NASCAR Talks Technology; Gibbs Welcomes Edwards; Speedway Rolls Out All-Star Entertainment
NASCAR TALKS CHASE SUCCESS, NEW TECHNOLOGY
The 33rd annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom dropped the green flag on Monday afternoon with NASCAR officials taking the stage to make a series of announcements.
NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France Jr. announced during his "State of the Sport" address that he was thrilled to build off the excitement and intensity of last year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
"The Chase was overwhelmingly popular (in 2014) with our most important stakeholder - the fans," said France in front of a throng of media at the Charlotte Convention Center. "They like the fact that it tightened up competition, the drama down the stretch, the emphasis on winning. What they really liked is that we weren't going to change anything. And we're not going to."
Change is coming, however, in the form of the new technology used by race officials on pit road. Thanks to recent innovations, NASCAR officials will be able to provide fans, broadcasters and teams with more accurate and detailed penalty reports. From inside the new Pit Road Official Trailer, NASCAR officials will use 46 high-definition cameras that will identify, report and access/review penalties in real-time - all the while providing TV analysts with a detailed description and data that should bring viewers at home closer to the action than ever before.
"NASCAR is committed to innovation, in all aspects of the sport," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's executive vice president. "The ability for us to have a significant amount of data delivered to broadcast partners and most importantly our fans is going to be a game-changer."
DRIVE FOR DIVERSITY WELCOMES 2015 CLASS
Following an intensive selection process of more than 100 applicants from 14 different states, NASCAR officials announced the Drive for Diversity roster for 2015. The Class of 2015 includes: Devon Amos, 23, of Rio Rancho, New Mexico; Jay Beasley, 23, of Las Vegas, Nevada, Collin Cabre, 21, of Thonotosassa, Florida; Natalie Decker, 17, of Eagle River, Wisconsin; Kenzie Ruston, 22, of El Reno, Oklahoma; and Dylan Smith, 22, of Randolph, Vermont.
Over the last 10 years, the Drive for Diversity program has worked to help women and multicultural drivers break into the higher levels of motorsports by providing them with dependable equipment and parts, as well as valuable in-car time and on- and off-track coaching.
Recent notable graduates include 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year Kyle Larson, five-time Camping World Truck Series winner Darrell Wallace Jr. and XFINITY Series regular Daniel Suarez.
As in the past, Rev Racing will field four NASCAR K&N Pro Series East teams and two cars in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
The 2015 season will be a big one for Joe Gibbs Racing as the crew welcomes a new teammate in Carl Edwards. Now driving the No. 19 Toyota, Edwards, who qualified for the Chase and finished ninth in the points standings in 2014 with Roush Fenway Racing, will fit right in with the Joe Gibbs Racing team. Last year, the then three JGR drivers - Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin - all made the Chase and each finished in the top 10 of the final points standings. Adding Edwards means JGR will now have a fourth driver, something the team has been working on since last summer.
"We're going to have a chance every single week," team owner Joe Gibbs said. "It's a thrill for all of us at
Joe Gibbs Racing and I'm really thankful to be a part of something like this."
Edwards said switching to Joe Gibbs Racing was one of the hardest decisions of his life, but he thinks the change may help him on the track. The decision certainly wasn't something Edwards took lightly. He knows that racing isn't only important to him, but also to the fans.
"Race fans are very passionate," he said. "I think anybody who has been to a race knows that these fans bring their whole family, friends, campers and tents. It's not just coming to the race and sitting down watching the race and then leaving. The fans make the sport."
Kenseth is excited to get back behind the wheel and see how he and his teammates will stack up against the rest of the competition in 2015. And while he's certainly glad to have a new teammate in Edwards, he isn't wishing him too much success.
"I hope Carl finishes right behind me every week and that we win all those races," said Kenseth. "My hope is that all four of us go out and win some races and that the final four cars in Homestead are the four JGR cars.
Hamlin will reunite with Dave Rogers, who was previously Hamlin's crew chief in the XFINITY Series.
Hamlin felt like he had good execution in 2014, but still needs to get better. He talked about trying to imitate other great drivers in order to improve his own racing style.
"That's what I've kind of tried to do over the last few years is study the great drivers and figure out what they're doing better than I am and work on those aspects," said Hamlin.
Busch also has a new crew chief in Adam Stevens, and his car color will be changing from yellow to green. Busch has the most wins in the Camping World Truck and XFINITY series at Charlotte, and hopes to transfer that success over to the Cup races at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"There's nothing more to me than being able to win at Charlotte," Busch said. "I haven't done that yet.
The All-Star Race and the (Coca-Cola) 600, those are two of my favorite races that I want to win and I haven't been able to do that."
ALL-STAR ENTERTAINMENT LINEUP ANNOUNCED
Charlotte Motor Speedway President Marcus Smith announced that country music band Little Big Town will open up the "10 Days of Thunder" from May 16-25, beginning with the Sprint All-Star Race on May 16 and closes with the Coca-Cola 600 on May 25. The entire week will be covered by FOX Sports, which begins its 15th year in NASCAR by expanding its coverage to include the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski will still be busy on Sundays, but three of the biggest names in the Sprint Cup Series will share their knowledge - spanning 136 Cup victories and six championships - with viewers of the XFINITY Series, which FOX Sports has added to its schedule in 2015.
The three veteran pilots will rotate along with hosts Adam Alexander and Michael Waltrip to offer their angle on what is happening both on- and off-track.
"XFINITY wanted to have All-Star drivers every Saturday in the booth," said FOX Sports President Eric Shanks. "We want to have it stand out over the weekend and we're making that commitment with those guys."
NASCAR analysts Darrell Waltrip, Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds will be back in the booth for on FOX Sports this season, but they will also add Jamie Little and Chris Neville into the fold with pit road reporting vet Matt Yocum.
Quote of the day
"Everyone's giving me a hard time about the Packers, but I say, 'at least they play in January.'"
Matt Kenseth, lamenting his Green Bay Packers' heartbreaking loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.