Blogs > Nascar: Beyond the Track

Find out what's really going on in NASCAR. Look here to find out why your driver really lost his ride, or the real reason those two drivers can't stand each other. Learn about the hidden motives and reasons for the things that happen in NASCAR, from the drivers to the team owners.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Said has great opportunity to prove himself on ovals

2010 has once again seen a number of transfers from teams in the top 35 that are no longer running to new operations who then automatically qualify for the first five races.

One of these cases is the move of the now-defunct fifth Roush team, #26, to a new team owned by Bill Jenkins' Latitude 43 Motorsports. The driver will be Boris Said, who has said for years that he would love to run the full season in Cup, but has never gotten a deal together and currently spends most of his time as a broadcaster on ESPN.

A road course ace who has taken many honors in that arena of racing in various series, Said has never gotten a foothold in NASCAR, perhaps due to his inability to convince team owners that he can handle all the oval races well enough.
Now, he’s in the first five races, so he’s got a shot to prove everyone wrong.… maybe.
The team is not exactly flush with cash, and Said has said, “If we have to start and park we will."

That’s too bad, and I hope they’re able to let Said compete. I’d like to see what he can do on ovals over a five-week period. And while I understand the concept of start-and-park, the sports fan in me hates it. I want people to compete, that’s the whole meaning of sports.

So here’s hoping that Said can race, and keep his team high enough in the points that he’ll be able to run the full season. If he could succeed in Cup after so many years on the outside looking in, it would be a great success story.

Will Furniture Row be success story?
Speaking of start-and parks, one can look at the Furniture Row Racing team as a better alternative. The #78 team ran part-time for a while because it couldn’t afford the whole season. The team had some great runs along the way, and now it is able to return to full-time racing. To help them out, a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing is being finalized as the season approaches, so the Furniture Row will be a sort of satellite operation for RCR, like the Stewart-Haas team is to Hendrick Motorsports. They are in the top35 in points now, as the points from the closed #07 Casey Mears car have transferred to the #78 team.

I say cheers to this team for team for being able to pull this off, and I wish them luck in 2010. Instead of just collecting a paycheck, they worked their way back and will now have a chance to show what can do on a weekly basis. I hope more teams use this model in the future, as opposed to start-and-park.

Less purse money
Just when you think NASCAR is removed from reality, something happens to change that perception.

Race purses will be cut by about 10 percent this year in all three series, a sign that the economy has hit everyone hard … even a big-time sport like NASCAR.

On the Cup level, it’s no big deal. These guys are all millionaires already, with the exception of the smaller teams. But on the Nationwide and Truck teams, this change will be felt. A lot of the smaller teams in those two series rely heavily on their race purse winnings each week, and it will be even smaller now.

Good luck to Carl Long
Bad luck seems to have followed around Carl Long since his heavily debated $200,000 fine last summer, when his motor exceeded the size limits by .17 cubic inches.

Now, racing is the least of his worries.
He was laid off when Front Row Motorsports closed its Nationwide team in November.
He was scammed out of $1,500, and has had to sell his Cup car to help pay bills.

Long has plans to be down in Daytona looking for a job this week, and I hope he is successful. He seems like a good guy who has fallen on hard times, and deserves some kind of break.

Is Sergio Pena the next Joey Logano?

Now that’s what I call a race.

I hope the first big stock car race of the year is an indication of what’s to come, because the action during the All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale was fast and furious Saturday night as Joey Logano, a ripe 19 years old, raced neck-and-neck for the lead all night against Sergio Pena, who is just 16 years old.

Now those of you who didn’t watch are probably thinking one thing right now: Who the hell is Sergio Pena?

After watching him race Saturday, I would say he’s a star of the future. He had never been to this track before, is still a junior in high school, and was able to go head-to-head against a Sprint Cup race winner for more than 200 laps. He had the better car and probably should have won the race, but wasn’t as good on restarts as Logano.

I’m willing to bet that all the major teams are putting calls in to Pena about joining a development program after his impressive debut on the big stage.
In the end, Logano was able to hold off Pena to win this race for a second time, but it was a thrill ride from start to finish … both because of the constant battle for the lead and the four-wide racing that often happened behind them.

Many other young NASCAR stars on the rise were in the race, including Matt DiBenedetto and Paulie Harraka, who managed to finish in the top 10 Saturday night.

Thinking back to the 2009 Cup season, I can probably think of a maximum dozen times out of 36+ races that I was truly impressed by the competitive nature of the racing in Cup.

I would like to see racing this exciting at the top level of the sport on a regular basis, minus the endless wrecks back in the pack that marred Saturday night’s race. That kind of competition would bring back in droves the fans that may have left the sport in recent years.

There’s no magic recipe to fix the level of competition in Cup, but they are on the right track with their new policy of letting the drivers race more this year without silly penalties. I hope they actually keep their word about this new hands-off approach.

Honestly, If given the choice of watching Jimmie Johnson lap a Cup field, or watching a bunch of late model drivers I’ve never heard of at the local track actually race, I’ll take the second option every time. So I hope that in 2010, the Cup racing action can at least come closer to the excellent level of competition you see on the lower levels.

The racing would be great, so more fans would watch. As a result, NASCAR would make more money, which is music to their ears.

Everyone would win.

I won’t hold my breath until it happens, as I’d probably end up passing out, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Another open-wheeler arrives

Brazilian racecar driver Nelson Piquet Jr. is set to run in the ARCA race at Daytona next week, driving the No. 6 Toyota for Eddie Sharp Racing.
"I'm very excited. I can't wait to reach 200mph side-by-side and rubbing paint," Piquet said, "The plans for the season are coming together really well, and I am racing with two very strong teams. I can't wait to get out on track."

The 24-year-old is the son of three-time Formula One World Champion Nelson Piquet, and comes over after a controversial run in the open-wheel series, which included a role in the infamous crash gate scandal, which involved him crashing purposely to help his teammate win a race. (In his defense, Piquet claims the Renault team had "threatened" to withdraw his contract unless he followed their instructions to crash.)

Eager to get away from the politics of F1, and with his sights now set on NASCAR, it will be interesting to see how Piquet makes the transition, if he can do it at all. He’s young, and has some talent (he finished 2nd in a Formula 1 race once, after all). But it will be a long hard road for him in the stock car world, just as it was for all the other open-wheelers who have tried over the past few years.

Starting with a championship-caliber ARCA team like ESR is a good start, though. Between Piquet and Danica Patrick, there will be a lot of excitement surrounding this ARCA race ... which usually doesn't get much attention during the blur that is Speedweeks at Daytona.

Sabates remarks about Michigan were pure stupidity

Felix Sabates knows better, which makes his words all the more disappointing.

He knows that his whole career is based on the U.S. auto industry, whose heart and soul is based in Detroit. Without it, he wouldn't be the millionaire he is today. He wouldn't have run his own NASCAR team for years, and he wouldn't still be a minority owner in Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team.

When he said in an interview earlier this week that the state of Michigan and the auto industry “is never coming back to what it used to be,” and suggested removing Michigan Speedway from the NASCAR schedule, he went way over the line of decency and respect.

This is not the time for trashing Detroit and Michigan. We nearly lost GM and Chrysler last year, and the Detroit automakers are just now starting on their way back to success after a tough year.

So I wonder was going through Sabates’ head when he said in an interview with the Charlotte Observer that: "I mean, there's nobody left in Detroit other than the police and the unemployed. I'd cut Michigan off the schedule altogether. Michigan -- I'm talking about the state -- is never coming back to what it used to be, so why go there and throw good money after bad money?"

I don’t see how this is a joke, even a bad one. Is it funny that people here are unemployed? I don’t think so.

And while it may not always be as riveting as Daytona or Bristol, MIS often puts on a great show, and it’s an insult to the people working there to suggest that the track shouldn’t be on the Cup schedule, not to mention an insult to the entire legion of auto workers, who work in the shadows of MIS in Southeast Michigan.

Beyond the MIS comment specifically, I was most insulted by Sabates’ insinuation that this region is dead and buried. hings may be tough, but GM and Chrysler are rushing to pay back their government loans, and Ford is thriving right now, having just turned its first profit in five years and not needing any government help last year.

His efforts to backtrack from the statement are lame, and sound like a forced apology.
"In an attempt at humor I made some comments about the city of Detroit and the people of Michigan that were in poor taste and that I sincerely apologize for. I have worked directly or indirectly with the auto industry for over 40 years as both a auto dealer and a NASCAR owner and it was never my intention to put down the auto industry, its workers, the city of Detroit or the state of Michigan,” the state read, continuing, “I have such respect for all of them. I am so frustrated over the challenges that this tough economy has brought to everyone in this country that I inadvertently joked about one of the areas hit the hardest. Those of us that have the luxury of getting to work in such a great sport like NASCAR owe a great deal to the city of Detroit and their support of the auto industry because without either, the sport of NASCAR would not be what it is today. In fact, Michigan International Speedway, even in this tough environment, drew an impressive 100,000 fans to the track at their last race. My sincerest apologies to anyone that I might have offended, it was certainly not my intent."
Call me crazy, but I don’t think he wrote that himself. It was more likely one of those “Sign this statement” deals cooked up by the Ganassi squad in an effort to minimize the uproar. I can’t imagine Chip Ganassi was too happy with him.

I agree with the underlying point of Sabates’ discussion, which was on the topic of contraction. I agree there are too many races, and we should remove a race from some tracks. Pocono is brutal to watch, so take one from there. Same for California, and I could probably pick a couple others. But to suggest that MIS shouldn’t even be on the schedule is beyond stupidity. I recognize that the auto industry is different than it was decades ago, but that’s no reason to trash the city and region.

The most amazing part of all this is that without Detroit and its great automotive products, Sabates would not have enjoyed the great career he has had in racing his whole life. For that reason, his insults are pure stupidity, and I hope the response to his comments makes him start to appreciate more what this state has done for him.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

No wins, but the most money

So guess which NASCAR driver made the most money last year … that’s right, Dale Earnhardt Jr. He’s ahead of Jeff Gordon on a list of the top-50 earners among American athletes, No. 11 overall with more than $20 million earned, mostly from endorsements. Gordon is No. 21, and four-time champ Jimmie Johnson didn’t even crack the list.

Sometimes, it appears, it is good to be an Earnhardt. If he can do this well without even winning, imagine how much money he might make if could actually win a bunch of races.

More bad luck for Almirola
Depending how a tribe vote goes, the Miccosukee Indian tribe sponsorship may be leaving the sport. The tribe has been a sponsor in recent years of James Finch’s Cup car, which won a race last year with Brad Keselowski. Aric Almirola is slated to drive the car this year. But if the sponsorship goes away, he may continue his run of bad luck when it comes to Cup rides, and end up back in Trucks.

Also affected are the new Truck team owned by Kyle Busch, though he can probably subsidize that effort by winning every other week. Finch’s Nationwide team, scheduled to feature driver James Buescher, would be affected as well.

At this point of the year, it’s very hard to find a sponsor, so these teams may all be in rough shape. I feel the worst for Almirola, who has proven he can drive and just can’t find a ride that will let him compete in Cup.

Condolences to Marc Davis
Before I go, I must mention the untimely death of the father of young driver Marc Davis’ father Harry, who passed away at age 62 unexpectedly this week.

"Marc Davis Motorsports has lost a father, a leader, and a true inspiration with the passing of Harry Davis,” said a statement released by the Marc Davis Racing team late Thursday. "We will always remember his courage, dedication, and the marks he left on the challenging road to make his son's dreams a reality."

Marc, who was a developmental driver with Joe Gibbs Racing, will no doubt be racing with a heavy heart this year, and I wish him well as he continues his journey in NASCAR and elsewhere.

Fans may send a note of condolence to: 136 Bridle Path Lane, Mooresville, NC 28117 or by e-mail at:

Finally, NASCAR lists banned substances in rulebook

Though the matter of whether Jeremy Mayfield used methamphetamine was one of the biggest topics last year, and based on his drug test taking antics it’s looking more and more like Jeremy may have actually been guilty, one very important issue came out of all that which is more important than Mayfield’s case … the question of what is a banned substance.

Now, as the 2010 season comes to a start, NASCAR is finally ending their pointless arguing on this point and has released a list of banned substances in the 2010 rulebook. NASCAR says that in 2009 it had just provided a list of substances to team owners, and that drew criticism from the Mayfield camp when the legal battle with NASCAR heated up.

Now that the list is out there officially for all to see, all bets are off. If you use the substances listed, you’re in deep doo-doo. This applies to crew members too, as many of them have been busted by the drug rules.

I’m glad this has been done, because I want to write about racing, not court battles with possible meth-using drivers.

Finally, cars on the track
It’s not quite NASCAR time yet, but the Rolex 24-hour sports car race will be this weekend and they will be getting out on the track at Daytona today for their first laps.
Even if it’s not NASCAR, I’m glad to see some drivers out there racing, as it’s been a long, chilly winter without it, and the NFL doesn’t really fill the void for me.

I’m quite curious to see how the NASCAR drivers do in the 24-hour race, including Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jamie McMurray, Max Papis, A.J. Allmendinger, Paul Menard, Bobby Labonte, Colin Braun, Boris Said, Bill Lester and Dario Franchitti … and may even tune in a bit.

16 hours of the race will be on TV, but I think I’ll just take in a couple to get me ready for the racing season to really kick off next week. I don’t think I could watch 16 hours of anything, even if I wanted to.

Will ACL injury hurt Hamlin?
Denny Hamlin’s love of basketball has put him in a tough spot, as he tore his ACL.

He won’t have surgery until after the season, and says it won’t affect his ability to compete. But I’m willing to bet that is a cover, and Hamlin won’t be as much of a factor as many people thought he would be.

Honestly, I didn’t think he would in the first place, but this seals the deal for me. He’ll be in the Chase, but probably in the bottom half, or in a worst-case scenario the injury could force him to miss the Chase entirely.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Morgan Shepherd begins 2010 racing ‘on faith and will’

Among the more than 50 cars who will be trying out for the Nationwide race at Daytona, a very familiar face will once again be among the crowd.
In an age of “young guns”, there will be a guy on the track who was winning Cup and Nationwide races when these young guys were being born.

Morgan Shepherd, who has nearly four decades of NASCAR experience and turned 68 this past October, is still going strong in the racing business, operating his tiny team on a shoestring budget and hoping to play David to the Goliaths of NASCAR in 2010.

Shepherd, who won 4 races and 7 poles during his time in the Cup series and has 15 wins and 5 poles in the Nationwide series, recognizes he will face the usual difficulty of trying to qualify for the races against teams that are much more well-funded. Last year, he managed to pull out five top-20 finishes, with a high of 13th at Las Vegas in the spring, despite having very few resources.

In the past, he had received financial help from drivers Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick. This year, that won’t be there for Shepherd’s Faith Motorsports team, for which he does most of the work on the cars himself.

“Last year was the first time we got any help in a good while. With the economy the way it is, Tony had to cut back this year. He told that if things turn around, he’ll try to help me again,” Shepherd said.

Also involved in this effort are Shepherd’s loyal fans, who are being given the opportunity through the “Fans for Faith” program to put their name on his car at Daytona, for a $100 donation. So far, Shepherd has raised a few thousand dollars through this fan outreach program, and there are no concrete plans about how long this plan will be pursued.

Before thinking that far ahead, one item is first on the agenda: Going to Daytona and qualifying, because the prize money is substantial there and can propel the team to future races.

“Our main goal is to go down to Daytona and get in the race. This is a good race car we qualified 10th in July,” Shepherd said confidently, adding that he purchased a car from the now shut-down #11 Nationwide team that ran well in 2009. “We know we have a good shot at it, but there are probably 55 cars going down there. If we can get in this race, it will help carry us on to other races.”

Shepherd’s team is focused on ministry, and he expressed thanks to fans who have donated and are helping him spread his message. He hopes that their contributions can propel the team to solid finishes and perhaps some sponsorship down the road.
“The fans are helping us go to Daytona and we’ll see where it goes from there,” he said. “We plan to go to California, Vegas, and hopefully we’ll have some sponsorship before long.”

If things go well, which is entirely possible if he stays out of trouble and catches some breaks, Shepherd is looking forward to being around for the Car of Tomorrow races planned for the second half of the season in the Nationwide series. He says the new car is an equalizer and a boost for smaller teams, as it is much more versatile than the current Nationwide car.

“This new car puts us more like back in the 80s. I tested the car in Richmond. It puts us more on an even keel. In 1988, I went to Daytona with a Buick we had, qualified 11th, and went to the old Richmond track in the same car and sat on the pole. You can’t do that with the current Nationwide car,” he said. “This is what the new car will help us do.”

While he doesn’t have a COT built yet, he is in talks with Chip Ganassi and other team owners about purchasing some of their older Cup equipment.
“We’re planning on being at the COT races, but we haven’t been able to build one yet. We have the sheet metal from Chevrolet,” he said. “We’re trying to come up with something with some of the other teams who are selling off some of their Cup cars.”

Whatever happens this season, there won’t be a lack of effort from Shepherd and the few people he has helping him out in 2010.

“We’re more or less doing it on faith and will,” he said. “You’ve got to have the will to do it.”

For more information on the "Fans for Faith" program, go to

Charitable offseason
During the offseason, Shepherd was busy too, working with his charity the Morgan Shepherd Charitable Fund to help out disabled children.

On December 14th, country singer and former “American Idol” contestant Kellie Pickler led the entertainment lineup as Shepherd and his charity held an event in Virginia at the PARC Workshop, a training center that teaches basic life and job skills to mentally and physically disabled youths. 2009 was the 23rd year Shepherd has gone on this charity mission trip, and he said it was a big success.

“It went great. We made 1,500 gift bags for the kids, and gave about $20,000 to the PARC Workshop,” he said. “Kellie Picker performed, and we brought in a gospel group to entertain them for a couple hours.”

Among the other NASCAR names in attendance were drivers Dennis Setzer, Johnny Chapman and Brett Rowe.

To learn more about Shepherd’s charitable efforts, visit

Monday, January 18, 2010

New rules a sign that NASCAR knows racing has to improve

You can’t move forward by standing still.

NASCAR is finally realizing this, as evidenced by its just-announced decision to switch from a rear wing to a rear spoiler, and other potential changes – including tweaks to the unnecessary bump-drafting and out-of-bounds rules at the restrictor plate tracks.

So what gives? Why is NASCAR finally acknowledging the complaints so many fans and drivers have had over the past couple years about the COT’s ability to race and the quality of the racing in general?

I think they listened because they had to do something to spice up the sport. If NASCAR wants to maintain its huge popularity or even grow in the future, they can’t have Jimmie Johnson running away with endless amounts of races and stinking up the show by taking a dozen titles in a row.

If they let Johnson take over the sport and don’t improve the quality of the racing, they will alienate even more fans, who will flee from an ever-predictable series.

It’s not all on Johnson, though, as he’s not the only reason the sport has become predictable in recent years. The COT is a work in progress, with the drivers still complaining about its lack of ability to turn, and it’s refreshing to see NASCAR finally try to do something about it.

Whether the proposed change will actually help will be tested at Charlotte Motor Speedway in March, and if it doesn’t help the idea should be scrapped.

But at least they’re trying, and that’s important to note.

The rules on the restrictor plates are even more critical to change. When they instituted the harsh rules against bump drafting last fall at Talladega, NASCAR created the unthinkable … a largely single-file race at a restrictor plate track. There were fireworks at the end, normal for a restrictor plate track, but the rest was completely embarrassing for the sport.

If they go through with removing these restrictions, NASCAR will rightfully put the policing of such behavior in the hands of the drivers. By treating them like children and not trusting them to be safe in their bump-drafting (I understand that’s kind of impossible at 200 mph, but if done right no one has to get wrecked), NASCAR created a mess in 2009. Now, the drivers must be smart about it, and NASCAR still has the right to penalize anyone acting too stupid on the track. And if drivers want the respect of their peers in the rest of the season, they shouldn’t do anything too stupid … hopefully. I say we give them a chance to prove they are capable of this.

The same scenario applies for the yellow-line rule. Without that rule, Carl Edwards' car would not have flown into the fence and injured several fans, and we could have had an exciting photo finish last spring at Dega. Get rid of this rule, and let the drivers race.

As the season nears, I’m glad to see NASCAR is not just standing still, and that these changes and possibly more are coming next week.

A new year, with new changes, could very likely improve the racing and bring new fans … or at least keep the old ones from falling asleep on Sundays.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kyle Petty’s remarks on Danica Patrick are honest, not sexist

It may be just because there’s not much news going on right now in NASCAR, but Kyle Petty is catching some heat for the comments he has made regarding Danica Patrick lately.

The latest comments came this past Saturday. Petty said that while Danica is “an incredibly talented driver” who can do great things for NASCAR if she succeeds, he wonders if she will be able to do that. In the scenario where she fails and goes back to NASCAR, Petty said: “If she's not successful, the only impact she'll have on the sport is she wasted two or three years on a car that a good driver could have been in and could have been developing.”

The reaction is quite predictable. Many people online are throwing their own insults at Petty, questioning his level of success in comparison with his father, and implying that Petty and other “good old boys” are just scared that they are going to be outperformed in NASCAR by a woman.

While I’m sure that attitude exists among some people in the garage (I recognize that in any given place, there are going to be some ignorant people), I would bet that this is not the case with Kyle. He’s just saying what everyone else is afraid to say.

While most people in the racing world may be trying to stay on Danica’s good side, Petty just said something that’s obvious from looking at the facts. Dario Franchitti, an Indycar champion, came to NASCAR and failed. Same goes for Formula 1 champ Jacques Villeneuve, and Indycar star Patrick Carpentier. Even great Indycar champs like Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya took a few years in stock cars to really get it and finish consistently well.

When you look at Danica’s stats, a grand total of 1 win in a handful of years, and compare it with these greats, there’s a very good chance that she will not succeed. It’s simple logic and statistics, nothing sexist there. She might do well, she might not. But the numbers just aren’t on her side.

He also correctly said she has no room for error, because she will be in equipment that has won races in the past.

"If she gets in that car and doesn't win races it's not the car, it's not the engines, it's not the team. They only changed one thing," Petty said.
And you case you think he’s hating again, he went on to say.”Initially, she'll have an impact on the sport. If she's successful, she'll have a huge long-term impact on the sport.”

So Kyle was just telling the truth. If Danica does well, he’ll probably be the first one to congratulate her.

All he’s saying is the truth: Danica has no stock car experience, but she’s taking over a top NASCAR ride that normally would be filled by a young up-and-coming stock driver who’s been in the business for years. If she fails, she will have taken up that seat for a number of years.

Call him whatever name you want, but I applaud Petty for being the only big name among NASCAR commentators to look at the Danica situation from a logical perspective.

As the saying goes, the truth hurts sometimes.

Almirola full-time ride in 2010
Congratulations to Aric Almirola, who will race full-time for James Finch at Phoenix Racing in 2010. He is a talented young driver who could develop into a Cup series competitor if he lands in solid equipment. This may be a stepping stone in that direction, after his career was derailed for a little while by the turmoil at DEI.
I just hope, for his sake, that the #09 car doesn’t start-and-park for most of the races this year, as that would be a waste of Almirola’s talents.

More congratulations
So Jimmie Johnson and his wife Chandra will soon be parents … Congrats to them, and I hope they have a healthy little baby who cries a lot and keeps them awake all summer and fall. I’ll take any distraction in the Johnson household during the 2010 Chase that could potentially help NASCAR fans avoid having to see a Johnson five-peat.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Keselowski family team heading South, hopes to contend in 2010

In order to make it to the top, you have to be where the action is.

That’s the case in any industry, and in the case of NASCAR you have to be in North Carolina.

That’s why the Michigan-based K Automotive Racing team has decided to head down South for the 2010 racing season, in hopes that the move will help grow the small family-run team into a Nationwide series contender.

Brian Keselowski, a Rochester Hills native who will drive the team’s #26 car for the 2010 season and also oversee its operation, said there are a few reasons for the move. For one thing, the Nationwide series will be using “Car of Tomorrow” cars in four races in 2010, requiring approval of every detail of the new cars by NASCAR – something that would be hard to do from several states away.

Then, most importantly, there is the matter of needing to find qualified employees who are familiar with what it takes to win in NASCAR.
“The main thing is trying to find enough people in Michigan who were experienced to do this work. They don’t understand what’s involved. It was difficult to find anyone committed to doing something,” Keselowski said. “I’d rather not leave Michigan, it’s my home. But I need to be down there, it’s where everything revolves around. You have to make the business work.”

The team will move from its bare-bones shop in Michigan down to North Carolina, where the K Automotive cars will occupy part of a garage once used by Cup Series team owner Travis Carter. Keselowski will be working with a new crew chief, Dave Suge Jr. After starting 2009 with just a few cars, 2010 begins with the team having 12 cars in the shop.

“It’s fully stocked, ready to go,” Keselowski said. “It’s 3 times as big as my Michigan shop. I just moved my race cars down there.”

The move is mostly completed, and Brian said he’s already working hard at lining up top-notch talent to help the team compete more in 2010.
“I was just down there last week, after Christmas. I had 25 interviews for people to work on the race team. Experienced guys, which was a big thing for me,” Keselowski said. “I’ve never had that. It was never someone who had worked on NASCAR equipment. Now I’ll have people who have done this before and understand the commitment.”

As of right now, the K Automotive team has no sponsorship, though there are some promising leads. In place of tradition sponsorship, the team will run either one or two additional cars that will likely “start and park” most races to fund the main car that Keselowski will be driving.
“Dennis Setzer is committed to running the #96 car full-time. I’m probably going to do a third car too, as a start-and-park, with either Willie Allen or Johnny Chapman driving. If I’m not going to get any sponsorship, that’s my sponsor.”

“I’m trying to work out a deal where I can have the extra cars run the full race a few times, too, and not just start-and-park,” he added.

After starting last year with the hope of just surviving and staying in the top 30 in owner’s points, the team was able to hang on and achieve that goal, meaning they have an automatic spot in the first five races of 2010, and can focus on racing well enough to maintain that for future races.

Now that the team is established, the goals this year are higher.
“I want to run a competitive team, consistently run for top-10s,” Brian said. That will be difficult until we can get major sponsors. Running good helps, but at this time and age right now, I don’t see how it’s going to automatically get you money. There’s not millions laying around for racing. You have to be lucky, too, sometimes. Running good never hurts, though.”

In addition, he wants to run a trustworthy organization, and uphold the good name his family had had in the sport since it began racing 40 years ago.
“My goal again is to pay all the bills, obviously,” Brian said. “I’m not going to owe people millions of dollars like some people. Part of the reason I survived last year is I got a lot of credit, and could pay people at a late date, because of my family’ reputation. We make sure people get paid, no matter what.”

The move down South will be a family affair, as is always the case with the K Automotive team. Brian will be living in North Carolina full-time, and his father Bob Keselowski will spend a lot of time down there helping the team out. While he is in North Carolina, Bob will stay with Brian’s brother Brad, who rose to fame while driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team in Nationwide the past two seasons and made the jump to drive in Cup for Roger Penske in 2010.

Brian said it will good for his brother to have family around.
“One good thing is my dad’s going to stay with him when he’s down there, and he hasn’t had a lot of family around him in recent years,” Brian said.

But just because they’ll now be in the same state, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll see his brother more often.
“We’ll be around each other more, but he’ll be busy running full-time in two series and I’ll be busy running my team basically by myself,” Brian said.

Last year was a struggle, and Brian took himself out of the car for a while when things weren’t going so well. During that time, a talented but out-of-work driver named Michael McDowell put in some impressive performances for K Automotive. In his efforts to make ends meet, he also leased the car number out a few times to another driver, Kevin Conway, who wanted a guaranteed starting spot in a few races.

“It got to the point when I was struggling to find people to do what I needed to do. I could work on the car or drive, but I couldn’t do both. It worked out McDowell was looking for a ride,” Brian said. “We did not pay him to drive the car. He was hoping to stay up in the points, so it worked out. He finished in the top 10 a couple times. I had to do what I had to do to pay the bills. We did that to survive. Same with the Conway deal.”

While he was glad to see the team do well with another driver, Brian is amped up to get back behind the wheel and hit the track in 2010.
“I can’t wait to get back to work,” he said.