Media tour kicks-off in Charlotte with SHR

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Stewart-Haas Racing was first up on the tour today. Stewart has turned down Penske’s offer of a Indy 500 ride this year, but left open the possibility for the future.

Concord, N. C. – For the 31st time, the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by the Charlotte Motor Speedway kicked off. The four-day event has drawn some 220 motorsports journalists from around the United States and a handful from overseas. Major media outlets, such as the Associate Press, ESPN, Fox Sports, Reuters Newswire, Sports Illustrated and USA Today, are among the entities represented.

During the tour, all the major race teams will either come to the media hotel or the reporters will be bussed to the teams’ shops. Teams participating include Stewart-Haas Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Penske Racing and Richard Childress Racing.

If these cars (Gen 6) race as good as they drove...

Tony Stewart

Team owners, drivers, crew chiefs and others will be present when their team is in the spotlight. Sharing the spotlight will be the new sixth generation NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car.

Leading off the tour, Sprint representatives discussed the company’s plans for The Sprint Unlimited at Daytona, the 75-lap non-points race that was previously known as the Budweiser Shootout. The race will take place on Saturday night February 16 and will be telecast by Fox.

To make the race structure unique, fans have been invited to design the race by casting votes on the number of laps in each segment, the type of stop a team makes after the first segment, the number of cars to be eliminated after the second segment and the design of the fire suit to be worn by Miss Sprint Cup in victory lane.

Votes can be cast on NASCAR’s new official mobile app – NASCR Mobile ’13 – or at NASCAR.com/SprintUnlimited. Fans must vote on the race format by February 13 and they can vote on the type of pit stops and cars to be eliminated during the race itself. Details are available on the web site.

For the presentation, Mike Joy served as emcee and he was joined on stage by Hall of Fame driver Darrell Waltrip and renowned crew chiefs Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammonds.

David Reynolds and Darrell Waltrip
David Reynolds and Darrell Waltrip

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Waltrip opined that as a driver he would like to segments of 40/20/15, but as a fan he favors a 35/30/10 format.

McReynolds leaned toward the 30/25/20 format while Hammonds recommended the 35/30/10 set-up.

22 drivers are eligible for The Sprint Unlimited event – 2012 pole winners and the five past champions of the event.

Stewart-Haas Racing was the first team to be spotlighted in the media tour and taking the stage were drivers Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick along with crew chiefs Matt Borland, Steve Addington and Tony Gibson along with competition director Greg Zippadelli.

They discussed their initial experience with the Gen 6 car, their plans for the season ahead and other aspects of their racing endeavors.

“If these cars (Gen 6) race as good as they drove, it will be a good year for everyone,” Stewart said. Zippadelli said his team was challenged in assembling cars, obtaining requisite parts and adapting to the rule changes.

Patrick was quick at the recent Daytona test, and she exuded confidence going into the first race of the season. “The cars looked great and I was pleased with them,” she noted. Discussing a subsequent test at the nearby Charlotte Motor Speedway, she was pleased with the car’s grip and its ability to be driven deep into the corners.

Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Newman cited the reduction in down-force, but was pleased with the results of the first two tests.

Gibson will serve as Patrick’s crew chief and while he indicated the sky is their only limit, he said they are setting many small goals, ones that can readily be attained. “We want to jell as a team, and Danica and I are rookies together,” he commented. Stewart expects Patrick’s transition to Sprint Cup to be a smooth one and believes one day without warning, she will see it all come together just as it did for open wheelers Juan Pablo Montoya and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Addressing Roger Penske’s offer for Stewart to race in the Indianapolis 500, Stewart affirmed it will not happen this year but could at some point down the road. “It was a huge opportunity and a very flattering offer, but at the same time, this group up here (on stage) is why I am not going to run the 500.”

Stewart went on to say he would need to be with an IndyCar team for several races ahead of the Indianapolis 500, and he doesn’t have time now to make such a commitment. He did say that he sat down with Penske after season’s end and the latter made him a generous offer and Stewart countered with an open-invitation for the future. “Maybe some year down the road we might be able to accept his offer, and he never said no,” Stewart said.

Patrick said she would be open to Penske’s offer but not for 2013. She also thought it would be neat if both she and Stewart could do it at same time. “It just didn’t work out for this year,” he commented. “If I do it in future, the support is there but at this time, the focus is on Cup. If it works out, good; if not, I have had many great years at Indy.” Stewart said he would support her if she elects to do it at a later date, but wants her to realize the effort it would entail.

Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

As usual, Stewart was candid in answering questions and when asked whether his mother approved of him racing in his early days, he said, “We had a huge fight over that, as she wanted me to go to college and now she works for me.” He did state that his parents and sister gave up a lot years ago to help him get his race career going.

Regarding sponsorship commitments for 2013, Stewart indicated he has nine open dates for a primary sponsor on his car, eight or nine on Newman’s and three on Patrick’s cars.

Although there have been reports that Patrick will do 10 or so Natiowide Series races for Turner-Scott Motorsports, she said no arrangement has been finalized, although a Daytona deal is reasonably close. She is warm to doing some Nationwide races to gain additional seat time and track familiarity. “When I did double-duty last year, the Natiowide race helped my Cup race and the Cup practice helped my Nationwide practice,” she commented.

The media tour continues this evening with a visit to Richard Childress Racing and later on with an announcement by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Richard Petty.

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Special feature
Tags charlotte, chevrolet, earnhardt, nascar-cup, patrick, roush, stewart, waltrip