NASCAR 2008: Changes Ahead

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It will take a scorecard, several pens and a long memory to keep track of the several changes in store for the 2008 NASCAR season.

Topping the list is a new name for NASCAR's premier series, which will be known as the Sprint Cup in 2008. Reflecting the final merger between NEXTEL and Sprint, the name change will be the third for the circuit in the last four years.

NASCAR's number two circuit will also go by a new name in 2008 when the former Busch Series becomes the Nationwide Series. After 26 years supporting the division, Anheuser-Busch will leave and make way for insurance company Nationwide as title sponsor.

A-B's decision to change its marketing and sponsorship initiatives in NASCAR will lead to a new official beer and title sponsor of the pole award as Coors Light comes in to take over both of those roles.

And finally the familiar red Bud colors will fly on a new car and driver in 2008, when Kasey Kahne's Gillett-Evernham Motorsports Dodge takes the livery from Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The much-publicized move of Earnhardt, Jr. to Hendrick Motorsports tops the list of driver changes on tap for next year. Junior will join Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Casey Mears in the Hendrick stable and pilot a No. 88 Chevrolet carrying sponsorship from Mountain Dew, AMP energy drinks and The National Guard.

But Earnhardt, Jr. isn't the only new face in a new place next year.

Kyle Busch moves from Hendrick to join Joe Gibbs Racing and team with Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart in an M&M's-sponsored No. 18 entry. That's only one change to JGR's line-up next year which will also see the former championship-winning operation switch from Chevrolet to Toyota.

J.J. Yeley hops from JGR's No. 18 to satellite team Hall-of-Fame Racing's No. 96 Camry, replacing Tony Raines. The team will also undergo an official name change to reflect new owners Jeff Moorad, chief executive officer of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Tom Garfinkel, the chief operating officer.

Earnhardt Jr.'s departure from DEI began a major shake-up that will see veteran Mark Martin moving to the team's famous No. 8 entry, splitting time with rookie Aric Armirola in the U.S. Army-sponsored Chevrolet.

Martin Truex Jr., Paul Menard and Regan Smith return to round out DEI's 2008 line-up.

The open wheel invasion of NASCAR will continue in force next season with a number of former Indy Car and Formula One drivers following Juan Pablo Montoya's lead to stock car racing.

Last year's IRL champion and Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti will join Montoya at Chip Ganassi Racing and pilot the team's No. 40 Dodge with a sponsor yet to be named.

Three-time IRL champ and two-time Indy 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. joins Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch to give Penske racing a three-car operation next year. Hornish, Jr. will drive a No. 77 Dodge with Mobil 1 sponsorship.

Another former 500 winner and F-1 veteran will join Bill Davis Racing when Jacques Villeneuve comes on board after making a handful of stock car/truck starts in 2007.

And finally GEM will welcome Patrick Carpentier to its squad with the Canadian joining Kahne and Elliott Sadler in the three-car stable.

Long-time team owner Robert Yates has handed the reigns of his operation to son Doug beginning in 2008. Although no sponsors have been named, Yates plans on running a two-car team with David Gilliland back in the No. 38 Ford and former truck series champion Travis Kvapil piloting a No. 28 entry.

Another two-car team will sport a brand new line-up in 2008 when CNC-Haas runs Jeremy Mayfield and Scott Riggs in a pair of Chevrolets, replacing last year's tandem of Johnny Sauter and Jeff Green.

Study up race fans, there's a lot to remember before the first green flag of 2008 waves.

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