Stewart-Haas Racing Enters Second Year: The first function of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway was a luncheon hosted by Stewart-Haas Racing, one the surprise teams of the 2009 season. Stewart-Haas put both its cars in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup in its first season with Tony Stewart as co-owner. Stewart won four races and finished sixth in the standings, while teammate Ryan Newman finished ninth. "I can promise you one thing, it was a year ago this time none of us knew what to expect, and it was a big question mark as to what was going to happen," said Stewart. This year, Stewart said, was a lot more relaxing. At the same time, much more is expected of the team - and Stewart knows it. "I'm expecting a great year," said Stewart. "I feel like both of us being able to get in the Chase last year was something I expect both teams to do. I feel like the changes that we went through and the work we've done over the winter has prepared both of these teams to have a shot at running for a championship."
Newman, an engineering graduate from Purdue University, used a mathematical formula to talk about the 2010 season vs. 2009. "Two points define a slope," said Newman." We have our point from 2009. Our point from 2010 will determine our success for Stewart-Haas racing in years to go.Just going out there and having a lot better start to the season in Daytona is extremely important - and getting that definition and that second point so we can define our future at Stewart-Haas Racing is also important for us this year." Newman's crew chief, Tony Gibson, said his main goal for 2010 is to get Newman and the #39 U.S. Army Chevrolet to Victory Lane. "For us, we want to come out and win races," said Gibson. "We let a few get away last year. We want to win races and be a threat to win a championship. Making the Chase was awesome, but that's not good enough.We've got to step up our game."
The entire team has done that, especially when compared to this time last year. Then, the team was frantically working on cars to get ready for the season. And there weren't that many finished cars around. "The main thing for me is now I can look out of my office and see cars actually sitting out on the floor," said Bobby Hutchens, Stewart-Haas Racing director of competition said. "This time last year, it was a pretty empty shop. I kind of feel like we're two months ahead of last year's schedule, if you could call it that."
Darian Grubb, crew chief of Stewart's #14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet team, agreed. "Last year we were building," Grubb said. "But now, it's actually good to be able to say we're strengthening. The areas we felt like we had some weaknesses, we know where those are and we were able to make a few changes here and there."
Wing vs. spoiler: NASCAR is set to begin testing an aluminum spoiler instead of a wing on its new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car this week at Texas Motor Speedway, and several competitors expressed an opinion on the spoiler. NASCAR will also test at Charlotte Motor Speedway on March 23-24 with the spoiler.
"What NASCAR is going to spend a lot of time doing - whether it's in the Charlotte test or a Goodyear tire test - is figure out what balance is good for our cars in clean air," Ryan Newman said. "This car has been a challenge at times because of the frontal surface area and the fact that it's got a taller roof and a little bit 'squarer' in reference to the whole that it punches in the air. It's become a little more challenging running 15th than with the older-style car. It's going to open up a new can of worms in respect to a spoiler on this type of race car."
Newman was involved in a grinding crash at Talladega Superspeedway last year, flipping down the backstretch. He said then he hoped NASCAR would make changes to the car to help it stay on the ground in case of an accident. "NASCAR has done a lot of testing, and I think that is a definite part of why they're making some changes in respect to spoiler vs. wing," Newman said.
"The fans, ultimately, are what brought these changes along," KyleBusch said. "They should be appreciative to NASCAR for listening and to following some of their direction." Said Newman, "Is it a better looking car? I like the looks of a spoiler over a wing, for sure. I've always thought that a stock car or a full-fendered race car, as in dirt late models or late models or even a street stock at your local race tracks, they have spoilers. That's just my preference." How will a spoiler affect the handling of the car? Time will tell. "It's going to have some different effects with the cars side-drafting," Newman said. "In the end, I hope it keeps the aerodynamic balance the same front to rear because I think we have a good balance with respect to that. I don't know what it's going to do for the racing, what it's going to be like with the aero push and the things we've talked about."
Busch said he doesn't think the cars will be any easier to drive. "It certainly can, depending on how big they go on the spoiler," Busch said. "They're talking of keeping the same downforce level in the car, which is only like an inch spoiler. It's still going to make the cars hard to drive."
Joey Logano: Joe Gibbs Racing's Joey Logano won the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award in 2009, and he heads into his sophomore Sprint Cup season with optimism. "You've got to keep improving from where we were at the end of the season," Logano said. "I think we've got momentum from that way, the
beginning half we've definitely picked up a lot. If we keep doing that and then try to make this Chase. That would be something that would be cool to do.
"It helps a lot to know the race tracks and to have a year under my belt with [crew chief Greg Zipadelli] and the team, and work with my teammates more. All that stuff helps a lot. "It gives me confidence that I got stuff to look at now. Last year what did I have? I didn't have notes, I had nothing. So this year at least I can look back and say, OK, I wrote down this, this and this about this race track. This is where I need to start and work from there. That's a big help for me."
Quotes of the Day:
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx Toyota, on added pressure of topping four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson: "Last year the quote was 'I didn't want to be a contender anymore. I wanted to be a champion.' I was sick of having expectations and no results to back it up. I think we did that this year. We just didn't have the reliability to win the championship and that's the bottom line. We just didn't have the parts and pieces right. I think we know how to win a championship and I know how to win a championship. Now it's just going to be executing it.
Kyle Petty, via video, on Charlotte Motor Speedway's new frontstretch seats: "They are 25 percent wider for fat guys like me," Petty said.
Joe Gibbs on accessibility of NASCAR drivers vs. other sports: "If you try and get a quarterback's autograph on football day, you'll get arrested."
Joe Gibbs on his future of the future of NASCAR: "Going through a tough economy, I'll say this: I'm probably as excited about the future of racing as I've ever been, for this reason. When you go through tough times, what happens lots of times is everybody gets together.Everybody's on one page. Everybody's trying to pull together, and I think what you're going to see is this sport is going to come roaring."
J.D. Gibbs on the logo for Taylor's Finish Line Festival, which sports his 5-year-old son Taylor: "That actually is my son, by the way. He takes after my dad. His head is way too big. That's the truth."
Joey Logano, #20 Home Depot Toyota, on having success at such a young age: "I never know where I could be five years from now. I could be on top of the world or I could be driving a Zamboni somewhere."
Teams Looking to Improve in 2010:
The second day of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway included sessions with two championship teams that fell on hard times in 2009, Richard Childress Racing and Roush Fenway Racing.
But despite the struggles of the two organizations, officials from both teams are optimistic for the new season. RCR has good reason for believing things have turned around. Its four cars had 11 top-10 finishes over the final six races of the 2009 season. "The whole company feels good coming off the season," said owner Richard Childress. "None of us wanted to end the season with the momentum we had going. That's the way it is when you get things going. It's equal for everybody starting over." The solid finish came at the end of a disappointing season where the organization failed to win a race for the first time since 2004. Team owner Richard Childress said his organization made changes mid-summer that didn't show up in performance until late in the season. "It took that long for it to start showing up," Childress said. "We didn't have a typical RCR year. We didn't have a car in the Chase or running up front. This year, I feel really good with the opportunity with the changes that we made." Bowyer said the changes took much longer to come to fruition than anyone expected, but they did come. "Nonetheless, a day late and a dollar short, but we were seeing light at the end of the tunnel at the end of the season," Bowyer said. "We were seeing those changes become a positive on the race track. With five races to go, you were seeing RCR cars running up front as a whole. It wasn't just one. It was all of them running good. That gives me a lot of optimism going into the season and thinking that we've got something for them this year." Kevin Harvick, who drives the #29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet, said his team didn't have the consistency needed to compete for a championship in 2009 but hopes that changes this year. "Hopefully we've got a good foundation to start the year," Harvick said. "Even when we've had our bad years before, we could still finish 10th, 15th - and that's the piece we were missing last year. Our bad days, they were bad. Our good days were good at the end of the year, but those middle-of-the-road finishes are what we have to have. Hopefully we can find that consistency this year." And while the team is confident it has things going in the right direction, driver Jeff Burton cautions against overconfidence. "What we've got to do is protect against thinking it's going to be that easy, because it's not," said Burton. "We've got a lot of work ahead of us. I feel like we're so much more prepared going into this year, compared to where we were last year. A lot of things have happened at RCR that I feel really good about." How do you keep the momentum going? "You keep at it," Bowyer said. "Don't let up on anything you do and stay focused and keep everybody else focused. I feel like you can stay on track that way. When you start losing focus and take your eye off the ball, you're going to swing and miss."
Jack Roush Places Blame on Himself for Roush Fenway Struggles:
After winning 11 races and placing three cars in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2008, Roush Fenway cars won only three times in 2009, with two making the Chase - though none placed higher than seventh in the final standings. What went wrong? Jack Roush said the team misused its time, and he blamed himself for it. "We spent our time, and a disproportionate amount of it, trying to find that next breakthrough, that next steered rear axle that we introduced in 2008, which was part of the reason we were so dominant on the mile-and-a-half tracks, and the coil-bound front spring which we introduced in 2002 when the people with Greg Biffle found that," Roush said. "It didn't come. We didn't find it." Meanwhile, Roush Fenway didn't spend enough time massaging the cars, trying to lighten them up as much as possible, trying to smooth on the bodies. "We got best-balled on the tweaks and the sanding," Roush said. Ford stepped up their commitment for this season, to make up for "my ineptitude," Roush said. Roush Fenway increased its engineering staff from 30 to 36, which means the organization can continue to look for the next breakthrough while still working on the little things that make the cars go fast. "I couldn't be more excited about 2010," Roush said. "I've learned from 2009, when I thought it was going to be a slam dunk to come back and dominate the mile-and-a-half tracks and to be a contender for a championship again. We just missed it." Carl Edwards didn't win in 2009 after going to Victory Lane nine times in 2008, though he did reach the Chase. He also fell short of the Nationwide Series title but returns with a vengeance for 2010. "Our goals are simple: I want to win both championships," Edwards said. "When Matt [Kenseth] won the [Daytona] 500 and then California [early in the 2009 season], probably all of us thought, 'Well, this is going to be it. This is going to be fun.' Throughout the year, we did struggle. I know I personally learned a lot about myself and about the team and what we need. We've been able to work on that stuff. I'm excited to get the year going." Matt Kenseth failed to get the #17 DeWalt Ford into the Chase for the first time in his career. He worked with crew chief Drew Blickensderfer for the first time last year and hopes their relationship can continue to grow. "I feel like there's maybe a little stability there," Kenseth said. "I think he knows a lot more what I like and don't like, probably more what I don't like. I've learned a lot of things about him as well.We've got a lot of exciting things going. We made a lot of upgrades on our cars from last year. But the bottom line is we've got to do it on the race track. We've got to have better results than we had last year. We've got to get back into championship form." David Ragan, driver of the #6 UPS Ford, has even simpler goals. "It's pretty simple: We've got to win races in 2010," Ragan said. "I'm encouraged by the things with our race cars. I feel like we've got a pretty good grasp on things for Daytona. The real test will be when we unload in California. But it's plain and simple: We've got to win races next year. We've got to be competitive, from the short tracks to the mile-and-a-half tracks to the speedway tracks."
Where Will Kevin Harvick Go?
Kevin Harvick is in the final year of his contract with Richard Childress Racing, and there is plenty of speculation as to where he'll end up. Harvick said his relationship with Childress is good and the two have common goals on how to make things right. He also said he won't set a deadline to getting a deal done with RCR during the season. "I'm not going to push that side of it," Harvick said. "They'll all talk and do their things behind the scenes. I just want to be the driver. I don't want to get in a big political war with anybody." Childress said the "door's open to talk on down the road. We'll be talking some. We'll just see what comes out of it." Harvick did say he didn't think his contract situation would be a distraction. "I've been there before," Harvick said. "The best year we ever had was a contract year: 2006 was a contract year, and we won five or six races and had a chance to win the championship. We won the Nationwide championship. That was the last contract year, so that one went pretty good."
Will Cup Teams Have to Dodge Penske?
Penske Racing will be the only Dodge team for the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, but team officials and Dodge officials reaffirmed their commitment to each other during Monday night's dinner session. "This is our eighth season with Dodge, and I have never seen this level of commitment from Dodge and the enthusiasm of the entire Dodge team," said Walt Czarnecki, executive vice president, Penske Corporation. "We believe in Dodge and we believe in their success. Together, we're going to achieve that success on the race track and in the showrooms." Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of Dodge Car Brand, said the manufacturer went through a short period before deciding to remain in NASCAR. "It's been an interesting year for us, obviously," said Gilles. "It's been a big year for introspection. We had a lot of decisions we had to make as we went through the summer last year and kind of rebuilding our company from the inside out. NASCAR was one of those decisions we had to make. It was a very short one. We decided to absolutely be committed." Dodge went to one team, Penske, though it will increase its commitment to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, including the addition of a second full-time team. Gilles said Dodge likes the NASCAR Nationwide Series and likes the series' new model car, the Challenger. "It's a beautiful thing," Gilles said of the car that will run four races in the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series season. Gilles said Dodge will continue to support NASCAR in a "big, big way." "I want to really weave our NASCAR effort into what Dodge is going to be all about," Gilles said. And Penske will be a big part of Dodge's overall effort, Penske Racing owner Roger Penske said. "I think we have a competitive advantage," Penske said. "The fact that all the resources, both technical and from a marketing standpoint, are supporting our drivers and our other sponsors, we have that benefit with Dodge.Believe me, this is just not putting your name on the side of a car or having your decal as a Dodge running around the race track. This is about selling cars, about selling product."
Kurt Busch on Steve Addington as Crew Chief
In 2010 Kurt Busch, the driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing, will have a new crew chief sitting on top the pit box. Steve Addington, who was with Joe Gibbs Racing as Kyle Busch's crew chief in 2009, will be leading the Miller Lite team during the upcoming season. Kurt Busch was with his family, including his brother, getting a picture taken for their Christmas cards when Kyle received a phone call. "I went 'what just happened?' Cause he hung up the phone in a weird manor and kind of was mumbling around and kicking the grass," said Kurt. "He said, 'Well Steve's not going to be my crew chief anymore.'" Once Kurt heard this news, he didn't waste time starting his efforts to have Addington be his crew chief. "I said, 'Well give me his phone number,'" stated Kurt. "I mean that's how fast I said it because I knew Pat was leaving us months ago. And he said, 'Well your smart enough, you can find his number on your own.' "He wouldn't give it to me. He was still a bit distorted on what had just happened. He's always tough like that." Kurt saw the experience that Addington had and that's why he wanted to work with him. "The credentials he brings was the deciding factor. We looked at a guy internally; I was ready to go with him. But somebody of his caliber and status made me think and reevaluate where we needed to go."
Carl Edwards on 2009 Frustrations
Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Alfac Ford for Roush Fenway Racing collected seven top fives and 14 top 10s in 2009, but failed to get a victory and finished 11th in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings. "There's so many different ways to look at success and failure because it's not cut and dry because there's one winner and 42 losers every Sunday," said Edwards. "You can go a whole season and not win and still have had a good season." Edwards, who is famous for his back flips, went to Victory Lane nine times in 2008, a season high in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "In 2008, it seemed very simple. I drove like I felt like I could drive it and we won a lot of races," he explained. "I think the frustration comes when you know you can do it and you know that you did everything as well or better than you had and you don't get the same result."
Fatherhood Update - Carl Edwards and Elliott Sadler
Carl Edwards and Elliott Sadler are two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who are preparing to enter fatherhood in the coming months. When answering a question about his wife's due date, Edwards told a funny story and talked about his plan if the baby comes during the Daytona 500 weekend. "It's funny, the other day we were walking across the parking lot at this building. She stopped in the middle of the parking lot and said 'my water just broke.' I said 'Holy!' She said, 'I'm just joking.' She doesn't joke around with stuff like that. She's got me on my toes. February 17th is the due date, which I think is the Wednesday after the 500. "Robbie's got a plan for someone to practice the cars. I really want to be in the room. I think I want to be in the room if that happens." "I asked Katy, I told her why don't we just bring the doctor with us like, you know, on the plane, around the race track. She said that wasn't cool. So, she's going to stay at home and I'll hopefully be there. That's my plan." Sadler may be in the same boat as Edwards. His wife is due in four weeks. "It has been the best off season I've ever had and it's been so exciting getting the room ready, getting things ready for our little baby boy to come along," said Sadler. "It's up to him now, but I'm thinking in the next four or five weeks we'll have him. My wife and I can't be any more excited."
Richard Petty Motorsports Merger Now Complete
Rumors of a Richard Petty Motorsports/Yates Racing merger began circulating a few months ago but it wasn't until today that the racing community could stop calling them rumors. "I'm here to announce the best kept secret in all of motorsports, which is that the merger between Yates Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports is officially completed," said Foster Gillette, managing partner of Richard Petty Motorsports, in a press conference Tuesday morning. The merger, which happened in December, brought some big changes along with it. During the 2010 season Richard Petty Motorsports will be running Ford Fusions, ending its long relationship with Dodge. Also, RPM will leave behind its previous home in Statesville, N.C., moving to the Yates Racing facility in Concord, N.C. Filling the four driver positions at RPM will be Elliott Sadler, Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger and Paul Menard. "The addition of a great team, great talent of drivers - we have Elliott, Paul, Kasey, and AJ adding to the fleet of Fords out there on every Sunday," said Jamie Allison, Director of Ford Racing. "That's something to be looking forward to." Richard Petty Motorsports will maintain the alliance that Yates Racing had with Roush Fenway Racing and Doug Yates will be in charge or the Roush Yates engine program. Sadler, who formerly drove for Robert Yates Racing, is looking forward to getting back into a Ford and working with Yates again. "All of my success has come with the Ford, whether it's been wins or poles and things like this," explained Sadler. "I feel better about this season than I have about racing in a long time." Kahne, who has never driven a Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, is excited about the new team. "We have a really good team and we've all been through ups and downs over the last four or five years at times in different scenarios," said Kahne about the merger. "As long as we all stick together and work together like we have, we are in a better spot now than we were last year."
Daytona 500 Pace Car
For the first time in Daytona 500 history a Ford Mustang will pace the field on Feb. 14. Ford, a manufacturer who has not had a pace car at the Daytona 500 in 40 years, has selected a limited edition Mustang GT with 412 horsepower to receive the honor. In an effort to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the Mustang unveiled during the Richard Petty Motorsports press conference will be auctioned off at the Barrett Jackson Car Auction. Richard Petty and Jamie Allison, the director of Ford Racing will assist with the auction. The special edition Mustang GT is powered by a 5 liter engine and gets 25 miles to the gallon.
Aflac Motorsports Journalism Awards Ceremony
In a ceremony held Tuesday afternoon, five motorsports journalists were awarded the Russ Catlin Award during the 25th annual Aflac Motorsports Journalism Awards. Nate Ryan from USA Today was the top pick in the writing-daily category with his entry "NASCAR Rooted in Fossil Fuels, Turns Over New Green Leaf." In the writing-other division, ESPN.com's David Newton took home the award with "Martin Wouldn't Change His Tough Days." Bonnie Larkin's entry "Science of a Wreck," which aired on ESPN, won her the broadcast-national category award. In the broadcast-local division, Brian Tetzler of KWGN/KDVR in Denver, Colo., took home the award for his entry "Making the Race." The winner of the photojournalism category was David Moulthrop from Gator News with his picture titled "Taking Flight."
Lucky 13 for Wood Brothers
Wood Brothers Racing co-owner Eddie Wood said his team will field the #21 Ford in at least 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races this year, with sponsorship from Motorcraft and Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers. Former Cup champion Bill Elliott will drive the car in those races, and David Hyder remains as crew chief. "We're working on other things, just like everybody else is, chasing money," Wood said. "We could add up to six fairly easily." When asked why Elliott continues to run with the Wood Brothers, Elliott said. "Two words: Len and Eddie." "They're just such a good group of guys and so much fun to drive for," Elliott said. "When you walk in the shop or walk in the track and the race track, everybody's smiling and having a good time." The Wood Brothers will celebrate their 60th season in NASCAR, and all have been with Ford. Eddie Wood said he hopes to return to the full schedule for 2011.
Three Teams on the Front Row
Jerry Freeze, general manager of Front Row Motorsports, announced the organization will field three full-time teams in 2010 during a luncheon with Wood Brothers Racing at The Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway: Travis Kvapil will drive the #34 Ford, with Steven Lane as crew chief and Long John Silver's as the sponsor for most races Kevin Conway will drive the #37 Ford, with Peter Sospenzo as crew chief and ExtenZe as sponsor for all 36 races. David Gilliland will drive most of the races in the #38 Ford, with a crew chief to be announced soon. Robert Richardson Jr. will drive the car in three races, both Daytona events and the first Talladega race, and John Andretti may get behind the wheel of the #38 for a few races as well. Taco Bell will sponsor the car for most races. Roush Yates Engines will supply the power for all three cars. Is team owner Bob Jenkins crazy? "I guess that remains to be seen," Jenkins said. "I just feel like there's so many good people available. I really believe in my guys. As long as we can continue to add quality people, we can build a program for a sponsor. The neat thing about a two- or three-car program is the shared knowledge. When you've got one team with one crew chief and one engineer, you basically are limited to what those guys know. "When each team has an engineer and a crew chief, you get some more management by committee and everything you do, from the pull-down rig to the wind tunnel, everything takes on a whole new flavor when you can share information."
Quotes of the Day
Roger Penske on how to beat Hendrick Motorsports: "We beat all the Fords, we beat all the Toyotas. Well, we've got to figure out how to be Hendrick. Anybody has any insight tonight, we'll be glad to add one more person to our staff at Penske Racing."
Roger Penske on NASCAR perhaps switching to a spoiler from the current wing: "I said to Brian France, maybe I'll send the bill for all the wind tunnel testing we had over the last couple of months."
Brad Keselowski on Penske Racing crew chiefs Jay Guy and Paul Wolfe: "Jay, Paul, both of them have the same demeanor. I call them 'tape-measure crew chiefs' because they like to measure things, check things twice - like Santa Claus."
Clint Bowyer on prospective rules changes for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: "At the end the day, it doesn't matter what the drivers think or really what NASCAR thinks. It matters what the fans think. If the fans are coming and the seats are good, our program's good and our race's good and our sponsors are there and everything goes round and round."
Jeff Burton on driving at age 42: "I believe that this sport has a whole lot more to do with the passion you have for it than it does the age you are."
Jeff Burton on racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: "From my perspective, when I hear about the racing today: 'Oh, the racing's not good.' They're insane. This is my 17th year in this sport, and I'm telling you, bar none, it is more aggressive than it's ever been and it's more close than it's ever been."
Bill Elliott on getting back to Victory Lane: "I'd probably do cartwheels like the commercial with Mark Martin trying to do what Carl Edwards does. That'd be something to see, I'm sure."
Brad Keselowski on his top moment of 2009: "One of the coolest things of the whole year for me was winning Iowa (Speedway), and specifically passing Kyle (Busch). I passed Kyle, and the spotter was in the radio, and he was saying, 'Still there, still there, clear.' And as I'm driving, I can hear the fans cheering through his radio. That was the awesome-est experience ever. That was one of those moments where you're driving, and you're getting goose bumps. I'm getting goose bumps thinking about it. That makes everything worth it, that feeling right there."
AJ Allmendinger: "I drive a race car 'cause it's what I love to do. It's not about being in front of the media or being on a poster or being on TV or going out there and having the fame when it comes to that. It's about the love of going out there and competing. Going home and knowing that I gave everything I had that day, everything I had in my life to go out there and be at my best, and that's why I do it. That's the attitude I carry. I have fun doing it. I'm excited to go do it, but at the same time you can see when I'm frustrated. You're going to see it on my face 'cause it's all about winning."
Jimmie Johnson Motivated to Go for Fifth-Straight Title:
Day three of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway included a lunch stop at the campus of the top team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Hendrick Motorsports. And the top driver on that team the last four years has been Jimmie Johnson. He's the winner of the last four NASCAR Sprint Cup championships, and set a NASCAR record for most consecutive titles last year with the 2009 championship. Hendrick Motorsports honored its fans by asking questions from its Facebook and Twitter accounts, and Johnson was asked about finding motivation after winning four titles in a row. "Success makes you want to experience more success," said Johnson. "We've had an amazing run of four years. We certainly want to keep it up, keep it going. I feel very good with the fact that our team is intact and together. "The things that are coming through the pipeline from Hendrick Motorsports, the unity of all four teams - I know you guys hear it every week, every time a microphone is put in front of us - but that stuff really, really is important and separates Hendrick Motorsports from other teams. "I'm excited. It's there. There's a desire inside of me to do the best I can week in and week out." One side benefit of Johnson's titles is the competition could psyche itself out before the season starts. And Johnson said he'll take any advantage - real or imagined - he can get. "It is a benefit," Johnson said. "It's a short-term benefit. In some ways, it could be bad for us. We've been a motivational tool for a lot of teams over the offseason the last few years. Only time will tell how it really plays out, but I've always been in the other position where I looked up to the guy or team. It's pretty damn cool to be that person right now, so I'm going to enjoy it. "It's short-lived because we go to Daytona, and you reset and you worry about what takes place there. Three or four races in, we'll know who the players are and what that's going to look like."
Does Dale Earnhardt Jr. Need a Chemistry Lesson?:
Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. clearly wants to be one of those players early in 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Hendrick drivers finished first, second and third in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2009, but Earnhardt Jr. wasn't one of those drivers. "I want to compete and match the progress and success that the rest of the company's having," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I want to be on that level." How does he get there after a winless season in 2009 that included a crew chief change from cousin Tony Eury Jr. to Lance McGrew? "I would really like to put together complete races where we're competitive throughout the event and we're able to get finishes that are good finishes, and those are top-fives and wins," said Earnhardt Jr. "Wins are what everybody's out there racing for, but if we could put together complete races without mistakes, without me making mistakes, without issues and problems arising, that's definitely going to signal some progress." McGrew will begin his first full season as crew chief of the #88 team, and he and Earnhardt Jr. are continuing to build their relationship. "I'm been with some great teams and had some good wins and great success at certain periods of time in my career, but it's hard for me to really be able to point out what great chemistry is just yet," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I get along great with Lance and we have a lot of fun. I think that's important, that we enjoy being around each other. We can kind of build in that friendship and learn from each at the race track and our work ethic and our work habits. All that stuff should eventually work itself out. "I feel like that we're definitely going in the correct direction which is good compared to the direction we were going last year."
Jeff Gordon Fired up for 2010 season:
Gordon believes his #24 DuPont Chevrolet team is headed in the right direction, too, but he wants more than the one victory he had last season. "It's been frustrating, for sure," Gordon said. "We pride ourselves at the #24 DuPont Chevrolet and here at Hendrick - we've won a lot of races over the years. We also know that our teammates are winning races. If we're going to really be a factor in the championship, we've got to win more races." Gordon also wants his team to remain strong throughout the season, unlike last year when the #24 team slipped a tad in the middle part of the year. "I'm hoping that this year, we can reverse that, that we ramp up as the season goes on and we get better and we put ourselves in a position to win more races," Gordon said. "I certainly think we have that capability still in us. The fire's still there, the desire, the tools that we need, the resources, and the teamwork. I'm just really excited about some things (crew chief, Steve Letarte has) done with this team. We didn't have to do a lot, but I like the things that he's done, that he and I have been closely working on over the offseason." And that has Gordon ready for his 18th season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "Our DuPont Chevrolet team is fired up," Gordon said. "Steve and I are really getting after things, with how we can be better, really since Homestead."
Mark Martin gets New Sponsor, Keeps Shirt on:
The familiar blue and yellow paint scheme of the #5 Chevrolet driven by Mark Martin will be no more as the Hendrick Motorsports driver will have a new primary sponsor for the 2010 season in GoDaddy.com. Although Kellogg's did not continue their sponsorship with Martin's car, sponsors CARQUEST Auto Parts and Delphi still remain. "It's exciting. GoDaddy.com has got some really cool stuff," said Martin. "It's a little bit edgy and brings a little bit of edginess to the #5 car, which is different than you've seen in years." The edginess he may be referring to is the new lime green, black and orange color scheme adorning his Chevrolet or perhaps the sponsor itself. JR Motorsports driver Danica Patrick, who also has GoDaddy.com as a sponsor, has been featured in the company's commercials, but Martin has yet to star in one himself. "We worked on the possibility of doing one together with Danica and that hasn't worked out with timing and scripts, but it will happen," said Martin. "It's just a lot going on. Everybody is going in different directions. It just hasn't happened yet." During the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour stop, a media member jokingly asked Martin whether GoDaddy.com had asked him to wear a bathing suit, referring to one of Patrick's commercials. "They haven't asked me to take my shirt off yet," Martin replied.
Anything Goes on the Last Lap?:
Johnson said Martin had an interested way to tweak the yellow-line rule NASCAR uses at Daytona and Talladega. On the last lap, Martin says, the rule should be eliminated. "In a perfect world, no, I wouldn't have that," Martin said. "But if we're trying to really treat the race fans, I'm willing to wreck from Turn 4 to the start-finish line on the last lap for the show. I just don't want to have to do it for the first 10 laps. I want to get at least that close to the finish before all hell breaks loose." Such a rule would keep "NASCAR out of the doghouse," said Earnhardt Jr. "You just hate to see races finish like where Regan Smith was sort of denied a win - you can make an argument for both cases," continued Earnhardt Jr., referring to the controversial finish between Smith and Tony Stewart at Talladega in 2008. "But you don't want to have to make that argument. You want to leave that up to who crossed the finish line first, not how they did it."
Charlotte Motor Speedway announces Legends race with $1 Million purse:
Charlotte Motor Speedway will hold a new event in 2010 with the addition of the inaugural $1-million-purse Legend Cars race to be held July 15-17. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers David Ragan and Joey Logano along with rising stars Kenzie Ruston and Daniel Hemric were on hand as Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, made the announcement. "We're going to have up to 1,000 cars enter. It's going to be an amazing show," said Smith. "I can't wait to see what happens." For years the speedway has held Legend Cars racing at its Summer Shootout Series, but this marks the first time a Legend Cars race will have a purse of that amount. Ragan, who is currently driving the #6 UPS Ford for Roush Racing, had great success racing a Legends Car before eventually making it to the Sprint Cup Series. "I think that's pretty exciting for anyone to race for a million dollars," said Ragan. "I've learned that Marcus and Mr. Bruton (Smith), you guys like to do things that are big and exciting - from the Coca-Cola 600 purse, to Bristol Motor Speedway, and down at Atlanta and Texas." Ragan even hinted that he would enter the race since it happens to be on an off weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "I can't speak for Joey, but I'm gonna be there," said Ragan, referring to Loga#"I'm sure there will be some Cup guys who come. I'll have to talk to Joey and see if I can be the car owner and split the winnings with him." Likely to enter the race will be Ruston and Hemric, two 18-year-old drivers who each won championship titles in their respective divisions during the 2009 Summer Shootout season. Ruston was excited about the idea of racing against Logano and Ragan. "I think it'd be an honor to race with them, but I just think that you'd have to race them just like you'd race anybody else on the normal weekends." Ruston jokingly added, "Just wreck 'em."
The Backyard Brawl:
Well-known wrestler Ric Flair used his booming voice to unveil a promotional poster for the Backyard Brawl, NASCAR's Sprint All-Star Race. "Woooo! Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Backyard Brawl," said the 16-time World Wrestling Heavyweight Champion. "100 laps for a $1 million. This is the best of the best." The 22-by-28 inch poster portrays the drivers as professional wrestlers and features Kyle "Rowdy" Busch vs. Tony "Smoke" Stewart in a "transmission submission match" and Dale "Wahoo" Jr. vs. Kevin "Baron Von" Harvick in a "bumper bashing beat down." "Let's go down here to Tony 'Smoke' Stewart, defending champion," said Flair pointing to the driver's picture on the poster. "Everybody knows Tony's a mean cat on that track. He runs them down, drives over 'em. He wins. And remember to be the man, you gotta beat the man!" The poster will be available to the first 5,000 fans that purchase a ticket to the NASCAR Sprint All-star Race held May 22.
Artifacts Unveiled at NASCAR Hall of Fame:
Tuesday night's festivities included a stop at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which is still under construction. Media Tour attendees were treated to a top-of-the-line dinner and tours of the hall. Winston Kelley, executive director of the hall, and historian Buz McKim talked about some of the artifacts that will be included when the hall is opened May 11 for grand opening ceremonies and May 23 for the first class of inductees. The hall will have a "Greatest Finishes Theater" that will include Ricky Craven's #32 Tide Pontiac that won a thrilling duel with Kurt Busch in 2003 at Darlington Raceway. "(Team owner) Cal (Wells) had built the car for me as a gift," Craven said. "The car is special. The car actually won the pole the year before. And I probably should've won that race, but I ended in a heap. The guys rebuilt that car and brought it back, and we qualified 32nd I think. The reason it's not displayed today like it was at the end of the race is because it was my favorite car. "We wore this car. Cal rebuilt it and presented to me as a gift." Kelley said it was the first artifact that was offered to the hall. Craven and Kelley ran into each other in 2006 at a Duke Energy stockholders meeting, of all places, and Craven offered the winning Darlington car for the Hall of Fame. "It was the last Pontiac to win in the sport, and it carries some history as the closest finish in the existence of the sport," Craven said. Kelley wanted it, of course, but there was a small problem. The designers of the exhibits of the hall had planned to make the "Greatest Finishes Theater." "I said, 'Well, we need to go back and make it large enough,'" said Kelley. "They explained all the reasons why that wouldn't work with the current building layout. This was back in late 2006, early 2007. "I said, 'That was not really a suggestion.'.When I explained the access to the artifact we had.they made the adjustment.'" McKim said he went on a "scavenger hunt" for many other artifacts, including an information sheet Dale Earnhardt filled out in 1975. Drivers filled out information sheets at the beginning of each season, and McKim found the sheet Earnhardt filled out in February 1975 that included several interesting tidbits of information. For one, Earnhardt listed himself as a wrestler in high school and his favorite drivers as Richard Petty and Bobby Isaac. "There was a line there that said, 'Ambition other than racing,' and he wrote, 'None!'" McKim said. Another artifact that will be displayed in the hall comes from Richard Petty's "accumulation" of things over his many years in NASCAR. It's the 1967 Plymouth that Petty campaigned when he won 27 of 48 races that year, including 10 wins in a row - a record that still stands. "That is clearly one of the most valuable that will be in the facility," Kelley said. McKim said about 98 percent of artifacts the hall wanted to get, he was able to obtain. But there is one artifact that McKim truly wants, an item he calls the "holy grail." "It's something I've only heard about and never seen," McKim said. It's a gold membership card given to pioneering mechanic Red Vogt from Bill France Sr. in 1954. Vogt was proclaimed NASCAR member #1, and all fees and dues Vogt had paid to NASCAR before that time were returned to him. "Somewhere along the line, that membership car disappeared. I've talked to family members, and they don't know what happened to it. If anybody ever stumbles across that membership card, I would love to show it. That's the one thing that's stuck in my craw. I've got to find it."
Quotes of the Day:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the key to his season: "Getting the most points."
Jimmie Johnson on speaking his mind: "I want to do the right thing. I don't want to be out there, some idiot just flapping my mouth to flap it."
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ New Car Moves From Wing To Spoiler and other changes: NASCAR has announced that it will relax some on-track rules, putting racing back in drivers’ hands in 2010. The changes, which begin with next month’s season-opening events at Daytona International Speedway, will allow drivers to be even more competitive. Race rule changes were one of several announcements during Thursday’s annual media-tour presentation at NASCAR’s Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said the loosening of on-track reins is another step in enhancing competition and back-to-basics racing. “Over the past 10 years we’ve dramatically increased safety and that mission continues. However, it’s time for us to allow the drivers to drive. We don’t want the rules and regulations to get in the way of great racing and fantastic finishes,” said France. “NASCAR is a contact sport – our history is based on banging fenders.”
Among the changes: Bump-drafting rules will be eliminated at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway. Teams also will use a bigger restrictor plate at Daytona. Eliminating bump-drafting rules puts responsibility for on-track moves squarely back in drivers’ hands. Larger restrictor plates give drivers more horsepower.
NASCAR also announced a significant change to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ new car, including replacing the wing currently mounted on the rear of the car with a spoiler. A full-field test is scheduled for March 23-24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Following that, a decision on when to implement the spoiler will be made based on teams’ input. The switch from wing to spoiler will return to a more traditional stock-car look. “Over the last couple of years, there have been dozens of changes to this car, with this being the most visible change,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition.
Also significant: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby has been promoted to Managing Director of Competition, with oversight of all three national series’ directors, officials, inspection processes and race officiating. He will continue in his series director’s role until his successor is found. “Probably no one is more qualified for this new job than John,” Pemberton said. “He knows and understands the officiating and inspection processes better than anyone and is the perfect fit.”
Other changes announced Thursday:
• Mike Fisher, managing director of NASCAR’s Research & Development Center, has some additions to his team. They include Brett Bodine as the director of racing R&D, Tom Gideon as director of safety, R&D, and Jamie DiPietro as manager of safety inspections R&D.
• Beginning with the Feb. 13 season opener at Daytona, NASCAR Nationwide Series teams will be limited to 15 crew members, including the driver, crew chief, spotter and seven over-the-wall pit-crew members. Teams also won’t be required to provide a scorer. Last year teams had no limit on at-track crew members.
• NASCAR Nationwide Series teams may run no more than two races in 2010 without using an engine sealed by series officials. Last year they could run three races before using a sealed engine.
• NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams will use double-file restarts “shootout style” in 2010, making restart rules uniform across all three national series. Teams also will return to traditional pit stops, eliminating last year’s procedure of refueling and changing tires on separate stops. Teams also may use a new, vented fuel dump can, eliminating the need for a catch can.(NASCAR)(1-21-2010)
See the NASCAR Town Meeting Transcript page for more on the Town Hall Meeting and news
NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway Notes and Quotes:
McMurray vs. Montoya?:
Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray are now teammates at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, but after a race last year at Bristol Motor Speedway, they were mortal enemies. "We had a thing in Bristol," Montoya said. "He had old tires, I had new tires. You had about 15 cars in a line, and I got there and I ran out of patience." Montoya punted McMurray in Turn 2, causing McMurray to spin out. "When you're not teammates with somebody, and you get wrecked, you're pissed," said McMurray. "I don't know how else to say it." But time heals all wounds, apparently. "I tried to talk to him afterwards, and he was mad and didn't want talk about it." Montoya said. "I was OK. You're not here to make friends. But we have a really good relationship and we understand each other." And it came none too soon for Montoya's Chase chances. "We race every single weekend, and it takes about two more weeks before someone else makes you mad," McMurray said. "You're not thinking about the other guy. Probably in Juan's case, it was good that Ganassi hired me because the Chase would've been hell."
NASCAR Looking for New Sprint Cup Series Director CEO and Chairman of NASCAR, Brian France, announced Thursday that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director John Darby would be promoted from his current position to a role at the NASCAR Research and Development Center. "John is going to be transitioning here to the R&D center to have a bigger role with the company, but not the role of series director," said France. "But John, thanks for everything you've done to make racing great." Darby's new title will be Managing Director of Competition and he will be able to go into that position once his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director replacement has been found. "I'm not going away," said Darby. "I'll still be as deeply involved in NASCAR racing as I always have been times four." His new position will give him a role in all of the sanctioning bodies of NASCAR - from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to the K&N Pro Series. Darby will assist in finding his replacement, but a timeline has not been set. "I think more importantly than a timeline for a new director, is actually taking the time to find the right director," said Darby. "That person has got to have some qualifications that not only include the competition side of what we do. "There's a lot of parts of a series director's job that is more personal than that. It's one on one with the people in the garage. Every Friday we open up, you're almost the mayor of a little city."
Litany of Rules Changes in NASCAR for 2010:
NASCAR officials unveiled a host of rules changes and adjustments for the 2010 racing season during the session at the NASCAR Research and Development Center: The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will eventually replace the wing on the back of the car with a spoiler. No timetable was announced, though NASCAR has a test scheduled for March 23-24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. NASCAR will no longer police bump-drafting at Daytona and Talladega. "We will put it back in the hands of the hands of the drivers and we will say, 'Boys, have at it and have a good time,'" said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition. Because of gradual changes to the Cup car, NASCAR will use a larger restrictor plate at Daytona and Talladega, increasing the size of each of the four openings to 63/64ths of an inch. Following the lead of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series will implement a limit of 15 crew members for each team at every race. Included in that 15 are driver, crew chief and spotter. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will use double-file restarts in all races this year. The series will return to standard pit stops, allowing four tires and fuel on all stops. To help keep pit crews at the six-person limit, NASCAR unveiled a new fuel dump can that eliminates the need for a catch can. The truck teams can also begin use a spec engine at every track a mile and a quarter or less.
Developmental Series Gets a New Sponsor:
K&N Engineering Inc. will be the title sponsor of NASCAR's top developmental series, formerly known as the NASCAR Camping World East and West Series, beginning in 2010. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series will continue to crown champions through separate schedules on the East and West Coasts. K&N will make its on-track debut as the series entitlement sponsor at the 2010 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown - NASCAR's prestigious postseason event, which has earned the moniker of the "Daytona 500 of short-track racing." The event is scheduled for Jan. 29-30 at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.) and will air live on SPEED and SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.
MWR on the Way Up?:
Wednesday night's festivities included a stop at Michael Waltrip Racing in Cornelius, N.C. Driver David Reutimann had a breakthrough season in 2009, winning the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, two pole awards and posting five top-fives and 10 top-10 finishes. He said he believes MWR continues to move toward the top of the NASCAR echelon. "We're definitely getting closer," said Reutimann. "To say that, 'Hey, we're there' - I don't know that any team in the garage can say that they're there, especially judging from the last couple of years. But I definitely think we're a lot closer, and we have more of a clear-cut direction of how to get there. "Where before, we didn't have that clear-cut direction. Now we know the directions we need to go to, the things we're constantly developing, building our own pieces and parts, doing things to do things a little bit better - like the Hendrick organization is doing." MWR has a technical alliance with JTG Daugherty Racing, whose driver, Marcos Ambrose, also had a breakthrough season last year. Ambrose had four top-fives and seven top-10 finishes and ended up 18th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. The Australian driver said he is aiming a bit higher in 2010. "We want to keep that bell curve on the way up," said Ambrose. "We want to win a race and contend for the Chase. We feel like we have the team behind us. We have sponsorships in place, and we have a great partnership with MWR. There is no reason why we shouldn't contend for the Chase."
Jimmy Spencer gets Show on SPEED:Former NASCAR driver Jimmy Spencer will host a new show that will air Monday nights on SPEED called "What's the Deal?" The 30-minute talk show will feature special guests including some of his fellow SPEED commentators. "Wendy (Venturini) will be on, Johnny (Roberts) and Kenny (Wallace)," said Spencer. "I know none of the drivers will come on, they don't like me. "This is a pretty big undertaking for SPEED to give me a shot at a show." Spencer jokingly added. "It didn't even cost me that much." "What's the Deal?" premieres Feb. 15.
Quotes of the Day:
Michael Waltrip on his work in television: "I've been real lucky because I don't do a whole lot of work. I just sort of show up and say, 'OK, how's my makeup look?'"
Michael Waltrip on being a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner: "I would say that it's been much more challenging. Specifically, it's been a lot more expensive than I thought it would be.Mr. (Rick) Hendrick has got nice jets. Roger (Penske's) got a big boat. I thought, 'Well, heck yeah I can do that.' I didn't realize that they had those things because of other businesses."
(CMS - Media Tour Notes)(1-21-2010)