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The Next Step in Team Ownership

Roger Penske has always been innovative and a leader in team ownership. News comes recently that he is about to try and raise the stakes in team ownership yet again, with the ceation of his own test track right next door to his team facility in North Carolina.

According to reports recently in the Charlotte Observer newspaper a planning application has been lodged for a 3/4 mile track with several different configurations.

Penske Racing plans to build a test track in Mooresville similar in size and layout to the NASCAR Nextel Cup series track at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

The 54-acre site on Mazeppa Road would include 1/4- and 1/2-mile ovals within the 3/4-mile oval track, and a 1.8-mile road course, documents filed with the Iredell County Planning Department show.

At its neighboring race shop, Mooresville-based Penske already designs, makes and tests high-performance vehicles for competition in the NASCAR Nextel Cup and Busch series, Indy Racing League, and Automobile Racing Club of America and American LeMans series.

The test track also would accommodate law-enforcement training and recreational motorsports, but is not for spectators paying admission, Penske says in its filing with the county. Testing would be between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., according to the filing.

The acreage now includes two ball fields and a vacant lot. The land is zoned for heavy industrial uses, including race tracks, Iredell County Planner Rebecca Harper said.

Neighbors include Cardinal Glass and such racing operations as a wind tunnel.

Much of the residentially zoned land near the proposed track has been rezoned for industrial uses, and Mazeppa Road has become Mooresville and Iredell County’s primary industrial area, county planning staff say.

Mooresville, which borders the track site, calls itself “Race City USA” for the dozens of motorsports shops it has attracted over the years, including Penske Racing South off Mazeppa Road.

Penske proposes putting in landscaping along the track property’s railroad boundary to obscure the track’s view from Mazeppa Road, and adding landscaping along Penske Way, which leads off Mazeppa.

The company would leave the woods on the west side of the property as a noise buffer. Industry border the other three sides.

Penske Racing South president Don Miller could not be reached Thursday.

The Iredell County Planning Board will consider the plan at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The planning staff is recommending approval.

County commissioners are expected to consider the board’s recommendation in October.

With teams having to have state of the art computer simulation software, 7 post shaker rigs, tie down rigs and all sorts of other things to stay at the front, this raises the bar once again. Being able to test at your own facility right on your own doorstep will be a huge advantage, until other teams do the same ….

Kyle Busch Confirms Toyota for Gibbs

Kyle Busch Confirms Toyota for Joe Gibbs RacingThe news that Joe Gibbs Racing will be switching to Toyota for next year has been around for a while, and with a press conference scheduled for next week, everyone has been expecting the news.

At California Speedway Kyle Busch has jumped the gun and basically confirmed that the number 18 he will be driving next year will be a Toyota.

“We were just always kept in the loop on what exactly was going to happen with that and, when they finally made their decision, they went ahead and called us,” said Busch,

Asked what that call was, Busch replied, “That they were going with Toyota.”

Busch said he’s “pretty much OK with” the move.

“It’s something more so that crew chiefs, the engineers and all those guys need to approve on,” Busch said. “Us drivers, it doesn’t matter what we’re driving.”

Busch said he talked to Mark Cronquist, the head engine builder at Gibbs, about Toyota engines as Busch was considering where he would be going after leaving Hendrick Motorsports this year.

“They brought Mark in because I had a bunch of questions about the motor stuff,” Busch said. “You know (Toyota’s) got a lot of questions in that area with the motors because they’ve got, supposedly, the top-end power, but they don’t have the bottom end and stuff like that.

“Mark alluded to me that they feel like their package that they have in the Chevrolet engines, especially with the new R-7 stuff, that they can translate that into the Toyota stuff and, hopefully, have a pretty good piece come January.”

This is all very interesting stuff, and seems very strange that Kyle Busch has told the world that the Gibbs cars will be running Toyotas next year. Normally it’s the team that will make these announcements, and it seems very odd that Kyle Busch has stepped in with these comments at this point. We know Busch can be outspoken at times, but this takes it to a whole other level, and takes the meaning of the official press conference this week away.

Unless this is an intentional move by Gibbs to leak the news in a very direct way, expect to see some sort of censure of Kyle Busch by his new team, and it could even possibly be the end of Kyle Busch at Gibbs racing, before their partnership even gets started. Lets see what happens in the next couple of days.

Why NASCAR Should Drop Title Sponsors

Today we are greeted with the news that NASCAR is now scrambling around to find a suitable title sponsor for the Busch Series to replace Busch when they leave at the end of this year.

There have been many names thrown about since the announcement that Busch would not be returning including Subway, KFC, Dunkin Donuts and Allstate. The title sponsorship for the series was rumored to be up for grabs for about 30 million dollars per year, with about a third of that being spent on marketing and promotion, including a large buy of advertising time on ESPN to go along with the race coverage.

With all the hype surrounding NASCAR and the big steps it has taken to becoming one of the biggest sports in the world it is surprising that the title sponsor has not yet been found, and rumor again is that the dollar figure is dropping almost daily, and is probably about half of the original asking price, with the media buy portion a lot smaller than it originally was.

Subway has been rumored to be the front running contender, but it appears now that the main stumbling block with their sponsorship of the series is category exclusivity. With Subway being involved in the very broad “quick service restaurant” category, and with existing car owner deals with companies like Arby’s, McDonalds and Domino’s already involved, and owners that are talking to others in the same category, it seems a deal cannot be put together.

Of course this has risen to the surface lately with all the news about the ongoing lawsuits between NASCAR, AT&T and Nextel/Sprint, and it seems Subway do not want to get involved in anything that could get as costly and time consuming as that whole mess.

Title sponsorships of this magnitude are not good for the sport. Sure NASCAR owns the sport and can do whatever it wants, but going out into the market place competing for sponsors with it’s own teams and then taking whole sponsor categories away from their teams is not a good thing, after all no matter how ignorant and out of touch NASCAR is, without the teams it has absolutely nothing, and without money there are no teams.

As we have seen in recent years team sponsorships are getting more and more difficult to find as the costs of running a team increase, and this is proven by the number of mergers with outside marketing organizations. I am sure Jack Roush did not really want to sell half of the team he has worked so hard to set up, but he could see the writing on the wall and the cost spiral moving upwards all the time, so he did what he had to do, bring in someone with extra marketing clout to make sure his team survives. Over at Evernham Motorsport it’s exactly the same story, more money needed and sponsors looking at the moves NASCAR is making and getting cold feet.

NASCAR, like all organizations has become a huge corporation, with huge facilities and large numbers of people to support. It’s needs for money are growing all the time, and noone is really sure if there are enough sponsorship dollars out there for NASCAR and the teams to have enough. Maybe it’s time for everyone to go on a cost cutting mission and diet, including NASCAR, so that it can guarantee the survival of it’s teams long term.

Another Option for Junior

Number 38 For Earnhardt Jr
Emerging form the garages at Bristol this weekend is the news that Dale Earnhardt Jr may not be running the #81 next year after all.

Rumor is that Robert Yates Racing has applied to NASCAR to allow the number #38 to be transfered across to Hendrick Motorsport.

The #38 was first used back in 1975 in NASCAR by Tom Williams, Walter Ballard, Grant Adcox and Jimmy Insolo for a total of 6 starts, and then did not see any regular racing until Robert Yates started using it for Elliot Sadler in 2003, having 55 starts between 1975 and 2002.

With so little important NASCAR history behind the #38 Junior can make it his own, and the number has the bonus of having both a 3 and an 8 included, the numbers identified with Junior and his father Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Villeneuve to Toyota

Jacques Villeneuve to drive ToyotaNo, Jacques Villeneuve is not replacing Ralf Schumacher in Formula One next year at Toyota.

Instead Villeneuve will make the next move in his racing career, taking on NASCAR. THis week he will get his first taste of NASCAR by testing a Bill Davis Racing Toyota Tundra truck at Chicagoland Speedway.

Word is he will race in the last 7 truck series races of the year, and if things go well he may even make his Nextel Cup debut later in the year at the wheel of a Bill Davis Toyota, and could take over the #36 Camry next year full time in the Sprint Cup.

Bill Davis commented on NASCAR.com from Bristol that he will put Villeneuve in the final seven Craftsman Truck Series events this season, plus the ARCA event at Talladega Superspeedway — all in an attempt to prove to NASCAR officials that the former F1 star will be ready for a full-time Cup ride by 2008. But Davis didn’t rule out Villeneuve getting some seat time in a Cup car by the end of ’07.

“I don’t know. He’s going to do some Cup testing, some Car of Tomorrow testing, and maybe toward the end of the year we do run a Cup race,” Davis said. “We’ll just kind of see how things go.”

Asked why he was planning to start Villeneuve off in the Truck Series, Davis replied: “I think it’s just a good starting point. We’ve got a successful Truck program, and trucks that run up front and win races, and good teammates for him to pull from. It just makes sense. That’s something he could step into that’s working on a weekly basis, something that he can build his confidence in.”

Villeneuve is of course no stranger to oval racing, after spending a number of years racing on North American ovals, and winning the Indy 500. With those credentials he will fit right into NASCAR, just as Juan Pablo Montoya has done.

After the success of Juan Pablo Montoya coming to NASCAR this season Bill Davis signing Villeneuve makes a lot of sense. With the Car of Tomorrow becoming the only car raced next year, the learning curve will not be as great as it has been in the past. Sure the current drivers have this season to learn about the Car of Tomorrow, but that is nothing compared to the learning curve faced in the older style cars.

Also the signing of Villeneuve coincides with NASCAR’s move into Canada, and as we have seen in the past Villeneuve has an absolutely huge following in his native Canada, and NASCAR will love all those eyes on NASCAR programming at a time when ratings are slowly declining, and of course it’s a win win for Toyota. The only thing that has not been announced is how long time manager Craig Pollock will be involved. Expect some announcements soon, including maybe some sort of Pollock/Davis merger, after all I am sure Bill Davis could do with some input from one of the few people to successfully set up a formula one team from scratch in the recent past.

Carl Flips Over Another Win

It’s the signature move of signature moves, and Carl Edwards took the time to do another backflip after taking his second win in 2007 at Bristol on Saturday night. The early race was dominated by Kasey Khane who ran at and near the front all day to claim second place, the best finishing position for the Evernham Dodge team all year. He also led 305 of the 500 laps, the most laps he has led this season.

“This is the biggest win of my career,” said Edwards, who has six career victories. “It means the world to win this race.”

The win also locked Carl Edwards in to the top 12 and the Chase for the Championship, which he missed last year.

“We’re back,” declared Edwards, who made the Chase and finished third in the standings in 2005 but failed to make the field last season.

Finishing third was Clint Bowyer after a strong run throughout the race, running stongly but quietly and almost unnoticed all night. He is not mathematically locked into the Chase, but is very close to being locked in joining Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin.

“I am not going to count on that quite yet, not ’til it’s over,” Bowyer said.

Tony Stewart made a late race charge after ealy handling problems to fill fourth position, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fifth after running near the front all night. Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Bobby Labonte, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle were the others to finish in the top ten.

With all of the contenders near the bottom of the list for the chase, and those trying to get in all finishing pretty near each other the positions around 12th did not change with Kurt Busch holding on to that all important 12th place, and Earnhardt Jr only gaining 5 points on him, remaining in 13th. Ryan Newman remains in 14th, but is not giving up as yet.

“We’re running more consistent, and that’s what it takes if you want to be a championship contender,” said Busch, who won Tuesday’s rain-postponed race in Michigan. “But for us, we still have to get into the Chase. We’re not locked in, so we’re not losing focus with two more races.”

“I want to win. If I can’t make the Chase, I want to win a race,” Earnhardt said. “When we don’t make [the Chase] everybody makes a big deal over it — they talk about it pre-race and talk about it postrace. It’s a bummer when you see that and watch that. You’re just trying to let it go under the radar when you can’t get it done.”

“We still have a shot at it,” Newman said. “Mathematically, we still have a chance. We’re just trying to give it our best shot, each and every lap. That’s good enough in my eyes — whether it’s good enough to make the top 12, we’ll see.”

For many people the start of the show however was the track. After the March race the track was completely torn up, re-profiled and re-concreted, making the track faster and smoother than it ever has been before. With drivers generally unhappy with the last few tracks that have been re-sealed, noone really knew what to expect, but Bruton Smith and his team got it right at Bristol, making for two and even three wide racing at times, instead of the everyone to the bottom groove that we have seen at Bristol for so many years.

Those looking for crashes were to be disappointed as the first 120 laps went caution free, and drivers were free to move all over the track and race, with all three new grooves seeming to be pretty equal. Whatever happens, it’s a new era of racing at Bristol, and now the self proclaimed worlds fastest half mile races better than it ever has in the past.

Watch the last 10 laps and Carl’s backflip below.

Teammate Battle – Jeff Gordon Vs Jimmie Johnson

Who is Stronger 24 Jeff Gordon or 48 Jimmie JohnsonJimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon have been teammates at Hendrick motorsport since Jimmie Johnson’s first race at the 2001 UAW-GM Quality 500, race number 29 of the 2001 season. This means they have raced each other 208 times.

If asked who is the more successful driver between the pair, most would jump in and say Jeff Gordon immediately, however the stats between the pair do not back that view up completely.

Of the 208 times they have raced together, Jeff Gordon has beaten Jimmie Johnson 98 times, while Jimmie Johnson has beaten Jeff Gordon 108 times.
Jimmie Johnson has won 27 times during those 208 races, while Jeff Gordon has won 21 times.
Jimmie Johnson has 78 top 5 finishes, while Jeff Gordon has 80.
Jimmie Johnson has 124 top 10 finishes, while Jeff Gordon has 118.
Jimmie Johnson has an average finish of 12.3 while Jeff Gordon has an average finish of 13.5
Jimmie Johnson has 1 Championship in 2006, Jeff Gordon has 1 Championship in 2001

Looking at the stats above it’s a win to Jimmie Johnson in every category except top 5 finishes, which means Jimmie Johnson is the stronger current teammate at Hendrick Motorsport, although of course you cannot overlook Jeff Gordons other championships, or the fact that he is leading this years standings so far, and is looking good for another championship this year.

Kurt Busch Makes A Statement

For the first time in the modern NASCAR era a rain delayed race was pushed to a Tuesday, and finally the weather held off, despite lots of low cloud and even fog causing a brief red flag period because spotters could not see the back stretch from their usual positions. The Michigan 400 ran full length (200 laps), plus a green white checker finish when Greg Biffle spun bringing out the caution with 2 laps to go.

Just as he did in Pocono 3 weeks ago, Kurt Busch had the dominant car, leading most laps and taking the win, and in the process stamping his authority on a claim to a Chase top 12 position. In my post a couple of days ago I showed a comparison between Kurt Bush, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Ryan Newman and from those said it looks like Kurt Busch has the stats to back up his claim to a top 12 position over the others, and today he made the statement loud and clear to his rivals that he is going to fight for a place in the Chase.

Martin Truex also beefed up his claim to a top 12 position, with a strong 2nd place finish today behind Kurt Busch, holding on to 11th place in the points. For those chasing these two it wasn’t such a good day. Ryan Newman, recorded a 16th place finish to end up 14th in the points chase, 171 behind Kurt Busch, and Dale Earnhardt Jr finished 12th to be 13th overall in the points, 163 points behind Kurt Busch. Greg Biffle is still 14th, but is now 296 points behind Kurt Busch, and with only 3 races to go until the Chase, it seems very unlikely that he could make it, but of course this is NASCAR so never say never, but on current form it would almost take a miracle for him to make it.

Some Stats in the Race for 12th

The race for the all important 12th and final place in the Chase this year is boiling down to a race between Kurt Bush, who currently occupies 12th, followed by his teammate Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr, and in with a real outside chance Greg Biffle.

With Kurt Busch sitting in 12th we gathered some stats comparing him to those chasing him in all races where they have run together.

Kurt Busch vs Dale Earnhardt Jr after Watkins Glen 2007
They have raced against each other 242 times, starting with the 2000 MBNA 400, the 27th race in the 2000 season.
Of those 242 meetings Dale Earnhardt Jr has beaten Kurt Busch 137 times, and Kurt Busch has beaten Earnhardt Jr 105 times.
Kurt Busch has 16 wins, Dale Earnhardt Jr has 15 wins
Kurt Busch has 54 top 5 finishes while Dale Earnhardt Jr has 70
Kurt Busch has 97 top 10’s while Dale Earnhardt Jr has 110
Kurt Busch has an average finish of 17.6 while Dale Earnhardt Jr has an average finish of 15.6

Kurt Busch vs Ryan Newman after Watkins Glen 2007
They have raced against each other 208 times, starting with the 2000 Checker Auto Parts/Dura Lube 500, the 32nd race in the 2000 season.
Of those 208 meetings Kurt Busch has beaten Ryan Newman 112 times, and Ryan Newman has beaten Kurt Busch 96 times.
Kurt Busch has 16 wins, Ryan Newman has 12 wins
Kurt Busch has 52 top 5 finishes while Ryan Newman has 57
Kurt Busch has 93 top 10’s while Ryan Newman has 91
Kurt Busch has an average finish of 16.1 while Ryan Newman has an average finish of 16.9

Kurt Busch vs Greg Biffle after Watkins Glen 2007
They have raced against each other 170 times, starting with the 2002 NAPA Auto Parts 500, the 10th race in the 2002 season.
Of those 170 meetings Kurt Busch has beaten Greg Biffle 97 times, and Greg Biffle has beaten Kurt Busch 73 times.
Kurt Busch has 13 wins, Greg Biffle has 10 wins
Kurt Busch has 43 top 30 finishes while Greg Biffle has 57
Kurt Busch has 76 top 10’s while Greg Biffle has 54
Kurt Busch has an average finish of 16 while Greg Biffle has an average finish of18.3

Looking at the stats it looks like Kurt Busch has a pretty good case for holding on to the very valuable 12th place, but of course as we saw last year with Tony Stewart anything can happen when it comes to making the chase.

Biggest NASCAR Crash

On this Monday after rain washed out yesterdays Michigan 400, and is threatening to cancel the race again today, it’s time for a look back in time, all the way back to the 1960 Daytona 500, the second annual Daytona 500.

The biggest multicar accident in Nascar history occurred when 49 cars, out of a 68 car field were involved in an early race incident. 37 cars were took out of the race. Despite virtually no safety standards by comparison to today, it was incredible that no drivers were fataly injured, with only 8 drivers sustaining very minor cuts and bruises.

The 37-car crash involved 75.5% of the field; a crash of similar proportions would be a 33-car crash in today’s 43-car field. There has been a 27-car crash at Talladega Superspeedway in recent years.

The race continued and with two laps to go, Bobby Johns had everything in hand except the trophy and the nearly $20,000 first-place check until a freak gust of wind shattered the rear window on Johns’ 1960 Pontiac, sending his car spinning backwards down the backstretch where it narrowly missed splashing into Lake Lloyd.

By the time Johns regained his control of his car and got running again, Junior Johnson sped by, leaving Johns a frustrated runner-up. The Petty’s, Lee and Richard took third and fourth, the only other cars on the lead lap at the finish.