Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 24, 2012
The NASCAR notebook …
SONOMA, Calif. — Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth declined to discuss his future with Roush Fenway Racing before Sunday’s race at Sonoma, where there was rampant speculation he’s been talking to other race teams.
The NASCAR points leader acts as his own agent, and has been with Roush his entire career. But his No. 17 Ford has limited sponsorship, and team owner Jack Roush has been paying out of his own pocket to ensure Kenseth runs a full season.
“You know I don’t talk about my contract,” Kenseth said. “I’d like to have something to tell you, but I don’t have anything to talk about right now. Until I have something to announce, I don’t talk about it.”
Everybody else was talking, though, and Kenseth’s name this weekend was linked to both Joe Gibbs Racing, a Toyota team, and Penske Racing, which is moving from Dodge to Ford in 2013. Kenseth is a longtime Ford driver.
JGR team president J.D. Gibbs declined to discuss any possible negotiations with Kenseth. JGR not only has room for expansion to a fourth car, but Joey Logano’s status as driver of the No. 20 is currently unresolved. Logano is in the final year of his contract.
“I’m not allowed to talk,” he said.
Roger Penske was not at Sunday’s race, but senior vice president of Penske Corp., Bud Denker said the team is not talking to Kenseth and is content with AJ Allmendinger in the No. 22.
“Our expectations are that AJ will be in the car and Todd (Gordon) will be the crew chief next year,” Denker said. “So we are not talking to Matt, that’s confirmed.”
The Penske move to Ford has led to talk the organization could be a potential home for Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. or 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, who are both in long-term contracts with Roush but are stymied because of sponsorship woes.
Roush this season has suspended operations on its fourth Cup car, which could have been a slot to promote Stenhouse, and Bayne’s Nationwide Series program was shuttered earlier this season because of a lack of funding. If Kenseth does indeed leave Roush, it would open a slot for Stenhouse.
But at Penske, where Brad Keselowski has a long contract and Allmendinger is making a home, a third car would have to be added to the organization.
“We’re always looking, and we’d do a third team with the right driver and the right sponsor,” Denker said. “But we like a certain look, we don’t like to have a coat of different colors to fill a car with sponsorship. If we found the right combination, we’d be fine to have a third car.”
VILLENEUVE’S FUTURE: Jacques Villeneuve will run the Nationwide Series race at Montreal in August as planned for Penske Racing.
Villeneuve was embroiled in controversy Saturday after running into Danica Patrick on the last lap of the Nationwide race at Road America. She was battling for a top-five finish, and contact from Villeneuve caused Patrick to spin and fall to 12th.
“Where Villeneuve goes, there tends to be cars that have problems, whether it’s his fault or the other car’s fault or (just) stock car racing at the end of the race,” Patrick said. “You all can make a decision for yourself, what you think happened there.”
Bud Denker, senior vice president of Penske Corp., said Villeneuve would drive as scheduled at the Montreal course named after Villeneuve’s late father.
“I talked to Jacques this morning, and he said the same thing he did after the race, which is that it was a racing incident,” Denker said. “There was no intent, it was the product of road racing, and he took out Danica, which was unfortunate because she drove a great race. But he’ll be racing at Montreal as planned.”
Villeneuve, the 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner and 1997 Formula One champion, dominated the middle stages of the race but spun out on lap 33 and lost several positions. He blamed the incident with Patrick on racing hard with Max Papis.
“We were racing hard, and I wasn’t even fighting with Danica, I was fighting with Max Papis,” Villeneuve said. “And just before the braking (zone), I guess he was wanting to cross over and go to the inside of Danica. And he probably didn’t know I was there so he pushed me into the grass, and you don’t slow down that much in the grass. So by the time I was on the racetrack again, I was going a little bit slower than Danica. That’s all.”
WORLD TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP: Sonoma will host an FIA World Touring Car championship event on Sept. 23.
The WTCC features 12 races across North America, Europe, South America and Asia, and signed a three-year contract to bring its touring cars to Sonoma.
“The track is great. Very demanding, with a lot of ups and downs, a couple of very fast turns and different places where overtaking is possible,” said 2009 champion Gabriele Tarquini. “It will suit our racing cars and I’m quite sure that we will treat American motorsport enthusiasts to exciting, action-packed races.”
Steve Page, president of Sonoma, attended last year’s WTCC event at Valencia last year, and “the first time I saw these cars race, I knew they belonged on our track.
“From the moment the green flag drops, the whole field is in a flat-out sprint for the lead. It’s going to be quite a show.”