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Season is already taking shape



We are not even to the halfway point of this season’s Cup schedule and already many teams and drivers are announcing their plans for the 2009 season. To be successful in this sport, you must be able to go about the business of racing week in and week out while at the same time begin preparing for the following season.

Richard Childress Racing is doing a great job on the track this season as all three of its drivers are in a position to make the Chase for the Championship. RCR has also put itself in a position of being even stronger next season by announcing it has already signed two additional primary sponsorships for the 2009 season.

Earlier this season Childress announced it had signed General Mills to sponsor a fourth team next season but this past week it was announced that it had signed Caterpillar to take over the primary sponsorship of Jeff Burton’s team, which is being sponsored by AT&T this season. Caterpillar had been a primary sponsor with Bill Davis Racing for the last 10 years.

Burton and teammates Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick are already signed for next season, leaving Childress with an opening for one driver. That opening is attracting a lot of interest in the garage area, as every driver knows the ride will be one of the best funded and equipped teams in the sport next season.

Although Childress hasn’t given any indication on just who might end up behind the wheel of his General Mills Chevy, there have been a couple of big names tossed into the mix. Penske Racing’s Ryan Newman may be losing his Alltel sponsorship at the end of the season and with only mediocre results this season after winning the Daytona 500, he could be looking for a fresh start with another team.

Joining Newman on Childress’s short list of candidates for the ride is Dale Earnhardt Inc.’s Martin Truex Jr. Truex is a young talent who has already shown he can win in the series and a move to Childress would give him the opportunity to showcase his talent in better equipment.

Of course, Childress isn’t the only owner working on his operation for next season. While DEI might be losing Truex, it has announced it is looking to put Aric Almirola in a full-time ride next season. Almirola shares a ride with Mark Martin this season for DEI with sponsorship from the U.S. Army.

If DEI does go full time with Almirola in ’09, that leaves Martin in a great position to shop his talents around for next season. Martin has been campaigning in the series part time for the last couple of seasons but the feeling is if Mark can hook up with an owner who could give him the kind of equipment to make a serious run for the title that he would get back in the sport full time.

That owner just may be Rick Hendrick, who this past weekend didn’t sound too optimistic about the possibility that Casey Mears would be returning to drive for him next season. Mears’s team is the “other” team at Hendrick Motorsports as he has become somewhat of an afterthought after Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined up with Hendrick’s Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson this season. Martin has the talent and there is plenty of money and resources at Hendrick’s to make the team into a contender to win races and run for the Chase in ’09.

Now we have outlined several moves for next season that may or may not take place, but there is a little irony to all of this. To show you that oftentimes what goes around comes around in this sport, let’s look at what might happen to the Army sponsorship that is with DEI this season.

We started this story with Bill Davis Racing’s deal with Caterpillar coming to an end and now it seems that Davis might be landing the Army as his new sponsor for 2009. It’s just another example of how the business of racing seems to always go around in a circle, year after year.

Race Preview – Event: Lenox Industrial Tools 301.

Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1-mile oval, 12 degrees of banking in the turns). Date: June 29, 2 p.m. TV: TNT. Radio: PRN. Defending champion: Denny Hamlin.

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