Switching seats

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 13, 2005

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

If you don’t know what a gander is, look for the man in the hat on pit road. Several weeks after rocking the NASCAR world and breaking an unspoken gentlemen’s agreement among most car owners, Jack Roush is feeling the sting of having Kurt Busch choose to leave his stable of drivers. Roush announced a month ago that Jamie McMurray had agreed to a contract to drive the no. 6 car beginning in the 2007 season. As far as I can remember that had never happened before, and it seems like Jack has started a trend.

Chip Ganassi was put into an awkward situation by having a lame duck in McMurray for 2006 and he continues to hold firm that he will not let McMurray out of his contract next year. Kurt Busch is under contract with Roush for 2006 also, but has asked to be released from that obligation to move to the Penske no. 2 ride being vacated by Rusty Wallace. Business is about to pick up. If Ganassi relents and releases McMurray to move to the no. 6, Roush would look like a total hypocrite if he doesn’t allow Busch to move. Even though a decision on Busch has not been made and Ganassi is adamant that McMurray will back driving the no. 42 next year, I still think that once the smoke clears, McMurray will be in the no. 6 and Busch will be in the no. 2.

By the way, Busch happens to be the defending Nextel Cup champion and a strong contender to defend his title. What is going on at Roush? What makes the no.2 ride so much more attractive that Busch’s current situation?

When is the last time Penske won a NASCAR championship? The next one will be his first. Roush is working on three in a row and most likely will have a 40% chance of winning that third consecutive title with four drivers in the chase. Money talks and I suspect that Busch’s paycheck will take a major boost by moving to Penske. By the way, how do you think Miller Brewing Company feels about having a driver named Busch representing them?

There are still some huge holes to fill for the 2006 season. The picture should become clearer over the next few weeks. It looks like Ganassi is on the verge of adding a fourth team and bringing Reed Sorenson up from the Busch ranks to drive the no. 41 Target car and moving that car’s current driver, Casey Mears, to the new no. 39 Home 123 sponsored car. Michael Waltrip’s plans are still up in the air. Since Joe Gibbs Racing fired Jason Leffler this week, Waltrip’s name has been connected to that vacancy and the Toyota rumblings are still out there.

DEI is still trying to sign a new driver for the no. 15 and keep NAPA as a sponsor at the same time. Supposedly, the guy that DEI is after is a top-notch driver and will raise some more eyebrows. Ray Evernham is still looking for a driver for his new no. 10 Valvoline ride and Robert Yates is still considering a third team for next year. So, many questions remain in what is shaping up to be the most active year for driver movement in my memory.

Watkins Glen is the next stop on the circuit. The usual cast of road course ringers will be entered into the field including Ron Fellows, Boris Said, and Johnny Miller. These guys do well most of the time in these races, but have never won and I don’t think that will change this week. Tony Stewart will be gunning for his fifth win in seven races and will be a factor and Jeff Gordon will try to change his luck and make the chase with a win. My pick to win this week is Mark Martin.

Race coverage begins at 1:00 on NBC. Enjoy the race.