Notes and Quotes #2: Drivers, Teams, NASCAR Excited About On- and Off-Track Action in 2013
Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013
PIT NOTE #2
NOTE: To see a photo gallery from the second day of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, click here.
Richard Childress Racing Discusses 2013 Outlook, Gen-6 Cars and DRIVE4COPD Involvement -- During Monday night’s dinner with Richard Childress Racing in Welcome, NC, during the Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, COPD Foundation President and Co-Founder John Walsh announced driver Austin Dillon’s involvement with DRIVE4COPD.
“I’m really proud to represent [the COPD Foundation],” said Dillon. “I actually lost my grandfather to COPD last year, so it’s pretty close to the heart.”
COPD, which stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, makes it hard for sufferers to breathe. It is the third leading cause of death in America and the second leading cause of disability.
Red Kap Vice President and General Manager Chris Holcombe also talked about a new program his workwear and uniform company is starting with RCR during a special Red Kap milestone.
“Red Kap has been in business for 90 years, making fantastic workwear, and I can’t think of a better 90th birthday present than to be associated with Richard Childress Racing,” Holcombe said.
RCR’s 2013 roster includes: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton; Nationwide Series drivers Brian Scott; and Austin Dillon; and Camping World Truck Series drivers Ty Dillon and Brendan Gaughan.
Team Owner Richard Childress was enthusiastic about his stable of talent going into 2013.
“We’ve got a good lineup,” he said. “The tests we’ve had, I’m really pleased with what we’ve seen. Hopefully, when we put it all together, it will be what we expect for this year. We’re really excited about our new Chevy SS and Camaro, glad to be back in the truck series with Ty and Brendan.”
Jeff Burton was asked about his thoughts on the Gen-6 car, which will debut at The Sprint Unlimited at Daytona next month.
“We’re as prepared as we can be,” he said. “Obviously, everybody is behind. There is a lot of energy around here; there’s an enthusiasm – you can feel it.”
Kevin Harvick was asked if reuniting with crew chief Gil Martin would give him the push he needed to take on 2013.
“Obviously, we’ve got a lot of exciting things going on,” Harvick said. “Having Gil and everybody working together over the end of the year and during the off season has been good. There are a lot of unknowns with the new car, but to see the structure and the things going on and the plan we have going into the season, I’m looking forward to having fun this year and doing the best we can to win races.”
Austin Dillon was asked about his momentum going into the 2013 Nationwide Series, having come very close to winning the championship last year.
“I’m looking forward to fighting for that [Nationwide] championship again this year and bringing it home,” he said. “That would be awesome. We were able to do it in the truck series our second year out, and we’re just trying to stick to that game plan. We got Rookie of the Year last year. This year, we’re going to step it up and go again.”
Winner of 2012 Russ Catlin Awards Announced -- Charlotte Motor Speedway Vice President of Communications Scott Cooper announced the winners of the 28th annual Russ Catlin Awards for Excellence in Motorsports Journalism Monday night while the Media Tour attendees enjoyed dinner with Richard Childress Racing. The honorees were Thomas Pope (Fayetteville Observer), Kris Johnson (NASCAR Illustrated), Andrew Doud (WSOC-TV in Charlotte), Rosie Barresi (SPEED) and Gary Nastase (National Dragster) for their contributions to motorsports journalism during the past year.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Richard Petty Join Forces -- Arguably two of NASCAR’s most iconic stars, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Richard Petty, will join forces to promote one of the sport’s most iconic brands, Goody’s headache powder, officials announced Monday night during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.
As part of the new collaboration, Earnhardt Jr. and Petty will join forces on a series of marketing efforts across radio, television and digital platforms and make special appearances together on behalf of Goody’s.
“It is the first time that these two NASCAR legends have worked together,” said Joseph Juliano, brand director for Goody’s. “Each of them has a huge fan base, and they are both synonymous with the sport of auto racing. Goody’s is all about speed, and nobody personifies the idea of speed better than Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Jr.”
Goody’s has also signed on as the sponsor of the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway and will conduct retail marketing contests, special events and in-store promotions.
“When you think about Goody’s, you think about Richard Petty. When you think about Richard Petty, you think about Goody’s,” said Earnhardt Jr. “They just go hand in hand. I was shocked and really humbled because Richard’s done such a good job, and part of his efforts have helped them maintain their relevance, not just in our sport, but as far as their brand goes.”
Ready to Go with Furniture Row -- It’s safe to say that Kurt Busch is comfortable with his new team. The brash, sometimes short-fused driver was patient and content as he lounged on a couch at the Furniture Row Racing press conference at the Sprint Media Tour on Tuesday morning.
“This is the most comfortable I’ve ever felt [going into a season]. I mean check out our setting here: relaxed couch, veteran group of guys up on stage and we all have that desire to do something special together,” said Busch. “We’re based west of the Mississippi, and we’re doing it a little different, but we all believe we can produce the results.”
That confidence in production comes from the Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row’s affiliation with the Welcome, N.C.-based Richard Childress Racing. Busch, crew chief Todd Berrier, general manager Joe Garone and Mark McArdle, the team’s director of competition, all noted the advantage of working with a big team, especially with the new Gen-6 car. But Busch also understands the value of the small team and the advantages it gives them heading into 2013.
“We have a small boat that can navigate through the waters more quickly, versus a mothership like Hendrick or RCR where they have a lot of people and infrastructure, and it takes a lot of e-mails and meeting to make things move,” said Busch. “We can just take what we need from Childress and do our own little things. It creates that lighter footstep where we can navigate more quickly. That’s one of the upsides to being a smaller, competitive operation.”
No News is Good News for Michael Waltrip Racing -- Tuesday morning found Media Tour participants meeting with two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip and his lineup of 2013 Michael Waltrip Racing drivers.
“2012 was obviously a breakthrough year for MWR,” said Waltrip. “All of us had a lot of hope and anticipation for the 2012 season. We honestly knew as a group that we had the best cars MWR had ever prepared. We had the best crew lineup and, inarguably, the best driver lineup. Just look at the statistics; these guys have done more for us on the track, collectively, than any lineup we had before.
“For 2013, this is breaking news – there is no news. I don’t know if they told you to come here because there was something new. There’s nothing new or different for 2013, and man, are we happy about that.
Truex spoke next about his time with the team and thoughts on 2013.
“This is my fourth year at MWR. I’ve been a part of the process, which has been very fun,” he said. “Signing NAPA on for another few years was a huge deal for us. Our whole team is back together. We look forward to giving this thing going and having a great season.”
Clint Bowyer, who finished second in points for the NASCAR Chase, was next.
“I just think we all exceeded expectations,” Bowyer said. “The way I look at things is: that was last year. We’ve got a new opportunity ahead of us with this new car. Everybody is behind and playing catch-up. I believe we have a good game plan… Everybody keeps warning me about this ‘second-place hangover.’ I tell people I’ve had a lot of hangovers; you fight through them.”
NASCAR Names Drive for Diversity Class of 2013 -- Tuesday, NASCAR officials announced the 2013 Drive for Diversity class. The Drive for Diversity program was put into place with the purpose of encouraging women and young adults of diverse races and ethnicities to develop their skills in all areas of NASCAR.
“Throughout the last couple years, the NASCAR D4D initiative has strengthened its position as a leading driver development program,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s Sr. Vice President of Racing Operations. NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Darrell Wallace, Jr. and K&N Pro Series East champion Kyle Larson were D4D drivers in previous years.
NASCAR and Rev Racing introduced the drivers participating in the 2013 season: Ryan Gifford, 22, of Winchester, Tenn.; Mackena Bell, 22, of Carson City, Nev.; Bryan Ortiz, 23, of Bayamon, Puerto Rico; Daniel Suarez, 20, of Monterrey, Mexico; Jack Madrid, 19, of San Clemete, Calif.; Annabeth Barnes, 18, of Hiddenite, N.C.; and Devon Amos, 21, of Rio Rancho, N.M.
France Eager to Unveil New Technology in 2013 -- NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France discussed with media members how he sees NASCAR moving forward throughout the 2013 season, highlighting the much-anticipated Gen-6 car, the future of track drying and NASCAR’s television partnerships for the upcoming season.
NASCAR executives and engineers have promised to deliver teams, drivers and fans the closest and most competitive racing in the world. Using science and innovation, the “Gen-6” car was produced with hopes it will create a tighter rules package and strengthen the racing, all while bringing back more of the manufacturer brand identity on which the sport was built.
“Everything that we’re doing is designed to make the racing either better or the experience better when you’re at tracks or watching on television,” France said.
Another new innovation that will have people buzzing is the new track drying system. The hope is that the time is takes to dry the track after rainfall will be cut by 80 percent and will be more environmentally friendly.
“We'll be debuting … our first generation of [a new] track drying system,” France said. “We are going to do it in a much more green, carbon emission friendly way. It's going to be a spectacular thing, and all of auto racing will benefit from this as we go down the road.”
France also announced that NASCAR has extended its broadcasting contract with FOX for eight more years. Discussions with other network packages are continuing in the right direction with the intention of extending those contracts as well, he said.
Speedway Motorsports Chairman Bruton Smith Wants End to Start-and-Park
Bruton Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. told media attending the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway that he would like to see an end to start-and-park racing, a term that refers to race teams that run only a few laps of a race in order to collect a portion of the purse, but pull off the track before causing too much wear and tear on their equipment, thereby saving on the expense of running a full race.
“Start-and-park should not be a part of what we do,” he said. “I think it’s derogatory toward our sport. I’m going to try my best – and I hope you’ll join me – to see if NASCAR can do something about this. It certainly isn’t adding anything to our sport, and it certainly takes away.”
He then asked media in the room to use their influence to put an end to the practice.
Smith’s other appeal was to encourage NASCAR to reduce the top speeds of the race cars, which he argued would make the racing safer but also create more excitement for the fans because the drivers will make moves with more confidence.
Bruton Smith and SMI Talk About Improving Fan Experiences and Gaining New Fans
A panel comprising all eight Speedway Motorsports Inc. race facility general managers – a group representing more than 300 years of industry leadership – met with Speedway Motorsports chairman Bruton Smith on Tuesday afternoon of Media Tour.
General Manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway Jerry Gappens prefaced the panel discussion with news that sponsor Sylvania had renewed with NHMS for another five years. When the new contract ends, the company’s support of the Sylvania 300 will mark 15 consecutive years of sponsorship with the track.
The bulk of the presentation dealt with “Fans First” initiatives and programs Speedway Motorsports facilities have been experimenting with and implementing to give fans the best experience for their ticket purchases. At the heart of the movement is a four-tiered program reaching out to different groups: long-time fans, first-time fans, families and those fans interested in the most exclusive race experience in motorsports.
Long-time fans will be recognized in many ways, like “fan-iversary” celebrations and more permanent honors for 50-plus-year fans. First-timers will benefit from fun and unique education programs. Fan families will enjoy special ticket packages and features aimed at younger children. “Ultimate” fans might want to write a check to join the exclusive Chairman’s Club – a season-long race experience that includes VIP access to all eight SMI facilities, invitations to drivers’ meetings and introductions, garage tours, pit passes, the best camping and parking arrangements and a choice of luxury seating options including suite access with food and beverage. Only 100 Ultimate tickets will be offered for $10,000 each.
Marcus Smith, president of Charlotte Motor Speedway and Speedway Motorsports, explained the motivation behind Fans First.
“’Fans First’ is our mantra,” he said. “It’s part of our DNA at Speedway Motorsports. It’s one of those things we really like to use to test our customer service levels – from day to day and event to event. We do it to ensure that the way we are preparing for our guests makes them feel really special when they arrive on through their entire weekend with us.”
Speedway Motorsports leadership is also kicking off an “undercover general manager” program, whereby GMs will “spy” on each other’s fan amenities and services by ordering their own race tickets, coordinating camping and experiencing race weekend as a fan would. Their undercover race weekends will be chronicled with photos and video and shared online, giving employees a way to identify areas that can be improved.
After the high-performance pow-wow, Smith directed the media to the back of the Champions’ Pavilion, where executive chefs from each Speedway Motorsports facility had prepared a “Taste of SMI,” with signature dishes ranging from Charlotte Motor Speedway’s redneck egg rolls, collard greens and North Carolina pork barbecue to Texas Motor Speedway’s Pit Stop Popcorn and Bristol Motor Speedway’s Bristol Brat.
Finally, media members were treated to exotic thrill rides courtesy of Richard Petty Motorsports. Members of the press were given rides in the exotic cars as well as several American musclecars such as Ford’s Mustang Shelby GT 500, Chevrolet’s Camaro ZL1 and Dodge’s Challenger SRT-8 392. The American offerings are part of an as-yet-unnamed program that will be fashioned along the lines of the Exotic Driving Experience.
“(19)76, at Daytona. Me and Pearson. There wasn’t enough Goody’s in Volusia County to get over that headache. You know what I mean?” – Richard Petty