More than 200 print and electronic journalists from 23 states and as far away as Germany will make their annual pilgrimage to the heart of NASCAR racing later this month as Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts the annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour.

An integral part of NASCAR's pre-season schedule, the 26th edition of this media event begins Monday morning, Jan. 21, and continues through Thursday afternoon, Jan. 24.

With support from sponsors Sprint and NASCAR, the Media Tour gives registered participants the opportunity to tour race shops; interview drivers, crew chiefs and team owners; and discuss the latest developments and news with motorsports industry insiders.

"We started the Media Tour in 1983 in order to generate publicity during what was traditionally a quiet period for the sport," said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. "There is a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm this time of year as every driver has exactly the same number of points, and the Media Tour allows the journalists to convey that excitement and enthusiasm to race fans around the world."

Journalists from New York, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Miami, Fort Worth, Tampa, Toronto and Montreal are among those registered to participate, representing such media outlets as USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg News, ESPN, The Associated Press and Time magazine.

Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Petty Enterprises, Hall of Fame Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing are among the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams scheduled to host events.

Dodge and Ford will bring several of their Sprint Cup drivers and team owners together for media availability sessions and media members will also get their initial look at the new Windshear wind tunnel facility during an event co-hosted by Haas/CNC Racing. In addition, the Media Tour will also make its annual visit to the NASCAR Research and Development Center.

For information on the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, contact the speedway's communications department at (704) 455-3209.

The 26th edition of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour kicked off at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Concord Convention Center with a luncheon hosted by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

Among those joining owners Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates on stage were the team's trio of NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, Juan Pablo Montoya, Reed Sorenson and Dario Franchitti.

Other Ganassi drivers on hand included Scott Dixon from the Indy Racing League Series; Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas from the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and 18-year-old Bryan Clauson who will compete in selected ARCA and NASCAR Nationwide Series events.

Team co-owner Chip Ganassi: "Seems like just yesterday we were in Homestead finishing up the 2007 season. When I look at these drivers I have a great sense of pride. These guys are from all over the world and they represent 24 wins last year in all different forms of racing. I've heard a lot of people say that all the open-wheel drivers moving into NASCAR has hurt the sport, but I think it has let the world see that everybody knows what a big deal NASCAR has become. I can't wait for the 2008 season to start and can't help but be excited and pumped up."

Team co-owner Felix Sabates: "This is an exciting time for us. We are determined to win and win often and we are going to win this year. We appreciate the folks at Charlotte Motor Speedway and their staff for putting this Tour on and I can't wait to see everybody in Daytona."

            Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Texaco/Juicy Fruit Dodge: "It's hard because there are a lot of weeks when you finish 15th and that is a good finish. We worked hard last year to get to where we are now, so naturally we want to keep that progress heading in the right direction."

            Reed Sorenson, No. 41 Target Dodge: "As a team, I think it'd be pretty cool to win three, four or even five races this year. I'd like to be the team that leads the way for Ganassi this year. We have a whole new car so we've got a whole new learning curve. All the teams are still learning a lot about these cars and it's probably going to be halfway before the season until a lot of people get it figured out. Whether we're winning or not, we've got to put up the results. I'm more focused and determined than I've ever been, so I'm looking forward to getting the year started."

            Dario Franchitti, No. 40 Dodge: "I'm excited about the switch to NASCAR and I know it is going to be a big step for me in my career. Do a lot of people know about racing where I'm from in Scotland? Well, there's a great deal of buzz around all this back home, so we are trying to take this form of racing and make it big in Scotland."

The tour hit the road for its second function, traveling to the nearby NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., Several NASCAR executives were on hand to discuss the upcoming 2008 season as well as some special initiatives that the sanctioning body has in store as it mores forward.

Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO: "This Media Tour has become a preseason tradition, and a very important one. This season NASCAR is celebrating 60 proud years. We've covered a lot of ground since 1948 when we were racing on the old beach course down in Daytona. In 1948, there were less than 10 races on the schedule and it has just continued to grow since then. Right from the start, my grandfather, Big Bill, and my dad had very big ideas and visions for this sport. We're proud of our growth through the years and our fans have been a part of that every year since NASCAR has been in existence.

"Change has been a hot button the last few years because there have been a lot of changes like the Car of Tomorrow as well several changes in our series' title sponsor. We're going to try and get back to basics while we continue to celebrate our past."

One item of note that France said would change in 2008 is that any monetary fines that NASCAR teams incur over the season would go into a fund to be donated to the NASCAR Foundation. All fines were previously put back into each division's respective season-long points fund.

NASCAR's George Silbermann also talked about the state of NASCAR's six regional touring divisions as well as the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Those six divisions include the Whelen Modified Tour, the Whelen Southern Modified Tour, the Canadian Tire Series, NASCAR Mexico as well as the Camping World East and West Divisions.

The 2008 NASCAR Drive for Diversity lineup was announced and the drivers were introduced. Participating this year are Kristin Bumbera, Michael Cherry, Michael Gallegos, Paul Harraka, Lindsey King, Lloyd Mack, and Jonathan Smith.

NASCAR's Vice-President of Competition Robin Pemberton also explained new rule changes that will be in place during 2008.

Two of those changes were concerning pit road rules. Pit crews will no longer be able to push a stalled car through more than three pit stalls until incurring a penalty. The other pit road change will be that the loose right side tires must be returned towards pit wall by a pit crew member by hand rather than simply rolled toward the wall.

The other major rule change for all three of NASCAR's top three divisions will be that teams not locked into the field through car owner points will qualify together at the end of time trials.

The assembled members of the media were then given the opportunity to quiz the NASCAR executives and tour the Research and Development Center.

 

NEWS AND QUOTES FROM MONDAY NIGHT'S FUNCTION

WILL BE INCLUDED IN TUESDAY'S NOTES