Saturday, February 9, 2008

Villeneuve's new manager/rainmaker Barry Green in Daytona garage

Daytona Beach
During the hour break between Saturday’s two Sprint Cup practice session is a time to get out of the bunker, a/k/a Infield Media Center, get a bite and walk over to the garage.

An old racing friend, Barry Green, was walking around unbothered by fellow media and fans, because he’s virtually unknown in the NASCAR community. The easy-going Green was Jacques Villeneuve’s car owner in the CART days when the French-Canadian won the championship and Indy 500 in 1995.

Green, a native Western Australian, sold his interest in the team to the Andretti Green Racing team in the IRL. His brother, Kim, is running the team along with Michael Andretti and Kevin Savorie. Green has been called out of retirement by Villeneuve to try to raise funds for Jacques attempt to race in this season in NASCAR. Just last week Craig Pollock, who was Villeneuve’s long-time business manager, bowed out of that arrangement due to a family situation in Europe.

Green said he’d never seen Villeneuve enjoy himself (despite the CART championship and a Formula One World driver’s title). Green admitted that he was a complete rookie in the NASCAR garage and was very impressed with the high level of car preparation. For the moment he’s got no title, but let’s just call him rainmaker. He’s been so busy he hasn’t had a chance to visit the Bill Davis Racing shop where Villeneuve’s Toyota Camry is based.

Dario Franchitti, who now drives for Chip Ganassi Racing, was a driver for Team Green and lost the CART driving championship Juan Pablo Montoya in 1999.

Villenueve was fifth fastest in morning practice.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Free speech? Well not exactly, just ask Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Daytona Beach,

Have the rules of conduct for Sprint Cup drivers changed, specifically, in post-race interview language?

Not according to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

“No, I don’t believe them. I don’t think anybody does,” said the driver making his Sprint Cupt debut for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend.

Then he added, rhetorically, “are we supposed to walk the line, and see where we step over it, and get fined when we go too far?

Just a few weeks ago, when NASCAR officials admitted that drivers needed more leeway in on-track conduct and speech. There was the promise of a return to a more colorful NASCAR as part of that presentation. To most of us - on the media tour - that meant we were, again, to expect drivers really say what was on their minds and not worry about the consequences.

Flash back to Talladega, October 2004, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. uttered a forbidden curse word in the moment of celebrating his win there. NASCAR officials slapped him with a $10,000 fine and 25-point penalty dropping him out of first place in the points standings.

That points loss hurt much more than the dollars.

Since then he’s been a lot more circumspect in his language and has not run afoul of NASCAR officials nor language police.

At media day, going into the 50th running of the Daytona 500, Earnhardt said NASCAR’s policy was all smoke and mirrors, for now.

“I think honestly they’re playing to you guys and not talking the drivers . I think…they’re trying to appear looser when the message has not been relayed to the driver as to what’s been changed,” he said.

Then he looked some of us, straight in the eye, adding “it’s just a press release; we’re going to do this. That was a just a little card game between you, two and really has nothing to do with the drivers. I don’t feel like I’ve been holding back.

And there’s words I don’t use that I have used in the past that I shouldn’t use on National television, for me I get to be the same. I don’t feel like I’ve had to reserve myself too much."

Don't you wonder who, if anyone, is going to test that new line drawn in the sand?