Posted on: August 12, 2010 10:44 am

Terry Labonte interested in full-time return

A couple of weeks ago came word that Terry Labonte was planning a three-race stint in a car co-owned by Bill Stavola.

Now USA Today is reporting that Labonte, 54, is hoping to run a full season next year if he and Stavola can securce sponsorship. (READ THE FULL STORY )

In the near term, the two-time Cup Series champion will attempt to qualify races at Richmond (Sept. 11), Charlotte (Oct. 16) and Texas (Nov. 7). The team is getting its cars through Richard Childress Racing.

Labonte's last full season was 2004, when he finished 26th in the final standings with six top 10s for Hendrick Motorsports. He has participated in at least three races in every season since with a high of 17 in 2006. He last raced for John Carter in the 2009 season finale at Homestead where he finished 42nd.
Posted on: August 11, 2010 5:40 pm

New Hampshire will maintain two Cup races in 2011

Though it will no longer open the Chase, New Hampshire Motor Speedway will continue to host two Sprint Cup races in 2011.

Both races were shifted around a bit on the schedule. This season's events were scheduled for June 27 and Sept.19. In 2011, the track will host Cup races on July 17 and Sept. 25, the latter being the second race of the Chase.

The track may still be in danger of losing a race in 2012 and beyond, though I hope not. At 1.058 miles, it has a unique layout that's akin to a short track, though its not classified as such.

-- Brian De Los Santos

Posted on: August 11, 2010 11:36 am

Is Menard more than a sponsorship cash cow?

As noted in a previous blog post , Paul Menard will join Richard Childress Racing next season.

Based on his career record in the Cup Series -- two top fives and five top 10s in 133 career starts -- it might seem odd to the average fan that Menard could land a job with one of the top tier teams in NASCAR. Of course, your informed fan is well aware that Menard has one very huge advantage in his back pocket -- sponsorship. Menard's father John owns Menards, the third-largest home improvement chain in the United States, and has funded Paul's racing dreams throughout his career.

For better or worse, sponsorship is a driving force in NASCAR. If you got it, you're pretty much a golden child.

So is it fair to say Menard landed his RCR gig simply because of the sponsorship he brings with him? Yes and no.

I say yes because I believe without that sponsorship, RCR wouldn't have had any interest in signing him.

However -- and here's where the no comes in -- I don't believe the sponsorship alone was the reason RCR sign him. I think RCR sees potential in Menard to become more than just a bit player. I just don't know that Childress would have been willing to take that chance on Menard without that sponsorship in place.

I'm on the fence on Menard as far as how good a driver he can become. I don't know that he has been given a fair shake in top-notch equipment just yet. His DEI years came at a time when that organization was in a state of turmoil, Yates Racing was a shell of its former self during his stint there and Richard Petty Motorsports isn't exactly a major player anymore either.

Menard has actually been -- for lack of a better word -- "decent" in recent weeks, turning in five consecutive top 20s. Maybe, just maybe, he's ready to turn the corner. A good point on Menard is that he takes care of his equipment. He may not have the speed, but he generally doesn't wreck out of races with 11 DNFs in 133 starts.

I don't see a Cup championship is in his future, but I think he's skilled enough to at least make a run at the Chase in RCR equpiment and, with a little luck, perhaps pull out a win or two.

-- Brian De Los Santos

Posted on: August 11, 2010 10:29 am
Edited on: August 11, 2010 11:40 am

RCR signs Menard to a multi-year contract

Richard Childress Racing is expanding back to a four-car operation, signing Paul Menard to a multi-year contract.

De Los Santos: Is Menard more than a sponsorship cash cow?

Menard is in the midst of his fourth full-time season in the Cup Series. He started his career with Dale Earnhardt Inc. He spent 2009 with Yates Racing before joining Richard Petty Racing this season. In 133 career starts he has two top fives (one this year) and three top 10s (three this year).

Press release follows:

WELCOME, N.C. (Aug. 11, 2010) -- Richard Childress Racing and Menards, the third-largest home improvement company in the United States, have signed a multi-year partnership agreement for the Eau Claire, Wisconsin-based company to become the primary sponsor of RCR's fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team beginning in 2011 with driver Paul Menard.
"Paul has developed into a very good race car driver, and we see his move to RCR next year as an opportunity for him to continue that progress," said Richard Childress, president and CEO of Richard Childress Racing. "At the same time, we feel Paul will contribute to the continued progress and success of RCR. Paul will fit in perfectly with our team of drivers at RCR, and they are all looking forward to working with him. We're also very proud to be aligned with Menards, one of the great family business success stories in American history."
Menard is in his fourth full season of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition and is currently 23rd in the point standings after 22 of 36 points races. The Eau Claire, Wis., native made his series debut in 2003, running just one race while also competing in six Nationwide Series races. He raced fulltime in the Nationwide Series from 2004 through 2006 while picking up Cup Series experience in eight other races during that time. In 2007, Menard became a fulltime driver in the Cup Series and part-time Nationwide Series driver, though he is scheduled to compete in every event of both series in 2010. He is currently sixth in the Nationwide Series point standings after 22 of 35 races.
"Richard Childress Racing has shown this year that they're headed on the right track," said Menard. "Having three cars competing for the Chase and, ultimately, the championship is no small feat and they're on top of their game. With that in mind and having known Richard for the past 10 years or so, when this opportunity to join RCR came about it was a no-brainer. I have always had the utmost respect for Richard and what his organization has accomplished in the past and what they're capable of achieving in the future."
Menards has a long, successful history as a racing sponsor dating back to the 1970's.  A family-owned and operated business with headquarters in Eau Claire, WI, Menards has 255 retail store locations throughout the Midwest. Menards carries the materials, tools and supplies for all your home improvement needs and is widely recognized as the place to "Save Big Money!"  The Menards family has always been dedicated to service and quality, treating guests like family in a hometown hardware store atmosphere.
Further announcements about the program will be forthcoming.

Posted on: August 10, 2010 4:51 pm
Edited on: August 10, 2010 5:38 pm

Kentucky, second Kansas date confirmed for 2011

The long wait is over as Kentucky Speedway officials have confirmed that the track will host a 400-mile Sprint Cup race on July 9, 2011. (READ THE FULL STORY )

Kentucky is taking Chicagoland's spot on the schedule. The Chicagoland race is moving to September where it will open the Chase. Auto Club Speedway is losing its Chase date and will host only one Cup race in 2011.

Meanwhile, Kansas Speedway officials announced it will host the Cup Series on June 5 and Oct. 9. Since opening in 2001, Kansas had hosted just one Cup race (generally late September/early October). But the addition of a casino and hotel to the property helped elevate Kansas to a go-to destination.

Yet another schedule move announced Tuesday is that Phoenix's first event will run the weekend following the Daytona 500, replacing Auto Club Speedway in that spot. This year the first Phoenix race was held April 10. The second Phoenix race will remain in the penultimate spot on the schedule, in effect placing both Phoenix races in a bookend positions on the schedule.

-- Brian De Los Santos
Posted on: August 10, 2010 1:00 pm

Unhappy Stremme departs Latitude 43 Motorsports

David Stremme has left Latitude 43 Motorsports, according to a report from Dave Moody of Sirius Speedway.

Stremme alleges team owner Bill Jenkins has failed to meet his financial obligations. And Stremme isn't the only driver who has taken issue with Jenkins, a first-year team owner who purchased the team from Jack Roush prior to the season. Boris Said , who started the season as the team's primary, asserts that Jenkins owes him money.

Last week, former Latitude 43 Motorsports driver Boris Said revealed that he is unhappy with the way he was treated by Jenkins. “There’s no real polite way to say this, but Bill Jenkins owes me a bunch of money,” he said. Asked if he expects to have any relationship with the team going forward, Said replied, “(Jenkins) hasn’t returned my phone calls, so I guess not. It's a bad deal for me.”

Asked if he is owed money by Latitude 43, Stremme said, “There are obligations to both me and the team that have not been met, and that was a big part of my decision to leave. I don’t want to be involved with something like that. I dealt with (Jenkins) with respect, and was straightforward with him at all times. I didn’t get that in return.”

Jenkins declined to discuss Said and Stremme’s allegations, saying, “I don’t agree with them at all, but I’m not going to pursue that in the press. It’s not the right place. The best thing for me to do at this point is to not preclude David from pursuing any future opportunities. I have all the respect in the world for him. He is a great guy and I wish him all the best.”


Stremme's best finish in the 26 car was 24th (three times: Bristol, Darlington and Pocono). He failed to quailify for five races.

Said has raced for the team five times -- the first four races of the season and Sonoma. He finished 8th at Sonoma, turning in the team's only top 10.

According to the report, Patrick Carpentier is expected to drive the car at this weekend's race at Michigan.

Posted on: August 10, 2010 10:51 am

Kahne will drive for Red Bull Racing in 2011

The conjecture over where Kasey Kahne will be driving next season can finally stop as it was announced that he'll will drive for Red Bull Racing in 2011 before taking over the No. 5 car for Hendrick Motorsports in 2012.

It seems odd that Kahne would drive Toyota for a season before jumping into a Chevrolet, but Stewart Haas and Phoenix Racing didn't have the funding and sponsorship, leaving Hendrick's options limited without loaning him to a true Chevrolet rival such as Richard Childress Racing or Earnhardt-Ganassi.

Where Kahne might fit in at Red Bull wasn't exactly clear. Brian Vickers' status remains in question. He has been out most of the season with a blood condition, but is hopeful of returning to the seat of the No. 83 car next year. Vickers had a breakout season in 2009, reaching the Chase for the first time with a career high 13 top 10s.

Then there's Scott Speed , who has yet to make a real impact in his second full-time season. Will he get a third season?

Or could Kahne be in line for a third seat at Red Bull?

Press release follows:

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Kasey Kahne will drive a Red Bull Racing Team Toyota in 2011, the team announced Tuesday.

“We were fortunate to have the opportunity to hire a very talented driver for the 2011 season and we took it,” said Jay Frye, Red Bull Racing Team Vice President and General Manager. “This is a unique situation that doesn’t happen every day. Kasey is a perfect fit for our company, team and Red Bull.”  

Kahne, 30, owns an impressive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series résumé. He has 11 wins, 17 poles, 47 top-five and 84 top-10 finishes and twice was a Chase participant in 2006 and 2009.

“This opportunity places me with an established, competitive team that has proven they can win races and make the Chase,” Kahne said. “I have great respect for Red Bull, so to have the opportunity to drive for Red Bull Racing Team in 2011 is a great fit for me, both personally and professionally. It feels good to be able to finally put this to rest and focus my energy on finishing the season strong for the 9 team and our sponsors.”

“This obviously all happened very quickly,” Frye added. “Over the next month, we will finalize the specific team details.”   Red Bull Racing Team’s final driver lineup for 2011 will be confirmed later this year.

Posted on: August 9, 2010 6:14 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2010 6:15 pm

Chicagoland will open Chase in 2011

Chicagoland Speedway has been officially announced as the Chase opener in 2011. The track had hosted a night race in July the past couple of seasons, but the schedule shift will move it to a Sunday afternoon in September.

As Pete Pistone points out , attendance could be an issue with the race competing in a market with the Bears in the opening month of the NFL season as well as MBL pennant races which could include the White Sox and/or Cubs.

The addition of Chicagoland is expected to be the only new track added to the Chase mix. While it replaces New Hampshire as the Chase opener, the Cup Series will still pay a visit to Loudon during the 10-race stretch to end the season.

Auto Club Speedway is the odd track out. That track will reportedly host just one race in 2011, March 27, the fourth race of the season.

Category: Auto Racing
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