Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ford exec: IndyCar not a goal

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Jamie Allison, Ford's director of North American motorsports, said the manufacturer currently has no interest in joining competitor Chevrolet as an engine-provider to the Izod IndyCar Series and will concentrate, he said, on "production-based racing."

Ford currently support programs in NASCAR, the NHRA, and professional rally and drifting domestically and internationally, but wouldn't benefit from expanding into open wheel racing, Allison said.

"We were approached. We had conversation. We gave our feedback," Allison said. "We see affinity of our customers with production-based racing and the showcase on our technology. That's why we're focused on the platforms we have today, and today is a sign of all the excitement regenerating in the new rally car and rally cross, X Games. We plan to take advantage of putting our cars, as well with the technology in our cars, to showcase what we do. I'm sure Indy is right for many manufacturers, but at this time our priority is to focus on the stuff we have."

Chevrolet and Lotus announced recently their intention to join Honda as engine-providers beginning in 2012.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Camp Hornaday grads reach a crossroads

Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick were asked at the championship weekend press conference today about their short term as roommates living at Ron Hornaday's house. Here's my story on the topic from February, 2007 for the St. Petersburg Times.

 Maybe Ron Hornaday should have charged rent.
Eight years ago, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick were two unknown Southern California expatriates jostling for bathroom time in Hornaday's always-bustling Lake Norman, N.C., home, hoping they would someday find a NASCAR job steady enough to afford such a place.
Johnson was an off-road truck racer from El Cajon, with a line on a Busch Series deal. Harvick, from Bakersfield, was driving in the truck series and working on a budding relationship with Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s team owner, Richard Childress. But until they figured out exactly where their careers would go, Hornaday, then a star for Earnhardt's truck team, and wife Lindy made sure they had a pillow for their head and a steak on their plate.
"Their door was always wide open for anyone who needed a start," Johnson said.
Johnson, 31, begins the Nextel Cup season as the defending Daytona 500 and series champion. Harvick, also 31, is the defending Busch Series champion, a threat for a first Cup title after finishing fourth last season, and a burgeoning car owner. He's Hornaday's truck series owner, in fact.
"I guess the food wasn't too bad at Ron's," Harvick laughed. "His place must be a good way to get your career started in the right direction."
"I'd always feel bad because I wanted to pay rent, but they wouldn't have it," Johnson remembered. "I found myself washing a lot of dishes and taking out a lot of trash so I could feel like I was earning my keep."
Harvick had dreams like anyone else, but in 1998 he was happy to have a home and a full-time ride in the truck series with Spears Racing.
"Heck, I thought I was on top of the world, just enjoying myself," he said. "I was 22, 23 years old and doing what I wanted to do."
Anywhere from two to five drivers crashed at Hornaday's at any one time. They called it Camp Hornaday.
Lindy was a phenomenal cook, Harvick said, and Hornaday had a flare with the grill.
"Yeah, the steak with dill seasoning, salt, butter, onion and mushroom," Johnson said. "The funny thing with dinner at the camp was four of us would be sitting there eating and then all of a sudden it could be six, seven or 30 and he'd just keep cooking."
The ski boat and tubing gear were the entertainment. There was jug fishing for catfish and that big old bass that taunted Johnson.
"Ron had sunk this thing out by his dock to try and get fish to hang out by it," he said. "There was this huge bass that would hang out there right under the water, and we could never catch him. One time I finally grabbed a net and I was like, 'I'll get that damned bass.' Never got it."
Hornaday met Johnson at a General Motors function in Detroit and invited him to stay a few weeks as he prepared to take a job driving a Busch car for Herzog Racing. He stayed four months.
"I could have gone out and found some kind of apartment ...," Johnson said, "but it was so nice to have some place to come home to."
Hornaday, now 48, brought Johnson to lunches with drivers and executives, helping him weave into the Charlotte racing community. Johnson befriended Jeff Gordon in 2000 and signed with Hendrick Motorsports for 2001, becoming an instant success at the Cup level.
Hornaday was instrumental in Harvick's career well before he ever made it to North Carolina, helping him land his deal at Spears. Finally signed to a Busch deal at Richard Childress Racing, Harvick won three races and finished third as a rookie in 2000 and won the championship in 2001. That season he replaced Earnhardt Sr. at the Cup following his death in the Daytona 500. Running both series last year, Harvick won a second Busch title by an astounding 824 points.
Harvick is fiercely loyal to Hornaday, hiring him as a truck series driver and running a program for him last season though he had no sponsor.
"I guess Kevin's paying me back now," Hornaday said.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tony Kanaan on possible NASCAR trucks future

What is the status of your discussion with Kyle Busch of racing for his NASCAR truck series team?
Right now it's just talk. I'm going to go watch the race in Homestead. But obviously, I'm still trying to get something in IndyCar. That's where I have been all my life. I've been in talks with a lot of teams, but financially it's a very difficult situation for everybody. A lot of teams don't even have the budget for a full car, forget about paying me. So I've got to explore all my options. Me and Kyle know each other because we shared the same sponsor (Mars) and did a lot of the same functions. He has his own truck team and doesn't do all the races, so he called me up and I said, "Why not? Let's talk." People are making a big deal like I am going there already. Well, I've got to listen to anybody. Right now I don't have a deal. If I did I would have said 'no'. It's still baby steps. Right now I don't think he even has the sponsorship to run it, as well. You need to put all the ideas together.
When did he call, because originally 2005 IndyCar series champion Dan Wheldon had been linked to that supposed opening?
Two weeks ago. He's probably talking to other people as well, not just me. He's looking for a driver to do seven or eight races that he's not going to do.
So there's been no formal offer?
No, not even talk of doing a test or anything. It was a friendly phone call. "Come over. Come watch it. Maybe then we'll sit down." And it wouldn't be a full-time job unless he can find a sponsor to put trucks out there and it would be financially worth it for him to run a full season. I can't say that right now.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Travis Pastrana trying to cross another item off his bucket list?

Ralph Shaheen cited various sources in tweeting on Sunday that freestyle motocross/rally star Travis Pastrana would soon announce a deal with Michael Waltrip Racing to attempt some sort of NASCAR event. Waltrip coyly tweeted a few vague Pastrana messages later in the night and rally sources told me that something would be announced within a week. A source at Red Bull, which would seemingly have been the outlet for Pastrana's eventual NASCAR dalliance, considering their five-year relationship and the fact the energy drink company owns and sponsors a two-car Sprint Cup team, claimed no knowledge of the possible deal on Monday.
Bottom line, however, is whatever NASCAR endeavor Pastrana undertakes is not likely a precursor to a full-time switch to stock cars. A rally racing zealot who still competes in the X Games, stars in action movies and is trying to get a screenplay financed for a film, Pastrana told me in September he is not interested in being constricted into a 36-week NASCAR schedule. He is quite interested, however, in eventually attempting to qualify for the Daytona 500, because, "as an American, that's something you need to do."
Pastrana's NASCAR ambitions are all about the bucket list.
"I'd love to try everything," the 27-year-old said. "That's the cool thing about Red Bull is I kind of have that at my fingertips to try different stuff. I ran Baja (the 1000, on a motorcycle), but I'd like to run the car sometime just to see how it is. I'd like to do enough NASCAR to maybe do a Daytona. I haven't tested with Red Bull or anything. Rally is way more exciting than NASCAR will ever be, but just to have the opportunity, to have a bucket list kind of thing, my bucket list is going to be pretty epic. I am pretty excited about it."
That list includes:
"The biggest thing was always winning a 250 supercross championship. That'll never happen. ... Climb Mt. Everest. Still maybe. Race Daytona, win a rallycross championship, win a motocross championship, win Motocross of Nations, jump out of a plane without a parachute. Check. About three quarters of my list as a kid is checked off, but I still have a quite a bit to do. I'd love to win Monster Jam World Finals."