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AUTO RACING: Tire testing at Daytona

Roger Diez
For the Nevada Appeal

Well, the 2010 racing season is over, and now we have to wait for the end of January when things rev up again with the Rolex 24 at Daytona kicking off Speedweek.

In the meantime, there is some activity in the form of Goodyear tire testing at Daytona. The resurfaced track (remember the delays for paving repair at last year’s Daytona 500) will host 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup teams Dec. 15 and 16. Among the drivers participating will be Hendrick drivers Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jeff Burton. Paul Menard will be there for Childress Racing, Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya for Earnhardt-Ganassi, Matt Kenseth and David Ragan for Roush Racing, and Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski for Penske Racing. Oddly enough, no one from the Gibbs, Michael Waltrip, or Red Bull Toyota teams is on the testing list.

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In other NASCAR news, Richard Petty is back in control of Richard Petty Motorsports. After the team ran into financial difficulties late in the season, there was speculation that the operation might fold, but an investment group comprised of Petty, Medallion Financial Corporation, and DGB Investments has purchased the operation from George Gillett. The re-constituted Richard Petty Motorsports will field the legendary No. 43 Ford for A.J. Allmendinger and the No. 9 Ford for Marcos Ambrose for 2011 with sponsorship from Stanley Tools, Best Buy, Reynolds, the U.S. Air Force, Super 8 Motels, Menards, WIX Filters and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). Medallion, a publicly traded investment firm, and DGB, named for Verifone CEO Douglas G. Bergeron, have provided the working capital to allow the team to continue, while Petty will assume a hands-on management role.

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Green is not a color normally associated with NASCAR. In fact, green was considered a bad luck color for many years, and it is only recently that green paint schemes have appeared. However, NASCAR is joining the green revolution for 2011 in a partnership with American Ethanol to run E15 fuel (a 15 percent corn ethanol fuel blend) in all of NASCAR’s top series. The idea is to give visibility to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce dependence on foreign oil and create U.S. jobs. As part of the agreement, American Ethanol will provide marketing, advertising, and promotional support to drivers, teams, and tracks and will sponsor a new award at each race.

Affiliated organizations such as the National Corn Growers Association and Growth Energy also are on board. I wonder if this means we’ll be seeing a Cup date at Iowa Speedway anytime soon.

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Finally, here are some news items from the world of racing other than NASCAR:

It was recently revealed that Red Bull F1 driver Mark Webber drove the last four races of the season with a fractured shoulder, sustained in a biking accident. Webber kept the injury from his team and F1 officials, and said he didn’t feel it hurt his performance.

• IndyCar series sponsor IZOD, which this past season sponsored Andretti Motorsports driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, announced that it would sponsor Penske Racing driver Ryan Briscoe for 2011. The rich just keep getting richer.

• With Scott Speed out of a ride with the Red Bull Toyota Sprint Cup team, there’s buzz that he may be considered for an IndyCar ride for 2011.

• Now that Chevrolet is going to provide an IndyCar engine starting in 2012, perhaps we will see some of the NASCAR Chevy drivers lining up for a shot at that $20 million that Bruton Smith offered to anyone who could win the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day. I’m sure Tony Stewart would take up the challenge, and I don’t think Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon or Juan Pablo Montoya would be far behind. Too bad A.J. Allmendinger and Sam Hornish Jr. don’t drive Chevys. Of course, with Penske signing to use Chevrolet engines in IndyCar, he may be switching from Dodge in NASCAR as well.