Irwin calling on BellSouth in 2000 By Dave Rodman HAMPTON, Ga. (Nov. 19, 1999) Former NASCAR Winston Cup Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year Kenny Irwin will drive BellSouth-sponsored Chevrolets in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and NASCAR...
Irwin calling on BellSouth in 2000 By Dave Rodman
HAMPTON, Ga. (Nov. 19, 1999) Former NASCAR Winston Cup Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year Kenny Irwin will drive BellSouth-sponsored Chevrolets in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division for Team SABCO beginning in 2000.
Team owner Felix Sabates made the announcement of the multi-year agreement this afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway, prior to Bud Pole Award Qualifying for the season finale NAPA 500. Ironically, Irwin is the defending Bud Pole winner for the finale.
Irwin, 30, who won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rookie of the Year Award in 1997, will drive newly-unveiled bright green No. 42 BellSouth Chevrolets for the full NASCAR Winston Cup Series season beginning with the Bud Shootout special event for 1999 Bud Pole Award winners on Feb. 13 at Daytona International Speedway.
Irwin, an Indianapolis native who has competed part-time in the NASCAR Busch Series to maximize his stock car seat time, will also drive 16-18 NASCAR Busch Series events for Team SABCO in 2000 in a No. 42 BellSouth Mobility Chevrolet.
Veteran mechanic Tony Glover, who engineered outgoing BellSouth driver Joe Nemechek's inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup Series victory at New Hampshire in September and who is Team SABCO's team manager, will serve as crew chief on both entries for Irwin.
Current team owner Robert Yates informed Irwin in the summer that he would not return to the seat the No. 28 Texaco'Havoline Fords in 2000. Irwin apparently quickly made a new deal with Sabates, who also fields the No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolets for Sterling Marlin as well as NASCAR Busch Series cars for Dave Steele and Jimmy Morales.
"This was an opportunity I couldn't pass up -- to represent BellSouth, not only on the Winston Cup racing circuit but on the Busch side as well with BellSouth Mobility," said Irwin, who described the agreement as a "pretty awesome deal."
"The day after Robert Yates said he would not be with the team next year, I called BellSouth and said I would like to get Kenny," Sabates said. They arranged a meeting at a Charlotte restaurant and "in less than two hours we had a deal.
"I would have stayed until 4 in the morning if I had to," Sabates said. "He was my first, second and third choice."
In his career as a crew chief, in addition to Nemechek's inaugural victory, Glover also guided Marlin and Ernie Irvan to their career first wins in NASCAR's premier series.
Irwin began his racing career at the age of six and dabbled in sports cars before moving to the USAC open wheel ranks in 1991. Racing against such current NASCAR drivers as Tony Stewart, Greg Leffler and Dave Steele, Irwin won USAC Rookie of the Year honors in the Stoops/Freightliner Sprint Car Series and Coors Light Silver Bullet Series in 1993 and 1994, respectively. After finishing second in the Silver Bullet Series in 1995, he won the USAC Skoal National Midget Series championship in 1996.
Irwin also won the Bud Pole for his second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, at Richmond, in 1996. He made four NASCAR Winston Cup Series starts at the end of 1997; qualifying on the front row in his first race and scoring his first top-10 finish in his debut, again at Richmond.
"We are very excited to have Kenny on the BellSouth Racing team," said William Pate, vice president of advertising and public relations, BellSouth Corporation. "He will be an excellent representative of BellSouth and its customers and we look forward to a very successful 2000 racing season."
"Kenny is the future of NASCAR racing and we're all looking forward to being a part of his successes," said Mark Feidler, president, BellSouth Wireless Services. "We think he will be a great corporate spokesperson for BellSouth Mobility and its associates."