Teams Looking to Improve in 2010

The second day of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway included sessions with two championship teams that fell on hard times in 2009, Richard Childress Racing and Roush Fenway Racing.

But despite the struggles of the two organizations, officials from both teams are optimistic for the new season.

RCR has good reason for believing things have turned around. Its four cars had 11 top-10 finishes over the final six races of the 2009 season.

"The whole company feels good coming off the season," said owner Richard Childress. "None of us wanted to end the season with the momentum we had going. That's the way it is when you get things going. It's equal for everybody starting over."

The solid finish came at the end of a disappointing season where the organization failed to win a race for the first time since 2004.

Team owner Richard Childress said his organization made changes mid-summer that didn't show up in performance until late in the season.

"It took that long for it to start showing up," Childress said. "We didn't have a typical RCR year. We didn't have a car in the Chase or running up front. This year, I feel really good with the opportunity with the changes that we made."

Bowyer said the changes took much longer to come to fruition than anyone expected, but they did come.

"Nonetheless, a day late and a dollar short, but we were seeing light at the end of the tunnel at the end of the season," Bowyer said. "We were seeing those changes become a positive on the race track. With five races to go, you were seeing RCR cars running up front as a whole. It wasn't just one. It was all of them running good. That gives me a lot of optimism going into the season and thinking that we've got something for them this year."

Kevin Harvick, who drives the No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet, said his team didn't have the consistency needed to compete for a championship in 2009 but hopes that changes this year.

"Hopefully we've got a good foundation to start the year," Harvick said. "Even when we've had our bad years before, we could still finish 10th, 15th - and that's the piece we were missing last year. Our bad days, they were bad. Our good days were good at the end of the year, but those middle-of-the-road finishes are what we have to have. Hopefully we can find that consistency this year."

And while the team is confident it has things going in the right direction, driver Jeff Burton cautions against overconfidence.

"What we've got to do is protect against thinking it's going to be that easy, because it's not," said Burton. "We've got a lot of work ahead of us. I feel like we're so much more prepared going into this year, compared to where we were last year. A lot of things have happened at RCR that I feel really good about."

How do you keep the momentum going?

"You keep at it," Bowyer said. "Don't let up on anything you do and stay focused and keep everybody else focused. I feel like you can stay on track that way. When you start losing focus and take your eye off the ball, you're going to swing and miss."

Jack Roush Places Blame on Himself for Roush Fenway Struggles

After winning 11 races and placing three cars in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2008, Roush Fenway cars won only three times in 2009, with two making the Chase - though none placed higher than seventh in the final standings.

What went wrong?

Jack Roush said the team misused its time, and he blamed himself for it.

"We spent our time, and a disproportionate amount of it, trying to find that next breakthrough, that next steered rear axle that we introduced in 2008, which was part of the reason we were so dominant on the mile-and-a-half tracks, and the coil-bound front spring which we introduced in 2002 when the people with Greg Biffle found that," Roush said. "It didn't come. We didn't find it."

Meanwhile, Roush Fenway didn't spend enough time massaging the cars, trying to lighten them up as much as possible, trying to smooth on the bodies.

"We got best-balled on the tweaks and the sanding," Roush said.

Ford stepped up their commitment for this season, to make up for "my ineptitude," Roush said.

Roush Fenway increased its engineering staff from 30 to 36, which means the organization can continue to look for the next breakthrough while still working on the little things that make the cars go fast.

"I couldn't be more excited about 2010," Roush said. "I've learned from 2009, when I thought it was going to be a slam dunk to come back and dominate the mile-and-a-half tracks and to be a contender for a championship again. We just missed it."

Carl Edwards didn't win in 2009 after going to Victory Lane nine times in 2008, though he did reach the Chase. He also fell short of the Nationwide Series title but returns with a vengeance for 2010.

"Our goals are simple: I want to win both championships," Edwards said. "When Matt [Kenseth] won the [Daytona] 500 and then California [early in the 2009 season], probably all of us thought, ‘Well, this is going to be it. This is going to be fun.' Throughout the year, we did struggle. I know I personally learned a lot about myself and about the team and what we need. We've been able to work on that stuff. I'm excited to get the year going."

Matt Kenseth failed to get the No. 17 DeWalt Ford into the Chase for the first time in his career. He worked with crew chief Drew Blickensderfer for the first time last year and hopes their relationship can continue to grow.

"I feel like there's maybe a little stability there," Kenseth said. "I think he knows a lot more what I like and don't like, probably more what I don't like. I've learned a lot of things about him as well...We've got a lot of exciting things going. We made a lot of upgrades on our cars from last year. But the bottom line is we've got to do it on the race track. We've got to have better results than we had last year. We've got to get back into championship form."

David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford, has even simpler goals.

"It's pretty simple: We've got to win races in 2010," Ragan said. "I'm encouraged by the things with our race cars. I feel like we've got a pretty good grasp on things for Daytona. The real test will be when we unload in California. But it's plain and simple: We've got to win races next year. We've got to be competitive, from the short tracks to the mile-and-a-half tracks to the speedway tracks."

Where Will Kevin Harvick Go?

Kevin Harvick is in the final year of his contract with Richard Childress Racing, and there is plenty of speculation as to where he'll end up. Harvick said his relationship with Childress is good and the two have common goals on how to make things right.

He also said he won't set a deadline to getting a deal done with RCR during the season.

"I'm not going to push that side of it," Harvick said. "They'll all talk and do their things behind the scenes. I just want to be the driver. I don't want to get in a big political war with anybody."

Childress said the "door's open to talk on down the road. We'll be talking some. We'll just see what comes out of it."

Harvick did say he didn't think his contract situation would be a distraction.

"I've been there before," Harvick said. "The best year we ever had was a contract year: 2006 was a contract year, and we won five or six races and had a chance to win the championship. We won the Nationwide championship. That was the last contract year, so that one went pretty good."

Will Cup Teams Have to Dodge Penske?

Penske Racing will be the only Dodge team for the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, but team officials and Dodge officials reaffirmed their commitment to each other during Monday night's dinner session.

"This is our eighth season with Dodge, and I have never seen this level of commitment from Dodge and the enthusiasm of the entire Dodge team," said Walt Czarnecki, executive vice president, Penske Corporation. "We believe in Dodge and we believe in their success. Together, we're going to achieve that success on the race track and in the showrooms."

Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of Dodge Car Brand, said the manufacturer went through a short period before deciding to remain in NASCAR.

"It's been an interesting year for us, obviously," said Gilles. "It's been a big year for introspection. We had a lot of decisions we had to make as we went through the summer last year and kind of rebuilding our company from the inside out. NASCAR was one of those decisions we had to make. It was a very short one. We decided to absolutely be committed."

Dodge went to one team, Penske, though it will increase its commitment to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, including the addition of a second full-time team. Gilles said Dodge likes the NASCAR Nationwide Series and likes the series' new model car, the Challenger.

"It's a beautiful thing," Gilles said of the car that will run four races in the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series season.

Gilles said Dodge will continue to support NASCAR in a "big, big way."

"I want to really weave our NASCAR effort into what Dodge is going to be all about," Gilles said.

And Penske will be a big part of Dodge's overall effort, Penske Racing owner Roger Penske said.

"I think we have a competitive advantage," Penske said. "The fact that all the resources, both technical and from a marketing standpoint, are supporting our drivers and our other sponsors, we have that benefit with Dodge...Believe me, this is just not putting your name on the side of a car or having your decal as a Dodge running around the race track. This is about selling cars, about selling product."

Kurt Busch on Steve Addington as Crew Chief

In 2010 Kurt Busch, the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing, will have a new crew chief sitting on top the pit box. Steve Addington, who was with Joe Gibbs Racing as Kyle Busch's crew chief in 2009, will be leading the Miller Lite team during the upcoming season.

Kurt Busch was with his family, including his brother, getting a picture taken for their Christmas cards when Kyle received a phone call.

"I went ‘what just happened?' Cause he hung up the phone in a weird manor and kind of was mumbling around and kicking the grass," said Kurt. "He said, ‘Well Steve's not going to be my crew chief anymore.'"

Once Kurt heard this news, he didn't waste time starting his efforts to have Addington be his crew chief.

"I said, ‘Well give me his phone number,'" stated Kurt. "I mean that's how fast I said it because I knew Pat was leaving us months ago. And he said, ‘Well your smart enough, you can find his number on your own.'

"He wouldn't give it to me. He was still a bit distorted on what had just happened. He's always tough like that."

Kurt saw the experience that Addington had and that's why he wanted to work with him.

"The credentials he brings was the deciding factor. We looked at a guy internally; I was ready to go with him. But somebody of his caliber and status made me think and reevaluate where we needed to go."

Carl Edwards on 2009 Frustrations

Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Alfac Ford for Roush Fenway Racing collected seven top fives and 14 top 10s in 2009, but failed to get a victory and finished 11th in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings.

"There's so many different ways to look at success and failure because it's not cut and dry because there's one winner and 42 losers every Sunday," said Edwards. "You can go a whole season and not win and still have had a good season."

Edwards, who is famous for his back flips, went to Victory Lane nine times in 2008, a season high in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

"In 2008, it seemed very simple. I drove like I felt like I could drive it and we won a lot of races," he explained. "I think the frustration comes when you know you can do it and you know that you did everything as well or better than you had and you don't get the same result."

Fatherhood Update - Carl Edwards and Elliott Sadler

Carl Edwards and Elliott Sadler are two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who are preparing to enter fatherhood in the coming months. When answering a question about his wife's due date, Edwards told a funny story and talked about his plan if the baby comes during the Daytona 500 weekend.

"It's funny, the other day we were walking across the parking lot at this building. She stopped in the middle of the parking lot and said ‘my water just broke.' I said ‘Holy!' She said, ‘I'm just joking.' She doesn't joke around with stuff like that. She's got me on my toes. February 17th is the due date, which I think is the Wednesday after the 500.

"Robbie's got a plan for someone to practice the cars. I really want to be in the room. I think I want to be in the room if that happens."

"I asked Katy, I told her why don't we just bring the doctor with us like, you know, on the plane, around the race track. She said that wasn't cool. So, she's going to stay at home and I'll hopefully be there. That's my plan."

Sadler may be in the same boat as Edwards. His wife is due in four weeks.

"It has been the best off season I've ever had and it's been so exciting getting the room ready, getting things ready for our little baby boy to come along," said Sadler. "It's up to him now, but I'm thinking in the next four or five weeks we'll have him. My wife and I can't be any more excited."

Richard Petty Motorsports Merger Now Complete

Rumors of a Richard Petty Motorsports/Yates Racing merger began circulating a few months ago but it wasn't until today that the racing community could stop calling them rumors.

"I'm here to announce the best kept secret in all of motorsports, which is that the merger between Yates Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports is officially completed," said Foster Gillette, managing partner of Richard Petty Motorsports, in a press conference Tuesday morning.

The merger, which happened in December, brought some big changes along with it. During the 2010 season Richard Petty Motorsports will be running Ford Fusions, ending its long relationship with Dodge. Also, RPM will leave behind its previous home in Statesville, N.C., moving to the Yates Racing facility in Concord, N.C.

Filling the four driver positions at RPM will be Elliott Sadler, Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger and Paul Menard.

"The addition of a great team, great talent of drivers - we have Elliott, Paul, Kasey, and AJ adding to the fleet of Fords out there on every Sunday," said Jamie Allison, Director of Ford Racing. "That's something to be looking forward to."

Richard Petty Motorsports will maintain the alliance that Yates Racing had with Roush Fenway Racing and Doug Yates will be in charge or the Roush Yates engine program.

Sadler, who formerly drove for Robert Yates Racing, is looking forward to getting back into a Ford and working with Yates again.

"All of my success has come with the Ford, whether it's been wins or poles and things like this," explained Sadler. "I feel better about this season than I have about racing in a long time."

Kahne, who has never driven a Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, is excited about the new team.

"We have a really good team and we've all been through ups and downs over the last four or five years at times in different scenarios," said Kahne about the merger. "As long as we all stick together and work together like we have, we are in a better spot now than we were last year."        

Daytona 500 Pace Car

For the first time in Daytona 500 history a Ford Mustang will pace the field on Feb. 14. Ford, a manufacturer who has not had a pace car at the Daytona 500 in 40 years, has selected a limited edition Mustang GT with 412 horsepower to receive the honor.

In an effort to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the Mustang unveiled during the Richard Petty Motorsports press conference will be auctioned off at the Barrett Jackson Car Auction. Richard Petty and Jamie Allison, the director of Ford Racing will assist with the auction.

The special edition Mustang GT is powered by a 5 liter engine and gets 25 miles to the gallon.

Aflac Motorsports Journalism Awards Ceremony

In a ceremony held Tuesday afternoon, five motorsports journalists were awarded the Russ Catlin Award during the 25th annual Aflac Motorsports Journalism Awards.

Nate Ryan from USA Today was the top pick in the writing-daily category with his entry "NASCAR Rooted in Fossil Fuels, Turns Over New Green Leaf." In the writing-other division, ESPN.com's David Newton took home the award with "Martin Wouldn't Change His Tough Days." Bonnie Larkin's entry "Science of a Wreck," which aired on ESPN, won her the broadcast-national category award. In the broadcast-local division, Brian Tetzler of KWGN/KDVR in Denver, Colo., took home the award for his entry "Making the Race." The winner of the photojournalism category was David Moulthrop from Gator News with his picture titled "Taking Flight."

Ruby Tuesday to Sponsor Keselowski's Nationwide Ride

Mark Young, Ruby Tuesday senior vice president and chief marketing officer, announced that the restaurant chain will sponsor Brad Keselowski's No. 22 Dodge in six NASCAR Nationwide Series races in 2010. It marks the first time Ruby Tuesday has entered the NASCAR ranks.

"We're excited about what we're doing with our brand," said Young. "This is a way for us to really extend it. Ruby Tuesday, the last couple of years, has been struggling. We all know that, we've all been there. But we rebranded our concept two years ago, and we're in the process of trying to reach different audiences. The NASCAR fan base, the complete engagement that they've got, the loyalty to the sport itself, the ownership of Penske Racing and the drivers, it's a great opportunity for us."

Penske also announced that Magellan, maker of consumer GPS devices, will be an associate sponsor on its three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars.

Penske to Support Parker Kligerman

Penske Racing development driver Parker Kligerman will drive Eddie Smith's No. 42 NASCAR Nationwide Series Dodge for the first five races of 2010, with the possibility of doing more, the team said. Kligerman, who won the pole in his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Kansas Speedway last year, said he could run the four races in the series' new car, too.

Kligerman said Chris Carrier will be the crew chief and the team will run Penske engines. But Smith, who purchased Dodges from Chip Ganassi Racing at the end of the 2008 season, will provide the cars.

Penske's association with Smith's team came after Kligerman hit the wall during qualifying for last year's season finale at Homestead and failed to qualify in a Penske Racing car. Smith came to Penske and offered his Dodge for Kligerman, who then ran the race in the No. 42.

Is that Kasey Kahne or Brad Keselowski?

Brad Keselowski was asked if he gets noticed when he goes out in public since his rise to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series level, but it doesn't seem he has.

"I don't think they do," Keselowski said. "I was just in Concord Mills, and somebody, as I was walking by, said, ‘That was Kasey Kahne.' That's different. That was a first time. I've never been confused for Kasey Kahne. But I am dressed nice today, so...I thought that was really cool."

Austin Dillon gets Truck Series Sponsor

Austin Dillon, the grandson of Richard Childress, will be sponsored by Bass Pro Shops in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season.

Childress said Dillon didn't get the ride because of nepotism.

"It isn't that we just gave this ride to Austin," Childress said. "He had to go out and earn it. That's what I told him and [brother] Ty both. They had to go out and earn their way in this sport. They both went out and won raced and been very competitive."

Dillon, who will stay as a full-time student at High Point University, will drive the No. 3 Chevrolet.

"It was my number originally, but Dale Earnhardt made it famous," Childress said. "We all know that and we respect that."

Lucky 13 for Wood Brothers

Wood Brothers Racing co-owner Eddie Wood said his team will field the No. 21 Ford in at least 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races this year, with sponsorship from Motorcraft and Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers. Former Cup champion Bill Elliott will drive the car in those races, and David Hyder remains as crew chief.

"We're working on other things, just like everybody else is, chasing money," Wood said. "We could add up to six fairly easily."

When asked why Elliott continues to run with the Wood Brothers, Elliott said. "Two words: Len and Eddie."

"They‘re just such a good group of guys and so much fun to drive for," Elliott said. "When you walk in the shop or walk in the track and the race track, everybody's smiling and having a good time."

The Wood Brothers will celebrate their 60th season in NASCAR, and all have been with Ford.

Eddie Wood said he hopes to return to the full schedule for 2011.

Three Teams on the Front Row

Jerry Freeze, general manager of Front Row Motorsports, announced the organization will field three full-time teams in 2010 during a luncheon with Wood Brothers Racing at The Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway:

Travis Kvapil will drive the No. 34 Ford, with Steven Lane as crew chief and Long John Silver's as the sponsor for most races

Kevin Conway will drive the No. 37 Ford, with Peter Sospenzo as crew chief and ExtenZe as sponsor for all 36 races.

David Gilliland will drive most of the races in the No. 38 Ford, with a crew chief to be announced soon. Robert Richardson Jr. will drive the car in three races, both Daytona events and the first Talladega race, and John Andretti may get behind the wheel of the No. 38 for a few races as well. Taco Bell will sponsor the car for most races. Roush Yates Engines will supply the power for all three cars.

Is team owner Bob Jenkins crazy?

"I guess that remains to be seen," Jenkins said. "I just feel like there's so many good people available. I really believe in my guys. As long as we can continue to add quality people, we can build a program for a sponsor. The neat thing about a two- or three-car program is the shared knowledge. When you've got one team with one crew chief and one engineer, you basically are limited to what those guys know.

"When each team has an engineer and a crew chief, you get some more management by committee and everything you do, from the pull-down rig to the wind tunnel, everything takes on a whole new flavor when you can share information."

Quotes of the Day

Roger Penske on how to beat Hendrick Motorsports: "We beat all the Fords, we beat all the Toyotas. Well, we've got to figure out how to be Hendrick. Anybody has any insight tonight, we'll be glad to add one more person to our staff at Penske Racing."

Roger Penske on NASCAR perhaps switching to a spoiler from the current wing: "I said to Brian France, maybe I'll send the bill for all the wind tunnel testing we had over the last couple of months."

Brad Keselowski on Penske Racing crew chiefs Jay Guy and Paul Wolfe: "Jay, Paul, both of them have the same demeanor. I call them ‘tape-measure crew chiefs' because they like to measure things, check things twice - like Santa Claus."

Clint Bowyer on prospective rules changes for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: "At the end the day, it doesn't matter what the drivers think or really what NASCAR thinks. It matters what the fans think. If the fans are coming and the seats are good, our program's good and our race's good and our sponsors are there and everything goes round and round."

Jeff Burton on driving at age 42: "I believe that this sport has a whole lot more to do with the passion you have for it than it does the age you are."

Jeff Burton on racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: "From my perspective, when I hear about the racing today: ‘Oh, the racing's not good.' They're insane. This is my 17th year in this sport, and I'm telling you, bar none, it is more aggressive than it's ever been and it's more close than it's ever been."

Bill Elliott on getting back to Victory Lane: "I'd probably do cartwheels like the commercial with Mark Martin trying to do what Carl Edwards does. That'd be something to see, I'm sure."

Brad Keselowski on his top moment of 2009: "One of the coolest things of the whole year for me was winning Iowa (Speedway), and specifically passing Kyle (Busch). I passed Kyle, and the spotter was in the radio, and he was saying, ‘Still there, still there, clear.' And as I'm driving, I can hear the fans cheering through his radio. That was the awesome-est experience ever. That was one of those moments where you're driving, and you're getting goose bumps. I'm getting goose bumps thinking about it. That makes everything worth it, that feeling right there."

AJ Allmendinger: "I drive a race car 'cause it's what I love to do. It's not about being in front of the media or being on a poster or being on TV or going out there and having the fame when it comes to that. It's about the love of going out there and competing. Going home and knowing that I gave everything I had that day, everything I had in my life to go out there and be at my best, and that's why I do it. That's the attitude I carry. I have fun doing it. I'm excited to go do it, but at the same time you can see when I'm frustrated. You're going to see it on my face 'cause it's all about winning."

NEWS AND QUOTES FROM TUESDAY NIGHT'S FUNCTIONWILL BE INCLUDED IN TUESDAY'S NOTES