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Toyota Q&A: Jarrett, Silly Season, transition from Truck to Cup
Ryan McGee: I think it is a great move for both Waltrip and Jarrett. DJ is quick to acknowledge that he only has two more years left in him, and why not take a chance on helping start something new? His last few seasons at Robert Yates Racing have been dissapointing and it might do him some good to change scenery. For Mikey and Toyota, what a huge move landing a former Cup champ and winner of more than 30 races.
RYR replacementDave F. from Suffern, N.Y.: Who is a good candidate to replace Dale Jarrett at RYR, and do you think UPS will stay with RYR after Dale moves to Toyota?
Ryan McGee: Dave ... great question, and it was the single-most talked about subject in the Darlington garage on Saturday. Mission No. 1 for Yates is getting Elliott Sadler inked to a long-term deal. It looks like UPS is staying put. Word on the street had been that if UPS was leaving with Jarrett, then Yates was going to shove them both out the door immediately.
Several names have been attached to the No. 88 for '07, but the one that keeps coming up is Casey Mears. I have also heard Ward Burton's name since the sponsor is reportedly big on making sure a veteran driver is behind the wheel. Stay tuned.
Silly season starts earlyQ: What are your thoughts about Silly Season spilling over into the heart of the Nextel Cup season? Is is distracting to have these types of decisions being made this early in the season?
Ryan McGee: It has been totally bizarre this year, chasing Silly Season rumors at places like Atlanta and Martinsville in March and April! Not so long ago, no one showed their hand or made any announcements until we came to Charlotte in October. Now we have already had a couple of major moves before we have gotten to Charlotte in May!
I think there is so much money involved, and the Chase for the Nextel Cup shortens the "regular season" so much, it has forced everyone to make moves earlier and earlier each year. And yes, it is a huge distraction. Jarrett admitted as much on Saturday. He's trying to claw his way into the top 10 and has spent the last three weeks answering hundreds of questions about Toyota.
Toyota enginesRichard H., Newport News, Va.: Will Toyota build a racing engine or will they buy the motors from another source, i.e Hendrick, Roush or DEI?
Fans on Dale's defectionDon M. from Kiel, Wisc.: I've noticed that the fans of Dale Jarrett haven't really complained about his move to Toyota next year. At least from the message boards I've read. Is this something you've noticed as well, or is it too soon to tell yet?
Ryan McGee: Don ... I have noticed that. I think the real reaction will come over the next few days since the move is now official, but I also think that Jarrett fans recognize that his situation at Yates had grown stale. His win last year at Talladega was his only victory in the last three seasons, and he missed the Chase both years we have had it. When he left the Wood Brothers for Joe Gibbs, he immediately got better, and the same thing happened when he left Gibbs for Yates. If it means going out strong, Jarrett fans won't mind the move.
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Taking Toyota temperatureQ: How are NASCAR fans in general reacting to Toyota's entry into the Nextel Cup Series?
Ryan McGee: I think that Toyota has really approached this the right way, and that has really eased their introduction. They moved into the Craftsman Truck Series, worked their way into contention and now they are doing the same in Cup. Signing very likable guys such as Michael Waltrip and Dale Jarrett certainly helps. If they do a slow ramp-up to Victory Lane like Dodge and take a few months to start winning, then I think that easy transition will continue. If they come in and start winning races in bunches right off the bat, the resentment level might be off the chart.
I think way too many people drive Toyotas now vs. 20 years ago for there to be the kind of backlash we might have seen back in the day.
Ryan McGee is the managing editor at NASCAR Images. He can be reached at his e-mail address: email@example.com.