Wednesday, May 03, 2006

This n' That From The NASCAR Garage

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."

Stay tuned.

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.


  1. I think the reason Bill Davis is smiling about his "2nd car team" because of the under-the-table support he is getting from Toyota to lease out to Waltrip this season. As a result, I imagine there is a "real" 2nd car team in BDR's near future.

    I'll take issue with calling DJ cup's "hottest commodity". I think we can safely bestow that on Kevin Harvick. DJ's record the last few years and age will not get him many top quality rides (i.e. Red Bull, Gibbs, Hendrick or Roush) - UPS sponsorship or not. “Best of the rest” would be a better description I think. Toyota is just playing around with BDR & Waltrip, they haven’t gotten serious yet. When they do, it won’t be the Jarretts of the world they come after.

    So now the "build a big NASCAR track and they will come" thought process is taking grip north of the border?? All I can say is HA HA!!!

    The chances Cayuga will get "expanded" are exactly the same as a domed 1 mile speedway getting built in Plainfield, CT.

    Of course it stands to reason the current owners, who are well versed in short track racing have made no such plains like that for themselves - it's called basic common sense.

  2. Marty in Nova Scotia3:28 PM

    Dave, you said yesterday that NASCAR was looking at several possible venues in the Montreal area. Besides the F1 Circuit, could they be looking at the Sanair tri-oval? Its 9/10ths of a mile, and would only need to bring in the seating capacity, and clean the joint up a bit to host a Truck or Busch race. Aren't they coming back to life with a couple of ACT races this year?

  3. Not nearly as inside as your sources, Dave, but when my brother made the trek from the Pine Tree State to Nascarland 3 years ago he interviewed with several teams including "DW's truck team" and according to him it was pretty clear that it was as much Mikey's team as it was DW's if not more. Bobby Kennedy was a huge part of Mikey's success on the Busch level and it seems odd that he would just let him go to hire all of the staff and run any other team, even if it was his brother's unless he was pretty involved with the program. It's been pretty obvious since Bobby left that Mikey's program has gone right down the tubes (with the exception of his tireless, or is it tiresome, promotion of Aaron's. I think that his statement about Reutimann and Miller only proves that what my wise older brother told me 3 years ago might not have been that far fetched.

  4. Andy, I also have my doubts about anyone who claims to have received an "if you build it, we will come" message from NASCAR. The boys in Daytona Beach simply do not operate that way.

    Marty, it will take a lot more than new grandstands to make Sanair workable for a Busch or Craftsman Truck race. There are NO permanent restroom facilities, and the four-story tower is nothing more than open-air and bare concrete walls. About all they've got left is the racetrack itself. ACT will race there twice this season, but if things play oout the way they have historically, there won't be more than 600 people there to watch.

    And RJB, I'm thinking maybe your brother is right on this one. Maybe DW is running a training ground for baby brother's new Cup team.

    Thanks for reading, guys!

  5. I also think it’s interesting that DJ has two mediocre teams willing to throw 20 million dollars his way. I think that’s a great example of how Toyota will drive the cost up to compete at the Cup level. If Toyota is going to spend 10 million a year on a mid-packer like Jarrett, what are they willing to pay a front runner like Harvick, Edwards, or the Busch brothers? I think the Toyota arrival was a large reason why teams like Roush & Penske scrambled to get drivers a year early before their contracts ended - they didn’t what to have to compete with Toyota on the open market. This isn’t just about the drivers either, the cost to keep all the best engineers, crew chiefs, fabricators, etc. just went up too.

  6. There's no doubt that adding a fourth manufacturer to the game will drive up the cost in some areas. The fact that there is an additional option out there for drivers, team owners, and crewmembers allows them to "play the field" at contract time, much like professional athletes do in every other sport.

    I don't necessarily think Toyota is any more to blame for this than GM, Ford and Dodge, though. It's a big boy's sport, and you've got to pay to play.