ES: News and notes 2007-03-22

* Rusty Wallace, Inc. latest to add driver development team * Seven national teams bring nine drivers to NASCAR Busch East Series * Holmes to make pitch for Arizona Diamondbacks before heading east DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Mar. 22, 2007) --...

* Rusty Wallace, Inc. latest to add driver development team

* Seven national teams bring nine drivers to NASCAR Busch East Series

* Holmes to make pitch for Arizona Diamondbacks before heading east

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Mar. 22, 2007) -- Rusty Wallace, Inc. has joined the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series as a driver development team. New RWI driver Chase Austin will race HomeLife Communities Dodge Chargers for the team. In all, seven NASCAR national series teams will field cars for nine driver development prospects in the NASCAR Busch East Series in 2007. Eight of the nine are rookies to the series.

The 13-event NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series opens the 2007 campaign with Greased Lightning 150 at the historic Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C. April 28.

Other major NASCAR teams establishing new NASCAR Busch East Series driver development programs include Dale Earnhardt Inc. with Andy Santerre Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Ginn Racing, Wood Brothers/JTG Racing, Ken Schrader Racing Inc., and Fitz Motorsports.

Here is a look at the developmental drivers and teams expected to run the full NASCAR Busch East Series schedule:

* Chase Austin (Rusty Wallace, Inc.): Austin has more than 100 wins in go-karts, dirt and asphalt Late Models and Sprint Cars. He originally caught the eye of the late Ricky Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports in 2004.

* Jonathan Cash (Wood Brothers/JTG Racing): Cash advanced through NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions at South Boston (Va.) Speedway starting in 2002. He won Late Model Rookie of the Year and Most Popular Driver Awards with fourth in track points in 2005. He repeated the points performance in 2006.

* Marc Davis (Joe Gibbs Racing): Drove for JGR in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in Limited Late Models at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway in 2006. A Drive for Diversity graduate, he scored six wins and finished third in Hickory divisional points in 2006.

* Joey Logano (Joe Gibbs Racing): Logano topped the GM Racing Driver Development Evaluation program in 2006, which led him to the Gibbs NASCAR Busch East Series team in 2007. He previously raced in several forms of asphalt Late Models, and began career in Quarter-Midgets at age seven.

* Maxime "Max" Dumarey (Fitz Motorsports): The 2007 stock car racing rookie previously competed in European sports car road racing. He drove in Formula Renault 1600, Porsche GT3 RS and GT3 996, and Formula Renault 1.6 starting in 2004.

* Jeffrey Earnhardt (Dale Earnhardt Inc. with Andy Santerre Motorsports): Earnhardt competed in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Limited Late Model Division at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va. in 2006. He is the grandson of the late seven-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt.

* Jesus Hernandez (Ginn Racing): A third-year Drive for Diversity participant. He competed in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Models at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway in 2006 with a record of three poles, two wins, four top-fives and seven top-10 finishes in 10 starts.

* Jamie Hayes (Ken Schrader Racing Inc.): He has competed in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Models at North Carolina's Concord Motorsport Park and Hickory Motor Speedway, South Boston (Va.) Speedway and Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway. He drove Legends cars at Lowe's Motor Speedway in 2002.

* Ruben Pardo (Fitz Motorsports): With FitzContreras Racing in 2007, he is the only developmental driver of the group with prior NASCAR Busch East Series experience. Pardo was the 2006 NASCAR Busch East Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year. He was the first Mexico native to win a NASCAR series Rookie of the Year Award and a race (NASCAR Busch East Series at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut), and was first driver ever to win with the new Grand National "spec" engine; and with a Dodge in the NASCAR Busch East Series competition.


Gibbs knows the driver's seat: J.D. Gibbs is President of Joe Gibbs Racing, and responsible for a three-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship organization that this year includes three NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams, two NASCAR Busch Series teams, and two new NASCAR Busch East Series teams.

Gibbs may have a better understanding of the competitive nature of the series. As a 30-year-old driver, Gibbs raced full-time NASCAR Busch East Series in 1999. He won a few "rookie of the race" awards, but didn't crack the top-10 in 16 starts. He finished 19th in points.

"I had the opportunity to give it a shot," Gibbs said, "but the reality of it is those guys were a lot better than I was. As drivers, they made it look easy, but it's actually pretty hard."

Gibbs has hired a pair of 16-year-olds, Marc Davis and Joey Logano to drive the Joe Gibbs Driven Racing Oil Chevrolets, and he expects them to enjoy success far beyond those of his own racing days. Is that putting a little pressure on his new hires?

"Pressure is part of this kind of lifestyle, and they've made it through a lot of pressure and responded to it well so far in their racing careers. Drivers seem to be getting younger and younger and better and better. We think we've got two of the best of them," Gibbs said.

The "Gibbs Kids" will drive cars powered by the new cost-efficient "spec" engine that is being phased into competition. For now the bodies are steel and the chassis are from Gibbs fleet of national series cars that are being phased out with the advance of the "Car of Tomorrow" in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.

Car specifications for the NASCAR Busch East Series of today are more consistent than during the time he was driving Gibbs said, pointing out that back then, there were "North" cars and "South" cars fielded by teams trying to attain parity.

"Today the cars have all the same basics so everyone is competitive," Gibbs said. "The schedule has a good mix of tracks, and it's going to be a good feeder system. We think Marc and Joey have a pretty good 'gift' for driving race cars. They have a passion for what they do. We hope they can go up the ladder in NASCAR some day."

Wallace confident in choice: Rusty Wallace, the 1989 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion, believes his choice of Austin is a solid one. While Wallace has never lacked confidence in his own abilities, when he expresses that confidence in someone else, especially a 17-year-old from Kansas, people take notice.

"Chase just wants to focus on driving for RWI and learning what it takes to win races at a higher level," Wallace said. "We're going to give Chase everything he needs to do just that. I really believe he's going to have a great year; if it all goes as well as we hope, we could be potentially looking at Steve (his youngest son Steve Wallace) having a NASCAR Busch Series teammate in 2008.

"When we started looking at ways to grow our team, NASCAR brought Chase to our attention," Wallace said. "We ended up inviting him to a test at Greenville-Pickens Speedway and we were all very pleasantly surprised at how well he did. I believe Chase has a real future in this sport. He's not only fast, but he understands the sponsorship and public relations side of things, which is very unique for someone his age."

After one last pitch, West champion heads East: Eric Holmes, 32 of Escaston, Calif., the 2006 NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series champion, joins the NASCAR Busch East Series in 2007, but he has one more "pitch" to make in Tucson, Ariz., on Friday, March 23. Holmes will be the guest of honor for the Arizona Diamondbacks spring training game with the Kansas City Royals on Phoenix International Raceway Day. The game will be played at the Diamondback's spring training field, Tucson Electric Park at the Pima County (Ariz.) Kino Sports Complex. Holmes will throw out the first pitch after receiving some pointers from Cy Young Award winners Randy Johnson and Brandon Webb. Holmes will also take batting practice, meet fans and sign autographs throughout the day. The PIR show-car and racing simulator will both be on exhibit outside the ballpark so fans buying tickets can get a closer look before, during and after the game. The next stop for Holmes will be back to Phoenix International Raceway for the Phoenix 150 NASCAR West Series race on April 19. After that, it's on to the season opener for the NASCAR Busch East Series at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C., April 28.


NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series Driver Development Teams for 2007:

Rusty Wallace, Inc. -- Chase Austin, 17, Eudora, Kan.

Wood Brothers/JTG Racing -- Jonathan Cash, 27, Oxford, N.C.

Joe Gibbs Racing -- Marc Davis, 16, Mitchelville, Md.

Joe Gibbs Racing -- Joey Logano, 16, Middletown, Conn.

Fitz Motorsports - Maxime "Max" Dumarey, 18, Gent, Belgium

Fitz Motorsports with FitzContreras Racing -- Ruben Pardo, 27, Mexico City, Mex.

Dale Earnhardt, Inc. with Andy Santerre Motorsports -- Jeffrey Earnhardt, 17, Mooresville, N.C.

Ginn Racing -- Jesus Hernandez, 27, Fresno, Calif.

Ken Schrader Racing, Inc. -- Jamie Hayes, 33, Norlina, N.C.

-credit: nascar

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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Rusty Wallace , Ken Schrader , Ricky Hendrick , Eric Holmes , Jesus Hernandez , Joey Logano , Rubén Pardo , Marc Davis , Jamie Hayes , Jeffrey Earnhardt , Steve Wallace , Chase Austin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing