Former Champ car star Patrick Carpentier is a candidate to fill the No. 10 Dodge at Gillett Evernham next season, but co-owner Alex Gillett said the team is looking at several drivers.
Scott Riggs is leaving to drive for Haas CNC Racing next season, and the new majority ownership group is taking its time replacing him. Among the contenders is David Stremme, who lost his job at Chip Ganassi Racing when it hired Dario Franchitti.
But many believe the Gillett family is partial to Carpentier, a Quebec native with ties to the owners of the Montreal Canadiens.
“He is one guy we like, absolutely,” Gillett said Sunday. “He tested pretty well at Kentucky and drove the car pretty well on the track, so we’ll see.”
Carpentier has driven in only one Nextel Cup race and two Busch Series events, all on road courses. The No. 10 is currently outside the top 35 in owner points, and Riggs has failed to qualify for seven events, including Sunday’s race at Talladega.
It creates a tricky situation if the team decides to hire Carpentier. If the car isn’t locked into the field and misses races, Carpentier won’t get the experience he’d need to race it inside the top 35 in points.
Gillett acknowledged the difficulties Carpentier could face.
“Like all of these new guys, there is going to be a learning curve in regards to ... if you bring them into this sport, how do you bring them in properly?” he said. “I’m not sure you take somebody like Patrick Carpentier and throw them right into Nextel Cup.”
Carpentier remains attractive because the team can court Canadian companies to sponsor the car.
But Gillett said the team is continuing to talk to other drivers. Stremme has been mentioned for several rides, and David Reutimann, another current Cup driver who isn’t yet signed for 2008, has indicated he’s close to a deal to stay at Michael Waltrip Racing.
“We’ve got some other good options for the No. 10 car that we’re exploring right now,” Gillett said. “We’ll see over the next couple of weeks where that ends up. Right now we’re kind of at the point where we’re talking to two or three different people.
“We just have to be careful about creating too many rumors.”