NASCAR Notebook: Newman gets new number
The NASCAR notebook …
Turns out Ryan Newman won’t be driving the No. 4 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing next year after all.
It will be the No. 39.
Stewart surprised Newman with the news Monday night during his show on satellite radio.
“That number was my first Silver Crown number, my first USAC midget win at IRP … so that’s a very special number to me and that’s definitely cool.”
Stewart, who will drive for his own team with the No. 14 used by boyhood hero A.J. Foyt, said he gave up on the No. 4 when it became clear that longtime car owner Larry McClure, whose team has used that number for years, might return to NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series next season.
“We had some hiccups in the No. 4 with Larry McClure,” Stewart said. “I’m not sure there was enough due diligence when it came to knowing for sure if Mr. McClure was going to have a car for next year. We spoke with NASCAR and NASCAR said that that number was available and I’m not sure that, all the way around, that enough due diligence was done.
“We’ve been told that he’s going to run some races next year and, to us, especially me as a car owner, we know how much car numbers mean to teams and organizations. Even though NASCAR has given us that number for next year, if Mr. McClure is going to run a car we’re excited to have him back in the series, and we’re glad to see him come back, so we wanted him to have his number.”
SAFE RECORDS: In the wake of Michael Phelps winning a record eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics to surpass the seven Mark Spitz won in Munich, it’s time to look at seemingly unbeatable records in other sports.
In NASCAR, the safest record appears to be the 200 victories by stock car king Richard Petty, 119 more than Jeff Gordon, the leading active driver with 81 wins.
“I know records are made to be broken, but I don’t think anyone will ever win 200 races again,” said former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte. “That’s one record in a league of its own. Someone would have to win 10 races a season for 20 years straight. I just don’t see that happening. Richard Petty is going to have a long reign as king of that achievement.”
COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT: Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon is winless and an undistinguished sixth so far this season, and crew chief Steve Letarte has drawn the brunt of the criticism from Gordon’s fans.
“We focus on everything, from how internal communication is, how people are doing their jobs,” Gordon said. “If making a change was going to fix it then there might have been changes. But that’s not the issue.
“I think Steve Letarte is doing an awesome job. … It’s just been one of those years. I believe in what we have. There’s areas where we’re looking to getting stronger and better. The fans have to just be patient, and I remind everybody of what we did last year.”
A year ago, Gordon won six races, ran away with the regular season and wound up second to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson in the Chase for the championship.
ROTATING: Gillett Evernham Motorsports will rotate its three NASCAR Sprint Cup crew chiefs on the team’s No. 9 Nationwide Series entry for the remainder of this season.
Drivers Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, Patrick Carpentier and Chase Miller have taken turns racing the No. 9 Dodge this year, and team officials said each will race at least once in the final 10 events of the season.
Kenny Francis will serve as crew chief when Kahne drives the Nationwide car at Charlotte. Mike Shiplett will oversee Carpentier’s races at Dover and Phoenix, and Rodney Childers will do the same with Sadler at Bristol, Richmond, and Kansas. Kevin Kidd will serve as crew chief when Miller races at California, Texas and Homestead and when Miller races the No. 19 at Charlotte. A crew chief for Miller’s Memphis race will be picked later.
SPARK PLUGS: Twelve-year-old Austin Irwin will act as grand marshal Sunday, thanks to race sponsor 3M and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Irwin suffers from Wilm’s Tumor, a type of cancer. His wish was to come to a NASCAR race and meet some drivers. … Mark Martin will make a record 72nd Michigan start Sunday on a track where he has eight race wins, including four in Cup, two in Nationwide, one in IROC and one in ARCA. … Sixty-two of 78 Cup races at MIS have been won from a top-10 starting spot. Tony Stewart’s victory from 28th in 2001 was the farthest a driver has come for a win.
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