Joe Gibbs Racing Charlotte Media Tour notes

CONCORD, N.C., (Jan. 24, 2007) - Joe Gibbs Racing's slot on Wednesday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Media Tour yielded plenty of news as the championship-winning organization enters its 16th year competing in NASCAR. The highlights include: * Nike's...

CONCORD, N.C., (Jan. 24, 2007) - Joe Gibbs Racing's slot on Wednesday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Media Tour yielded plenty of news as the championship-winning organization enters its 16th year competing in NASCAR. The highlights include:

* Nike's Starter brand to outfit Joe Gibbs Racing's drivers and crew

* Duel driver/sponsor combos to power No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet in NASCAR Busch Series

* Joe Gibbs Racing's development drivers continue their rapid development Starter

Starter, a leader in developing licensed and innovative team apparel and footwear, formally announced a partnership today with Joe Gibbs Racing to develop footwear and apparel solutions for the NASCAR team's crews and drivers.

The partnership is designed to provide a "Living Laboratory" for Starter to apply its experience working with world-class athletes in other sports to the needs of the drivers and crews of Joe Gibbs Racing's teams in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series. Starter and its parent company Nike, Inc., already provide 70 percent of the footwear worn by NASCAR crews and drivers, but this partnership signals a deepening of the company's commitment to the sport.

"Starter believes NASCAR's drivers and crews are serious athletes, requiring specialized footwear, apparel and equipment to meet the demanding needs of their sport," said Lee Bird, president subsidiaries, Nike Inc. "By approaching the sport from this perspective, Starter will create innovative new products, providing a competitive advantage while maintaining strong consumer appeal."

Starter is partnering with Motorsports Authentics, the leading consumer apparel provider in NASCAR, to build a line of merchandise for trackside sales and other distribution channels, providing consumers with the closest experience possible to being part of the team.

The company's product development and marketing efforts will highlight the athleticism, hard work and grit of the entire NASCAR team. The brand is working to develop a complete head-to-toe product experience that elevates the race-day performance of every athlete on the team. Starter believes innovation in footwear and apparel designed to unleash the athleticism of the crews and drivers could be the last untouched variable that determines whether a team wins or loses.

Starter, which grew to prominence in the 1980s with its line of Starter athletic jackets, is aggressively building its presence in NASCAR by delivering performance apparel and footwear products valued for all consumers. Among the first products to be introduced in 2007 is an authentic race-day jacket to be worn by the Nos. 20, 18 and 11 Nextel Cup teams. All products will meet a mandate of expressive, authentic, cool, reliable, crafted and durable performance, while utilizing the latest fabric and technology advancements over the past few years.

JGR in the NBS

Two new additions to Joe Gibbs Racing are Kevin Conway and Brad Coleman. The two drivers will split duties behind the wheel of the No. 18 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Busch Series. The 28-year-old Conway will drive eight races for sponsor Z-Line Designs, the nation's leading import manufacturer of home office, home entertainment and home decor ready-to-assemble furniture. Eighteen-year-old Coleman will run 17 races, 10 of which will be sponsored by Carino's Italian Grill, a unique Italian restaurant with nearly 200 locations across the United States.

Conway, whose hometown is Lynchburg, Va., comes to Joe Gibbs Racing with six Busch Series starts and a diverse background that includes experience in AMA Motocross, the World Karting Association, Legends cars (where in 1994 he was the youngest national champion in series history), USAC Midgets, late model stock cars and time in the American Speed Association, ARCA and the NASCAR Busch West Series. He most recently served as a test driver for Ginn Racing (nee MBV/MB2 Motorsports). Outside of motorsports, Conway has a marketing degree from the University of North Carolina - Charlotte.

Coleman, a Houston native, earned the highest average finishing position (third) in ARCA last year after notching eight top-fives in nine ARCA starts, which included his first major stock car win at Kentucky Speedway when he held off eight-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel through two green-white-checkered restarts. He also made two Busch Series starts, the first of which came at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway a week after graduating high school. Prior to ARCA, Coleman competed in late model stock cars, Formula Mazda, the NASA Fran-Am 1600 Series and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, where in 2005 at age 16 he was part of the youngest driver lineup in series history when he ran the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona (Fla.) in a Porsche 911 GT3, finishing seventh in his class.

The No. 18 team will run the full Busch Series schedule, with Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Tony Stewart and Aric Almirola completing the driver lineup. Stewart will drive the No. 18 in three races - one for Z-Line Designs, one for ConAgra and one for Goody's - while Almirola will represent ConAgra in six races.

The No. 20 team will also run the full Busch Series schedule, with Denny Hamlin returning to the Rockwell Automation Chevrolet for 23 races while Almirola drives the Rockwell Automation machine in seven races. Z-Line Designs will sponsor the No. 20 car for one race - Richmond (Va.) in May with Hamlin at the wheel. And FedEx will sponsor the No. 20 at its hometown track - Memphis (Tenn.). There, Almirola will practice and qualify the car while Hamlin will run it in the race. Stewart's one drive in the No. 20 will come at the spring Atlanta race, where he'll carry Goody's sponsorship. Almirola will pilot the No. 20 in two additional races. Sponsorship announcements for those events will come later this season.

Development Drivers

Led by 22-year-old Almirola, Joe Gibbs Racing's driver development program is flourishing.

Almirola was one of Joe Gibbs Racing's first prospects, as he drove a late model in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series at the .4-mile Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C., in 2004. After scoring two wins, six top-fives and 15 top-10s, the Tampa, Fla., native traversed the Southeast competing in regional late model races. By the end of 2005, Almirola was running a limited schedule in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, which led to a full-time Truck Series ride and a nine-race Busch Series schedule in 2006.

Three years after racing late model stock cars, Almirola has a slate of 18 Busch Series races and four Nextel Cup races (Las Vegas, spring Richmond, spring Charlotte and spring Dover) on tap for 2007.

"Joe Gibbs Racing has given me a great opportunity - now and when they first hired me to drive a late model back in 2004," said Almirola. "Each year there has been a new challenge, and each year I wanted that challenge. Now I have a lot of Busch Series races and five Nextel Cup races to keep me on my toes. It's another great opportunity, and I plan to make the most of it."

Hoping to follow in Almirola's footsteps is Joe Gibbs Racing's next generation of development drivers - Marc Davis and Joey Logano.

Davis, a 16-year-old from Mitchellville, Md., competed for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Limited Late Model division at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway in 2006. Davis racked up six wins during an impressive rookie season, and in doing so, became just the second African-American to win a stock car race at Hickory since former Joe Gibbs Racing development driver Chris Bristol won at the famed short track in April 2004.

Logano, a 16-year-old from Middletown, Conn., who began racing at age six in quarter-midgets, most recently competed in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series. He won two races and a pole en route to a solid fifth-place finish in the Southern Division point standings.

Together, Davis and Logano will take another step up the NASCAR ladder as the two compete full-time in the NASCAR Busch East Series while running select NASCAR Busch West Series races, with both drivers eyeing the post-season Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway in late October.

Davis will drive the No. 18 while Logano will compete in the No. 20. Both racers will drive Chevrolet Monte Carlos with associate sponsorship from Joe Gibbs Driven, a licensing program for the automotive aftermarket that features a line of racing lubricants. Primary sponsorship for both cars is still being pursued.

"I learned a lot last year running late models at Hickory and I can't wait to run bigger and faster cars in Busch East," said Davis. "Everything I've done in life has been about racing, and to have an opportunity like this means everything. No one has higher expectations than me."

"This is exactly where I want to be," said Logano. "I'm going to get a lot of seat time at some pretty big tracks. It's going to be a huge learning experience, but it's something I'm ready for and something I want. The season can't start soon enough."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Frank Kimmel , Brad Coleman , Kevin Conway , Aric Almirola , Joey Logano , Marc Davis
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing
Article type Press release