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This Week In NASCAR: A Very Long Week At The Track
An Opinion

August 25, 2007

Written and Compiled By Ron Felix

The following news items are compilations of news gathered by the Insider Racing News staff, written by Ron Felix, NASCAR headlines, PR releases and portions of news stories gathered from around the internet. This edition of "This week In NASCAR" covers the highlights of the past seven days.

In The News...

  • Kurt Busch Wins Rain-Delayed 3M Performance 400
  • Roush May Sell Fifth Team To Outside Investor
  • Denny Hamlin Wins Carfax 250
  • Benson Wins Bristol Truck Race
  • Rudd Said He's Had Enough ~ Hates The Time Commitment
  • RCR Re-Signs With General Motors
  • Jarrett Says He and UPS Will Return
  • Brendan Gaughan Gets Married
  • Paul Andrews Injured In Fall
  • No. 31 Team Without Logos
  • Kenny Wallace In For Kyle Petty

    Kurt Busch Wins Rain-Delayed 3M Performance 400
    Two days of rain at the Michigan International Speedway forced a postponement of the 3M Performance 400 Nextel Cup race this week. The race was rescheduled several times but the final time was for Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time, but heavy morning fog hung over the track. NASCAR put the cars on the speedway for 10 laps under caution before throwing a red flag -- giving the weather a chance clear up. When the fog finally dissipated, Kurt Busch turned on the rocket engines and blew away his competition.

    It was the first time in 37 years that a Nextel Cup race had been run on Tuesday. For the loyal fans that stayed to watch the contest, they saw a good race, and in the end it came down to a green-white-checkers finish with Kurt Busch winning the race in near total domination. Busch led 92 of the 200 laps. It was the second victory of the season for Busch, he also dominated the Pocono track two races ago. It was the 17th career win in 243 races for Busch and puts his Miller Lite Dodge a little deeper in contention for the Chase for the Championship.

    Martin Truex Jr. started last on the field and finished a strong second with Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth in tow. Denny Hamlin, who became the second driver to get locked into the Chase, finished fifth followed by Dave Blaney, Carl Edwards, Brian Vickers, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart to round out the top ten.

    It couldn't have been much worse for NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., finishing 12th on the day. He was running fifth late in the race but on the final pit stop, he made a rookie mistake and slid through his pit. It took a few seconds to get backed up and positioned but it cost him five or six positions on the track. He has been accused in the past of not having his head in the race come late in the season and today's incident seemed to illustrate the problem. Earnhardt is now 163 points behind 12th place Kurt Busch and a place in the Chase with three races to go before the final ten begins. If it had not been for the 100 point penalty for an unproved wing support, earlier in the year, he would be sitting in a better spot -- only 63 points out of the Chase.


    Roush May Sell Fifth Team To Outside Investor
    Jack Roush said on Friday at Michigan International Speedway, that one of his options for paring the company down to four teams would be to sell one of the teams to an outside investor. Although Roush didn't have any other specifics on what team would be more likely to be sold, Roush said that he has until 2010 to get the company in compliance with NASCAR's mandate of four teams per owner. Roush also indicated that with the assistance of Roush Fenway Racing, an investor could potentially buy into a turn-key operation and avoid some of the pitfalls that recent new owners have experienced.

    “We’re looking at a number of different options," Roush said. "We’re looking at the prospect of an investor group that might be willing to come in and start another four-team program. We’d like not to relive success or lack of success that some recent entrants that have come in with outside money and started their own their own thing. I think we could help somebody come in and the fifth team that will become available for me in 2010 will be a seed corn, potentially, for that. It shouldn’t go without notice that we are unabated in our effort to find and identify new drivers and to build our crews and teams with outsiders to the extent that we can and advance them through the programs as they get experience. We’re on a track to be able to help somebody come in and provide the technology and the man-power to get them started.”


    Denny Hamlin Wins Busch Race
    Denny Hamlin, driving the No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing, had a dominate car when the race started and it only got better from there. Hamlin first took the lead on lap 27 by beating everyone out of the pits following the second caution and although he fell back in the pack for various reasons, he was able to drive right back to the front. The final clincher came on the final pit stop when Matt Kenseth was leading and Hamlin was running second. Both drivers made green flag stops and were nose-to-tail coming into the pits but Kenseth's right front tire changer dropped a lugnut. The extra 2 1/2 seconds it took on Kenseth's car was the difference when both drivers got back up to speed. Hamlin used that advantage and clean air to pull away from Kenseth and drive on to victory. It was the fourth win For Hamlin in the Busch Series in 66 career races.

    “We had a really good car,” Hamlin said. “Even in practice we felt that we had a car that could contend for a win. We went out and hit the wall pretty good (during practice on Friday) and it was kind of a downer for the team to have to fix the car when they shouldn’t have had to. We repaired the car and we knew when we qualified fifth with the hot conditions that we were going to have a really good car. Today was kind of uneventful. I had a lot of fun racing Greg (Biffle) and Matt (Kenseth) at one point.”

    Hamlin’s margin of victory was 6.998 seconds, the widest difference in track history. Hamlin was so comfortable in the car that when he was coming off the fourth and final turn, he joked with his crew that he was running out of gas. “I made them jump on the wall, I’m sure,” Hamlin said laughing. “It happened at Indy and it wasn’t so funny. I figured I could coast anyway, even if I did run out.”

    Kenseth held on for second although he was losing ground near the end.

    Kevin Harvick finished a strong third, putting pressure on Kenseth for second and Harvick's teammate Jeff Burton brought his RCR Chevrolet home in the fourth spot. Greg Biffle, who looked to have a fast car early, faded to fifth. Rounding out the top ten were Brian Vickers, Paul Menard, Todd Bodine, Casey Mears and Clint Bowyer.


    Benson Wins Bristol Truck Race
    Johnny Benson postponed a pit stop and then held off Brendan Gaughan to win the Trucks Series' O'Reilly 200 on Wednesday night. When most drivers on the lead lap pitted after a caution on Lap 35, Benson and crew chief Trip Bruce decided to wait and have a fresh set of tires later on in the race over Bristol Motor Speedway's new surface meant to make passing easier. Benson finally pitted when a caution came out just past the midway point, and with new tires and a full tank of gas, there was no stopping him.

    "We did the same thing at Darlington in 2004, and it paid off for us there," Bruce said. "We both agreed on what fresh tires could do for us. It's hard to hold somebody off at the end when they have tires."

    Mark Martin finished third, followed by Mike Skinner and Rick Crawford. Skinner's top-five finish allowed him to increase his points lead over Ron Hornaday Jr. to 92 points. In the past, track position was more important than fresh tires at Bristol -- Martin drove on the same set of tires for the last 170 laps of last year's race and won easily. But on the brand-new surface, Benson's fresh rubber allowed him to move up from 17th after the restart and then hold off a charge by Gaughan at the end.

    "It's unbelievable," Benson said of the new concrete. "It is way, way cool and just a pleasure to race on."(


    Rudd Said He's Had Enough ~ Hates The Time Commitment
    Ricky Rudd announced this week that he would step away from racing full-time racing, in fact he may just retire altogether. Rudd will step out of the No. 88 Snickers Ford at the end of the year. It been a long career for Rudd, who turns 51 next month, will start his 900 Nextel Cup race next week at California Speedway. Richard Petty has more career starts (1,185). Rudd told team owner Robert Yates on the trip home from Watkins Glen that he was not committed to running the full season in 2008.

    "Out of fairness to him, I wanted to make sure that they understood that I wasn't bailing out on the team," said Rudd. "They're headed in the right direction. The organization is showing improvement. "The main thing is I'm not leaving this job to go look for another job. I know enough to know that I'm done with full-time Cup racing. And I'm not really looking for a part-time Cup job right now. If something came along that made sense, I'd probably look at it but right now I'm not looking for a full-time job."

    Rudd has a career 23 wins, 29 poles, 194 top fives and 374 top 10s in 897 career starts. His best finish in 2007 was seventh place at Lowe's Motor Speedway in May. Rudd says he'd be interested in testing for teams. With his experience on a variety of racetracks it would be easy for Rudd to provide a baseline for teams to build upon.

    "I look around the garage and think, 'What job slot would I like out there?'" Rudd continued. "People who do this job, there's not a job out there in this sport that doesn't have a major time commitment. There's a lot of away-from-home time. "This sport has been very good to me. But the sport is changing and I've seen a lot of those changes over the years. I've learned you got to roll with those changes. One of the commitments is that you're not at home hardly at all — and I don't want to miss out on any more of that. I'm looking forward to the next chapter and I really don't know exactly what that is but I think I have a much clearer direction of where I'm going."


    RCR Re-Signs With General Motors
    Chevrolet, the winningest nameplate in NASCAR, will continue its partnership in NASCAR competition in 2008 with one of racing's elite organizations, Richard Childress Racing (RCR). "2008 marks Richard Childress's 39th year as a team owner and his cars proudly carry the Chevy bowtie," said Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager. "At Chevrolet and GM Racing, we are very excited to continue a long and successful relationship with one of the best racing organizations in NASCAR, both on and off the track."

    Richard Childress Racing has earned more than 160 victories and 10 NASCAR championships, including six in the NEXTEL Cup Series with the legendary Dale Earnhardt. It was the first organization to win championships in the NEXTEL Cup Series, Busch Series and Truck Series. Its 2007 NEXTEL Cup Series lineup includes Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil), Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T) and Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's). Its Busch Series lineup includes Harvick and Tim McCreadie (No. 21 AutoZone), Burton and Scott Wimmer (No. 29 Holiday Inn) and Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T).


    Jarrett Says He and UPS Will Return
    Dale Jarrett is puzzled by reports that he could retire at the end of the season. Not only does he plan to continue racing for Michael Waltrip Racing next season, but he also says that sponsor UPS is solidly on board with the No. 44 team.

    Jarrett's new Toyota team has struggled this season, with the driver using past champions provisionals to make several races and still missing the field for seven NASCAR Nextel Cup races. The team remains well outside the top 35 in points and a locked-in position in the race each week.

    Despite that, the 1999 Cup champ thinks his Waltrip organization is learning and improving and that the team is heading in the right direction. He also dismisses talk that longtime Jarrett sponsor UPS is considering leaving the team. While he says the company is asking fair questions and keeping an eye on things, he expresses no concern that the sponsor could bolt at the end of this season.

    "I'm very fortunate to have a sponsor that's very committed to our program, and I'm fortunate as a driver that they built their marketing program around me, and so that's very good," he said. "Do they want to do better? Sure. We all do. They're no different than anyone else, but never has there been anything said about making a change or doing anything different."


    Brendan Gaughan Gets Married
    Brendan Gaughan, the driver of the No. 77 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet comes to Bristol a newlywed, having just married fellow Las Vegas-native Tatum Hayes. Gaughan, 32, and Hayes, 31, were married on Saturday, Aug. 18th in a small ceremony in Vail, CO.

    “I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have a group of very good friends, and I have added another best friend to that group and that’s my new wife, Tatum,” Gaughan said. “The funny part to me is the word marriage and the action of a wedding has always been very frightening experience to me. We definitely know that I was never the guy who was meant for marriage. I mean, everybody asked where my bachelor party was and I said ‘No thanks, my life has been a bachelor party for the last 32 years.’ I didn’t really think I needed one.

    “I’m happy. We had a beautiful wedding and reception in Vail, near my family’s house. It was an absolutely gorgeous day – couldn’t have asked for anything better. I’m happy to have her and excited to put my name on the list of married drivers now. I guess I’m no longer a ‘Young Gun’ officially.”

    Gaughan’s new status as a married man has been the source of a lot of jokes around the race shop and at the track, but he just takes everything in stride.

    “My crew chief bought me and my lovely bride Marriage for Dummies and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Marriage,” Gaughan said. “Tatum and I had a big fight over which one should get which book. We couldn’t choose who was the idiot and who was the dummy, so we share them. We each get a chapter and then we switch books.”


    Paul Andrews Injured In Fall
    Former Petty Enterprises crew chief Paul Andrews was injured in a fall at his son's shop in Mooresville, N.C., on Wednesday, driver Bobby Labonte confirmed. Labonte said Andrews suffered fractures in his back, heel and ankle while working in the shop that houses Tim Andrews' cars. Labonte also said Paul Andrews had a concussion. Andrews was let go as Labonte's crew chief earlier in the week. "It's going to take him a while to get over this, obviously," Labonte said Friday at Michigan International Speedway. "He's going to get better. It's just going to take a while. Tough week for him, obviously."


    No. 31 Team Without Logos
    Richard Childress doesn't know how long he'll have to go without a sponsor on the hood of Jeff Burton's car, which arrived at Bristol Motor Speedway without "AT&T" on its hood. "All that's up to the court," Childress said Friday. "Where we stand, it's hard to say. It's all legal."

    Burton will race in Saturday night's Nextel Cup race in his orange and black No. 31 Chevrolet without the AT&T globe or any mention of the cellular company on the car. The car arrived in a black hauler with only the No. 31 on its side and crew members wore gray RCR shirts instead of uniforms with the AT&T logo. Burton wore an orange driver's suit adorned only by associate sponsors.

    NASCAR banned AT&T from being on the car after winning a recent appeal that overturned a previous decision that has allowed RCR to use the AT&T logo since May 19. Officials said the car would not have been allowed through inspection or onto the track with the logo.

    Childress said AT&T has filed an injunction asking for a court hearing in early September to try to get the decision overturned. Until then he may have to race without a primary sponsor.

    "My take on the whole thing is we've been here 14 weeks with AT&T," Childress said. "All you guys have been talking about is the Sprint Chase. AT&T has been doing their deal with Burton. We've both lived in a world together. The world isn't coming to an end. Hopefully, at the end of the day we can figure out how we can all live by the same rules."

    NASCAR and AT&T have been in a legal dispute since March when AT&T and Cingular, which was on Burton's car, merged. NASCAR argued that its agreement with series sponsor Sprint Nextel disallowed the logo change.

    "Cingular was our sponsor and we've got to do everything we can to keep them in the sport," Childress said. "One of the key things was AT&T didn't buy Cingular. They owned Cingular, so we already had an association. (


    Kenny Wallace In For Petty
    Kenny Wallace, one of the sports most personable and talented drivers, will fill in for Kyle Petty in the #45 Wells Fargo Dodge in Saturday night’s Sharpie 500 at the .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway. Petty’s broken hand will again keep him out of the driver’s seat for the second consecutive week. Petty is hopeful to return to the car at the California Speedway.

    Wallace will be making his 20th Nextel Cup career start at Bristol this weekend. He has two top-10 finishes at the track and one pole in Cup competition. Wallace is a winner at the track in the NASCAR Busch Series. His talents also reach beyond the track where he is one of the fans most popular racers. Wallace was voted by the fans into this year’s NASCAR Nextel Cup All-Star Challenge.

    “I look at this from two ways,” says Wallace. “First, I feel terrible that Kyle can’t drive this weekend. I know he was very determined to get back behind the wheel at Bristol. Everyone is feeling good that he’ll be back in California, but I know he wants to race this weekend. Secondly, it’s an honor that Kyle and Wells Fargo are letting me fill in for him. Racing is what we all love to do. I know Kyle wants to be racing at Bristol. I’m going to give this car the best ride I can.”

    Petty is still recovering from a broken hand suffered at Watkins Glen International. Petty had successful surgery on the hand and it continues to heal. “It’s disappointing not to be able to race at Bristol,” said Petty. “I had every intention of getting back at Bristol, but I have to let the hand heal. You can’t rush this along. Kenny is a good friend and a talented driver. I’m confident that he’ll do a great job for our team and sponsors this weekend.”

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