Volume III, Issue 7, Page 16
With John Carollo

I’m one of you. Long before my first article or big name interview and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been a stock car fan. So for that reason, my name doesn’t matter and neither does my photo. It’s more like we’re just sitting here in the grandstand before the race, talking about Chevys and NASCAR. Hey, you want a cold one? --JC

We’re Gonna Need More Eyes

Way back when I was in the navy – no, not the Confederate Navy – we had all kinds of guard duty they called watches. We had a sentry gate watch, we had a hangar watch and we had a fire watch. Well, these days in NASCAR, we got us a Smoke Watch. That’s cuz everybody’s watching Tony Stewart as he jumps the good ship Tie-Ohda to return to his apple pie roots at Chevy. (If’n you want to know the back story, read this.)

It’s looking powerful strong that ‘ol Smoke is gonna split from Coach Joe Gibbs and jump on over to Haas CNC racing. You ‘member them, they’re a satellite team of Hendrick using his cars and motors. But they haven’t been on the radar much with their two Chevys. ‘Course, having a super stud like Smoke in their ride would be like an extreme makeover. And who can they put in their other car, another super star?

And there’s more to this Smoke deal. According to some reports, he’s looking for a team he can buy into and become an owner on down the line. We don’t know if Haas is open to that idea or not and I reckon we’ll find out shortly. That’s cuz if Stewart and Haas are gonna go racing next year, they pretty much gotta have all their ducks in a row like right now, ya know? But another tickler in this deal is sponsorship. The CNC team ain’t got what you’d call, well, Smoke-caliber sponsors. We hear that’s a done deal, too. Some say Smoke already jerked Office Depot away from Roush as his new corporate partner. Wonder if he’ll still get free 2x4s from Home Depot for putting them on the map?

But Smoke ain’t all free and clear. His legally binding contract with Gibbs says he’s supposed to keep driving them Camrys thru ’09. But ya know, those driver’s contracts are kinda like that paper we all use in the porcelain reading room – if ya know what I mean. And buying out contracts is nothing new to racing. Ol’ D.W. did it so he could drive Junior Johnson’s Mountain Chevys back in the day. We wouldn’t be surprised if Smoke got some help in the Gibbs buy out. And we wouldn’t be surprised if Chevy helped ol’ Smoke get his butt into an Impala SS. You can read that one any way you want. Sticking Smoke back in a Chevy will make the world right again, but he ain’t the only Chevy stud in the news.

There was some talk about him heading on over to Hendricks after they let Casey Mears know he would need a new place to work in ’09. But about as quick as they pulled the Mears sticker off the roof, they done announced Mark Martin would be driving the Kellogg’s Carquest #5 in 09. I’m guessing he musta liked driving them Hendrick Nationwide cars. Martin okayed a two-year deal where he’ll run the full season next year and a reduced one in 2010. We’re thinking he’s going for that championship that has slipped thru his fingers, what 'bout four times? And ya know, he done got his second wind when he climbed into the DEI Chevys and damn near won the Daytona 500 last year. Martin is one tough cookie and may surprise everyone, again. And we’ll hoist a cold one in hopes he does!

It turns out that ol’ Rick Hendrick has been trying to get Martin into one of his Chevys for 15 years. Rick tells this story, “He (Martin) called me when he wanted to get a raise over at Roush’s. I think it was one July day and they said Mark Martin is on the phone. He said, ‘I sure would like to drive your car, are you interested?’, and I said ‘sure’ and that is the last time I heard from him.”

Martin and Hendrick also joked about how they nailed this deal down. Martin said, “Well first of all, I don’t know why it was such a bad kept secret unless people are snooping on our text messages because I’d say 50 percent of this deal was done by text between Rick and me. I think that’s pretty cool because I just learned how to text myself.” Hendrick says he just learned, too, “I did too. Junior and Jimmie Johnson, they’re both here, now they are the ones that taught me how to text. I had to learn how to do that with Mark, because they won’t return your phone call.”

And remember Smoke? Wonder if he had a shot at the #5 car? Rick said, “Um, you know, Tony and I are good friends and I respect him a ton. And he sure perked you guys up with other day when he said something about the No. 5 car, didn’t he? That guy’s got tremendous talent, but Joe Gibbs and I are good friends and I don’t know what’s going to happen. Our deal is Mark Martin and I can’t answer other than I have tremendous respect for Tony. Anybody that’s in this garage area would love to have Tony Stewart sitting in the seat of their car.”

That leaves us with another Chevy to get fleshed out. The fourth Richard Childress car will finally fire up next year. They have a sponsor in Betty Crocker, yanked fresh off the Richard Petty #43, but they don’t have a driver picked just yet. Remember, there are guys out there like Ryan Newman. It sounds like he’s fixin’ to leave Penske’s Dodge – the one that won the Daytona 500 this year. Could he end up in a Chevy? And what about DEI? What kinda lineup will they have for ’09? The (heart) beat goes on…  


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