SPORTSAIJe Cjarlottt #o»t
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Q: Which driver won the first
NASCAR Cup race at
Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
A: Jeff Gordon, 1994
Race: Allstate 400 at The Brickyard
Where: Indianapolis Motor
When: 2 p.m. ET, Aug.
Defending race winner: Tony Stewart
are around the comer
New namplate, drivers
could shake up series in ’07
By RICK MINTER
Cox News Service
T he changes NASCAR has made during the
past few seasons — a new way of determin
ing the champion, moving races away from
Southern tracks, a new TV package, a glitzier
image — have been dramatic, even to the point of
alienating some longtime fans.
But even biggerchanges are just around the cor
ner. The NASCAR of 2007 will see a foreign
nameplate, Toyota, become a major player in the
Nextel Cup Series. A Colombian driver, former
Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya, will join
the circuit and drive the No. 42 Dodge for Chip
Ganassi, one of his former open-wheel car owners.
Racing’s most famous female, IRL driver Danica
Patrick, couidjoin him. Also, the radically differ
ent Car of Tomorrow will be phased in, replacing
the cars that have been used in recent seasons.
The changes are on the minds of many as
NASCAR’s Nextel Cup circuit heads into this
weekend’s mid-season break.
Three-time Cup champion and Fox analyst
Daneil Waltrip sized up Patrick’s NASCAR poten
tial during a teleconference last week. He said her
diminutive size might be a detriment when driving
a 3,500-pound NASCAR race car.
“I’m not saying Indy cars are easy to drive, but I
don’t think they are as physically demanding as a
stock car,” Waltrip said. “That would be a concern
if 1 were her.”
He speculated that Patrick might be more inter
ested in getting a rai^ from her current Rahal
Letierman Racing team than in moving to a new
“She's had a huge impact on the IRL," Waltrip
said. “She probably thinks she’s a little underpaid.
... She didn’t know how popular and how big she
was going to be. Now, she's trying to leverage that
He said from a competitive standpoint. Patrick
probably should stay in the IRL.
“She can realistically win an Indy car race,” he
said. “She could not realistically win a stock-car
race anytime soon.”
He said it will be a difficult transition for
Laps led by Denny
Hamlin (right) in
Pennsylvania 500 at
Drivers within 1,000 points of
Nextel Cup points leader
Photos by NASCAR
Kevin Harvick rejoices
in Victory Lane following
his win Saturday at
Top-10 finishes in Busch Series
races this year by points leader
Kevin Harvick, more than all
other Busch competitors.
Top-10 finishes in Nextel Cup
races this season by Jimmie
Johnson, tops among Cup
Patrick or Montoya to move to the sometimes
rowdy world of NASCAR.
‘There’s a huge amount of intimidation these
[NASCAR] drivers use, like putting the bumper to
you to knock and push you around.” Waltrip said.
’That takes some getting used to. The-first time
somebody puts a bumper to you going off into the
comer at 180 mph, it is quite an experience; one
that you’ve probably never had before and you’re
probably not going to want to do again for a while.
“I just don’t know how you can jump out of an
Indy car or a Formula One car and get in one of
our machines, which is the hardest car to drive in ■
Waltrip said it’s not hard to understand why
drivers from other circuits are wanting to switch to
NASCAR. He attributes the increased interest to
NASCAR’s diversity program and to Toyota’s
growing participadon in NASCAR (they’ve been
in the Craftsman Truck Series for three seasons
while planning a move to the Cup level).
“I think it’s a great effort on everybody’s part to
grow the sport in every direction that we can,” said
Waltrip, who owns a Toyota truck team. “I’ve got
to give Toyota some cre^t for attracdng the drivers
from other series.
‘Toyota has reladonships with drivers from
other series.... Toyota is going to be there, and
that’s a new manufacturer. They are going to need
drivers and there is opportunity there.
“I think that appeals to the other drivers.”
Up and coming...
Houston native Brad Coleman, 18, appears
to have been programmed to be a race-car
driver fiom the start.
At age 12, he was discovered at an indoor
karting center hy sportsor driving coach
Price Cobb and eventual-
ly moved to \^rgima to
live %vith Cobb’s family
and travel with them to
cars, the prototypes and Late Model Stock
cars, so that no matter what opportunity I
had, I’d be prepared.
A: It’s a huge milestone. It’s tied with the
24 Hours of Daytona for one of the greatest
moments of my career.
Last year, he raced in
the Rolex 24 at Daytona,
and this year, he’s driv
ing for Brewco
Motorsports, a NASCAR
Busch Seri^ team. He
recently got his first su
perspeedway victory, coming from two laps
down to win the July 8 ARCA race at
Kentucky Speedway He recently spoke with
Rick Minter of Cox News Service.
Q: You seem almost programmed to race.
Did you miss out on b^g a normal kid?
A: There was definitely a little give and
take with it. I had to leave my home in
Houston at the age of 15 to go live in
"^^rginia, and I can’t always hang out with
my friends on the weekends because I’m al
ways at races and I’m always working out. So
it does take away some of my time, but its
definitely worth it.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: We plan on doing some more ARCA
races — Gateway, Nashville and Michigan —
and we’re goir^ to do a couple more Busch
races this year. Next year, we’re planning on
doing the full Busch schedule. I’m fully com
mitted to doing NASCAR. I’ve always
watched NASCAR growing up. Being in it is
a dream come true.
Q: How did you get such a varied r&iune
at such a young age?
A: Our plan fiom the beginning was to get
as much experience in race cars as we could
with cross-training in open-wheel cars, sports
Q: How important has it been to have
proven talent like Price Cobb and [NASCAR
veteran mechanic] Shawn Parker coaching
A: We definitely have a great team assem
bled. Price Cobb started my career, and
Shawn has been such a great crew chief this
year, helping me learn what the car docs and
how it’s affected by changes. Its a great op
Q: Have you gotten callR from other
NASCAR owners since yoiu- win at
A: I don’t get any calls. AD I do is the rac
ing. I have managers and people like that to
handle those calls, which is very nice.
Q: How big was the ARCA win?
Q: What do you do for fun away fiom Hie
A: I love playing on my sunulator, doing
simulation race weekends. And I try to be a
normal teenager whenever I can.
Here are some key storylines as the Cup Series takes a week off;
A mad scramble
Witii six races remaining before the start of the Chase for the
Nextel Cup, the field appears to have been narrowed to 12 driv
ers with realistic chances of being among the elite 10 who will
run for the
Points leader Jimmie Johnson and second-place driver Matt
Kenseth appear to be virtual locks to make the Chase field, but
its a scramble behind them. Just 188 points separate third-
! Jeff Burton from Greg Biffle, who is 12th in the stand-
le Earnhardt Jr.’s chances of making the cut appear to be
waning through no fault of his own.
He’s recorded back-to-back last-place finishes — at New
Hampshire and Pocono — both of which seem to be due to fac-
toiB l^yond his control. The engine in his No. 8 Chevrolet blew
at New Hampshire, and he was involved in a crash at Pocono
that he told TV reporters happened because his car was too
slow leaving the comers. His latest setback dropped birn foior
spots to 11th in points.
StiD, he’s upb^t. “We’re a good team, and if we do what we’re
capable of doing, we’ll be all right,” he told reporters at Pocono.
Tony the tiger?
Defending champion Tbny Stewart seems destined to rnakp
the Chase in spite of his own impatience, which has put him in
bad spots the past two races.
TWo weeks ago at New Hampshire,
Stewart was leading the race early when
he became involved in an on-track alterca
tion with the lapped car of Ryan Newman.
He wound up crashing and finishing 37th,
which put him out of ^e top 10 in points.
Then on Sunday at Pocono, the 500-mile
race was barely 30 laps old when he ran
into Clint Bowyer after he felt Bow5rer
crowded him into the outside wall.
After being hit by Stewart, Bowyer skat
ed across the track into the oncoming car of
Carl Edwards, who later spun Stewart, in apparent retaliation,
as the two entered the pits.
Stewart and Edwards were docked a lap for rough driving.
Stewart bounced back to finish seventh and move to 10th in
After the race, Stewart was asked by a TV reporter whether
he should have been more patient. T don’t tbiuk so,” he said.
Edwards’retort: Stewart was “spectacularly self-centered.”
Winning is everything
There’s been a lot of talk about how successful Michael
Waltrip has been in attracting top-flight drivers and sponsors
for his new Tbyota teams that wiD hit the track next, year. He’s
landed NAPAfor the car he’ll drive. Dale Jarrett and UPS, and
he’ll have Burger King for his third team.
But his older brother, Darrell Waltrip, cautions that top driv
ers and lucrative sponsors aren’t enough in the highly compet
itive world of Nextel Cup racing.
“It’s come down to one thing and I harp on him aU the time
about it,” Darrell Waltrip said. ‘That’s what he is experiencing
this year and that’s performance.”
Driving his own Dodge this season, Michael Waltrip is 36th
in points with a best finish of ISth in the season-opemng
Tf you don’t perform, the sponsors are going to end up being
mad at you,” Darrell Waltrip said. “Tbu’ve got to be sure that
you get the people, the parts, the pieces and everything it takes
to go out on Sunday and perform. -
Tf you perform, everylxxiy is going to be happy If you don’t,
it can be a nightmare.”
Big blow for Yates team
The release of Elliott Sadler last week from the No. 38 Ford
leaves the once mighty Robert Yates Racing team with no vet
eran drivers returning next season and many in the sport won-
dering how long it wiU take the team to regain its stature in the
Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 Ford, already annoimced
that he was leaving at the end of the season, as is Sadler.
Rookie Stephen Leicht drove a Yates car at Pocono on
Sunday, finished 33rd and is set to run Aug. 6 at Indianapolis
in the same No. 90 Ford.
He’s a contender for a fuU-time Yates ride next season, and
Busch newcomer David Gilliland also has been mentioned as a
Tham co-owner Doug Yates told reporters at Pocono last
week that he’s looking at both newcomers and veterans as he
chooses new drivers.
“We want somebody that wants to be with us, somebody
that’s willing to dig in and be part of the oi^anization, live it
and help us do the things that we need to do,” he said. Tt’s very
critical to get somebody that wants us. There needs to be a mu
tual attraction. There’s some good young talent out there that
we’re looking at. ... Then there are a lot of guys ax^able that
maybe need to revitalize their career or ano&er chance, so well
look at that as weU.”
Following the Pennsylvania 500
1. Jimmie Johnson cup next up: Allstate 400 at The
Brickyard; Indianapolis Motor
TV: 2 p.m. ET Aug. 6; NBC
Busch next up: Gateway 200;
Gateway International Raceway
TV: 8 p.m. ET Saturday; TNT
2,939; previous: 1
2. Matt Kenseth
2,842; previous: 2
3. Jeff Burton
2,621; previous: 3
4. Kyle Busch
2,582; previous: 4
5. Kevin Harvick
2,563; previous: 8
6. Mark Martin
2,557; previous: 5
7. Kasey Kahne
2,515; previous: 6
8. Denny Hamlin
2,514; previous: 12
9. Jeff Gordon
2,512; previous: 9
10. Tony Stewart
2,477; previous: 11
Truck next up: Power Stroke
Diesel 200; O’Reilly Raceway Park
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET Aug. 4; Speed
1. Kevin Harvick
3,282; previous: 1
2. Carl Edwards
2,934; previous: 2
3. Clint Bowyer
2,880; previous: 3
4. Denny Hamlin
2,832; previous: 4
5. J.J. Yeley •
2,774; previous: 5
1. Todd Bodine
2,161; previous: 1
2. David Reutimann
2,044; previous: 3
3. Johnny Benson
1,998; previous: 2
4. Rick Crawford
1,930; previous: 5
5. Ted Musgrave
1,913; previous: 4
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