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Chaos reigns in some corners of the NASCAR garage as crews and owners wrangle for jobs in a declining economy

   Ford's David Ragan (R) and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer: will Blickensderfer wind up over in the Richard Childress Chevrolet camp for 2012? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   It's the last day of the season, but time still hasn't run out for some NASCAR teams still hopeful of putting something together for the 2012 Sprint Cup season.
   Team Red Bull's Jay Frye, whose owner-sponsor Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz plans to sell the two-team operation and get out of the sport after five seasons on the tour, says it's not over till it's over.

   "We're continuing to do what we've been doing the last few months – trying to find some investors to come in and take the team into 2012," Frye says.
   "It's obviously a difficult time right now. But we know there is somebody out there who would be really interested in doing this; so we have to find him.
   "We continue to get calls, so we're optimistic this is going to happen. But we're running out of days. So something has to happen in the next two or three weeks."
    Kasey Kahne, winner last week at Phoenix for Team Red Bull, has a job of his own lined up for next year, with team owner Rick Hendrick, and crew chief Kenny Francis, Kahne's long-time teammate, will be moving to Hendrick's too.
    But Brian Vickers, whose last tour win was at Michigan two years ago, is still searching. Vickers' career was slowed by that odd illness which sidelined him through much of 2010.
   Is Vickers still part of Frye's hoped-for 2012 game plan?
   "We need a team first," Frye said. "If there's no team, we don't need a driver obviously.
   "We have to make sure the team is intact to go forward."
   Mateschitz apparently would like to sell the team and its shops and equipment. He is both team owner and sponsor, an odd pairing.
   However it is unclear how much the operation might really be worth. Without a sponsor, a crew and equipment might be hard to sell.
   "There are different scenarios that have been broached," Frye says. "We're not exactly sure how all that would work."
   If it goes to auction, Frye concedes "that's not good for the team."

    Team Red Bull's general manager Jay Frye: questions for 2012....(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Over in the Richard Childress camp, some upset crewmen are calling it 'a train wreck,' referring to the seeming chaos surrounding the Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton teams. Childress will be cutting back from four Cup teams to three for next season, but who's in and who's out?
   Childress will also be fielding three Nationwide teams and two Truck teams, certainly a full plate for any businessman.
   However the shuffling of crewmen is taking a toll.
   The only certainty at the moment is that Sprint Cup crew chief Slugger Labbe and crew will continue with Paul Menard; that comes following a few days of debate over possibly shuffling the lineup and putting Harvick in Menard's ride, with Labbe as crew chief. Menard has been outrunning Harvick lately, and that apparently hasn't set well with Harvick.
   The Shane Wilson/Childress crew, losing driver Clint Bowyer after Childress was unable to find a strong-enough sponsorship partner, is apparently going to stay intact. And it appears that either Harvick or Burton will wind up driving for the Wilson team.
   Burton's current Cup team, led by crew chief Luke Lambert, will apparently move to the Nationwide series to run with driver Elliott Sadler. That might seem an odd move considering Lambert, since taking over the team over the summer, has done quite well, for being one of the youngest (28) crew chiefs in the sport; Lambert put Burton into potentially winning positions at Talladega, Texas and Phoenix. Depending on what contract Lambert has, at least one rival Cup team has expressed serious interest in hiring him.
   Harvick's current Cup team, clearly in turmoil here, may be in the most trouble, oddly considering that team has taken Harvick into championship contention two straight season, by far the best performance by any of Childress' teams.
   Gil Martin, Harvick's crew chief during those title bids, says he is unclear how many of his team will be returning next season, and Martin doesn't appear very happy about the turn of events. Where Martin himself might wind up is unclear.
   The possible wholesale Childress reshuffling has some rivals already predicting a ragged start to 2012 for that operation.
   In a curious move, Drew Blickensderfer, crew chief for David Ragan over in the Jack Roush Ford camp the past two years, is apparently being wooed to jump to Childress' Chevrolet camp, either to work with Harvick or Burton.
   Blickensderfer: "My game plan is to work the next couple of weeks with Jack and see what we have going on. They working up till the last minute (to find more sponsorship) to run as many teams as possible.
   "Jack wants to put me someplace. He told me that. So we'll sit down in the next couple of days and figure it out."
   And those reports that Blickensderfer – who is Ron Hornaday's son-in-law, Hornaday the veteran NASCAR race and four-time Truck series champion – may be going over to the Childress Chevy camp?
    Is Blickensderfer, who led Matt Kenseth to victory in the 2009 Daytona 500, going to be Harvick's new crew chief?
    "It's nice to be mentioned," Blickensderfer says with a laugh. "There are a couple of teams I've heard in the past couple of weeks I might be going to.
   "But I have a contract with Jack right now, and I'm a pretty loyal guy, so I'm going to see if I can work it out."
    And Ragan? "He's beating the bushes hard trying to get some sponsorship dollars," Blickensderfer says. They won Daytona in July and sat on the Indianapolis Brickyard 400 pole later that month. "David's going to see if he can't keep driving the Cup car next year, and maybe some Nationwide too."


    Team owner Richard Childress (R) and Kevin Harvick (L), with crew chief Gil Martin in the middle, after winning the California 500 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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