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From the Notebook: Watrip dabbles in sports cars; Bodine seeks new ride

December 08, 2011, Dave Rodman,

From the Notebook: Bodine looking for a new ride; George gets opportunity

Team owner Michael Waltrip continues to race stock cars, but he achieved a Daytona first Wednesday as he prepared for his first try at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Waltrip used the second day of a two-day test at the World Center of Racing using a TRG Motorsports Porsche GT3 to get some laps in preparation for the 50th anniversary of the kickoff event of Daytona's Speedweeks on Jan. 28-29.

Waltrip will race a Ferrari 458 GT for AF Waltrip, a collaboration between Michael Waltrip Racing and AF Corse, a European team for which Waltrip and his co-owner, Rob Kauffman, have made several sports car starts, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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Waltrip will drive the Ferrari, which was being shipped to this country in time for the Roar Before the Rolex test on Jan. 5-8, with Kauffman, four-time North American rally champion Travis Pastrana, who is scheduled to make his NASCAR national series debut right after Speedweeks, and road racer Rui Aguas. To get some seat time, Waltrip jumped into one of five Porsches at this test fielded by TRG, whose owner, Kevin Buckler, also has a Sprint Cup team.

"It's so weird for me," Waltrip said after his first run, during the lunch break. "When you get to the end of pit road, instead of entering the track like I've done for 25 years, I exit the track. The infield is fun and challenging."

Waltrip said the Rolex 24 has always been on his to-do list, especially after watching his brother, 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and three-time Cup Series champion Darrell, compete in an Aston Martin prototype with A.J. Foyt in the 1983 24-hour event.

"I've always wanted to do the things my brother did," Michael Waltrip said. "I remember being here in 1983, watching these cars run and marveling at the technology. I've always wanted to do the Rolex 24, but I've never really had a great opportunity before. It's not unrealistic to think we've got a shot at a podium finish -- that's our goal."

Bodine looking for a new ride

Todd Bodine, a two-time Truck Series champion who battled for his seventh consecutive top-five points finish until the 2011 Homestead finale left him sixth -- his only finish outside the top four in seven full-time seasons -- is looking for a ride after Germain Racing closed its entire operation.

Bodine was coming off his second championship in five years when sponsorship of his No. 30 Toyota ended after 10 races in 2011. At the time, Bodine's three top-fives were his only finishes better than 14th. He was 11th in points. Germain's partnership with Randy Moss Motorsports landed Bodine in the No. 5 Toyota for the rest of the season, and he responded with eight top-10s in 15 starts. His worst finish in that span was 16th in the season finale at Homestead.

Bodine reached his high-water mark in points (sixth) following a sixth-place finish at Talladega -- his season-best fourth consecutive top-10 -- and remained there through the final three races.

Bodine, who had won at least two races in each of the seven previous years, went winless for the first time in a full Truck Series season. His winless streak stands at 32 races, eight more than his previous high of 24, set twice before.

Bodine, who has 21 victories in 190 career Truck starts and 15 wins and 160 top-10s in 325 career Nationwide starts, is investigating opportunities in both series.

* Bodine stats: 2011 Truck season | Truck career | Nationwide career

George Jr. continues RCR career

Tim George Jr., who made a solid step forward in his stock-car career in 2011 by finishing seventh in the ARCA Racing Series driving a Chevrolet prepared by Richard Childress Racing, will run 12 Camping World Truck Series races in 2012 for RCR in the No. 2 Chevrolet.

George, 30, made his Truck Series debut in November 2009. He'll drive a truck prepared by crew chief Bruce Cook, who moves over from Kevin Harvick Inc., where he won three races with Harvick during the 2010 Nationwide Series and seven times last season in the Truck Series with six different drivers en route to the 2011 owners' championship

George won his first career ARCA race in June, at Pocono, and scored eight top-fives, third-best in the series, and 10 top-10s in 19 starts.

"Tim has shown a great amount of improvement, running in the ARCA Racing Series these past few years that included his first career win," Childress said. "We're ready to further strengthen his skills and moving him to the Camping World Truck Series is the next logical step. Having Ty Dillon and Joey Coulter as his teammates will help support his learning curve and I'm excited to see how he'll perform."

Hamilton Means Racing jumps into Cup

Jimmy Means, who started his racing career decades ago as a South Alabama late model hot-shoe and has existed for more than three decades as an independent Cup and Nationwide series owner/driver, is part of Hamilton Means Racing, a Cup team that which plans to debut in 2012 and has been created by four principal owners with various levels of involvement in NASCAR.

Means, Dell Hamilton, Arash Khorsandi and Kelly Owen are looking to make their organization's first Cup start at Daytona in February. The team is still considering drivers for their No. 52 car, which is currently accruing crewmen and equipment.

The team plans to operate from Means Motorsports' race shop in Forest City, N.C., alongside Means' full-time Nationwide team, which this season finished 31st in the owners' standings. However, since two cars that finished ahead of the 52 in owners' points failed to start all 34 races, Means' car qualifies as a guaranteed starter among the owners who attempted every race.

Leavine Family Racing expands schedule

Leavine Family Racing, a Cup start-up team in 2011 which made its inaugural start in its first attempt at its home track, Texas Motor Speedway, and ultimately made four of eight races it attempted with veteran David Starr, will expand its schedule to "at least 15 races" in '12, beginning with the March event at Bristol.

While crew chief Wally Rogers and the balance of his team returns, Starr will not. Owner Bob Leavine is looking for a driver to fill his No. 95 Ford's seat for events at Bristol, Texas, Richmond, Darlington, Charlotte, Pocono, Kentucky, Indianapolis, Michigan, Atlanta, Chicagoland, Dover and Homestead.

Starr's best finish in the No. 95 Ford was 27th at Bristol in August..

Lally settling into sports cars

Cup 2011 rookie of the year Andy Lally, who received high praise from three-time series champion Tony Stewart during Stewart's awards ceremony remarks in Las Vegas, has quickly settled into familiar territory -- Grand-Am Rolex Series sports cars. Lally was at Daytona this week for a two-day test with Magnus Racing Porsche owner and co-driver John Potter.

"It's good to be back in the Rolex Series, and I'm happy to be here with Magnus Racing," said Lally, who's made a point of insisting he'd still like to race stock cars. [Magnus] is one of the youngest teams in the paddock that wants to win the most. It's been a productive [Tuesday]. John Potter was fast right out of the box, and that's extremely encouraging for a team looking to contend for the championship."

* Champion's Week videos: Lally speech | Stewart speech

Inception to run nearly full schedule

David Stremme revealed at the season finale that his Inception Motorsports team would switch from Chevrolets to Fords powered by Roush Yates Engines motors. The team's website now indicates plans are to race in 34 of 36 points races in 2012 --- everything but the road races at Infineon and Watkins Glen -- plus the Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying race for the Daytona 500 and the Sprint Showdown that is a qualifier for the Sprint All-Star Race.