Michael Waltrip says he has sponsorship in place for two Toyota Nextel Cup teams next year. NAPA Auto Parts will back Michael's own Toyota Camry next season, with the other sponsor to be announced when Waltrip picks a driver. He has talked to both Ricky Rudd and Dale Jarrett about the ride in recent weeks, but my sources in the Nextel Cup garage say Jarrett has already signed a contract to leave Robert Yates Racing and drive for Waltrip in 2007 and 2008, taking his UPS sponsorship with him.
"Why," you ask, "would D.J. leave an established team like RYR to go to a startup operation like Waltrip's?" I'll give you 20 million reasons; a two-year, $20-million contract that will send D.J. off into retirement with a nice, tidy nest egg.
I am still unable to figure out what Bill Davis is getting from his current, one-year deal with Waltrip. Waltrip is leasing cars and equipment from Bill Davis Racing, in what appears to be little more than a stop-gap measure. A year from now, Mikey will use factory support from Toyota to leave BDR and ramp-up his own Michael Waltrip Racing team; fielding two cars on both the Nextel Cup and Busch Series'. Davis, meanwhile, will be left with one sponsor -- Caterpillar -- and one driver -- Dave Blaney -- under contract for 2007. I asked Davis about this seemingly lopsided deal when it was first announced in early February, and he insisted then that it was a "win-win situation" for all involved.
Nobody I've talked to can figure it out, however, with most people seeing it as a case of Waltrip using Davis for a year, until his own deal comes to fruition. I also find it interesting that Waltrip says he would like David Reutimann and Joey Miller to steer his Busch Series Toyotas next season. Both Reutimann and Miller are currently under contract to brother Darrell Waltrip's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team, making me wonder that the atmosphere will be around the Waltrip Family table this Thanksgiving, if it all comes to pass.
The biggest item rolling through the garage at Talladega last weekend was news (still unconfirmed) that NASCAR's Chevrolet teams are set to form a technical alliance in the near future, combatting the Roush/Yates Ford tandem, increased competition from Dodge, and the impending arrival of Toyota. Hendrick Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and Richard Childress Racing will all be part of the new agreement, while Joe Gibbs Racing will not.
Why? Because General Motors believes the Gibbs team is ready to jump to the Toyota camp next season, with drivers Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley in tow. My source on this story is well-placed, and the fact that there have been no indignant denials from either Gibbs or General Motors tells me that this is more than just another "uncomfirmed rumor."
They're tearing up the asphalt at Talladega Superspeedway this week; the opening salvo in a resurfacing effort that will produce a whole-new Talladega in time for a scheduled Nextel Cup/Craftsman Truck doubleheader on October 6-8. Speedway President Grant Lynch climbed aboard a gigantic backhoe and began ripping up the asphalt Tuesday -- a day late, thanks to Sunday's Nextel Cup rainout -- the first step in a total resurfacing of the 2.66-mile track. It has been 26 years since Talladega was last paved.
And finally, while our friends north of the border get all hot and bothered about a possible NASCAR Busch Series race in Montreal next season, my Canadian spies say there's a chance that the event will be held in Ontario, not Quebec. A group of investors has made a bid to buy the Cayuga 2000 Speedway in Nelles Corners, Ontario, near Hamilton. Plans call for the track to be upgraded from 5/8-mile to a full mile, with seating expanded to more than 60,000. Current owners Garry Evans and Brad Litkey say they have given the Toronto group two weeks to come up with financing to purchase the 246-acre facility.
Built by Bob Slack in the 1960s, Cayuga has long ranked as one of Canada's premiere speedways. In the late `70s and early `80s, Slack used the heated rivalry (both on and off-track) between Canadian short-track legends Junior Hanley and Don Beiderman to pack the grandstands on a weekly basis, and Cayuga was an annual stop on the ASA Tour for more than two decades. There's obviously a good deal of work to do before a Cayuga NASCAR race can come to pass, but given the choice between a road race in Montreal and an oval-track stop in Ontario, I know why way I'm leaning.