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Upon further review, NASCAR upholds its veto of Richard Petty's top-35 bid


Richard Petty is not happy with NASCAR's call (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   What's in a number?
   A guaranteed starting spot in the Daytona 500….or not.
   And Richard Petty has lost his bid.
   NASCAR officials have decided not to change their decision last week to take away a top-35 exemption from Petty and will let stand their call giving that exemption to Richard Childress and driver Clint Bowyer.
   Childress is only the latest car owner to make a 'merger' or 'partnership' in order to get those top-35 points and the guaranteed starting spots the first five Sprint Cup events.
   NASCAR CEO Brian France says he is willing to review the entire top-35 rules debate over the next few weeks.
   The complicated 'team number' ownership swap has become a heated debate point in the Sprint Cup garage, with teams 'selling' top-35 exemption to rivals.
   At issue with Petty was the car numbered 10 last season as a George Gillett-owned Dodge run by Patrick Carpentier and then AJ Allmendinger. Petty says he was told by NASCAR at the end of last season that, because the DEI team with car number 01 (driven by Mark Martin and Aric Almirola) was effectively disbanding, the number 10 car – which this season has been rebadged as number 44 – would be getting a top-35 exemption, even though it finished 37th in the points.
   Not too complicated, eh. But that's the way NASCAR officials have let the matter evolve over the past few years.
   Robbie Loomis, Petty's team manager the past few seasons, sat down with the rule book and said he had determined that only one of the off-season car number swaps was in fact legitimate.
   It is both curious and ironic that Bobby Ginn, who hasn't been seen in the NASCAR garage in over a year and a half, is at the heart of the latest controversy. Ginn arrived in this sport by buying the team known as MB2. He then 'merged' that team with DEI and effectively bowed out of the sport with sponsorship issues. Then last fall DEI 'merged' with Chip Ganassi and the 01 team folded. However somewhere along the line Ginn's name is still apparently on 'ownership' papers, which gave Childress the opening he just used, and which left Petty fuming.
Among the driver-teams swapping numbers in order to get top-35 exemptions: Sam Hornish Jr., David Reutimann, Bobby Labonte, Allmendinger,
   For those looking under the new paint schemes to what the numbers for those were last season, this is apparently the way it is:
   No. 10 last season is now no. 44, with AJ Allmendinger.
   No. 01 is now number 33, with Clint Bowyer.
   No. 22 is now number 77, Sam Hornish Jr.
   No. 00 is now number 47, with Marcos Ambrose.
   No. 44 is now number 00, David Reutimann.
   No. 38 is now number 96, with Bobby Labonte.
   No. 66 is now number 39, with Ryan Newman.
   No. 84 is now number 82, with Scott Speed.


   NASCAR has tweaked its restart rules, adding a red line on the fourth turn wall and giving drivers a much smaller 'window' for hitting the gas at the green. Drivers have complained about leaders restarting very, very slowly, creating a dangerous situation. Now officials say if the leader doesn't start to get up to speed by the time he reaches that new red line, they'll thrown the green anyway.

   Maybe some of these track promoters are catching on – Bruton Smith's men in California are lining up a one-day whirlwind promotional show for the Daytona 500 winner later this month, at San Francisco's Willie Mays Plaza Wednesday Feb. 18.
   That lucky driver will also take a 'victory tour' through the streets of San Francisco, from the Golden Gate Bridge down to Fisherman's Wharf and Ghiradelli Square, before winding up at AT&T Park, where the Giants play.

   And Atlanta Motor Speedway now has a 'partners' list of hotels offering discounted rooms for next month's 500. The track has more than 20 area hotels with rooms $125 or less, with the AMS Discount.

   Clint Bowyer just doesn't look quite the same, having traded his black Jack Daniels gear for Cheerios stuff. Not quite as menacing.
   And Bowyer, running now for Richard Childress' new fourth Cup team, admits it takes a bit of getting used to, seeing all these drivers in new suits with new cars and new colors: "We're trying to figure out who we can draft with, who we're comfortable with and who we're not….and we're trying to figure out 'who's in that 20 car, since it's not Tony Stewart anymore. And who the hell is the 33 guy?'
    "There's a lot of that going on.
    "My teammates too – I'm used to looking for that black-and-orange car (Jeff Burton), and now it's going to be yellow-and-black. We've got three yellow-and-black cars so it should be easy to pick us out.
    "And I don't want to get blamed for anything (Kevin) Harvick's doing out there. That's going to be the thing I'm having to worry about: Harvick ticks somebody off out there on the track and I've got to make sure they know it wasn't me."
    Bowyer agrees with his teammates that he needs more speed this season: "We have to get better in qualifying. That's something we lacked last year, and we're aware of that. We worked really hard in the off-season to find speed with our cars, and I think we found it.
    "But you never know what the competition's done, and how you're going to stack up. It's really not until after Daytona, usually by the time you get home from Vegas you've got a pretty good understanding of where you're going to be."

   The economy, yes, is on Bowyer's mind too, but flying commercial he says simply doesn't make good business sense: "That plane is a big part of what I do for all my sponsors. I can't reach out to my sponsors without that.
    "I can't do what the media expected those auto execs to do -- They had to drive a car (to Washington, D.C.), and it took more time to get there, just to appease the media."
   In fact, Bowyer says he's about ready to turn off television if the news doesn't get any better.
   "The biggest thing is not to get negative, not to get down on everything," Bowyer says.
    "It's what we make out of it. If we work hard and make good decisions as a country, I think we'll be just fine. And our sport will be no different.
    "I've been over to the dirt track in Tampa, and normally I wouldn't know anything about anything that was going on with our country, but I've been sitting in the dirt hauler the last two days watching the news, and it makes you want to put a gun to your head.
   "The world's over, if you listen.
    "There's nothing positive.
     "For four hours I watched the news, and not one thing came on that was positive. Even ESPN – everybody's doing drugs.
    "Come on, guys. Somebody's doing something good.
    "I want to encourage the media to find positive things for our sport too. There are good people doing good things out there, and working their butts off to make this sport better for all of us.
    "There are negative things going on in our sport, but there's a hell of a lot of good too."

If Richard Petty, with more than 50 years in NASCAR, doesn't understand a rule, then it's probably a bad rule. Here Petty (R) listens to Rick Hendrick (Photo: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)


Good for Bowyer. Finally

Good for Bowyer. Finally someone speaks up.

From what I read elsewhere, Ginn is having very, very serious financial problems with several of his businesses - including the big development he had in northwest NC. I'm surprised I've seen no one write about it since he was a big player in NASCAR if just for a short time.

Richard got screwed, but

Richard got screwed, but Allmendinger looks like he can race his way into the top-35.

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