Media Tour at Charlotte notes and quotes, day 3

Charlotte Motor Speedway press release

NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway Notes and Quotes - Wednesday, Jan. 25

Jack Roush
Jack Roush

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Media members did a little elimination drag racing at zMAX Dragway Wednesday afternoon, with coaching from NHRA Funny Car drivers Courtney Force (center) and Alexis DeJoria (not pictured). The final elimination round pitted Mike Neff, left of Force, from against Duane Nelson, right of Force, from WTFM in Kingsport, Tenn., with Neff emerging victorious. Journalism Award Winners Selected

Prior to the formal start of Tuesday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series dinner, the 27th annual Journalism Awards in Honor of Russ Catlin were presented to five motorsports journalists.

The awards represent the best in motorsports journalism and honor veteran journalist Catlin, who was one of the first writers to ever cover NASCAR.

Each award winner received a trophy and a $1,000 scholarship in their names to the school of their choosing. The Indiana School of Journalism judged the more than 200 entries and selected the five winners.

The award winners were: Daily News - Don Coble of Morris News Service/Florida Times Union; Other News - David Caraviello of; Local Broadcasting - Alan Cavanna of WSOC in Charlotte, N.C.; National Broadcasting - Justin Burnett of SPEED; and Photo-Journalism - Will Lester of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

Nationwide Series Has Fun on Media Tour, But is all Business Getting Ready for 2012

There were plenty of laughs during the NASCAR Nationwide Series dinner event on Tuesday night, where NASCAR Sprint Media Tour members were treated to a night of guest appearances, comedy and even a game show. But when it came to talking about the competition and racing for 2012, Nationwide Series executives were all business.

Nationwide Series driver Elliott Sadler moonlighted as a talk show host Tuesday night during his “Early Evening Show” presented by the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The first guest on the show was Jim McCoy, director of strategic sponsorships for the Nationwide Series, who announced that the popular “Dash for Cash” promotion, which gets drivers and fans involved in the on-track action in select races throughout the year, will return for 2012.

NASCAR Nationwide Series Director Joe Balash was up next. Balash talked about his enthusiasm for the unique field of drivers in the series in 2012, as well as the strong competition that 2011 Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will bring to the table as he seeks to defend his title.

Travis Pastrana, who suffered a broken ankle while competing in the X-Games last July, also made an appearance on the “Early Evening Show” to discuss his planned debut in the Nationwide Series in the No. 99 Boost Mobile Toyota with the team he co-owns, Pastrana Waltrip Racing. Pastrana will also race in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East competition in 2012 as well.

Sadler then welcomed Nationwide Series rookies Johanna Long, Brad Sweet and Cole Whitt to the show, as well as rookie Austin Dillon, who will be behind the wheel of the black No. 3 Chevrolet as it returns to the track full time in the Nationwide Series in 2012.

The evening ended with a friendly competition between NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers and media members in a game show titled “Feuding NASCAR Families,” modeled off of the popular game show “Family Feud.” The team of drivers, led by Danica Patrick, were victorious and their $500 dollar prize was donated to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Kurt Busch, David Ragan, Scott Speed Preview 2012 During Sprint Cup Open Session

For the final stop on Tuesday’s schedule of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour, media members met with several drivers who are familiar faces in new places, including Kurt Busch, David Ragan and Scott Speed. Each are looking for a fresh start in 2012 after changing teams in the off season. Notes and quotes from each of the drivers follow.

Kurt Busch driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet

“Expectations for us are one weekend at a time,” said Busch. “It will be little victories for us that we take in. Whether it’s finishing 15th, but putting the car back in the hauler without a scratch on it.”

“It’s about racing smart and old school racing,” said Busch. “It’s like when I raced my dad’s Legend Car. If I wrecked it one weekend, I couldn’t race the next. It’s a balance of understanding how to get the best out of the car and protect it.”

“Right now, I am on a one-year deal,” said Busch. “There is no contract. It was just a handshake deal. It reminds me of old school racing and fun.”

“Things change and happen for a reason,” said Busch. “At the end of the day, is it money you put in your pocket or the fun you have doing it?”

David Ragan, driver of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford “Competition is at an all-time high in the Cup series,” said Ragan. “We aren’t thinking about winning just yet. Ultimately we go to the track with the goal of winning, but we need to focus on qualifying and finishing races first.”

“It would be great to get Front Row Motorsports their first win and I’m going to try my best to attract some sponsors to the team,” said Ragan.

“At the end of the day, I’m glad I’m still in a Ford and I’m glad I’m still in Cup and running a full season,” said Ragan.

Scott Speed, driver of the No. 95 Levine Family Racing Ford

“There are a lot of great drivers who don’t have a ride,” said Speed. “It’s a tough time in our sport and I am lucky to have the opportunity here at Levine Family Racing because it’s one of the good ones out there.”

“We are doing 16 races and we are going to do them right including the two road course races,” said Speed. “We are going to go out and race when we have the ability to run and run it right.”

JTG Daugherty Racing Talks New Sponsors, Renewed Optimism for 2012 on Media Tour

During a breakfast session on the first stop of Wednesday’s edition of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway, JTG Daugherty Racing laid out its plans for the 2012 season.

JTG Daugherty Racing announced that Kroger will return as primary sponsor on their No. 47 Toyota for the Daytona 500 and Bubba Burger will be on board for select races in 2012, including events at Pocono Raceway and Chicagoland Speedway.

JTG Daugherty Racing driver Bobby Labonte talked about his excitement and confidence in his team for the upcoming season.

“It’s a pleasure and honor to drive for co-owners, Tad and Jodi Geschickter and Daugherty,” said Labonte. “It will be quite a journey this year. There are a lot of new things happening and a lot of new people and I appreciate all of the hard work that has been done in the off season.”

Todd Berrier, who in late 2011 was named Labonte’s crew chief and JTG Daugherty Racing’s general manager, said the team is working toward fielding two cars in the 2013 season, if they can find sponsorship.

Brad Daugherty, co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing, commented on the team’s momentum and enthusiasm for the new season.

“We are proud to say we have had a good off season,” said Daugherty. “I think we have, through lots of growing pains, all of the right people in place to have a shot at being successful. I would be very disappointed if we weren’t a top-20 race team this year.”

Daugherty also announced his broadcast plans for 2012, which will include the last 17 races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and all NASCAR Nationwide Series races on the ESPN pre-race show. However, he will not return to do Showtime’s Inside NASCAR show.

Kentucky Speedway Tells Media “We’re Fixin’ It” When it Comes to Traffic Concerns

Construction barrels and excavation equipment surrounded the stage at Kentucky Speedway’s NASCAR Sprint Media Tour announcement, which focused on the track’s plans for facility improvements and added parking, sparked by the traffic issues from the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series last June.

“I think we should do it over and have the second inaugural race this June,” said Bruton Smith, chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns Kentucky Speedway. “We will do everything we can to get back to what we have always called being fan friendly and we will work hard to prove ourselves.”

Kentucky Speedway President Mark Simendinger reviewed the enhancements the speedway has undertaken since last June’s Sprint Cup event.

“While we had some very positive things from our first year, we recognize that we had a very large negative,” said Simendinger. “We are here to make sure that never happens again and we are committed to a comprehensive solution.”

Simendinger noted that Kentucky Speedway purchased more than 150 acres of land to be used for additional parking. A tunnel is currently being built under Highway 35 to allow fans to get from the new parking area to the facility.

Kentucky Speedway has also resurfaced several previously unusable areas to add even more parking options. Finally, the track has added gravel aisles to many of the current grass lots to make parking more efficient. Altogether, Kentucky Speedway has estimated that these changes will park as many as 18,700 more cars, accommodating at least 36,600 additional fans during race weekend.

To alleviate traffic getting to the parking lots, the main road leading to Kentucky Speedway, Highway 35, is being expanded to seven lanes. Additionally, Interstate 71, the primary interstate near the track, is being widened to three lanes for the southbound exit ramp. An increased role by the Kentucky State Police and a computerized simulator of traffic patterns will assist speedway officials in judging traffic plans better for future events.

Also announced were plans to execute new traffic patterns during the June NASCAR weekend, bathroom renovations and an expansion to campground areas that will feature enhanced campsites, many with access to electric service.

Kentucky Speedway will host the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225, NASCAR Nationwide Series Feed The Children 300 and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 on June 28-30.

NHRA Celebrating Nitro Generation In 2012

A year after celebrating its 60th anniversary, the National Hot Rod Association will take a different approach in 2012 by honoring the many multi-generational racers that fill the pits during every NHRA event around the country.

“This year we are celebrating what we call Nitro Generation,” said NHRA President Tom Compton. “It’s the history of NHRA racers passing their passion down from generation to generation. The Bernsteins, the Coughlins, the Forces, the Johnsons, the Kalittas. The list goes on.”

A number of events will be held throughout the year to honor the members of the Nitro Generation, including autograph sessions that will feature multiple generations of racers from various families.

Courtney Force and Alexis DeJoria Meet The Press

A pair of NHRA Funny Car drivers that are expected to be top contenders for the annual NHRA Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, which honors the top NHRA rookie each season, Courtney Force and Alexis DeJoria will embark on their rookie campaigns in the NHRA Funny Car ranks this year. Both drivers have their eyes on claiming the $20,000 award that goes to the top rookie performer in national NHRA competition.

“My dad had me start out towing the Funny Car around the back of our shop and sitting in the chassis”, said Force, the youngest daughter of 15-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. She will drive the Traxxas Ford Mustang for John Force Racing in 2012.

“He (John Force) didn’t want me to jump in before I was ready. I did race the past six years, three years in Super Comp and three in Top Alcohol Dragster,” the youngest Force said. “It’s going to be fun (in 2012). I just want to get out there.

“I don’t want to get my expectations too far ahead of me, but obviously I want to win,” she added.

DeJoria, who made four starts last year in the NHRA Funny Car ranks aboard her Tequila Patron Toyota Camry for Kalitta Racing, hopes to use her time racing in the NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car class to make an impact in the NHRA Funny Car division.

“I raced Top Alcohol Funny Car for five years,” said DeJoria, who is the daughter of businessman John Paul DeJoria. “I wanted to be a fighter pilot when I was a child. So this is the next best thing.

“I’ve loved racing all my life,” said DeJoria. “I think what really drew me to NHRA drag racing is the fact that these are the fastest cars in the world. The work that goes into these cars to be perfect ... you don’t get another chance, you don’t get another lap, you have to be perfect. It is very intense, but the reward is so gratifying.”

Force and DeJoria will make their zMAX Dragway debuts during the upcoming NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, April 13-15. The season opener of the NHRA 2012 season takes place in just a few weeks, Feb. 9-12, in Pomona, Calif.

Furniture Row Racing Looking to Build on Successful 2011

Furniture Row Racing driver and 2011 Southern 500 winner Regan Smith met with media during a lunch visit to the Furniture Row outlet in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday.

To start the session Smith reflected on the Denver-based team’s first-ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.

“We sat here last year talking to everyone and I said I felt like this team could win a race,” said Smith. “Some of you agreed with me and some of you looked at me like I had a third eye. But, at the end of day, I truly believed that. My win at Darlington helped elevate everyone’s confidence and we will continue to build on that success in 2012.”

Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser said he would also like to see the No. 78 Chevrolet revisit victory lane.

“I can’t imagine not being involved with this sport after being a part of it,” said Visser. “I want to stay in it. I don’t want multiple teams. I want one team that wins.”

Furniture Row Racing also announced several new associate sponsors that will join the team in 2012, including CSX Transportation and its railroad crossing and pedestrian safety campaign, as well as Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers. The team will also continue to get factory support from Chevrolet.

Competition Director Mark McArdle outlined Furniture Row Racing’s goals for 2012.

“Finishing in the top-20 in points is something we need to hold ourselves accountable to in 2012,” said McArdle. “We have the speed; we just need to find the consistency.”

Hendrick Motorsports Looking To Regain Championship Form, Earn Win No. 200

Jimmie Johnson’s five-year reign as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was ended in 2011 by Stewart Haas Racing’s Tony Stewart. While everyone knew it was eventually going to happen, that doesn’t mean that Johnson and the entire Hendrick Motorsports stable are just going to sit back and take it.

On the contrary, the team intends to go out in 2012 and reclaim the Sprint Cup title.

“I’m going to be really disappointed if we don’t have all four cars in the Chase and I’m going to be really disappointed if we don’t win the championship,” team owner Rick Hendrick said at the Hendrick Motorsports stop Wednesday afternoon during Media Tour. “I can’t remember having four teams this solid, this strong, at the beginning of the year.”

“I think we’re as prepared as we’ve ever been and if we don’t get it (the championship) it's going to be our fault,” Hendrick said.

Jeff Gordon, a winner of four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles, will look to bring home another championship for Hendrick this year.

“He (Hendrick) provides us with the most amazing equipment and people,” Gordon said. “As drivers, when you come to work for Hendrick Motorsports, you know you better step up you game. You need to put your game face on.”

Johnson, who won five-straight NASCAR Sprint Cup championships from 2006 to 2010, says he is hungrier than ever.

“I’m as hungry as I’ve ever been,” Johnson said. “I certainly know what my team is capable of and I know what I’m capable of and I have lofty goals for myself this year.”

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who is coming off one of his better seasons in recent memory after finishing seventh in the final point standings, is hoping to continue that momentum in 2012.

“We were working with some ideas that Kenny Francis had started bringing to the table and just as a team we were continuously improving and learning things about the cars,” Earnhardt said. “I thought if we could have had three or four more weeks of racing then we could continue to improve.

“It is good to have the time off, but at the same time we were continuing to build and get better and that was something that you hate to have to stop,” Earnhardt noted.

Jury Duty Pulls Kahne From Media Tour

Hendrick Motorsports has been waiting since 2010 to formally introduce Kasey Kahne as the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Impala. That was supposed to happen during Wednesday’s NASCAR Sprint Media Tour stop at Hendrick Motorsports.

Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly work out that way.

Kahne, who will be sponsored by Farmers Insurance this year, was summoned to jury duty and was unable make himself available for Wednesday’s media events. Regardless, Kahne is expected to make an excellent addition to a team with 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup championships to its credit.

“We’re really excited to have Kasey Kahne join our organization,” said Rick Hendrick. “They (Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis) fit in like a glove and we’re really excited to have them added to our organization.”

Naturally, Kahne was the target for a few friendly jokes during the proceedings by his new Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.

“For anybody that questions the privileges that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers get along the way and the celebrity that we may have, I think Kasey Kahne is a perfect example,” Gordon said. “Not being able to get out of jury duty is where we stand.”

Rick Hendrick Makes Charitable Donations On Behalf of Racing Media Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick opted to skip the traditional media gifts this year during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. Instead, the NASCAR team owner made charitable donations on behalf of the racing media to the Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, N.C., the North Carolina TarHeel Challenge Academy in Salemburg, N.C., and the Kimberly Jessup Memorial Scholarship at North Carolina State University.

Media Members Do Battle At zMAX Dragway

Members of the media got the chance to take a break from the grind of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway by doing a little drag racing at zMAX Dragway Wednesday afternoon.

Driving four identically prepared Ford Mustangs, members of the media took turns racing down the drag strip at nearly 100 miles per hour in a bracket-style competition. They were coached by NHRA Funny Car drivers Courtney Force and Alexis DeJoria.

“It is always different when you do something even halfway close to what a real race car driver does,” said Greg Engle with “You get a different perspective on it. It is a lot of fun. One of the better things we’ve done on the Media Tour.”

Pete McCole, a writer with, had done some amateur drag racing in the past at zMAX Dragway and was excited to make his pass down the strip.

“My plan was to stand on the brake and stand on the gas and then take off as soon as the light turned green,” McCole said. “The brake pedal on this thing is so tiny that I couldn’t shift my feet off there, so I was afraid I’d lurch forward and red light. So I just said, ‘OK, I’ll just wait for the lights to turn amber and I’ll go.’

“As soon as the lights turned amber, I went. I thought my reaction time would have been better, but it wasn’t,” McCole said with a laugh.

The final elimination round pitted Mike Neff from against Duane Nelson from WTFM in Kingsport, Tenn., with Neff emerging victorious.

Quotes of the Day

Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Chairman and CEO Bruton Smith on enhancements at Kentucky Speedway: "We want the chance to prove ourselves. You'll see when you come back, all the improvements.”

Courtney Force, when asked if she had a choice about what she wanted to do when she grew up: “I definitely had a choice, but I guess my dad didn’t have a choice. I told him growing up that I was going to be a race car driver, I’m going to be just like you, I’m going to race a Funny Car.”

Jeff Gordon, while discussing Kasey Kahne doing jury duty during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway: “I had to call (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. to get out of a speeding ticket once.”

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , John Force , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Travis Pastrana , Scott Speed , Regan Smith , Jack Roush , Elliott Sadler , John Paul , David Ragan , Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , Cole Whitt , Brad Sweet , Austin Dillon , Johanna Long , Danica Patrick , Mike Neff , Courtney Force
Teams Furniture Row Racing , Hendrick Motorsports , JTG Daugherty Racing , Front Row Motorsports , Phoenix Racing
Tags chevrolet, dodge, ford, labonte, roush, toyota