NASCAR Wheel Of Fortune
July 8, 2008 | 9:25 A.M. EST
The first domino fell last week when Mark Martin announced his intention of running for one more championship in his move to Hendrick Motorsports, where he'll pilot the team's No. 5 ride.
That entry became available when Casey Mears was given his release after 2008 by team owner Rick Hendrick.
Mears' name has now been linked to several other potential open seats come next season including the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge. Several reports have current driver Ryan Newman leaving the Penske operation to join Tony Stewart as a teammate in the new CNC-Haas-Stewart operation, that would find the two-time series champion jumping into the driver/ownership ranks.
Several sources have indicated Stewart will indeed leave Joe Gibbs Racing for the new venture with an announcement scheduled in two weeks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway around the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard weekend.
Office Depot and Jack Daniels, sponsorships that will leave Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing respectively, are potential backers of the two-car Stewart/Newman Chevrolet tandem.
Mears could slide into the vacated No. 12 with David Stremme, who was hired as a Penske test driver earlier this year, also a candidate.
Richard Childress racing, which will apparently replace Jack Daniels with UPS as sponsor of Clint Bowyer's No. 07 Chevy, also has the business of filling its new fourth team in 2009.
Already with sponsor General Mills in hand, Childress is reportedly speaking with Mears, Stremme and Martin Truex, Jr., who is not a lock to return to DEI for 2009.
In fact, Sirius Speedway reported this week that DEI owner Teresa Earnhardt is considering selling the team in part or completely, leaving more questions than answers at the operation.
The U.S. Army, currently sponsoring DEI's No. 8 car that Aric Armirola will pilot full-time next year, appears headed to Team Red Bull. And the No. 01 entry for rookie Regan Smith does not have sponsorship in place for next season, meaning DEI could shrink to a two-car effort.
There's still half of the 2008 Sprint Cup Series season to run but already the picture for 2009 is coming into focus.