Waltrip not worried about finding ride

Updated: August 19, 2005, 8:11 PM ET
Associated Press

Michael Waltrip
Waltrip
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 soured.

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 RVs.

Waltrip expects the eight-acre site to be open late next summer.

New partnership
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 Busch Series.

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 NASCAR drivers.

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 a race."

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 double duty.

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."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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