NASCAR Busch East / NASCAR West Series News and Notes
Busch East is Turning Into The Hot Spot for Driver Development
EAST: MORE DRIVER DEVELOPMENT
Rusty Wallace, Inc. has joined the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series as a driver development team. New RWI driver Chase Austin will race HomeLife Communities Dodge Chargers for the team. In all, seven NASCAR national series teams will field cars for nine driver development prospects in the NASCAR Busch East Series in 2007. Eight of the nine are rookies to the series.
Chase Austin sits with his father. (ChaseAustin.com Photo)
The 13-event NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series opens the 2007 campaign with Greased Lightning 150 at the historic Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C. April 28.
Other major NASCAR teams establishing new NASCAR Busch East Series driver development programs include Dale Earnhardt Inc. with Andy Santerre Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Ginn Racing, Wood Brothers/JTG Racing, Ken Schrader Racing Inc., and Fitz Motorsports.
Here is a look at the developmental drivers and teams expected to run the full NASCAR Busch East Series schedule:
• Chase Austin (Rusty Wallace, Inc.): Austin has more than 100 wins in go-karts, dirt and asphalt Late Models and Sprint Cars. He originally caught the eye of the late Ricky Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports in 2004.
• Jonathan Cash (Wood Brothers/JTG Racing): Cash advanced through NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions at South Boston (Va.) Speedway starting in 2002. He won Late Model Rookie of the Year and Most Popular Driver Awards with fourth in track points in 2005. He repeated the points performance in 2006.
• Marc Davis (Joe Gibbs Racing): Drove for JGR in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in Limited Late Models at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway in 2006. A Drive for Diversity graduate, he scored six wins and finished third in Hickory divisional points in 2006.
• Joey Logano (Joe Gibbs Racing): Logano topped the GM Racing Driver Development Evaluation program in 2006, which led him to the Gibbs NASCAR Busch East Series team in 2007. He previously raced in several forms of asphalt Late Models, and began career in Quarter-Midgets at age seven.
• Maxime “Max” Dumarey (Fitz Motorsports): The 2007 stock car racing rookie previously competed in European sports car road racing. He drove in Formula Renault 1600, Porsche GT3 RS and GT3 996, and Formula Renault 1.6 starting in 2004.
• Jeffrey Earnhardt (Dale Earnhardt Inc. with Andy Santerre Motorsports): Earnhardt competed in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Limited Late Model Division at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va. in 2006. He is the grandson of the late seven-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt.
• Jesus Hernandez (Ginn Racing): A third-year Drive for Diversity participant. He competed in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Models at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway in 2006 with a record of three poles, two wins, four top-fives and seven top-10 finishes in 10 starts.
• Jamie Hayes (Ken Schrader Racing Inc.): He has competed in NASCAR Whelen All-
American Series Late Models at North Carolina’s Concord Motorsport Park and Hickory Motor Speedway, South Boston (Va.) Speedway and Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway. He drove Legends cars at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in 2002.
• Ruben Pardo (Fitz Motorsports): With FitzContreras Racing in 2007, he is the only developmental driver of the group with prior NASCAR Busch East Series experience. Pardo was the 2006 NASCAR Busch East Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year. He was the first Mexico native to win a NASCAR series Rookie of the Year Award and a race (NASCAR Busch East Series at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut), and was first driver ever to win with the new Grand National “spec” engine; and with a Dodge in the NASCAR Busch East Series competition.
WEST: HDNET SET TO START OFF SEASON
HDNet will kick off its live coverage of the NASCAR Grand National Division in 2007, with a high definition broadcast of the Allstate Texas Thunder 150 from Thunder Hill Raceway in Kyle, Texas, on March 31. HDNet coverage will include seven consecutive races from the West Series, followed by seven consecutive races from the NASCAR Grand National, Busch East Series. Bonus coverage of two combined races, featuring drivers from both series, will be featured in May.
J.D. Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing Photo)
EAST: GIBBS KNOWS THE DRIVER'S SEAT
J.D. Gibbs is President of Joe Gibbs Racing, and responsible for a three-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship organization that this year includes three NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams, two NASCAR Busch Series teams, and two new NASCAR Busch East Series teams.
Gibbs may have a better understanding of the competitive nature of the series. As a 30-year-old driver, Gibbs raced full-time NASCAR Busch East Series in 1999. He won a few “rookie of the race” awards, but didn’t crack the top-10 in 16 starts. He finished 19th in points.
“I had the opportunity to give it a shot,” Gibbs said, “but the reality of it is those guys were a lot better than I was. As drivers, they made it look easy, but it’s actually pretty hard.”
Gibbs has hired a pair of 16-year-olds, Marc Davis and Joey Logano to drive the Joe Gibbs Driven Racing Oil Chevrolets, and he expects them to enjoy success far beyond those of his own racing days. Is that putting a little pressure on his new hires?
“Pressure is part of this kind of lifestyle, and they’ve made it through a lot of pressure and responded to it well so far in their racing careers. Drivers seem to be getting younger and younger and better and better. We think we’ve got two of the best of them,” Gibbs said.
The “Gibbs Kids” will drive cars powered by the new cost-efficient “spec” engine that is being phased into competition. For now the bodies are steel and the chassis are from Gibbs fleet of national series cars that are being phased out with the advance of the “Car of Tomorrow” in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. Car specifications for the NASCAR Busch East Series of today are more consistent than during the time he was driving Gibbs said, pointing out that back then, there were “North” cars and “South” cars fielded by teams trying to attain parity.
“Today the cars have all the same basics so everyone is competitive,” Gibbs said. “The schedule has a good mix of tracks, and it’s going to be a good feeder system. We think Marc and Joey have a pretty good ‘gift’ for driving race cars. They have a passion for what they do. We hope they can go up the ladder in NASCAR some day.”
WEST: RAMIREZ RETURNS
Jose Luis Ramirez of Mexico City plans to return full-time to the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series this season as the driver of the No. 30 Pro30.com/Bad Boy Power Drink/ Red Line Oil/Rayere Dodge. Ramirez, who finished 10th in the championship standings as a rookie in the West Series in 2004, will be driving for car owner Pam Lippard, with Phil Bonifield serving as crew chief. Ramirez also raced in the first four West Series races in 2005, as well as competing in the inaugural NASCAR Busch Series race in Mexico that year.
EAST: WALLACE CONFIDENT IN CHOICE
Rusty Wallace, the 1989 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion, believes his choice of Austin is a solid one. While Wallace has never lacked confidence in his own abilities, when he expresses that confidence in someone else, especially a 17-year-old from Kansas, people take notice.
“Chase just wants to focus on driving for RWI and learning what it takes to win races at
a higher level,” Wallace said. “We’re going to give Chase everything he needs to do just that. I really believe he’s going to have a great year; if it all goes as well as we hope, we could be potentially looking at Steve (his youngest son Steve Wallace) having a NASCAR Busch Series teammate in 2008.
“When we started looking at ways to grow our team, NASCAR brought Chase to our attention,” Wallace said. “We ended up inviting him to a test at Greenville-Pickens Speedway and we were all very pleasantly surprised at how well he did. I believe Chase has a real future in this sport. He’s not only fast, but he understands the sponsorship and public relations side of things, which is very unique for someone his age.”
WEST: THIRD BMR DRIVER IS ANNOUNCED
West: Third BMR driver named: Eric Richardson has been named to drive the No. 20 GreenFrogRoasting.com Chevrolet for Bill McAnally Racing in the first five races this season. Richardson of Bakersfield, Calif., won the rookie title in the late model class at his hometown track of Mesa Marin Raceway in 2002. He went on to win the championship in that class in the final year of operation before the high-banked half-mile track closed at the end of the 2005 season.
EAST (AND WEST): AFTER ONE MORE PITCH, WEST CHAMP HEADS EAST
Eric Holmes, 32 of Escaston, Calif., the 2006 NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series champion, joins the NASCAR Busch East Series in 2007, but he has one more “pitch” to make in Tucson, Ariz., on Friday, March 23. Holmes will be the guest of honor for the Arizona Diamondbacks spring training game with the Kansas City Royals on Phoenix International Raceway Day. The game will be played at the Diamondback’s spring training field, Tucson Electric Park at the Pima County (Ariz.) Kino Sports Complex. Holmes will throw out the first pitch after receiving some pointers from Cy Young Award winners Randy Johnson and Brandon Webb. Holmes will also take batting practice, meet fans and sign autographs throughout the day. The PIR show-car and racing simulator will both be on exhibit outside the ballpark so fans buying tickets can get a closer look before, during and after the game.
The next stop for Holmes will be back to Phoenix International Raceway for the Phoenix 150 NASCAR West Series race on April 19. After that, it’s on to the season opener for the NASCAR Busch East Series at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C., April 28.
Joey Logano comes to Busch East with a winning record int he USAR Pro Cup Series.
Ramirez has NASCAR Nextel Cup experience too - he's shown here at Sears Point in the #52. (Pro30.com Photo)