Category:Auto Racing
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
Posted on: August 9, 2010 11:07 am

Red Bull latest rumored destination for Kahne

Kasey Kahne may be headed to Red Bull next season before joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, according to a Charlotte Observer report.

It's just the latest in several rumored destinations for Kahne which have included Stewart Haas and Phoenix Racing. There have also been rumors that car owner Rick Hendrick was trying to  get Kahne in the No. 5 car in 2011 rather than 2012 if he could convince Mark Martin to give it up.

Martin, however, has insisted that he's not going anywhere.

It seems odd that Kahne would drive Toyota for a season before jumping into a Chevrolet, but if Stewart Haas and Phoenix Racing are out of the mix, Hendrick's options are 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?

Stayed tuned ....

-- Brian De Los Santos
Posted on: August 6, 2010 12:19 pm
Edited on: August 6, 2010 12:22 pm

Chicagoland expected to start Chase in 2011

NASCAR CEO Brian France promised some "pretty impactful changes" to the Sprint Cup schedule next season when he addressed the subject two weeks ago in Indianapolis. Based on announcements and other reports leaking out about the 2011 calendar he appears to be right on.

Speedway Motorsports Inc. will formally announce Kentucky Motor Speedway's inaugural Sprint Cup date at a press conference next Tuesday which will officially come from Atlanta after the track distributed a news release on Thursday to say it will host a single Cup date in 2011 on Labor Day weekend.

Kansas Speedway will also hold a news gathering next week at which time the formal move of a race from Auto Club Speedway will be unveiled giving the folks in the Sunflower State a pair of races. 

But while the world has expected both those moves, some other shifting around of dates and venues appears ready to be put into place with a few surprises to say the least.

The Chase schedule looks like it will receive a major facelift with Chicagoland Speedway set to inherit the site of the playoff opener in September, giving up its ten-year July date presumably for Kansas to have its second NASCAR weekend. With Chicagoland spending millions of dollars on a new lighting system only a handful of years ago, it points to the 2011 Chase opener becoming a prime time event most likely on a Saturday night which would keep NASCAR from going head to head with a Sunday of NFL football.

That same scenario looks like it will be employed at Texas Motor Speedway, which has called an August 17th press conference to announce "drastic changes" to the track's 2011 schedule. A Saturday night plan is said to be in work for the Texas November Chase event while the track's traditional spring race will most likely move back a bit earlier perhaps into March.

It also seems like New Hampshire Motor Speedway will keep two Sprint Cup races in 2011 with SMI tabling its hope of stripping one date to give Las Vegas a second NASCAR weekend. However the Loudon track's summer date may be tweaked by a week or two while its spot in the Chase will move to the second position behind the Chicagoland opener.

Other rumored wrinkles to next year's slate include Phoenix sliding up to the post Daytona 500 slot, Kentucky grabbing the third week of July position which has been an off Sprint Cup Series weekend in recent years and the possibility of the all-star race moving from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Atlanta in May.

NASCAR has put the official schedule release into overdrive with a formal announcement now anticipated in ten days to two weeks.

-- Pete Pistone

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: August 4, 2010 12:02 pm
Edited on: August 6, 2010 12:32 pm

Allmendinger signs extension with RPM

AJ Allmendinger has signed a multi-year contract with Richard Petty Motorsports and will remain the driver of the No. 43 car, the organization announced Friday at Watkins Glen.

Listen to the news conference (18 minutes, 10 seconds) or read the transcript below

Allmendinger made the jump from Champ Car to NASCAR in 2007, spending two seasons at Red Bull Racing before taking the wheel of RPM's No. 44 car in 2009. He took over the 43 car from Reed Sorenson this season and has shown flashes that he can be more than a bit player in NASCAR, though he's still managed only three top 10s and ranks 22nd in points.

But Allmendinger's potential had other teams looking to steal him away, which would have really left RPM in a lurch with Kasey Kahne leaving at the end of the year and Elliott Sadler likely out the door as well.

-- Brian De Los Santos

News conference transcript:

FOSTER GILLETT OPENING REMARKS “We are here to announce that we have re-signed AJ Allmendinger to a multi-year extension to drive the No. 43 Ford Fusion for Richard Petty Motorsports. I think this is a wonderful move for the company and we are really excited about it. We really appreciate everyone’s hard work to get this done and we really appreciate all of the support of our wonderful partners to make this possible. AJ has worked really hard on the track and with our sponsors to become an integral part of our family. From Richard’s and my standpoint, any thought of him not driving for us was a difficult one. We are pretty excited about this and believe AJ is a big part of what we currently do and going to be a bigger part of what we do in the future.” 

AJ ALLMENDINGER OPENING REMARKS  “It has been an exciting year for me. It is the first time in my career that I could say I have been at a place that I could build off of. That was something that between all the partners, as Foster said, especially with Best Buy and Valvoline, I have had more fun than I have ever had in my race career.  To be able to drive the No. 43 has been a huge honor that I really enjoy. With the partnership with Ford, there are a lot of really great things happening at Richard Petty Motorsports. We looked at a lot of places and went through a lot of things and Tara, my manager; she asked a lot of hard questions. In the end, we got the answers that we wanted to. I feel like this is a place that I can just keep building on. We are definitely not where we want to be when it comes to where we are at right now, but I see the potential and want to keep building a team around me that continues to get better and go out and contend for victories every weekend and hopefully eventually get a championship. That is the goal.” 

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHERE THE ORGANIZATION STANDS NOW AND IF THERE ARE FUTURE ANNOUNCEMENTS COMING?  “When you are in a process like this, you are going to look around at all the options. Tara wasn’t easy on these guys. She asked the questions that I needed to know to feel comfortable about making the decision to stay here. It came down to the fact that I see the potential. They gave the answers that I needed to hear. To know that this is a stable place and a place we can really build on. For me, that is all I needed to know. For me it is all about going out there and trying to win races. Anybody that has been around me knows that is all I care about. I think that a lot of it had to do with Jamie Allison, the head of Ford Racing, and Ford in general being huge supporters of this race team and huge supporters of me. Between RPM and Ford in general, they really made me feel like they wanted me to stay and be a part of this company as a whole. In the end, it made the decision easy. I look at the race teams that are out there, the 48’s, 24’s and 11’s, they have had huge success, and a lot of it is because they have been together for so long.  I feel like we started something great here and we just need to build on it now.” 

GILLETT CONTINUED: “I think that AJ and I have a great friendship and a mutual appreciation for what we are trying to do. I think we have accomplished a lot together since we have both been here. I think we have been open with each other through this process. In an athlete’s career, one of the great moments in your life is having the chance to choose what team or organization you are going to be with. It is your chance to put your own stamp on things. I think through many years of trying to get to this level you have to compromise. You finally arrive and get a chance to choose. We wanted AJ to choose for the right reason to be here. There are no secrets between us. We are all teammates here. We have a lot more good news coming as an organization. We have a base of which we believe we can propel cars to victory on a regular basis. I think drivers and partners want to be a part of that and we look forward to rolling that out in the future. We are excited to start with AJ and the No. 43 car because it is important to all of us. We are going to go down a path here for a few weeks and hopefully have a lot more news as we go. It is exciting times here at Richard Petty Motorsports.” 

RICHARD PETTY:  “We have some announcements in our pocket. We like to have press conferences, so we wanted to spread it out a little bit (laughter).” 

ALLMENDINGER CONTINUED: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SPECIFIC THINGS YOU SAW THAT ALLOWED YOU TO MAKE THIS DECISION AND DID YOU ACTUALLY TALK WITH ANY OTHER TEAMS?  “Yeah, I am not going to sit here and lie. We talked to a lot of teams, which for me with everything I have been through the last three years in NASCAR, to have a lot of big team owners coming up to me about the opportunity to drive for them is pretty special. It is similar to last year with the King starting a fourth car with me with the Gillett family. They saw that I am passionate about it and want to go out there to win. For anything, that just made me feel good and know that I am doing the right things on and off the race track for people to want to talk to me. In the end, it is the relationship with Ford. They give us all the tools we could ask for to go out there with a chance to win every weekend. The new motor is getting a lot better and we are building on that. It was great to see Ford back in victory lane last week with the new motor. In general at RPM, the team is a lot of fun to be around. Everything at the race shop is a good energy and that is always fun to be around. The race cars are getting better every weekend. Like I said before, I am not where I want to be at when it comes to points and trying to contend to win races, but we are getting there. For me, it was tough to go out there and know everything we have built up here and go to a different team and have to start all over again. If you look at the great teams in NASCAR, they are not one and two year teams; they are teams that have been around for five or six years together. We have potential here and that is all I needed to see. We needed the right answers from Foster and Richard and those guys to know that this was a stable place. Tara fought hard to get those answers and Foster and Richard have been completely open and honest. We got the right answers and it made it very easy to know this was a place we could build on.” 

PETTY CONTINUED: WHEN WE TALKED EARLY THIS YEAR YOU WERE HAVING SPONSORSHIP ISSUES, DO YOU FEEL THAT IS STARTING TO TURN AROUND FOR AUTO RACING?  “I don’t know that it has turned around everywhere, but the partners we have had before have been really good to work with. We have a couple of new people that I think are coming on board, so really from an overall view it has not been easy by any means. I think it has come down better than what I thought it would. I see the deal of people tightening up, but they are loosening up in the deal of knowing they need to be advertising and be out in front of the people. It is coming together pretty good for us right now.” 

GILLETT CONTINUED:  “If I could elaborate on that, I think because of what we went through in the past with Dodge I think we were forced into the marketplace at a time it was at its worst. I don’t know many other teams that have added sponsorship and changed manufacturer affiliation like we have. We have a realistic idea of what the marketplace holds and run our race team to that. I think other race owners are going to have to look at how they do their business as they go in the marketplace and try to understand what partners are willing to do. I think things have changed and it is changing. I think Richard Petty Motorsports is at the spearhead of that. I think we’ve been through it and come out the other side. I think we understand what our partners need to be successful and others in this garage are going to have to do that. I feel proud that we have gotten through it and we are going to see others go in our wake. We are excited about that.” 

I HEAR A LOT OF BUZZ WORDS LIKE STABILITY AND COMMITMENT, BUT WHAT DOES YOUR SPONSOR LINEUP LOOK LIKE FOR NEXT YEAR AND HOW MANY TEAMS DO YOU ANTICIPATE TO RUN IN 2011?  “Obviously we have an opportunity we are seeking and things we have already done that we are waiting to talk about. It starts here and we will see over the coming weeks as we roll out or driving roster and partner roster we will have answers as we go along. Things are very good here. Richard and I were talking last weekend in Pocono and you saw a smile on both of our faces because it felt positive with what we were going through and what we had ahead.”  

ALLMENDINGER CONTINUED: LOOKING AT WHO IS DEPARTING RPM AT THE END OF THIS YEAR, ARE YOU PREPARED TO BE A LEADER OF THIS TEAM DEPENDING ON WHO IS COMING IN AND SECONDLY CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR ROAD COURSE SUCCESS?  “Yeah, that was a big selling point. I am ready to be a leader of this race team. It is something that I thrive on and excites me every day to know that I can be the guy. I have the confidence in myself to know I can lead this team and represent it to the best of its abilities. Hopefully, when people think about Richard Petty Motorsports, they think about me as the guy and the leader. It pumps me up to think about the opportunity to be the spearhead to take this team to a lot of victories and eventually a championship. As far as the road course racing goes, it is what I grew up doing. I grew up in Indy car and it is different with different techniques that you have to use, but now in the Sprint Cup series, everyone seems really good at road course racing. In the past you had a few guys, road course ringers that would really stand out, but now there are a lot better road course drivers than guys that are struggling at it. I don’t think anybody has an advantage now when you show up to these places, but I still love road course racing and wish we did a little bit more of it.” 

GILLETT CONTINUED: DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE SILENCED YOUR CRITICS A LITTLE BIT CONSIDERING WHERE YOU WERE AT SIX MONTHS AGO AND WHAT DID YOU TELL AJ AND TARA TO CONVINCE HIM THAT HE SHOULD STAY?  “I think in this sport it is wonderful because the talking happens on the track and I think that AJ and Tara see our commitment to getting better. I think some of that is through our partners that have continued to support us and our unbelievable partnership with Ford. Since day one that we walked through the door they have been excited about us being there and wanted AJ to stay. I understand the criticism because it is part of life and part of sports. It is what churns the pot and keeps everything going. We do this for ourselves, our partners and our own success. We are our hardest critics. I think we hold ourselves to high standards and try our best. We look forward to winning races and progressing to championships and try to do everything we thought we could do. I met AJ at my bus in Talladega after he had separated from Red Bull and there were six races to go in the season and we talked about putting him in our car. I told him that he made the right decision to come to RPM because this was going to be a long term relationship that we were going to work on. I am proud that those five races turned into a season and a second season and then a long term relationship. We are excited about that and we all want to win together. We are a family and we are pretty excited.” 

CAN YOU ADDRESS HOW YOU SEE AJ AS A LEADER IN THIS ORGANIZATION GOING FORWARD?  “I think AJ’s passion for this sport is obvious. I think the way he works with our partners and our people is phenomenal. I think there are some drivers on different teams that call in and are around, but AJ is in our shop daily and knows every single person on our race team. Our guys root for him a lot because last year and in previous years, every person has felt a part of AJ and what he is doing. When I told the guys in the shop, it was great news for them. We are looking forward to AJ being that and stepping to the forefront, blazing the way and other people trying to catch him on our team and we encourage him to do that. We like the way he drives and how he handles our partners and so we think that is the future, which is why we have done this.”

Posted on: August 2, 2010 11:13 am
Edited on: August 2, 2010 4:26 pm

Menard to join RCR as fourth Cup team?

Richard Childress is leaving the Nationwide Series -- at least in 2011.

Childress said he will field two teams in the Truck Series for grandsons Austin and Ty Dillion . He said he didn't have enough sponsorship to run two teams in the Nationwide Series and didn't think running just one team made any sense.

According to reports, what is likely to happen is that Childress will lend his assistance to Kevin Harvick's KHI Nationwide Series program.

Childress is also reportedly looking to expand back to a fourth team in the Cup Series, with Paul Menard the leading candidate according to .

Though Menard has done little in his Cup career -- five top 10s in 132 career starts -- he continues to find rides because he brings along sponsorship through his family's hardware chain.

-- Brian De Los Santos

Posted on: July 30, 2010 3:54 pm

Gordon's crew chief Letarte gets extension

Hendrick Motorsports announced a multi-year contract extension with crew chief Steve Letarte .

Heading into Sunday's race at Pocono Raceway, the 31-year-old Letarte has guided Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 team to 10 wins, 21 runner-up finishes, 77 top-five finishes, 108 top-10s and 14 pole positions in 174 races. Gordon's second-place and top-five finishes during that time rank as the most among all drivers (teammate Jimmie Johnson ranks second in top-fives with 76.)

Listen to a news conference with Letarte on Friday morning at Pocono or read the transcript below.

Listen to Steve Letarte's news conference (8 minutes, 28 seconds)

STEVE LETARTE, CREW CHIEF NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway and discussed his contract extension, crew member changes and more.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR CONTRACT EXTENSION AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? ARE YOU EXCITED? "I'm extremely excited. Hendrick Motorsports is the only company that I've ever received a paycheck from. I've worked here since I was a teenager and they've provided wonderful opportunities for me. I owe a lot to them and I'm really excited to be extended here so we can do it for a few more years."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT JEFF DICKERSON BEING YOUR NEW SPOTTER? "Oh yeah, I'm excited to have Jeff on the roof. I think he brings a unique style. I've known Jeff for a long time. I've always heard him in my left ear for a lot of races; him and the 18 have run really strong at some of the speedways. I think the change will hopefully help us toward the end of some of the races--some of the double-file restarts get pretty wild. I think his style might maybe suit the races better."

WHAT STYLE ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? "I don't know if there is really a description to it. He is just very informative; he's almost like a commentator and less like a spotter. With a talent like Jeff [Gordon] behind the wheel I think all the information he can give us will just improve our performance."

CAN YOU GIVE US A FEW MORE DETAILS ON THE CONTRACT EXTENSION? "Yes, my extension is for three years. It seems like ever contract I've worked on here has been three years; that's kind of the template that we use. It's a great length of time for me and for the company. I'm really excited."

WHEN DO YOU THINK YOU'LL GET THAT FIRST WIN OF 2010? "I think we've been close, I feel we've been close all year long. There were a couple months there when I didn't think we had the speed that we needed. We might have had good finishes, but we didn't have the speed we had earlier in the year. Other than Indy last week I feel like we've had really good speed everywhere we've went and we're excited because Pocono is a different track. It doesn't really relate well to anything in the Chase, but there are some other track coming up--Atlanta, Michigan, some areas that I think will be very important for how you are going to run in the Chase."

YOU GUYS NEED SOME BONUS POINTS... "Oh yeah, bonus points are very important. Right now we're tied for sixth when the Chase starts. We need to be in the Chase first. I think we're getting more and more comfortable there. We've been trying to win races since February and I don't think we can do anything different to try to win races, but that is definitely our number one priority."

DOES THAT GET FRUSTRATING AT ALL? "Anytime you don't win you get frustrated. Every team in the garage wants to win races, so I think we're as frustrated as the other ones that aren't winning races. I don't think it's affecting our performance."

YOU'RE A COMPANY MAN, IT'S NOT LIKE YOU REALLY NEED A CONTRACT TO WORK FOR MR. H., BUT WHAT DOES A CONTRACT DO FOR YOU? "Yeah, I want to work for Mr. Hendrick for my entire career, but when you have a sport like this one--it reminds me a lot of college football--there is a lot of money involved, there is a lot of sponsors involved, it is a very high-pressure situation. The fact that you have a contract is always good. I have a wife and two kids so it gives me some comfort level. I agree with you. Rick is the kind of guy where a handshake would be good enough for most of us, but that's what the sport has become and that's the sport we race in."

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO GO TO THE NEXT LEVEL? YOUR TEAM IS SO CLOSE. "Wins. We need to get to victory lane. Until we do that, we're second in points without wins and while that is a good statement it is also disappointing to think of how we don't have any wins. We get in the Chase. I think the team that is hottest in the Chase is going to win the championship. I think there are five or seven real contenders; 12 really good teams, but just five or seven cars that showed throughout the first 26 races that they can be contenders. If they do that then it should be a really exciting Chase to watch."

HOW LONG DO YOU SEE YOURSELF DOING THIS? DO YOU THINK YOU'LL STILL BE DOING THIS IN 10 YEARS? "I don't know if my crystal ball is that clear. I know right now that I have a contract extension to do this three more years and I'm really excited to do that."

IS YOUR CONTRACT WITH THE NO. 24, OR SIMPLY WITH TEAM HENDRICK? "Good question. I mean right now, I signed a contract extension and I plan on being Jeff's crew chief. What the details are of it I'd have to go back and reread it. I'm really not too concerned about it. I've worked for Rick for a number of years and we have very good friendship. I believe in his vision and how he steers the company. I'm sure if he feels that there is some other place in the organization that he feels I can suit it better then we'll sit down and talk about that. But I have no plans of changing what I'm doing."

YOU'RE BY FAR ONE OF THE YOUNGEST CREW CHIEFS OUT THERE. DO YOU FEEL LIKE A YOUNG GUY, OR DO YOU FEEL LIKE A VETERAN? "Racing is kind of like dog years. I've been in the garage since I was 16 or 17 and that's all I've ever done. So no, I don't feel young or old, I just feel like a crew chief with a driver that is capable of winning races. As a crew chief, that's all you could ask for--a team that has the support that we have, and a driver like we have, and that's it. I don't think age really has a whole lot to do with it."

DID YOU TALK TO ANY OTHER TEAMS OR DID ANYONE COME TALK TO YOU? "No, I didn't talk to anybody else. There was never a question in my mind where I wanted to end up and we just finally got the formality out of the way. I don't think Rick or I were concerned, I think it was more the media was more concerned about my contract than we were. Once Rick and I talked on the phone--I don't even know when it was--awhile ago, we knew what we were going to do. There was never a question about it. Now the formality is all finished."

DO YOU THINK THAT IT HELPED PUT YOUR COMMITMENT INTO MAKING THIS A CHAMPIONSHIP WINNING TEAM? "Well I think we put in that commitment to make this a championship team a long time ago. It's never really been in question of Rick's commitment to this team, or to any of these teams. The spotter decision is something that I've been working on not anybody in the front office--that's more my decision. The contract, like I said, is more of a formality than anything. I've never really questioned where I was going to work. Jeff and I have those conversations over the winter to make sure that we're both on the same page, and the rest of it is just a part of the sport."

AS A PART OWNER, DO YOU TALK TO JEFF AT ALL ABOUT YOUR CONTRACT? "No, I do all my stuff with the front office. I don't work for Jeff Gordon, I work for Rick Hendrick. If it has to be that way, I don't think you can work for the driver that you're going out and trying to win races for. Jeff and I work together; we don't work for each other. All of my discussions are with other people in the company."

WHEN DICKERSON BECAME AVAILABLE AS A SPOTTER WERE YOU LOOKING AT THE TIME? OBVIOUSLY HE'S THE GUY THAT YOU CAUGHT. "Well, I wouldn't say that we caught him. I'm not sure what happened over at Joe Gibbs Racing, but when we got to Indianapolis and he wasn't on the roof--that's a very talented spotter, very high in the sport as far as a rating. When something like that happens, I want to be sure that I'm aware of it and it's my job to be able to pulse the sport and know when talent becomes available. It's no different with a jackman, or a tire changer; my job is to go win races with the 24 and if that takes the crew I have or a different crew or if there are changes that we can make--every Sunday we're going to put the best group out there that we can."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE UPGRADED THAT POSITION? "I think Shano is a very, very good spotter. It's hard to say that it's an upgrade we haven't even run a practice yet. I think it's just a difference of style, a different direction, than an upgrade. I rate Shano very high; he's a very talented spotter. He's just a different style than Jeff [Dickerson], and Shano still works in our shop. He's a very talented mechanic and it's just going a different direction."

YOU PUT A LOT OF WEIGHT ON THAT RELATIONSHIP OF DRIVER-CREW CHIEF-SPOTTER. IT'S NOT SOMETHING YOU TAKE LIGHTLY? "Not at all. It's the three guys on the radio every Sunday. That's a third of the program there. The guy on the roof can have a humongous influence on how your day turns out. Absolutely. It's not a change we made lightly; it may have happened in a short time, but has a lot of hours and a lot of stress behind it. I feel like we made the right decision and now I'm just excited to move forward with it."

WHAT ABOUT ARIC ALMIROLA? YOU'RE GOING TO PUT HIM IN THE CAR FOR PRACTICE THIS WEEKEND? "We're on baby watch too, so Jeff and Ingrid are expecting their second child. While we support them 100%, we have no plans for Jeff not to drive the car, but just like making the spotter change it's a good idea to have a plan if something were to go wrong. If something were to occur where the baby was coming and Jeff had to leave, I want to be sure that the driver has already been decided on, Rick is involved, everybody is involved and there aren't a lot of questions. We're just going to put him in two laps on Saturday in practice just to make sure he's comfortable in the car. That will be it. I don't' expect it to be too big of a deal."

AND IT'S A COMFORTABLE DECISION BECAUSE HE WAS IN THE 48--HE DID A GOOD JOB. "Yeah, he was the natural person. We weren't really sure if he'd fit in our car, but we poured a seat liner in to make him work. He's a little taller than Jeff. He's a really great kid, he's really easy to work with and I think he's a very good, talented guy. We're excited to have him."

DID JEFF HAVE ANY KIND OF SAY IN YOUR CONTRACT EXTENSION? DID YOU TALK TO HIM AT ALL? "You'd have to ask Jeff on what he had in it; I haven't discussed anything with him."

DID YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS OR DOUBTS, LIKE 'MAN THIS IS JUST TOO MUCH?' "Not about the contract. The only fight I had was at the end of last year when I sat down with Jeff to make sure we were on the same page with where this team needed to go. Once we got that out of the way, the rest of it has really been kind of natural."

Posted on: July 28, 2010 10:45 am
Edited on: July 28, 2010 2:23 pm

Labonte to replace Ambrose at JTG in 2011

While Bobby Labonte may be somewhat of a nomad this season, he'll have a more permananent home next year. JTG Daugherty has signed the 2000 Cup Series champion to driver the No. 47 car, which will be vacated by Marcos Ambrose at season's end.

Labonte started the season with TRG Motorsports, but when they began to have him start and park, he opted out of his contract. Aside from TRG, he has also driven for Robby Gordon Motorsports and Phoenix Racing this year. His schedule for the remainder of the season appears somewhat murky, though he is scheduled to return to TRG for at least four races. He's a good pick-up because he holds a past champion's provisional.

“JTG Daugherty Racing is a solid race team that has come close to winning races with Marcos Ambrose and I’m looking forward to developing our new partnership in 2011,” Labonte said. “The team is thriving and their technical alliance with MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) is intact. It’s great to have next year already set in stone so when this season ends we can begin focusing on next year right away. Everything is in place and we have all the right ingredients to win races together.”

Labonte hasn't enjoyed much success the second half of the decade. Since 2005, his best finish in the standings is 18th (2007). In the past four seasons he has a total of seven top 10s. He has not won a Cup race since 2003. After leaving Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the 2005 season, he spent three years in the No. 43 car for Petty Enterprises. Last year he drove for Hall of Fame Racing/Yates Racing and TRG.

The rumor mill continues to strongly link Ambrose with Richard Petty Motorsports.

-- Brian De Los Santos

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