The NASCAR rumor mill is churning. With that in mind, we've got your one-stop shop for all the latest news and rumors about driver and crew changes for 2007.
|Petty Enterprises||43, 45||Dodge|
(Updated Feb. 7)|
Just the facts: Bill Willburn will serve as crew chief for Kyle Petty, while Paul Andrews will crew chief the No. 43 of Bobby Labonte. Petty will step out of the No. 45 for five races in 2007 to do race commentary for TNT. Rumblings: With Kyle Petty's best days as a driver are far behind him, we've been saying for the longest time that the team needed to start developing a replacement. Petty might finally be thinking along the same lines. No word on who might fill the seat in his absence, but at least there's evidence they're in the planning stages of laying the foundation for the future. There was a lot of hope that that hiring of Labonte would get Petty Enterprises headed in the right direction. He has had his moments in 2006, but the No. 43 car, while improved, lacked consistency. We should know more in 2007 whether the organization is truly on the upswing.
|Michael Waltrip Racing||00, 55, 44||Toyota|
(Updated Jan. 4)|
Just the facts: The pieces are finally all in place for Michael Waltrip Racing, while will be of the pioneering Nextel Cup teams for Toyota. Initially expected to be a two-car opertation, it was bumped to three after UPS decided to follow 1999 Cup champion Dale Jarrett (44) to Waltrip's new operation. Waltrip has NAPA on his 55 Camry and Burger King and Domino's are co-sponsors of the 00 car, which will be driven by David Reutimann, who will also drive the No. 99 in the Busch Series full-time. Matt Borland has left Penske Racing and Ryan Newman and will work with Jarrett as his crew chief, while Waltrip will have David Hyder as his right-hand man. Larry Carter was originally appointed as Reutimann's crew chief, but shortly thereafter he bolted for Roush Racing and Frank Kerr will assume the role. Rumblings: For a time it appeared Jeremy Mayfield was in line for the seat in the third car, but that fell apart. Waltrip Racing is probably better off as Mayfield tends to wear out his welcome after a few seasons. Reutimann has done a solid job in the Truck Series driving for Michael's brother Darrell and appears to have a huge upside. The double duty in 2007 should also serve him well. The key to the Jarrett signing for Waltrip is that the team can use his past champions provisionals. Waltrip will have Jarrett for at least two years. Jarrett had previously said 2008 would be his last, but with the change, he wouldn't rule out delaying retirement. He also seemed interested in a management or ownership role down the line.
|Roush Racing||6, 16, 17, 26, 99||Ford|
(Updated Jan. 4)|
Just the facts: David Ragan, a rookie for Roush in the Truck Series in 2006, is the replacement for Mark Martin in the No. 6 in 2007. Martin, who wanted to take a step back from the rigors of full-time duty in the Cup Series, is leaving Roush after 19 seasons for a part-time gig with MB2. Matt Kenseth (17) signed a multi-year extension in January to remain at Roush Racing. The remainder of Roush's 2007 driver lineup is set with Greg Biffle (16), Jamie McMurray (26) and Carl Edwards (99) returning. There will be some crew chief changes. Bob Osborne, who was shifted to McMurray's team early in 2006, will reteam with Edwards. Pat Tryson, Martin's old crew chief, will work with Biffle. Jimmy Fennig will serve as crew chief for Ragan. And Larry Carter will handle the duties for McMurray. Rumblings: Of all the options Martin seemingly had availabe, the MB2 announcement came like a bolt out of the blue. At Dover, only a couple of weeks before the announcement, Martin had said his plan for 2007 was to drive full-time in the Truck Series for Roush Racing and split time with Boris Said in No Fear Racing's No. 60. But for whatever reason it didn't work out. The MB2 signing begs the question why Roush couldn't work out a similar part-time deal for Martin in the No. 6. Do sponsors really prefer an untested rookie over having Martin part-time and grooming his replacement? Who knows, Roush could change his mind and pull Ragan out of the No. 6 before the start of next season. It's not likely, but then again, the original plan was for Todd Kluever to take over as Martin's replacement, but after watching him struggle in some early Cup opportunities, Roush pulled the plug.
(Updated Jan. 4)|
Just the facts: Rookie Brent Sherman and the team parted ways after just 10 races in 2006. He failed to qualify for three events and was replaced by Jimmy Spencer at Martinsville. The move didn't pay off as Spencer in turn failed to qualify. Kevin Lepage then took over for 18 races and missed out on five events. Mike Bliss manned the seat for the season's final seven races, making six events, and will start 2007 as the team's driver. Lee McCall, formerly of Chip Ganassi Racing, will serve as crew chief. Rumblings: We don't doubt the Morgenthaus are fine people, but this Nextel Cup gig just isn't paying off. Did anyone really think 2006 would end in anything but utter disaster? An an untested rookie driver coupled with a single-car team with a limited budget? They're overmatched, and with Toyota joining the fray in 2007, it's not going to get any easier. Why these single-car organizations continue to try to go it alone instead of merging is beyond us.
|Bill Davis Racing||22, 36||Toyota|
(Updated Jan. 4)|
Just the facts: Bill Davis Racing has had a relationship with Toyota since it entered the Truck Series and that will continue in the Nextel Cup with the brand set to make its debut in 2007. Tommy Baldwin, who had been serving as crew chief for Elliott Sadler at Robert Yates Racing, has returned to the team as competition director and will oversee its conversion to Toyota. Jeremy Mayfield will drive the organization's new No. 36 entry in 2007 with Derrick Finley as his crew chief, while Dave Blaney has been retained in the No. 22. Rumblings: It ended ugly between Mayfield and Ray Evernham, but that's his M.O. Same thing happened between Mayfield and Roger Penske, though not as extreme. You have to wonder, with the expected growing pains with the switch to Toyota, how long before he starts making waves with Bill Davis? Opinion here is that Davis would have been better off promoting one of his drivers from the Truck Series (Mike Skinner, Johnny Benson or Bill Lester). Who knows if Blaney will ever climb out of the also-ran category, but hopefully he'll get a couple more seasons to prove himself and won't be kicked out the door before Toyota hits its stride.
|Robert Yates Racing||38, 88||Ford|
(Updated Dec. 21)|
Just the facts: It's a complete overhaul for Robert Yates, who will sport new drivers and crew chiefs in 2007. David Gilliland, who became a hot commodity after his stunning Busch Series victory at Kentucky in June, jumped into the No. 38 car midway through the 2006 season in place of Elliott Sadler, who was granted his release and moved on to Evernham Motorsports. After 12 seasons with Yates, Dale Jarrett (No. 88) decided to jump ship to Michael Waltrip's new Toyota team. Ricky Rudd will return to racing after a one-year sabbatical to replace Jarrett, though the number may switch to 28. Masterfoods USA will sponsor the car, with its Snickers brand as the primary paint scheme. Crew chiefs Slugger Labbe (88) and Tommy Baldwin (38) were released ahead of the Brickyard 400 and replaced on an interim basis with Butch Hylton (88) and Charles Barraclough (38). Rumblings: While not a complete mess, neither of Yates' teams have been consistently strong on a weekly basis for a couple of years now. Gilliland said he received several offers, including a full-time Busch ride from Richard Childress Racing, but he couldn't pass up a shot in a Cup car. The 88 ride was initially rumored to be filled by 19-year-old Busch Series driver Stephen Leicht, but he will get at least another year of seasoning. Rudd said his year off helped him realize how much he loved the sport.
(Updated Dec. 13)|
Just the facts: Ward Burton will drive the 4 car in 2007 with State Water Heaters as the sponsor. Rumblings: Back in August, president and team manager Larry McClure said that the organization would run a full schedule next season and that they were in negotiations with a partner to run a second team. Well, that never materialized and Scott Wimmer was released ahead of the Oct. 8 race at Talladega. As a single-car operation it's a struggle just to make races, let alone be competitive in those races. Wimmer failed to qualify for six events in 2006.
(Updated Dec. 8)|
Just the facts: Add a fourth Toyota team into the mix for 2007 as 2006 Truck Series champion Germain Racing and Todd Bodine will attempt 15 races. Rumblings: While we feel Bodine deserves a shot in Cup after the enormous success he has enjoyed since joining Germain Racing, it seems a little late in the game for the organization to start thinking about preparing a Cup effort for 2007. Most likely it's to work out the kinks and get the ball rolling for a full-time run in Cup in 2008.
|Penske Racing||2, 12, 77||Dodge|
(Updated Dec. 7)|
Just the facts: Kurt Busch (No. 2) and Ryan Newman (No. 12) have multi-year deals that run through at least the 2009 season. Mike Nelson has replaced Matt Borland as Newman's crew chief. Rumblings: The teams have struggled with the new Dodge Charger, leading to speculation Penske might decide to make a switch to Toyotas in the near future, but that's not in the cards for 2007. As for the 77 car, Kodak chose not to sponsor that car in 2006 because it was unhappy with its performance. Well, considering the demise of the 2 and 12 cars this season, you'd think the return of the 77 isn't promising. However, you could argue that Team Penske is struggling because it's NOT running three cars. Single-car teams have no chance to win in NASCAR anymore and two-car teams are quickly fading into oblivion as well. Sam Hornish Jr., who races for Penske in the IRL, will run a limited ARCA and Busch schedule in 2007, leading to speculation he could make a full-time move to NASCAR in 2008.
|Red Bull Racing||83, 84||Toyota|
(Updated Dec. 6)|
Just the facts: New to NASCAR, Red Bull will be the third team fielding Toyotas in 2007. Brian Vickers has signed a multi-year deal to drive their No. 83 entry, while Champ Car's A.J. Allmendinger has also signed a multi-year deal to drive the No. 84. Doug Richert, who had been working with Roush Racing's Greg Biffle, will serve as Vickers' crew chief. Rumblings: It's a very young lineup that Red Bull will field in 2007. While Vickers has a few seasons under his belt, he's still only 23. Allmendinger is 24 and his only NASCAR experience came when he ran a couple of Truck races for Bill Davis Racing during the 2006 season, finshing 13th at New Hampshire and fifth at Talladega. It has been quite a wild ride for Allmendinger who was actually fired from by RuSport four races into the 2006 Champ Car season. He hooked up with Forsythe Racing, and his stock quickly rose as he captured five victories and challenged for the season championship. As for the Vickers signing, Red Bull seemed desperate to land a driver in his prime with some name recognition. Kevin Harvick was tops on their list, but he chose to re-sign with Richard Childress Racing. Casey Mears was the season's other top "free agent", but nothing seemed to materialize between these two. That left Red Bull knocking at the doors of drivers not quite living up to expectations with their teams, like the Vickers, Sadlers and Mayfields of the garage to see if they'd like a fresh start. The pairing of Vickers and Richert will be interesting to watch. Richert was criticized -- unfairly in our opinion -- for Biffle's down year in 2006.
|Haas CNC Racing||66||Chevrolet|
(Updated Dec. 4)|
Just the facts: The organization will expand to a two-car operation in 2007 with Johnny Sauter moving up to drive the No. 70 with Bootie Barker as his crew chief. Jeff Green will continue to drive the No. 66 with Harold Holly as his crew chief. Rumblings: Before the season we said we didn't think Green would enjoy much more success in the 66 than previous driver Mike Bliss. So let's check the tote board shall we? In 2006, Green finished 28th in points with 3253 points and two top 10s. In 2005, Bliss finished 28th in points with 3262 points and two top 10s. A virtual dead heat. We'll see if the axiom that two teams are better than one proves true in 2007.
|Joe Gibbs Racing||11, 18, 20||Chevrolet|
(Updated Dec. 1)|
Just the facts: Tony Stewart (No. 20) is signed through 2009. After a stellar rookie campaign, Denny Hamlin's job in the No. 11is safe for many year's to come. J.J. Yeley wasn't able to keep pace with his first-year partner Hamlin, but, barring a last-minute change, he'll be back in the No. 18 in 2007. The organization has signed 18-year-old Brad Coleman to a developmental deal. Rumblings: Don't expect Gibbs to pull out the rug from Yeley after just one season, but he needs to continue to show progress. About midseason, there was word that Gibbs wanted to expand to four teams, with some reports that they were courting Ricky Rudd, but that rumor faded away rather quietly. Don't doubt it's in their plans, just not for 2007. Watch out for Coleman. By all indications he's a very talented kid. He's scheduled to drive in 17 Busch races in 2007.
|Dale Earnhardt Inc.||1, 8, 15||Chevrolet|
(Updated Nov. 14)|
Just the facts: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (8) and Martin Truex Jr. (1) are good to go for 2007. Paul Menard is scheduled to move up from the Busch Series to run DEI's No. 15 entry next season. Rumblings: Red Bull's signing of A.J. Allmendinger finally put those Menard to Red Bull rumors to rest. Tony Eury Sr. is working as Menard's crew chief to help guide his move to Cup. Rumors continue to circulate that DEI wants to buy the 88 team from Robert Yates Racing. DEI says it's interested in the 88 team shop and equipment, not just the number, though that would be a bonus because it would be an automatic qualifier for the first five races in case Menard failed to make any of those races on speed.
|Richard Childress Racing||3, 07, 29, 31, 33||Chevrolet|
(Updated Nov. 9)|
Just the facts: Jeff Burton (No. 31) is signed through 2007 and Clint Bowyer (No. 07) is probably safe for a few years. The big story entering this season was Kevin Harvick's status. A free agent at the end of the year, he had been courted heavily by Toyota, but Harvick and RCR agreed on an extension taking him through 2009. Shell/Pennzoil will be the new primary sponsor on the No. 29, replacing longtime RCR partner GM Goodwrench. Timothy Peters will drive one of RCR's Bucsh cars in 2007, while Scott Wimmer will split time with Burton in the team's other Busch entry. Wimmer will also attempt to qualify for at least two Cup races in 2007. Rumblings: RCR appears to be in relatively good shape. On track, things are looking up as the teams have shown a major improvement in their performance. One problem could be sponsorship issues with the No. 31 if AT&T drops the Cingular brand as rumored. Childress reportedly had an offer out to David Gilliland for a full-time Busch Series ride with some Nextel Cup races mixed in, but Gilliland opted for a full-time Cup ride with Robert Yates. This is a great position for Wimmer. RCR's Busch cars are stout. Although he'll be splitting time, he'll have a good chance to shine.
|Robby Gordon Motorsports||7||Ford|
(Updated Oct. 15)|
Just the facts: Robby Gordon will be switching from Chevrolet to Ford in 2007 and will use engines constructed by the Roush/Yates Engine Company. Rumblings: He was a bottom feeder on the Chevrolet hierarchy which is as good a reason as any to make the switch. He's in the process of building a new facility, but his plans to expand to a multi-car Cup team will likely be put on hold until 2008.
|MB2 Motorsports||01, 13, 14||Chevrolet|
(Updated Oct. 12)|
Just the facts: Edward R. "Bobby" Ginn, president and founder of Ginn Resorts, has bought out the 80 percent stake of MB2 owned by Nelson Bowers. Jay Frye has retained his 20 percent stake in the company. It didn't take long for Ginn to make a splash, signing Mark Martin to run a part-time schedule with Regan Smith in the 01 car. Joe Nemechek, who had been in the 01, will shift to a new third car (No. 13), while Sterling Marlin will remain behind the wheel of the 14. Ricky Carmichael, a 15-time AMA Supercross and Motocross national champion, has signed a multi-year developmental contract with the team. Richard "Slugger" Labbe, a longtime crew chief most recently with Robert Yates Racing and Dale Jarrett, joined the organization as well and will play a key role in the company's expansion. Rumblings: Ginn wants to build MB2 into an elite organization and signing Martin is a start. Martin reportedly signed five-year deal, which could mean an eventual return to full-time duty after he recharges his batteries. With Marlin, Nemechek and, now, Martin, MB2 has a great veteran presence. We're not sold on Smith, who is also expected to run full-time in the Busch Series, as the team's face of the future. A young work in progress, his NASCAR resume consists of but two top 10 finishes in the Busch Series (through Oct. 6). But perhaps Martin is just the mentor he needs to turn his potential into something more concrete. Though several organizations were said to be interested in him, make no mistake that Carmichael, 26, is a long-term project. His two-wheel prowess won't help him much in a stock car. He'll start in late model stock cars and ARCA in 2007. Earlier this season, the Charlotte Observer reported that Frye said 2007 will be Marlin's last as a full-time Cup driver. There's been no official announcement from Marlin, who will turn 50 next June.
|Wood Brothers/JTG Racing||21||Ford|
(Updated Oct. 4)|
Just the facts: Ken Schrader, who was the full-time driver this season, and Jon Wood, who has been strictly Busch, will split time in the No. 21 in 2007. Wood will continue full time duty in the Busch Series as well. Marcos Ambrose, who has been dabbling in the Truck Series this year, will take over the No. 59 Busch car, while Stacy Compton makes the switch to the Truck Series. Rumblings: They're bringing along the younger Wood nice and slow, which is a wise move. No need to throw him right into the fire. If all goes as planned, watch for Wood to take over full-time in 2008. We suspect they're grooming Ambrose for a possible second Cup car. If he can hold his own in the Busch Series and the Schrader/Wood combo works out, they might bring up Ambrose in the same fashion.
(Updated Sept. 4)|
Just the facts: Eddie D'Hondt, former general manager at Robert Yates Racing, and Bill Riley of Riley Technologies, a premier motorsports engineering and manufacturing organization, announced the formation of a new team for 2007. The plan is to start off with three cars -- two Busch and one part-time Nextel Cup team (which will run the COT races) -- with the goal of running up to four full-time Cup teams within five years. One of the Busch teams will have Champ Car's Paul Tracy in the car on a limited basis. Rumblings: While it might seem this team is dreaming a bit big considering it is still in negotiations with manufacturers, sponsors and drivers, this ownership group is full of bright individuals with strong engineering and technology backgrounds. Don't bet against them pulling it off.
|Hall of Fame Racing||96||Chevrolet|
(Updated Aug. 23)|
Just the facts: Officials have announced that Tony Raines will return as the team's driver in 2007 and, unlike the team's inaugural season in 2006, he'll run all 36 races. Rumblings: Because of its startup status, the team wasn't guaranteed a starting position through the first five races of 2006 and had Terry Labonte in the car in order to take advantage of his championship provisionals, if needed. Labonte also filled in for Raines on the road courses. With Labonte and Raines behind the wheel they've been able to remain solidly in the top 35 in owner points, a key for provisional purposes. Raines may not be the long-term face of the organization, but it's only fair he gets a shot to run all the races in 2007 as he's done a solid job with a team that, for all intents and purposes, is really still in its infancy.
|Evernham Motorsports||9, 10, 19||Dodge|
(Updated Aug. 19)|
Just the facts: Elliott Sadler has joined the fold, replacing Jeremy Mayfield, who was dismissed from his ride in the No. 19 before Watkins Glen with a year remaining on his contract. Kasey Kahne (No. 9) signed a long-term extension last season. Terms weren't disclosed, but the deal will reportedly take him through 2010. Scott Riggs should be back in the No. 10. Rumblings: It really got ugly between Mayfield and Evernham. Mayfield, who made the Chase in 2004 and 2005, had been very vocal about his unhappiness with the team's performance this season and placed much of the blame on Evernham. Evernham said in court documents that Mayfield was intentionally sabotaging his results. Even before he started making waves, the feeling here was that Mayfield would be working somewhere else next season, his comments and behavior only hastened his exit.
|Hendrick Motorsports||5, 24, 25, 48||Chevrolet|
(Updated Aug. 5)|
Just the facts: Casey Mears will replace Brian Vickers in the No. 25 car in 2007. The contract runs through the 2009 season. The move came a week after Vickers was granted permission to explore job opportunities outside the organization. For Hendrick's other three teams -- Jeff Gordon (24), Jimmie Johnson (48) and Kyle Busch (5) -- it's status quo. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have signed contract extensions keeping them with the team through 2010 along with sponsor Lowe's. Rumblings: We called the Vickers-Hendrick separation long ago. For whatever reason, the peformance hasn't been there. While he has struggled, his teammates are battling for spots in the Chase. If you're Hendrick you can only let this go on for so long. They'll gladly let someone take him off their hands, in this case, new Toyota entry Red Bull. You have to figure he had this deal in place before making his decision to leave Hendrick. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where Mears was headed after he announced he wasn't re-signing with Chip Ganassi Racing. 1. His annoucement came just a day after Vickers' announcement. 2. Hendrick had previously had his eye on Mears. 3. He's best buds with Johnson.
|Chip Ganassi Racing||40, 41, 42||Dodge|
(Updated Aug. 4)|
Just the facts: Ganassi made wholesale changes for 2006, bringing up Reed Sorenson (No. 41) and David Stremme (No. 40) from the Busch Series, while Casey Mears took over for Jamie McMurray in the No. 42, but peformance has remained stagnant. Mears, after initially indicating he was working on a new contract with Ganassi, decided to jump to Hendrick Motorsports starting next season after Brian Vickers announced plans to seek work elsewhere. In his place will come Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the CART championship in 1999 and the 2000 Indy 500 while driving for Ganassi. In addition, John Fernandez has left his post as Dodge motorsports director to join Ganassi Racing as its general manager. Rumblings: To say the Montoya announcement was a stunner is an understatement. Montoya had been driving in Formula One for the past six seasons and has little oval experience. He's a huge name in motorsports circles, but will he be able to make the adjustment to stock cars? We'll soon find out whether the axiom that F1 drivers are the best in the world is true. At the very least, Ganassi made an unexpectedly big splash and brought some positive attention to his teams. McLaren has allowed Montoya out of his contract so that he can begin his adjustments to stock cars. He'll drive in select ARCA, Busch and Cup races the remainder of this season.