Racingones Garage Talk

Now that Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s plans for 2008 and beyond are clear, the rest of the dominoes for the 2008 NEXTEL Cup season can start to fall into place.

With several teams eyeing the addition of cars to their stable as well as others who are disappointed with their current line-up, there will no doubt be plenty of movement from now until the 2008 Daytona 500.

Here are some of the latest possibilities making the rounds around the NASCAR garage area:

While JGR tries to extend Tony Stewart's contract to 2011 and continues to watch the successful development of Denny Hamlin, there are still questions around the team. Most notably is the status of J.J. Yeley, who despite winning his first career pole at Michigan two weeks ago is not a sure bet to remain in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries entry. Team officials see more of an upside to Aric Armirola, even though the young driver was pulled in favor of Denny Hamlin in last week's Milwaukee Busch race. Although there was a rumor Almirola was headed to Ginn Racing in 2008, a more likely scenario is he replaces Yeley in the No. 18. And the odds are starting to swell that JGR makes the switch to Toyota next season as well.

With Earnhardt, Jr. off the market, Kyle Busch is now the free agent prize and has been linked to just about every team in the garage. The hottest rumor was Ray Evernham's pursuit of Busch as a catalyst for his struggling operation. Evernham would like to add a fourth team pending sponsorship, but the so far disastrous tenure of Elliott Sadler in the No. 19 Dodge has led to speculation Busch would be a replacement candidate. Sadler is said to be very unhappy with the situation and Evernham may be more than happy to release the Virginian if Busch becomes a viable option.

With Martin Truex, Jr. firmly in place with a sponsorship/contract extension, the team continues to look at options to fill the vacated No. 8 car. Paul Menard will stay put, for at least next season, and although he denied he was looking to leave Roush Fenway only a few days ago, Greg Biffle's name continues to be linked with DEI.

Bobby Ginn wanted to add Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to his stable very dearly, but that of course didn't pan out. Now the upstart Ginn team has to refocus its efforts on re-building its line-up for 2008. Mark Martin's plans for 2008 are still not certain, leaving Ginn with a quasi-open seat in the No. 01 Chevrolet. Sterling Marlin will be leaving to take a part-time gig in a second car with the Furniture Row team and Regan Smith may not be ready to step into a full-time Cup ride. Joe Nemechek will most likely return but for a team that came close to winning the Daytona 500 and was a possible frontrunner to land Junior only a month ago, Ginn has much to figure out.

It's no secret Toyota is courting other teams in hopes of replacing MWR as its flagship operation. If Gibbs does become the main Toyota camp, MWR will most likely shrink to two cars. There are some reports Dale Jarrett will opt for a part-time driving/broadcasting schedule in 2008 anyway and unless Waltrip somehow rights the ship in the season's second half, NAPA sponsorship may find its way to another team with Roush Fenway a possibility.

Although rumored to be on Toyota's wish list as well, Penske Racing will stay in the Dodge camp. However sponsorship concerns may shape the future of the team. Ryan Newman's sponsor ALLTEL will be watching the outcome of the NASCAR/AT&T battle closely as the company is also the target of a possible buyout/merger, similar to the Cingular/AT&T situation. And if Sam Hornish, Jr. shows any promise this season in the remainder of his ABC program, Penske would field a third Cup car next year with Mobil 1 backing.

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