Monday, May 26, 2008

France Says It Again; No Cup Racing At Kentucky Speedway Next Year

NASCAR Chairman Brian France left little doubt yesterday that the Sprint Cup Series will not race at Kentucky Speedway next season. France said, “We've been very clear about Kentucky. In terms of 2009, the schedule is being completed. We have no intentions right now of having a Cup race there in 2009.”

While France confirmed that NASCAR is considering moving some dates around next year, no new tracks are expected to be added. Sources tell Sirius Speedway that a three-way deal is in the works to move move Atlanta's fall race to Labor Day weekend, with the current Labor Day event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, moving to the early October slot now filled by Talladega Superspeedway. Talladega would inherit Atlanta’s date later that month.

Riggs Ratted Out: The wing mounts on Scott Riggs' #66 Haas CNC Racing Chevrolet were confiscated Saturday by NASCAR officials, triggering a debate over whether they had been on the car all along.

Crewchief Bootie Barker said the mounts have been on his racecar all season. He insisted that the mounts had passed two NASCAR inspections Thursday, but that somebody in the Cup garage dropped a dime to NASCAR Saturday, ratting out Riggs and teammate Johnny Sauter.

Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby insisted that the mounts had been changed, saying, "The mounts were not in the same place as they were Thursday morning when they went through inspection."

Expect penalties to be announced tomorrow or Wednesday (due to the Memorial Day holiday), similar to what Dale Earnhardt Jr's team received for a similar violation last season at Darlington; 100 points and a $100,000 fine and six-race suspension for Tony Eury Jr.

More Discord At Ganassi: Chip Ganassi said Sunday that former crewchief Jimmy Elledge’s dismissal was not due to a lack of performance, but because of a heated argument with Competition Director Steve Hmiel during the Sprint All-Star race.

Ganassi said, "We had an employee step over the line. I'm sorry it happened because I like Jimmy personally, but it had to be done."

Juan Pablo Montoya has expressed unhappiness with the move, and his frustration boiled over after he time-trailed 47th out of 48 cars in qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600. Ganassi said he understands that Montoya feels like he “comes out on the short end of this deal. I apologize for that, but unfortunately it was unavoidable collateral damage." Montoya finished 30th in last night’s 600.

Franchitti Returns: One month after breaking his left ankle in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Talladega, Dario Franchitti says he hopes to climb back behiind the wheel of Ganassi’s #40 Dodge in tomorrow’s Sprint Cup test at Pocono. The team has lined up Jeremy Mayfield to drive the car next weekend at Dover, but Franchitti said he hopes a solid, pain-free performance in the two-day test tomorrow and Wednesday will prove that he is ready to return to competition.

Smoke Update #712 (And Counting): J.D. Gibbs talked about the negotiations to extend Tony Stewart's contract beyond 2009 this weekend, saying, "We're still just trying to feel out exactly where he is and exactly how he feels. We want him to be here. I want him to be here for a long period of time.” Gibbs repeated his intention to hold Stewart to the final season of his contract, saying, “At the end of the day, all we can control is through next year."

Coca-Cola 600 Pit Notes: Kasey Kahne snapped a 52-race winless streak in points races dating to October 2006, becoming the sixth driver -- joining Davey Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Darrell Waltrip -- to win both the All-Star race and the 600 in the same year. His take for his eight-day CHarlotte run was just under $1.5 million.

Speaking of winless droughts, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is now 0-for his last 73 races, after losing a right rear tire while leading Sunday. He hit the wall, then was hit by J.J. Yeley, before hustling to pit road for repairs. NASCAR penalized him a lap for speeding past safety workers, then rescinded the penalty after further review. He eventually finished fifth, prompting this reporter to wonder how a guy can pit while pit road is closed, speed at least twice while doing so, and not be penalized in the end?

And Finally: For those "Black Helicopter" pilots who insist that last week's purchase of Kentucky Speedway by Speedway Motorsports, Inc., signals the advent of a new, Bruton Smith-backed breakaway series to challenge NASCAR's dominance of American stock car racing, I have just one syllable to utter in response...


Bruton's breakway series -- were it to happen -- would follow in the footsteps of such notable franchises as the XFL and USFL (remember them?), the National Sprint Car League -- which lasted half a season after wooing most of the top talent away from the World of Outlaws -- and TRAC, the much-ballyhooed brainchild of Cale Yarborough, television executive Robert Wussler and former college football coach Danny Ford; which issued a truckload of press releases prior to its promised 2003 debut, then failed to sanction even a single lap of competition.

Friends, it ain't gonna happen.

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