The final day of the annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway kicked off with an announcement from NASCAR.com that focused on improved services catering to race fans.
The site's current Race Buddy and new NASCAR Fantasy Live programs will feature more detailed data available to NASCAR fans.
"The changes and additions we are implementing are geared toward making the NASCAR fan as excited and engaged in the sport as possible," said Jason Williams, general manager of NASCAR.com
"We see NASCAR.com as the 24/7/365 presence of this sport. It's always on, and it's always available. And in some cases, it's the first interaction a new fan has with NASCAR. So, we need to consistently deliver every single product available. It gets them more deeply engaged in the sport, or maybe even introduces them to something they have never experienced before.
"Our redesigned home page will have a lot of new data. Fans can actually watch it change during the race to reflect the status of the race.
Our Truck Buddy partnership has continued to grow with SPEED. Every (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series) race will have a Truck Buddy this year. For our Race View product, it will be absolutely the most in-depth and in control a fan can get with both the action on track and some of the data."
NASCAR.com is also launching the sport's first fantasy product with live data through NASCAR Fantasy Live.
"This is a great move and a great innovation," said Williams, "This is a partnership with NASCAR and a lot of the folks behind the data that comes out of a race. We can utilize the in-race data in a way that engages fans in real time."
NHRA To Celebrate 60 Years; Muldowney to Greet Fans at 4-Wide Nationals
The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2011. NASCAR Sprint Media Tour participants visited with guests from that sanctioning body on Thursday. The panel included NHRA President Tom Compton, Charlotte Motor Speedway President and General Manager Marcus Smith, 2010 NHRA Top Fuel Champion Larry Dixon and drag racing legend Shirley Muldowney.
"It's hard to believe it's been three years since we sat here and talked about building the Bellagio of drag racing," Compton said. "At our awards ceremony last November, we presented Bruton [Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI)] with a 'Wally' trophy for what he's done for our sport. We've never honored a non-driver like that before."
Compton said that the NHRA will celebrate its 60th season in 2011 with "an homage to hot rods and our fans." The celebration will include a number of special events, such as vintage car shows, cacklefests, tribute car races, meet-and-greets with legends and displays of the most famous cars to ever run in NHRA competition.
"The NHRA Legends program is how we will introduce our young fans to the glory of the past at races," said Compton. "Those Legends will participate in special media events before and during races. A very special one is the Walk the Track program, where a lucky group of fans will get to walk the track before final eliminations on Sunday with one of the legends of our sport."
The 60th anniversary celebration will begin in Pomona, Calif., at the 51st running of the Feb. 24-27 Kragen O'Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals. At that race, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme will be honored and a collection of his race cars will be on display in "The Snake Pit."
"This year, we have compiled a list of the 60 greatest moments in NHRA history in chronological order," said Compton. "We're going to ask our fans throughout the season to exercise their expertise and passion to come up with the ranking of items on this list."
Compton said Muldowney is on the list of 60 highlights. This summer marks the 35th anniversary of her becoming the first woman to win in Top Fuel in NHRA competition, which she did in Columbus, Ohio, in 1976.
"It wasn't as hard as people might think [to be a woman in NHRA] because NHRA was the first sanctioning body in any sport to accept women as equal to men," Muldowney said. "The media supported me from day one. I can't even remember a bad experience with any member of the media."
Muldowney will be the featured legendary driver at zMAX Dragway's NHRA Four-Wide Nationals April 14-17. She will sign autographs and there will be more than 20 historic race cars on display.
Dixon turned in a perfect final-round record on his way to becoming the 2010 champion. He commented on the buildup to the championship.
"It was certainly more than you can ever expect or imagine," Dixon said. "I really didn't think about it too much until we got to Indianapolis for the U.S. Nationals. We were nine for nine at that point. I thought, 'Gosh, if I lose this one, nine out of 10 isn't bad,' but I did not want to lose Indy. We had the best light of the day and took it.
"My dad raced Top Fuel cars, not on the full tour like Shirley and Snake and Garlits. Ever since I was a little kid, all I wanted to do was drive Top Fuel cars. I was in Columbus watching when Shirley won her first race. I thought, 'How cool is that? Not have to have a real job?' That's what I was about."
A reporter asked Marcus Smith how his father Bruton got involved in building dragstrips for NHRA competition.
"He loves cars," Marcus said. "He loves racing. Jeff Byrd [former general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway] was probably the reason he got involved in drag racing - he had all that experience with NHRA. When we bought Bristol, Byrd said we ought to build a dragway. Dad did it. They built Thunder Valley. Ever since then, it's become another love of his in racing.
"I grew up in the NASCAR world, but now, it's fantastic [to be involved with NHRA]. If you haven't been there, you have to experience it. I haven't been to a cacklefest before, so I'll have to see one of those.
"We see the fan base. We see the excitement of the racing. There has been a lot of growth in the last 10 years. SMI has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in NHRA."
Compton also announced the creation of a limited-edition pewter version of the Wally trophy that will be awarded during the 60th anniversary season.
Roush Gives Team Overview for 2011
Roush Fenway Racing founder and co-owner Jack Roush gave a preview of the 2011 season and his views on the state of NASCAR during the final day of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour.
Roush noted that 2011 marks the 45th year he has been associated with Ford Motor Company. He also talked about his team's relationships with its sponsors.
"All of our sponsors agree they continue to see NASCAR as the sport that's very important to their marketing efforts," he said. "They see Roush Fenway as an organization that's a terrific investment and for good reason.
For 2011, every Cup program has all new cars built. We have realigned our engineering department and we have new software to run our programs on."
Roush said that the team's NASCAR Sprint Cup cars are fully funded for 2011 and that the Nationwide Series entry to be fielded by Carl Edwards is sponsored for about half of the races.
"The economy is getting better," Roush said. "The challenge now is to bring new partners into the sport."
Roush was joined on the media tour stop by Roush Fenway Racing's four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers: Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford), Carl Edwards (No.
99 Aflac Ford), Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Crown Royal Ford) and David Ragan (No.
6 UPS Ford).
Roush Fenway Racing Taking Green Initiative To Heart
Roush Fenway Racing is becoming more environmentally friendly.
According to new team President Steve Newmark, the company has already started enjoying a cost and energy savings and reducing the amount of waste generated by all the race teams.
In 2010, Roush Fenway Racing recycled 96 percent of the race cars it used during NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series events. The organization also recycled 200,000 pounds of steel, 66 tons of waste and reduced energy consumption by using new lighting. Roush Fenway Racing is also not burning any fuel to heat its shops, as the company has incorporated a solar panel system that heats the floors of their buildings.
Company founder and co-owner Jack Roush hopes that the "green"
efforts will encourage others to follow their lead.
"We want to lead by example," said Roush. "What we are doing is only a small part in the scheme of things but we hope to change the culture and make for more awareness for energy reduction and recycling. In 2011 our initiative is for air cleaning. We have replaced our paint system with a water based system. There will be no fluorocarbons going into the air. We will also have a no-idling policy for our employees in starting their cars.
It's a small impact, but we are getting the message out. We are reducing our operating costs."
Ford Racing Presents Special Award to Kennedy
The Ford Motor Company presented the Spirit of Ford Award to Kevin Kennedy, director of Ford Racing public affairs for PCGCampbell, during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour visit to Roush Fenway Racing.
The presentation marked just the 25th time in the 110 year history
of Ford that the award had been given out. Previous winners include
Jack Roush; NASCAR's Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr.; and racing legends Mario Andretti, John Force and Richard Petty.
Kennedy was moved by the honor.
"I am humbled by this award because of all of those who have won it before," he said. "I am really blessed that I have been surrounding by great PR people in my career at PCGCampbell. We work as a team and this is as much theirs as it is mine. It's an honor to represent the Ford Motor Company."
AFLAC Russ Catlin Award Winners Announced
In a ceremony held Thursday during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour visit to Roush Fenway Racing, five motorsports journalists received the Russ Catlin Award during the 26th annual Aflac Motorsports Journalism Awards of Excellence presentation.
The awards represent excellence in journalism covering motorsports and are named in honor of former newspaper writer Catlin, who was one of the first writers to cover NASCAR racing.
The Indiana School of Journalism judged the entries in five categories. Each award winner received a trophy and a $1,000 scholarship in their names to the schools of their choice.
The award recipients were: Daily News - Nate Ryan of USA Today; Other News - Chris Johnson of NASCAR Illustrated; National Broadcasting - Lauren Stovall of ESPN; Local Broadcasting - Brian Kessler of Fox News in Denver, Colo.; and Photo-Journalism - Marl Rebilis of US PRESSWIRE.
Joe Gibbs Racing Celebrates 20 Years in NASCAR with Special Guests
The NASCAR Sprint Media Tour stopped at Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) for a presentation celebrating that team's 20-year history in NASCAR competition.
"Twenty years ago," JGR owner Joe Gibbs said, "we had 16 employees working in a small leased building. Today, we have more than 400. This is a good time for us. We've had two of our most important sponsors re-up in the middle of this financial situation. We're also adding a Nationwide team this year."
Gibbs introduced Jimmy Makar, his team's first crew chief and current vice president of racing operations. The former Washington Redskins coach described Makar as the architect who helped build his team.
"People ask me all the time why I went to work for a football coach
who had never owned a race team," Makar said. "At the time, their driver,
Dale Jarrett, had never won a race. I was leaving a team owned by one of the most successful guys in NASCAR, Roger Penske, and their driver, Rusty Wallace, who had a championship and many wins.
"We bought a bunch of stuff from Rick Hendrick so we could get started. We had to design, find, and build a race shop. We had a few things working against us, but we got it together quickly."
Gibbs' first driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was Jarrett, who brought the team its first Daytona 500 victory. Jarrett appeared at the Media Tour stop by video.
"What a day that was in 1993 at the Daytona 500," he said, "bringing Joe Gibbs and Jimmy Makar their first and my first Daytona 500 victory. We started preparing for that victory in 1991 getting ready for the 1992 season. No one envisioned that in a little over a year we would be sitting in victory lane at Daytona International Speedway. Later, I got a call from Joe Gibbs telling me before we got to Richmond that he would be quitting his job as coach of the Washington Redskins. I wasn't sure if one victory was enough to make him give up his job. I got letters from a lot of people who thought it was my idea that he should quit his coaching job."
Bobby Labonte drove for JGR from 1995 to 2005, during which time he won the 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
"What made the team click for that 2000 championship?" Labonte asked. "A lot of things were responsible, but Jimmy Makar and I were very tight. That had a lot to do with it."
Tony Stewart came on board with JGR in 1997. On Stewart's reputation for run-ins with NASCAR, Joe Gibbs said, "There were only a few times that were a little bit, uh. then, he became an owner and not one ripple. He doesn't call Goodyear names, nothing. I wondered, 'has he had a lobotomy?'
Then, two weeks ago, he came back [referring to Stewart's well-publicized altercation in Australia].
Stewart said, "Hey, I didn't want you to think I was too far away."
The 2011 JGR NASCAR Sprint Cup Series line-up includes Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Toyota), Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Toyota), and Joey Logano (No. 20 Home Depot Toyota). Brian Scott was recently added to drive a full season for JGR in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
2011 Miss Sprint Cup Lineup Announced
Sprint unveiled its 2011 Miss Sprint Cup lineup Wednesday night in Charlotte, N.C.
Returning Miss Sprint Cup representatives Paige Duke and Monica Palumbo were joined by newcomer Kim Coon. The trio was introduced to a crowd of race fans and motorsports media during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour at the popular Whisky River nightclub.
Duke has returned for a second season. Palumbo is back for a fourth year.
In addition to making appearances at charity events and NASCAR sponsors' functions, the three Miss Sprint Cup representatives serve as the "fans' friend on the inside," offering behind-the-scenes access through regular video, photo and text updates to their social media followers on Twitter, Facebook and the NASCAR.com "Community" page. The Miss Sprint Cup lineup also greets thousands of race fans each weekend at the Sprint Experience, the mobile marketing display Sprint brings to every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.
Quotes of the Day
Jack Roush on his 45-year relationship with Ford: "No matter how old you get, there is somebody that is older that has done more. I think I have been associated with Ford longer than anyone except the Wood Brothers. I am very proud to be associated with Ford all these years."
NHRA legend Shirley Muldowney on her racing career: "It is amazing where this sport has taken me. Literally everywhere - at least 10 times. I was able to go to Japan for NHRA, where I ran the fastest times they have ever seen in a Top Fuel dragster. I'm told that record still stands. It's given me a lifestyle, wonderful friends, people that I've relied on. To be part of the NHRA's 60-year anniversary is an honor."
J.D. Gibbs, president of JGR, on hiring Tony Stewart: "For 1997, we wanted to form a second team. We asked all the guys to write down the name of the driver they wanted the most and put it in a hat. There was one name on every piece of paper. That was Tony Stewart."