Musical Chairs

It's only July and we're at the halfway point of the NEXTEL Cup season, but we already know something about 2007. That's how crazy the world of NASCAR's musical chairs has become.

With Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin announcing they'd retire at the end of the season, it was a given that two prime seats in the Cup garage were going to be open. And is usually the case in the sport's game of "silly season," once one domino starts to fall it sets off a chain reaction.

Jamie McMurray had been rumored to be a part of the madness and sure enough it became official this week that he'd leave Ganassi Racing to take over the Roush Racing No. 6 car being vacated by Martin.

But it's not that simple. McMurray is still under contract to Ganassi through the 2006 season and won't be able to take over his new ride for a season-and-a-half.

Uncomfortable.

While McMurray has put on a good face, it's obviously created a touchy situation.

"I have signed a multi-year agreement with Roush Racing to drive the No. 6 car beginning with the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season," the statement released by McMurray reads. "However my focus and commitment remains with the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline/Home 123 team as we bid for the Chase for the Championship."

Well and good. But lets face it, unrealistic.

Ganassi has said he has no plans to let McMurray out of his final contract year. But it's hard to imagine either car owner or driver wants to enter a brand new season in 2006 with a lame duck status hanging over their heads, let alone finish this season.

Odds are Roush will buy out the final year of McMurray's contract, leaving Ganassi to continue retooling his team, which already has a new face in David Stremme taking over for Sterling Marlin next year.

But if things do stay intact as all parties are currently reporting, what happens to the Roush No. 6 ride next year? Does Ricky Craven, currently driving the team's Craftsman Truck entry, get the call to pinch hit back in Cup for a year? Does Martin then go over to the truck for 2006, making a few special starts in the Cup Series ala Terry Labonte's plan? Or does Roush find another replacement driver (Sterling Marlin?) to fill the seat on a one year deal?

Stay tuned. This story is only going to get crazier as the summer rolls on.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2005

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