NASCAR Media Tour Day 1 updates

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CONCORD, N.C. keeps you up to speed from the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, with the most recent postings added to the top:

Michael Waltrip Racing | Joe Gibbs Racing | Stewart-Haas Racing | Notes | What’s on tap today?


Michael Waltrip Racing

Tweety bird: The best from the social-media world coming out of Media Tour:

We're with @mw55 (Michael Waltrip) who says the organization is now on the same Toyota tier as Joe Gibbs Racing --Lee Spencer (@CandiceSpencer)

Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip share the common ground of being team owners, though in different series --Rea White (@Rea_White)

Funny guys: Michael Waltrip treated assembled media to a late-night style event, with the team owner behind the desk interviewing his drivers.

He traded quips with drivers Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr. in a light-hearted opening to their season.

Waltrip offered a series of comments on various aspects of the season, including his shared ride with veteran Mark Martin, 52. When he talked about them trading the seat for the car, Waltrip explained it was a case of "out with the old, in with the older."

When Martin asked two-time Daytona 500 winner Waltrip how to win that race, his answer was simple: "Early in the race, eliminate half the field."

On a more serious note, Waltrip seems confident that the team will perform better this season as it brings a slate of drivers with Sprint Cup wins to their credit to the series.

As he looks to the 2012 season, long-time MWR driver Truex seems optimistic as well. Asked about his outlook for the Daytona 500, he said that if the teams work together and things go well, "it would be nice to start the year out with a win."

In addition, Waltrip said that he is working on a deal to be in his 27th consecutive Daytona 500, but does not have anything definitely locked in yet.


Joe Gibbs Racing

Gibbs embraces change: On the first day of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour Monday, Joe Gibbs said that his company’s “biggest deal” was the addition of two new crew chiefs -- Darian Grubb from Stewart-Haas Racing and Jason Ratcliff, who was promoted from the Nationwide Series side of JGR.

Ratcliff will be paired with Joey Logano and the No. 20 Home Depot team. He has the benefit of working with the driver in the Nationwide Series with a championship-caliber program that Kyle Busch’s crew chief Dave Rogers says Ratcliff was instrumental in helping to build. --Lee Spencer has the full story

Busch scales back: Kyle Busch is cutting back on his NASCAR racing schedule for this season. The driver has long been a triple-threat in the racing ranks, winning in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series. This year, Busch will run only 15 races in the Nationwide Series, all with his Kyle Busch Motorsports organization. He will not run any races in the Truck series this year as he challenges for the Sprint Cup title. -- Rea White has the full story

What a tweet: The best from the social-media world coming out of Media Tour:

Darian Grubb says the biggest surprise since moving to JGR is the technology support "they have way beyond what I'm used to" --Lee Spencer (@CandiceSpencer)

@KyleBusch says its more fun to bring the media "paintballing" than subjecting fans to that --Lee Spencer (@CandiceSpencer)

First thing Joe Gibbs said was 3 of his biggest sponsors re-signed. Asked who they are, he won't say. Curious.’s Tom Jensen (@tomjensen100)


Stewart-Haas Racing

Offseason changes


Not all Cup stars are staying put after 2011. Who's on the move?

Tweet-Tweet: The best from the social-media world coming out of Media Tour:

Danica Patrick on her IndyCar replacement James Hinchcliffe: "He's a real cool guy." She believes Hinch will be a good fit with GoDaddy. -- Lee Spencer (@CandiceSpencer)

Mark Robinson, Joey Logano's former spotter, will spot for Danica Patrick in the Daytona 500. TJ Major will continue to spot in Nationwide Series -- Lee Spencer (@CandiceSpencer)

Mentioning the Brickyard? That sounds like a great idea for a 10th race says @DanicaPatrick -- Lee Spencer (@CandiceSpencer)

Asked how he celebrated championship. Stewart said he stayed at the shop until the Wednesday before Christmas --Rea White (@Rea_White)

Darian Grubb says the biggest surprise since moving to JGR is the technology support "they have way beyond what I'm used to" -- Lee Spencer (@CandiceSpencer)

Tony says: Tony Stewart has never been one to shy away from the spotlight, but on Monday Stewart vowed to keep expectations realistic for Danica Patrick, the team’s newest driver at Stewart-Haas Racing.

Patrick will drive 10 Cup races for SHR in 2012, as well as the entire NASCAR Nationwide Series with JR Motorsports. Stewart said he knows Patrick will be under the microscope.

“It’s been that way since she started driving Nationwide,” said Stewart. “I think that’s why I keep trying to emphasize to everybody that we’re not judged her success off where her finishing position is at the end of the day. There’s a lot more to getting ready to being a full-time Cup driver than where your finish is in these 10 races. There’s the knowledge and experience that she’s going to get, hopefully, through those races that matters more to me then her finishing position.” SPEED.COM'S TOM JENSEN HAS THE FULL STORY

Ryan the architect: Contrasting his performance in last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup to teammate Tony Stewart, who won the championship, Ryan Newman said they had the same tools but Stewart “Built the statue of Liberty” while his No. 39 team “built Frosty the Snowman.”

“We didn’t try to build Frosty the Snowman, we tried to build the Eiffel Tower. We tried to build something big and great, it just didn’t happen. Sometimes you get off.” --Jorge A. Mondaca

Danica a lock for the 500? The addition of a third team to Stewart-Haas Racing gives Danica Patrick the opportunity to run select Sprint Cup races in 2012 – like the season-opening Daytona 500 (Feb. 26 live on FOX) – but nothing is a guarantee yet since she does not have owner points (The top 35 in owner points from 2011 are guaranteed a starting spot in the first five races).

But that may be solved soon.

Greg Zipadelli, Competition Director at SHR and interim crew chief for Patrick’s No. 10 team, hinted that a deal is in the works to provide the superstar driver “insurance” and lock her in the field for the Great American Race.

“We’re close to having a deal, but we’re not talking about it yet. There’s a few little details that aren’t quite there,” Zipadelli said. “We’re working on something to guarantee her in the 500, which is music to my ears and the rest of the guys and everybody else in the sport. I think it’s a very positive thing to have her in. ( is a great sponsor, she has a big fan following – and that’s what this sport is about, the fans.”

Even without a deal for somebody else’s owner points, the championship-winning crew chief feels confident that Patrick would make the field at Daytona.

“I’d be very disappointed if we weren’t in the top 10 (in Daytona 500) qualifying,” said Zipadelli, referencing a fast session during the recent Daytona testing. “I actually think we’ll be better that that ... I really hope we put that thing on the front row. We’ve worked really hard at that.”

That insurance policy could come to fruition this week, with a likely partnership with Tommy Baldwin’s team. --Jorge A. Mondaca

Say what? Love that Tony Gibson referred to his boss Tony Stewart as "an old redneck guy that just loves to race" --Lee Spencer

Danica to skip Indianapolis 500: Big news to start the Media Tour. Danica Patrick will not race in the 2012 Indianapolis 500.

Patrick, 29, will compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway instead as she shifts her focus racing full-time to NASCAR. LEE SPENCER HAS THE FULL STORY

Reason to smile: Aspen Dental has reached a multiyear agreement with Stewart-Haas Racing.

The Syracuse, NY-based company will be the primary sponsor of SHR’s No. 39 team with driver Ryan Newman at the July Sprint Cup race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the September event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. When not serving as primary sponsor, Aspen Dental will be an associate sponsor with placement on the lower-rear quarter panel of the No. 39 Chevrolet Impala and on the upper chest of Newman’s uniform. The company also secured rights to utilize Stewart promotionally.

Lee Spencer tweets: Wow, so Stewart-Haas Racing ended up with the Aspen Dental money earmarked originally for Steve Wallace. Kudos for Ryan Newman


Eyes on 2013: Ford on Tuesday will become the first manufacturer to unveil its all-new 2013 model NASCAR race car.

The new Ford race car is based on the recently-revealed 2013 Ford Fusion production car that was a hit at the North American International Auto Show Media Days in Detroit.

The all-new 2013 race cars — including Fusion — signify a major return to auto manufacturer identity in the sport, and the new Fusion has spent the past year as a joint project between the Ford Design Center and Ford Racing to sculpt and create an all-new look for the vehicle.


What's on tap today?

NASCAR Power Rankings


Smoke begins his repeat quest on FOX. See the road he faces with the 2012 SPRINT CUP SCHEDULE.

Stewart-Haas Racing:  As reported before Preseason Thunder at Daytona earlier this month, Danica Patrick is locked into the Daytona 500 for her Sprint Cup debut through collaboration with Tommy Baldwin Motorsports. David Reutimann is running the balance of the races in the GoDaddy car. Also, will Danica race in the Indy 500? Expect Danica’s big reveal on Monday.

Joe Gibbs Racing: After more than a decade of leading the No. 20 car, Greg Zipadelli has rejoined Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing, opening the door for veteran Nationwide Series crew chief Jason Ratcliff to get his shot in the big show. Darian Grubb brings his championship credentials to JGR in an effort to jumpstart Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 car. And bad boy Kyle Busch? Wonder if he’s hit Coach up for 10 percent finder’s fee on Dollar General and Monster yet.

Michael Waltrip Racing: Michael Waltrip Racing has a dramatic new look this season with veterans Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin coming on board. Hopefully, Bowyer and Martin’s success will rub off on Martin Truex Jr., who has shown little progress since taking over the No. 56. Said Martin on Saturday: “MWR has tremendous amount of sponsors . . . they are winning the battle.” And Waltrip is expected to add to that sponsor roster on Monday.

— Lee Spencer

Tagged: Danica Patrick, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip, Joey Logano

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