By Phil Allaway
A Change to the lineup of the Budweiser Shootout
On Friday, NASCAR announced an expansion of the field for the Budweiser Shootout on February 7. In addition to each manufacturer being allowed their top six teams (in owners’ points) from last season, there is now a Wild Card selection available to each manufacturer. The result of this is that the Budweiser Shootout field will expand from 24 to 28 cars.
At the present, these are the top 6 entrants for the Budweiser Shootout for each manufacturer (subject to change between now and February 7):
Chevrolet: 48-Jimmie Johnson, 29-Kevin Harvick, 07-Casey Mears (replacing Clint Bowyer), 31-Jeff Burton, 24-Jeff Gordon, 88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Ford: 99-Carl Edwards, 16-Greg Biffle, 17-Matt Kenseth, 6-David Ragan, 26-Jamie McMurray, 28-Travis Kvapil
Dodge: 9-Kasey Kahne, 12-David Stremme (replacing Ryan Newman), 2-Kurt Busch, 43-Reed Sorenson (replacing Bobby Labonte), 19-Elliott Sadler, 7-Robby Gordon*
Toyota: 11-Denny Hamlin, 20-Joey Logano (replacing Tony Stewart), 18-Kyle Busch, 83-Brian Vickers, 00-David Reutimann (formerly No. 44), 55-Michael Waltrip
The wild card entry has two different criteria. The first criteria states that the entry can be for a past Winston/Nextel/Sprint Cup champion whose car finished outside of the top six in owners’ points for their manufacturer, but attempted all 36 races last year.
If no past champion is available, then the wild card spot will go to the seventh place team in owners’ points for that manufacturer.
As a result of this new rule, these four teams have now earned entry into the Budweiser Shootout:
Chevrolet: 14-Tony Stewart (team ran as the No. 70 in 2008) as a result of Stewart’s two past championships.
Ford: Debatable at the moment. Based on 2008 owners’ points, it would be the No. 38 of David Gilliland. On Saturday, Paul Menard mentioned that his new No. 98 would be getting owner points from one of the two Yates Racing cars that ran in 2008. If Menard takes the No. 38’s points, Menard will be in this spot.
Dodge: 10-Gillett Evernham Motorsports; however no driver has been named at the present time, but the team will likely attempt Daytona. The most likely possibility to drive this car is A.J. Allmendinger).
Toyota: 22-Triad Motorsport Technologies (no driver named, and no word whether the team is going to run this season). If the team does not run, then the spot will go to the No. 82 (formerly No. 84) Red Bull Toyota of Scott Speed.
*Robby Gordon, who has already announced a switch to Toyota for the 2009 season, will run a Dodge in the Budweiser Shootout only. This allows him to take Dodge’s No. 6 slot in the race.
Hall of Fame Racing announces big changes for 2009
On Monday, Hall of Fame Racing announced a “partnership” with Yates Racing. This will dictate that the team will change manufacturers from Toyota to Ford. The team is still technically independent, but the cars will be fielded out of Yates Racing’s shop.
In addition, in a bit of a surprise, 2000 Winston Cup Champion Bobby Labonte has been named the new driver of the No. 96 Ford, marking his return to Ford for the first time since his rookie campaign in 1993. Labonte will be the team’s first full-time driver since J.J. Yeley was released in August. Since then, a series of replacement drivers have driven the car, including Ken Schrader and Joey Logano, among others. Rumors for most of the off-season had placed Labonte at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, driving the No. 41 Target Chevrolet. However, sponsorship issues appear to have precluded this scenario from occurring.
Sponsorship from Texas Instruments’ DLP HDTV division will continue in 2009, but at a much reduced level this year. This is because of the fact that the team failed to qualify for five races. As a result, the team has acquired sponsorship from Ask.com, an internet search engine. Ask.com will officially be the primary sponsor for the No. 96 in 2009, in addition to becoming the official search engine of NASCAR.
“I’m excited to be part of what Ask.com is bringing to our sport,” the former champion said on Monday. “At a time like this, it’s great to see a sponsor come in with technology and ideas that will help all of the competitors in NASCAR and enhance the experience for all of our fans, no matter which driver or team they cheer for.”
Sprint Cup schedule officially set for Brad Keselowski
Nationwide Series driver Brad Keselowski’s Sprint Cup Series schedule is now set for 2009. Keselowski will drive in seven races in preparation for a full time schedule in 2010.
These races will be: The Shelby 427 (Las Vegas, March 1), Samsung 500 (Texas, April 5), Southern 500 (Darlington, May 9), Dover 400 (Dover, May 31), LifeLock 400 (Chicagoland, July 11), Michigan 400 (Michigan, August 16), Kansas 400 (Kansas, October 4).
GoDaddy.com will be the primary sponsor of Keselowski’s No. 25 Chevrolet for the seven races.
Fastenal to sponsor JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series
On Friday, JR Motorsports announced that Fastenal will sponsor the No. 5 Chevrolet for 14 races in the Nationwide Series. This brings the number of sponsored races for the No. 5 up to at least 26.
Team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive the car in two races, the first which being the O’Reilly 300 at Texas on April 4. Earnhardt Jr. will also drive the car in the Winn-Dixie 250 at Daytona on July 3.
“We’ve worked really hard putting a program together that will keep this No. 5 car on the track, and we’re extremely pleased to bring Fastenal into the JR Motorsports fold for 2009,” team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on Friday.
Fastenal comes to the team after sponsoring the No. 40 team for CGRFS (Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) last season with multiple drivers behind the wheel. The No. 40 team was dissolved as a result of the merger of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Other drivers for the team and races where Fastenal will be the primary sponsor will be announced at a later date.
ARCA in need of a new title sponsor after 2009
On Wednesday, Re/Max International and ARCA announced that Re/Max International will be reducing its sponsorship at the end of the 2009 season. This does not necessarily mean that Re/Max is leaving ARCA, but it does mean that they will no longer serve as the title sponsor of the series.
“In business, we are all called upon to make difficult decisions, and the decision to reduce our role from series title sponsor to presenting sponsor has been very, very difficult to say the least,” said Randy Morse, the Vice President of Re/Max International.
The reasoning given for the move is mainly economic. Since Re/Max is a real estate company, it has been hurt significantly by the recent housing crisis and economic downturn.
Previous title sponsors for ARCA’s top series have included Permatex and the 3M Corporation, through their Bondo and Mar-Hyde divisions.