New Team Announced (Sort Of): Riley-D'Hondt Motorsports announced plans to compete in the NASCAR Nextel Cup and Busch Series next season, with two teams team competing in as many as five Nextel Cup "Car of Tomorrow" events. Based out of Mooresville, North Carolina. Co-founder, co-owner and general manager Eddie D'Hondt made the announcement, saying, “We're ideally going to start off in 2007with three teams -- two Busch Series and one part-time Nextel Cup team. We don't know to what extent each of these teams will participate in the 2007 season. As sponsorship unfolds, we will revise our schedules. RDM's goal is to become a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series powerhouse within five years, with up to four teams in contention for the Nextel Cup championship." Joining D'Hondt is Bill Riley of Riley Technologies, who builds winning Daytona Prototype entries on the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series. Riley will move his entire operation from Speedway, Indiana, to Mooresville.
Changing Jobs: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has announced that former Director of Dodge Motorsports John Fernandez has accepted a position as Managing Director of Ganassi's racing operation. Chip Ganassi announcd the move, saying, "John has been involved in racing for a long time as an engineer with Dodge and as head of its racing programs. I am very excited to add someone to the team that has so much experience in a number of different areas." Fernandez will manage all aspects of the organization's racing operation in North Carolina -- including overseeing all four teams -- after a 35year long career with the DaimlerChrysler.
Clearly, Ganassi has made a decision to do whatever his necessary to push his Nextel Cup operation to the front of the pack. Juan Pablo Montoya wll come aboard as driver of the #42 Havoline Dodge next season, and the addition of Fernandez to the equation can only help.
Gilliland On Hold: Despite postponing today’s planned press conference to introduce David Gilliland as the 2007 driver of its #38 Ford, Doug Yates said today that nothing has changed at Robert Yates Racing. "We're just trying to get all of our 'i's' dotted and 't's' crossed before we announce our new driver," he said. "I think everybody knows who it is. We just want to make sure everything's right. We're trying to do a lot of things really fast, and sometimes when you do that, you just have to take your time and make sure you get it right. There's no change in direction for us, the timing just didn't work out for today."
Yates will confirm Gilliland's hiring later this summer, most likely at Bristol.
Tagliani Eyes NASCAR, Villeneuve Not: Reports in at least one Montreal newspaper today claimed that Jacques Villeneuve has signed a contract to race in NASCAR next season, However, Villeneuve’s Director of Public Relations quickly refuted that claim, saying the Canadian driver simply asked his representatives to research options that could be available in the future. Formula One and the BMW team are obviously his first option (if they'll have him), with NASCAR falling somewhere further down the list. The spokesman said there is no agreement as reported in the Montreal press.
Meanwhile, fellow Canadian Alex Tagliani confirmed yesterday that he has offers on the table to run at least two NASCAR Busch Series races this year, and will likely do so as "an experiment." Obviously, similar moves by Open Wheel stars Adrian Fernandez, Paul Tracy and Montoya have made it acceptable for drivers like Villeneuve and Tagliani to openly discuss as career in NASCAR "taxicabs," something that was all-but unthinkable just a few years ago.
Unhappy Harvick: Kevin Harvick is not taking the denial of his appeal against NASCAR lying down.
He blasted NASCAR and its appeal process after his Busch Series team lost an appeal of penalties assessed after the June 30th race at Daytona International Speedway. As part of its ruling, the commission stated that "a base plate in the shock absorber is specifically prohibited by the rules in the NASCAR Busch Series." Harvick was critical of that statement, saying, "It's not a plate, it's a valve. They went way out of their way in their statement to refer to a base plate, and they went way out their way to say that there's nothing that matters when an appeal is heard. But it does matter if you're on suspension. It just sounds like a lot of excuses and a pretty shaky process to me."
He added, “It's hard when you have three series, and two of them are the same, and one of them has different rules. Mistakes happen, and we made a mistake. I don't know that they know their own rules enough to understand what their own shock rules are." KHI was docked 50 owner points, Burney Lamar was docked 50 driver points, and crewchief Gene Nead was fined $15,000 and suspended six races.