Dallenbach Dumping Cup?

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -– Winston Cup driver Wally Dallenbach says he’s very close to leaving the stock-car ranks behind to drive in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series for team owner John Barnes at Panther Racing in 2001.

After months of uncertainty surrounding the future of the No. 75 Ford for Galaxy Motorsports team, Dallenbach has given current team owner Darwin Oordt until Wednesday to find a sponsor or he’s headed elsewhere to race.

“I’m a very realistic person, and I know everybody is trying to be positive,” Dallenbach says. “But I know we’re not going racing without sponsorship. Darwin is not going to fund this thing out of his own pocket. As of today, we don’t have a sponsor and we’re testing at Daytona on Monday and Tuesday.”

Dallenbach says a poorly-managed sponsorship deal with a myriad of sponsors fell through at the end of last year and a replacement has yet to be found for 2001.

“Right now, my best situation is in the IRL,” Dallenbach says. “We’ll know more soon. I’ve just got to look out for myself and do what I think is best for me. If this deal falls through, I’m going to look at some of the other opportunities I have.

“This week is going to be the week we figure out whether we’re going racing or the doors close. We’re going to do the (Ford) test at Daytona on Monday and Tuesday, and after that I have no idea. I’ll stay here (in NASCAR) if I can get in a situation where I think I can be competitive, but I’m not going to keep doing this the way I’ve been doing it.”

Dallenbach, 45, competed last year in what he thought was the first year of a three-year contract with Galaxy Motorsports. Dallenbach finished 34th in the standings with an Oordt team that failed to qualify for four races.

“I was led to believe we had a deal for a three-year sponsorship, and last year was for building the program up,” Dallenbach says. “That’s not exactly what took place. So right now, we’re basically back in the same position we were last year with no sponsorship and everybody has their hands in the air because they don’t know where to go. I told our team manager to make sure all the guys on the team knew what was going on.”

According to Dallenbach, he does have somewhere to go.

“They know my situation,” Dallenbach says of Panther Racing, which is owned by five businessmen including Barnes and NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh. “We’re kind of giving it until this week before we really do anything.

“John (Barnes) and I are good friends, and there is a possibility there. I didn’t call him and he didn’t call me. It was just a thing of, ‘If things don’t work out, you can come here and I’ll put you in equipment that will be up front.’

“I’ve got some other opportunities in other places with first-class teams that can win races tomorrow. When it comes down to it, that’s what I’m interested in doing. As much as I love NASCAR and Winston Cup racing, it’s not worth being miserable. So if I can get in a situation where I can be competitive, I want to stay. But it’s got to be that opportunity.”

With no solid rides open for 2001, it looks like Dallenbach isn’t going to get that wish granted. Still, Dallenbach takes some of the blame in going to the Oordt team he knew had a couple of years of work to be competitive.

“Darwin is a great person and great friend, but he came in here with no idea what this business was like,” Dallenbach says. “We all did our best to protect him from some of the things that could happen, things that did end up happening as far as the sponsorship situation. We were starting to put our eggs in one basket because a sponsor kept telling us it was going to happen. When they told us it wouldn’t happen, we were left scrambling. I think Darwin got a pretty big education this year.”

Because of his commitment to the Galaxy team, Dallenbach says he missed out on a lot of different prime Winston Cup rides he had the opportunity to go to earlier in the season.

“When I was presented with a three-year deal, I thought it would be a great opportunity,” Dallenbach explains. “I didn’t realize a lot of sponsorships were one-year deals with options. That wasn’t how it was explained to me. If I would have been on the market this year, I’d be in a different situation. I wouldn’t be looking for a ride if I’d have followed up on some of the conversations I had four or five months ago.”

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