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NASCAR Season Preview: Smaller Teams and Part-Timers

Photo credit: Ned Leone

Not every Sprint Cup team came together in time this offseason to warrant a full preview leading up to the Daytona 500. In fact, a lot of the series’ smaller teams have just finished putting the pieces together in their bids to seize a lower top 35 spot in owners’ points. Many of these teams have been start-and-park outfits in the past, but the majority are attempting to run the full schedule this year.

The newest addition to this list is BK Racing, made up of a group of former TRG Motorsports investors and Burger King franchisees, which has purchased Team Red Bull assets in order to field cars for Landon Cassill and Travis Kvapil (and David Reutimann in the Daytona 500 in Kvapil’s place). They’re guaranteed to make the first five races of the season, after which they hope to remain in the top 35 for the balance of the season.

Other full-time teams include David Stremme and Inception Motorsports, who move up to full-time status (save the road courses) after a half-season run last year; J.J. Yeley and Robinson-Blakeney Racing, moving up from the Nationwide Series with America-Israel Racing sponsorship; Timmy Hill and Rick Ware Racing, who will run for Rookie of the Year after Daytona (where Mike Wallace will fill in, as Hill isn’t approved to run superspeedways yet); Joe Nemechek and NEMCO Motorsports; and Michael McDowell and Phil Parsons Racing, which will partner with Dusty Whitney and Mike Curb in an effort to run full races in Fords this year after years of starting and parking.

A handful of other teams will run the full season while campaigning multiple drivers. Frank Stoddard’s FAS Lane Racing will field Terry Labonte in the Daytona 500, Ken Schrader in nine races with Federated Auto Parts sponsorship, and other drivers on a race-by-race basis. R3 Motorsports will move up from the Nationwide Series and split its ride between Robert Richardson III and Scott Riggs. Michael Waltrip will run superspeedway races and the Kentucky event for his own team, driving the #55 when Mark Martin is off, and six races remain unfilled for that team. Front Row Motorsports returns with a third car this season, rechristened the #26; Tony Raines has locked it into the Daytona 500 field, but who will drive the car beyond Daytona is undetermined.

Plenty of other drivers will attempt part-time schedules. Scott Speed has moved to Leavine Family Racing, where he will attempt 16 races in their #95 Ford. Tim Andrews, son of longtime Sprint Cup crew chief Paul, will attempt 10-12 events in a #19 Ford for Go Green Racing, one of many Nationwide Series teams moving up. Brendan Gaughan will drive the #33 for Richard Childress Racing in four of the first five races of the season, as Childress attempts to keep the former full-time team in the top 35 and sell off the owners’ points; Austin Dillon will also drive one race later in the year with American Ethanol sponsorship. Turner Motorsports moves up to the Sprint Cup level at Daytona in July, as Wal-Mart fields a car celebrating their 50th anniversary with Bill Elliott behind the wheel.

And of course, plenty of drivers have landed one-off rides for the Daytona 500. Waltrip will attempt the race for Hillman Racing, formed by ex-Germain Racing manager Mike Hillman, in its #40 Toyota. Kenny Wallace and Nationwide Series team RAB Racing will attempt the race with American Ethanol sponsorship. Childress will field Elliott Sadler, fresh off a runner-up performance in the Nationwide Series, in a Kroger-sponsored #33 Chevrolet. Elliott will drive a second car for NEMCO Motorsports, hoping to either race his way in or use a past champion’s provisional.

– Chris Leone

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