Paul Menard, driver of the #15 Menards/Vertis Chevrolet, celebrates winning the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 - July 4, 2008 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Dale Earnhardt Inc. driver Paul Menard earned his first career pole in 57 starts and the first pole award for DEI in the 2008 season (right?) on Friday at Daytona International Speedway. The news is a bright spot in what
has not been a spectacular season for DEI.
Future of DEI in Question
On the heels of Mark Martin's departure, DEI VP of motorsports operations John Story insists everything is "fine" with the team. But take that for what it's worth. Two weeks ago, Story said Mark Martin didn't want to run a full-time schedule. Turns out, he did. He just didn't want to run it with DEI. Anyone else reminded of a scene in When Harry Met Sally when Meg Ryan's character finds out her ex is getting married to someone else?
"He just met her... She's supposed to be his transitional person, she's not supposed to be the ONE. All this time I thought he didn't want to get married. But, the truth is, he didn't want to marry me. He didn't love me."
Right. So, Martin left the team. Many believe--some pray--that Martin Truex Jr. will, too. Could Bass Pro Shops go with him? What about the ARMY? They are not guaranteed to return to DEI and many think they won't, but I actually think DEI has a pretty good shot of hanging on to the sponsor with Aric Almirola as their driver.
But how about the speculation that John Menard might headed to Roush (Yates?) and taking his money (and his free agent son?) with him? And Teresa Earnhardt is entertaining the idea of selling to outside investors?
We're just past halfway through the NASCAR season, headed back where we started and rumors abound as the teams make their way to Daytona International Speedway.
Who wants a piece of this...? NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. June 27, 2008 - AP Photo/Jim Cole
Them's Fightin' Words Were there more fireworks at New Hampshire Motor Speedway than what the fans saw on TV? Word has it that the most exciting action took place off camera--and did not involve Kyle Busch or Juan Pablo Montoya. Sources say that following the race--and an on-track
incident between Clint Bowyer and Sam Hornish--Bowyer paid a visit to the #77 car, swiftly removed the window net and gave Hornish a tongue-lashing, encouraging a return to IRL or else ...
Speaking of IRL ...
No Stock in Mears While everyone ponders whether Casey Mears will get job offers from RCR, DEI or Ganassi, rumors have surfaced that he is headed to Penske to replace Ryan. Briscoe, that is. Speculation is that the Mears Gang wants Casey back in the open wheel racing family and that Casey is already in talks with Roger Penske to replace IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe in the #6 in 2009.
Worst Kept Secret Fifty-year-old Mark Martin to the Hendrick Motorsports #5 in 2009 for one last shot at the championship that has eluded him for 26 years? Looks like they're already done talking. Announcement expected Friday.
Father Knows Best Kept Secret Multiple sources confirm that Robby Gordon's girlfriend has given birth to his first child, but there has been no official statement from the driver. Unofficially, some are speculating that he is gearing up to publicly acknowledgeaccept announce his venture into fatherhood and accept congratulations from his legion of fans.
Manufacturing Godfather All speculation points to a Tony Stewart / HAAS deal being imminent. Some say, HAAS? Some say, Chevy made Smoke an offer he couldn't refuse. Ryan Newman, Office Depot and Burger King reported to be on board.
Still Not Mandatory
Spies tell me there are rumblings on the inside of a "sting" in the works to bust up an alleged "Traveling NASCAR Drug Cartel." If we were naming names, there'd be a couple drivers, a girlfriend and an entire team that ought to get a shout out in the hopes they heed the warning. But ... that naming names thing in connection with illegal substances is an issue and the lawyers are on vacation this week, so ... I shall remain silent and hopeful that said individuals get the message and get wise/help before getting caught and not the other way around.
Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw / Getty Images for NASCAR
Career First NASCAR Nationwide Rookie Landon Cassill won his first career pole at the newly-named New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but had to start Saturday's race from the back due to an engine change. He finished 34th after crashing out. Two-time Cup series champion Tony Stewart won the N'Wide race and Clint Bowyer retains the series lead. JR Motorsports' Brad Keselowski loses two spots in the standings after finishing 10th behind Carl Edwards (5th) and David Reutimann (7th).
About that JRM Cup ride ... quoting this... Dale Earnhardt Jr.: "I shouldn't have said that. I should have just kept that to myself, because I really don't want to talk about it in the press. That's personal to me, what I do with my business, and I damn sure ain't going to air my timeline out to the media. If we feel like we want to do it, we'll do it."
Out: Casey Mears - Hinted at by Mr. H. last week and now confirmed. Mears will not return to the #5 of Hendrick Motorsports.
Rumored to be out: DEI's fourth team - If Martin Truex Jr. exits behind Mark Martin, will he be replaced?
In: Greg Biffle - Signed three-year contract extension with Roush Fenway.
In: Clint Bowyer - 2009 option picked up by RCR, negotiations for long-term contract extension underway.
Up in the air: Ryan Newman, David Ragan and David Reutiman - In addition to Truex, their contracts are up in 2008.
Holding up the line: Tony Stewart - Apparently the future of all the free agents in the garage as well as that of many teams and sponsors hangs in the balance until he makes a decision about his future. His contract isn't up until 2009, but it appears imminent that he leave Joe Gibbs with Chevy footing the buyout bill.
Grid Lip Lock In Victory Lane Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, celebrates his first road course win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with girlfriendSamantha Sarcinella at Infineon Raceway - June 22, 2008 in Sonoma, Calif. Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Not News: Kyle Busch wins a race. News: The fans booed cheered!
Not News: Tony Stewart gets annoyed with media in post-race interview. News: Stewart exercises restraint commenting on an incident.
Rick Hendrick is non-committal about (soon-to-be-daddy) Casey Mears' future beyond this season. Mark Martin is not returning to DEI. Some are already speculating that Martin is headed to HMS to split the season in the #5 with JR Motorsports' Nationwide Series star Brad Keselowski. Others think the #5 will carry Martin Truex Jr.'s name on it. I'm sure MTJ has plenty of options--maybe he'll shed some light on his future in his press conference scheduled for Tuesday.
Question of the Week What is DEI's contingency plan? Think they're panicking yet?