NASCAR's Silly Season Begins With Kenseth Heading To JGR, Logano To Penske
Joe Gibbs Racing yesterday formally announced that Matt Kenseth has signed with the team to drive the No. 20 Sprint Cup Series Toyota with sponsorship from Dollar General and The Home Depot starting in '13. The car's current driver, Joey Logano, yesterday announced he has signed a multiyear deal with Penske Racing to drive the No. 22 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford sponsored by Shell and Pennzoil next season (THE DAILY). In Charlotte, Jim Utter wrote JGR had "hoped to retain Logano but did not have a full-time Cup ride to offer him" for the '13 season. Sam Hornish Jr. currently drives the No. 22 car for Penske "on a temporary basis, after former driver A.J. Allmendinger was released after being suspended indefinitely by NASCAR for failing a random drug test" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/4). USA TODAY's Nate Ryan writes Kenseth "still has trouble envisioning himself in the No. 20 car." Kenseth said, "When I still see that car on the track in Home Depot colors, I still think of [NASCAR driver Tony Stewart]. Tony made that car famous." Ryan notes Logano "was offered a chance to stay at Gibbs with a full-time Nationwide schedule and part-time Cup slate but chose a fresh start next season in Penske Racing's No. 22" (USA TODAY, 9/5). ESPN.com's David Newton wrote the changes "speak to the still saddened state of the NASCAR economy." Five years ago, sponsors "would be standing in line to sign a driver with the qualifications of Kenseth." Kenseth said, "I've never got to the last year of my contract. I really felt like winning the Daytona 500, I felt really good about everything we had going on over there. I felt like that was going to be the time, we were going to get the thing re-signed and get a sponsor signed. We had a lot of momentum and all that, and for whatever reason that didn't happen" (ESPN.com, 9/4).
UP IN SMOKE: USA TODAY's Ryan in a separate piece noted Stewart-Haas Racing's "sponsorship hunt deepened Sunday when it was announced Office Depot wouldn't return as a primary backer" of Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet. The office supply retailer "has been a co-primary sponsor of Stewart since the 2009 season," when Stewart became a co-owner of the team. Office Depot is the primary sponsor of 22 Cup races in '12, with Mobil 1 "as the primary of the other 14." Mobil 1 "will return in 2013, but the team will need to fill a void for the majority of Stewart's races." That "might mean a patchwork quilt of sponsorship for Stewart that is similar to teammate Ryan Newman, who has eight primary sponsors rotating on his No. 39 Chevy." SHR also is "trying to find a 2013 replacement for the 14 races backed by the U.S. Army, which announced earlier this season it wouldn't be returning after four seasons with Newman." Newton noted Stewart "was used frequently by Office Depot in national advertising campaigns and in charitable visits to schools" (USATODAY.com, 9/3).
NAPA KNOW-HOW: The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Utter on Saturday noted Michael Waltrip Racing on Friday announced that driver Martin Truex Jr. and sponsor NAPA "had both signed three-year contract extensions." Truex and teammate Clint Bowyer are "set to become the first drivers in MWR's six-year existence to qualify for the Chase" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/1). The AP's Paul Newberry noted NAPA "has a long history sponsoring NASCAR and decided to stay on board in a major role, rather than a part-time deal that would've required Waltrip to seek additional backing" (AP, 8/31).
DRIVER FOR HIRE: SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass reported driver Elliott Sadler "won't return to Richard Childress Racing next season" to run in the Nationwide Series. Team Owner Richard Childress on Sunday said that Sadler "has decided to leave the organization." A JGR spokesperson said that JGR "has no deal to announce with Sadler." However, Pockrass noted JGR is the "most likely destination if Sadler wants to remain in a top-tier Nationwide ride" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 9/2).