Fact Or Fiction?

Have you noticed the number of "reports" flying around the racing world these days? Whether it's "sources tell us" or "reports are" starting the comments, it's hard to tell what's true and what isn't.

Let's take a deeper look at some of the juicier stories and see if we can handle the truth.

Ryan Newman to leave Roush Racing for Roush Racing's No. 6 Ford in 2006.

Wow, right out of the box we have a doozy. I'm just going to go with my gut on this one and say there is no way this will happen. While Newman has had trouble getting to victory lane of late, Roger Penske and sponsors ALLTEL and Mobil won't let this happen. The likely candidate for the Mark Martin-vacated ride is Ricky Craven, currently wheeling Roush's Craftsman truck. Sponsor Viagra won't be back in 2006, but Roush assures us there are several major sponsors waiting to come on board. The best bet is that a veteran driver like Craven will fill the bill.

Bruton Smith to buy Darlington and move date to Las Vegas.

This one unfortunately makes sense. The only way Smith will get a second date for Vegas is by purchasing a track and moving the race, just as he did with North Wilkesboro and Rockingham. Although ticket sales at Darlington have been brisk for the upcoming May 7th race, the argument again becomes attendance. Packed full, Darlington can't come close to the 120,000 that Las Vegas attracts. While the very root of NASCAR would be ripped apart should this transaction take place, it seems a very real possibility. Why there are two dates at Pocono and New Hampshire remains a mystery.

Bruton Smith to buy NHRA.

I think this will happen. Smith is hot after the drag racing series, which already competes at SMI tracks in Bristol, Las Vegas and Sonoma. Despite the addition of PowerAde sponsorship, replacing Winston a couple years ago, the NHRA is still in need of a promotional punch, something Smith and his braintrust at SMI could provide. Look for this deal to come to fruition, possibly as early as this off-season.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to Richard Childress Racing.

RCR will bring the No. 3 out of retirement next year as a marketing vehicle, something that is a sure bet to generate millions of dollars. But even with the much-publicized problems at DEI and Junior's unhappiness, plus the obvious rift between he and team owner Teresa, Earnhardt, Jr. wil be staying put for the near future. If and when the split comes, my money is on Earnhardt, Jr. starting his own team - funded by Budweiser of course.

NASCAR will suspend Shane Hmiel.

After the classless display Hmiel put on in Monday's Busch Series race at Bristol, a suspension would be the least of his troubles. Whenever you raise the ire of someone like Dale Jarrett, you know you've gone above and beyond the call of duty. Hmiel ran over four other drivers before turning Jarrett into the wall with three laps to go in Monday's rain-delayed race and should have been parked by NASCAR for rough driving long before his run-in with Jarrett. And to make matters worse, he first flipped an obscene gesture at Jarrett after DJ confronted him (as soon as Jarrett walked away I might add) and then spewed an inmature comment on FOX-TV immediately afterward ("He claimed he'd get me, so he better hurry up because he ain't got much longer," Hmiel said.) You'd think coming back from a suspension for drug use would pound some sense into Hmiel's head. And NASCAR had issues with his father Steve last year as well, escorting him out of the track and taking his hard card away for comments aimed at officials over the radio, so it appears the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Bottom line, Hmiel should be and will be out of action for a few races. Hopefully.

Busch Series to adapt "Chase for the Championship" format in 2006.

A report in last weekend's Knoxville (Tennessee) News-Sentinel stated NASCAR was considering adding a "Chase for the Championship" format to the series. That wasa flatly denied by series director Joe Balash. "I don't know where that came from," said Balash. "They just put it in there and they didn't talk to any of us." Despite the denial, I believe the "Chase" will come to the Busch Series in 2006 as NASCAR tries to juice up interest in its number two division. Sponsors are having an increasingly hard time coming up with the needed funding for this series so providing them with a bigger return on their investment, i.e. more exposure through a Cup Series-like playoff championship format, is probably not a bad idea.

Indy Racing League to drop Phoenix, add Montreal, Toronto and Road America to 2006 schedule.

Last weekend's St. Petersburg Grand Prix ushered in a new era for the former oval-only series. By all accounts, the race was a hit - both on the track and in the stands, where a crowd of more than 35,000 was in attendance. The IRL has now officially returned to what the CART Series was before the great Open-Wheel Split of 1995, and Tony George now realizes that the oval formula alone won't work. WHile I hate to admit it, the only way the series will survive, and prosper, is by bringing street races and road courses back into the mix. Phoenix drew a paltry 5,000 fans last month and will most certainly be gone from the schedule now that the trackhas a second NASCAR weekend on its slate. With Champ Car looking for more overseas events, the IRL will slowly pick off the higher profile venues like Toronto, Montreal, Road America, Portland and Laguna Seca.





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NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2005

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