Toyota staying in NASCAR

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:29 AM ET

Fears that Toyota might pack up its haulers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series in the wake of its pulling out of Formula 1 were put to rest this week.

Toyota Racing Development's top gun, Lee White, told ESPN that the Japanese auto giant is in NASCAR's top three national series for the long haul.

"Leaving Formula One was not an easy decision to make," White said. "Obviously, it affects a lot of people, and a lot of those people are friends of ours, so we feel for them. But it should have no effect whatsoever on our NASCAR program, our NASCAR plans and our NASCAR future. We remain completely committed to NASCAR and NASCAR is completely committed to us."

White told the all-sports network that more urgent matters like putting the TRD brian trust in gear over the coming off-season to play catch-up to the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets who put all four of its teams in the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship are occupying his mind right now.

"The Hendrick organization is a tier higher than everyone, including other teams from (Chevrolet)," White said. "So give Hendrick credit. They've done a fantastic job. We don't begrudge them that. We just want to work hard and find ways to beat them."

But White was quick to point out that Hendrick team's current superiority shouldn't nudge NASCAR into trying to legislate it back to the pack, as has been NASCAR's solution in the past to this kind of domination.

"It's very hard to legislate competition," he said. "How can you legislate against Hendrick other than making their life miserable by checking their cars every week and taking them apart? Oh, wait. They did that and it didn't work. I give NASCAR credit for trying. They are doing the best they can. Some of these things just take time until someone figures out how to get as good as they are."

EGR stays with Chevys

What would have been a major body blow to an already crippled General Motors racing division was avoided this week when Chip Ganassi and Teresa Earnhardt apparently agreed to come back next season in Chevrolet Impalas in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series.

Ganassi, in particular, had been playing footsie with Toyota of late, and even held closed-door meetings with TRD bosses last week at Texas Motor Speedway.

But according to senior Fox Sports NASCAR writer Lee Spencer, when TRD balked at supplying motors for the No. 1, No. 8 and No. 42 EGR cars, the deal fell through.

Richard Childress Racing, who supplied Chevrolet engines to EGR this past season, gave Ganassi an ultimatum -- decide now or RCR stops its engine program -- on manufacturers next year.

Ganassi, who, for the most part is openly hostile to the media except for a chosen few who toe his line, was curt in his response when questioned about the deal.

"It's nobody's business," he said.

Money business

Former F-1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen is taking a second look at his options for the 2010 season after he and his agents looked at the fine print in his contract -- that has one year left to run -- with Ferrari.

What once appeared a slam dunk that Raikkonen would move over to McLaren after being dumped by the Italian giant, apparently isn't so clear anymore. A report in Eurosport magazine says that Ferrari will pay Raikkonen $25.5 million US if he does not compete in F-1 in 2010, or $15 million if he does.

McLaren, the magazine claims, is believed to be offering him just $7.5 million.

So Raikkonen did the math and figured that by racing and doing all the testing and sponsor appearances necessary, the McLaren offer would cost him $3 million.

The Finnish driver's agents -- brothers Steve and David Robertson -- have demanded that McLaren sweeten its deal and reduce the numbers of sponsor days the driver is normally forced to work.

Honda Indy update

SCCA Pro Racing has announced it will race next year at the Honda Indy Toronto. The 2010 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT and Touring Car Championships will team up with the IndyCar series in Toronto, St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio.

No word yet if the series will also be at the Rexall Edmonton Indy in late July 2010.

Finish lines

NASCAR will honour Canadian Tire Series champion Andrew Ranger this week at its touring series awards gala in Charlotte, N.C. ... As many as 250 people face layoffs in the aftermath of Richard Petty Motorsports shutting down its engine building program and merging the rest of its operations with Yates Racing ... F-1 is facing a major tire problem when Bridgestone stops supplying rubber for the series in 2011. Already Pirelli, Michelin and Goodyear have said thanks, but no thanks, to entreaties from F-1 bosses.

DEAN.MCNULTY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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