Garage chatter: What’s the news prior to Phoenix?

Nov. 12 news and notes

Was a Ganassi Indy move part of Chevy talk? — 1 p.m. ET

General Motors announced on Friday that Chevrolet will participate in the IndyCar Series in 2012.

The venerable Team Penske will lead the Chevrolet campaign as the manufacturer’s engines return to competition for the first time since 2005. Ilmor Engineering, another Penske partner, will work in conjunction with GM to develop the twin-turbocharged, direct injected V-6 engine.

During their prior alliance, Chevrolet engines powered Penske Indy cars to 31 wins, including four Indianapolis 500 victories.

The announcement comes just a week after IndyCar championship owner Chip Ganassi made public his plans to remain with Chevrolet in NASCAR.

Could Ganassi be one of the first teams to jump from Honda to Chevrolet in 2012 given his current relationship with the manufacturer?

“The announcement of Chevrolet’s entrance into the IndyCar Series is great for the series and I couldn’t be happier,” Ganassi said via a statement. “There are great things happening in the IndyCar Series right now that we should all be encouraged by.

“Our team has enjoyed a great relationship with Chevrolet over the last two years through our NASCAR program and look for continued success with them in the future. When the time comes to entertain options for our 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series engine the first conversations will be with our current partners.”

Pat Suhy, GM Racing’s NASCAR group manager says Ganassi’s decision to stay with Chevrolet on the NASCAR side of racing was not predicated by IndyCar’s upcoming plans

“It was never part of the discussion,” said Pat Suhy, GM Racing’s NASCAR group manager. “Would we like to have (Ganassi) in a Chevrolet over there? Of course we would, but I’m not running that program. And that’s just my opinion.”

Suhy added that GM has yet to select an individual to run its IndyCar program.

“The whole landscape needs to be sorted out before we find people to run the program,” Suhy added.

— Lee Spencer

Remembering a pit-crew swap — 9 a.m. ET

There has been a lot of talk this week about the pit crew swap that took place last weekend between the Nos. 24 (Jeff Gordon) and 48 (Jimmie Johnson) Hendrick Motorsports teams and it got me thinking I have already experienced what they went through.

I made a change back in my career with the rear tire changer in the middle of the race – I went down and borrowed one from another team.

We went on to win the race because of that change.

This is what makes a difference as far as a leader is concerned. I totally applaud, understand and commend Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, for pulling the trigger. I also commend pit crew coach Greg Morin and his team for having the ability to pull off such a move.

Now we’re looking at big-picture racing. Jeff Gordon’s championship is over with. And even though they have a good pit crew over at the No. 48 team, they weren’t what was needed right now. They needed pressure players, so they made the switch last week and now it is permanent for the rest of the season.

This is what leaders do. Sometimes head coaches get criticized for benching a quarterback, but they see something that they don’t like and they have to fix it; They owe it to the rest of the organization to do that. And that’s exactly what Chad Knaus did. He made a change for the best of everybody involved: Team 48, sponsor Lowe’s, team owner Rick Hendrick and all the men and women who work back at the shop of the 48 car. It’s a tough decision to make a change like this, but this ain’t no time to worry about too many feelings.

This is crunch time.

— Jeff Hammond

Nov. 10 news and notes

UPDATE: Petty team haulers still on hold — 5:45 p.m. ET

The NASCAR Sprint Cup cars that Richard Petty Motorsports will race at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend are en route to Arizona after being delayed at Texas Motor Speedway.

Earlier today, the four RPM transporters were still sitting at the track with a fifth hauler, a car carrier, that belongs to Roush Fenway Racing. The two No. 98 Phoenix cars are loaded on the Menards transporter. Six additional Phoenix cars — primary and back up — for the Nos. 9, 19 and 43, remained on the RFR car carrier. Those are now being moved to the RPM transporter, which should clear the way for the team to race this weekend.

The organization has been in limbo as team owner George Gillett is still reeling from the financial hit he took Oct. 15 when the English soccer team he co-owned — Liverpool Football Club — was taken over.

Sources tell that Richard Petty is meeting with officials from Best Buy in New York today about sponsorship for 2011.

— Lee Spencer

Nov. 9 news and notes

Richard Petty Motorsports on hold — 7 p.m. ET

The situation at Richard Petty Motorsports remains tenuous at best, despite reports to the contrary

Last week, team officials said everything was set for this weekend’s Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway as well as the season finale the following week. But five truck drivers remained in Fort Worth at Texas Motor Speedway waiting for the call as to whether they were heading west to the next race or back to the shop in the east as of Tuesday evening.

The organization has been in limbo as team owner George Gillett is still reeling from the financial hit he took Oct. 15 when the English soccer team he co-owned — Liverpool Football Club — was taken over.

RPM had planned to run two cars next season with AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose. However, until money can be secured to settle the current debts at RPM, it’s uncertain how much longer the organization will be around. Sources told that Richard Petty, the team’s namesake, was in talks with Andrew Murstein, President of Medallion Financial Group, in a bid to gain financial control of the company from Gillett.

As a backup plan for Paul Menard, who has already announced that he will leave RPM to drive for Richard Childress Racing in 2011, the No. 10 Stavola Labonte Racing car stayed within two hours of Texas Motor Speedway in case it needs to turn around and head to Phoenix for Menard’s use. Stavola Labonte Racing has a technical alliance with RCR.




Nov. 8 news and notes

From the editors’ desks … — 1 p.m. ET

Want a close race in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup? You got it. Want a new points leader? Got that, too.

Racing at Texas Motor Speedway produced a change atop the standings – and surprisingly, even more fiery reactions than racing the previous week at Talladega Superspeedway. Kyle Busch was penalized for demonstrating his displeasure with NASCAR officials after a pit-road speeding penalty cost him a lap while nice guy’s Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon came to blows.

Think the pressure of the Chase — and the 36-points-race schedule is wearing on some?

Before we get to the Cup action and news of the weekend, though, lets take a look at the other racing action in Texas.

In the Camping World Truck Series, Kyle Busch overcame the field for the victory. That’s his 84th career NASCAR win — and a victory that kept him atop the owners standings in the series. Not bad considering this is the rookie season for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Germain Racing’s Todd Bodine continues to lead the drivers standings.

In the Nationwide Series, Brad Keselowski may not have taken home the race trophy, but he was clearly the big winner in Texas. Carl Edwards won the race, but Keselowski won the title. It’s the first in any NASCAR series for team owner Roger Penske. (Highlights)

But it was in the AAA Texas 500 Cup showdown where the real fireworks erupted.

The most intense came in the form of a confrontation on the track between Gordon and Burton, who hit Gordon’t car under caution and ended the four-time Cup champion’s race. After that, things got a little heated on the track. To see the brawl, click here. Gordon’s crew then went on to pit Johnson’s car.

Denny Hamlin went on to win the race — and take the lead in the standings. After a weekend of discussion over the impact of Jimmie Johnson’s pursuit of a fifth consecutive title, Lee Spencer weighs in on the change and what Johnson’s run at a historic fifth straight title means. One also wonders the impact a tight Chase with two races to go could have on any proposed changes in the sport, so we asked Brian France.

In off-the-track news, several drivers confirmed plans for next season. Elliott Sadler announced plans to compete for the 2011 Nationwide Series title driving for Kevin Harvick Inc.; Brian Scott confimed plans to join Joe Gibbs Racing next season; and Justin Allgaier and Reed Sorenson announced they will drive for Turner Motorsports. In addition, former Daytona 500-winning Morgan-McClure Motorsports is considering a return to NASCAR.

This weekend, all three NASCAR series return to action at Phoenix International Raceway.

Keep up here. is up-to-date on all aspects of the Chase, with complete coverage, photos, analysis and news appearing on our Chase Central page.

— Jorge A. Mondaca and Rea White