Richard Petty Motorsports, paint schemes and new teams among week’s news
Now in its third decade, few are surprised by the sheer volume of announcements made public during the circus that is the NASCAR Media Tour. A pool of reporters makes the rounds to teams’ race shops and other NASCAR points of interest in the Charlotte area during this time of January every year. Most teams seize this moment to activate their 2009 brands, by debuting paint schemes, announcing final driver lineups and sponsorship additions, and to clear up any other unknowns that existed during the offseason. Given the current state of sponsorship and economic flux, some of this week’s announcements left more questions than answers.
Here is a rundown of some of the headlines of the week for NASCAR’s top three series:
Sprint Cup Series:
- Petty and GEM officials announce that their newly merged team will be called Richard Petty Motorsports, a popular move by many accounts. Petty says that he will have a similar role with RPM that he had with Petty Enterprises, dealing mainly with sponsors and appearances and not the performance of the race teams. PE executive Robbie Loomis remains with the team, while former driver and executive Kyle Petty has no known role. GEM founder Ray Evernham retains his minority interest in the team, but will remain only as a consultant. Both the No. 43 (Reed Sorenson) and No. 44 (A.J. Allmendinger) will carry primary sponsorship from Valvoline in select races. The No. 43 will also have McDonald’s, Air Force, and the Richard Petty Driving Experience as primary sponsors. Despite being aligned with the No. 9 Budweiser team, the Petty Nos. 43 and 44 will not carry any Bud decals, continuing the no-alcohol Petty policy.
- Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will field three full-time teams this season for drivers Martin Truex Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya, and rookie Aric Almirola. Truex and Bass Pro Shops are the driver and sponsor of the No. 1 Chevy, the only combination from EGR to remain from last season. Juan Pablo Montoya remains in the No. 42, but the Target sponsorship moves from the No. 41. That team likely has been shut down, as EGR laid off another few dozen people early in the week, raising the NASCAR offseason total to between 700 and 800. Wrigley’s remains as an associate sponsor with Montoya. The No. 41 may attempt the Daytona 500, but no sponsor or driver has been named. Aric Almirola will drive the No. 8 Chevy; sponsorship announcements are forthcoming, according to the team. Team executive Max Seigel has left EGR to, help run NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program and his own entertainment company.
- Burger King will sponsor Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Chevy at Stewart Hass Racing for two races in ’09 (Daytona in July and Dover in September). That team has full sponsorship for 2009, while Ryan Newman’s team, the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevy, has full sponsorship for only 22 races. A picture of some of Newman’s cars in the SHR shop has Hass Automation colors on them, the colors that the Hass teams carried last year, when they had no sponsorship.
- Dale Jr. will carry a Mountain Dew paint scheme for the Darlington race in May and Jeff Gordon will carry a large decal for the National Guard in eight races for the season. The DuPont Chevy paint scheme has a black background behind yellow and orange flames this season.
- Joe Gibbs Racing’s Nos. 11, 20, and 02 will each run select races with Farm Bureau Insurance as a primary sponsor. The No. 02 team plans to run a very limited schedule (possibly just two races) with a driver to be announced later. Farm Bureau Insurance sponsors Joe Gibbs Racing’s Nationwide Series operations as well.
- Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith proposed the idea of blacking out races in the markets of venues that SMI owns, that do not sell out NASCAR races. This is done in the NFL. NASCAR officials and officials with at least one television network quickly debunked Smith’s proposal.
- Yates Racing and HOF Racing announced that the No. 96 Ask.com Ford and driver Bobby Labonte will acquire the No. 38’s owner’s points for 2009. This seals the fate of David Gilliland, who suspected he was losing his ride last week. Travis Kvapil’s owner’s points on the No. 28 Ford will go to Paul Menard on the No. 98 Ford and Kvapil will have to try and qualify his No. 28 on time for the first five races of the season. Travis Kvapil’s 2008 crew chief Todd Parrott and the members of last year’s No. 28 team will become Menard’s team, so Kvapil will team with Ben Leslie, who is also the field manager for Ford Racing.
- Many new teams and part-time teams announced 2009 Cup schedules. Joe Nemechek plans to field a No. 87 Toyota for the full season and he says that he has possible sponsorship for at least 12 races. Longtime independent owner and former Dale Earnhardt crew chief Kirk Schelmerdine says he has purchased inventory from Triad Racing Technologies (formerly the No. 22 BDR team) and will run the full season. Tommy Baldwin Racing plans to run the whole year with driver Scott Riggs in the No. 36 Toyota. Phoenix Racing has not announced a Cup driver, but will have longtime sponsor Miccosukee on the No. 09 Chevy for ten races, including the Daytona 500. Kelly Bires and the No. 51 Black Racing Dodge will attempt the Daytona 500, along with Terry Labonte and Phil Parsons’ MSRP team, James Hylton and the No. 08 E&M Motorsports team out of Georgia, R3 Racing and the No. 23 Chevy with Mike Skinner, Boris Said and his No. 60 Ford, TRG Motorsports and driver Mike Wallace and the No. 71 Chevy, Carl Long and his No. 46 team, Germain Racing and the No. 13 Toyota with Max Papis, Norm Benning and his own No. 57 team, and Jeremy Mayfield’s new Mayfield Motorsports team. Mayfield hopes to be ready in time for Daytona and also plans to run the full schedule.
- Wood Brothers Racing is running a part-time schedule and Motorcraft is sponsoring the No. 21 Ford for nine races, with driver Bill Elliott.
- Ford and Roush Yates Racing hope to debut the new FR9 Ford engine by the 2nd half of the 2009 season. Dodge debuts new noses this year that are supposed to improve the performance of struggling Dodge teams.
- Triad Racing Technologies announced that unless they sign a sponsor for the entire 2009 season, they will not field the No. 22 team that they acquired when they purchased Bill Davis Racing. TRT currently constructs and supplies car components to race teams and wants to continue its business in that capacity.
- The No. 12 Dodge of David Stremme will not have Alltel colors this season, but it will have a sponsor. Verizon Wireless, who recently purchased Alltel, cannot place its decals on the racecar, but will still employ Stremme for appearances and mentions and will sponsor Penske Racing’s No. 12 Nationwide Series ride with rookie Justin Allgaier. The Cup ride will simply be called the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge.
- Roush Fenway Racing announced an initiative to help make its daily operations more environmentally friendly, including properly disposing of or recycling many day-to-day materials, using solar panels to power some parts of its buildings, and developing many new energy-saving products via Roush’s company Roush Performance. These products include hybrid vehicles, fuel cell improvements, and a diesel ATV.
- NASCAR reinstates Joe Gibbs Racing crew chiefs Dave Rogers and Jason Ratliff, following a suspension for a rules violation late last season. They will serve a Gibbs-imposed suspension for one race, before returning to the No. 20 and No. 18 Toyotas, respectively. Kyle Busch likely will run a full schedule in the No. 18 Toyota this season, while Denny Hamlin, Brad Coleman, and Joey Logano will split time in the No. 20.
- Roush Fenway Racing will field several entries in the series, including Carl Edwards, who will pilot the No. 60 for a full-time schedule; David Ragan in the No. 6 Discount Tire Ford for 20 races; Erik Darnell in the No. 6 Northern Tool and Equipment Ford for 15 races; Greg Biffle in the No. 16 Citi Financial Ford for 15 races; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the No. 16 Ford with Citi Financial for six races and 3M for one race; Colin Braun in the No. 16 3M Ford for one race; and Matt Kenseth in the No. 17 Kraft Ford for one race.
- JTG Daugherty Racing will run only one Nationwide team, because most of last year’s sponsors are moving to their joint Cup program with Michael Waltrip Racing and Marcos Ambrose in the No. 47 Toyota. Michael McDowell will run for Rookie of the Year honors in the No. 47 for JTG for the season’s first 16 races. The team will not run without funding. A second car may be fielded at times for the team’s driver of the last two years, Kelly Bires, and son of former JTG driver Robert Pressley, Coleman Pressley.
- Michael Annett will run the full season for Germain Racing in the No. 15 Toyota with sponsor Pilot Travel Centers. This team was the No. 7 that Mike Wallace drove for last season. Annett was the first person to win with a Toyota in the ARCA Series, capturing a victory in the Talladega fall race and also made some starts in the Truck Series in 2008.
- Paul Menard will run the No. 98 Menard’s Ford for 16 races with Yates Racing.
- Fitz Motorsports is no more, but founder Armando Fitz has teamed up with Arthur Shelton to form Trail Motorsport, LLC. No sponsor or driver has been announced, but the team will also field Camping World Truck and East Series entries.
- Larry Foyt will run the No. 56 MacHill Motorsports entry in Daytona next month.
- Joe Nemechek will run at least a partial season in his self-owned NEMCO Motorsports No. 87 Chevy. The length of the team’s schedule depends on sponsorship.
Camping World Truck Series:
- Chase Austin is breaking into NASCAR with Trail Motorsport, LLC. The team will field a full-time Truck Series entry for the young driver. Austin, one of the few black drivers coming through the ranks, had developmental deals with Hendrick and Rusty Wallace Racing fall through in the past couple of seasons. No sponsor has been announced.
- Ricky Carmichael will run for Kevin Harvick Inc. for 14 races. Monster Energy will sponsor him in each race and the truck’s number will change from 2 to 4. The remaining 11 races will be run with various drivers. Bill Wilburn will be the crew chief. Longhorn, a chewing tobacco brand, will sponsor KHI and Ron Hornaday on the No. 33 for ten races in 2009 and Kevin Harvick will take that sponsorship to No. 4 truck, when he drives it at Phoenix.
- Max Papis and Geico will run for Germain Racing in the No. 13 Toyota for six races. Geico and Papis begin a partnership this season, since Geico was forced out of the Nationwide Series, because it is also an insurance company.
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