NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice? That Gillett’s Well On His Way to Building His Dodge Empire?

Did You Notice? That back in July, one of the things new owner George Gillett repeatedly emphasized for his new Dodge teams was a need to expand from three to four cars. That, more than anything else, appears to play into this move to “partner” with Robby Gordon‘s No. 7 over at GEM. Trust me, Petty Enterprises was not the only team Gillett pursued in a merger over the past six to eight months; I’ve been told of at least one other car owner who was on the table but never publicly mentioned in the fall. By the end of the season, though, it was all Petty, all the time – and even after the public denial of a Gillett merger by the Pettys late in November, Gillett’s expansion dream never died. He just started looking elsewhere, and a deal appeared to fall into his lap when Gordon lost $4.5 million following the cancellation of the Dakar Rally a few weeks back.

As for Gordon, this move does nothing but help him in the short-term; his car went without primary sponsorship at times last season, and he seemed to be having trouble shoring up the funding once again for all 36 events. One of the last owner/drivers left in the business, just the sheer ability to have more people working on things like getting funding for his car will free him up to concentrate more on driving.

Don’t be worried about the change of manufacturer; with common templates, it’s little more than stripping some decals and printing a Dodge smiley face on the front. But as far as engineering help, you wonder if he wouldn’t have been better off with Ford. Yeah, GEM appeared on the upswing at the end of last season; but the improvement in performance was mostly infused in Kasey Kahne‘s team and nowhere else. With Yates becoming little more than a Roush “B” team, Gordon joined the Wood Brothers as the only remaining Ford independents and would have been getting extensive support from them; I don’t know if Dodge will give him quite so much attention outside of GEM.

Did You Notice? Along those same lines, see how easy it’s going to be now for a manufacturer to convince a car owner to make the switch? With common templates, the only place where you can create a real advantage or disadvantage in these cars is going to be the engines; and for teams with a solid engine program, that means it doesn’t matter what car they run. I mean, look at what Joe Gibbs Racing has done with Toyota’s engine in just six months! Expect a lot of money to be thrown around by these manufacturers these next few years, as they try and attract the sport’s biggest names – making it less about the car and more about who has the biggest bank account.

Did You Notice? That now over at Ford, these are the full teams left:

Roush Fenway Racing (Five teams)
Yates Racing (Team that gets chassis support + engine sharing + engineering help + marketing help + Jack Roush washes the car every Saturday morning, but they’re still their “own” team)
The Wood Brothers (Another team getting significant help from Roush)

Looks like a manufacturer that has no choice but to keep putting all their eggs in one basket for the time being.

Did You Notice? That there were a total of seven days of required testing in January, plus a four-day media tour? California testing ended February 1st, most teams will arrive in Daytona February 6th in advance of Media Day on the 7th.

Is there even an offseason for them anymore?

Did You Notice? None of the NASCAR commercials that aired during the Super Bowl were all that mind-blowing? In fact, the only racing-related commercial that stuck in anyone’s head was the GoDaddy.com “revealing” Danica Patrick commercial – reminding those in NASCAR that we still don’t have a successful female driver to market in any of the sport’s top three series.

Carl Edwards‘s Claritin commercial? A snoozer, considering the Daytona 500 is broadcast on FOX the very next week, you’d think more NASCAR advertisers would have worked to give themselves more of a presence during the big game. I was a little surprised.

Did You Notice? The current forecast for Daytona Pole Day?

Sunny – next to no chance of rain – and a high of 65 degrees.

That’s compared to 32 degrees and snow back up north where I live.

Think I might be happy to jump on a plane Wednesday? You bet, talk to you from down at the Beach!

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