No, I'm not going to tell you all the latest news and rumors in NASCAR in this column. You can find much better (or worse) sources for that information. If you read the rumor mills on a daily basis, as I do, you may begin to feel your head spinning around, or at least your mind within your head. Done deals are refuted within hours, sure things are found to be very unsure at all. It's all part of what we call the silly season, of course, but there are more players in the game every year, and thus a geometrical expansion of possible rumors.
It appears that some rumors are simply created to produce readership. One popular mid season rumor had Bobby Labonte signed, sealed and delivered to Richard Childress Racing's 4 team for 2009. I was guilty of partly buying that rumor. If you look back through the archives here, you will find what I said about it. At the time, I did not myself say it was a done deal at all, but at that particular moment in NASCAR thinking, it was the conventional wisdom. As it turned out, that particular rumor couldn't have been farther from the truth. Bobby Labonte went on to sign a multi year contract with Petty, though he has now announced that he has parted ways after becoming disillusioned by the performance of Petty's new business partner (read majority owner) since Boston Ventures came into the picture.
The latest rumor involving Labonte is that he will join the newly formed Earnhardt Ganassi Racing as the driver of the 41 Target sponsored Chevy. Bobby Labonte has not commented other than to say that he did not have a new ride at the time he announced he was parting ways with the Petty organisation. I will therefore refuse to believe anything I read until Bobby Labonte makes an announcement.
Some formerly reputable news outlets have soiled their reputations in the last couple of years. Remember the 2007 frenzy over the future of Dale Earnhardt Jr.? If you've been more than a very casual fan of the sport in the last few years, you have to remember all the rumors flying around over that deal. Dale Jr.'s departure from DEI and his move to Hendrick was undoubtedly the NASCAR media event of the 2007 season. This year has been much more of the same, only probably the biggest mover was Tony Stewart from Joe Gibbs Racing to his own team at Stewart-Haas Racing, and now being joined by former Penske driver Ryan Newman. Someone, I don't know whether it was Tony himself or not, was wise enough to complete most of the deal before allowing too much talk to get started about where he would be driving in 2009. How the media must have hated not having 6 plus months of rumors to spread about Tony, as they did with Dale Jr. last year!
In the last few days, I've read about how Petty and Gillet Evernham Motorsports were going to merge, then not merge, and now supposedly going to merge again. Will we see a Toyota in Petty blue next year? If so, who will the driver be? I don't have a clue, and chances are, if you're reading this, neither do you. It's one of the fun parts of the sport, not knowing and being surprised, sometimes pleasantly and sometimes not so much. The misinformation aspect of the silly season doesn't bother me nearly as much as how much stock many fans put in the rumors they read and hear about. Folks, never believe everything you read. That should be a basic fact of life, especially on the Internet.
Another word of advice for my fellow fans as well: Don't believe what you read just because it's what you want to believe. Early in 2007, the conventional wisdom among Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans was that he would drive for Richard Childress, and eventually drive his daddy's old number 3 on his car. I thought that was the most likely scenario early in 2007 as well, and never in a million years did I think he would end up driving for Rick Hendrick, and be a teammate of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. But that's exactly what happened, and once most of his fans recovered from the initial shock, they supported Dale Jr. in his decision and as a result of guilt by association, many Dale Jr. fans are also pulling for drivers that they once reviled as enemies. There is something else to remember as well: Though there are still some true rivalries among NASCAR drivers, many of these rivalries are blown out of proportion in order to make the most out of the press value. By all accounts, the Hendrick drivers are all at least friends, if not bosom buddies. They respect each other. Mark Martin coming on board for 2009 and beyond is not likely to change that spirit.
For most of us, NASCAR is not the ultimate purpose for our lives. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who do depend on their livelihood from the sport, and in some ways I do as well. I think it's important to remember that it is a sport, it is entertainment, just like football or baseball or basketball. We have fewer major players in our sport just because of its very nature, and therefore we become very attached to our drivers. Rumors should be taken at face value, and my advice to everyone is to not rush to conclusions until the people involved make an official announcement. It's very easy to start a rumor, and it's very easy to lose all credibility for spreading them around as well.
I plan on posting here again before Christmas, but in any event, I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. If you don't believe in Christmas, then Happy Holidays. Either way, Seasons Greetings to all of you.