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Notebook: Gibbs knew withdrawal was inevitable

June 02, 2011, Dave Rodman,

Pastrana-Waltrip Racing moves to a part-time racing schedule for rest of 2011

Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs said Wednesday he knew pulling the proverbial plug on one -- if not both -- of his leading Nationwide Series teams was inevitable due to a sponsorship shortfall.

After withdrawing JGR's No. 20 Toyota entry from Saturday's STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, despite that car's 15-point lead in the Nationwide Series' owners' points, Gibbs said he was thankful the ride -- which includes JGR's No. 18 Toyota sitting in second in the owners' standings -- had lasted 13 races.

"Both cars [18 and 20] are kind of in the same boat. We're just going to go as far as we can and as long as we can go and just kind of see where it goes."


"The reality of it is, we kind of started the season and we didn't think we'd make it this far, so it's kind of neat that some partners and drivers have stepped up to keep us going," Gibbs said. "We figured it would be a deal where we'd have Brian [Scott, who drives the team's No. 11 Toyota] for the whole year, and we figured some combination [of races] for Kyle [Busch], Denny [Hamlin] and Joey [Logano].

"We had a good part of the season [sponsored] for the 18 and the 20 -- but not all of it. We were able to put some stuff together with some younger guys, to keep going, and we've gone a lot further than we thought we'd have gone; but it's gotten to the point, now, where we just don't have the partnerships lined up."

While Gibbs said JGR had entered all three of its cars for the series' 15th race, in two weeks at Michigan International Speedway, there was also a great uncertainty moving ahead.

"We're still going to run a lot with the 20," Gibbs said. "But right now, we don't have the money lined-up to go the whole way and we were fortunate and thankful to get as far as we did -- running the whole year.

Joe Gibbs Racing

No. 20 season results
PhoenixJ. Logano6
Las VegasD. Hamlin7
BristolJ. Logano5
FontanaJ. Logano7
TexasJ. Logano4
TalladegaJ. Logano2
NashvilleJ. Logano4
RichmondD. Hamlin1
DarlingtonD. Hamlin2
DoverJ. Logano13
IowaD. Herring12
CharlotteJ. Logano11

"Both cars [18 and 20] are kind of in the same boat. We're just going to go as far as we can and as long as we can go and just kind of see where it goes. We've kind of been blessed to get where we are with the 20 and the 18, and they've got some more [sponsorship] lined-up, but there's still some empty races that we'd love to fill -- but we don't have to fill."

JGR has won three consecutive Nationwide owners' championships, the last two with the No. 18 and the first, in 2008 with the No. 20 after finishing second to Richard Childress Racing's No. 29 in 2007.

"We would have loved to get another owners' championship, but it kind of has to make sense," Gibbs said. "It's definitely possible [the 18 could come to the same crossroads]. We've got some neat partners kind of filling-in here and there, we've got [Michael] McDowell's gonna fill-in some stuff for us.

"The hope is we can run that [18] car the whole season, but in reality we started the season and we didn't think either one of them would get this far. You don't want to run races just to run races -- you want to run them to have a shot to win and to make the whole program better.

"We kind of felt like there's no sense just trying to go and be out there to be out there. You want to go out there with a purpose, and we have some great young guys who we're training and working with. We had [Drew] Herring in there, we've got [Kelly] Bires in there [and] we've had McDowell in there -- guys that we're excited about, to kind of grow."

Between the two leading cars, JGR has six victories in 13 races, five by Busch and one by Hamlin, including 14 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes. The No. 20 was entered at Chicagoland with Logano listed as the driver and with the same sponsor, Sandvik Coromant, as had always been planned for Scott's car, but Gibbs said that's something his team, along with many others in the sponsor-challenged series, does every week.

"We entered the car before we put everything together and realized it couldn't work," Gibbs said, adding that the withdrawal would not result in any loss of personnel in JGR's Nationwide program and that it might strengthen the program. "By this time of the season your tongue's kind of hanging out and you need to regroup a little bit."

Pastrana-Waltrip cuts schedule

Pastrana-Waltrip Racing's equally ambitious 2011 plan has reached the point of part-time for the remainder of the season following this weekend's last contracted race for promising youngster Ryan Truex.

The team, owned by Michael Waltrip Racing, Travis Pastrana and Gary and Blake Bechtel, has struggled to find sponsorship for Truex's races and, it said, is in a position to run as few as eight races for the rest of the season in the car that's currently 18th in the Nationwide owners' standings.

"Yeah, it's a little disheartening when you think about it. I try not to worry about things I can't really control. These last four races we've really hit our stride and started running good."


Blake Bechtel said the team prefers to race full-time but only has contractual commitments [with sponsorship] for eight of the final 20 races. The first of seven scheduled races with Pastrana is July 30 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. Patrick Carpentier will race the No. 99 Toyota at Montreal on Aug. 20.

"This isn't a performance decision, it is an economic decision," Bechtel said. "We started the year with a 10-race commitment to Ryan Truex, a seven-race commitment to Travis and the race in Montreal with Patrick. We believed we could fill in the open races but it is now time to make the very difficult decision to limit the liabilities.

"We have a great partner with Michael Waltrip Racing and our employees will be redeployed in other areas of the company while PWR is not racing. The other silver lining is that we know we are going to race in 2012 with Travis, so this is a transitional period.

"Ryan is really starting to mature in the seat and the team is starting to jell with great runs at Richmond and Dover. He deserves to run every week so that he can keep getting that valuable experience. We will entertain and pursue other opportunities so that we may race more than the existing commitments."

Truex said Thursday he had spoken with the team and while his obvious wish is to remain with Pastrana-Waltrip, the group has given him the OK to take another opportunity should it present itself.

"Yeah, it's a little disheartening when you think about it," Truex said. "I try not to worry about things I can't really control. These last four races we've really hit our stride and started running good. Everything's been jelling well with me and [crew chief] Jerry Baxter. We're doing all we can, but luck hasn't really been on our side."

Truex said his father has been talking to teams on his behalf, acting as his manager, and the 19-year-old is optimistic something will shake out for him. He will continue to travel to the races and will support his older brother, Martin Truex Jr., whom he joked was too much of a "cheapskate" to sponsor his sibling.

Pastrana's planned schedule includes second-half races at Richmond, where Pastrana raced in the K&N Pro Series East in May; Dover; Kansas; Texas; Phoenix, where he made his K&N debut; and the season finale in Homestead, Fla.

Indy pole winner goes NASCAR racing

Thanks to the support from the Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram Quebec Dealers, Alex Tagliani will have the chance to compete in two NASCAR races in August, before his home crowd at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.


The native of Quebec, Canada, will participate in the NAPA Autopro 100, a round of NASCAR's developmental Canadian Tire Series before attempting the 200-mile NAPA Auto Parts 200. Both of Tagliani's Dodge race cars will carry No. 12, with his Canadian Tire Dodge Avenger being prepared by Dave Jacombs Racing.

Tagliani, who won the pole for the most recent Indianapolis 500 and is a regular in the IndyCar Series, joins a group of Canadians in the race that include Patrick Carpentier, K&N East standout Andrew Ranger, former open-wheel champion Jacques Villeneuve and team owner Randy MacDonald.

In his career Tagliani has actually competed in 13 Canadian Tire races, including three at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve; and he has a win, two top-five and three top-10 finishes and two pole positions. He won the Montreal round of the Toyota Formula Atlantic Series in 1999, from the pole.

Phoenix going retro

In the 1990s, the combination of James Finch's No. 51 Phoenix Racing cars and former dirt track standout Jeff Purvis was a feared combination in the ARCA Racing Series with numerous victories at Daytona and Talladega.

Phoenix has changed the number of its full-time Sprint Cup Series entry, driven by Landon Cassill, from the 09 it's carried for years to the No. 51. The change is in effect, according to NASCAR Competition, for the balance of the season.

The black moment in the 51's history came when the popular veteran Neil Bonnett was killed driving the car at Daytona in a practice session for the 1994 Daytona 500.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.