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Ford will extend hand to Yates

By BRANT JAMES
Published October 14, 2006


CONCORD, N.C. - Ford director of racing technology Dan Davis said Friday that his company will do everything possible to help Robert Yates Racing regain its competitive footing after two woeful seasons that included the defections of drivers Elliott Sadler and Dale Jarrett. That help will include, he said, finding a sponsor to assure that the No. 88 Ford will return even though Jarrett took the powerful UPS account with him to Michael Waltrip Racing.

"I've told Robert, 'I will do anything in my power to develop whatever you need,' " he said. "It's a struggle for him at the moment."

Yates has had few highlights since Sadler finished ninth in points in 2004 and Jarrett won the Talladega fall race in 2005.

Davis said there was nothing Ford could do about some defections, such as Mark Martin, when owners such as Bobby Ginn are willing to pay an enormous salary for a part-time driver. Martin will contest 20 points races for MB2 Motorsports next year.

"It's all about compensation," Davis said. "I'm saying maybe that's happened to one of my friends. Eventually everyone looks at this and says, 'Damn, this is really quite an offer. And you know what? I really have a lot of loyalty and I have a lot of this and I have a lot of friends and I owe my career to somebody and I'm torn on this because of that, but damn. Damn.' And I think we get to that point when you have new manufacturers in the mix. You have new owners in the mix, you have new sponsors in the mix that are willing to upset the norm in terms of compensation."

Davis confirmed driver/owner Robby Gordon will switch from Chevrolet to Ford for next season.

"He's excited about coming in because he knows the motor program is really good," Davis said. "The chassis are really good, the bodies are really good. He can concentrate on race craft and getting the team working well."

BULLISH: Team Red Bull general manager Marty Gaunt told Sirius Speedway on Thursday that three drivers, including Champ Car standout AJ Allmendinger, are candidates for the team's second Nextel Cup seat. Red Bull debuts with Toyota next season.

SAFE AT HOME: Brian Vickers laughed off Lowe's Motor Speedway officials' publicity stunt of offering the driver extra security a week after his last-lap aggressiveness crashed race leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. and second-place teammate Jimmie Johnson at Talladega. Earnhardt and Johnson finished 23rd and 24th, respectively, and lost major points in the Chase for the Championship.

Though Earnhardt fans were riled and Johnson miffed, Vickers believed he was in no danger and realized his "bittersweet" first Nextel Cup win was being exploited to help flagging ticket sales. But, a publicity stunt?

"Oh, of course not," he grinned.

COMING HOME: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates announced that former open wheel champion Juan Pablo Montoya will continue his progression to Nextel Cup by taking part in the final test of the season Tuesday and Wednesday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.