Toyota to steal Fennig from Roush

UPDATE Jim Aust, the president and chief executive officer of Toyota Racing Development, denied one current car owner's contention that Toyota had already hired away five of his people. White said that TRD has hired exactly one person in the past four months for its High Point operation. Seven engineers who'd worked in IndyCar racing for Toyota are transferring into the NASCAR effort and relocating to High Point, he said, and another 15-20 jobs will be filled soon as the engineering staff is beefed up.

White and Aust said that it is Toyota's corporate policy not to interview any potential employees encumbered by a current contract.

"We're not going to steal people and we're for sure not going to be offering them $20,000 or $30,000 more than they can make at race teams now," White said.

"We don't have that kind of money and our corporate structure doesn't work like that."

Aust said it's up to Waltrip, Davis and Red Bull to hire drivers and crews.

TRD has a full plate, he said, developing both the current and "car of tomorrow" iterations of a 2007 Toyota Camry model along with engines that will gain NASCAR approval.

"Our role is from a technical partner's side as opposed to actually getting involved with teams and running their activities or making decisions on a day-to-day basis," Aust said.

"They're going to come to us and say, 'Here are two or three driver's who we're interested in. What do you think about them?" And we'll provide our input. But ultimately the decision will be theirs to make."

Aust said he hopes that in 2007 that all of the Toyota teams will be good enough to qualify for each race to earn opportunity to compete.

"We'd like to be able to run somewhere in the middle of the field," he said.

"We don't have the expectation, certainly, of being up running for the Chase for the Nextel Cup the first year in the series.

"If we can prove we can qualify well and can run in the middle of the field, up toward the top 15, we will look at that as a successful start to our operation. Granted, you want to do the best we can…but for us to try to set our sights higher than that would be, I think misleading ourselves."

04/22/06 Former Roush Nextel Cup crew chief Jimmy Fennig (now running their Busch team), a highly respected, no-nonsense guy who gained his credentials with Bobby Allison and Mark Martin, is suddenly the hottest item in the stock-car racing garage, with Toyota officials and Dodge's Chip Ganassi expected to make calls. Ganassi is looking for a new team manager for his three-car operation after Andy Graves' resignation. And Fennig could be just the guy to fill the void, with instant credibility. Toyota could be an option. Toyota executives are wide open in building their Nextel Cup tour operations, and now they're raiding teams right and left, according to car owners. Don Miller, of the Roger Penske team, said that Toyota has picked up five Penske men already: "They just offer them $20,000 more than they're currently making, and get them." Ganassi has been so upset at losing crewmen to Toyota that he has sent the company a "cease-and-desist" letter. That move has many here writing off Ganassi for any Toyota-NASCAR deal. Winston Salem Journal

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