Ganassi would listen to possible solutions

CONCORD, N.C. -- Chip Ganassi has softened his stance
regarding driver Jamie McMurray, who wants out of his contract so
he can drive for Roush Racing.

McMurray signed a contract in July to drive for Roush beginning
in 2007, hoping that the early announcement would force Ganassi to
let him leave at the end of this year. Ganassi steadfastly refused
to even negotiate an early release.

But on Friday, Ganassi sounded a little bit more flexible about
finding a solution.

"There are no talks at this time, but there could be if someone
came to me with a solution," Ganassi said. "I need a solution,
not a pile of money. I need a driver to replace Jamie."

The McMurray situation got complicated when Kurt Busch said he
was leaving Roush to drive for Penske Racing in 2007. Penske has an
opening next season in the No. 2 Dodge because Rusty Wallace is
retiring and would like to put Busch in the car right away.

But Roush will not let Busch leave because it would give him two
holes to fill: Busch's ride, plus the seat McMurray was supposed to
fill upon Mark Martin's retirement.

It was believed Roush and Penske were trying to work out a deal,
but any solutions would likely have to include Ganassi giving
McMurray an early release.

"Look, I am not going to be Jack Roush or Roger Penske's
whipping boy," Ganassi said. "I'm the end of the line on this
thing and I'm trying to put together my team, too."

Ganassi is expanding to four teams next season, bringing Busch
Series drivers Reed Sorenson and David Stremme up to Nextel Cup as
teammates to Casey Mears and McMurray. If he allows McMurray to
leave early, he'll have to scramble to find a suitable replacement
for the No. 42 Dodge.

If nothing changes, Martin has indicated he will postpone
retirement and drive one more season for Roush in the No. 6 Ford.
If that happens, Roush said he'd likely put McMurray in Busch's
seat (assuming Busch stays through 2006) and move Todd Kluever up
to Martin's ride in 2007.

Penske would still be in a bind, needing to find a one-year seat
filler until Busch was clear to join the team.

On the surface
Lowe's Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler
is confident he'll get a safe, clean race Saturday night despite
smoothing he's done to the track surface.

"I'm not saying there won't be caution flags," Wheeler said.
"But many of them will be based on the intensity of the racing
right now and will not be a result of the track surface."

Wheeler used a grinding process called "levigating" in the
turns of the track earlier this year to smooth out the trademark
bumps in an effort to foster more side-by-side racing. After a
NASCAR-record 22 cautions during the May race, Wheeler went back
and levigated the rest of the surface.

Drivers were outraged by the surface during a test session last
month that saw points leader Tony Stewart and championship
contender Greg Biffle both wreck.

Wheeler blamed the testing problems on a lack of rubber on the
track, and tried to remedy it by dragging tires around the facility
the past week. It gave the surface a grip it has been lacking, but
the track is still extremely fast with qualifying speeds surpassing
192 mph.

Drivers have praised Wheeler for doing his best to fix the
racing conditions, but are still annoyed he levigated the track in
the first place.

The levigation, Wheeler said, was meant to temporarily stave off
an eventual repaving.

Wheeler said he will now be forced to repave the entire surface
this winter, and is also considering adding a gradual banking
around the 1.5-mile track.

"I don't think the track will be in the form it currently is
the next time we race here [in May]," Wheeler said. "I'm
satisfied with what we have for Saturday night, but we'll make some
changes before the teams come back next year."

Blaney looking
Dave Blaney is looking for a new job now that
Busch Series driver Clint Bowyer is taking his seat at Richard
Childress Racing.

The Bowyer announcement is scheduled for Saturday, but Blaney is
already working the garage looking for new work.

"I don't know where I'm going to be at next year. That's all I
know," Blaney said. "There's still a lot things that could happen
with other things going on, obviously with Penske and Roush and
Ganassi and all that.

"So, who knows? Hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we'll

Blaney has one top-five and 18 top-10 finishes in 193 career
starts. He is 31st in points this season.