- One of the Manufacturers pulling out of NASCAR? UPDATE 2 comments from all: an autoextremeist.com column is reporting that: It has come to our attention that serious discussions are taking place for the first time in the conference rooms of one domestic manufacturer in particular on a subject heretofore unthinkable in Detroit. The subject? Pulling out of NASCAR. Yes, it has been mentioned before, and I have predicted it for months now – ever since the announcement was made that Toyota would be buying its way into the France family circus – but we have confirmation that not only are the discussions taking place, they’re so far down the road that a timetable for a pullout has been created, taking into account the end dates of existing contracts with individual racing teams currently aligned with this particular manufacturer. This Detroit manufacturer has decided that if it competes in motorsports in the future, it will only compete in three basic areas: 1. In production-based racing series that by rule and specification retain more than a passing resemblance to the cars they sell and the competitors they compete against in showrooms. 2. "Technical" efforts, in other words, engine programs for open-wheel and prototype racing series, but stopping short of Formula 1. And 3. Developing an effort to compete for the overall victory at Le Mans. Any other efforts, grass-roots racing, drag racing, etc., would be covered as the need and budget allow.(in part….see full article at autoextremeist.com, note: thr article doesn’t say which manufacturer COULD be leaving [Chevy, Dodge, Ford] and this column will only be up a few days), Peter M. DeLorenzo, who owns and writes for the site has been on Speed Channel’s Wind Tunnel a few times and tends to be controversal and a bit anti-NASCAR, however doesn’t tend to just post stuff for the sake of posting it and has a lot of sources.(4-20-2006)
UPDATE: A report on the website www.autoextremist.com suggested this week that one of Detroit’s big three automakers could pull out of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series some time after NASCAR’s "Car of Tomorrow" debuts next year. Speculation has centered on Chevrolet, given the Draconian financial state of its parent company, General Motors, which lost $10.6 billion in 2005 and $323 million in the first quarter of ’06. Alba Colon, Chevrolet’s Nextel Cup program manager, said Thursday that if there have been discussions about GM leaving Nextel Cup, she hasn’t been part of them. "I will be honest with you, I just learned about that (the autoextremist.com report) last night," Colon said Thursday morning at Phoenix International Raceway. "I have never been in a meeting where anything like that has ever been discussed, at least not with me or anyone in my office. We have a commitment with all our teams, a long-term commitment. I can’t comment on the contract we have with our teams, but it’s longer than a year, I can tell you that. It’s more than the end of this year, and it’s not GM’s philosophy to break contracts like that."(Speed Channel)(4-21-2006)
UPDATE 2 – Comments from all 3: Reports that one of Detroit’s Big Three auto manufacturersmay be considering dropping out of NASCAR racing swirled through the Cup garage, possibly stemming from the report that Ford’s SVT (Special Vehicle Team) program may be shut down in October. But Ford’s Kevin Kennedy, the company’s public-affairs manager for racing, said that there are no plans to get out of NASCAR: "We’ve seen that story, and I can assure you Ford does not plan on getting out of NASCAR. Our racing program has support at the highest levels of the company, and our research and data has shown conclusively that there’s a viable business case for us being involved in the sport in terms of our market share and purchase consideration among race fans. Racing is part of the Ford DNA and has been since Henry Ford raced back in 1901."
General Motors' Pat Suhy, the company’s NASCAR director, said that GM isn’t leaving, either: "We’re here in NASCAR and we’re here to stay. It makes good business sense for us to be here. We get a great return on our investment. We have a lot of activation around this around the country with our dealers and our regional dealer groups. And we have great sponsorship partners with our teams. So if there is any truth to that, I don’t know about it, and it certainly isn’t us."
Ray Evernham, owner of the season’s winningest operation, which is sponsored by Dodge dealers, said: "I can’t speak for Dodge, but I can tell you I know they’re happy. If you look at their stock, it’s up. And they’re the only American manufacturer with an increase in market share. I’ve got a really long-term contract with them, and if I were a betting man, I’d bet it’s not Daimler."(Winston Salem Journal)(4-22-2006)
- Dodge Comments on rumor: COMMENT ON WEB SITE REPORT THAT ONE OF THE BIG THREE MANUFACTURERS IS GOING TO LEAVE NASCAR
John Fernandez, Director of Dodge Motorsports Operations: "I’ve heard the rumor, but obviously we’re not involved in it. I haven’t heard anything from General Motors or Ford that indicates they’re in any jeopardy. Obviously their total companies right now are having a tough time in the marketplace, but that’s happened before and it’ll happen again I’m sure. As far as I know, GM and Ford are still committed to NASCAR and committed to racing in the Cup Series. As far as I know right now it’s only a rumor."(Clear!Blue/Dodge PR)(4-22-2006)
- Harvick Wants to Stay at Childress: #29-Kevin Harvick is certain he wants to extend his contract at Richard Childress Racing. "We have talked," Harvick said Friday before practice at Phoenix International Raceway. "I know the ball is pretty much on that side." Harvick is considered this year’s top free agent, and the one driver on almost every car owner’s wish list. His contract is up at the end of the year, and before Friday, neither he or Childress had been very committal on their future together. All either said was that they had planned to discuss 2007 and beyond sometime this month. Harvick said the meeting has now happened, and he’s told the car owner he wants to stay put. Childress was on an African safari and unavailable for comment. "There is a seven-year relationship here that first and foremost is the main priority," Harvick said. "I have a lot of friends here … it’s something that we’ll – it will be the first thing we try to work out."(in part from the Associated Press)(4-22-2006)
- COT to test at Lowe’s Motor Speedway: Lowe’s Motor Speedway will play host to a test of NASCAR’s "Car of Tomorrow" [COT] May 30 and 31, the Tuesday and Wednesday after the Coca-Cola 600 is run at the track. NASCAR officials said eight to 12 cars are expected at the next test.(Speed Channel)(4-22-2006)
- Toyota looking at Fennig? 5 hired from Penske..more: former #26/97/6 Roush crew chief Jimmy Fennig [recently replaced on the #26 and now with Roush in the Busch Series], a highly respected, no-nonsense guy who gained his credentials with Bobby Allison and Mark Martin, is suddenly the hottest item in the stock-car racing garage, with Toyota officials and Dodge’s Chip Ganassi expected to make calls. Ganassi is looking for a new team manager for his three-car operation after Andy Graves’ resignation. And Fennig could be just the guy to fill the void, with instant credibility. Toyota could be an option. Toyota executives are wide open in building their Nextel Cup tour operations, and now they’re raiding teams right and left, according to car owners. Don Miller, of the Roger Penske team, said that Toyota has picked up five Penske men already: "They just offer them $20,000 more than they’re currently making, and get them." Ganassi has been so upset at losing crewmen to Toyota that he has sent the company a "cease-and-desist" letter. That move has many here writing off Ganassi for any Toyota-NASCAR deal.(Winston Salem Journal)(4-22-206)
- Harvick wins at Phoenix: #29-Kevin Harvick won the Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, leading the final 10 laps [of 312], blowing by #16-Greg Biffle [who was saving fuel and eventually ran out, finishing 16th] on lap 303 to win his first race of 2006, first since Bristol last April and 6th career win. Harvick swept the Nextel Cup and Busch Series races at Phoenix. #20-Tony Stewart, who was to start 3rd, but had to start last due to a tire infraction [drivers qualifying in the top-10 must start the race on the tires they qualified with] finished 2nd, followed by #17-Kenseth, #99-Edwards and #07-Clint Bowyer [his first career top-5]. The rest of the top-10 were #9-Kasey Kahne, #48-Jimmie Johnson, #43-Bobby Labonte, #31-Jeff Burton and #24-Jeff Gordon. Only ten drivers finished on the lead lap with #6-Martin, #16-Biffle, #1-Truex Jr. among the lead lap cars who ran out of fuel. #8-Dale Earnhardt Jr. hung around the top-10 all day until a late accident [he admitted it was his fault] relegated Earnhardt to a 23rd finish, 2 laps down. #5-Kyle Busch, the pole sitter, sped entering pit road while leading early in the race, got sent to the end of the longest line. Busch then got into #42-Mears then spun and with another wreck behind them which caused a 9 minute red flag. Busch then rammed Mears car and headed to the garage for repairs and refused interview requests from FOX or MRN. When Busch’s team fixed the car and he went back on the track, Busch was black flagged and penalized five laps for ramming Mears, he finished 36th. #17-Kenseth takes over the points lead by 9 points over former leader #48-Johnson. There were 7 cautions for 29 laps and 11 leaders with 20 lead changes.
Race Results on my Phoenix Race Results/Awards Page.
Points Standings on my Drivers/Owners Points after Phoenix page.
Race Rundown: see my Phoenix Race Info/Rundown Page for my race rundown page, laps led, top 10, race notes, lucky dogs and more.(4-22-2006)
- Phoenix Race Notes:
– Kevin Harvick won the Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, scoring his sixth NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victory in his 186th career start. He also won the NASCAR Busch Series race at Phoenix. Harvick’s last victory came at Bristol in April 2005, 39 races ago where he also swept the weekend winning both the Cup and Busch races. This is the second time a driver has swept both races in a weekend at Phoenix. The last time a driver swept both the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Busch Series races at Phoenix was Jeff Burton races in 2000.
– Five of Harvick’s six victories have come on a superspeedway.
– Harvick became the sixth different race winner in eight races in 2006 and the 17th different race winner in 20 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races at Phoenix.
– Harvick scored his fourth top-10 finish in eight races this season, all in the last four races. The last time Harvick scored four straight top-10 finishes was when he scored five straight in September-October 2003 (Dover, Talladega, Kansas, Charlotte and Martinsville).
– Harvick climbed from ninth to eighth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings. After eight races in 2005, he ranked 11th in the point standings.
– Harvick led one time, leading the final 10 laps.
– This was team owner Richard Chidress’s 78th NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victory. Childress has scored two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victories at Phoenix. His other Phoenix victory was by Dale Earnhardt in 1990.
– Greg Biffle led 151 laps, leading the most laps for the third time in 2006. He also led the most at California and Atlanta.
– Tony Stewart (second) posted his sixth top-10 finish in nine races at Phoenix. He scored his fifth top-10 finish of the season, all top-fives and remained fifth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings. One year ago he ranked 14th after eight races.
– Matt Kenseth (third) scored his fourth top-10 finish in eight races at Phoenix International Raceway and climbed from second to first in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings.
– Carl Edwards (fourth) scored his third top-10 finish in four races at Phoenix International Raceway. It marked his best finish at Phoenix and his third top-10 finish in 2006, all top fives.
– Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year contender Clint Bowyer (fifth) scored his first top-10 finish in two races at Phoenix. It was his second top-10 finish in 2006 and marked his career-first top-five finish. Bowyer led 21 laps, the first laps of his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup career. He became the 31st different lap leader of the 2006 season.
– Bowyer was the highest finishing Raybestos Rookie-of-the Year contender at Phoenix.
– At least one of the 2006 Raybestos Rookie-of-the Year contenders has scored a top-15 finish in every race this season.
– Bobby Labonte (eighth) scored his eighth top-10 finish in 15 races at Phoenix. It was his third top-10 finish in eight races in 2006.
– Joe Nemechek (35th) has been running at the finish in the last 40 races, a streak that began at Bristol last April – the longest current streak.(NASCAR Statistical Services)(4-22-2006)
- Rumblings – Race Notes – Phoenix: It what turned out to be a "fuelish" event tonight at Phoenix International Raceway, Kevin Harvick passed Greg Biffle on lap 303 and led the final 10 circuits to capture the Subway Fresh 500….with probably only a little gas to spare. Harvick got the weekend sweep as numerous cars ran out near the end with most teams trying to stretch it and quite a few failing in that attempt. This was win #6 for Happy Harvick (he’s solo in 61st on the all-time win list) and the 78th for RCR. They may send RC packing more often…..I seem to remember when Dale Earnhardt got his first ever road course win at Sears Point back in 1995 that Childress was off hunting that weekend as well. Harvick’s take from the over $4.8M in posted awards was $228,486.
Tony Stewart finished as the runner-up in the final shake out as Greg Biffle had to pit for fuel with just a handful of laps left.
Clint Bowyer (5th) had his career-best finish tonight. His previous best was 6th at Daytona in February.
Sterling Marlin (12th) had his best finish since he was 7th at Talladega last October.
Tony Raines (17th) had his best finish since he was 13th at Homestead in November of 2003! (only 15 races)
Travis Kvapil (21st) had his best finish since he was 10th when we were here last November.
Kenny Wallace (25th) had his best finish since he was 21st at Homestead last November. (only 3 races)
Stanton Barrett (33rd) had his best finish since he was 31st at Darlington last May. (only 9 races)
STREAKIN….Kevin Harvick has 4 Top-10’s in a row.
Kasey Kahne has 6 Top-10’s in the last 7 races.
Tony Stewart has 4 Top-10’s in the last 5 races.
This Week’s Elevator….UP: Operator of the week is a lonely Jeff Burton (+28 ). DOWN: The Big Dropper was Kyle Busch (-35), followed by Denny Hamlin (-28 ), and Ryan Newman (-26). As longtime "Shaft" watchers will know (and we’ve been doing this since waaaaay before TV thought it was cool), Tony Stewart’s official starting spot is listed as 3rd, so he’s not eligible for this week’s prestigious Op Award.
Clint Bowyer led three times tonight for 21 laps….the first time he’s ever led a NEXTEL Cup event. Dave Blaney led once for two laps tonight, the first time he’s led since Homestead last November. And, Brandon Ash led a lap tonight for the first time in his Cup career. That gives us 33 drivers to lead a lap this season…..a far cry from the 51 we had last year, but the season is still young.
We’ve got a new points leader after tonight. Matt Kenseth takes over the top spot for the second time this season (he led for one week after Bristol), this time by 9 markers. Our "Stayin’ Alive" line is all the way up to 16th…..at this point last season we had 18 drivers eligible. Carl Edwards (22nd to 16th….and jumping ahead of the "Line") made the best move forward this week while Reed Sorenson (19th to 24th) fell the most spots.(see much more at Stock Car Fans)(4-22-2006)
- NASCAR Softball Returns: Sixteen teams will compete in Bob Hubner’s Totally Racin’ Softball League beginning April 25th 2006. Games will be played on Tuesday & Wednesday nights 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 at Walter Safrit Park in Kannapolis, NC. The Teams are: Defending 2005 Champions Chip Ganassi Racing, Roush Racing (Cup), Speed Channel, Hendrick Motorsports, Champion Tire & Wheel, NASCAR Media, Race City Marketing, Stock Car Steel, Waltrip Racing, Evernham Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, HRE Engines, Roush/Yates Racing Engines, Richard Childress Racing, Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Wood Brothers/JTG Racing. More info at racecitymarketing.com.(4-22-2006)
- Fans Get Chance to Vote in Driver for NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge: For the third straight year, NASCAR fans will choose an at-large driver for the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Saturday, May 20 (FX, 7:00pm/et). Fans will have the opportunity to vote in one driver among the top 50 in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points who is not already on the list of eligible drivers for this year’s all-star event. Voting is now available through the following channels:
– On-line at www.NASCAR.Com
– Trackside at the Nextel Experience
– Bass Pro Shop retail locations
In 2005, nearly 440,000 votes were cast, with Martin Truex, Jr. topping the fan vote to secure a position in the field. The 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge kicks off May 20 at 7:30pm/et with the running of the NEXTEL Open, a 30-lap race divided into two segments featuring drivers who rank in the top 50 in the points standings, but have not yet qualified to run in the All-Star Challenge. The winner of the Open advances to the All-Star Challenge, which begins at 9 p.m. and is a 90-lap competition, divided into three segments. The race winner will receive prize money in excess of $1 million. Tickets for the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge can be purchased online at Lowesmotorspeedway.com, at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway Ticket Office or by calling (800) 455-FANS.(NASCAR PR)(4-22-2006)
- Roush ramping up truck efforts: Roush Racing is stepping up its marketing efforts to bring new primary sponsors into the Truck Series. The team is working closely with NASCAR in redoing, and enhancing, its series research data and marketing messages to make a stronger case on behalf of the truck series. The goal, according to Roush Racing President Geoff Smith, is to persuade would-be sponsors that becoming a primary NCTS sponsor is a better overall value than being a small associate sponsor on a Nextel Cup team. "The marketing community in general has closed their eyes to truck racing," Smith said Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway. "When they have $1 million or $2 million to spend, they’ll call us and say, ‘What do you have in Cup?’ "And we’ll say, ‘We’ve got a truck program we’d like to show you.’ "And they’ll say, ‘Not interested. My client has to be in Cup.’ Which is a faulty premise. … They’ve got their 10 reasons why they shouldn’t be in trucks, and none of ’em are bona fide. The type of exposure you get from being the primary sponsor in 25 (NCTS) races, with all the media following that goes with it, all the branding elements that go with that … We’re trying to get the argument articulated in a persuasive way. The truck series has great racing, it’s a great value proposition. Sponsors should not be declining to participate in our sport because they can’t get a 3-inch square on a Nextel Cup car." Smith said that the team should have its new NCTS marketing package put together by the middle of next month.(speedtv.com)(4-22-2006)