Fanning the Silly Season Flames
by Doug Belliveau

September 3, 2002

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Just another  part of the Silly Season, or is Andretti headed to Ganassi next year?
Photo by Dodge/Allsport

It seems that nowadays NASCAR’s Silly Season is in full swing almost all year long. However, there are times when rumors are fueled by impending announcements by either NASCAR or by the race teams. This week is a classic example of the rumor mill in overdrive. The culprit this time is the Petty Enterprises media announcement scheduled for 3:30 p.m. this Saturday, at Richmond. Rumors on the announcement have ranged from a change in drivers, to a reduction in the number of Petty race teams, to a new major sponsorship, and everything in between.

Sometimes the Silly Season is so intense that it makes it more difficult for drivers to concentrate on the work at hand. But the drivers also know that the Silly Season has been around a long time and that you have to work around it. As Kyle Petty says, "I’m like everyone else. You try not to pay any attention to the rumors and stuff that keep flying around the garage but you just can’t help yourself sometimes. Hey, I believe this sport was pretty much built on rumors. Those are some of the things that make each day so interesting around the garage.

Petty recognized one recent issue that has fueled many rumors involved the decision by Ricky Rudd to switch over to the Woods Brothers for the 2003 season. "The stuff that has gone on this year is nothing new. It’s the same thing that’s been going on forever. Some years the talk is a little more intense and some years not quite as intense, but it’s always going on. I think since you had a pretty big name like Ricky Rudd in the mix and you had top rides like the one at Robert Yates and the one with the Wood Brothers open, it made the talk this year even more intense.

To some of the drivers and Winston Cup insiders, the Silly Season takes on a comical aspect: "Remember that game you played as a kid at birthday parties - ‘Gossip?’ One person whispers something to another person, and then they whisper it to the third and one down the line. The game ends when the last person announces what he had heard, and it usually doesn’t compare to what started.

"We play that game every week in the Winston Cup garage, except we tend to play a higher version. Not only is it, ‘I hear somebody is going to drive for so-and-so,’ but it takes the step of filling the position rumored to be open. That way your gossip doesn’t just involve one driver or crew chief and team, but two drivers and two teams. Driver A is going to Team B and, from what I hear, Driver C is going to Team A. It’s nuts sometimes!

"We’re going to make an announcement Saturday afternoon at Richmond. That’s a good example. Hearing what people think we’re going to announce or hearing what people think we’re doing, some of it is pretty funny. Some of it might be kind of close. Some of it is absolutely outrageous.

You would think that people in the racing business would not have a lot of spare time to be cooking up ideas about what’s going to happen in the future. Well, that may be true in most instances, but Kyle explains how the weather may have something to do with it: "You know the one thing that makes ‘Silly Season’ move the fastest? Rain. The talk really started to pick up this past weekend at Darlington. Nobody did anything Friday (rain canceled all track activities), and then there was a lot of down time Saturday. So everybody sat around and talked, and came up with stuff. So much of it starts with ‘You know, I bet this happens,’ and next thing you know, people are saying it is going to happen. Speculation becomes fact pretty fast here.

Come Saturday, many of the rumors will be put to rest, at least for the time being. "We feel we have a pretty significant thing or two to say Saturday, and that race fans - and the media and the rest of the garage - are going to want to know what we had to say. And it should make our plans clearer. You’re going to hear a lot of different ideas of what it might be and what we might say but, you know what? Nobody knows for sure until Saturday. Finally making the announcement ends it. That’s the only way to stop rumors.”

You go Kyle! Don’t be afraid to tell us Saturday about how you’re going to drop one of your three race teams. Or about how Georgia Pacific is being replaced by some mega-communications corporation. Or how John Andretti has found his way over to Chip Ganassi’s camp. Or how………well, you get the picture.

The author can be contacted nascar@autoracing1.com

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