NASCAR Notebook: Hamlin welcomes Busch back

Even though they’ve quarreled as teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing,

Denny Hamlin wants Kyle Busch on his race team and at the

track.

Busch was suspended from all racing last week at Texas as

punishment from NASCAR for wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution

in the Trucks Series race. His participation at Phoenix this

weekend was in doubt until late Thursday because of sponsor

wrangling, but Busch is present and will run Sunday in the Sprint

Cup Series race.

Hamlin said Busch provides information that is ”vital” to how

Hamlin and third teammate Joey Logano run.

”He’s vital to our race team and the feedback that he has is

vital to the way I drive my car every single week. He’s one of the

key elements that we need,” Hamlin said.

When Tony Stewart left JGR following the 2008 season, Hamlin

joked he’s now the senior leader of the organization. With Busch

now reeling because of another misstep, Hamlin has an opportunity

to provide some guidance.

But Hamlin said he’ll leave it to team owner Joe Gibbs.

”I think he is going to have to rely a lot on Joe Gibbs, who

has been in that situation with a lot of pro athletes that he’s

been associated with during his career,” Hamlin said. ”I don’t

know that I’m that person. I feel like I haven’t been around that

long and I’ve made enough mistakes myself.

”I just don’t know me being around for six years, it’s my place

to really say what he should or shouldn’t do. I think that he

should definitely rely on Joe Gibbs for that because we’ve got one

of the best sports guys in the history of pro sports as our owner.

He’s seen it all and been through it all.”

—(equals)

JPM-CONTRACT: Juan Pablo Montoya isn’t giving up many details

about his future with Chip Ganassi Racing, but said he’ll be back

driving the No. 42 next season.

”Yeah. I’ll be driving this car next year,” he said at

Phoenix. ”It’s a given. We’re all good.”

Montoya wouldn’t reveal the length of his contract. He’s been

with Ganaasi since leaving Formula One late in the 2006 season.

But there’s apparently long-term planning going on behind the

scenes, including a decision on a crew chief and other personnel.

Montoya has been working with interim crew chief Jim Pohlman since

late July.

”With everything that we are planning with our team right now,

I think we’ll be in Chase next year.”

—(equals)

BLOOMIN ONION: Tony Stewart has brought in yet another new

sponsor to his race team, signing Outback Steakhouse as primary

sponsor.

The deal is for two races as primary sponsor on Ryan Newman’s

car, and comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that

Quicken Loans will be on the car for nine races next season.

Mike Kappitt, chief marketing officer for Outback, said that the

company was previously involved in NASCAR and saw a good

opportunity to make a return.

”We feel like we have a great activation plan and a great

driver and great team we are part of, so it made a lot of sense for

us to come back into the sport now,” he said.

NEW GROOVE: One of the biggest changes to Phoenix International

Raceway after its repaving between spring and fall races was to the

racing lines.

On the old surface, drivers had two equally effective lines they

could race. Since the track was repaved, there is just one solid

line on the inside and another that’s not quite there.

PIR officials tried to work in a second groove by having a group

of drivers, including Nationwide Series champion Randy Lajoie and

ARCA champion Frank Kimmel, turn a couple thousand laps around the

track earlier in the week. It helped, but the drivers competing

this weekend say the second groove is still only about halfway

there.

”As it stands right now … there is about a lane and a half

(and) if you get out of that it is real dirty and slippery,”

Sprint Cup points leader Carl Edwards said. ”We saw a couple of

the Nationwide guys hit the fence up there in (turn) three. I

didn’t wreck, but got up there and brushed the fence in

testing.”

The drivers are hoping the second line will come in after

Saturday’s events, including Nationwide’s qualifying and race,

along with a NASCAR support series race.

CARMICHAEL’S SCARE: Nationwide Series driver Ricky Carmichael

was involved in an accident, but it had nothing to do with

racing.

Driving away from the track Friday night with his wife,

Carmichael was caught up in a near head-on collision that occurred

in front of him.

The wreck happened as a truck was coming down the wrong way of a

two-lane road, and a Jeep on Carmichael’s side had to swerve and

went off the road. A tire flew off the Jeep as crashed and slammed

into the front of the Carmichaels’ car, smashing in the front

end.

Carmichael and his wife were unhurt and he was able to go in

Saturday’s Nationwide race.

”It was pretty scary,” Carmichael said after qualifying.

”Thank God it’s over and everyone is all right.”

—(equals)

AP Sports Writer John Marshall contributed to this report from

Avondale, Ariz.