It's a scary and unpredictable time to be a car owner in NASCAR. While the sport is full of unknowns, the economic times taking more and more money from teams every day adds yet another obstacle.
The way teams are coping varies and will change how this sport looks in its very near future.
Sponsorship could cause top Cup team to cut back
Cars all over the NASCAR world are suffering from sponsorship woes. Teams from the Camping World Truck, Nationwide, and even Sprint Cup Series are scaling back or shutting down altogether because of sponsorship woes.
The news grows even dimmer with manufacturers announcing they'll be cutting support to these teams.
Richard Childress said over the weekend he didn't expect the changes and cutbacks to change the performance of his race team, but also said, "these are times we'd never dreamed we'd see."
Now, those dreams could be becoming a nightmare.
Mike Mullhern is reporting RC may be forced to cut the No. 07 of Casey Mears and No. 29 of Kevin Harvick if sponsors Jack Daniel's and Shell/Penzoil don't re-sign for next season.
Childress has yet to comment on the rumors.
No Bull: Speed, Vickers Could Be in Chevys in 2010
While Toyota is the only carmaker not to pull support, they could be losing the Red Bull Racing team. Speculation has the two-car operation switching to Hendrick-powered Chevrolets for 2010.
Red Bull Racing GM Jay Frye told Scene Daily over the weekend that "anything is possible." Dave Wilson, Senior Vice President of Toyota Racing Development, added that the team "has a great deal of loyalty toward (Toyota)."
Dodge Pulls Support, Goes to Victory Lane
Congrats again go out to Kasey Kahne and the entire Richard Petty Motorsports team for their performance at Infineon this past weekend. Kahne, who had never placed in the top 10 at a road course, collected Petty's first in 11 years—all coming a week after Dodge announced they'd be cutting support from the team.
Mike Mullhern is now reporting that Kahne will be running a Toyota Camry by the time the Sprint Cup Series rolls into Chicago in three weeks. While RPM could start building Toyota chassis and working out a deal to receive engines, a switch by one car while the other three continue to run Dodges seems highly unlikely.
In the same breath (or at least on the same website), Mullhern also says Toyota could potentially pull out of the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.
Expansion in the future at JGR, SHR?
Speaking of Toyota—J.D. Gibbs didn't necessarily dismiss a possible fourth car entering the Joe Gibbs Racing stable, but cited the ever-present sponsorship woes as a reason not to expand.
"You can probably get a few [sponsors] to mix and match, but we don’t have a full fourth ready to go from a sponsor standpoint. We’re in no hurry. If we have to wait a year, that’s fine. You have got to have the right driver, the right core group, and the right sponsor. But if that happened, we could do it pretty quick. I wouldn’t cross it off for next year, but at the same time we’re not going to force it."
Tony Stewart, former Gibbs driver and driver/owner at Stewart-Haas Racing, also said this past weekend his team wouldn't be opposed to adding a third car, but didn't give a timetable for that to happen.
"I wanted to make sure we had two cars that were competitive and had a chance to win a championship," Stewart told the media Friday. "I'm proud of the fact that I think we're at that point. So if the right situation came along, we would entertain it."
Brad K Wants a Word, Mr. Hendrick
One driver who could possibly drive a third SHR car could be Brad Keselowski. Keselowski was supposed to drive a part-time schedule next year in the No. 5 car with Mark Martin. However, when Martin decided to come back to run the complete season (again), Keselowski was left without a Cup ride. Keselowski is expected to meet with owner Rick Hendrick to discuss his future.
Hendrick would be afoul to let him go, for more reasons than one. Not only is the 25-year-old extremely talented, he's also a possible replacement for four-time series champion Jeff Gordon. Gordon, who has been plagued with back pain this season, has adamantly said in the past he'd like to retire from racing by the time he's 40. He'll turn 38 in August.
No word on when exactly the meeting between Hendrick and Keselowski will take place.