The 21st annual UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour hosted by Lowe¿s Motor Speedway is the largest off-season media function in NASCAR racing. More than 200 motorsports journalists from 22 states and as far away as France and The Netherlands will tour race shops, meet with drivers, crew chiefs and team owners, and discuss the latest developments and breaking news in motorsports with industry leaders.
UAW-GM Motorsports is sponsoring the media tour for the sixth consecutive year.

¿The UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour is a very important part of the pre-season NASCAR schedule and it would not be possible without the continued support of UAW-GM,¿ said H.A. ¿Humpy¿ Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe¿s Motor Speedway. ¿With Nextel coming in and several other changes taking place, this is an exciting time for our sport. The Media Tour gives print and electronic journalists the opportunity to showcase that excitement to fans around the world as drivers and teams prepare for the new season.¿

Roush Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Evernham Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Penske Racing South, Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and MB2/MBV Motorsports are among the teams scheduled to participate. The tour will also visit the new Toyota Research and Development center in High Point while NASCAR will host the media at its R&D facility in Concord.

First up on the schedule was the MB2/MBV Motorsports luncheon in the Hilton¿s University Ballroom:

JOE NEMECHEK (No. 01 Army Chevrolet): ¿Getting the chance to run four races last year with this team was a big help for me. We got a chance to learn the communication between the team and I. It gave us a good test run to get started with. I¿m proud to represent the U.S. Army and I look forward to getting them to victory lane. I have definitely switched teams a lot throughout my career and been with a few different teams. It¿s all about a driver getting to know how each of those teams work. That goes from the crew chief to all the engineers. Those people have to understand what a driver wants out of their cars. Everybody has to adapt to one another.¿

SCOTT RIGGS (No. 10 Valvoline Chevrolet): ¿We¿re looking for consistency because we know we have the right people and equipment in place heading into the year. I¿m very excited. We have a sponsor in Valvoline that is very committed. The team has looked at whatever weaknesses they had from last season and are looking to improve in those areas. We want to win the Rookie-of-the-Year title because we only have one year to get it done. Guys like Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman have set the bar pretty high, but I feel confident with our chances. I¿m looking forward to working with Joe because I¿ve raced with him in the Busch Series. I¿ve gained a lot of respect for him and I will probably be leaning on him a lot this year. I guess my worst enemy as far as pressure is what I¿ve put on myself.¿

JAY FRYE (General Manager of MB2/MBV Motorsports): ¿It¿s taken a lot of work on all our guys¿ part in making the switch from Pontiacs to Chevrolets, but I feel like we¿re ready to go.¿

JERRY NADEAU (Recovering from a head injury suffered last season in the No. 01 Army car): ¿I really can¿t say much. I¿m just here for the team. My deal is coming along real slow, but hopefully I¿ll be able to get in something this year.¿

The second stop on the UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour was at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway where Nextel officials unveiled a four-story NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series banner in front of the speedway and talked about sponsoring NASCAR¿s premier series.

TIM DONAHUE (President and CEO of Nextel Communications): ¿We couldn¿t be prouder than to be the title sponsor of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. This is the most exciting sports sponsorship that this company has ever had. It¿s a privilege to be the title sponsor of one of America¿s fastest growing sports. You¿re going to see a lot of exciting ways of how we¿re going to make this sponsorship more exciting for everyone involved. It¿s been seven months to the day since we made our announcement and we¿ve met a lot of track owners and drivers in the time since. Once you start to understand what this sport is all about, it¿s remarkable on two fronts. One is the technology and the other element that I was so impressed with is all the people we¿ve met so far. I¿ve never seen a sport where people are so involved and care about it. They want to see this sport to continue to grow, and I feel like we can help take this sport to the next level. We¿re going to work with NASCAR on a number of different fronts. We are going to put a lot of time and effort into making this relationship work for this sport.¿

Media members next stopped at 600 Racing in Harrisburg, N.C., where General Manager Richard Burke discussed the success of the company¿s three divisions of spec race cars. Burke also introduced several young drivers currently making a name for themselves in the Legends Cars, Bandoleros and Thunder Roadsters.

H.A. ¿HUMPY¿ WHEELER (President and General Manager of Lowe¿s Motor Speedway): ¿Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first race in a Legends Car.¿

Wheeler then talked about the ¿state¿ of racing.

¿You can¿t take what¿s going on with the speeds down at Daytona and relate it to the intermediate tracks. Next week, every NEXTEL Cup team is going to test at Las Vegas with the new body rules and tires. How this is going to work out is a big mystery to me. We all know we need to improve the racing at the intermediate tracks. With the present cars we have¿ which are aerodynamic bullets¿I¿m hoping the spoiler and tire changes are going to make the racing a lot better. With less spoiler, the cars will be going down the straightaways faster, but we don¿t know what¿s going to happen when the softer tires get to the corners and how they will handle. I¿m strongly in favor of the new point system, even though I haven¿t seen the final version of how it¿s going to work. It wasn¿t until a few years ago that drivers would settle for a third- or fourth-place finish. In the old days, drivers wanted to win the race and let the points fall where they may. There have been times where drivers could have taken the lead, but they didn¿t want to take the chances of getting in trouble so they would settle for where they were at to get the point. People buy tickets for drama.

Looking into his crystal ball, Wheeler then introduced the concept of ¿Character Cars.¿

¿What we are doing is entertaining young kids, just like a lot of the video games do. What we need are character cars, like the Monster Trucks that come to our dirt track. A good example of that is the Bigfoot truck. Everybody knows the truck, but can anyone tell me who drives Bigfoot? Monster Trucks are the third or fourth largest form of motorsports in the country and they¿ve got Bigfoot, Samson and Carolina Crusher. There are a lot of kids, plus their parents that know those trucks and they have to pay to get in. So what we¿re introducing today are character cars with some pretty unique paint schemes for both the Legends Car and Bandolero divisions. That¿s our new thing, we¿ll be introducing for this year.¿

News and quotes from the Monday evening events will be included in the Tuesday notes.