News Recap for the Week of January 5, 2009

Elliott Sadler to stay in the No. 19 for 2009

In a turn of events, it now appears that Sadler will, in fact, stay in the No. 19 Dodge for the 2009 Sprint Cup season. Our own Tom Bowles, reporting for Sports Illustrated, spoke with Tara Ragan, A.J. Allmendinger’s agent in order to confirm that Allmendinger had a contract in place to drive the No. 19 for the team this season.

Ragan replied that Allmendinger is officially not under contract with Gillett Evernham Motorsports. As far as Allmendinger’s concerned, he is a free agent. However, it is quite clear that he impressed the brass at GEM in the last few races of 2008, elevating the No. 10, which had been more than 300 points out of 35th with a few races to go in the season, to within 80 points of 35th in owner points (37th overall). With the elimination of the Nos. 01 and 15 (which were locked into the first five races of 2009) as part of the Earnhardt-Ganassi merger, Allmendinger clinched the No. 10 team a spot (if they so choose to run) in the first five races of the upcoming season.

The conflict between Sadler and GEM has made headlines during the off-season. Sadler had threatened legal action against the team for a breach of contract. Now, those issues are over.

“We are a family. Sometimes, in a family you have differences,” Gillett Evernham Motorsports CEO Tom Reddin said in a press release on Thursday. “We are all on the same page now and I think you will see that show on the track.”

The future remains unclear for Allmendinger. The merged GEM and Petty Enterprises still plan on racing the No. 10 in 2009, but only have an eight race schedule on tap for the team. He could opt for that ride, or search somewhere else.

Minnow teams announce their potential entries into the Sprint Cup Series

As many of the larger teams have scaled back operations in recent months because of the economic downturn, some smaller outfits are considering this to be an opportunity to get into the Sprint Cup Series.

On January 9, during an interview on Sirius’ Tradin’ Paint, former Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series race winner and current Speed Channel commentator Phil Parsons announced that his race team, MSRP Motorsports, is intending to enter a car in the Daytona 500. MSRP Motorsports made their mark in the Nationwide Series last year as mainly a start and park (or, S&P) team with their No. 90 and No. 91 entries.

For his part, Parsons claims that “…our intention is, right now, is to run the Daytona 500. Not [start and park], but race the Daytona 500.”

Jayski is reporting that the team will likely race a Toyota with Terry Cook behind the wheel. Cook raced a few events for MSRP last season in the Nationwide Series, qualifying as high as 12th No official announcement has been made as of yet for the team’s official plans for 2009.

This is in addition to Derrike Cope’s recent announcement that he plans to run a limited schedule in his own No. 75 Chevrolets in 2009.

The last time that this occurred was 2004, when low car counts led to small-time teams showing up to race immediately after Daytona. Morgan Shepherd’s No. 89 and Kirk Shelmerdine’s No. 72 were already attempting Cup races regularly by this point, but they were soon joined by the Hover Motorsports No. 80, driven by Andy Hillenburg, the No. 09 Dodge of Joe Ruttman, the No. 37 Dodge owned by John Carter after he ended his relationship with Shepherd, and Mach 1 Motorsports’ No. 98. Greg Sacks’ No. 13 Dodge and Front Row Motorsports’ No. 92 also joined in later on in the season. Some of these teams were S&P teams, while others were small budget teams that ran the full races.

By the time the season ended, low car counts had become a thing of the past, replaced by high car counts, and the small teams that had attempted races early in the year getting precedent over stronger, new teams in the event of rainouts. This directly led to the end of the provisional system and the introduction of, among other things, the Top 35 rule for 2005.

R3 Motorsports announces a full-time Nationwide Series schedule and potential part-time Sprint Cup team

R3 Motorsports announced on Tuesday that they had reached a deal with Aaron’s, the Georgia-based rent-to-own retailer, to sponsor the No. 23 Chevrolet for 18 races. With this deal comes Ken Butler III, the son of Aaron’s founder, Ken Butler, to drive the car in those races.

The first race for Butler will be at Auto Club Speedway on February 21. The races that Butler will race in (which have not been fully announced at this point) will not conflict with any of the ten races that Aaron’s has already committed sponsorship to Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 99 Toyota for David Reutimann.

Previously, R3 Motorsports announced a half season sponsorship deal with Mahindra Tractors, who will sponsor the team for the rest of the season with Robert Richardson, Jr. driving.

As for R3 Motorsports’ Sprint Cup aspirations, is reporting that the team has already entered a car in the Daytona 500 for an unknown driver.

After Daytona, the team will take a wait and see approach.

“We’re expecting the fields to be short this year, so in addition to our Nationwide fleet, we’ve got five cars ready to go,” team owner Robert Richardson Sr. said on Saturday.

For races like the Daytona 500, the team will seek out a qualified driver to steer the team’s Chevrolet around the track. For other events, Richardson, Sr. says that his son, Robert Jr., is approved to run races at tracks two miles in length or less, so it is likely that Robert Jr. would get the call.

Starr out of the No. 11 Tundra reported on Friday that David Starr and Red Horse Racing have split up and gone their separate ways, for the second time. The reasoning for this move was because of late season sponsor, Zachry Construction, coming forward and admitting that they could not commit to a full season sponsorship on the No. 11 Toyota.

Starr says that all hope is not lost for racing this season. “Hopefully, we’ll be racing full time with a good team, but right now, I have options,” the Texan driver said. What those options actually are is unclear at this point. Starr does claim that he has spoken to no less than four teams in the Camping World Truck Series about a ride for 2009. Wherever he goes, Zachry Construction’s limited sponsorship deal seemingly will follow.

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About Phil Allaway

Phil Allaway
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor. Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as Tony Stewart's Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions.

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