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Mark Martin has been inspiring this year, but his short schedule may be a luxury a reconfigured Ginn can't afford in '08.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR
The other shoe fell quickly at Ginn Racing. Veteran drivers Sterling Marlin and Joe Nemechek both lost their rides this week as the team restructured, perhaps so that it could merge with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and remain under NASCAR's four-car limit for each team.
That's just one possibility, however, in a sport where the rumor mill has kicked into overdrive. Several teams have been talking merger, while others have been negotiating with outside investors.
Toyota could make some major moves as its initial Nextel Cup season has been a dismal failure. Kyle Busch, to be replaced at Hendrick Motorsports in 2008 by Dale Earnhardt Jr., is already looking for a new ride. And look for the aforementioned Nemechek to land a ride for '08, probably knocking one of the struggling Toyota drivers out of his seat.
Clearly, the silly season has definitely started, and a domino effect will soon take place.
Here's a look at the 10 drivers who are most likely to share the same fate as Marlin, Nemechek and Busch; drivers who have a good shot at losing their current ride.
A Roush driver: Something's got to give eventually. Roush Fenway Racing currently fields five cars, and NASCAR has set a maximum of four for each team. NASCAR has given Roush until '10 to cut back. While that seems far in the future, sponsorship (or lack of sponsorship) will drive the decision, including the timing. Current speculation has Greg Biffle as the odd man out, primarily because his sponsor, Ameriquest, wants out at the end of the year. Biffle's contract goes through '08, however, and Roush officials claim that they will find sponsors for his No. 16 car. Biffle probably won't extend his contract, however, unless a long-term deal with a sponsor is signed.
Ward Burton: NASCAR fans were glad to see Burton land a ride for '07, but the season has been painful for both the driver and his No. 4 Morgan-McClure Motorsports team. His full-time ride has been a struggle as he's only qualified the car for nine of the first 19 races.
Mark Martin: One of the biggest success stories of '07 is Martin's strong showing while running a part-time schedule. While this is a great feel-good story, it remains to be seen if the business-model will be a successful one in the long haul. Finances will determine Martin's future. A part-time driver might be a luxury that most NASCAR teams can't afford.