NASCAR changes 2.13

Written by David Green.

I don’t know if Dale Earnhardt, Jr., likes to play dominoes, but he set off one giant game when he decided to drive for Rick Hendrick in 2008. That one move caused a chain reaction of driver relocations.

Earnhardt is set to drive a Mountain Dew AMP/Army National Guard-sponsored Chevrolet, now #88. The car is the former #25, previously driven by Casey Mears.

Mears now moves to Hendrick’s #5 Kellogg’s/Carquest Chevy, formerly driven by Kyle Busch. Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon aren’t going anywhere, so Busch had to leave for Joe Gibbs Racing, knocking J.J. Yeley out of a job.

Busch’s teammates will now be Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin, and all three will switch from Chevrolet to Toyota for 2008. Interstate Batteries, main sponsor of Gibbs’ #18 car since he formed the team in 1992, now cuts back to a six-race sponsorship of Busch. M & M’s will sponsor Busch for 24 races with Snickers, Combos and Pedigree Dog Food sharing the other six races.

Meanwhile, J.J. Yeley moved to Hall of Fame Racing, displacing Tony Raines. The team has a loose partnership with the Gibbs team and will also make the switch to Toyota with them. Yeley’s car will retain the #96 and Texas Instruments DLP sponsorship it had under Raines’ tenure. At this writing, Raines is the last domino in the chain, not yet making any deals for 2008.

A game perhaps more like chess is going on at Michael Waltrip Racing. Dale Jarrett plans to run the first five races of 2008, then retire and turn the wheel over to David Reutimann. Reutimann will drive the first five races in his familiar #00 before taking the reins of Jarrett’s #44 UPS Toyota. Reutimann’s #00 is scheduled to be turned over to rookie candidate Michael McDowell starting with race six...

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