<
>

Funding for third team almost in place

BROOKLYN, Mich. – Evernham Motorsports is close to getting
the money needed for a third full-time entry in NASCAR's top
series.

The third full-time Nextel Cup entry would take over the No. 91
team that is now a part-time ride for Bill Elliott, team owner Ray
Evernham said Friday.

Elliott would not be the driver, but the NASCAR veteran, who cut
back to a limited schedule in 2004, can remain affiliated with the
program, the owner said.

"I would love to run a third team," Evernham said. "We have
the infrastructure in place. We've built the new building [in
Statesville, N.C]. We have the people ready. We have the plan
ready. But I'm not going to pull the trigger until I know the
money's in place."

Evernham said he hopes to have the finances for the third team
in place by the end of July or August at the latest.

"You get past August and there's no sense in doing it," he
said.

Evernham's two main drivers are Kasey Kahne and Jeremy Mayfield.
He also has ARCA driver Erin Crocker on a developmental team, and
he's working on getting her a solid Busch Series program for next
year.

As for Elliott, who is racing at Michigan International Speedway
this week, the former Cup champion has the choice of doing what he
wants.

"I told Bill he could drive for me as long as he wants to,"
Evernham said. "You could see Bill running two or three races for
who knows how long."

Rusty's busy weekend
Rusty Wallace is staying busy in his last full
NASCAR season. He's racing this weekend both at a Cup event in
Michigan and in a Busch race in Kentucky.

After Friday's Michigan practice, Wallace was scheduled to fly
to Kentucky and spend the night. He expects to practice with his
Busch team Saturday morning, then head back to Michigan in time for
Cup qualifying at 12:10 p.m. EDT.

Once his car is qualified at Michigan, it's right back to
Kentucky for race Saturday night. Then it's back to Michigan for
Sunday's Batman Begins 400.

Why the double duty?

"I got tired of looking for a guy to fill in for [the Kentucky]
race," Wallace said. "I decided to do it myself. I won't have to
pay a driver this way."

Wallace won his first NASCAR Cup pole at Michigan in 1987. In 57
career starts, he's won five times, including NASCAR races in 1988,
1996 and 2000.

His first race at Michigan was in 1980.

Back where he started
Carl Edwards, coming off his second Cup win
last weekend at Pocono, made his series debut at Michigan last
year.

"My first race here did a lot for me as far as my confidence
and my team's confidence," Edwards said.

Among Edwards' race highlights were passing Dale Earnhardt Jr.
and running close with four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon.

"Some guys that, to me, are almost like mythical figures -- guys
that you read about or watch on TV or race on a video game."

Edwards finished 10th in the race.

Pit stops

Ryan Newman posted the fastest time in the first
Cup practice at 192.164 mph. Newman won last year's June race at
Michigan. That's better than the record of 191.149 set in August
2000 by Dale Earnhardt Jr. … Earnhardt, struggling and 16th in
the season points, has finished 21st or worse in his last three
races at Michigan. … Dodge, Chevrolet and Ford, the three
manufacturers competing in the Cup series, have all won at least
one in the last eight races here.