Bill Elliott has signed on to drive 3 races for Red Bull Racing this year. The Toyota Camery body has not been approved by NASCAR for racing in 2006 so Red Bull will be forced to use a different body style for these races. My guess is that they will use a Ford body since, as far as I can see, it is the closest in style to the Camery. Although, it would be interesting for them to build one each of Ford, Chevy, and Dodge and run each at an areo track to collect data for comparison to their Camery body when it is ready for testing. I hear Toyota has deep pockets so this this isn't quite out of the realm of possibility. Stay tuned for this one.
The reason why Red Bull went with Elliott and not someone like Ricky Rudd, who has been testing cars for the Rolex Series lately, is Elliott's skill at communicating just exactly how good a car is and what is wrong with it makes him a good choice to run these 'test' races for Red Bull. At least that is the official statement from Red Bull, and although there might be some truth in that the real reason is that he is a past champion and he is guaranteed to start each one of those races whether he makes it on qualifying time or not. Pure and simple. Ray Evernham did it with Elliott and his new Dodge team a few years ago, so why not do the same thing as he did?
What makes it more interesting is that for these three races that means one of those regular cars battling for the 35th spot in the owner points to guarantee starts for upcoming races, like the 2007 Daytona 500, could be sitting out a few races. These teams that are going to be affected by Elliott running these races are also the ones that all Toyota teams, including Red Bull, will be fighting with next season for that coveted 35th spot in the owner standings. I sense some tension here, especially if a team doesn't make the 35th spot for next year due to not starting a race.
Rumour has it that Red Bull is also trying to get Elliott to drive for them next year, either full time or for at least the first 10 races to secure that 35th starting spot. We'll have to just wait and see. If Elliott won't sign with them I bet they'll be going after Terry Labonte next and if he doesn't sign there is always Darryl Waltrip or Benny Parsons.
Hmm ... I wonder if Michael Waltrip has considered taking himself out of his car and putting Darryl in for his Past Champion provisional. I bet that is why he hired Dale Jarrett, he is a past champion too. Interesting stuff here, we'll have to watch it a bit more as the year progresses.