NASCAR is back with lots of changes

From the Crossville Chronicle – Crossville, Tn. Wednesday Feb. 6, 2008
By Joe Dunn – joe@onpitroad.com

Now that the Super Bowl is out of the way, it’s time to change attention to racing with the ‘BUD Shootout’ this Saturday. The field will be filled with an All Star cast of the Who’s Who of Nascar, and will be a very special event. The fact that this will be the Last year for the event under this title makes it even more meaningful. Budweiser dropped their major sponsorships of the Pole Award after the 2007 season and this is the final year of the contract on the Shootout. Starting with qualifying for the Daytona 500 drivers will vie for the COOR’S LIGHT pole award.
There are 25 drivers eligible for the Shoot Out and the staring order will be determined by a random drawing held on Thursday evening. Winners of ‘Bud poles’ for 2007 as well as previous Shoot Out winners that raced in 2007 will make up the field. The Shoot out will be televised on FOX Saturday at 7PM CST.
Although there will be few changes to the rules for 2008, there are major sponsor changes starting at Daytona. The title series has a new name, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, which replaces the Nextel name to complete the changeover in the ownership of the telecommunications giant. Among the other sponsorships ended by the Anheuser-Busch Company is sponsorship of the Busch series. Nationwide Insurance stepped up to take over the series, that is now the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is in the final year of it’s sponsorship contract, so it is expected negotiations will be underway soon for a replacement.
The biggest change for ‘08 is no surprise to Nascar fans as Dale Earnhardt Jr. begins the season with the Shoot Out in the 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet for Hendrick Motor Sports, replacing Kyle Busch who moves to the 18 of Joe Gibbs. Another big story was Joe Gibbs Racing moving from Chevy to Toyota, early testing shows major improvements for Toyota under Gibbs direction. This is a big step up after a dismal season in 2007 which started with embarrassment after Toyota’s flagship team, Michael Waltrip racing was caught cheating in qualifying for the season opener. The introduction of suspected jet fuel in the 55 Toyota resulted in the heaviest fine ever by Nascar. At the end of the season, the highest finishing Toyota was Dave Blaney in 34th place. The highest Waltrip finisher was rookie David Reutimann who finished 39th, missing 7 races. Robby Gordon Motorsports has changed to Dodge and entered into an engine and engineering deal with Gillette- Evernham racing where he expects more support for his one car team than he got from Ford in 2007.
The Speed channel will be broadcasting the practice sessions starting Friday at 3 PM (cst) with Shoot out practice and will continue practices for the Sprint Cup and Craftsman truck series practices, qualifying and race. As well as the Gatorade Duels on Thursday at 1 and 2:30 PM (cst). The Nationwide Series practices, qualifying and race will be broadcast on ESPN2.
On the Local scene, the area dirt tracks are getting ready for the season, with reports of work already underway at Spring City Raceway, The Mountain Raceway, 411 MotorSpeedway and Volunteer Speedway. Work is expected soon at Wartburg Speedway and Crossville Raceway. Crossville Raceway held a drivers meeting in December where a new set of rules was established. The new rules include the return of the Pro Street class which is expected to have a large field of cars. The Crossville schedule was released right after Christmas and includes series races for the Southern Regional and the Thunder Series for Super Late Models as well as a United Sprintcar Series event.
The I-40 Dragway is expected to begin action shortly, with plans to include a Statewide High School series. We will post the details when we get them.
In the meantime, buckle-up and tighten those belts cause racing is almost here.