2005 NASCAR season is here

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 14, 2005

Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald

The 2005 NASCAR season is upon us! The season kicked off with the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona last night, followed by a full week of testing, races, and special events.

All three series – Nextel Cup, Busch, and the Trucks – will be in action over the next week leading up to the legendary Daytona 500 race next Sunday, where Dale Earnhardt Jr. will b. It should be an enjoyable week for anyone who follows racing.

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In a drawing held earlier this week, defending race winner Dale Jarrett drew the magic number and will begin the Shootout on the pole, with Greg Biffle on the outside. After the last couple of years’ performances, Jarrett is due for a good season .

Rumors are already surfacing about Rusty Wallace’s replacement in the Number Two Miller Lite Dodge for the 2006 season. 2005 will be Rusty’s final season as a full time driver and that ride will be coveted by many of the top name drivers. Initially, it looked like Jamie McMurray was in line to take over the ride. However, Chip Ganassi is not so anxious to let McMurray go.

The latest name to pop up is Kevin Harvick. If Harvick’s season isn’t better in 2005 than it was last year, then Richard Childress might not put up a fight to keep Harvick.

NASCAR is quickly becoming an international sport. First, Toyota entered their Tundra truck into the Craftsman Truck Series and will soon follow with entries into the Busch and Nextel series. This year the Busch series has a road-course race scheduled in Mexico City. Word is that Honda is considering entering NASCAR competition. With the introduction of the Ridgeline, Honda’s first truck, entry into the truck series shouldn’t be too far in the future.

Like it or not, Toyota and Honda could change the face of stock car racing. Their technology and engineering is second to none and both companies have deep pockets and are willing to do whatever it takes to win.

The string of retirement announcements continues as Ken Schrader announced this week that 2006 will be his last as a competitor on the NEXTEL Cup circuit. Schrader is a guy that will race at any time, anywhere, driving anything and is a guy that I always admired.

His announcement will not and has not gotten as much attention as Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, and Terry Labonte, but Schrader has had some success over a long, steady career.

Hope you enjoy the upcoming week filled with racing. The Gatorade Duel races are Thursday afternoon to set the field for the Daytona 500. Friday night, the Craftsman Truck series kicks off its season and the Busch series starts next Saturday afternoon. Finally, the big race is on Sunday, Feb. 20.

Next week, I will give you my pick to win the Daytona 500. So sit back and enjoy the festivities and I will talk to you next week.

Jeff Findley is the publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald,.