Wednesday, February 4, 2009

And Another Owner Falls by the Wayside

Last night it was announced that Bill Davis is now a minority owner in the Penske Racing team, which means that Roger Penske has bought the owner's points for the Bill Davis 22 team, and will retain the number for possible further use.

This is another sad day for NASCAR.  Davis has been an owner in NASCAR since 1988, beginning in the then Busch series, and eventually moving on to Cup and Truck teams.  In the old Busch series, Davis had 11 wins in 12 years as an owner in the series.  His first driver was Mark Martin, who got the first win for team Davis in 1988 at Rockingham.  Other Busch series winners for Bill Davis were Jeff Gordon and Scott Wimmer.  Gordon won 3 races for Davis in 1992, and Scott Wimmer won 5 races for Davis in 2002 and 2003.

In the Cup series, Davis began as an owner in 1993 with Bobby Labonte as his driver.  In his 16 years as an owner in the series, Bill Davis as an owner participated in 722 races and managed to get 5 wins, 28 top 5 finishes, and 104 top 10 finishes.  Bill Davis drivers also won 8 poles during his tenure as owner.  All of the victories in the Cup series were with driver Ward Burton, who got his first win for Davis at Rockingham in 1995.  Other wins were at Loudon, New Hampshire, 2 wins at Darlington, and of course the memorable Daytona 500 victory in 2002.

In the Truck series, Bill Davis has won an impressive 24 times as an owner, including winning the championship in 2008 with Johnny Benson.  Mike Skinner has also been a long time Davis driver and winner.

One thing that I personally wonder about is that Bill Davis has used Toyota products exclusively since the beginning of 2007.  Will including the Davis stable at Penske Racing open the door for the 2, the 12, and the 77 to move to Toyota in the future?  I believe it's a valid question.  I have no idea what Penske's commitment to Dodge is, but I believe it's a valid question to ask.  Apparently, Penske NASCAR entries will all be wearing the Dodge badge this year, but one wonders about 2010 and beyond.

In other news, maybe not so recent, but one wonders what benefit Verizon, who bought Altel earlier this year, will get from not being able to put their logos on the 12 Penske Dodge which will be driven by David Stremme in 2009?  Since Sprint sponsors the Cup series, the name change will not be allowed, and obviously the 12 car will have to have a new sponsor sooner than later.  Is this exclusivity clause that exists with Sprint and NASCAR good for the series?  Running off sponsors at this time does not seem to make sense to this writer and fan.  Sponsors are very difficult to procure in 2009, and eliminating all the other phone company business seems detrimental to the sport.  Is there really no room in the Sprint Cup for competition among phone companies?

2009 looks to be a very interesting season, if for no other reason the ability of NASCAR teams to attract and keep sponsors.  Times are admittedly tough, so how long will sponsors hang in there to get their name plastered all over TV 38 weeks out of the year, including non points races.  

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