Will schedule change to fit Chase?

jutter@charlotteobserver.comNovember 15, 2013 

— Is it possible NASCAR could alter the track makeup of the Chase for the Sprint Cup in future seasons?

NASCAR President Mike Helton seemed to open the door to such a move in comments made during a news conference Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“I would say 10 years ago, just because it’s the 10th year of the Chase, when we first started the Chase, we said that we weren’t going to change the schedule to fit the Chase, but that was 10 years ago,” he said. “Things change, and you never know what may or may not happen.

“I think the expectations of the entire schedule is something the industry relies on and while we may not think it needs to be tweaked or changed, others have influence on our decision to make it better.

“Certainly we keep an open mind of that.”

The 2014 Cup schedule is almost identical to this year’s schedule but NASCAR officials have said they are interested in taking a look at making some possible changes in 2015, the first year of NASCAR’s new TV deal.

Annett to move to Cup series

Tommy Baldwin Racing announced on Friday it has signed driver Michael Annett and sponsor Pilot Flying J to run fulltime in the Cup series in 2014.

The move reunites Annett and team owner Tommy Baldwin, who once worked together at Bill Davis Racing. Annett has most recently run in the Nationwide series at Richard Petty Motorsports.

Annett will drive the No. 7 and Baldwin will continue as the team’s crew chief. TBR will field a fleet of Richard Childress Racing cars and utilize Earnhardt-Childress Racing engines beginning next season.

“Since we went Cup racing about five years ago, we’ve grown and gotten better with each passing season,” Baldwin said. “This is the next logical step, and I believe there’s a lot of potential for Michael to come in and do good things in our race cars.”

RPM still plans to run a Nationwide series team in 2014, but team officials have not yet formalized plans around a driver.

‘Significant changes’ to Hall process

NASCAR spokesman Brett Jewkes announced this week that there will be “significant changes” made to the NASCAR Hall of Fame selection process and eligibility requirements.

The changes will be formally announced during Champions Week next month at Las Vegas.

Jewkes did unveil one change.

“As we meet to select the 2015 Hall of Fame class this May, NASCAR will become the first major sport to include a current competitor on the voting panel,” he said. “Moving forward, the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion will have a vote for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.”

Blaney to run Trucks again

NASCAR rising star Ryan Blaney, who won his first Nationwide Series race earlier this season with Penske Racing, will return as a fulltime driver in the Truck Series in 2014 with Brad Keselowski Racing.

Blaney is also expected to run some Nationwide races next season as well. He’s made three starts this season with Penske, including his victory at Kentucky.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter.

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