THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Roger Penske said Saturday he’s taking his time deciding who will drive his No. 22 car next season.
Penske released AJ Allmendinger following his failed drug test, and Sam Hornish Jr. has been driving the car since Daytona in July. But the search continues for a full-time solution.
"We’ve got a lot of races left and we’ve really got to take a look at all the options until we get to the final decision," Penske said before the race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
"You just don’t make a decision like this. Sam’s running well, we’ve got sponsors, we’ve got to decide if we want to three cars next year or two."
Penske fields two cars right now, but has room to expand providing he had the sponsorship for additional teams.
Joey Logano, in the final year of his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing, has been mentioned repeatedly as a strong candidate for the ride.
"He’s obviously a candidate," Penske said. "But there’s other good people, too, that people haven’t talked about yet. There’s always a couple of rabbits."
Penske declined to name any other drivers, but said Hornish is "absolutely" still a candidate.
Meanwhile, Matt Kenseth said he expected to announce where he’ll drive "within the next two weeks."
Kenseth and Roush Fenway Racing said in June they were splitting at the end of the season, and Kenseth has had his new job lined up since then. He’s believed to be going to JGR to replace Logano, but has been restricted from revealing his 2013 team.
NO DRAMA: A few comments made after last week’s race are following Brad Keselowski, who insists he wasn’t accusing Hendrick Motorsports of cheating in his remarks.
But there was a sting to them, according to Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"I don’t particularly like the things he says lately about the company I work for," Earnhardt said at Bristol Motor Speedway. "I take offence at the claims and accusations. It’s just natural for me to do that, but we’re friends, and I don’t want any drama between (us)."
Keselowski finished second last Sunday at Michigan to Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson, and talked briefly about rear suspension work some teams are doing as "parts and pieces on the car that are moving after inspection that make the car more competitive." Keselowski did not refer to a specific team, but it was assumed he meant Hendrick Motorsports, which was ahead of other teams in development when NASCAR introduced a rule in late June requiring sway bar mounts to be perpendicular to the ground.
As the comments followed him to Bristol this weekend, Keselowski insisted it has been blown out of proportion.
"I didn’t appreciate how those words were twisted into calling out specific teams," he said. "In fact, I made it a point to not call out specific teams, and I think I said there were a half a dozen to a dozen cars that were running those things, and with the exception of the TV broadcast, hadn’t pointed out which ones they were.
"I don’t think there’s anyone out there that doesn’t believe that the Hendrick cars were one of those groups — and I’m not trying to say that’s the case — but I respect them and their ability to do those things and to be innovators accordingly."
BAD MOOD: Kyle Busch, trying hard to claim one of the 12 spots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field, hasn’t been in the best of moods of late.
And a return trip to Bristol, one of his best tracks and where he’s always a threat to win, didn’t seem to pick up his spirits at all. He hasn’t minced words about his dislike of the track changes at Bristol, but had little to say about being wrecked while leading at Watkins Glen two weeks ago.
Busch, who has not spoken about the Watkins Glen incident, was leading with one lap to go when he was turned by Brad Keselowski. The track was slick with oil at the time, too.
A win there would have greatly improved Busch’s chances to make the Chase. He’s currently sitting outside the top 10 trying to claim one of two wild card berths.
When asked at Bristol if Busch was angry that NASCAR didn’t throw a caution flag for the oil on the track or if he was angry at Keselowski for spinning him, Busch answered "all of the above" and offered nothing else.
Busch and Keselowski have not spoken since Watkins Glen, Busch said, and the two are not considered friendly.
LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE: Bristol Motor Speedway bills itself as the most exciting track in NASCAR, and brought in famed ring announcer Michael Buffer to help get the action started Saturday night.
Buffer said he’s the perfect fit for an auto racing event because his trademark "Let’s get ready to rumble!" opening was created with racing in mind.
"I wanted something that would be a hook, that would be comparable to the world famous "Gentlemen Start Your Engines,’ Buffer said about creating his call.
He said when he first got into boxing, he noticed that ring announcers did little to engage the audience and spent too much time introducing dignitaries and officials.
"The fighters would come to the ring and it’s exciting, the music, the great entrance, and the ring announcer would kill, literally kill the crowd," Buffer said. "I wanted something that would bring that excitement back."
But Buffer said it took some time to get the right call.
"I tried ‘Man your battle stations,’ and it was like crickets from the Bugs Bunny cartoon. It was horrible. Then I tried ‘and fasten your seatbelts,’ " he said.
FREE CAR: Sprint and Ford have teamed to give away the pace car NASCAR will use during Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In addition to a new 2013 Ford Fusion Titanium, the winner will also receive an all-expense paid trip for two to Las Vegas for the NASCAR’s Champion’s Week. The car will be presented to the winner at the NASCAR After the Lap event.
The car will be signed by every Ford Racing driver and used to pace the field Nov. 16-18 at Homestead.
Fans can enter the sweepstakes now through Nov. 18 from their smartphones or at the Sprint Experience, the mobile-marketing display located in the midway at every NASCAR Cup race.