Yates minus one

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 13, 2006

I mentioned last week in this space that Toyota could change the way business in done in NASCAR, that change begins this weekend. The silly season shake-up begins and the dominoes could start falling.

Michael Waltrip is scheduled to announce his teammate driving the Toyota Camry next season Saturday before the race at Darlington. Dale Jarrett will be announced as that teammate to Waltrip.

This is a big catch for Waltrip and Toyota. Jarrett brings instant creditability and face value to the new team. The fact that he also brings a ast champions provisional is not too bad either.

Even though Waltrip has indicated that he has sponsorship for both of his Cup teams and both Busch teams next season, the question still remains if UPS follows Jarrett or sticks with Robert Yates Racing.

Much like NAPA with Waltrip, UPS has tons of money invested in Jarrett and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them follow Dale to his new team.

Now, who drives the no.88 next season?

To many race fans’ delight, Ward Burton’s name has been connected to that ride, as has Casey Mears’. I think much depends on UPS’ decision as to who takes the wheel of that ride.

Yates might also have the no. 38 to deal with. Whispers are out there that Elliott Sadler is looking at alternatives for next season.

Sadler is signed through 2007, but does that really mean much? The other Toyota start-up team, Red Bull Racing, is reportedly pursuing Sadler. I think Sadler could become as marketable as anyone on the track, the guy can drive and sell product.

Much like last season, the driver movement will be fun to watch as the year progresses.

Jimmie Johnson continues to hold the points lead after Richmond last week, holding a 55 point advantage over Tony Stewart. Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, and Kevin Harvick fill out the top-five. Dale Jr. moved up two spots to sixth after his win.

Sixteen races remain before the chase field is set. Some big named drivers would be well served to start putting up some solid finishes, or risk not becoming eligible to compete for the championship.

Kurt Busch, despite his win at Bristol, currently sits in 18th spot, Greg Biffle is in 20th, and Ryan Newman is wallowing in 23rd position.

Many people would have bet the farm that those three would be make the chase, and they still might, but the stars better begin aligning for them to have a shot.

For the 104th time since 1950, a NASCAR cup race will run in Darlington Saturday night.

The &uot;Lady in Black,&uot;for 54 years home to the annual Labor Day race, began a new tradition last season, the Saturday night race on Mother’s Day weekend.

Many people were skeptical about fan attendance and television ratings for this race last year, but both were through the roof. Let’s hope NASCAR paid attention and keeps this race in Darlington for year to come.

Greg Biffle is the defending champion of this race and Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with six wins at this historic track. Incredibly, Terry Labonte will be making his 54th and final start at Darlington. Terry has completed over 15,000 laps around this track.

My pick to win this race is Jeff Burton. He has been very competitive all year, right on the verge and has won here twice before. Look for the Hendrick cars to be strong as well this weekend.

Race coverage begins Saturday night at 6:30 on FOX and the green flag will drop a little before 7:00. Enjoy the race and remember to tell your mother that you love her.