DEI hopes to have Tryson on board in next two weeks

CONCORD, N.C. -- Pat Tryson, who was fired by Roush Fenway Racing last week, is close to a deal with Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Richie Gilmore, the director of motorsports at DEI, hopes to have Tryson, who was Greg Biffle's crew chief, signed within the next two weeks.

"[Pat Tryson's] looking at a couple of other options, but right now we're at the top of his list.''

DEI's Richie Gilmore

"He's looking at a couple of other options, but right now we're at the top of his list,'' Gilmore said before Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

DEI officials also are narrowing their search for a driver to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is leaving the company his father built after this season. They have a list of five candidates and could have that narrowed even further by the end of this week.

They are looking not only at drivers currently inside the Nextel Cup garage but drivers who have been champions of other series.

"The testament to this organization and what the company stands for is reflected by the high level of interest from people across this entire sport,'' said Max Siegel, the president of global operations at DEI.

Speaking of Biffle ...

Biffle, who would be the top candidate at DEI if he opted not to extend his deal with Roush Fenway Racing that runs through 2008, wasn't happy after a blown tire on lap 45 left him last.

"Got junk race cars," he said.

Biffle wasn't too fond of the hard tires brought by Goodyear, either.

"The tires suck," said Biffle, who was forced into the wall after the blowout. "The tires suck. They're just so hard and they build so much heat inside of them they just explode. We've got a real problem.

"Number one, it's way too hard. You can't put on any good races, any side-by-side racing anyway. You get behind somebody and it goes straight up the racetrack and it just loses its downforce."

Biffle said NASCAR's attempt to slow the cars with the harder tire is futile. He doesn't think the Car of Tomorrow is the answer, either.

"They've got to do something about it," he said. "They think the COT car is going to fix it, they're wrong.

"The problem is our race cars are so fast. You've got 850 horsepower and 1700 pounds of downforce. We're going to go fast. You can't slow it down with just one thing. We're trying to slow it down with just the tire. It doesn't work that way."

Elliott's return not so awesome

Bill Elliott's return to Nextel Cup racing was cut short when his No. 21 U.S. Air Force Ford crashed out at on Lap 218.

Elliott, driving on a race-by-race basis for the Wood Brothers, is the 1988 series champ. He has 44 wins, 175 top-5s and 320 top-10s in 756 career starts. He began racing part time after 2004.

"It felt good," Elliott said of his return. "We finally got pretty decent there that last run and I was feeling pretty good. ... The car was pretty good. I just hate it for these guys."

Kahne's dilemma

The worst part of being in a slump in Nextel Cup racing?

Well, if you're Kasey Kahne, it's the disappointment. He takes it personally.

"The worst part is you just feel bad," Kahne said. "You have so many fans that like you because you're fast. I think fans like me for a lot of different reasons, and [speed] is one of them -- at times. So you feel bad when you don't go fast.

"You feel bad for your fans, for your team, for everybody. And, yeah, it makes it a lot harder when you're not fast than when you are."

Kahne certainly was fast enough Saturday night. He won the Busch Series race at Lowe's Motor Speedway -- his first victory in Busch or Cup in seven months.

Star power

It was just a matter of time. Stock car racing is headed to reality TV.

"Dancing With The Stars"? How about racing with the stars?

Reigning WWE champ and actor John Cena joined Cup driver Carl Edwards at Lowe's on Sunday to plug the new show "Fast Cars & Superstars -- Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race," which makes its prime-time debut June 7 on ABC.

The hook?

Cena is one of a dozen celebrities who will pair up with the Young Guns -- Edwards, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray and Kahne -- as they learn what it takes to be the best race car driver in this seven-episode season.

Cena said the experience made him a NASCAR fan for life.

"I knew of the major names, but I really didn't know the intricacies of the sport," said Cena, who starred in the movie "The Marine."

"I think that's what's great about this series. … For me, where I had my first NASCAR experience, especially involved with this show, I was immediately hooked. The WWE has me on the road just about 320 days a year, and every Saturday I turn my AM radio to listen to the Busch race and every Sunday I'm turning my radio to listen to the Nextel race."

Other celebrities on board include Jewel, William Shatner, Tony Hawk, Krista Allen, Ty Murray, John Salley, John Elway, Serena Williams, Gabrielle Reece, Laird Hamilton and Bill Cowher.

Jarrett times two

Television viewers of Saturday night's Busch Series race got a special treat.

Former NASCAR driver and ESPN analyst Ned Jarrett got to share some booth time with his son, Dale Jarrett, and anchor Dr. Jerry Punch.

"To be able to work with Dale in my second career -- of course I never got to drive against him -- is a real honor," said Ned Jarrett, a mainstay of ESPN's NASCAR coverage for 15 years. "I've watched every race that Dale's been on, and I'm impressed. Naturally I'm prejudiced, but I also like to feel that I'm realistic. I think he's done a good job."

Dale Jarrett, the 1999 Cup champ, is an equal member of this mutual admiration society.

"This is a thrill of a lifetime for me," he said before the telecast. "I want to say thanks to you that made it happen, Jerry and everyone at ESPN. I admired him on the racetrack and in the broadcast booth, so I'm looking forward to tonight."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com. Joe Breeze is a motorsports editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Joe.M.Breeze@espn3.com.