RCR Announces Fourth Car Driven by Sadler, Gaughan; Harvicks Expecting First Child

Richard Childress Racing kicked off their 44th year of involvement in NASCAR with a dinner Wednesday night at their shop in Welcome, N.C., for all media members on the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Chief Operating Officer Torrey Galida announced that RCR will run its No. 33 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car in the first five races of the 2012 season, including the Daytona 500 with Elliott Sadler behind the wheel with General Mills sponsoring the car. The remaining four races will be run by Brendan Gaughan with South Point Casino as primary sponsor. Both Sadler and Gaughan were excited and honored about their opportunity to race for RCR.

“There are not many second chances in this sport given out,” said Gaughan. “This is going to be my second chance and what I am considering the last chance and a place to stay for a while.”

RCR plans to run three full-time Sprint Cup teams, three full-time NASCAR Nationwide Series teams and three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams. RCR will run more races in NASCAR’s top-three series in 2012 than ever in the team’s history.

“We are all in for 2012,” said Galida. “We are here to win a championship in all three series.”

Galida introduced RCR’s Sprint Cup Series driver lineup for the 2012 season. Paul Menard will drive the No. 27 Chevrolet with crew chief Slugger Labbe. In his second year with the team, Menard says RCR “feels like home.”

Jeff Burton will drive the No. 31 Chevrolet with new crew chief Drew Blickensderfer.

“I’m not here to extend my career,” said Burton. “I’m here to win a championship.”

Kevin Harvick will pilot the No. 29 Chevrolet with new crew chief Shane Wilson. During the Media Tour stop, Harvick announced that wife DeLana was 14 weeks pregnant with their first child. Kevin Harvick attributed the end-of-season closing of his and DeLana’s race team, Kevin Harvick Inc., to their desire to start a family.

“The plan to close KHI makes a lot more sense now, doesn’t it,” said Kevin Harvick.

Walmart Expands Partnership With NASCAR
A year after diving head first into NASCAR, retail giant Walmart announced Thursday on the final day of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway that it would expand its partnership with NASCAR.

Included in that partnership will be more Race Time events - NASCAR themed events featuring show cars, driver appearances and racing simulators - at Walmart stores around the country.

Walmart will also increase the amount of NASCAR products carried in its stores and online at walmart.com, bringing the total number of products up to approximately 600. Walmart will also increase the number of stores that carry NASCAR products. 

Lastly, Walmart will continue to offer the Walmart Family Track Pack to fans at 17 NASCAR events. The Walmart Family Track Pack includes four event tickets, four hotdogs, four drinks and a souvenir program for just $99.

“What we learned is that if we take care of customers as we bring them very good values that are made possible through the relationship with NASCAR, as we work to lower the prices of NASCAR products, as we work to take care of fans who want to have parties in their houses and watch the race together with family or friends, our customers respond very positively. That is a very good thing for us,” said Rand Waddoups, senior director, entertainment properties and brands for Walmart.

Bill Elliott To Drive Walmart Chevrolet In Coke Zero 400 At Daytona
Walmart will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2012 and as part of its golden anniversary celebration the multinational retailer will field the No. 50 Walmart Chevrolet Impala during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 7. 

Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner, will drive the car. Turner Motorsports will oversee the operation, which will be powered by a Hendrick Motorsports engine.

“You just don’t know how excited I am to be a part of this,” said Elliott, a winner of 44 NASCAR Sprint Cup events during his long career. “This deal started coming together in the last couple days. It is just incredible to be part of Walmart coming into this sport.”

For years, there has been talk of Walmart entering the sport as a sponsor, so this announcement finally opens a door that many expected to be kicked open for some time. 

“I’m at a loss for words, and that’s normally not like me,” Elliott admitted after being introduced as the driver of the No. 50 Chevrolet. 

MillerCoors, NASCAR and Penske Agree To Partnership Extensions
Penske Racing was joined by MillerCoors and NASCAR Thursday to announce a multi-year partnership extension. MillerCoors will continue to serve as primary sponsor of the No. 2 Dodge driven by Brad Keselowski in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for many years to come.

The brewing company also announced that it has extended its partnership with NASCAR. Coors Light, a MillerCoors brand, will continue to serve as the Official Beer of NASCAR. That partnership began in 2008 after Coors Light ended a 14-year run as sponsor of the No. 40 car in the Sprint Cup Series. Coors Light will also continue to sponsor the Coors Light Pole Award.

Allmendinger Happy To Join Penske Racing Organization
A.J. Allmendinger was hired to drive the No. 22 Shell-Pennozil Dodge more than a month ago. Yet it wasn’t until today that he really realized that he was actually going to be driving for none other than Roger Penske himself.

“I finally realized I was a Penske driver this morning when I put on my white Hugo Boss shirt,” Allmendinger joked Thursday. 

The 30-year-old native of California moved from Richard Petty Motorsports to Penske Racing this season, replacing Kurt Busch as the driver of the No. 22 Dodge. The opportunity to drive for such a major player in NASCAR doesn’t come often, and Allmendinger doesn’t plan to waste it.

“It has been an amazing ride to get to this point. I’ve worked hard for five years and went through a lot of ups and downs to get to this point,” Allmendinger said. “Right now, this is my time to have a chance at it.

“My goal is to go out there and try to win races, make the Chase and contend for the championship. Anything less than that would be really disappointing,” Allmendinger added.

Allmendinger will make his debut as the driver of the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge during the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 18. 

Hornish Will Race Full Nationwide Series Schedule
After only running a handful of events in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2011, Sam Hornish, Jr. will run the entire schedule in 2012 thanks to increased support from Alliance Truck Parts and a new partnership with Wurth Group.

Alliance Truck Parts will increase its primary sponsorship role on the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Challenger from six to 26 events in 2012. Wurth Group, a German-based automotive and industrial supply company, will be the primary sponsor of the car in seven events and an associate sponsor in the other 26.

“I’m really excited about this season. Last year was a little difficult to say the least,” Hornish said Thursday. “I was able to learn a lot last year. I just feel like we’ve got a lot of things going for us (in 2012).”

Hornish showed he has the skills to succeed late last season at Phoenix International Raceway when be topped teammate Brad Keselowski and a field full of Sprint Cup regulars to win his first Nationwide Series race. He is hoping the momentum from that victory carries over to 2012.

“Phoenix has always been good to me,” said Hornish, who earned his first IZOD IndyCar Series triumph at the track in 2001. “We’ve definitely got a lot of things headed in the right direction.”

Snap-on Backs Keselowski, Kligerman in Nationwide Series
In celebration of its 30th year partnering with Penske Racing, Snap-on will ramp up its support of the team in 2012 by serving as the primary sponsor of the No. 22 Dodge Challenger in four NASCAR Nationwide Series events this year.

The car, which will be shared by Brad Keselowski and rookie Parker Kligerman, will carry the Snap-on colors during events at Darlington Raceway on May 11, Dover International Speedway on June 2, New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 14 and Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 7.

Snap-on will continue to serve as an associate sponsor on all Penske Racing cars in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and the IZOD IndyCar Series. 

SKF also announced that it has continued its partnership with Penske Racing in 2012. The SKF brand will be a major associate sponsor on the Nos. 2 and 22 cars in the Sprint Cup Series, the No. 12 car in the Nationwide Series and the No. 3 IZOD IndyCar Series entry driven by Helio Castroneves. 

NASCAR Officials Give State of the Sport Address to Close Media Tour
The final stop of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour was hosted Thursday afternoon at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte where media members received a 2012 season preview from NASCAR officials. 2012 will be NASCAR’s 65th season overall and will begin in 31 days with the 54th running of the Daytona 500.

NASCAR’s Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton looked back at the 2011 season and addressed changes moving forward into the 2012 season. Pemberton first touched on NASCAR’s biggest initiative going into 2012: the implementation of electronic fuel injection into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

“That project is several years in the making,” said Pemberton. “We worked with engine builders and manufacturers to be able to associate ourselves with world class technology, partners like Freescale and McLaren for our fuel injection system.  This is a major initiative to us in our sport and helps make our cars more relevant and our engines more efficient.”

Pemberton indicated that NASCAR will eliminate driver-to-driver radio communication in 2012, based on team feedback; however, team-to-team communication will still continue as in the past. 

Pemberton also announced that NASCAR has made a “sizable effort to scale back on the amount of tandem style drafting at the superspeedways” including changes to their Daytona rules package. Their new rules package calls for several changes, including a larger restrictor plate at 29/32, a smaller spoiler and softer springs. 

“We do believe that we've come up with a rules package that will help tandem-style drafting be the exception rather than the norm,” said Pemberton.

Finally, Pemberton spoke briefly about NASCAR’s excitement for the unveiling of all new models of the 2013 cars. In mid-to-late summer, NASCAR expects to release its new rules package for these cars.

“I think the fans are going to love them,” said Pemberton.  “It's going to be such a positive step in helping our race cars be more and more relevant to our fans, past, present and future.”

Also during the event, NASCAR and Rev Racing, formerly known as Revolution Racing, announced their 2012 class of drivers: Jorge Arteaga, Mackenna Bell, Trey Gibson, Ryan Gifford, Kyle Larson and Brian Ortiz. Rev Racing, owned by Max Siegel, will field four teams in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and two teams in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

In conclusion, media members heard a “state of the sport” address from NASCAR chairman and CEO, Brian France.

“We're encouraged that we're making progress,” said France. “The sport is in a very good place right now, no question about that, and we're working hard and even harder to achieve the very best things for the sport of NASCAR well into the future.  We expect to have another highly competitive battle for the championship this year with our biggest stars and many new faces in the mix.”

Don Hawk Named Inaugural Recipient of the Bruton Smith Award by U.S. Legend Cars International
Don Hawk, vice president of business affairs for Speedway Motorsports, Inc., was named the inaugural recipient of the Bruton Smith Award during the 2011 U.S. Legend Cars International and INEX Corporation Championship Banquet held Jan. 21 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The award captures the spirit of its namesake, SMI chairman and CEO, O. Bruton Smith and recognizes someone with a passion for Legend Car racing and the promotion of it.   

“Don has worked very hard to grow and expand this part of our company,” said Smith. “He’s very passionate about promoting grassroots racing and truly puts his heart into it. That’s what U.S. Legend Cars International is all about, developing the next generations of drivers and Don never stops thinking about what we can do to make that happen.”

After receiving the award, the typically animated Hawk was left stunned and speechless for a few moments.

“What this means to me is so hard to put into words,” said Hawk. “Bruton’s been so much more than a boss to me. He’s my mentor for a job that I absolutely love and have fun with every day. This just inspires me to work harder.

“I’m blessed to work for Speedway Motorsports and want to sincerely thank the Smith family and the employees of US Legend Cars International for this recognition.”

Quote of the Day
Brad Keselowski during the Penske Racing press conference: “We might not have any baby news or girls in heels up here, but we have a lot of racing news.”