Veteran Winston Cup team owner Travis Carter has signed a landmark deal with British-based motorsport outfit Torquespeed UK to form the first UK-based and funded NASCAR Winston Cup team.

The new team could see Carter run two full time entries for the first time since his sponsorship deal with Kmart turned sour weeks before the start of the 2002 season as Carter also hopes to continue operating the #54 BelCar Racing outfit with Sam Belnavis. The Torquespeed Carter Ford will assume the #66 plate last used by Japanese journeyman Hideo Fukuyama with Torquespeed UK the majority shareholder for the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup season. The team will operate from the existing Travis Carter Enterprises complex in Statesville, North Carolina.

Carter, who will oversee race operations, boasts an impressive NASCAR resume. His 32-year career includes winning the 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup Championship in his rookie year as crew chief for Benny Parsons. After working as crew chief for drivers Bobby Allison, Harry Gant, Rick Mast, Cale Yarborough and Benny Parsons, he joined the owner ranks in 1989 and has amassed six pole positions and more than $18 million in career earnings. He co-owns BelCar Racing and its No. 54 Ford's driven by Bodine, who currently sits 31st in the driver's points table.

"I am very excited by the UK team's business and marketing plans," remarked Carter. "Their understanding and knowledge of our sport demonstrates they know what it takes to be successful. We have a lot in common. We are committed to achieving success both on the track and for the marketing partners that will participate in this unique program. With our combined resources, I know we can achieve the business and racing goals we've set for Torquespeed Carter Racing in 2004 and beyond."

Torquespeed was established in England in August 2000 as a founding team in the European-based ASCAR Days of Thunder Series, which competes on the 1.5-mile Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby, England and the two-mile EuroSpeedway Lausitz in Germany. The team has enjoyed considerable success and won the inaugural ASCAR Mintex Cup Championship, now known as The Days of Thunder Series, with John Mickel at Rockingham in 2001. This year Torquespeed became the largest operation in the championship, running a total of five teams.

Paul Musselle, spokesperson for the UK team and one of the series' leading TV commentators, explained Torquespeed decision to join forces with Travis Carter.

"Having successfully established the UK operation, the shareholders wanted to move to the greatest stock car racing arena on the planet, and that's NASCAR," Musselle said. "We looked long and hard to identify a partner with the expertise, commitment and vision to make this work over the long term and Travis is, without doubt, the right man."

Musselle added: "The first essential was to ensure that the funding for the business was firmly in place and we have comfortably achieved that goal. We have significant business funding in place for the next four years and this provides a solid platform on which to realize our plans. Clearly the next stage is to finalize our racing budgets for 2004 and beyond."

Although no sponsor has yet been signed, the team is in discussion with several major global brands, discussions that could capitalize on NASCAR's new TV deal with the North American Sports Network that sees nearly every Winston Cup race broadcast live in its entirety in the UK.

"Torquespeed Carter's interest in NASCAR validates the growing appeal of our sport, and we welcome them to NASCAR." said George Pyne, Chief Operating Officer of NASCAR.

Plans for Torquespeed Carter also include establishing a ladder of success for talented European drivers, who will be given the opportunity to demonstrate their ability on the world's most exciting motorsports stage.

First of these will be John Mickel, the 2001 Days of Thunder Champion. Mickel, from Cambridge, England began racing at the age of ten on both paved and dirt short ovals in the UK. During the past 21 years, he has secured 17 Championship titles.

Mickel said, "I'm excited by the opportunity. NASCAR has always been my goal and to have the chance to test myself in this environment is going to be quite a challenge. With people like Travis around me, I know I'm going to get some clear feedback on what I do well and where I need to improve."

The alliance between Torquespeed and Travis Carter establishes Torquespeed Carter as the only team to operate full-time, all-year-round programs in high-profile motorsports on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

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