BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Michael Waltrip expects to decide his
2006 driving plans soon.
Waltrip is looking for a new NASCAR Nextel Cup ride because he's
leaving the Dale Earnhardt Inc. team at the end of the season.
"I hope by the middle of September it'll be obvious what I'm
going to do," Waltrip said Friday while preparing for two races
this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.
Waltrip said he would like to drive for at least another four
years. He said he has several Nextel Cup options next season, but
needs time to evaluate them.
Any chance that Waltrip's crew chief, Tony Eury Jr., would move
to a new team with him was eliminated this week. Eury signed a
long-term contract extension with DEI, opening the possibility that
he will reunite next season with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Waltrip could have remained at DEI, his home since 2001, but
chose to leave when the team would not guarantee Eury would be back
with him next season.
Waltrip and Eury were paired together this season after a swap
of crews and equipment within DEI. Eury had been Earnhardt's crew
chief, but a switch was made because the cousins' relationship had
Both Earnhardt and Eury have said recently they are open to
working together again next season.
Waltrip and Earnhardt have struggled in 2005. Waltrip enters
Sunday's GFS Marketplace 400 ranked 21st in the Nextel Cup
standings, still mathematically alive for the Chase for the Nextel
Cup competition but unlikely to make it. Earnhardt is 15th in
points and also a longshot to make the Chase.
Waltrip's plans include opening his own race shop in Cornelius,
N.C. He plans to move his Busch Series team into the facility,
which will have interactive videos, a restaurant and other
fan-friendly features -- including a parking lot with room for 40
Waltrip expects the eight-acre site to be open late next summer.
Wood Brothers Racing and ST Motorsports have
established a partnership that creates a new racing alliance to
compete in NASCAR's Nextel Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck Series.
The partnership, called Wood Brothers/JTG Racing, combines the
racing experience of the Wood Brothers, one of NASCAR's oldest
teams, and the marketing expertise of ST Motorsports, said Eddie
Wood, co-owner of Wood Brothers Racing.
"We've been working on a plan for the past couple of months to
improve the Wood Brothers racing team along with Tad Geschickter
and his race team," Wood said Friday. "The concept now in Cup
racing is multiple teams. We're creating a partnership that will
enable Wood Brothers to expand to two Cup teams, along with Tad's
two Busch teams, and two truck teams."
Wood said Michael "Fatback" McSwain, current crew chief for
Wood Brothers car driven by Ricky Rudd, will oversee the
construction and setup of the cars. He added that the partnership
has already locked up partial 2006 season sponsorship for Rudd's
car as well as full sponsorship for two other cars to run in the
Wood said the team must find sponsorship for a second Cup car
and a second truck entry for next year.
One to fear
Jeff Gordon is not in the top 10 of the Nextel Cup
points standings, but he's not out of the minds of his fellow
Gordon is 13th in the standings, just 67 points behind Carl
Edwards, who ranks 10th with four races left before the Chase for
the Nextel Cup begins.
"Jeff Gordon is the guy everybody's looking at," said Jamie
McMurray, ninth in the standings. "I don't know what Jeff has
done, but he's made someone mad because he's had more flat tires
and more bad luck than anyone in our series right now. It blows my
mind that he's won three races and he's behind me and I haven't won
McMurray's best finishes this season have been second place at Texas and last month at Daytona.
Twice as hard
At least 12 Cup drivers are expected to compete
in Saturday's Busch race and Sunday's Nextel Cup event at Michigan.
"I don't like to sit around.
I'd just as soon be in the
race car," said Waltrip, one of the drivers planning to pull
Other Cup drivers expected to participate in the Busch event are
Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Bill Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Kasey
Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Jeremy Mayfield, Joe
Nemechek, Ryan Newman and Brian Vickers.
"Michigan has always been my favorite track," said Labonte,
who has four career wins at the speedway. "It's one of those
tracks I feel comfortable at and have always found that I can get
around here pretty good."