Jane Miller: Lots of news as we sprint into '08

Jane Miller

The first week of NASCAR Sprint Cup testing at Daytona is in the books, with Kyle Busch recording the fastest speed of the week during drafting in his Toyota.

Busch's speed of 188.830 mph came Wednesday in the afternoon session. Matt Kenseth (188.494), Reed Sorenson (187.915), Jeff Gordon (187.837) and Martin Truex Jr. (187.805) made up the top five -- and notice the representation by all manufacturers.

Jimmie Johnson had the fastest non-drafting speed at 184.782. This week's testers include Dave Blaney, Patrick Carpentier, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dario Franchitti, Kevin Harvick, Sam Hornish Jr., Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Dale Jarrett.

Truck testing is going on this weekend. So far, Jon Wood has recorded the fastest time, 184.332 mph.

Team shuts down

Morgan-McClure Motorsports essentially closed its doors on Friday and will close the books on 25 years in the business unless a sponsor is found real soon.

Most of the employees have been released from the team Ward Burton drove for last year.

MMM won three Daytona 500s and had 14 wins overall to go with 13 poles during its existence.

NHRA news

Lots of surprising news coming out of the NHRA camp this week.

First and foremost is the last-minute sponsorship hiatus of Evan Knoll and Torco Racing Fuels, which backed a number of high-profile drivers and teams. The stunning development means reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Smith is looking for work, and Pro Stock driver Dave Connolly may start this season on the sidelines, as may Funny Car driver Mike Ashley.

Ashley has secured sponsorship for his teammate, Melanie Troxel, from ProCare RX, and is working to find funding for his own car.

Torco's sponsorship of the event at Route 66 Raceway at Joliet and the

race at Richmond, Va., are unaffected. The hiatus is planned to be only one year. Lingering health problems stemming from an accident in which Knoll was involved in 2004 are part of the reason for the move.


On the good news front, Tim Wilkerson and team owner Don Prudhomme have announced an alliance that allows the two teams to share resources and technical information.

Prudhomme lost sponsorship for Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr., who moved to Kenny Bernstein's team, so Prudhomme is only running a Top Fuel car for Larry Dixon this season. Springfield, Ill., native Wilkerson will continue to carry sponsorship from hometown company Levi, Ray and Shoup.

Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Chip Ellis has joined Don Schumacher Racing and will be sponsored by Schumacher Electric. The team lost both of its PSM drivers, Antron Brown and Angelle Sampey, when the U.S. Army cut back on its sponsorship.

Brown is now driving a Top Fuel dragster for David Powers Motorsports

and Sampey is still in the PSM class, driving a Rush Racing Products-sponsored Buell for Karl Klement Racing.

Revised Countdown

The NHRA's Countdown has had a revision. Instead of eight finalists, there will now by 10 in each class. And the season finale at Pomona will be a week later this season, Nov. 13-16, meaning there will be a break between the final two races.

Finally, John Force continues to make remarkable progress in his recuperation from injuries suffered in a crash in Dallas last September.

Earlier this week, Force climbed in and out of his Funny Car and is now able to get around without the aid of a walker or a cane.

Jane Miller is the Journal Star motorsports columnist. Write her at 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643, call (309) 686-3207 or e-mail