by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.February 24, 2011 8:18 am UTC 1 Comment
As a fan of NASCAR racing the first driver I ever rooted for was LeeRoy Yarbrough in the late 60′s and early 70′s. Through most of the 70′s after LeeRoy dropped out of the NASCAR world with mysterious ailments; I didn’t have an allegiance to any one driver until Bill Elliott came on the scene toward the end of that decade.
Elliott captured my attention because of his family run team out of Georgia when most NASCAR teams had already migrated to the area around Charlotte. At the time there weren’t a lot of teams running Fords and I have always held an affinity for the brand. So Bill, Dan and Ernie were MY guys.
I have remained an Elliott fan throughout his career even when he closed his team and went to drive for Ray Evernham and the resurrected Dodge factory effort.
When it was announce that Bill would drive for the Wood Brothers in a part time effort I believed in my heart, if not totally in my mind, that the combination could bring back the glory of a time gone by when David Pearson took the part time program and won races. Pearson won races; he wasn’t interested in winning championships. Championships were for guys like Richard Petty.
My hope for catching lightening in a bottle with the Wood Brothers-Bill Elliott combination kept lessening with every missed opportunity. The Woods would enter Elliott in places that he had run well in the past; places like Atlanta. The combination never seemed to work. Maybe the team wasn’t ready to win yet.
I was still surprised when the Woods elected to take Bill out of the car in late 2010 to give the displaced Bayne a one-off. Bayne had been released earlier by Michael Walltrip Racing from his Nationwide Series ride. Needless to say he ran well enough at Texas, finishing a respectable seventeenth, to make the Woods have to make a decision for 2011.
The decision to part ways with Elliott and give Bayne the ride for 2011 obviously was a winner for both Bayne and the race team that hasn’t seen a win at Daytona since 1976. One win does not a career make; but to take the iconic #21 to victory lane in only his second Sprint Cup race and just a day after his twenteth birthday could make the Wood Brothers seem like geniuses.
It may be way too early to proclaim a changing of the guard, but for this NASCAR fan it’s time to move on to a new phase in the sport we love.
Photo credit: BethAnne Heisler/ON PIT ROW
by Charlie Turner
Thanks for stopping by OnPitRow.com and the Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie blog. The best NASCAR and IndyCar news and opinion, exclusive pictures and video. I'm Charlie Turner. Follow me on Twitter @onpitrowJanuary 16, 2010 10:46 pm UTC 2 Comments
The leader of the Rainbow Warriors and mentor to the rocket fast rise of Jeff Gordon, Evernham became a NASCAR team owner, and that story has chapters left to be written.
FoxSports.com featured a question and answer session with Ray Evernham this week. I wouldn’t be much of a blogger if I didn’t try to use this somehow. Here goes.
Some of the questions were easy.
“Is it easier or harder to be a team owner now (in the midst of the worst economy since 1929) than ten years ago (when even seemingly every idiot with a dot com business wanted their url plastered on the side of a stock car)?” (bold comments are mine)
Ray said even Rick Hendrick has a budget now.
“Will we see more consolidation of teams?” Fox asked.
After a bit of a preamble, Evernham said that if it weren’t for the big four – Hendrick Motor Sports, Roush-Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR would be in trouble.
Think about that for a minute. Those teams are all owned, and run for the most part, by guys whose ages are closer to Richard Petty’s than Evernham’s. How secure is NASCAR’s future if it’s so closely tied to that generation?
Which leads to the question of where will the next group of NASCAR team owners come from Ray?
“That’s a good question. Unfortunately, I see the teams in the future being owned by multiple partners. To start something these days, you’ve got to be like the guy from Red Bull and have a gazillion bucks. … NASCAR’s got a lot of work to do to say, “What is the sport going to look like 10 years from now?” They’ve got to keep the costs down, keep a strong hand on the way things are run, and not be too greedy.”
So, expect more combos like Roush and John Henry. Petty and Evernham and George Gillett. Robby Gordon and…oh forget that one.
But what about that greedy NASCAR ownership group?
Well, Evernham acknowledged that some might see the Kingdom of France as a bit greedy. But the passion for the sport of the original founders, isn’t necessarily the same felt by the successors. He wonders if Brian France really wants it bad enough. He seems to think that Mike Helton may be spread too thin. The strong hand of the kings of France, Big Bill and Bill II, is missing…
“… at the same time the economy went in the Dumpster. … We hit a peak, it’s coming down, and it’ll go back up, but not at the same trajectory.”
Evernham has some legal loose ends to deal with to get free from Gillett. And when that’s done, it sounds like he’d like to get back to Hendrick Motorsports. Not as a crew chief for Jeff Gordon though…
“…I have no interest in going 38 weeks a year sitting on top of the pit box”
Or Dale Earnhardt Jr…
“I’d sit and talk to him, ask him what he thinks. I’m a little bit surprised and amazed they didn’t run any better
He says he wants a project. Fixing Junior would qualify. But it’s not what he has in mind.
I hope he thinks of a way to be a team owner again. Maybe a successor to Mr H. He, and others like Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick, are the kind of people that NASCAR is going to need to help steer the ship.
Read the whole interview at Foxsports.com.
by Charlie Turner
Thanks for stopping by OnPitRow.com and the Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie blog. The best NASCAR and IndyCar news and opinion, exclusive pictures and video. I'm Charlie Turner. Follow me on Twitter @onpitrowJanuary 15, 2010 10:35 pm UTC No Comments
We’re having a bit of a January thaw here in On Pit Row-ville the last few days. Easy to take in the northern latitudes.
And the NASCAR news that’s bubbling up in the media lately is more substantial than the glorified press releases we’ve been served with for the last several weeks.
I mean, who is compelled by stories with titles like…“Denny Hamlin ready to build on 2009 momentum”?
I know. Somebody’s got to write them. But do you really want to read that? I did find some good stuff this week though.
The Fox Sports question and answer session with Ray Evernham is terrific. Evernham is one of the smartest guys in racing. I have more to say about some of Ray’s comments, but that’s for another post. Read the article yourself. If you haven’t already, here’s a bit of bait for you. Evernham says…
“NASCAR has a little bit of a credibility problem because they don’t tend to communicate openly enough.”
Ray Evernham may not have said anything like that when he was an active, NASCAR team owner. But he put those and other cards on the table in his interview. I can’t wait to get him On Pit Row.
Photo credit: Chicagoland Speedway
by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.July 19, 2009 9:30 pm UTC 7 Comments
If it walks like, flies like, quacks like and craps like a duck… maybe its a dog.
That is where I’m at with the whole Jeremy Mayfield soap opera. So little makes sense that I’ve had to try and think way outside the box. After I finished writing my last Jeremy Mayfield post, I had to try an figure out what exactly was going on with the two diametrically opposed stories of Jeremy and NASCAR.
The only thing I can come up with is the belief that NASCAR and Jeremy Mayfield are working together for the betterment of the sport. What if Jeremy were actually working with NASCAR to help throw up the largest smoke screen in sports history? What if NASCAR were using Jeremy willingly to mask a bigger scandal with bigger names involved? True conspiracy theory stuff here. This is true 1950′s double cross movie stuff.
So little else makes any kind of sense. Comments have been make by Brian France in passing that there were other positive tests in the garage area. If those positives reflected badly on some of the bigger names in the sport wouldn’t it be in NASCAR’s best interest to divert the attention? I was told this weekend while covering the weekly series at Toledo Speedway, from the usual “reliable source” that the Shane Hmeil “bust” was intended to scare straight a high profile NASCAR driver. I don’t know if that is true, but it is a story that I believe COULD have happened.
Just like I can believe that NASCAR could be looking to use a down and out driver/owner to mask other ills in the sport. Why Mayfield you might ask? Because Mayfield is believable in the roll. You can stretch your belief system to either believe or not that Mayfield is a drug user. He has had enough weird behaviors in his past to believe he could be guilty of what NASCAR alleges; just ask Roger Penske or Ray Evernham.
Yet at the same time he shows none of the outward signs of the typical methamphetamine user. There are no rotten teeth or sunken eyes. As any good private dick from the 50′s might say; “Somethin’ stinks like a four day old carp.”
It’s the stuff that Alfred Hitchcock or Mickey Spillane could be proud.
by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.January 11, 2009 11:16 pm UTC 4 Comments
What in the world is going on at Gillett Evernham/Petty Enterprises?
Sadler’s out–Sadler’s in. Allmendinger will replace Sadler in the #19–or he’ll run a partial in the #10. Luckily Dinger hasn’t signed a contract with GEM/P and he is still free to sign to drive someplace that may have a clue. It certainly doesn’t look like the boys at GEM/P do. Rumors abound that Sadler kept his job because the sponsors that have signed on to finance the #19 wanted him in the seat.
If that is what happened, why the hat dance in the first place? Shouldn’t any discussion of who was going to drive that car be so far under wraps that no one outside of George Gillett and Ray Evernham had a clue?
It would see that that is the problem–no one at that organization has a clue. Evernham seems to be the smartest of the bunch. He has been setting himself up for an exit for some time. However it doesn’t seem that Ray has left the company in very good hands. The decisions coming from the once front liner for Dodge are circumspect at best.
When Evernham was given the reigns to bring Dodge back to NASCAR, I was excited at the prospect. When Bill Elliott was named as the lead driver; as a Ford fan, I was devastated, but I still rooted for him and the Dodge team. When Elliott “retired” and Kasey Kahne took over the #9 ride; I still followed with interest the success of that car and the team. But with the bad decisions over the past three seasons you have to wonder if the decision to bring in a struggling Petty Enterprises is just another bad decision; much like the indecision to let Sadler go and then not.
Which leads us to this week’s BUZZ ON PIT ROW:
If you were a sponsor of one of the GEM/Petty cars; would you be worried about the companies ability to make proper decisions, given the Elliott Sadler mess?
Let us know what you think and we may use your thoughts on this weeks ON PIT ROW radio show. Listen live Tuesdays from 5-7pm ET.
Photo Credit: Icon Sports Media
by Steve Wronkowicz
Elliott Sadler and Ray Evernham are out at the former Gillett-Evernham Motorsports.
ESPN.com has reported that both Sadler and Evernham have severed ties with the team that Evernham built from the ground up when Chrysler Corporation re-entered NASCAR Cup racing. Evernham was the face and brawn behind Chrysler’s return in 2001. Now it appears that Ray has taken his car owner’s trophy that Bill Elliott won for him at the Brickyard 400, and cleared out his office.
After selling majority ownership to George Gillett, Evernham has been less and less involved in the running of the team that bore his name. Things were so bad at one point that his drivers, Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler called for more of a presence of Evernham at the race track to try and right the listing ship.
Not only has Evernham cleared out his desk; but Sadler has been given the boot as well. Sadler has never lived up to his perceived potential after making the move from Yates Racing to replace Jeremy Mayfield. AJ Allmendinger will drive the #19 in 2009. Dinger had been slated to run the #10 next year, but it appears that funding for that ride may not be materializing. So Sadler could take his higher salary to one of the few remaining open seats in the Cup Series. The #41 is still open at Earnhardt-Ganassi and there are further rumors that the #77 at Penske may open up. Helio Castroneves‘ IRL ride may be open if he can’t thwart pending jail time for tax issues; with Sam Hornish, Jr. returning to the open wheel ranks.
Will the “Back to Basics” credo of Brian France from 2008 eventually result in NASCAR teams returning to a more traditional driver and ownership model?
Let us know what you think and we could use your comments on a future edition of ON PIT ROW, the radio show. Listen live Tuesdays from 5-7pm ET at www.onpitrow.com
photo credit: Icon Sports Media