Monday, April 07, 2008

Notes From The Cup Garage

Those of us hoping for a Pony Car-based NASCAR Nationwide Series beginning in 2009 need to find something else to dream about, because it’s not going to happen.

General Motors Vice President of Sales Brent Dewar said this weekend that Chevrolet will not use the new Camaro body style in the Nationwide Series next season, since the brand is already projected to be a hot-seller with performance-mnded drivers. "We'll make an announcement later in the year of which brand we'll pick," said Dewar Sunday. "But it won't be Camaro, for sure.”

Ford Racing Technology Director of Dan Davis sang a similar tune earlier this year, saying that the Ford Mustang is also unlikely to see action in NASCAR’s second series. "(The Mustang) sells itself," he said. "If you've got a car that's sold out -- every one of them you make is sold -- why would you spend the extra money, time and effort to build up the brand? What you try to do is get vehicles out there that may not be as well known, and put those nameplates in front of the consumer."

GM’s Dewar said NASCAR’s need for common aerodynamic footprints between brands also works against the idea of using distinctived makes like the Camaro. "We've got a very iconic design with our Corvettes and Camaros," he said. "Based on the way the formula works (in NASCAR), we're not going to compromise our brand integrity."

Thumbs Up: Yates Racing put both its drivers in the Top-20 yesterday, with David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil finishing 15th and 18th; both in unsponsored cars.

He's No Knute Rockne: If Chip Ganassi thought a scathing, public rebuke of his underachieving race teams would inspire a better effort at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend, he was mistaken.

Ganassi laid his teams out in lavender Friday, after rookie Dario Franchitti failed to make the race, and teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Reed Sorenson qualified 11th and 42nd. Ganassi told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Steve Post, “Frankly, there are 46 cars there, and if you can't beat three of them, that's pretty pathetic. I have all the faith in the world in (Franchitti's) driving abilities. I don't think it's that. The fact of the matter is, we didn't give him a car that was capable of doing it."

He also criticized Sorenson's Target Dodge team, saying, “It's the same old things that take them out. One week it’s this, the next week it's that…it's a combination of all of the above. Everybody on the 41 team is going to have to take a good look in the mirror and ask themselves if they are prepared for what's coming down the pike."

Friday’s upbraiding resulted in only a 24th-place finish for Sorenson, who has just one Top-20 showing – a lukewarm 18th at Las Vegas – since starting the season with a fifth in the Daytona 500. Montoya was also never a factor Sunday en route to 19th, and now stands just 19th in points. Those performances won’t do much for job security, especially when the man signing the checks said during the off-season that his operation was out of excuses, and needed to perform in 2008.

Ganassi has every right to demand better results from his teams. However, he personally hired many of the personnel in question, making one wonder if his own mirror might be in need of a “good look” or two. It may also be noteworthy that Ganassi’s post-qualifying comments were delivered -- not from the back on a NASCAR War Wagon -- but from St. Petersburg, Florida, where he was busy overseeing his IndyCar operation.

Don’t be surprised to see a few shakeups at Ganassi Racing this week.

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