship facing tough times in 2008 and tougher times in 2009, France’s leadership will be under close inspection. But it’s clear – as this season showed – that when he sets an agenda, most everyone in the sport falls in line.” John Henry, whose Fenway Sports Group owns the Boston Red Sox and half of Roush Fenway Racing, is 20th on the list. Topping the list is ESPN/ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer.(SceneDaily), see more at Comment here

    • Loeb wins ROC: Five-time world rally champ Sebastien Loeb prevailed in the Race of Champions on Sunday, but NASCAR star Carl Edwards provided the night's biggest upset, downing Michael Schumacher in a second-round clash. Edwards, who represented the USA with drifting standout Tanner Foust, narrowly edged the seven-time Formula One champ on the Wembley Stadium course. Edwards lost in the semifinals to former F1 driver David Coulthard, who fell to Loeb in a closely contested three-heat final. Edwards defeated English Formula 3 champ Jaime Alguersuari in the first round. Foust also provided a big-name knockout, edging Jenson Button in a first-round matchup. In the Nations Cup team competition, Schumacher paired with Sebastian Vettel to lead Team Germany to a repeat title. Schumacher and Vettel swept through the preliminaries undefeated before turning back the Team Scandinavia contingent of Tom Kristensen and Mattias Ekstrom.(USA Today wire)(12-15-2008)

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