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A.J. seeing Red Bull; Yates near No. 88 deal
Champ Car phenom A.J. Allmendinger has emerged as the leading candidate to fill the second seat in the Team Red Bull Toyota Camry next season. Allmendinger was an impressive 13th in his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race Saturday and among the first people to greet him after the race were Team Red Bull General Manager Marty Gaunt and Competition Director Elton Sawyer. A footnote to the story: Despite protestations from Toyota that they aren't throwing exorbitant sums of money into launching their Cup effort, Sawyer was given a $100,000 raise to move from Evernham Motorsports to Team Red Bull earlier this season. Just sayin'... I spent some time Saturday with Robert Yates, and despite his team's dismal season, he genuinely seemed to think Robert Yates Racing is on the verge of a turnaround. He said the team's cars are getting better with Todd Parrott back in the RYR fold, and he said David Gilliland reminds him of Ernie Irvan. Most importantly, he's near a sponsorship deal for the No. 88 next season. And he was absolutely serious about trying to sign Mark Martin to drive the No. 88, although Martin has downplayed such discussion. Clearly, Silly Season is a long way from over. Now, on to questions:
Martin's next moveJenny from Kensington, Md.: Will Mark Martin race again next year? If not, who will take over his car? Tom Jensen: Jenny, thanks for being with us. I spoke with Roush Racing President Geoff Smith, who told me he has a handshake agreement for Martin to drive full-time in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series next year. Martin's replacement in the No. 6 AAA Nextel Cup car will be one of four Roush rookie prospects: Todd Kluever, Erik Darnell, Danny O'Quinn Jr. or David Ragan, Smith said.
Park, Craven back in Cup?Tom from Green, Ohio: How come Steve Park hasn't been mentioned for any of these open rides? He has proven to be able to win in all three series. I think it's a shame that he and Ricky Craven have been labeled and blacklisted because they got hurt. Both have since recovered and have won since their accidents. When do you think they will -- and Steve in particular -- finally get a break? Tom Jensen: Tom, wow, that's a great question. Craven got a ride with Roush Racing's truck team last year, but it didn't work out, while Park's truck deal didn't work out, either. These days, once you leave the Nextel Cup Series, it's almost impossible to get back in. There are two reasons for this:
- Sponsors who more often than not, pick the drivers want young guys on their way up; and
- The setups on the Cup cars have changed so radically in the last year that guys who are used to way the cars used to be, seem to have an awfully hard time adapting to the new feel.
Send your questions & comments to Tom
I'm not saying that's fair or right, but that's the reality. And it means Park and Craven will face very, very long odds of ever landing another top NASCAR ride.