Davis sells NASCAR team, engine company

By: AP
By: AP

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Just a month removed from his first NASCAR championship, but hampered by the current economic crisis, owner Bill Davis has sold his race team and engine company.

Mike Held, a California businessman, and Marty Gaunt, vice president at Bill Davis Racing, bought out the veteran owner. The duo said Monday they've also taken control of profitable Triad Racing Development, which supplies engines, chassis and bodies to customers from all three of NASCAR's top series.

Davis, who has been in NASCAR for more than 20 years, won his first championship this season with Johnny Benson in the Truck Series. He also won the Daytona 500 with Ward Burton in 2002.

But Davis lost his Sprint Cup Series sponsor and has been unable to secure funding for 2009. Benson also announced before last month's title-clinching finale that he would not return to BDR next season.

"When you've been involved for this long in this sport, and won in all three series, there's definitely a lot of emotion involved," Gaunt said. "But I believe Bill got to a time in his life where he said `There's other opportunities for me.' I think he realized this is the right time for him to move on.

"When we told him this is what we'd like to do, presented it to him at the round-table and went back and forth, he got to a point where he wanted to move on this deal."

Davis was not immediately available for comment.

In addition to an Arkansas cattle farm, Davis owns and operates Bill Davis Trucking, which is separate from the NASCAR operation. The trucking company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, 2007, and Davis said at the time the filing was "necessitated by an injury accident and an ensuing lawsuit against the company."

Davis entered NASCAR in 1988, teaming with fellow Arkansas native Mark Martin to run 13 Busch Series races. He had Jeff Gordon under contract in the early 1990s before Gordon found a loophole that allowed him to move to Hendrick Motorsports.

BDR first competed in Cup in 1993 and has five wins, including the Daytona 500 and Southern 500 with Burton. He started last season with two cars, but former Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve failed to make the season-opener and never secured sponsorship to keep that program afloat.

BDR's flagship No. 22, driven by Dave Blaney, finished 30th in the points and lost sponsor Caterpillar to Richard Childress Racing.

The Truck Series program remained successful, though, as Benson, Mike Skinner and Scott Speed combined to win seven races and Davis' first championship.

The new owners of BDR want to have competition details finalized by late January, but are hoping to have both the Cup program and all the Truck Series teams on track in February in Daytona. Held said much of it is dependent on sponsorship, and they are unlikely to field the Cup team without funding.

"We both made a pact that we would not attempt to do something that is short of funding - it always ends in disaster," Held said. "If we come out onto the track, it's because it makes good business sense and nothing more."

So the attention for now is on Triad, where the new owners hope to expand the engine leasing program beyond its current Nationwide and Truck Series customers and into the Cup Series. The chassis program already services all three series.

Held, who owns a motorsports marketing firm and has an extensive background in racing sponsorship, said Triad already has a "full book of work" for 2009. He and Gaunt are now hoping that as the economic crisis takes a toll on NASCAR, more teams will start outsourcing their engine and body work to Triad in a cost-saving measure.

"With the constricting economy ... program managers are having to reevaluate their budget," Held said. "They are going to take a real hard look, for example, whether they should have their own chassis program. Our guess is, once they start to look, that process plus their engine department - two huge line items - they may say `Hmm, we may need to rethink this.' "

The goal, they said, is to increase Triad's engine business by 20 percent over the next season.

Davis will have nothing to do with Triad moving forward, the duo said, and any participation in the race team will be in a "godfatherly way."


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