Blogs > Nascar: Beyond the Track

Find out what's really going on in NASCAR. Look here to find out why your driver really lost his ride, or the real reason those two drivers can't stand each other. Learn about the hidden motives and reasons for the things that happen in NASCAR, from the drivers to the team owners.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and other drivers offer their Super Bowl picks

CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
What is your prediction for the Big Game?
"Man, I'm not one to be a huge sporting fan, but what happened in those playoff games is just incredible for any kind of sport.  If you're a sports fan at all, you surely enjoyed those playoff games.  They were definitely entertaining right up until the end of the game.  I don't know how you can pick a favorite.  I think the 49ers were extremely strong and had some things go their way just like you have to have to win a championship in any kind of sport.  Certainly, the Ravens are full of confidence and momentum and had some things go their way as well.  Man, I'm telling you it's going to be one heck of a game.  And, oh by the way, I'm going down to watch it."

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Who do you like in the Big Game?
"What's weird is that it's two teams that to me, they don't spark an interest like the Broncos would or the Chicago Bears would or the Patriots would for me.  They are two teams that are almost two forgotten teams.  It's kind of unique that you get
those two in a Super Bowl, which is cool and also having the brotherly rivalry going on there -- I know what that's like.
That's cool, but if I had to pick one -- it's a tough one to pick, but I like the 49ers."

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What team do you like in the Big Game?
"San Francisco.  They're just, I think, the better defensive team.  I think the coach is slightly better -- everything is slightly better.  The quarterback is dangerous on San Francisco."

MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Who will win the Big Game?
"You know, I think the Super Bowl could go either way.  I guess I'd probably have to stick with the NFC though and go with the 49ers.  I think that (Colin) Kaepernick adds another element to the game and he's going to be tough to stop.  But man, the Ravens are looking good too.  I think it's -- you never know what's going to happen.  Obviously, it's a game, but I think it could be a pretty entertaining game."

MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
What is your Big Game prediction?
"I just hope it's a good game.  I don't have a dog in this fight so a good game would be my vote.  Hopefully, something comes right down to the end so we can enjoy it all night long.  San Francisco has been pretty impressive.  My buddy, David Akers, is their kicker and so I was excited to see him get the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl.  It's been a few years since
he's went, so I'd like to see him win.  I'd like to see him -- he doesn't have a Super Bowl ring and he's been close a few times.  It would be cool to see him get that."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Time has come for Kyle Busch to live up to expectations and contend for Cup title

To say Kyle Busch has potential to be one of the best NASCAR drivers of all time is an understatement. He's already won a ton of races across all the major series, and he's very, very young.

He has a long career ahead of him, and will certainly continue winning many, many races along the way.

The question remains though: Can he compete for a championship and actually seal the deal.

Historically, he's had some great years in the regular season, then falls to pieces once the Chase begins. In 2012, his fumbling began even before the Chase, and he just missed making it (just as well, as he wouldn't have been much of a factor).

So here we are, in 2013, and Kyle Busch has officially signed a long-term deal with Joe Gibbs Racing. It's clear they like him, know he is a potential multiple champion, and don't want anyone else to have him.

So now that his future is set -- one thing is clear: Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing need each other to step up if they're going to be legitimate title contenders.

Here's how Busch needs the Gibbs team to step up: They need to make sure they give him equipment that will last. Too many times in the past, Kyle has had an awesome run going and then blown up or had another type of mechanical failure. You can't win titles that way, and you especially can't make those kind of team mistakes in the Chase races.

Here's how the team needs Kyle to step up: He needs to continue his emotional maturing process and stay focused on the goal of winning a title. He clearly has the talent, but the  knock on him has always been that he doesn't have the discipline. He needs to avoid distractions and off-track nonsense (suspensions, fights, etc.) and keep his eye on the prize.

If he has the proper equipment, and the proper focus, and of course some luck, there's no reason he can't still be in the hunt for the Sprint Cup title come Homestead.

Joe Gibbs Racing knows this; and that's why they locked him up long-term. You don't want a race against a guy of his talent level.

Time will tell if he and the team can put all phases of the game together properly and earn JGR their first title since Tony Stewart won in 2005. But in a year where there is no clear favorite to win the Cup, the ball is in their court.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Richard Childress Racing will have a rough 2013 due to lame duck Kevin Harvick team

NASCAR is very strange compared to other sports when it comes to contracts. People don't always just go to other teams, they sometimes say they're leaving a year later.

It's very bizarre, though I understand technically why it happens since contracts have to be honored. But it sets up a very awkward situation for the entire season.

And as a result, Richard Childress Racing will have a very tough 2013.
Kevin Harvick is gone as of 2014, as he'll move to Stewart-Haas Racing -- which has eclipsed RCR as the second best Chevy team on the track.

To add insult to injury, Harvick's likely to take most of his sponsors with him when he goes -- so Childress not only loses a top-notch driver, but he also loses a lot of sponsorship money that will need to be replaced.

The driver part isn't so bad, as Austin Dillon will jump into the ride -- probably with the No. 3 on the side of it too, and I look forward to that. But the money leaving is harder to swallow, as that's hard to come by these days in NASCAR.

In the meantime, the Childress team has to get through 2013, and it won't be pretty. No doubt, old Richard sees Kevin as a bit of snake, so the animosity between them will be so thick you can cut it with a knife. They'll both want to win races, but it'll be with a catch.
Think about it from Childress' perspective. How much do you want to let Harvick know about the technical details of the operation with these new Gen 6 cars, when you know he can just take that info over to the new team in 2014? It's almost a smart bet to let Paul Menard and Jeff Burton get the better equipment and setups, and hopefully make the Chase, and let Harvick flounder while not giving him all the info.

That probably won't happen, but in the back of his mind Childress has probably thought about it. I certainly would in this scenario.

Bottom line: This lame duck season will almost certainly be a disaster for the 29 team, and perhaps Richard Childress Racing as a whole since one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch pretty quickly. RCR is nowhere near the threat they once were, and this kind of distraction can't exactly help the team come together. In fact, it will create division, something you never want on a team.

The future is bright at RCR though, as both the Dillon boys -- Childress' grandsons -- will be at RCR in Cup before within the next few years, and they have the potential to get him lots and lots of wins and potential titles. In fact, his extreme dedication to developing the Dillon boys is rumored to be part of the reason people like Elliott Sadler and Kevin Harvick wanted out of RCR, as they may have felt a little ignored.

But in the meantime, it's not going to be pretty at the Childress team. Harvick might get lucky and squeeze out a win or two, but I don't think the team overall will be a factor on a weekly basis. Harvick might make the Chase and flounder in the back, but there's no way he will contend for a title with the circus atmosphere surrounding his leaving after 2013.

Sorry Richard, but you better stock up on some Goody's Headache Powder; you're going to need it a lot this season.

Brad Keselowski will make appearance at Detroit Pistons game Tuesday

Fresh of his Cup title, Michigan native Brad Keselowski returns home to support his hometown NBA team, making an appearance when the Detroit Pistons play the Milwaukee Bucks.
Several ticket packages are offered, some that just include a customized Pistons/Keselowski T-shirt, and others that include a VIP reception before the game that will be attended by Keselowski.

For more details, visit

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. dating announcement is a ridiculous situation all around -- and the media is partly to blame

First things first, with the Daytona 500 just weeks away, I'm as pumped up as ever about the new racing season.
I'm very curious to see whether Brad Keselowski can pull off another championship season in a new car make, or if Jimmie Johnson will return to his dominance of the past. Or will Clint Bowyer or another newcomer take the crown?
There's bound to be lots of drama and excitement along the way, and I'll be there through it all with the rest of you enjoying it all.

But for now, it's still the offseason, and with the offseason comes silliness in bunches (remember Kasey Kahne's breastfeeding comments last year?). This week, with the media tour, silliness was everywhere, most notably in the form of Danica Patrick's dating announcement.

In case you missed it, Danica Patrick -- who is competing for Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year in 2013 driving for Stewart-Haas Racing -- announced she is dating Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -- who is also competing for Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year, driving for Jack Roush.
This news comes on the heels of Danica announcing her divorce last November from husband Paul Hospenthal. In the divorce filing, she said her marriage was "irretrievably broken".

Apparently there were rumors of this new relationship with Ricky, and Danica decided to let the cat out of the bag this week.

"I have a boyfriend, his name is Richard," she said, confirming the speculation.

Stenhouse also confirmed that the two racers are dating, and that sets up the first time -- and probably last time  -- that two ROTY competitors in the Sprint Cup series are also in a relationship.

I think it's safe to say that NASCAR has officially entered "As the World Turns" territory with this announcement. Call me old-fashioned, but I honestly don't care who any of the drivers -- male or female -- are dating. The fact that the media was even interested in this topic is quite annoying to me as a journalist.

Also annoying is the decision made by Patrick (and presumably Stenhouse too) to go ahead and make the announcement.

NASCAR fans aren't the type that run around in sewing circles. We don't care who Kim Kardashian is dating (well, we shouldn't), and we shouldn't care who Danica Patrick is dating. Bringing this kind of silly storyline into the national discussion is so unnecessary, it's beyond words. Date who you want, but don't waste my time by announcing it.

Danica said her rationale for announcing the relationship was as follows: "As opposed to speculation and people making up their own stories or talking amongst themselves or us feeling uncomfortable walking into each other's (motorhomes) moving forward, or around our teams or anything, it's just easier to be up front and get it out of the way then to have any kind of awkward speculation."

Maybe that's true to some extent, but I also think she doesn't mind the publicity it brings her.  And realistically, if they didn't answer the questions, no legitimate NASCAR writer would ever write that they were dating. 
Keep in mind that I'm not judging anyone involved here. Quite the opposite actually: I don't care if Danica is married or divorced; if she's dating or not dating; She could be dating Lady Gaga and I wouldn't care.

What annoys me about this story is how NASCAR is starting to fall in the trap other sports have -- where the people writing about the sport actually care about his type of off-track nonsense. This isn't Entertainment Tonight; we should not care who's dating who. Period. Maybe if she was dating a member of the France family it would be relevant, as that could lead to favoritism. But otherwise, I don't need to know.

So bottom line: Everyone here is acting silly. First the media is silly for asking about this sort of topic in the first place. And Patrick and Stenhouse are silly for announcing it under the guise of avoiding speculation during the season.

All it does is bring a three-ring circus/soap opera feel to the sport, and that's just lame in my opinion. Anytime Danica and Ricky race near each other this season, announcers will make silly remarks regarding their relationship. For all of our sakes, I hope they're never near each other on track (realistically, most often Stenhouse will be lapping Danica, if history is any indication).

So congrats media; congrats Danica and Ricky; you're brought NASCAR to the level of a cheezy soap opera or reality TV show. 

I hope you are proud of yourselves. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

NASCAR letting fans vote on details of Sprint Unlimited format

NASCAR and Sprint confirmed today that fans will have a direct impact on several competition elements of the newly titled The Sprint Unlimited At Daytona, the 75-lap non-points race that opens the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

Fans will play an integral part in how the fan-favorite race unfolds on Saturday, February 16 (8 p.m. ET, FOX, FOX Deportes, Motor Racing Network Radio and SiriusXM Satellite Radio) at Daytona International Speedway. By casting their vote, fans are invited to design several competition aspects of the preseason event, including…

— The number of laps in each segment
— The type of pit stop a team makes after the first segment
— How many cars will be eliminated after the second segment

Votes can be cast on NASCAR’s new official mobile app – NASCAR Mobile ’13 – or at All votes made through the NASCAR Mobile ’13 app will count twice.

“We are excited to provide our fan base this first-of-its-kind opportunity to directly be involved in determining the race’s format and in-race decisions,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “By allowing our fans this type of interaction, it is our hope that more fans will be tuned in to the event than ever before.” 

The voting window for the race format will close on Wednesday, February 13 at 11:59 p.m. ET. The voting windows for the pit stop and elimination will close at various times throughout the race broadcast. Vote results will be relayed to teams during each segment and announced live on the FOX race broadcast.

“Giving fans such a strong voice in the design of the race is a fitting way to launch our 10th season in the sport,” said Steve Gaffney, Sprint vice president of corporate marketing. “We are giving them the ultimate access to the sport, the decision-making power to sculpt the type of race they want to see. With today’s technology, they can make these decisions in real time as the race is happening.”

“Sprint has been a great partner for the sport and I applaud them for developing new and innovative ways to give the race fans an unprecedented role in The Sprint Unlimited,” said Joie Chitwood III, Daytona International Speedway president. “We have some of the most passionate and knowledgeable fans in sports and I’m looking forward to seeing the choices they make and how it will impact this exciting star-studded event.”

Fan voting categories, include:

Length of each of the three race segments:
— Choice A: 40 laps, 20 laps, 15 laps
— Choice B: 35 laps, 30 laps, 10 laps
— Choice C: 30 laps, 25 laps, 20 laps
Race format voting ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday, February 13.

Team pit stop after the first segment:
— Choice A: No pit stop
— Choice B: Two (2) tire change
— Choice C: Four (4) tire change
Pit stop voting concludes at the green flag of the first segment.

How many cars will be eliminated after the second segment:
— Choice A: None (0)
— Choice B: Two (2) cars eliminated
— Choice C: Four (4) cars eliminated
— Choice D: Six (6) cars eliminated
Elimination voting concludes at the green flag of the first segment.

Fans are encouraged to follow @NASCAR and @MissSprintCup on Twitter to engage in the #SprintUnlimited conversation throughout the voting window.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Champions Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte headline NASCAR Preview 2013

Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski and fellow titleholders Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte are among more than 60 drivers from three NASCAR national series set to participate in NASCAR Preview 2013 on Saturday, Feb. 9.
The NASCAR Acceleration Weekend fan event will be held from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center and feature autographs from NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers, on-stage Q&As, the opportunity to get a close-up look at the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Gen-6 race car and other special events.
Tickets, priced at $20, are available at A NASCAR Preview ticket includes same-day admission to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For the full driver autograph schedule, please see the bottom of this release.
NASCAR Acceleration Weekend begins Friday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m., with the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Former NASCAR premier series champions Buck Baker, Herb Thomas and Rusty Wallace, championship car owner Cotton Owens and innovative mechanic, crew chief and engine builder Leonard Wood will be the fourth class enshrined.
Tickets to Friday night’s Induction Ceremony start at $45 and can be purchased at and the NASCAR Hall of Fame box office.
Eight NASCAR Hall of Fame members will appear at the hall from 4-4:45 p.m. on Feb. 8 and sign autographs for those with a NASCAR Hall of Fame ticket. They include Junior Johnson, David Pearson, Bud Moore, Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Dale Inman, Darrell Waltrip and Glen Wood.
NASCAR Acceleration Weekend wraps up Sunday, Feb. 10 with the unveiling of the five NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees’ granite markers. Wallace and Leonard Wood will sign autographs at 10 a.m. for hall ticket holders.
NASCAR Preview 2013 is expected to draw thousands of fans to the Convention Center to meet their favorite drivers. Last year’s event, the first of its kind in Charlotte, was the successful rebirth of what for many years officially signaled the beginning of a new NASCAR season. The 2013 season is exactly one month away and begins with The Sprint Unlimited on Feb. 16 at Daytona International Speedway – the traditional lead-in to the 55th running of the Daytona 500 at 1 p.m. ET on Feb. 24. Both races will be broadcast live by FOX Sports, Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
Reigning series champions in all three NASCAR national series headline the list of drivers confirming their participation in NASCAR Preview 2013. Keselowski will appear at 1:30 p.m. along with NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion James Buescher. NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is slotted at 9 a.m.
The Keselowski-Buescher group also includes Danica Patrick, who will seek NASCAR Sprint Cup Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 along with Stenhouse.
Driver Appearance Times
9 a.m. – 11 a.m. (autographs begin at 9:30 a.m.)
Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier, Eric McClure, Brian Scott, Timothy Peters, Miguel Paludo and Todd Peck.
10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (autographs begin at 11 a.m.)
Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Aric Almirola, Paul Menard, Joey Logano, Hal Martin, Elliott Sadler, Sam Hornish Jr., Jamie Dick, Sean Corr, Brennan Newberry, Ross Chastain and Ron Hornaday Jr.
Noon – 2 p.m. (autographs begin at 12:30 p.m.)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., David Ragan, David Gilliland, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers, Johanna Long, Austin Dillon, Michael Annett, Nelson Piquet Jr., Ty Dillon, Joey Coulter, Trevor Bayne and Todd Bodine.
1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (autographs begin at 2 p.m.)
Brad Keselowski, Danica Patrick, Kasey Kahne, Juan Pablo Montoya, Bobby Labonte, Justin Lofton, John Wes Townley, Regan Smith, Parker Kligerman, Max Gresham, Jeb Burton, Dakoda Armstrong, James Buescher, Michael McDowell and Alex Bowman.

Tommy Baldwin changes number to No. 7 to honor his father

Mooresville, N.C. (January 17, 2012) - Tommy Baldwin Racing is paying homage to its heritage with the announcement that Dave Blaney will drive the No. 7 Chevrolet SS in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starting at the season-opening Daytona 500. 

The number is a tribute to team owner Tommy  Baldwin,Jr.'s late father, Tom Baldwin, Sr., who was a beloved NASCAR Modified driver, and sported the number 7NY throughout his career. Working on his father's cars is how Baldwin got his start in racing, and ultimately led him into NASCAR's elite series.

"It is a very special moment today to announce the number 7 on our Chevrolet SS. The number has been in the Baldwin family for a long time and it is going to be pretty special to carry on that legacy in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series."  
About Tommy Baldwin Racing
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) Crew Chief Tommy Baldwin formed Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) in 2009. Baldwin utilized a declining economy to open a NSCS team with a stringent budget. The team worked to build to full-time competition, and by the 2011 season, the team's third season, TBR competed in every race and locked the No. 36 Chevrolet in the top-35 in NSCS Owner Points. Dave Blaney drove the No. 36 Chevrolet to TBR's highest finish of third in the October 2011 event at Talladega
No. 7 TBR
 Superspeedway. In 2012 both cars fielded by TBR finished in the top-35 in points.

Based in Mooresville, N.C., TBR will compete in the NSCS in 2013 with NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney driving the No. 7 Chevy SS.  
For more information on Tommy Baldwin Racing, please visit them on Facebook, Twitter or their website

NASCAR HALL OF FAME: Cotton Owens, gentleman competitor, master mechanic

Through stock car racing’s rough and tumble, formative years Everett “Cotton” Owens stood out for a multitude of reasons: among them, winning driver and owner and master mechanic.

But perhaps most of all, he was a gentleman.
“He was such a nice guy, one of the nicest I ever drove for,” said David Pearson, whose first of three NASCAR Sprint Cup championships was won in 1966 at the wheel of Owens’ No. 6 Dodge. “He was a real smart, sensible man. They (his competitors) liked him as much as he liked them. If somebody wanted to know something, he’d answer them.”
Owens, who died last June at the age of 88, will join Pearson in the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday, Feb. 8 as one of five members of the Hall’s fourth class. His fellow 2013 inductees are NASCAR premier series champions Buck Baker, Rusty Wallace and Herb Thomas and master crew chief Leonard Wood.
Known as the “King of the Modifieds” for more than 100 victories, the Union, S.C. native was part of the post-war racing scene around Spartanburg, S.C. Among the key figures were Owens, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bud Moore and 1960 NASCAR premier series champion Rex White.
Owens’ NASCAR premier series driving career spanned 15 years – 160 races, nine victories and a second-place championship finish to NASCAR Hall of Famer Lee Petty in 1959. His first victory, in 1957 marked the first time a NASCAR Sprint Cup race was run on Daytona’s Beach & Road Course at an average speed of more than 100 mph – 101.541 mph to be exact. The win also was the first in the series by a Pontiac.
For much of his driving career, the 5-feet, 5-inch Owens raced with double vision, the result of a racing accident in 1951.
“The people I drove against, they didn’t know I couldn’t see them,” Owens said in a 1984 interview.
NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty recalled, “He was super on dirt … one of the better guys who raced on the dirt tracks. When he became a car owner, he really helped the cars get better. He was a good mind in doing some new things in the sport.”
Faced with diminishing depth perception coupled with the need for his cars to perform on superspeedways, Owens began his transition to owner/builder/crew chief. His cars won 38 times, the last in 1971 in a Daytona 500 qualifying race – which at the time awarded NASCAR premier series points – by Pete Hamilton.
Among those who drove cars fielded by Owens were NASCAR Hall of Famers Junior Johnson and Bobby Allison, Glenn “Fireball” Roberts, Marvin Panch, Bobby Isaac, Ralph Earnhardt, Charlie Glotzbach, Mario Andretti and Al Unser.
Buddy Baker drove perhaps Owens’ most iconic entry – the orange and black No. 6 winged Dodge Daytona in which Baker recorded the first NASCAR-sanctioned 200 mph lap at Talladega Superspeedway on March 24, 1970. Baker subsequently dominated Talladega’s spring event, turning the first in-race lap of 200 mph, before a spin and accident sidelined the rapid Dodge just past half-distance.
Baker recorded 13 top-five finishes in 29 starts for Owens during the 1969-70 seasons winning the 1970 Southern 500.
Allison also won in an Owens car as did Glotzbach. Owens won six times in his own equipment between 1960 and 1964.
The match that sealed one hall of fame career and began another was the pairing of Owens and Pearson, longtime friends and dirt track competitors. Pearson recalls dropping by Owens’ garage in late 1962. Owens was thinking of running more races the following season and wondered if Pearson would like to be his driver.
“Back then I’d have driven for nothing,” said Pearson, who lived three miles from Owens in a recent interview. “I didn’t have a regular car. He asked if I’d like to run more races. It was the first factory ride I’d ever had. I knew I’d be in the best equipment.”
Pearson and Owens were winless in 1963 but reached Victory Lane eight times in 61 races in 1964 and finished third in the standings. Pearson and Owens won twice in 1965, both on dirt tracks, while working on chassis set ups that proved of championship quality in 1966. They raced a Dodge Dart station wagon drag car called the “Cotton Picker” that had the engine mounted in the cargo compartment.
In 1966, Owens and Pearson won the championship with 15 victories in 42 starts – including a road race win at Bridgehampton, N.Y. They finished nearly 80% of the races in the top 10 to give Dodge its first NASCAR title.
Twenty-seven of Pearson’s 105 NASCAR Sprint Cup victories came in Owens-owned and prepared cars. The relationship was truly a congenial one.
“He was not like a boss; it was like working for a friend,” said Pearson. “We just had a great time working together.”
Although Pearson left the team the following year to drive for Holman Moody, where he won two more titles in 1968-69, he remained close to his former car owner until Owens’ passing.
“I’d pick up Cotton and his wife (Dot) after church and we’d all go to lunch,” he said of a decades-long Sunday routine.
Induction ceremonies will take place at 7:30 p.m. ET in the Crown Ball Room at the Charlotte Convention Center which is directly connected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The event is the first half of NASCAR Acceleration Weekend followed on Saturday, Feb. 9 by NASCAR Preview 2013. Tickets for the ceremonies start at $45 (available at and the NASCAR Hall of Fame box office. In addition, a $20 ticket will gain fans all-day access into NASCAR Preview 2013 and the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Saturday, Feb. 9.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Kyle Busch, Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr. comment on Daytona testing wreck

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What happened to cause the accident on the race track?
"I have no idea.  I didn't see anything happening in front of me.  Just saw the smoke and then a car sideways and I started
trying to check up.  I feel like I did a pretty good job checking up.  The guy behind me got into me a little bit so I knew I
couldn't slow down more so I just had to try to find a lane to get through and I saw the 43 (Aric Almirola) come across the
race track so I turned left to miss it and I shot the gap and when I did somebody was on my inside and just hit me in the left
rear a little bit.  That's just the major damage right there on the left rear.  Everything else is fine.  It's all cosmetic so I don't
think it's that bad."

How was the drafting on the race track with a larger pack?
"It's okay.  The first time we went out we had a pretty good pack side-by-side and everything.  There was some mixing
around and some moving and passing.  And then the next time we went out it seemed like there was a strong lane on the top
and just four or five cars on the bottom and the bottom wasn't moving anywhere.  It was actually going backwards and so
everybody was working their way high and I think some guys just got checked up and that's what caused the wreck."

What are your impressions of the new car?
"It's just like anything else, there's going to be an adapting period and having to get used to what the cars feel like and how
they drive and what not.  I'm good with it.  I think our car's pretty good.  The M&M's car was fast and felt stable and better
than some other guys."

What has it been like having Matt Kenseth as a teammate?
"Matt's (Kenseth) been good.  He's got a lot of experience and a lot of leadership and been around for a while and won a
championship.  So, it's good to lean on a guy like that and talk to a guy like that and have somebody in your corner like that.
We had it with (Tony) Stewart when he was at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and he was really, really good and then he moved on
to his own deal.  Now that Matt is there I think that kind of replaces Stewart a little bit.  Matt's a little bit more low key about
his business than Stewart may be."

MARK MARTIN, No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
What happened to cause the accident on the race track?
"I was very close to being in it.  I was the first car back from (Dale Earnhardt) Junior when it all started out in the front of
Junior's car.  It's a Daytona thing.  That's Daytona.  That doesn't have nothing to do with the new cars or anything else.
That's just normal Daytona stuff."

MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
What happened to cause the accident on the race track?
"Carnage.  I don't know.  The 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and the 9 (Marcos Ambrose) kind of got together a little bit and the 9
got turned into the wall on the back stretch.  I missed the 9 by about an eighth of an inch so I was pretty happy."

Were you afraid to go back out on the race track after the big wreck?
"Well, no, but our car is kind of bent up a little bit so they want to take it back up to the shop and fix it.  It's not bad (on the
rear quarter panel), but we kind of got done with everything we wanted to and the car is in good shape.  I was happy with it.
It has great speed and it's going to be our Shootout car, so they figured they would go home to fix it and I think everybody
has pretty much had enough anyway."

Did you expect to have an accident while drafting?
"You never really expect it to happen, but you always know in the back of your mind that there's potential for it.  At Daytona
and Talladega that's just kind of the way that it is.  But, I will tell you that I was really happy with the way the drafting was
out there.  I really enjoyed it.  It took me back to when I was running Nationwide and the way those cars drafted and early in
my Cup career when we had the older cars.  I thought it was really good.  It didn't really help me to push a guy, but you
could get right up to them, give them some momentum and you get runs on the leader.  I passed the leader a few times, which
has been difficult to do the past few years.  I thought the drafting was great.  Getting the bumpers lined up and figuring out
how hard you can hit someone when you kind of get jammed up in the middle of the pack there, that's all stuff that's going to
be learned and figured out as we go.  But, I was really happy with the way the drafting went -- the speeds and the way the
cars drove.  My car drove phenomenal.  I had good speed, so I'm happy and ready to come back and do some racing

Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jamie McMurray give their takes on Daytona testing wreck


“I don’t know what started it.  I know we were in a pack drafting, just trying to learn the cars and what this aero package is doing.  Some guys started forming a line on the inside and things started getting a little more aggressive at that point.  Somebody must have turned or got turned or something and then they just all started stacking up.”

“Obviously, they look like the really smart guys in the garage by not drafting.  Everybody has different theories on it.  We feel like we have to go get in those conditions and find out now what we have to deal with to be prepared when we come back here in February, even putting yourself in jeopardy. We will get this car fixed up no problem.  It is definitely going to cause some extra work.”

“I’m not surprised at all.  We see it every year, maybe not quite this big, but you get down here in packs.  It’s important to be in those packs and learn what you can learn, especially with a new car.  I think you can kind of weigh into both sides of it.  You know when the cars are starting to push and move around a lot more that the chances are getting higher that something is going to happen.  There are some rookies out there as well.  I saw some things happen a couple of laps before that.  You just ride it out and hope you can make it through it.  Unfortunately, we didn’t in this case.”

“The cars drive pretty well.  You can’t push.  Which I think is a good thing.  The bad thing is, you can still get to the guys bumper, but the cars just don’t line up very well.  You really just shouldn’t even be doing it.  Unfortunately, that is kind of that last little bit of momentum that you need to sometimes make the pass or make your lane move.  So, it’s something that is going to have to be dealt with very carefully.  You are going to have to be cautious when you do it and do it with the right guys, but most of the time you’re going to need to stay away from it. That is certainly something we learned.  The cars really get good momentum and shifts by themselves but they run side-by-side for a long time so it’s not easy to complete the pass.”

“There is a lack of downforce and then the bumpers just don’t line up like they used to.  Certainly, the Chevy’s they have a little bit more of a point so they really don’t line up very good.  I was pushed by a Ford and it almost spun me.  I don’t know if any of them are really lining up that good.  Especially, with this kind of downforce that is in the cars.  I think it is a great package.  I love it.  We have to kind of start over again, we have gotten so comfortable with running on one another’s bumpers, pushing and being able to do that.  You have to kind of reset a little bit and go back to the way we used to do it where you get close and you still gain momentum and push guys but with the air not necessarily the bumpers.”


“We were just out there running around.  I felt like Marcus (Ambrose) was backing up to me in (turns) one and two to get a run down the back.  I was just going to give him a push down the back straightaway and see if he could get the lead.  I was trying to eventually get the lead myself.  We got off the back straightaway and were just kind of pushing him along there and our cars sort of just didn’t match up very well.  I got him hooked into the fence.  I pushed Martin (Truex) a little bit in his Toyota and they matched up good.  The bumpers were good, didn’t have any problem with any of the cars.  That is the first time I pushed a Ford.  The roll bar of the front of my car is just at the right place where his car sets right up on top of that.  I sort of had him going down the back straightaway like a forklift.  It was a big mess and tore up a lot of cars down here trying to work on their stuff.  Definitely the drafting is not like it used to be.  You can’t really tandem certain cars; certain cars don’t match up well.  Our bumpers on the Chevy’s have a little bit of a point. It makes it a little bit of a challenge to get into guys and kind of help them.  We definitely weren’t doing that in the corner at all because it was pretty hairy trying to do it on the straightaways.”

“Pretty much, yeah.  It’s going to take a lot more care and concentration and just knowing kind of what is at stake.  Certain cars you line up okay with and can push fine and for whatever reason mine and Marcus’ (Ambrose) car didn’t line up good.  We got our bumpers together and it hooked him.  For whatever reason you’ve got to be careful who you are working with.”

“Yeah, I think the racing will be better because it doesn’t look like we will be able to tandem.  The cars are down 50 percent on downforce in the back.  They are real tail happy.  A lot of guys are really having a lot of snaps and moments out there on the race track where they are getting loose.  With that in mind you are definitely not going to be pushing anybody through the corner.”

“Well I’m not setting it up to say I’m going to run better because of this package, but the racing will be different.  It’s definitely a movement back toward the way the cars used to be.”

“Yeah, I was real surprised.  Marcus’ (Ambrose) car was a bit of a handful.  He was really loose into the corner and off of the corner, but I thought we were just going to get on going down the back straightaway.  He was going to drive to the inside of the leader and take the lead.  For whatever reason it just didn’t work.”

“No, it’s not really between me and him.  He didn’t do anything wrong.  I think it was my responsibility not to wreck him.  He doesn’t have much control at that point. That was the first Ford I had pushed.  I don’t know.  You don’t want to push too many Ford’s if you can help it.”


“I really don’t know.  I was two or three rows back.  I just saw the No. 9 get turned and then obviously it was just a wreck.  I was along for the ride after that.”

“The first drafting session we were really loose.  The cars drove okay not really around people.  When I got someone in front of me, beside me and behind me, the car was really unstable.  We worked on tightening the car up for the second draft.  I never really got to put myself in the same situation again.  I felt like we learned some stuff.”

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Michael Waltrip to drive for Swan Racing in Daytona 500

Michael Waltrip to drive for Swan Racing in the Daytona 500

Two-time champion reunites with former crew chief for the Great American Race
Michael Waltrip, a two-time Daytona 500 champion, will pilot Swan Racing's No. 30 in the 2013 "Great American Race," reuniting him with former crew chief Tony Eury Jr. The race marks Swan Racing's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut since announcing its new ownership this month.

"I am thrilled to drive the No. 30 Toyota for Swan Racing and the chance to win a third Daytona 500," said Waltrip about the one-race deal. "Reuniting with Tony Jr. and Steve Hmiel brings back a lot of good memories and is going to create new ones."

"Swan Racing is here to compete and to build a championship contender," said Swan Racing owner Brandon Davis who has vowed to end the practice of habitual "start and parks" for the team. "This one-race partnership with Michael puts a two-time champion behind the wheel and the No. 30 in the mix at the Daytona 500."

Waltrip qualified for 25 consecutive Daytona 500s between 1987 and 2011 winning his first in 2001 and a second in 2003.  In 2002, Waltrip won the July race at Daytona International Speedway, bringing his total to three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at the "World Center of Racing."

"This is a great move for Swan Racing," said David Stremme who will be the regular driver of the No. 30 Toyota."Michael and I have been friends for a long time.  We got to talking last year and from my perspective I thought this would help to further our relationship with Toyota and be a good building block for Swan Racing."

Swan Racing is building its team from the ground up by hiring veterans of the sport who share a common long term vision for success.  Steve Hmiel, named competition director last week, has over 35 years of experience as a crew chief, car chief and competition director.  He has worked with NASCAR greats such as Richard Petty, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Waltrip.  Hmiel was Waltrip's crew chief for 12 races in 2001.

Tony Eury Jr. will be the crew chief for the No. 30 Toyota.  The addition of Waltrip for the 2013 Daytona 500 reunites another driver and crew chief combination. Eury was Waltrip's crew chief in 2005 where they teamed up for 26 races.

"Michael is a familiar face for a lot of us here at Swan Racing," said Eury. "We know each other's habits, wants and needs on the track.  We're going to Daytona to compete and hopefully we'll make a mark for Swan Racing."

Eury has been a part of 19 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories with Waltrip and Earnhardt Jr.  He was part of teams that won the Budweiser Shootout twice at Daytona International Speedway in 2003 and 2008 with Earnhardt.

The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Sunday February 24, 2013 and will be broadcasted live on Fox.

TRANSCRIPT: Denny Hamlin, Michael Waltrip address media at Daytona testing

Denny Hamlin, Michael Waltrip

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How is testing this new car different?
"It was different than what we're used to.  This body style -- we're just trying to figure out where is the happy spot.  Does it
want to be straight behind the other car?  Do you want to be offset a little bit?  Really it seems like the back car gets a lot of
air to it.  It essentially makes it hard to suck up to the front car, which I think will bode well for our competition at other race
tracks going forward where the front car doesn't have such a huge advantage.  That part of it is pretty optimistic.  It definitely
will lend more to pack racing versus two-car tandem."

How will the new spring package affect the handling?
"That will make it a little harder to drive, but the down force numbers on these cars are very similar to what we had before so
really until we get into a full pack where we've essentially got people running 45 (second) flats rather than 46.30 (seconds) or
whatever we were running.  That's when you really get a true feel for what the handling is."

How is the vision in the new cars while drafting?
"It's tough -- they're wide.  The back of them are wide and tall.  The visibility is tough, but what I do like is that you can see
out of the back with the spoiler height being a little lower you can see out of the back car a lot better.  There's a lot of things
about this car that I definitely like."

Why were you and Matt Kenseth faster with space between your cars versus the tandem runs?
"We just were not able to keep together for one solid lap.  I think it's just the way these bodies are with the aero platform and
everything.  It's just going to lend itself more to the pack racing.  Like I said, it seems like the second car is getting just as
much air thrown on the nose as what the front car is so it's harder to suck up to the front car, which in turn will make for
better pack racing versus two-car tandem."

MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 30 Toyota Camry, Swan Racing/team owner, Michael Waltrip Racing
Are you excited to run with Swan Racing for the Daytona 500?
"We're looking forward to Daytona.  It's my favorite time of the year every year, to come down here and get to participate in
the greatest race in the world, in my opinion.  To have won it before just makes coming back that much more special.  This
year is going to be particularly cool for me because I'm going to get to drive for Brandon (Davis, team owner, Swan Racing)
and David (Stremme), and it's going to be basically a reunion of when we won a few of these things.  Tony (Eury) Jr., of
course, as the crew chief and Steve Hmiel (competition director, Swan Racing) is there and I know some other faces from
DEI (Dale Earnhardt Incorporated) that Brandon and David have put together.  It's just an amazing team that they've started
and I'm hoping that my driving the car can help us get sponsors and can help them jumpstart what is going to be a very
exciting year for the Swan Racing team."

How did you put together this deal?
"Our team raced for a championship last year and obviously with the new 'Gen 6' cars that everybody is working so
frantically to prepare and get ready for Daytona -- not only teams like ours who have raced in the series for several years
now, but even a new team like Swan Racing is really fighting every day to get cars ready for Daytona.  I just didn't feel that it
was smart for me to tax our guys with trying to prepare a fourth car.  So, David's (Stremme) team is looking for traction and
want to let people know they're here to race and they're going to be contenders and they've got a really, really solid crew and
team lineup.  I was hoping that I could partner with someone like.  It's a Toyota -- obviously it has to be a Toyota for me to
even consider racing it.  It does a couple things -- for me, it gets me in the race.  It accomplishes me getting to be a part of the
race, but it helps Toyota if Michael Waltrip Racing and our team can partner with Swan Racing and help them with their
Toyota program as they get ready to race in 2013.  It was really a perfect match -- a perfect marriage for us to partner
together because there wasn't going to be a fourth MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) car and these guys were coming to
Daytona anyway.  David and I have been talking for the last year about some of the hurdles that I had to clear along the way
to build our team to now where we're able to contend and compete for race wins and championships.  He's in that same
situation.  Back when I started in 2007 we struggled and I got out of the car and let Terry Labonte drive it some and I think
we put P.J. Jones in the car.  We did whatever we could to ensure that we were going to be at the race and doing things to
ensure that we're going to be able to give our sponsors and Toyota all that we hoped that we could give them.  I know David
would rather be driving, but I understand -- when I was getting out of my car I would rather be driving too.  I understand his
thinking and appreciate his passion and Brandon's (Davis, team owner, Swan Racing) commitment to come Sprint Cup
racing and I'm glad that we put together a deal that will be mutually beneficial for both me as a driver and those guys as a team."

What keeps you motivated to continue racing?
"It's just Daytona.  Last fall when I got to Talladega I remember the morning of the race I thought, 'Nine years ago I won
here at Talladega.'  When I was a kid - 16 years old - I remember driving to Talladega with my buddies and sat in the infield
and watched.  It was actually the day that Phil Parsons flipped on the front straightaway and I remember thinking how crazy
Talladega was and how wild and fast it was and how much I wanted to be out there.  To be able to win there and then go back
nine years later this past fall when I got to race, I just felt like a kid again.  I felt like I was right where I was supposed to be.
Every time I come to Daytona I feel that way.  The Truck win that I got back in 2011 was one of the most special memories
of my whole career.  Just being able to be in the lineup and knowing the possibilities -- what that could mean and what we
could accomplish with being here, it just excites me.  Plus, I don't know about David (Stremme), but every time that new car
drives by I can't quit looking at it.  I just like the way it looks.  It's so different from what we've seen in recent past.  It's just
a cool race car.  Heck, anybody that races wants to drive a cool looking car.  The new Toyota Camry that we're going to race
here in Daytona is sexy, it's got great styling and it's just a fun car to look at.  That makes me that much more excited
because it will be a fun car to be able to drive."

Are you confident you can qualify into the Daytona 500?
"I'm confident because of a couple of reasons.  Obviously David's (Stremme) history.  He had a lot to do with the direction
and the build of the car that he came here and made the race with a year ago and his hands are all over the cars that I will be
driving this year.  Plus, Tony (Eury) Jr.'s (crew chief) confidence -- we rode down here together today and talked about some
of the fun times we've had in the past, but mainly focused on what we're going to have in 2013 when we get back here in a
couple weeks.  Toyota Racing Development is going to provide me with an engine, just like in my other three cars.  We're
just confident in the people and we're confident in the equipment.  I've usually figured out my way to race to the front, so if
it doesn't go like we hope on qualifying day we'll still start the race on Thursday very confident that we'll be able to race our
way into the race.  I've made every one of them except for last year when we kind of screwed up leaving the pits.  Other than
that, we looked pretty good that day as well.  I know now not to go on the apron."

Is it strange to not be in the car testing this week?
"No, it feels great.  It feels great because I've done these tests many, many times and they're not overly exciting and I'm able
to learn just as much by watching and listening.  I went over and chatted with Martin (Truex Jr.) and went over and chatted
with all of our guys -- Clint (Bowyer) and Mark (Martin) -- and talked to Denny (Hamlin) and (Matt) Kenseth about their
drafting.  I'm just sucking up knowledge.  Brandon (Davis, team owner, Swan Racing) is here along with David (Stremme)
just, like I said, to make sure we've got a good feel for the landscape and how things are going to look when we come back in
a couple of weeks."

Does anything stand out with the new car?
"No, not really.  Our cars have speed, which is cool.  The Toyotas have been up towards the top of the speed charts and I
know we all smile when we see that.  That will definitely relay when we come back.  Mainly just hearing how the cars are
driving from the guys, but then looking at the timing and the speed charts and seeing how the Toyotas stack up.  Matt
(Kenseth) and Clint (Bowyer) have been up toward the top the whole test.  That's very encouraging for me trying to qualify."

Were you surprised at the performance of MWR in 2012?
"Last year we snuck that in on everybody.  We did some really cool things in 2011 I think that got us ready for 2012 and
while a lot of people were surprised at our performance, we knew with our driver lineup and our cars -- racing is so much
more science now than it's ever been.  We can look at the data from the wind tunnel test and different measuring tools that
we have and we just knew that we had better cars.  If you look at the driver line-up, we knew it was a better driver line-up.
We were very confident that we would be more competitive in '12 -- you all think I'm weird anyway and if I told you that I
thought we were going to finish second in points you would have really thought I had a screw loose.  I would have never
been brave enough to predict that.  In fact, I was a little nervous about our goal, which was two of the three cars to make the
Chase.  We were able to accomplish that.  '13 -- we're very optimistic.  We know we're not under the radar screen anymore,
but we do believe that we're prepared as well as any team can be considering all the changes that the sport has seen for the
2013 season.  This partnership, this relationship with Swan -- this will ultimately in the long haul benefit Michael Waltrip
Racing.  We'll gather more data.  We have another solid team with Tony (Eury) Jr. (crew chief, Swan Racing) and David
Stremme and Steve Hmiel (competition director, Swan Racing) and those guys that will help enhance what we do.  If we can
win a couple more races than what we did last year and have two of the three cars back in the Chase then it will be a
successful year for us."

Do you expect the manufacturers to play a larger role with the new cars?
"I can't wait to see how it plays out.  I know the manufacturers along with NASCAR have spent a lot of time putting these
cars, while they have their own style lines and their own look, they really worked hard at keeping them in the same box.
Hopefully, that will play out as intended."

What will the team engineers do during this three-day test?
"We just collect data and if you go by our team there -- there are dozens of engineers behind computers just getting every
piece of information they can off the car and a lot of that stuff will be sent home today and our engineers back home can
decipher it and a lot of it is taken back and the race engineers and crew chiefs study it.  It's so complex and there's so many
parts and pieces to it that it takes a long time, but a lot of it is verifying simulation or predictions that our crew chiefs and
teams have made before we even came down.  We do that everywhere we go, not just when we test, but we try to validate
what we thought would be fast and what would work and what wouldn't.

TRANSCRIPT: Jeff Gordon addresses media at Daytona testing


“We had a good day.  We just did single car runs, which was pretty much our plan and then we’ll do some drafting tomorrow.  Thought it went well.  Cars are driving really good by themselves.  Good speed.  It was a fun day to see this new body style out there, it looks great and drives good.  It’s an exciting way to get the season started.”

“If they take away that yellow line, absolutely.  Some of those ridiculous moves were just because you had to go wherever the car in front of you wasn’t if you had the momentum.  Back then they didn’t have that yellow line so you could go down to the apron, which made things pretty exciting and interesting.  Now that we’re not able to do that limits you a little bit, but I haven’t drafted yet.  I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be able to do things like that, but looking at the size of the spoiler and the speeds that we’re running I’m anticipating that handling is going to be a little bit more of a premium than what we’ve had in the past.  Just because there’s a little less down force in the rear of the car.  I really won’t know until tomorrow.  I saw those guys drafting out there a little bit and it looked like the cars were moving around a little on them when they got into some turbulent air, but other than that I really can’t say until I get out there in those conditions.”

“It’s always great when you can carry that momentum and excitement that the team experienced in Homestead into the off-season.  No matter what changes are coming, whether they’re very little or big changes like we’ve had with the new car, the team can rally around that and it’s a great boost.  You need a lot of energy over the off-season.  Those guys work really, really hard while the drivers might get some rest, the crew chiefs and the team guys are getting very little rest because they’re preparing for the new season.  You add on top of that a new car, there is a lot of work to be done.  We don’t have a lot of these cars sitting in our shops right now.  Certainly, not many speedway cars.  Even while we’re down here, there’s a lot of work happening back at the shop.  To be able to have a great finish like we had at Homestead and take that into the off-season is a big plus and big positive for us and it’s helped us stay energized through the off-season to get ready for this new season.  I don’t think anybody is better than Hendrick Motorsports when changes come in adapting to them and new cars and being prepared.  I feel very confident in the team and our organization to come out strong and be strong throughout the year.  That is also energizing.”

“You want to have a fast race car, that’s always the case.  I feel like we’ve got pretty good speed.  There’s a couple cars that we have our eyes on that look like they have a little more speed.  Things will change by the time we get back down here in February.  Not too concerned with that right now.  The car has good speed so that is number one.  The next thing is just getting the car to drive well in traffic.  Cooling and overheating and things like that have always been an issue down here the last couple years.  We anticipate looking at the opening in the grill for that to be something we’re going to have to deal with again.  Then whether the tandem drafting is going to happen at all or not.  It doesn’t appear that it is, but I still think that you have to explore it to see if with three to go, if there’s a green-white-checkered or something like that, you can be prepared to do what you have to do to win the race.  You have to come down here and kind of patiently be aggressive by exploring those things now.  It’s better to explore them now so we know what to anticipate when we get back down here in February for Speedweeks.  That’s the nice thing about being in the Sprint Unlimited, in that race it gives us a great opportunity to understand what we’re going to be dealing with for the upcoming races, the Duels as well as the 500.”

“The question is how he got on the yacht.  That needs to be the real question.  My family and I have been going down to St. Barts for the last four of five years and we love going down there for New Year’s.  I knew that Clint (Bowyer) and Kevin (Harvick) were down there because Rick Hendrick’s boat was down there and I think they were on that boat through a charter with some friends of theirs.  I stopped by there to say hi one time and they were gone, they were out having fun or doing something.  Then I went about my business and on New Year’s Ingrid and I went to a couple different parties and ended up at one, which was really the party of the year if you ask me.  It was an amazing event that P. Diddy had.  We were just hanging out having a good time and on walks Bowyer and Harvick and a couple other folks.  I don’t know, it was a great New Year’s.  I enjoyed myself very much.”

“I think that’s just part of when you’ve been in the sport long enough, you get accustomed to a certain, especially when you come into the sport to drive a car a certain way and that’s what got you there and you come to adapt to it quickly and had success.  When things change in a big way, it’s how you change along with them and the longer you’re in the sport, the harder it is for you to make those transitions.  I think the COT definitely played that kind of a role with me.  If you come into it when the COT came along, you can adapt to it fairly quickly.  When you’ve gone through all the changes and I felt like I kind of dealt with the same thing with the big rear springs and the big front sway bars and just took longer to adapt to them and did very well.  I feel like this year it’s kind of the same thing.  It’s all new with a different car, different down force levels and we just have to adapt to them.  Some are going to do better than others and I hope that our team and myself make for a good combination to be able to keep up with those changes.  The test at Charlotte next week, when I tested Charlotte last year the rules were a little bit different.  They didn’t have all the down force that the car has.  It’s gone through this kind of wave where it was down force, no down force, lots of down force.  I look forward to getting back in the car in Charlotte next week to see what that package is like and how it drives and the kind of feedback I’m able to give the team to go faster.  Tire-wise, I don’t remember those changes in the tires back then.  I certainly know the changes in the tires in recent years that I haven’t done a very good job at.  Maybe it was similar to that back in the days.”

“I don’t remember seeing him leave the boat.”

“We talked.  We talked.  I had a great New Year’s.”

“Can’t tell yet until we get out there drafting.  I know when we were down here or when our cars were at Talladega testing I spoke to Kasey Kahne and the shape of the nose of the Chevrolet for pushing if it’s a pushing and tandem drafting type of race that our noses don’t seem to line-up as good as some others.  But then it just comes down to cooling and getting air into the grill.  That little piece that NASCAR has added to the bottom of the rear bumpers seems to have addressed that.  I don’t see where anybody has an advantage at this point.”

“I think NASCAR has gotten very smart over the years through trial and error and just experience.  You’re talking about a totally different situation.  I’ve been telling this story a lot lately about 1995 when the Monte Carlo came along and it was a dominant race car.  It was basically taking the street version and turning it into a race car.  It was superior to the competition.  It really became a race among Chevrolets that year.  That was a different greenhouse, a different rear deck lid, a different nose.  This car that we have here where I think they’ve gotten very smart is they each have their own identity and they’re great looking cars, but the important aspects that keep the cars as equal as possible are the same.  The greenhouse, how that air meets that rear spoiler.  Even the noses have different characteristics to them and in the wind tunnel they are all very, very close.  I may be wrong, but until we get through some races I don’t think we’ll really, really know.  Usually by this point, if we felt like we were at a big disadvantage you would already be hearing about it.

“I feel like right now we’re as good as anybody out there.  I don’t see where anybody has any distinct advantage manufacturer-wise.  There are some pluses and minuses to that.  At one point I think NASCAR wanted to get away from some of that and say, ‘We don’t want to go through that process throughout a year where one has a distinct advantage and one is lobbying and trying to get a little more spoiler.’  I remember when there was one getting a little more spoiler, one getting more kick in the nose and all these things.  Yet, that also had a lot of buzz and people talking about and really getting behind their manufacturer to try to either get them help or support the good things that are happening.  It’s always interesting trying to figure out what things are going to bring the most entertainment and excitement and draw the most attention from the media, the fans and the viewers that are going to keep this sport great.

“To me, I think we’ve got a great car, great looking car and it’s driving very well.  There’s a lot of buzz and I think the racing is going to be great.  I think our racing has been great.  I haven’t had issues with the racing.  I think it’s been fantastic.  The double-file restarts helped a lot to keep the intensity and the racing exciting.  Of course we’re always trying to think about evolution of how aerodynamics are playing a role.  That’s across the board in motorsports.  The lead car having an advantage over the second-place car and how do we create more passing and all those things.  I still think we are so far better than the rest of the racing out there that I still think even if we have a little of that aero turbulent air, the dirty air and all that stuff, I still think our racing is the best out there.  Something that we can all continue to progress with.”