Charlotte Media Tour: Thursday Quips

Charlotte Media Tour: Thursday Quips By: Bill King The 22nd edition of the NASCAR Nextel Media Tour organized by Lowe's Motor Speedway wound down Thursday with visits to three mega-teams: Roush, Ganassi and Hendrick. An early breakfast at the...

Charlotte Media Tour: Thursday Quips
By: Bill King

The 22nd edition of the NASCAR Nextel Media Tour organized by Lowe's Motor Speedway wound down Thursday with visits to three mega-teams: Roush, Ganassi and Hendrick.

An early breakfast at the University Hilton was hosted by Nationwide Insurance and was used to promote the second annual NASCAR Day this May 20th. The sale of five-dollar commemorative pins will raise funds for the Florida-based Speediatrics, the Petty family's Victory Junction Camp in Randleman, N.C., and Speedway Children's Charities.

Speedway Children's Charities director Major Gen. Tom Sadler, USAF retired, told of SMI chairman Bruton Smith's first efforts to recruit him 15 years ago. "I want you to come work for me General," said Smith who owns several hundred auto dealerships nationwide. "I don't know nothing about selling used cars," said Sadler. It turned out he didn't have to.

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During the introduction of the Roush Racing drivers, reigning Nextel Cup champion Kurt Busch (No. 97 Sharpie/Irwin Ford) was followed to the stage by 2003 champion Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Ford). Busch has appeared several times on the Tour in a well-tailored dark gray suit. Kenseth strolled out in a casual team shirt and faded jeans. After he and Busch exchanged glances, Kenseth smirked, "I don't have to dress like that anymore."

Ricky Craven (No. 99 Superclips Ford) admitted he was a bit on edge. "My wife is expecting our third child," he said, glancing at his watch. "Today."

Mark Martin was asked what he was going to be doing following his 2005 farewell "Salute to You" tour. Martin shrugged, "I don't have a lot of experience in having fun." Roush quipped, "Been hanging around me too long."

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At Chip Ganassi's sparkling new facility, half a mile north of Roush Racing at the Concord Airport, Tour veterans were surprised to note that Ganassi's media savvy partner Felix Sabates was not present, but his wife was. Ganassi led off the press conference by saying, "I have a major announcement. We're changing the name of the team to 'Chip Ganassi Racing with Carolyn Sabates'." Turns out Felix had the stomach flu.

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On the bus ride from Ganassi's to Hendrick Motorsports, traditionally the final stop on the Media Tour, some enterprising team PR type launched a three-minute Hendrick promotional video on the TV monitors. The audio assault was more than the bunch of road-kill journalists' exhausted systems could stand.

The Nashville Tennessean's Larry Woody, king of the one-liners groaned, "Now we know what the train ride to Jonestown was like."

Well, it wasn't all that bad. There was an unprecedented piling on of SWAG this Tour, with a number of team press kits now coming on USB memory keys and there were several travel-sized USB mice among the plunder.

For the first time in five years, there were no logo-adorned notebook computer bags for which the affable Monte Dutton of the Gastonia (N.C.) Gazette was thankful. "I've run out of friends that have laptops." Also for the first time in recent memory, there was no barbecue, a North Carolina cuisine staple, which we were once served for breakfast some years back.

But seriously, folks. The Media Tour remains a valuable tool for writers to bank evergreen pieces for later use as features during the early months of the NASCAR season.

Battling through the armada of television cameras remains the major obstacle between a blank cassette tape and a few observations from your interview target. "The only sure way to get to the front is to muss some hair," cracked the irrepressible Woody.

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Kurt Busch , Ricky Craven , Chip Ganassi , Bill King , Felix Sabates , Mark Martin
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Hendrick Motorsports