By Joe Dunn
Here at Talladega Super Speedway it’s all abuzz as NASCAR, teams, driver’s and the media are all over the board on information and discussion.
Many folks arrived here Thursday morning with the Penske / Shell-Pennzoil announcement still the number one topic. And by Friday afternoon, we have some answers and we have some more questions pertaining to that deal.
Here is what we know so far. Kurt Busch announced that he has signed a 5 year contract to drive the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge for Penske Racing South. Brad Keselowski is excited about his upcoming move into the legendary #2 Miller Lite Dodge. According to team sources, Sam Hornish Jr. will remain with Penske, possibly moving into the #12 car. It has not been addressed, but it is obvious that Mobil will be out at Penske come 2011. Although some media folks have rumored or suspected that Justin Allgaier may be leaving Penske, looking for a cup ride, he tells me otherwise. Justin has no plans to enter the NSCS in any form in 2011, but instead is intent on concentrating on pursuing a run at the NNS championship for 2011. Regarding his long term future with Penske racing Allgaier said, “ I could see myself retiring at Penske.” Asked about a possible 4th NSCS car at Penske for him, he indicated that Roger Penske has no intention of expanding beyond the current three cars in 2011 and Justin is fine with that.
The Shell-Pennzoil defection from RCR and the #29 car of Kevin Harvick, has put Harvick being pursued by the media corps here at ‘Dega. Taking a wide shot at media speculation of Harvick’s exit from RCR and talk of his “Burning Bridges” at RCR, Kevin struck out in a Friday afternoon press conference. He was highly critical of ‘unnamed sources’ and declared that if a source couldn’t own up to their statements, they weren’t worthy of the quote. Regarding his relationship with Richard Childress, he emphasized that he has had numerous discussions with Childress and their relationship is still strong. Knowing that Shell-Pennzoil will be gone, he would not comment on possible future sponsors. Asked about manufacturer loyalty (Chevrolet), would it be safe to assume any future ride would have to be a Chevrolet, Harvick responded, “That would be a fair statement.” Later in the garage area, Richard Childress expressed his confidence that Harvick would remain with RCR.
Also a lot more questions than answers about the future of Mobil and Budweiser in NASCAR. It’s a safe bet that Bud will not move to a Hendrick, or Hendrick associated team, and virtually zero chance of them moving to Joe Gibbs Racing, based on Joe Gibbs religious leanings. Talk of Mobil possibly moving to Hendrick bare little credibility based on HMS’ long association with Quaker State.
ARCA driver, Steve Arpin, who was announced last week to be driving the #7 JR Motorsports Chevy at Talladega and Richmond, turned heads as he bolted to the top of the leader board in NASCAR Nationwide Qualifying. He held that spot for a long time before being pushed out by Kevin Harvick. Later Carl Edwards would slide into second and then Ricky Stenhouse Jr claimed the number three spot, relegating Arpin back to starting 4th. Still, for his first ever start in a NNS car, Qualifying 4th at Talladega is an outstanding initiation to the series. Rounding out the top five in the starting lineup was Shelby Howard in the #70 ForeTravel Motorcoach Chevrolet for ML Motorsports. Howard’s effort turned a lot of heads on pit road and congratulations from other teams for Howard’s crew chief Chris Rice, were pretty obvious.
Following the NNS qualifying, the media center was abuzz with more questions than answers when it was announced that NASCAR and Track officials were scheduled to meet to discuss how to respond to the predictions of Sevier weather conditions for Saturday. Predictions of rain along with strong thunder storms and possible tornados brought a whole new urgency to the situation. By 3:45 pm (CT) Jim Hunter of NASCAR, along with Grand Lynch of Talladega Super Speedway announced that they had decided to go as scheduled for Saturday. They stated that the NWS had predicted rain, but also periods of Sunshine. Should the NNS race not be held Saturday, they would not rule out the possibility of a Double Header on Sunday, but there was also a chance that it could be moved to Monday. They both promised another update at 8AM (ct) Saturday.