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Silly Season '07: Return of the Virginians
Remember the good old days? When stock cars were stock cars, Mark Martin didn't have a rap song, and Silly Season didn't begin until October? Well, brothers and sisters, those days are gone. And each season, it seems like NASCAR's annual 200 mile-per-hour merry-go-round of roster moves shifts further away from Thanksgiving and inches closer and closer to Valentines Day. Which means that the racing rumor mill is moving faster than a Taco Bell Chalupa through a college freshman. How is a race fan supposed to keep track of it all? Easy. Just read ahead as we proudly present the latest edition of our FOXSports.com on MSN NASCAR Silly Season Extravaganza Moving and Grooving Chart.
Robert Yates Racing
Ricky Rudd will come out of retirement and return to Robert Yates Racing in 2007. Rudd drove for RYR from 2000-2002, winning three races and four poles before a very ugly divorce was forced on him so Yates could make room for Elliott Sadler. Rudd, now 50, had seemed pretty comfortable horsing around with his teenage son in retirement, but was obviously excited to get back behind the wheel for one race as an injury sub for Tony Stewart at Dover in June.
On July 31, Gilliland's Busch Series team announced that it was closing its doors because, "We put our heart, soul and resources into David Gilliland. Personally and financially, we do not feel it is best to move forward at this time." Meanwhile, a Yates press conference at Indianapolis to make a driver announcement was postponed. Gilliland drove the No. 90 Yates Busch Series car at Indianapolis Raceway Park while Leicht attempted to qualify for the Brickyard. You do the math. Gilliland tested the No. 38 car at Kentucky on August 15 and began his RYR Cup career at Michigan later that week.
South Boston, Va. native Ward Burton will be back in '07, behind the wheel of the Morgan-McClure Motorsports No. 4 Chevy, though the car admittedly needs more sponsorship cash to make it competitive. The 2002 Daytona 500 champ hasn't raced full-time since losing his job at Haas CNC Racing the end of the 2004 season.
Haas CNC Racing
According to Larry McReynolds, "Bootie is back in the Busch Series because owner Gene Haas wanted to realign that team before the year ended. Johnny Sauter will move to Nextel Cup next year, which will put Bootie back in Cup, too. Haas put Harold Holly back with Jeff Green. They had a tremendous amount of success in the Busch Series, winning a championship together. The goal was to get both drivers and crew chiefs some seat time before 2007 started."
Red Bull Racing
Vickers shocked the world Â¿ not to mention Rick Hendrick Â¿ when he announced he would be leaving the ride that he was handed by the late Ricky Hendrick for the start-up Toyota squad. Along with Michael Waltrip Racing, Red Bull is starting from scratch. For some drivers, that is a scary thought. For Vickers, it is an exciting one.
On October 24,
At Talladega, Roush team president Geoff Smith said Jack Roush would make a choice for the 6 car within the next two weeks from among four rookies, and he chose Ragan, who currently shares the No. 6 Truck with Mark Martin and also pilots the No. 50. He started his first career Nextel Cup race at Dover in September and is set to make four more starts in the Nextel Cup Series in 2006. He will make his first start in the No. 6 in the 2007 Daytona 500.
Michael Waltrip Racing
The name that continued to be connected to this high-caloric ride was Waltrip's fellow Owensboro, Ky. native Jeremy Mayfield, but at Watkins Glen, Waltrip said that he and Mayfield decided to go their separate ways. Reutimann will join Waltrip and Dale Jarrett as the third car for this team in 2007.
It has long been known that Mikey was using BDR as a one-year stopover on the way to owning his own Toyota-backed race team. NAPA seems to be willing to follow the two-time Daytona 500 winner to the ends of the earth... or at least all the way to Japan.
Martin will share the ride in the No. 01 Chevrolet with rookie
Wood Brothers Racing
Schrader will return for a 24th season of Cup racing in a part-time ride. The 24-year son of team owner Eddie Wood will become the first family member to drive a Cup race since granddad Glen made his 62nd and final start at Roanoke, Virginia in 1964.
Jeremy Mayfield has been terminated as the driver of the No. 19 car, which made The Chase in each of the last two seasons. Sadler has taken over this ride, but he won't bring his candy-covered chocolates with him.
Mears was already looking for a ride outside of Chip Ganassi Racing next season and appeared headed to a Toyota team... then Brian Vickers announced he was leaving Hendrick. Within minutes, Mears' running buddy Jimmie Johnson and mentor Rick Hendrick were on the phone with a job offer. He took it.
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
Just when we thought this season couldn't get any sillier, Ganassi trotted his former CART and Indy 500 champ into the Chicagoland media center. The Colombian-born Formula One racer still needs to work out some kinks in his contract with McLaren, but expect the good people at Daimler-Chrysler Ganassi runs Dodges, McLaren runs Mercedes to smooth out any bumps in the road.
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Bill Davis Racing
Davis will field two cars as part of Toyota's big launch, the first time he has enjoyed any sort of manufacturer support since angering Dodge by starting talks with Toyota several seasons ago. Jeremy Mayfield, who was released by Evernham Motorsports, was named to drive the car at Bristol on August 25.
Dale Earnhardt Incorporated
After dipping his toe in the Cup waters this season, Menard will run a full schedule in '07 and run for Rookie of the Year as a teammate to the Juniors Dale Earnhardt and Martin Truex.
Ryan McGee is the managing editor at NASCAR Images. He can be reached at his e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.