Tuesday's NASCAR Sprint Media Tour schedule started with a breakfast and press conference hosted by Ask.com at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Concord Convention Center.
Ask.com CEO Jim Safka talked about his company's partnership with NASCAR as the official search engine of NASCAR, and it's sponsorship of the No. 96 Hall of Fame Racing Ford driven by former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte.
Hall of Fame Racing owner Tom Garfinkel discussed the team's partnership with Yates Racing and the signing of Bobby Labonte to drive the No. 96 Ask.com Ford.
Tom Garfinkel (ON HALL OF FAME RACING'S STRUGGLES): "Well I think the buck stops with me. Our performance, our results last year weren't what we expected. Jeff [Moorad] and I knew when we came into this sport that it was going to take time. We had no illusions that we were going to come in right away and take the sport by storm on the race track. Certainly the results were more disappointing than we had expected. But we think now we have a model that will help us improve our competitive position in the sport and continue to grow over time.
"We had an engineering department and [Joe Gibbs Racing] had an engineering department. We didn't really share information. Equipment changed on their end and we were trying to figure it out as we went along, as opposed to being part of the development process. There were a lot of things there that you could see. Qualifying at Daytona and Talladega, for example, we were .600 sec. off the Gibbs' cars. As you know at those racetracks it's largely car and horsepower. We enjoyed our relationship with Gibbs but I think that we inherited a model that was built three or four years ago when the sport was a lot different, economically, technically and a lot of different ways. Again, we knew it would take time we think now we put ourselves in a position to be more competitive."
(ON IF THE TECHNICAL ALLIANCE IS WHY THEY ALIGNED WITH YATES): "It was part of it. I think there is going to be more seamless integration in how we work together and the things that we do. In a lot of ways Max [Jones] is going to be running the team. I'm perfectly comfortable with that and thrilled with it. I'd rather not fly back and decide who the right rear tire changer is going to be and allow Max to use his expertise to do those things.
"With Bobby behind the wheel, with Roush/Yates engines, with being integrated into Yates in a more seamless way we think it will help us be more competitive."
(ON WHEN HE FIRST STARTED TALKING TO BOBBY LABONTE) "To be honest, this situation with Bobby came through pretty quickly. Really Max Jones deserves the credit for getting Bobby on board. I was busy getting all the sponsor stuff lined up and Max really deserves the credit. We had a couple of other options and Bobby became available at the last minute and Max moved on it quickly."
Bobby Labonte, No. 96 Ask.com Ford (ON HIS NEW HOME AT YATES): "This was an opportunity that was secure and competitive. I knew that would be the place I needed to be."
(WHAT CHANGED TO MAKE YOU CHOOSE YATES OVER OTHER TEAMS?) "I'm not sure. I think it would make for a sitcom, TV show, horror movie and drama all in one. It was kind of wild. Maybe over some period of time I could tell you, but not right now. The things I learned out of this whole deal after talking to Chip [Ganassi] is that I respect him way more. What a neat guy. It was fun to get to know him better. But at the same time, this is second to none. This is the greatest opportunity I could have.
"I know [Yates'] goals are to win. Win poles, win races, top 12s, and make the Chase. I think all of it is desirable and all of it is attainable. We just have to go out there and prove it. It's there you just have to make it all happen.
(WERE YOU AWARE OF THE PETTY MERGER WITH GEM BEFORE IT WAS ANNOUNCED?) "I knew that they were going to do that, but it was when I was getting ready to get my exit papers. That could have been something that happened with me. I signed a four-year contract with [Petty]. It was heavy baggage for them. It was best to part ways and go on. It was better for me to reset my buttons and start over. The baggage that I had wasn't what they needed."
Following the Ask.com breakfast, media members moved to another portion of the Concord Convention Center where Nationwide had assembled several of its series drivers to unveil its new marketing efforts for the 2009 season.
Nationwide announced a new partnership with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and JR Motorsports for its national marketing campaign, including two national television commercials, radio commercials and personal appearances featuring Earnhardt Jr. and Nationwide Series driver Brad Keselowski.
Nationwide also announced ‘Driver Pick ‘Em,' a weekly interactive fantasy game on ESPN.com and the ‘Nationwide Insurance Dash 4 Cash,' a bonus program for Nationwide Series drivers at four stand-alone series races.
Associate Vice President of Strategic Sponsorships for Nationwide John Aman (ON NATIONWIDE'S INVOLVEMENT IN NASCAR): "I think the main thing with this series is that you have a fan base that is passionate about it. You look at who is paying attention to this series. It's the ones who pay closer attention to racing than any of the other series. That gave us a more concrete sight of people that we could take messages to. Part of this is a laboratory, to see whether we could take a segment of the population and really draw in our marketing messages to them and move them to purchase our product. General advertising is trying to speak to the entire consumer base. This is very targeted and gives us a chance to test the idea that target marketing works."
Mike Bliss, No. 1 Miccosukee Resorts and Gaming Chevrolet (What are you looking for heading into 2009?): "Going into this year all of us are looking to win a championship. We didn't win a race last year. A couple of them got away from us. Our big focus is winning a championship. Last year we had some things we improved on. This year, without testing, we also built a lot of good cars. We're better off this year than we were last year. A lot of teams are because of not testing. We're just looking at trying to win a championship and some races."
(Do you think not testing has leveled the playing field?): "I don't think so. I would love to be testing right now because there are things we need to be testing. It would be nice to be in Vegas testing this year."
(DOES THE ECONOMY PUT MORE PRESSURE ON YOU GUYS RIGHT NOW?): "You know it's funny. There probably isn't a day that goes by that I don't feel guilty about having a ride. But then I think if I didn't have a ride, what would I be doing? There's nothing out there. I feel really bad but the economy is not on racing it's on everything. I feel guilty thinking that way. We live in our own world here in racing. "
Jason Leffler, No. 38 Great Clips Toyota (DO YOU WONDER WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN TO THIS SERIES IN THIS ECONOMY?): "I think in this sport you're only as good as your last race. As a driver you're always wondering where you future lies. The series is not going to go away, none of these series are. They may shrink. The size of the teams may shrink. When I first got into the Nationwide Series, which was about nine years ago, we did it on a lot less money than we do now. There is no reason we can't go back there. For us at Braun Racing everything is pretty normal. We have a great sponsor in Great Clips and another great sponsor in Dollar General. We didn't let anybody go. We always operated very streamlined and efficient and it shows up in a time like this."
(EVERYONE'S FOCUS IS IN CUTTING THE SIZE, WHAT DOES A TEAM OWNER HAVE TO LOOK AT IN MAKING DECISIONS?): "I think you look at everything. I think you look at a lot of things like travel and how we travel, things like that first. You don't want to give up any performance of the car. That's the reason we do this. We do this to run well on Saturdays. You have to look at some of the finer things that we've come accustomed to in the last few years.
Michael Annett, No. 15 Pilot Travel Centers/Hype Energy Drink Toyota (ON HIS PLANS IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES): "I decided that this is what I wanted to do for a career. I moved out of Iowa and signed with Bill Davis Racing. I planned on finishing up there in the No. 22 car. You could tell something was up, looking at the 2009 season. Trying to decipher if we would go Truck racing or fulltime Nationwide racing. We made the plan to go Nationwide racing and got closer and closer to the deadline and saw that the funding wasn't there. So we started looking elsewhere and Germain Racing seemed like a perfect fit. They're coming off of one of the best seasons they've ever had in the Nationwide Series. Everybody is there from that team, the same crew chief, the same engineer and everything. We're really exited about it. Everything at Bill Davis is just a sign of the times."
Steven Wallace, 5-Hour Energy Chevrolet (ON THE NATIONWIDE SWITCH TO THE COT): "The problem, in my opinion, is when we go to switch the cars, what are you going to do with all the Nationwide cars? The ARCA cars are 110-inch wheel base cars and all the East Series guys bought all the Cup cars. So you're going to have all the old Nationwide cars just sitting there. It's really going to affect them. I think they should wait until the economy gets better."
(ON THE NATIONWIDE INCENTIVE): "I think the incentive is cool and everything. I know one thing: I'd race for $5,000. I really don't care about the money part of it. I'm real excited about it. I think it's real thoughtful of Nationwide to help out. I really don't think it's going to make that big of a difference when you're out there racing."
Media members then hit the road and headed to the new SPEED studios in Charlotte. The network's new facility includes three studios and will be home for shows such as The SPEED Report and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain.
Rick Miner, SPEED Senior VP Production and Network Operations (ON THE NEW FACILITY): "We're really proud of the facility. We're looking into a tapeless environment. We hope to be able to exchange files with NASCAR Media Group, so when we're at the track and Media Group is at the track and somebody needs something, it's just a matter of sending a file."
During the visit, Jim Beam officials announced they will be the presenting sponsor for the entertainment that accompanies the annual NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, and they will have Montgomery Gentry, a top country duet from Kentucky performing a 60-minute concert before the race on May 16. Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway, was presented with a guitar autographed by the duo to be auctioned off to benefit Speedway Children's Charities.
Marcus Smith (ON ACCEPTING THE GUITAR AND MONTGOMERY GENTRY): "We'll auction this off at the annual black tie gala, the day before the Coca-Cola 600. I'm sure it will raise a lot of money. We'll invite the guys to come over and play it at the ball. That's fantastic, we'll raise a lot of money for the kids."
"Of course you can never go wrong helping a child in need and that's what we're all about at Speedway Children's Charities. We're really excited to have Montgomery Gentry come to the 25th NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and to have the All-Star Race happen at Lowe's Motor Speedway for 25 years and the support from Sprint for this fantastic event. We've really got the best back-to-back weekends in Charlotte."
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owners Kevin and DeLana Harvick unveiled their team's No. 33 Longhorn Moist Snuff Chevrolet driven by Ron Hornaday and the No. 4 Monster Energy Drink Chevrolet driven by former motocross racer Ricky Carmichael.
Team co-owner Kevin Harvick (ON KHI'S NEW PARTNERS): "During the 2009 season, KHI is going to be bringing in some new partners. Obviously in this time it is exciting to be bringing in new partners that are excited about the Truck Series and our company. Good partners are important to our sport, to our companies and to everyone involved and we are really looking forward to these new relationships."
Following the announcement, Truck Series competitors Ron Hornaday, Colin Braun and Ricky Carmichael participated in a question-and-answer session with the media.
Ron Hornaday, No. 33 Longhorn Moist Snuff Chevrolet (ON THE COMPETITION LEVEL IN THE TRUCK SERIES IN 2009): "To come down to me and Johnny Benson racing that close and Mike Skinner the year before, Jack Sprague all the other years. It's just exciting and I'm very fortunate to have a new sponsor come aboard with Kevin and DeLana. It really makes the Truck Series a lot of fun."
Colin Braun, No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford (ON IF HE WILL BE A BETTER DRIVER THIS YEAR): "Yeah, I certainly feel like I'm going to be a lot better driver. At least I hope I am. When you race against guys like Ron [Hornaday], Mike Skinner, Johnny Benson and those guys you learn so much from them. I think one of the cool things about the Camping World Truck Series is the camaraderie in the garage area. You can go up to Ron and Johnny and ask them questions."
(ON HOW HIS CUP TEAMMATES HELP HIM): "Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Jamie MacMurray and David Ragan, all those guys have been a huge help to me in 2008. Just having a sounding board is fantastic with those guys. They've been a huge help. Carl has actually come to a few races and co-spotted with my spotter Bobby Hudson, added some advice and really tried to help me out. Having the advice of those guys is just awesome."
(ON WHAT CARL EDWARDS TELLS HIM): "As far as when he's been at the race track on race weekends with me, a lot of things about how to get by slower traffic. Just kind of the whole mindset of the race, being smart early on and being aggressive as the race gets more toward the end. Just the way he kind of approaches the race in terms of the big picture."
Ricky Carmichael, No. 4 Monster Energy Drink Chevrolet (ON THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN MOTOCROSS AND NASCAR FANS): "I've been really surprised at the crossover that it's been. It's been a fun adjustment for me seeing all the support from the fans on that side."
(ON THE ADJUSTMENT FROM TWO WHEELS TO FOUR): "I think the biggest adjustment for me is just lack of seat time and just trying to get as much seat time as possible. That's been the biggest adjustment for me. As far a going out and saving the race car and being there at the end I give a lot of credit to racing motocross to that aspect of it because I know that you can't win the race on the first lap and you have to let things come to you. We just have to have realistic goals. I know a lot of people are going to be critical of me, but at the same time they have to realize that I'm still learning and I'm new at this."
After the SPEED studios visit, members of the media returned to the Concord Convention Center for the Lowe's Motor Speedway event announcing plans for the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24.
Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway, announced that fans will decide the greatest racing moment in the speedway's history by logging on to www.coke600.com to vote for their favorite Lowe's Motor Speedway memory. Online voting will begin on Monday, Jan. 26.
He also touched on fans making memories at the 1.5-mile superspeedway and all of the people that go into putting an event on at the speedway.
Marcus Smith: "When people come to Lowe's Motor Speedway, they're escaping from their every day life. You go to work, you go home and pay the bills. Then you mow the grass. When fans come to the speedway they make memories that last a lifetime. It's not just about the weekend. It's not just about the race. It's about these memories that last a lifetime. They build friendships and families.
"Along the way we're putting thousands of people to work. We've got thousands upon thousands of people that come out and help us at every one of our events. We help booster clubs and churches and all sorts of nonprofits groups. We help pay their bills and put food on their tables. It's a real privilege and an honor that we're able to spend so much time with our fans and the people that help us with these events."
Bruton Smith, founder, chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (ON THE GREATEST MOMENT AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY)"When you're trying to find the greatest moment here at Lowe's Motor Speedway it is difficult. They've been asking me to define what was the greatest moment here, the greatest spectacle in racing. I'm not sure we've come up with one because there was so many. I've thought and thought and you've seen some of them here, but there's so many others that spark my memory of some of the great things that happened.
"I think the greatest moment was actually getting the speedway open. That might have been the most trying of all events. I remember Curtis Turner. I used Curtis Turner because he had a great name in racing. He was featured one time on the front cover of Sports Illustrated. So I used Curtis' name in promoting to try and get the speedway built.
"The reason we ran on June 19th is because we were three weeks late. In March of 1960, on Wednesday it snowed. Well, we moved the snow so we could move the mud so we could move the dirt. It snowed again on Wednesday of the next week. So we went through the process of moving the snow again. Then the next Wednesday it snowed again. That was three weeks that was lost in the construction period and so I had to delay the start of our first race until June 19th.
"Things were a little more difficult then. Particularly money. Money was a challenge. Nobody would talk to you about a loan. It was a trying time. But the speedway opened and all this other stuff is history and I'd like to think it was worth it."
Lauren Steele, vice president, Corporate Affairs, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, announced that in honor of the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600, a one-of-a-kind golden can featuring the 50th Coca-Cola 600 logo and a congratulatory message will be the key to winning for fans in 10 states throughout the Southeast. The lucky fan who finds the golden can - which will be randomly inserted into one of approximately six million specially marked 12-packs of Coca-Cola classic - will win the official Coca-Cola 600 Toyota Camry Hybrid pace car.
Bill Nystrom, senior manager of sports marketing for NASCAR at Coca-Cola North America, revealed that Coca-Cola will honor all of the past winners of the 600-mile race during pre-race ceremonies for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24. As part of that celebration, NASCAR legend and three-time Coca-Cola 600 winner Bobby Allison will serve as Grand Marshal for the race and take a ceremonial victory lap around Lowe's Motor Speedway in the actual Coca-Cola-sponsored 1969 Mercury Cyclone he drove to victory in the 1971 event.
Bobby Allison (WHAT DID IT TAKE TO GET THIS CAR INTO VICTORY LANE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 1971?): "I had a really great time at Charlotte. We got here to Charlotte and the car was just perfect for me all day. It was one of those times that everybody who drives a car dreams about. My wife Judy is with me all the time. The kids were there. Davey was just a little bitty guy, but he was there. My parents were here. We were able to win that race. This was Lowe's Motor Speedway!"
(ON THE CHALLENGES OF WINNING THE COKE 600): "It really is [challenging]. Everybody works so hard to try and get that because it's one of the really special races all season. Racing is that way. Sometimes the driver doesn't do exactly all he should do. Other times somebody drops a little oil or water in front of you. Other times somebody else spins and runs into you. Those things happen."
The final stop on Tuesday's portion of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Lowe's Motor Speedway was at Joe Gibbs Racing in Huntersville, N.C., where the media met with team officials and NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.
During dinner, JGR President J.D. Gibbs announced that Farm Bureau Insurance will serve as primary sponsor for six NASCAR Sprint Cup races this year. The six races will be split between the No. 11 with Denny Hamlin, the No. 20 with Joey Logano and the No. 02 with a driver to be announced at a later date.
Following opening comments by team owner Joe Gibbs and his son J.D., members of the team shared their thoughts on the new season in an open-interview session.
Joe Gibbs, team owner (ON THE FIRST RACE WITHOUT TONY STEWART): "Obviously, it's something that is kind of a process the way it happened and everything and we kind of went all the way through that. I'm excited. I've been pretty much focused on our guys. If you stop and think about it we're pretty young, so this is going to be a different kind of trip for us. I haven't had a chance to think as much about Tony as I'm focused now on all of our guys. We've had a huge effort here, we've got five different initiatives that we've embarked on to try and help ourselves. We don't want to wind up where we did last year at the end of the year. I think our guys have worked extremely hard. We've all been on board with it and we'll see how it pans out for us."
(WHAT WENT WRONG AT THE END OF LAST YEAR?):"I think it was part of the process we went through. And because of that there were five different things we felt like we needed to go to work on. We have kind of been working real hard in five different areas and so that was kind of the result of what we thought happened. I'm sure every other race team out there has got their agenda and that's what makes it exciting I think. You're never sure who's going to wind up winning it this year."
(WHAT ARE THE FIVE AREAS?): "I'm not telling you what the five areas are. I'm afraid someone else might be working on it."
(WHERE DID YOU MISS IT IN THE CHASE?): "I think there were five things that we felt like hurt us and some of them were pretty obvious to you all probably. We went to work on five different areas and we felt like it all impacted us down the stretch."
(WHO TAKES THE LEADERSHIP ROLE NOW THAT YOU HAVE THREE YOUNG DRIVERS?): "I think certainly that Denny and Kyle are both guys that now have, even though they are young, have some real good experience winning races. They know what it takes. Some of the things we talked about today with them, you could kind of tell they were talking to Joey and telling him some of the things they learned that first year. I think we've got three guys there that they know that you're not going to win a championship unless all three teams are contributing heavily. I've been impressed with Denny at times trying to help Joey. Kyle, some of the suggestions he has for Joey. So that's where you kind of see it showing up in the teamwork. A lot of it wasn't focused on them. They were saying you need to do this, this, and this, so it was interesting."
J.D. Gibbs, team president (OVERVIEW FOR 2009): "For 2009 we have the three Cup cars. We have the M&M's family along with Interstate [Batteries] coming back next year with Kyle. We have the Home Depot team with Joey Logano. Being new this year, we're excited about that. FedEx is rounding the curb again with Denny. We're looking forward to a great year with Denny as well.
"We have Kyle Busch running the full Nationwide [schedule]. Then we'll have a mixture of Denny, Joey and Brad Coleman coming back this year, so we're excited about that."
(WHAT CHANGED IN THE NO. 18 TEAM FROM THE BEGINNING OF LAST YEAR TOWARDS THE END?): "We went back and looked at it. Carl [Edwards] was pretty hot all year long. Jimmie [Johnson] took a while to warm up, but come mid-year they were all clicking. I think with us, you start that Chase and we had three things go wrong right off the bat. It was our fault in preparation. One motor and two mechanical issues, you're done. You can't have three things go wrong like that. We learned to prepare a little better. The reality of it was, those other guys were good. So it wasn't like [Kyle] was light years ahead of them. They were all pretty close once they got going."
(DO YOU FEEL THE TEAM CAME OUT FROM UNDER KYLE?): "Kyle didn't change anything. He didn't make mistakes. We, as a team, had three issues that were our fault. For us, we just missed it there at the end. It was frustrating. It was nice to finish with three good cars at Homestead."
(HOW DO YOU HELP GUYS LIKE STEVE ADDINGTON WHO MAY GET DOWN ON PERFORMANCE A BIT?): "The issues were: one of them was a motor. One was a mistake by one of our guys who is a phenomenal mechanic. Now if it was a guy who consistently made mistakes, you'd say 'we have to make a change.' It wasn't. It was one of our best guys. You move on.
"Steve's good about keeping the team together. He's a great fit for keeping Kyle encouraged. I thought Kyle did a good job. He could have just folded the tent and said, 'I'm done.' But they kept digging and they wound up having some good races towards the end."
(IS THE NO. 18 TEAM CAPABLE OF ANOTHER RUN LIKE THIS?): "Obviously they're capable of it, but the reality is that was a pretty good year as far as wins. I'll take the wins, but I'm more interested in a championship."
Greg Zippadelli, crew chief No. 20 Home Depot Toyota (WITH ONE OF THE YOUNGEST TEAMS IN THE SERIES, HOW MUCH WILL JOEY HAVE TO DEPEND ON YOU THROUGHOUT THE YEAR?): "The good news is that they're all young. They have different driving styles, between Kyle and Denny. For us, we're not sure where we fit in. We're somewhere in the middle. From that aspect he'll be able to go and speak to two different drivers who do different things. To me, that's the greatest. I'll probably have to spend more time with him on all the stuff we don't want to deal with.
"[Joey] wants to do this. I don't see a lot of the bull stuff. We're all going to have bad days, but his biggest struggle is going to be figuring out why he didn't run good. Is it him not being able to tell us, or is it me not figuring out what he was saying? That's where our bad days are going to come from. Part of that is time. He just doesn't have a lot of time in these cars. We don't have any time working together. We haven't been able to go to race tracks with the right tire at the tracks we're going to run at."
Kyle Busch, No. 18 M&M's/Interstate Batteries Toyota (DID YOU ASK TO RUN ALL THE RACES IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES?): "I asked for that. I told J.D. that I'd like to do it. He made it happen. Last year, I missed five races and still finished sixth or seventh in the championship. I felt like we could have won if we had kept going with it. We decided to step back a little bit. Nationwide is fun series to run. I'd rather be racing in it than sitting on the couch in the motor home watching it."
(WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE TO BEAT JIMMIE JOHNSON THIS YEAR?): "Wreck him. I don't know. Jimmie and those guys are awfully strong. They already have this car figured out. Every year they tend to have their bad luck in the beginning or the middle of the year and by the end it's all gone. It just seems like in the Chase they haven't had much bad luck. They've been able to always capitalize on the final 10."
(IS A REDHOT SEASON FOR THE NO. 18 TEAM DOABLE AGAIN THIS YEAR?): "I think it's going to be less likely that we repeat that first half with the way the competition has picked up and the way everybody has learned this car. I think it's capable to run strong and to run up front and finish top five every week. To have that, you've got to have some sort of luck on your side. If you have a lot you can win races. There is just a lot of luck in this game.
"For me, I made one mistake in the Chase. That was my speeding on pit road at Lowe's. We still finished fourth that night; I was able to bounce back from it. Anywhere else, mechanical issues took us out."
(HOW DID YOU FEEL DURING ALL THE BAD LUCK TOWARDS THE END OF THE SEASON LAST YEAR?): "You thought, 'why us?' It's things beyond your control. It's both of those. The things you do to try and change that is nothing. You could look at trying to change your luck as much as you want, but that's the way it rolls sometimes. You can't change it. It gets tiring when you have as many mechanical issues as we do."
(HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO VOICE YOUR OPINION ON WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE AT GIBBS?): "I was at the meeting. I came in and voiced my opinion to what we need to work on, what people we need to hire, what areas we need to improve on with our cars. Not necessarily just mechanical issues, but the speed aspect of them. [I] just tried to help out as much as I can. [I] gave some insight to what Hendrick Motorsports was like."
Joey Logano, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota (HOW DO YOU LIKE WORKING WITH ZIPPY?): "I think he's a really smart guy and a really good guy. I think he's perfect for me, coming into the series as the young kid and having that coach figure at the same time. That helps me out a lot. "He's pretty patient. He lets you go do your own deal when we test. That's how it's been working right now. In the few tests we've done, so far so good."
(WHAT DO YOU EXPECT OUT OF YOURSELF THIS YEAR?): "I think rookie of the year is a realistic goal for us going into this season. From there, I don't know what everyone expects out of me. I just want to do the best I can. I'm with a great team, but where I lack is having that seat time. We'll figure it out one way or another."
(WHAT WERE YOUR EMOTIONS THE FIRST TIME YOU RACED A CUP CAR?): "It didn't hit me. I went out there and I didn't get nervous before the race. I just thought of it as another race. I think that's the right way to think of it. If you get yourself all worked up, it's just not worth it. It was a very big deal being the youngest to ever start a Cup race, but I tried not to think about it. I didn't even know I was until the end of the race." Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Toyota (ON COMPETITION IN THE CUP SERIES): "No there's more competition now. There are more teams that have gotten better. The Red Bull team is one that had jumped to where they were in Chase contention throughout the year. David Ragan's team stepped up. Wherever you see one team maybe fade a little bit you see another one step up. There's always going to be 15 guys or so that are going to be in contention to make the Chase and the only difference is that they expanded the field from 10 to 12. To me the less cars that they allow in it, the more prestigious it is. I think it adds a little bit more to it and there's always going to be about 15 cars, I believe, that should be allowed to race for the championship. You need someone left out every now and then because it makes it more prestigious. For the drivers it makes you hungrier to have to know that if you don't step up you are not going to make the Chase." (WOULD YOU BE OK BEING OUT ONE YEAR TO SPICE THINGS UP?): "I don't want to be out. I want to be one of those top-10 guys in there, or top-12 guys or whatever it is. I'll tell you, you see it year-in and year-out that somebody misses the Chase, I think Carl [Edwards] missed it two years ago, it just fires you up a little bit more. That's what I think it needs. I think this sport needs to make it harder to get into the Chase. The harder it is, the more us drivers can feed off it."
(DO YOU AGREE THAT THIS SEASON WILL BE MORE EXCITING?): "Absolutely. Without a doubt, every year this sport is more competitive than what it was the year before simply because of all the resources everyone is throwing into it."
(YOU'RE THE LEADER ON THIS TEAM THIS YEAR?): "The old man, that's for sure. You just look around and you see, at a team meeting or a test or something like that, 450 employees all basically relying on teenagers and 20 year olds to try to lead this team to a championship. It shows a lot of faith that they have in us. Hopefully this is the Joe Gibbs Racing you are going to see 10 years down the road. All the drivers are going to remain the same and hopefully the crew chiefs will stick around if they can put up with us long enough. I think that once we establish this right here, this group that we have, every year it should get better. Especially my communication with Kyle, Kyle's communication with Joey, all that, it's going to get better and better."
(ON HOW TO GIVE MORE TO THE FANS): "I definitely like the type of thing that we did at Daytona this past week. It was a good thing I thought. You know, reaching out to the fans. Maybe if you have an autograph session at the race track on a race weekend, something small, just 15 minutes, something that you can do for the fans. Our fans already have a lot more access than a lot of other sports but that doesn't mean we should just let that rest. We still should do more, and anything that we can do for them, I feel like it's our job. I mentioned earlier to the TV guys, we talked about buying tickets to every race this year and giving them away to fans that want to go register on our Web site - anything that we can do to try to give back. I think right now, the sport needs it and the fans need it more than anything."
(IS THAT SOMETHING YOU'RE GOING TO DO OR JUST THINKING ABOUT?): "We're brainstorming on it, but I think [giving tickets away is] pretty much something we are going to do. With the economy, and things the way they are, ultimately you want to be positive and there's a lot of race fans that would love to come to these races but don't have the means to do it. We have more means than we know what to do with right now so we need to give back to them."
Media members then returned to the Embassy Suites Hotel and Concord Convention Center where the evening concluded with a hospitality function hosted by NASCAR Media Group.