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Notes: Speed finds speed to make Brickyard 400

July 31, 2011, David Caraviello,

Logano trying to block out rumors; Johnson reaches out to Pastrana after injury

INDIANAPOLIS -- He wore a plain black firesuit and drove a plain white car, but there was still no doubt that the colorful Scott Speed had returned to a NASCAR track.

Out of a ride since being released by Red Bull after last season, Speed qualified for his first Sprint Cup race since the 2010 finale at Homestead when he easily put his No. 37 car in the lineup for Sunday's Brickyard 400. Needing to make the event on speed, the former Formula One driver secured the 34th starting position at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"It's been interesting," Speed said of his time outside the car. "It's one of those things where it's getting down to that time of the year. An opportunity came up to come out here and at least be able to come out to the track and run some races, so I guess I'm pretty fortunate for that. It's one of those things where, it's weird to come back. There have been so many people I haven't seen in a while. I forgot I knew so many people, obviously."

Released from Red Bull to make room for Kasey Kahne, Speed has teamed up with Max Q Motorsports and will attempt at least two more Sprint Cup events this season, with Pocono and Watkins Glen set to follow Indianapolis. The team doesn't have many people and doesn't have a lot of money -- a stark different from Speed's Red Bull days -- but it hopes to race rather than start-and-park, and add further events if sponsorship materializes.

"The plan is to run full races, and hopefully find some sponsorship along the way," Speed said. "It's a tough road, but at least I'm with a group of guys that works really hard. We unloaded terrible. There's only a handful of us over there, and we fixed the thing and made it a lot better. So hats off to all those guys."

* Brickyard 400: Race Lineup

Logano in the rumor mill

Joey Logano doesn't listen to the rumors. The young Joe Gibbs Racing driver is often a popular topic of speculation given his struggles this season in the No. 20 car, and Carl Edwards' dalliance with his current team. For his part, Logano says he just tries to block it all out.

"I don't even know anymore," he said. "I just drive the car. I don't know who comes up with all the rumors. Until I'm told any different, I'm driving the 20 car. That's what I'm focused on."

Does that mean he'll still be with Gibbs in 2012? "No one has told me any different," Logano said. "I don't know who comes up with all the rumors."

The 21-year-old Logano has been outside the top 20 in points for much of this year, but came to Indianapolis in 18th after recording top-10 finishes in three of his last four starts.

"I've just got to focus on the positives," he said. "It's all about confidence these days. That's all you can do. As long as you know you've done everything you can do as a driver, and given them all the information you can, as a driver it's easy to keep yourself confident. You've just got to keep all the guys motivated and focused on the fact that we are getting better or improving."

* Chase berth not out of reach for Logano

Johnson uplifts Pastrana

Jimmie Johnson exchanged text messages with Travis Pastrana on Friday night, and told his friend to not feel discouraged over missing his planned Nationwide debut Saturday because of injuries suffered in attempting a motorcycle trick in the X Games.

"He's bummed," Johnson said. "In his text to me he said he felt disappointment. He was disappointed he let everyone down .... He feels like he's let some people down. I told him, he's crazy. There aren't many people that have the stones to try to pull what he did off on the motorcycle, so he shouldn't worry."

Pastrana broke his right ankle and a bone in his right foot while trying a 720-rotation trick during the motocross competition Thursday night in Los Angeles. His next scheduled Nationwide start is Richmond in September, if he's recovered by then. But in true Pastrana fashion, he'll try to take part in the rally car competition Sunday at the X Games in a Subaru outfitted with special hand controls.

"He texted me that last night," Johnson said. "With all the broken bones, man, that can't feel good. I told him he was nuts. I respect it, and that's what makes Travis Travis. ... When we were racing the Race of Champions in Paris the year I broke my wrist on the golf cart, I came in a cast to support him. He was like, 'Well, you're going to drive, aren't you?' I said no, no. He said, 'Dude, it's casted, go. What are you waiting for? Come on, I need you.' He just thinks differently. That's why he's Travis Pastrana."

* Injury scuttles Pastrana's Nationwide debut

Montoya, Johnson have difference of opinion

Juan Montoya apologized to Jimmie Johnson after he spun him earlier this year at Darlington, but Johnson noted that Montoya hasn't apologized for spinning him more recently at New Hampshire. By Johnson's count, that's the third time Montoya has disrupted one of his races this year -- and in Johnson's opinion, it's time for Montoya to cease and desist.

"[I'm] definitely upset," Johnson said. "What it really boils down to ... I don't feel at least two of the three things that happened are intentional. They were racing instances. But there's a point where you've got to respect the people you're racing around and also respect a driver that you may have had some run-ins with.

"It certainly can't happen again."

Predictably, Montoya had a different perspective. He said he apologized to Chad Knaus at New Hampshire.

"I apologized to the crew chief at the end of the race," Montoya said. "I actually said I thought I gave him enough room. If I see Jimmie, I'll say something.

"If you really look at it, he had plenty of race track at the bottom, so do I apologize? No. I think the other time that I hit him, he actually ran [me] into the wall, and I decided not to hit the wall and hit him. It all depends on how you see it. His point of view and my point of view are very different."

* Johnson overcomes Montoya, adversity at NHMS

Biffle to Edwards: Make up your mind

The way Greg Biffle sees it, Carl Edwards' protracted contract negotiations are starting to have a negative impact on the entire Roush Fenway Racing organization.

"It's obvious that it's coming to a head, kind of like whether we're going to approve the debt ceiling or not," Biffle said. "At some point, he's going to have to say, 'I'm not coming back.' He's not going to be able to wait until Homestead -- we all know that. So Carl is a big boy, he's a man, and he has to make his own decisions.

"Eventually, he's going to have to make a decision, and it'll be best for everybody so we can plan for sponsorships and drivers and teams and people. There are a lot of people's jobs on the line -- if we're going to be three teams or four teams -- so the sooner the better. I understand contract negotiations take a long time and there is a lot to them, but, truly, if you know or you've made a decision, then it's time to give everybody enough opportunity to make their decision on the back side of that."

Historically, July 1 has been an unofficial deadline for announcing driver changes, given that sponsorships have to be solidified, paint schemes settled upon and die-cast production ordered. At this point, the Edwards announcement is dragging into August.

* Edwards hints he may have made a decision

Roush hopes to keep lineup intact

It is something of an anomaly that, in the midst of one of its most successful seasons, Roush Fenway Racing is beleaguered by uncertainty.

That doesn't mean, however, the organization isn't trying to keep the gang together.

Carl Edwards is in limbo during contract negotiations with RFR and others, most notably Joe Gibbs Racing. The rumor mill already has Edwards leaving Roush and driving for Gibbs next year.

David Ragan, Saturday's pole winner at Indianapolis, is in a contract year. Simultaneously, RFR is negotiating to retain Ragan's sponsor, UPS. Matt Kenseth has inventory to fill on the hood of his No. 17 Ford, after Crown Royal announced its impending departure as his primary sponsor.

Greg Biffle, re-signed with primary sponsor 3M intact, is the only driver whose program doesn't require immediate attention. Otherwise, team owner Jack Roush and the rest of the company brass have plenty of work to do.

"I can't speak to Carl's thought process, although we've had a lot of good conversations," said Steve Newmark, who succeeded Geoff Smith as president of RFR last year. "I can only tell you that my view and Jack's view is that Roush Fenway is the right place for him, not only this year but into the future. Ultimately, he's going to make the decision on what he thinks is the best for him.

Sporting News Wire Service contributed to this report.