NASCAR ROUNDUP \ News and notes
Elliott back at Daytona: Partially retired, Bill Elliott spends most of his weekends away from the race track enjoying time with his family. Occasionally, he finds himself missing competition. "I realize it's a different evolution and you've got to lay it down sometimes," Elliott said. "It's sooner or later, and later might not be the way you want to do it. I feel like now I've done it kind of the way I want to do it, and it's worked out for me." Elliott now gets to picks the races he wants to compete in and assuming car owner Ray Evernham can find sponsorship, Elliott gets to race. But Evernham had nothing available for him for the Budweiser Shootout. Elliott's brother, Ernie, builds engines for car owner Chip Ganassi and he put the two in touch. With Evernham's blessing, Elliott will drive a Dodge for Ganassi tonight.
Back to the beginning: Jimmie Johnson is returning to the Busch Series this season to run six races in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Johnson began his NASCAR career in the Busch Series, and approached Jeff Gordon one day for career advice. It led to a friendship and a little bit of mentoring, and eventually opened the door for Johnson to join Hendrick Motorsports in the Nextel Cup series. Johnson is scheduled to run in Busch races at Atlanta, Chicago, California, Texas and two races at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte.
Charging back: Dodge is going retro as it returns the Charger to NASCAR competition with versions of its limited-edition cars entered in tonight's Budweiser Shootout. Kasey Kahne will drive a metallic-orange Charger called Go ManGo! and Jeremy Mayfield will be in a bright-yellow 'Top Banana' car in the exhibition race. The cars are celebrating the Charger's return to production after a 27-year hiatus and are modeled after a limited-edition Daytona R/T model that will go on sale this summer.
Junior's new adventure: Dale Earnhardt Jr. is continuing to grow his JR Motorsports operation and will field a car for Mark McFarland in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series. McFarland will also drive a limited late model schedule for the team. "It's a fun effort, yet it's a serious effort," said Earnhardt, who is using it as a springboard for even more opportunities. "As far as moving on into other series, the sky's the limit."
New Craven: Ricky Craven couldn't make his way to Daytona before taking care of a little family business: The birth of his third child. Lydia Cathleen Craven was born at 8:47 p.m. Thursday -- early enough for Craven to stay home with the family before traveling to Daytona to compete in the Craftsman Truck Series race next Friday. "She is absolutely beautiful," Craven said. "Everybody should get to come home from the hospital on Friday so I can spend a few days with her before I leave for Daytona next week. This is the best start to SpeedWeeks I've ever had."