Category:Auto Racing
Posted on: June 25, 2010 6:17 pm

Labonte may drive for RGM at Indianapolis

Speaking at a press conference prior to quaifying at New Hampshire, Bobby Labonte said he is in preliminary talks to drive a second car for Robby Gordon Motorsports when the series visits Indianapolis for the Brickyard 400.

Earlier this week, Labonte cut ties with TRG Motorsports. RGM quickly signed him to drive at New Hampshire, while Phoenix Racing picked him up for the following two races at Daytona and Chicagoland. Long range, however, Labonte doesn't have anything secured.

Listen to Bobby Labonte's news conference (10 minutes, 19 seconds)

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: June 25, 2010 6:09 pm

Fennig, Roush, Kenseth discuss changes

Jimmy Fennig was named crew chief of the No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford Fusion on Tuesday by owner Jack Roush.  Fennig, along with Roush and driver Matt Kenseth, spoke about the change today at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Read the transcript below or listen to the audio.

Jack Roush and Matt Kenseth press conference (6 minutes, 12 seconds)

JIMMY FENNIG, Crew Chief – No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford Fusion –

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING BACK WITH MATT?  “Jack made the decision on Tuesday that he wanted to pair me up with Matt and, of course, Matt and I worked together on a Nationwide car a few years ago.  I think we’ve got a good relationship, so we’ll see what happens but I’m looking forward to being with him again.” 

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU’VE SEEN OR IDENTIFIED FROM YOUR R&D POSITION AS AN AREA YOU CAN IMPROVE AS CREW CHIEF?  “I don’t know.  The team is solid.  I thought Todd Parrott and Cully Barraclough and everybody did a good job, but maybe the direction I was heading in R&D will help turn things around.  We might try some of that stuff with Matt and see how it goes, but everybody is working hard and now we’ve just got to do all we can to make sure we get in the chase and then contend for a championship.”

WERE YOU SURPRISED WITH THIS MOVE?  “Yeah, I was surprised because I was enjoying R&D (laughing).”

JACK ROUSH, Car Owner – No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford Fusion –

HOW WAS PRACTICE?  “We came with a couple of different things.  We tried to organize for kinematics on the front suspension and hoped that we would find a solution to the worst problem we’ve had all year, which is getting the cars to turn in the middle of the corner. I haven’t been debriefed by each driver or crew chief, but, by all appearances, we’ve still got some of the same problem.  There has not been an immediate solution.  The balance that you always have on Friday is how much time do you spend on qualifying and how much time do you spend on race practice?  I’m not absolutely sure what the strategies were for each crew chief and each driver, but we’ll have good mileage and we’ll have our cars that will handle better than they handled today when we get through with practice tomorrow.  Loudon has been very good to us over a period of time.  We’ve had some great success here and always enjoy coming here to the northeast and being in this community.” 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CREW CHIEF CHANGE THIS WEEK?  “We’re blessed at Roush Fenway with a lot of very able and talented people with years and years and decades and decades of experience.  We’re continually working for and looking for the best chemistry between driver and crew chief, and the best relationship between a crew chief and his team – the same as a crew chief needs to reach and get all the energy that’s in the driver and give the driver everything that he recognizes that he needs and sometimes the things he doesn’t recognize he needs.

That’s a crew chief’s job to be perceptive on that and to reconcile it.  If you had said, ‘What was the reason we made the crew chief change on the 17 this week,’ I guess there were two reasons for it.

We weren’t getting the number of changes in a practice session that we thought we needed.  We were a little slow in the garage area. I don’t fault the guys for that, but the direction and the plan may not have been as well-defined or understood.  We had difficulty getting through tech at Sears Point, from the number of times we had to go around for things that were found not to be the way NASCAR wanted them.  Some thought we might not be able to qualify.  As it turned out, Matt had a flat tire and ran over something on the race track.  That caused one of his rear tires to lose a substantial part of their air, and that’s the reason we didn’t qualify well.  But what preceded that was the difficulty we had getting through the tech line and, as it turned out – except for Matt stepping in and begging forgiveness – we may not have been able to have gotten our car in the qualifying line in time to make the five-minute clock deadline.  So the combination of the plan not working as well as it needed to with the team, and the strategies not working as well as they had in the first few races with Todd resulted in our making the decision that the team wasn’t where it needed to be.

Jimmy Fennig, coming off a real productive test program for the race tracks we can go to, which are naturally not NASCAR tracks, but Jimmy was current on a lot of the cutting-edge thinking that we’ve had.  Jimmy is a great leader and we thought we’d pass the baton to Jimmy’s hand and let him see what he could do to help Matt.”

MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford Fusion –

HOW WAS PRACTICE?  “We didn’t run real great today.  Last year, this was probably one of our weakest tracks.  We struggled at these tracks, but this year has been a little better.  Phoenix, I think, was better for us and Richmond was a little better for us.  We were just trying some things today.  We went through a lot of stuff in race practice trying to hopefully get a direction for tomorrow.  We seem to be off on speed quite a bit in qualifying trim, so we’re getting ready to try and make some changes and, hopefully, get it a little better for this afternoon.” 

Robbie had a chance to come back and do it, but the problem is Robbie wants to do everything, so he didn’t want to leave his post at the front office.  There’s a lot more going on and a lot more important things in Roush Fenway Racing than just one team.  It’s about the whole organization as well, so there’s no way you can do both.  I think he probably would have came and filled in for the rest of the year if he could try to do both, but there just are not enough hours in a day.  No, that’s not really true.  It does seem like I’m pretty hard on crew chiefs lately, that’s for sure, but we’ve just had some opportunities within the organization.  Jack has a lot of quality people working in R&D and the speedway department and other places – championship-winning crew chiefs like Todd and Jimmy – and we just had some opportunities to mix things up a little bit and see if we can get the team heading in the direction we think it needs to be headed in.”

Posted on: June 23, 2010 11:17 am
Edited on: June 23, 2010 2:01 pm

Labonte parts ways with TRG Motorsports

Bobby Labonte
has terminated his contract with TRG Motorsports and is already lined up to drive for Robby Gordon Motorsports and Phoenix Racing over the next few weeks.

Labonte will drive the No. 7 car for RGM at New Hampshire.

"When we found out that Bobby was available to drive for us, we jumped at it," said Robby Gordon. "To have a past champion driving your car is a good opportunity. I think we can learn from him this weekend and it will help our program moving forward."

Phoenix Racing has signed Labonte to drive its 09 car at Daytona and Chicagoland.

"It's good to know that we'll have a past champion in our car for these two races," Phoenix Racing owner James Finch. "I've known Bobby for a while and he always works hard behind the wheel. This is a good opportunity for us to race for a win."

A lack of sponsorship for TRG's No. 71 car forced the 2000 Cup champion to start-and-park in three of the past five races. His best finish this season in 16 races is 21st, though he has kept the 71 team in the top 35 in owner points (currently 33rd).

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.

"I want to be in a position to win races and be competitive," Labonte said. "I have worked as hard as possible to give my best at the track so far this season. I'm now looking to move on and get back into a position to win races.

"I can't thank Robby and his folks enough for this opportunity. We're going to New Hampshire with the goal of having another solid run for his team.  They had a great finish at Sonoma and have some momentum right now. I'm just thankful for the opportunity and hope to get another solid finish for his team."

Labonte is scheduled to make his 600th start at Daytona.

"Any driver wants the chance to win at Daytona," Labonte said. "It's awesome that James has given me this opportunity and also the chance to compete at Chicagoland."

Andy Lally , a three-time Grand Am Rolex Series champion, is reportedly set to drive the No. 71 TRG Motorsports entry this weekend at New Hamspshire.

-- Brian De Los Santos

Posted on: June 23, 2010 10:39 am
Edited on: June 23, 2010 10:56 am

Fennig replaces Parrott as Kenseth's crew chief

Roush Fenway Racing has named Jimmy Fennig as the crew chief for Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 Ford, replacing Todd Parrott. The move pairs Kenseth -- who drove Roush Fenway to its first Sprint Cup Championship in 2003 -- with Fennig, who served as crew chief for Kurt Busch on Roush Fenway’s 2004 championship team.
“I am very pleased that we have been able to place these two together on the No. 17,” said team owner Jack Roush. “These guys were both instrumental in our back-to-back Sprint Cup Championships in 2003 and 2004, with Matt driving us to our first Cup Championship and Jimmy of course being instrumental in the 2004 championship as the team’s crew chief. We would expect this pairing to yield strong results as both of these guys are extremely talented and among the best in the business at what they do.”
Fennig, who has 27 Cup wins as a crew chief, will be joined on the No. 17 by car chief Richie Davis. Davis had been working in Roush Fenway’s research and development department along side Fennig. Parrott, who had been working as crew chief on the No. 17, will serve as the new R&D manager at Roush Fenway; a position formally held by Fennig. Current No. 17 car chief Charles “Cully” Barraclough will also move over to car chief the R&D program.

The move comes as somewhat of a surprise as Kenseth seemeed to be communicating well with Parrott, his third crew chief this season and fourth since Robbie Reiser was promoted after the 2007 season.

Chip Bolin worked as Kenseth's crew chief in 2008, but after Kenseth went through the season winless for the first time since 2001, he was replaced by Drew Blickensderfer. That pairing actually won their first two races together -- the Daytona 500 and the Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway -- to start the 2009 season, but Kenseth would earn just 12 tops, his fewest since 2001, and missed the Chase for the first time in his career.

Nevertheless, Blickensderfer started this season as Kenseth's crew chief, but was replaced by Parrott after an eighth place finish in the Daytona 500. Parrott and Kenseth had five top 10s in their first six races together, but have been struggling a bit more of late with just two top 10s in the past nine races.

Kenseth has worked with Fennig previously. In 2006 the pair racked up four poles, three wins, 15 top-fives and 18 top-10 finishes in 21 starts in the Nationwide Series.

-- Brian De Los Santos
Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Matt Kenseth
Posted on: June 16, 2010 10:55 am
Edited on: June 17, 2010 4:32 pm

Sorenson to replace Vickers at Red Bull

Casey Mears has lost his job as the fill-in for Brian Vickers in the No. 83 car.

Road course specialist Mattias Ekstrom is making his Cup debut in the car for this weekend's race at Infineon, while Reed Sorenson has been tabbed to drive the car in the June 27 race at New Hampshire.

Since Vickers was forced out of the car due to blood clots, Mears has been serving as his replacement. In four races, he has a best finish of 22nd. More than the sub-par finishes though, what likely got Mears booted was running into Red Bull teammate Scott Speed during last week's race at Michigan. Speed was able to continue and finished 28th, while Mears exacerbated his situation by wrecking on pit road, which sent him to the garage for further repairs.

“Our unique situation has afforded us the opportunity to try some different things, and we’re continuing to do that with Reed,” said Jay Frye, Red Bull Racing's vice president and general manager. “We appreciate Casey’s work and everything he’s done the past five weeks.”

Sorenson, 24, made his Sprint Cup debut in October 2005 at Atlanta. He’s made 148 Cup starts -- three this season -- with five top-five and 14 top-10 finishes. His best season came in 2007 when he earned three top fives and six top 10s, including his first pole at Indianapolis.

Mears, meanwhile, has hooked back up with Tommy Baldwin racing where he was driving before he his Red Bull stint. He's slated to drive the No. 36 car at New Hampshire. Brian Simo is in the car this weekend at Infineon, while Steve Park -- how's that for a blast from the past? -- is scheduled to drive the car at Daytona on July 3.

-- Brian De Los Santos

Posted on: June 15, 2010 5:00 pm

Kahne's 2011 home remains a mystery

Last week reported that it looked like Phoenix Racing would serve as Kasey Kahne temporary home before his contract at Hendrick Motorsports kicked in in 2012.

That set every other reporter in motion looking to confirm the story for themselves. Problem is, the parties involved aren't exactly being cooperative. Kahne and car owner Rick Hendrick said they still have no clue yet where Kahne will end up in 2011, while FoxSports is reporting that Phoenix Racing car owner James Finch says he hasn't even spoken with Hendrick regarding Kahne.

So while it might make sense for Kahne to end up at Phoenix Racing for a season, his 2011 home remains up in the air.

-- Brian De Los Santos
Posted on: June 12, 2010 10:18 am

Kahne could end up at Phoenix Racing in 2011

As we ponder just where Kasey Kahne will hole up until his Hendrick Motorsports deal to drive the No. 5 car in 2012 kicks in, our friends at appear to have found the answer -- Phoenix Racing.


It seemed everybody was so sold that Kahne would either end up at Stewart-Haas or somehow he'd find his was to Hendrick in 2011 that Phoenix Racing was overlooked. Just like Tony Stewart, Phoenix Racing car owner James Finch has an engine and technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsports.

Last season if you recall, Brad Keselowski pulled off perhaps the surprise of the year, winning at Talladega for Finch's first Cup victory as a car owner. This season has been rough on Finch as he has been forced to start and park most of the year after he lost Miccosukee Indian Resorts as sponsor just days before the Daytona 500. He even put the team up for sale.

But perhaps, the addition of a driver like Kahne -- if only for a season -- can help ressurect the tiny team. According to the report, Mark Martin, who Kahne will replace in 2012, could be interested in purchasing the team.

-- Brian De Los Santos

Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Kasey Kahne
Posted on: June 8, 2010 11:25 am

Wal-Mart looking to make a splash in NASCAR

Interesting article over at about Wal-Mart looking to make a big move into the NASCAR ranks .

Several different scenarios are being bandied about. Will it sponsor one driver? A team of drivers? According to the article, they're looking to become NASCAR's "exclusive retailer in the mass merchandise space." With DuPont scaling back its sponsorship next season, Jeff Gordon's No. 24 car is seen as a possible landing spot.

I've often wonder why Wal-Mart didn't have a bigger presence in NASCAR. We've had the Target car for several years now, and K-Mart had a car back in the day. What's Wal-Mart been waiting for?

I think there are several companies that have missed the boat in what they might be able to do in NASCAR. Why hasn't an apparel giant like Nike, Reebok, Addidas pounced? They do realize NASCAR fans buy shoes and wear clothes don't they? Just imagine all the merch Nike would have sold had it had hooked up with Dale Earnhardt Jr. That swoosh would be everywhere in the stands.

Another company I thought could do well in NASCAR is Disney. There is so much they could promote -- parks, movies, tv shows -- the car could have a new paint scheme every week. At the track they could have a trailer set up where fans could start booking their Disney vacations. And the NASCAR goodies plasted with Disney would be bought not just by NASCAR, but Disney collectors as well.

We hear so much about sponsorship woes in NASCAR, but I believe there are opportunities if execs would just have some vision.

-- Brian De Los Santos
Category: Auto Racing
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or