NASCAR playing musical cars

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 30, 2005

Do you have your slide-rule out trying to keep up with who is driving where next year? The silly season turned unbelievably silly in the last week. Two more drivers lost their rides and whispers about some big name drivers grew louder.

Mike Bliss was informed that he would not return to the no. 0 CNC Haas ride in 2006. Jeff Green, current driver of the no. 43 Petty car, looks to be the heir apparent for the ride. Scott Wimmer, current driver of the no. 22 Caterpillar machine, will have the opportunity to work with Michael Waltrip at Bill Davis Racing in 2006 as his contract was not renewed.

Both of these guys will be candidates to fill some of the other mid-level rides that are expected to come open before the end of the year. Speaking of Waltrip, looks like his new car number will be no. 55.

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Both the Labonte brothers, Terry and Bobby, find themselves subject of speculation in the last week. Looks like something may be going on with Bobby and his situation at Joe Gibbs racing. He was asked very directly about his 2006 plans and Bobby was very noncommittal about his ride next year. Many people think that he may be the key to the Roush-Penske-Ganassi dance.

Labonte could be headed to the no. 42 and that move could trigger the dominoes for the other teams. Bobby’s name has also been mentioned for the recently vacated no. 43 Petty Dodge.

Terry Labonte’s name has been linked with the new Hall of Fame racing no. 98 team. That move makes a ton of sense. &uot;Texas&uot; Terry driving for two former Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. Throw in Texas Instruments as a sponsor and it’s a Lone Star stampede. Labonte would only drive the first handful of races for the team and then give way to Tony Raines.

By having Labonte drive, the team would be guaranteed a spot in each race based on Labonte’s past champion provisional status. The team’s plans are set to be announced in two weeks at Texas Motor Speedway.

Looks like Mark Martin will definitely return to drive next year. A new sponsor, AAA, was announced for the no. 6 this week and Martin was a big part of the festivities. Martin will extend his farewell tour and give way to truck series driver, Todd Kluever, in 2006.

The point’s variance among the chase drivers widened a bit after the race at Martinsville last week. Tony Stewart now holds a 15 point lead over Jimmie Johnson, 63 over Ryan Newman, 83 over Greg Biffle, and Carl Edwards is 149 back. With four races to go, any of those drivers still have a shot, but it looks like Stewart and Johnson will be battling for the title in Miami.

Atlanta Motor Speedway is the 33rd and next race on the schedule this Sunday. Bobby Labonte is the active leader with six wins at this super-fast mile and a half track. After a good run and fourth place finish last week, Labonte will be a factor this week.

Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace lead the chasers with two career wins each and Carl Edwards shocked everyone with a win in the spring race. Ryan Newman is shooting for his sixth consecutive pole and his first career win at Atlanta. I think he does both this weekend.