The Frontstretch: Five Points to Ponder: Inside the Sprint Cup Rumor Mill by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday July 20, 2009

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Five Points to Ponder: Inside the Sprint Cup Rumor Mill

Mike Lovecchio · Monday July 20, 2009

 

Editor’s Note: With the Cup Series taking a rare weekend off, this week’s Five Points will try and help sort out the rampant rumors you may have seen throughout this year’s Silly Season. When the Frontstretch live blog returns next week at Indianapolis, the column’s regular format will also return.

ONE: Danica Patrick to… well… anywhere in NASCAR

Danica Patrick – along with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – is in the upper echelon of driver marketability in American motorsports. In the last year of her contract at Andretti Green Racing, she currently sits fifth in the IndyCar standings, but has struggled to keep up with the Penske and Ganassi race teams in front of her.

Why it might happen: She’s ready for a new challenge; has shown no signs of contending for a championship in IndyCar; marketability will be at an all-time high.

Why it won’t happen: Open-wheel drivers tend to struggle in NASCAR; may not be willing to run ARCA/Nationwide/Truck Series for long during a transition period; may play it safe and stick with what she’s good at; is she really willing to give up her quest for the Indianapolis 500?

Quotable: “Yeah, I’m told, of course, that we want you here [at IndyCar]. But we’ll see. At the end of the day, I’ve got to go with my gut about what I want to do.”

Probability: Some may think this would never happen, but NASCAR needs Danica right now, and she seems open to it along with several top-tier teams willing to court her. — 25 percent

TWO: Kevin Harvick to Stewart-Haas Racing

Richard Childress Racing as a whole is having a down season, and now the driver who once replaced the late Dale Earnhardt is ready to make a change. The problem? He’s under contract through 2010. Shell would like to make the jump with Harvick to car owner and good friend Tony Stewart’s team, but Richard Childress isn’t keen on letting both go in today’s economy.

Is NASCAR ready for its very own GoDaddy girl? Or is the bigger question whether Danica is ready for the pressure and high scrutiny she would undoubtedly be under with the switch?

Why it might happen: Stewart is open to starting a third team; Harvick wants out at Richard Childress Racing; Harvick and Stewart are good friends.

Why it won’t happen: Childress may not let Harvick out of the final year of his contract; will Stewart take Harvick if Shell doesn’t come along?

Quotable:RCR also has a multi-year contract with Kevin Harvick that includes the 2010 season. That said, Shell will be the sponsor and Kevin will be the driver of RCR’s No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet Impala SS in 2010.” – Richard Childress

Probability: In today’s economy, Childress may grant Harvick his release, but would be crazy to let Shell go as well. In the end, though, I expect to see Harvick in the No. 29 next season as driver and owner sort out their differences. — 35 percent

THREE: Red Bull Racing to Chevy in an alliance with Hendrick Motorsports

Why it might happen: Hendrick Motorsports is looking for additional business after GM cut support; Team Red Bull GM Jay Frye has worked with Hendrick in the past; look what HMS equipment has done for Stewart-Haas.

Why it won’t happen: Loyalty – Red Bull was part of Toyota’s entrance into the sport.

Quotable: “Anything is possible.” — Team Red Bull GM Jay Frye

Probability: Hendrick support might be too good to pass up for an operation looking to step it up a notch in 2010. – 75 percent

FOUR: Brad Keselowski to Penske, SHR, Red Bull, or JR Motorsports

Keselowski is the sport’s most-coveted driver on the market right now. Rumors have associated him with Hendrick-affiliated teams JR Motorsports, SHR, as well as Red Bull Racing and Penske Racing. No matter who it is, though, it’s almost certain he will be in Cup next season.

Where he’s most likely to go: A Hendrick-affiliated team, leaving SHR as the clear frontrunner; if both David Stremme and Sam Hornish, Jr. leave, Roger Penske is expected to make a serious offer; RCR will have an opening if Harvick decides to bolt.

Where he’s less likely to go: If Penske decides to put anybody new in the No. 12 next season, it’ll be Justin Allgaier, not Keselowski, hinging his future there on whether Hornish returns; Earnhardt, Jr. says the chances of moving JR Motorsports to Cup in 2010 is only 10 percent; Brian Vickers has a contract renewal pending at Red Bull, who claims they have no plans to expand to three cars.

Quotable: “Brad wants to do something that is somehow associated with our company.” – Rick Hendrick

Probability: Even if Red Bull Racing makes a move to Chevy with Hendrick support, I don’t see the team parting ways with rookie Scott Speed. If Harvick stays at RCR, Keselowski should be in a SHR car next season. — 80 percent

FIVE: Richard Petty Motorsports to Toyota

Richard Petty has been loyal to Dodge for years, but the economic slowdown has hurt the Chrysler brand’s support in the sport. Couple that with the fact that Petty is in the last year of his contract with the manufacturer and rumors are bound to circulate.

Why it might happen: Chrysler’s bankruptcy has stopped cash flow to RPM; team has partnered with the Toyota-powered Braun Racing team in the Nationwide Series.

Why it won’t happen: The only thing that could keep RPM in a Dodge in 2010 is Petty’s loyalty.

Quotable: “We’re open to look at about anything right now.” — Richard Petty

Probability: This is a move that seems imminent. — 95 percent

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jim
07/20/2009 05:01 AM
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Marketability isn’t that the problem with Na$car? Would there have been Waltrip.Elliot,Rusty,and Dale if marketability was the reason for a ride. How about ability?

jim
07/20/2009 05:04 AM
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sorry marketability is the problem

Mark
07/20/2009 07:04 AM
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Danica Patrick isn’t going to Nascar . She probably will switch teams however . Danica looks at Nascar like most Nascar drivers look at the IRL . Looks like fun , but would take a lot of time and effort , i think i’ll stay where i am . As far as Danica having trouble with the Nascar side , don’t bet on it .
If Harvick leaves Childress , he would very likely go to SHR . But Shell is perfectly happy at Childress . Tony could find other backing for a Harvick car , there are many corporations who see the potential of being on Tony’s cars .
Red Bull would be taking a step backward to switch to Hendrick Chevys . The cars and the engines haven’t been the problem for Red Bull . Look at their qualifying . Their problems are team members and motivation .
The RPM team probably has little choice but to switch manufacturers . All of the confident press releases aside , the Chrysler money and tech support have dried up , and now might be a very good time to jump ship .
Keselowski , if hes smart , will stay with the cash cow Mr. Earnhardt . If that means Nationwide , so be it . If the team goes to CUP , all the better . Someday Jr. is going to want to own a CUP team , and if you’re already his driver , you have the job .

mick
07/20/2009 09:32 AM
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PLEASE!

Danica is NOT coming to nascar. And I don’t buy this idea that she would help the sport.

Joe W.
07/20/2009 10:10 AM
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I think that Danica would be a marketing boom for Nascar in the short run but if she was not sucessful quickly that would dry up. It would be a GREAT move for Team Red Bull to move to a Hendrick aided Cup effort. Look at the results. All the top spots in the Cup points are Hendrick engines. Unless you are Gibbs, Toyota is not that great in cup or even in Nationwide. And that brings us to RPM. They will probably switch to Toyota and be no better than they are now. They will be at the bottom of the pecking order and who other than Gibbs is that strong in Toyota? MWR is improving but that has more to do with improvements on the engineering side than Toyota. RPM will not improve by the switch.

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