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Friday, October 27, 2006
Impala coming back to NASCAR as Car of Tomorrow.

Associated Press

HAMPTON, Ga. -- General Motors is taking advantage of the introduction of NASCAR's new Car of Tomorrow in 2007 to expand its marketing program.

GM's Chevrolet Division will field its Car of Tomorrow as an Impala SS, while continuing to use the current Monte Carlo SS in the rest of the Nextel Cup races. The announcement was made Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

NASCAR's plan is to phase in the bigger, bulkier and, hopefully, safer and less expensive COT over the next three seasons, starting with 16 races in 2007. The first race for the new car will be at Bristol Motor Speedway in March.

GM will phase out the Monte Carlo in the Cup series as the COT is phased in, but the Monte Carlo will continue to be run in the Busch Series.

"The decision to return the Impala nameplate to stock car racing came with NASCAR's announcement that manufacturers are to run two different cars next season," explained Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager. "The Impala was the best selling domestic car in American in 2005 and we wanted to align that success with the accomplishments Chevy has on the racetrack."

Chevrolet introduced the Impala in 1957 as a 1958 model and it raced for the first time that year on the sand at Daytona Beach. Impalas last races in NASCAR in the late 1960s.

Dodge reportedly is planning to also field two models next year, retaining the current Charger for the bulk of the schedule and using the brand new Avenger model for its COT.

But Dodge officials said Friday that they cannot comment on any model until it is in production and the Avenger is currently just a concept car.


DEBUT DELAYED: Champ Car star A.J. Allmendinger, who will race full-time for the new Team Red Bull next year in Nextel Cup, will have to wait a while longer to make his first start in NASCAR's elite series.

With no car owner points, Allmendinger's hopes of racing in Sunday's Bass Pro Shops 500 were dashed by a steady rain Friday that washed out Cup qualifying. The lineup was determined by points.

The 24-year-old Allmendinger will still get some seat time this week, racing in Saturday's Craftsman Truck race, his third start in that series.

"I'm a truck driver this weekend," he said. "I can't control (the weather). Whether I raced the Cup car or not, one of my goals was to meet a lot of these (Cup) guys. I want to pick their brain to make myself better and not be a hazard on the track for them."

It was announced earlier Friday by Forsythe Championship Racing that Allmendinger, second in the Champ Car points, will be replaced for the season-finale Nov. 12 in Mexico City by former Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice.

Allmendinger said that was news to him.

"I found it out on the internet," he said. "They didn't even call me."


QUITTING TIME: GlaxoSmithKline is doing its best to get people to stop smoking in NASCAR, where Winston, a cigarette brand, was the top sponsor for three decades before communications giant Nextel took over that spot in 2004.

GSK's Consumer Healthcare and its Nicotine Replacement Therapy products, Nicorette, NicoDerm CQ and Committ, have successfully launched the QUIT Crew smoking cessation program for NASCAR teams and officials.

A total of 173 participants from Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Petty Enterprises, Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing, along with NASCAR officials and members of the media, have enrolled in the program so far.

Nicorette, which is also an associate sponsor on Jeff Gordon's No. 24, plans to expand the program to other teams next year and will run have special paint schemes on the car four times during the 2007 season to help promote the program and reach out to fans.

On Friday, Gordon presented awards to several of the graduating QUIT Crew members from Hendrick Motorsports for their individual success in quitting smoking through the program.


SPARK PLUGS: Max Papis, whose only previous NASCAR start came in a Busch car earlier this season on the road course at Watkins Glen, plans to race for the same team next week on the oval at Texas Motor Speedway. ... Levi Strauss Signature jeans recently signed a three-year extension, through 2009, of its sponsorship agreement with Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports. ... The Atlanta track has produced three of the 10 closest finishes in Cup since electronic timing was introduced in May 1993. The closest -- tied for fifth closest overall -- came in March 2000 when Dale Earnhardt beat Bobby Labonte by 0.01 seconds.