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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Petty says sponsors avoided Kurt Busch; Earnhardt Jr. wins facial hair bet; Kahne ready to race for Hendrick

NASCAR is back, sort of, with testing underway at Daytona, and the full media frenzy and interviews under way:

The preseason media frenzy began Thursday, and here are some of the highlights.

-- Richard Petty said a deal couldn't be worked out for Kurt Busch to drive the 43 car due to 'personality' issues; or in other words, no sponsors wanted to be associated with him.

No shock there. His personality was on full display at the end of the year, and anyone with common sense would want to steer clear, at least for now: Except, of course, a team like where he signed, the #51 car -- an underdog who was eager to get their hands on a championship driver and begin a climb to respectability. Only they would put up with someone as toxic as Busch at this point. I wish them luck.

— Danica Patrick on interim Cup crew chief Greg Zipadelli:
"His accent is not as thick as Tony, Jr. I understand every word he says.

-- Not that it matters much at this point, but Jeff Gordon led the morning practice session. Kyle Busch and Joey Logano were fastest in the afternoon session.

-- A wager involving facial hair between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth left Jr. $2,500 richer, when Kenseth failed to keep the muttonchop beard he had grown. ... Oh, those crazy drivers and their offseason hi-jinks.

-- Carl Edwards opened up about his heartbeaking end to the 2011 season, and his crew chief's decision not to go to Vegas:
“Well he didn’t go to Las Vegas because he was upset. He was working. After the race I could tell he was upset, just as I was and everybody was. That is it. If we weren’t upset about it and it wasn’t something that frustrated you then you probably aren’t in the right sport. I like to believe that we are wise enough to not let that get the best of us and just go perform and do the best we can. That is competition. That is life. You have to keep going and do the best you can. Honestly I really wish we could talk about this year. Let me put it this way, after the whole off season we parked the airplane at the airport and I was excited for the season to start and I feel more true confidence than I have had in a long time and feel we are doing well for the right season and have everything lined up. I don’t think that would be any different if we would have won. The season is going to be what it is and I feel like we are going to be good.”

I don't see a slump for Edwards; but it will be very hard to match his awesome 2011 run.

-- Kasey Kahne talked about finally getting to drive for Rick Hendrick after a yearlong stopover at Red Bull Racing:
"It's really just exciting to get started, to start working with the 5 guys and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. It's really an incredible place. I was able to spend some time there over the off season and just try to be as prepared as possible when we get here for testing and then when we get started during Speed Weeks.
It's neat, though. It's awesome to be able to talk with Jimmie and Dale and Jeff about racing and driving and things like that, and then just all the people that they have there. I don't know, it's just been kind of a different feeling more than anything than what I've had before at other race teams. It's a great opportunity, and I want to take full advantage of it."

One thing's for sure: Kahne makes the Hendrick team better, and I fully expect all four teams to do very well in 2012; even good-old underachieving Dale Jr.

That's all for the moment, lots more fun to come in the days, weeks and months ahead.
Welcome back, NASCAR. May 2012 be another good one.

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