1998 driver/sponsor changes

Report from Motorsport News International Thanks to NASCAR Online The times they are a changin' By NASCAR Online Staff About halfway through each NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, the sport goes through what has been called "silly ...

Report from Motorsport News International

Thanks to NASCAR Online

The times they are a changin'

By NASCAR Online Staff

About halfway through each NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, the sport goes through what has been called "silly season." Silly season is that time of year when drivers, crew chiefs, car owners and sponsors are announcing or speculating changes for the coming season. Well, now that most of this year's silly season has been completed, we thought we'd take you through a list of what changes have been confirmed for the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season: The Abingdon, Va.-based Morgan-McClure Kodak Chevrolet will have a new pilot in 1998 as Bobby Hamilton leaves the STP Pontiac of Petty Enterprises to take over the seat being vacated by Sterling Marlin. Geoff Bodine, who sold a large interest in his team to businessmen Jim Mattei and John Porter, is seeking sponsorship for their No. 7 Fords, the team that Bodine bought from the estate of 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Alan Kulwicki. The Stavola brothers who have fielded Fords for their drivers since the early 1990s will make the switch to the GM brand and field Chevrolet Monte Carlos next year. Hut Stricklin will remain the driver of the No. 8 cars. A new sponsor is in the works for the No. 9 Melling Fords which have raced most of the season without a sponsor. The Thunderbirds driven by Lake Speed will have the Cartoon Network move to their car from the No. 29 of Jeff Green. Brett Bodine's No. 11 Ford, which started the year with sponsorship from Close Call Phone Cards, is seeking a new sponsor for the 1998 season. Midway through the 1997 season, financial problems plagued the sponsor and Bodine found himself in an unsponsored race car. Dale and Teresa Earnhardt, who have fielded occasional entries into the NASCAR Winston Cup Series with their No. 14 car, will move their NASCAR Busch Series driver, 1997 NBS Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year Steve Park, to NASCAR's top series with Pennzoil as the sponsor of the Chevrolet. In the Jack Roush Racing shops, Johnny Benson will become the driver of a new team sporting the No. 26 but a sponsor has not yet been named for Roush's expansion team. PRIMESTAR becomes the primary sponsor on the No. 16 Ford Thunderbirds driven by Ted Musgrave out of Roush's shops and Chad Little will move his entire John Deere Pontiac operation into the Roush fold since Jack Roush has purchased part of the team. The final change in the Roush organization involves Mark Martin's team moving into the same shop as Jeff Burton's No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford. Those are Roush's most dominant teams. Kenny Irwin Jr., the driver of the Raybestos Ford on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, has been named to replace Ernie Irvan in Robert Yates' No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford. Ernie Irvan will move to the No. 36 Skittles Pontiac, replacing Derrike Cope, who will move to the No. 30 Bahari' racing Pontiac, to be sponsored by Jiffy-Lube. Jiffy-Lube is a Pennzoil-owned company. The Diamond Ridge Motorsports No. 29 Chevrolet, driven by Jeff Green, is still seeking sponsorship to replace the loss of the Cartoon Network to the Melling Ford of Speed. Todd Bodine will return to NASCAR Winston Cup Series competition in 1998 in the No. 35 Tabasco Pontiac. Bodine previously drove the Butch Mock-owned Ford before returning to the NASCAR Busch Series to drive the Stanley Pontiac. Todd is the only Bodine brother not looking for a sponsor for next year. Sterling Marlin, who will vacate the driver's seat of the No. 4 Kodak Chevrolet, will settle in behind the wheel of the No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet, replacing NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year contender Robby Gordon. Gordon is not expected to return to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1998. In fact, Gordon has been released from his contract for the remainder of the 1997 season. So far, we have accounted for all but one team affected by silly season, since Bobby Hamilton will leave the STP Pontiac for the Kodak Chevrolet, Richard Petty has not yet named a driver to fill Hamilton's vacancy. Hopefully this rundown should get you straight for the start of the 1998 season ...the race season, not the silly season.

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