Wednesday Pit Notes
Friday, January 21, 2005
The Tuesday evening portion of the UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour concluded with Coca-Cola Fun Night at the NASCAR SpeedPark in Concord Mills. Among those in attendance were Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte and Mike Bliss along with team president J.D. Gibbs. J.D. GIBBS (President of Joe Gibbs Racing): ¿Dad¿s gone to Washington to coach the Redskins. It all came down pretty quickly, so it was kind of a shocker. The only shock to me was he talked my mom into it. Dad was concerned with what the drivers, teams and sponsors would say. But they were overwhelmingly happy because he was involved in the top two sports in the country. Our plans are in place for a good and solid run this year. All the testing has gone well so far, and we want to try and rebound from what was kind of a tough season last year. Tonight we have everybody together from our diversity program and we have (former NFL star) Reggie White on hand with us tonight. We announced last May that we were going to put together a program that is ready to get off the ground for this season. We had a big test at Hickory Motor Speedway and picked a couple good drivers that will race late model stock cars at Caraway Speedway and Ace Speedway. The two drivers are Aric Almirola and Chris Bristol.¿ TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet): I¿ll be honest when I say I don¿t even know what the announcement was as far as the new points system. I¿m sure I¿ll sit down and take a look at it in the next couple days and be able to form a better opinion. Then again it really doesn¿t matter what I think because nobody asked me about my opinion in the first place. It¿s still 36 races and the same schedule we¿ve always had. It¿s just a matter of taking it one week at a time and learning from some of the mistakes we as a team made last year. I really don¿t have any earth-shattering revelations going into the new season. It¿s pretty nice when a driver and a crew chief can talk about last year and be totally frustrated with finishing seventh for the first time in my career. There are drivers and teams out there that have never finished that high before. So that has kind of been a pick-me up for us as a team to know that fact heading into the season.¿ BOBBY LABONTE (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet): ¿I read about the new points system online today and I¿m not sure I know the whole thing. It is what it is. We¿ll run 26 races and then race 10 more, so it really doesn¿t matter. I really have no idea what¿s going to happen. It¿s going to be new for everybody and I really haven¿t had the time to form a good opinion on it. It might be the greatest thing that has ever happened to NASCAR, but then again we¿re going to have to go do it and see how it turns out. Somebody told me today that if the new system would have been in place the last five years, I¿d have won two championships instead of one. BOBBY LABONTE (Continued): ¿But I can¿t worry about what happened yesterday, I¿ve got to focus on what¿s ahead. I¿m looking forward to the new season. Last year we started out pretty good and then got kind of cold later in the year. We did struggle a little bit, but toward the end of the year we started to get our program turned around the way we wanted it. I¿m very optimistic that we¿ve got a great group of guy put together heading into the new season.¿ Day three of the UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour kicked off with breakfast presented by Craftsman Motorsports, and featuring drivers of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Sears Motorsports Marketing Manager Toure Claiborne addressed the gathering, leading into a program emceed by SPEED Channel Truck Series commentators Rick Allen and Ray Dunlap. TRAVIS KVAPIL (No. 24 Line-X Toyota): ¿It¿s going to be a huge challenge for us. Two or three months ago we didn¿t even have a race shop. We didn¿t have employees and we just got a sponsor two weeks ago. It was a fast-moving winter. Now, we are testing and getting up running and still hiring employees.¿ CARL EDWARDS (No. 99 SuperChips Ford): ¿We want to win the championship. That¿s all there is. I look at guys like Jack (Sprague), Mike (Skinner) and Travis (Kvapil) and what they have done in this series, and it would be great to win the championship like they did¿We are going to be strong this year. The way we worked together at the end of the season will really help us this year.¿ DENNIS SETZER (No. 46 Axciom Chevrolet): ¿I¿m excited about what Chevrolet has come up with for this season. I think they have decided that with all the competition in the series that they want to lay claim to the series. Chevrolet is helping us and all the NEXTEL Cup teams are sharing technical information. We¿re going to have engines from Richard Childress this season. Chevrolet is giving us everything we need to get it done.¿ TED MUSGRAVE (No. 1 Mopar Dodge): ¿I¿ve taken it for the last 25 years, and this year I¿m going to dish it out. After what happened last year, the championship doesn¿t mean a thing to me anymore. I¿m just going to go out and race really hard and try to win races.¿ ROBERT HUFFMAN (NO. 12 Toyota Tundra): ¿I¿m a hard racer and I like to win races. I think that is what everybody in this series wants to do. Lee White and the people at Toyota have a lot of faith in me¿I raced for 20 years. I started at Hickory Motor Speedway, and I ran in the Dash Series for Toyota. I¿m just proud to be able to race for a living.¿ Other Truck Series drivers in the room and available to the media for one-on-one interviews were Phil Bonifield, Matt Crafton, Rick Crawford, Tina Gordon, Andy Houston, Chase Montgomery, Hank Parker Jr., David Reutimann, Mike Skinner, Jack Sprague, David Starr, Kelly Sutton, Ken Weaver and Jon Wood. The Media Tour hit the road for the day¿s second activity, making the trip to Toyota Racing Development in High Point, N.C. The facility is a recent addition to the main TRD complex located in California. Officials from TRD, led by General Manager Lee White, discussed the procedure involved in Toyota entering Truck Series competition and detailed Toyota¿s unique concept of building all the engines and trucks for its teams. Representatives from Toyota racing teams on hand included team-owner Bill Davis and drivers Travis Kvapil, Bill Lester, Shelby Howard and test driver Joe Ruttman. LEE WHITE (General Manager of Toyota Racing Development): ¿Open-wheel-type racing in this country is not the best place to showcase your product. It¿s a good place to showcase your technology, but not the product¿In order for us to have solid marketing value we needed to do something more mainstream, and NASCAR is mainstream¿At this point, this is a truck program. It is approved by Toyota management as a truck program. It is approved by NASCAR as a truck program. In my opinion, the Truck Series is the manufacturers¿ shootout series in NASCAR. Toyota is the best selling car in America. We¿d like to sell more trucks, and the other manufacturers want to keep their share of the market.¿ Richard Childress Racing hosted The Media Tour for lunch at its spacious Welcome, N.C., shop and racing museum. The RCR campus now boasts 14 buildings encompassing more than 400,000 square feet. Team-owner Richard Childress was joined by drivers Kevin Harvick, Johnny Sauter, Clint Bowyer and Kerry Earnhardt. Drivers Robby Gordon and Ron Hornaday were testing Busch Series cars at Daytona. Childress announced RCR will field a No. 33 NEXTEL Cup Series car with sponsorship from Bass Pro Shops for Kerry Earnhardt to drive in five races. The car will serve as the team¿s research and development vehicle. In addition, Childress announced RCR will be doing several special promotions this year to commemorate the company¿s 35th anniversary, including historic paint schemes on each of its five cars for the fall races at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway. RICHARD CHILDRESS (RCR Team Owner): ¿For RCR to have an Earnhardt back in a car just gives me the cold chills. It¿s for five races in what will be our development car. It could be more than five races, but either way this will not be the end of what we do with Kerry¿Kevin¿s team has had the fewest changes this winter and we are really looking forward to big things from that team this year.¿ KERRY EARNHARDT (No. 33 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet): ¿I got to drive some ARCA races in 2000 with some good equipment and was looking forward to more things in 2001, and then, of course, that didn¿t happen. I¿m excited that Richard has given us this opportunity. Outside of DEI, this was my next choice. I¿ve been hounding Richard for a few years to do something, and finally this deal came along for us.¿ KEVIN HARVICK (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet): ¿Our team has hardly changed at all. We are coming off a lot of momentum from late last year, and we¿re really excited to get this season started¿(The points system change) It will certainly create a different atmosphere at the end of the year, but the NEXTEL Cup Series is not about riding around. You have drive as hard as you can on every lap.¿ JOHNNY SAUTER (No. 30 AOL Chevrolet): ¿Those five races last year (with Morgan-McClure Motorsports) were huge for me. I got a chance to see what NEXTEL Cup racing was like, and I got to do it during the heat of the summer at some of the toughest race tracks. It was good for me to learn what the longer races are like. That was important for me.¿ CLINT BOWYER (No. 21 Reese¿s Chevrolet): ¿Richard took a chance on me, and I¿m going to work my butt off to make good things happen this year.¿ News and quotes from Wednesday evening¿s event will be included in the Thursday notes which will be available Thursday evening at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.