News & Media

From the Notebook: MWR's Miller confirms Martin's fire

December 15, 2011, Dave Rodman,

From the Notebook: Gresham joins Denette; Kurt Busch still talking about rides

Mark Martin has run partial Cup Series schedules before, most notably in 2007 when, after five races he led the championship only to skip the sixth race to go to Ricky Carmichael's Super Late Model stock-car debut in Florida -- because that's what Martin was scheduled to do.

But when he was a crew chief and competition executive at Richard Childress Racing, Scott Miller saw what Martin brought to the table at the former Dale Earnhardt Inc..

A head start

MWR's pairing of Clint Bowyer and Brian Pattie went testing to build team chemistry. Yet a familiarity exists between the driver and crew chief.

And so, in his current six-week-old role as executive vice president of competition at Michael Waltrip Racing, Miller's as excited as Martin is to get the veteran NASCAR driver's latest part-time effort under way, which will occur early next month in a test session at New Smyrna Speedway in Samsula, Fla., just down the road from Martin's Port Orange, Fla., home.

Miller this week called Martin's signing with MWR "Christmas again" and indicated "his experience and knowledge can help us in many ways -- ways that I'm sure we haven't even considered -- just to get him in the fray and to get his perspective on a lot of things is probably going to be big for MWR."

So Miller's looking forward to Martin's first test with the organization, right before the Jan. 12-14 session at Daytona International Speedway.

"Mark and I have had several conversations," Miller said during a break this week at a test at Walt Disney World Speedway. "And what strikes me the most about Mark is, he's like a kid in a candy store -- he's ready for a new challenge. He thrived in that part-time schedule he was in [in 2007 and '08] and I think he really enjoyed himself doing that -- not necessarily getting caught up in the Chase race or the championship thing -- but just enjoying his craft of driving a race car.

"I think he's going to enjoy getting back to that with us and he's excited about joining a company that is on the rise, making changes to try to elevate themselves and to better themselves in the sport."

Miller said on a daily basis he's enthused about the role team owners Michael Waltrip and Rob Kauffman have tasked him with and he sees the same enthusiasm in Martin, who just three years ago won five races in his debut season with Hendrick Motorsports, when he was second in the championship.

"He seems to be excited to be a part of that and to help any way that he can with all that. We've had some great conversations and I'm just kind of overwhelmed at how happy he seems to be to be joining MWR and to help us out. It's really a treat."

Pattie, Bowyer share dirty roots

How intense a pair of racers crew chief Brian Pattie and driver Clint Bowyer are is borne out by some of the initial plans they made after Florida native Pattie was announced as Bowyer's crew chief at Michael Waltrip Racing for 2012.

Pattie got his start in racing working on childhood friend David Reutimann's dirt modifieds in their native Zephyrhills, Fla. He's continued to mess with the cars that Reutimann maintains for his dad, racing legend Buzzie Reutimann, and sometimes for himself to drive.

Dirt in their respective roots gave Pattie and Bowyer a common bond and, if the easy barbs they exchanged during their first Sprint Cup test this week at Walt Disney World Speedway near Orlando, Fla., is any proof, they'll get along great.

"Clint's been a good friend of mine for a long time -- he's always cutting up and having a good time with me and for all this [becoming teammates] to happen is quite humorous, actually," Pattie said. "But we have similar backgrounds in that we both grew up dirt racing and have a lot in common. The similarities are endless, that's why I'm so excited to get going.

"I want to prove my worth, build a team and make the Chase with Clint driving -- it's going to be so much fun."

At Disney World on Wednesday, Bowyer said he planned to again run two full-time dirt late model teams, using drivers Jared Landers and new recruit Jonathan Davenport, who won 17 main events in 2011.

Gresham joins Hornaday at Denette

Young Georgian Max Gresham, the 2011 K&N Pro Series champion who's seen as one of the brighter stars on the NASCAR driver development horizon, will get a chance to prove his worth in 2012 with a run for Camping World Truck Series rookie of the year for Joe Denette Motorsports.

Gresham, 18, will drive JDM's No. 24 Chevrolet, with a TBA sponsorship program, as a full-time teammate to four-time series champion Ron Hornaday.

"It's an honor to team up with Joe Denette Motorsports for the 2012 season," Gresham said. "As a rookie, it's going to be a learning year for me. To have Ron Hornaday Jr. as a teammate and a mentor will be a great opportunity for me.

"He will be someone I can lean on for help and guidance to grow as a driver and build a foundation for a successful future. I'm looking forward to getting the season started at Daytona in February."

Gresham, a native of Griffin, Ga., captured the 2011 K&N title with two wins -- at New Hampshire in July and at his home track of Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., in June -- four poles, nine top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. He was the only driver to complete all 1,705 laps contested in last season's 12 K&N races.

Gresham made all three Truck races he attempted last season. He made his series' debut this past fall at Las Vegas for Turn One Racing; he started 32nd and finished 25th after an accident. He was 25th again at Martinsville, two laps down after starting 24th, and ended the season at Homestead, where he started 26th and finished 31st after his truck's fuel pump failed.

Opportunities there for Kurt Busch

It's nice to hear -- though it's hardly unexpected -- that Kurt Busch has Sprint Cup opportunities. It's also not surprising that Busch's availability on the open market has spawned waves of rumor and innuendo that verge on the ridiculous, as occurred Tuesday when Busch was connected -- prematurely, it seems -- with Richard Petty Motorsports.

Busch was contacted via text message and replied to a query about what he was up to by texting back, "Talking to everybody. Just talking." So it seems to be a matter of time before Busch establishes a deal that will put him in a car for Daytona -- though its level in the Cup garage is far from assured.

Busch does have one deal in place

TAG Heuer Eyewear announced a multi-year extension of Busch's role as an ambassador for the company and its products, which began in 2010. In 2011, TAG Heuer created a Kurt Busch collector edition pair of sunglasses that was made available at U.S. retailers.

"Kurt has truly been an excellent ambassador for the TAG Heuer Eyewear brand," said Guillaume Pottecher, president of Premiere Vision, U.S. distributor for TAG Heuer Eyewear. "TAG Heuer is affiliated with leading personalities and properties around the sports and entertainment world and Kurt fits that role perfectly. He is unquestionably one of the premier talents in NASCAR and in his work for us on every occasion he has gone above and beyond what we could expect of him. We very much look forward to the future together with Kurt."

Gale warms up for NASCAR

Alabamian Cale Gale has probably his best NASCAR opportunity yet coming up via a full-season Camping World Truck Series slate in 2012 with Eddie Sharp Racing's expanded organization, achieved through the purchase of a lot of Kevin Harvick Inc. hardware. Gale, a former mechanic, shock specialist and part-time KHI driver, will warm up for 2012 at the annual three-day ARCA Racing Series test at Daytona on Friday-Sunday, prior to competing in both events at Speedweeks 2012.