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Morning Memo: Wolfe Not Sheepish About Ponies

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 23 2009
The Ford Mustang will compete in the Nationwide Series next year.

The Ford Mustang will compete in the Nationwide Series next year.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Let’s see what’s in the old Wednesday Morning Memo today:

Brian Wolfe often wears a suit, but he is not what is often derisively referred to as “a suit”. The head of Ford’s racing operation, Wolfe has no problem with speaking directly to issues and offering his and Ford’s opinions. The guys is, after all, a former racer himself.

Last weekend, Wolfe visited the media center at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. He was there for the announcement that his company had extended its relationship with Funny Car driver Bob Tasca III.

But Wolfe also had no problem with being pulled aside and answering questions, and giving opinions, about NASCAR.

He went into full-canidid mode when asked about the Nationwide Series and the decision by General Motors to not race its Camaro brand there next year.

Wolfe was, he said, disappointed with that decision. It undermined the chance to transform NASCAR’s No. 2 series into a pony car series. And he took issue with GM’s reason for not putting Camaro into the show.

“I don’t want to take any swipes at anybody,” Wolfe said, “but the rationale that they want to be authentic to the body, to the styling, I think is pretty weak.

“They (GM officials) say, ‘We’re going to race in Koni (the Grand-Am Koni Challenge Series).’ Well, if you look at a Mustang in Koni – by the way, I think we’ve won almost every year since we’ve been in there – that is steel fenders, stock hood, stock doors. I mean, it’s production parts. The Camaro they are going to run is carbon fiber fenders and hood. I would bet dollars to donuts they are not dimensionally identical.

“So I think it’s a little bit of talking out of both sides of their mouth on that.”

Ford announced several months ago that it would race the Mustang brand in Nationwide next season. The hope was that other manufacturers would follow suit and create a bit more rivalry-based excitement around Nationwide.

But Ford is, so far, the only brand committed to the idea.

Wolfe says that’s too bad and perhaps a mistake.

“We got so much feedback from the fans that were so excited,” Wolfe said. “The fans know it’s not a Mustang they’re buying on the street. They’re intelligent, but they appreciate that we are doing something that they want. And the thing is, when you lose track of what the fans want, when you lose track of what the fans are telling you they want, you’ve lost the fans. I think that’s what (GM) is doing.”

Memo to self: Look for an Impala at the car lot that looks like the Impala which, say, Casey Mears will will be driving this weekend.

Wolfe also took a long look around him at zMAX and said that NASCAR might want to do the same. Wolfe said he saw a large, loyal enthusiastic fan base which is repaid for all of that by a series which seems to care more about the ticket-buying public.

Wolfe, a former drag racer himself, said NASCAR does not do the “direct interface” between drivers and fans that the NHRA does.

“It is an affordable weekend for people,” Wolfe said of NHRA events. “The fan base is enormous with this market correction that is taking place. It’s more affordable.”

He said the decision to re-up with Tasca was, in part, based on the relationship the NHRA, its teams and its drivers have with their fans.

“We’re so pleased, we’re so thankful for the fans and their loyalty,” Wolfe said.

Memo to self: See if John Force is interested in getting into the consulting business and if he needs an agent for that endeavor. John, standard rates apply.

Juan Pablo Montoya had some unkind things to say about Mark Martin following Sunday’s race in New Hampshire.

The Colombian driver said that he did not like the way Martin raced him in the Chase-opener.

Montoya was on the weekly NASCAR conference call on Tuesday and was asked if he had contacted Martin since the race and the words.

“No,” Montoya said, “I haven’t , first off, I haven’t really talked to Mark at all. I think he did an awesome race and he did what he had to do to win the race. I wasn’t the happiest guy. I did some interviews this morning and I said that. It’s fun when you do it to someone else but it’s not when they do it to you but it’s part of it. For the Chase, you know, we have to bring our A Game, and we did. There’s no holding back, nothing, we have to go. We have to try to go every week. Some weeks are going to be better than others but time to go.”

That’s anger?

Memo to self: Take all friendly wagers that a healthy, dramatic feud in NASCAR is right around the corner. If we can’t get Montoya to say inflammatory things, the situation is hopeless.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 23 2009
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