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Economics Continues To Trump Racing In Garage-Area Buzz

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 28 2009
A lot of the talk in NASCAR garages these days concerns the fate of General Motors and Chrysler and how that will affect racing. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

A lot of the talk in NASCAR garages these days concerns the fate of General Motors and Chrysler and how that will affect racing. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Correspondent

Loudon, N.H. – The 10-race stretch to determine who’s in and who’s out of this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins with Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The scramble to score precious championship points on the flat, 1.058-oval is weighing heavy on every driver’s mind.

But some of the sport’s top brass appear equally concerned over the struggling automobile manufacturers’ long-term involvement in NASCAR.

Chevrolet and Dodge teams have already experienced cuts in manufacturer support. Ford and Toyota teams can only hope they don’t suffer a similar fate.

“That’s the question that’s all over the garage area,” said Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates technical director Steve Hmiel, whose teams fields Chevrolets for Juan Pablo Montoya and Martin Truex Jr.. “In this world where we are inundated with information, we’re all more than aware that manufacturers are having trouble making ends meet.

“Chrysler is going through what they’re going through. And [General Motors] is in the middle of going through it. Obviously, we’re pretty nervous. We rely on the manufacturers quite a bit for things like sheet metal, technical help, wind tunnel time, seven-post time and things of that nature. Not to mention the money they spend with us doing development work.”

Kyle Busch, who drives Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota Camry, believes it would be detrimental to the sport if every team fielded a car for a single manufacturer.

“It’s no different than good versus evil,” said Busch, a previous winner at New Hampshire. “You’ve got to have a villain to have a hero. Batman tells you that in his movie. This sport tells you that as well, too.

“You’ve got to have manufacturers battling against each other. You can’t have one manufacturer that just takes over the deal. Then there’s really nothing that you’re battling about or battling for.

“Ultimately, we need to have Ford. We need to have Chevrolet. We need to have Chrysler. All those guys need to be in this sport.”

A popular fixture in the close-knit NASCAR garage, Carl Edwards, who drives a Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, doesn’t want to see a lack of manufacturer support force any team to shut their doors.  

“I guess it can’t be good for the sport anytime any money is leaving. That’s not good,” he said.

“I hope that whatever happens with those GM and Dodge teams that they’re able to maintain, to stay healthy, keep the people employed that they have employed, be here at the race track and be competitive.”

Many top-flight NASCAR teams have come to the realization that they will be forced to work with smaller budgets in the future. But Hmiel firmly believes the show will go on.  

“We’re not silly,” Hmiel said. “We understand. I don’t think the sky is falling. I think it’s all survivable. We would like to think us and are friends can do this forever. And hopefully, we will.

“But I think we’re all smart enough to know we’re changing a little bit. I can’t imagine where we would be if we had indeed got the 24 test dates everybody was talking about last fall because a lot of teams couldn’t afford to be doing that right now.

“NASCAR, I think, has their ear to the ground. All of these team owners know what’s going on. They’re smart businessmen. We’re all just wishing and hoping that we can continue doing what we’re doing. I’m confident that will happen. I’m confident that we will be able to do it at a professional level. I just don’t think there will be a whole lot of extra.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 28 2009
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