West Wardsboro businessman Bill Jenkins has purchased the car number, owner points, and equipment from the #26 team formerly campaigned by Roush-Fenway Racing and driver Jamie McMurray in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Jenkins plans to contest the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule beginning with next month's Daytona 500 at Daytona Int'l Speedway in Florida.
"I'm a huge race fan and I've always wanted to do this," Jenkins told Vermont Motorsports Magazine on Tuesday. "The opportunity presented itself, and I took it."
Jenkins and his wife, Sandy, are the owners of Latitude 43, an organic soap company.
Originally from New York City, Jenkins moved to New England in 1990 and has homes in Vermont and Maine. He plans to keep strong ties to the northeast with his new adventure, starting with the core of the team; Jenkins has hired North Haverhill, N.H. native Frank Stoddard as crew chief. Stoddard won 17 Sprint Cup Series races with Roush-Fenway Racing and driver Jeff Burton in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
"We have a shop in Concord, N.C. and we could do all of our business down there, but we're staying true to Vermont," said Jenkins. "I consider Vermont my home, and I have for almost 20 years. There are a lot of race fans here in Vermont, and I'd like to think this may be a big deal for them and give them something to cheer for. We will do all of our banking through Vermont and try to focus on the state as much as we can."
McMurray drove the #26 to 22nd place in Sprint Cup Series point standings in 2009, locking the car into the first five events of the 2010 season under NASCAR's owners points system. The team won the AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in November. Roush-Fenway was forced to cut the team from its organization in accordance with NASCAR's new policy limiting race teams to four cars. Roush-Fenway Racing will continue to field the #6, #16, #17, and #99 cars for David Ragan, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards, respectively.
Jenkins said that he realizes there is a lot of work to do before the season starts on Feb. 14 in the biggest stock car race in the world. "We don't have any sponsors, and I realize that we will be the only blank canvas in the top-35 at Daytona," he said. "We've been contacted by several companies that otherwise couldn't become involved in NASCAR for various reasons, and we think we'll find something soon."
The 61-year old said he drew inspiration from a close friend, Middlebury car dealership mogul and veteran Devil's Bowl Speedway racer Gardner Stone, before he made the transaction with Roush-Fenway: "One of Gardner's favorite sayings is 'Life isn't a dress rehearsal.' I've been around racing since I was a kid. I remember guys driving around with cigarettes in their mouths and their arms hanging out the window. Now, all these years later, I finally have a chance to get involved.
"It's all very exciting. I celebrated for about ten minutes when we signed the deal, but then I put my head down in the ditch and got to work."
Jenkins expects to name his team's driver in the coming days.