Sprint Cup driver Casey Mears was effectively fired by Hendrick Motorsports on Friday but will contest the remaining 20 races of the season in the No. 5 Chevrolet. What went wrong? He has the bloodlines (son of Roger and nephew of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick), youth (30), team (Hendrick has won 20 races and two championships since 2006) and experience as an open-wheel and stock-car driver. But he has never had the results. Among 196 Cup starts, Mears' lone victory came in the Coca-Cola 600 last year. So now what? For Hendrick, options are endless for an attractive team.
. Tony Stewart
The two-time series champion has batted his eyes at other teams despite being under contract with Joe Gibbs Racing through 2009.
. Ryan Newman
A free agent who is unhappy with Penske Racing's performance.
. Mark Martin
Leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc. after the season but has expressed an affinity for his part-time, endless semi-retirement tour. And for Mears?
. Penske Racing could have an opening. Uncle Rick won all of his Indy 500s there and is still on the payroll. If Ryan Briscoe doesn't pan out, Penske could have an IndyCar opening.
. Richard Childress Racing has a fourth car coming in 2009. Kevin Harvick idolized Uncle Rick. Does Casey Mears hunt?
. He could reunite with fellow deposed Hendrick driver Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing (if Stewart leaves) and commiserate all day long.
Junior: Almirola deserves his shot
Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his weekly radio show on Mark Martin's departure from Dale Earnhardt Inc. after this season and Tampa product Aric Almirola's ascension to a full-time Sprint Cup ride:
"It was a matter of time before Aric Almirola came into a full-time operation at DEI. He's bound and determined to make a career in racing, and he's a good guy, super dude. And he deserves a full-time ride. And I think it's good for DEI to step up to the plate and give this guy what he deserves."
Kyle Busch, left, is proving to be a versatile victor this season. He is the first Cup driver to win a restrictor plate (Talladega) and road course (Sonoma) race in the same season since Jeff Gordon in 2000. Gordon won the same events.
With the series at New Hampshire on Sunday, he could be the first to win a restrictor plate, road course and 1-mile race (okay, Loudon is technically 1.058 miles) since Tony Stewart in 2005. Stewart won at Watkins Glen, Sonoma and Daytona (summer race) on his way to the series title.
Biffle to remain at Roush Fenway
Greg Biffle and Roush Fenway agreed to a three-year contract extension Friday.
"It was a long process," said Biffle, who has 12 wins since joining Roush in 2003. "A lot of things went into making a decision on where I was going to be. One was Ford's commitment to the racing program and supporting us technologically.
"I just feel like we're making all the right decisions at our company right now to win championships and races, and I like all the guys on the (No.) 16 team."
Rookie gets pole for Sprint race
Patrick Carpentier earned the pole for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. The Canadian rookie, whose last pole came in Champ Car in 2004 on a road course, was among those who waited out a rain delay of nearly two hours. His best previous start was fourth last month at Richmond.
"It's amazing," said Carpentier, whose fastest lap was 129.776 mph. "We made a couple of changes from this morning, and the car just rotated beautifully through the middle of the corner. It was just stuck on the track.
"If I had won the first pole on a road course, I wouldn't be as happy."
Bobby Labonte (129.059) was second followed by Kevin Harvick (128.976), Scott Riggs (128.976) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (128.885). Points leader Kyle Busch (127.782) will start 27th.
Kanaan, Andretti on IRL front row
Andretti Green teammates Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti qualified to start on the front row of tonight's IRL SunTrust Indy Challenge in Richmond, Va. Kanaan earned his 10th pole and second this season by averaging 167.876 mph over four laps, edging Andretti's 167.795. Graham Rahal (167.250) and points leader Scott Dixon (167.120) will start in Row 2.
Press release of the year (so far)
From New Hampshire Motor Speedway:
Due to last-minute permit issues, the elephant race scheduled as part of the pre-race activities Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway has been canceled.
"We didn't know until late yesterday that there were pachyderm permits required to move an elephant across state lines, and apparently, there are some health certifications required as well," said Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of the speedway. "We're disappointed, but we simply don't have the time to comply properly with all the federal procedures."