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by Dave Grayson
Friday, November 21, 2008

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Just because the NASCAR season ended this past weekend in Florida doesn't mean that it's time to file away our notepads and interview tapes. Far from it. There's plenty of stories left especially regarding NASCAR teams trying to get fully prepared for the 2009 season in the midst of the economic turmoil that has gripped the nation. With that thought in mind let's begin this week with:

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

Over the past several weeks the NASCAR business news has been consumed with mergers among teams who are trying to shore up their financial status as well as protect their existence. However at this point in time any organization who has not secured a merger likely will not be able to get one and will be faced with the prospect of enduring financial struggles on their own.           

One of these teams is Petty Enterprises who held merger conversations with a large variety of teams which, for a variety of reasons, could not be achieved. The one ray of hope here is the fact that the Pettys have a better than average amount of working capital through Boston Ventures-BV who purchased majority ownership of the team this past summer. The 2009 plans included running two full time teams, with drivers Bobby Labonte and Chad McCumbee, as well as a third part time team with Kyle Petty in the driver's seat.

Earlier this week Mike Bartelli, Chief Marketing Officer for Petty Enterprises, said that they now have six different companies who are going to share the primary sponsorship for Bobby Labonte's #43 Dodge. The bad news here is the fact that all of these sponsors combined will only generate enough revenue to cover the expenses of a little more than half of next year's 36 race schedule. However BV remains adamant that their #43 will run the full season next year even if they have to cover the remaining expenses out of their own pocket.

Potential sponsorship for Chad McCumbee's #44 Dodge took a serious turn for the worst this week according to Bartelli who said that a full time sponsor who was already in place backed away from the deal approximately three weeks ago. Bartelli acknowledged that harsh economic climates were the reason.

Regarding Kyle Petty's #45 Dodge no one, not even Petty himself, seems to know what the status of that ride is. It's hardly a secret that the relationship between Petty and BV is, to say the least, strained. This past Tuesday Petty Enterprises announced that they were laying off 23 employees and the rumors are flying that Kyle Petty might be one of them.

Dale Earnhardt Inc-DEI announced their plans last week to merge with Ganassi Racing, presented by Felix Sabates. While a merger of this magnitude is going to be a major boon for both organizations, there will also be a downside as well. The first indication of that came late last week when DEI announced 116 layoffs which was necessary to accommodate the configuration of the new merger. At the same time Ganassi announced 71 layoffs but it needs to be pointed out that part of that number is from last June when Ganassi shut down the operation of his #40 team.

In still more harsh economic news the Wood Brothers announced that they were forced to lay off 25 of their employees this week from both their NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series teams.

Roush Fenway Racing announced just a few layoffs and pointed out  that this action was due to the fact that they will be running fewer teams in the Camping World Truck Series in 2009.

Bill Davis Racing-BDR, who couldn't arrange a merger and has yet to find a sponsor for next year, is reported to be so financially strapped that their operation has been virtually reduced to a skeleton crew. Despite the bleakness of this situation, BDR still insists that they are planning on running the entire NASCAR Sprint Cup season next year.

The layoffs are reported to be harsh at Yates Racing. Much to every one's amazement veteran crew chief Todd Parrot was released from his duties with Travis Kvapil's #28 this week. It wasn't that long ago that Yates announced they were expanding to a three car operation after acquiring the services of driver Paul Menard. Menard's #98 Ford has solid sponsorship from his family owned business, Menard's Home Improvement Centers, and is set for next year However economics may force Yates to return to being a two car team. The big question here is who's going to get the axe? Will it be Kvapil's #28 team or David Gilliland's #38 team?

Meanwhile Hall Of Fame Racing-HOF, who fields the #96 Toyota, also failed to find a merger situation and is expected to announce company layoffs within a matter of days. HOF management reportedly feels that 44 employees for a small, single car, operation is a little overstated. Other HOF issues that are going to require immediate attention includes finding a full time primary sponsor for next season, deciding whether or not they want to continue fielding Toyota's and deciding if they wish to renew their technical agreement with Joe Gibbs Racing who currently covers the team's chassis and engine needs. There is also the need to name a full time driver for 2009. There is a reported short list of driver names that is topped by Ken Schrader who handled the driving duties throughout much of this year.

Furniture Row Racing announced the release of driver Joe Nemechek due to a lack of sponsorship funds. It's not certain that the team will be returning next year and if they do it will be on an extreme part time basis.

Even the highly anticipated 2009 official debut of Stewart Haas Racing is feeling the financial pinch and reported the layoff of 16 employees last Monday

JTG Daugherty Racing has expressed concern regarding the sponsor prospects of their NASCAR Nationwide Series team, the #47 driven by Kelly Bires, and the status of that team remains unclear. However the news is much brighter for JTG Daughtery's Sprint Cup plans with driver Marcos Ambrose. In addition to primary sponsorship from Little Debbie Snacks, it was announced this week that Bush's Baked Beans will join the team as a primary sponsor for two races and will be an associate sponsor for ten races. Jay Bush, company CEO and the spokesman for those popular TV adds featuring Duke the talking dog, said he was delighted with his venture into NASCAR racing and added "if I can keep Duke from selling Marcos the secret family recipe then we should be in for a great season"

It's sad to note that Bobby Hamilton Racing-Virginia will not be returning to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series next year. That means veteran driver Dennis Setzer is now looking for a new ride.

There's great news for Robby Gordon Motorsports-RGM this week. Long time sponsor Jim Beam will be returning to the team next year as will Menards which means RGM is set for 2009.

THE PERSONNEL FILES.

Expect an announcement soon from Joe Gibbs Racing that says Kyle Busch will become the latest NASCAR Sprint Cup driver to run the entire Nationwide Series schedule next season. A primary sponsor for the program is also expected to be announced very shortly as well. Despite not running all of the Nationwide Series races this year, Busch still managed to finish sixth in the final points standings on the strength of a series record tying ten wins.

Driver Michael Annett will not be returning to Bill Davis Racing next year and will instead drive the #03 Toyota for Germain Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Hype Energy Drink and Pilot Travel Centers will sponsor the team. At the same time Germain Racing announced that driver Jason Overstreet will not be returning to their #09 Toyota in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Here's some good news for you Kenny Wallace fans. "Herman The German" will be returning to the #28 U.S. Border Patrol Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series next year.

Following an impressive season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this year, Roush Fenway Racing has announced that driver Erik Darnell will be moving up to the Nationwide Series for 15 races in 2009 with Northern Tools as his sponsor. Darnell will share the driving duties of the #6 Ford with David Ragan. Roush Fenway plans on campaigning four, possibly five, Nationwide Series teams in 2009 along with one Camping World Truck Series team.

In still more news from Roush Fenway, NASCAR Sprint Cup veteran Matt Kenseth has signed a contract extension to continue driving the team's #17 Ford. Kenseth was under contract through the year 2010. No terms were released on the new deal but it was reported to be a multi year extension.

It's sad to note that Tony Stewart is going to discontinue his live radio show on the Sirius Satellite Radio Network. For two years "Tony Stewart Live" has been a highly entertaining, and often very funny, program that sometimes generated headlines in the racing media over some of the controversial commentary. The format of the show was perfect because it allowed Tony Stewart to be Tony Stewart uncensored.

Veteran crew chief Ryan Pemberton has reportedly asked Michael Waltrip Racing for a release from his contract. Pemberton currently oversees the #44 Toyota for driver David Reutimann. The garage rumors state that he wants to accept an offer from Red Bull Racing.

Regan Smith, who drove the #01 Chevrolet this year for Dale Earnhardt Inc-DEI. will be at the NASCAR Sprint Cup banquet in New York next month to collect a check worth $82,000 for winning the 2008 Raybestos Rookie Of The Year title. That's the good news. The bad news is Smith is not expected to be with the team for his sophomore season in 2009. The new merger between DEI and Ganassi Racing has apparently left Smith as the odd man out and it appears that it's going to be the same for anyone connected to the #01 team. Smith has reportedly come to terms with the fact that he may have to accept a ride with a Nationwide or Truck Series team until he can find his way back to the Cup level.

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