Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour: 10 things learned on Day Two
Ten things we learned on Tuesday, the second day of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom:
ANOTHER NEW RULES PACKAGE: NASCAR has said it hopes to release its 2016 Sprint Cup rules package by April or May and that package could be tested in the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. According to Rodney Childers, the 2014 championship crew chief, there would be pros and cons to running it in the all-star event.
"I like the idea of doing it from the standpoint that we would have a race, know how it played out, what the cars drove like," Childers said. "The problem is, I think it’s going to be so much different that it’s going to be hard to commit cars to it. The cars that we have right now aren’t good for it. Your going to have to change things on the front clip structure. … From what we’ve looked into it already, it’s going to be a huge distraction."
D-I-V-O-R-C-E: Once friendly rivals, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon still have bad blood over 2012 incidents at Martinsville and Phoenix.
"You’re never good with somebody when it gets that ugly," Bowyer said. "Jeff and I hit it off right off the bat, away from the track and at the banquets and stuff like that we really enjoyed each other. Even in the offseason on a couple boating trips I’ve had fun with Jeff. It’s kind of like a divorce," he said. "You may appreciate them from time to time, but at then end of the day, you don’t like them anymore."
NO DANICA DOUBLE: Although she led laps in the Indianapolis 500 and nearly won in the past, don’t expect Danica Patrick to attempt to run the Indy 500-Coca-Cola 600 double anytime soon.
"I have less thoughts about doing Indy every year," said Patrick, who has six top-10 finishes, including a best finish of third, in IndyCar’s biggest race. "Like I said last year and the year before, really, the further I get away from it, the less I think about it and the less I want to do it because I feel like really being in the position to have a chance to win every year that I went there pretty much was something great, and I don’t want to do anything to take away from that and what I accomplished by going there and being worse than that, essentially," Patrick said.
HEART HEALTHY: Michael Waltrip Racing driver Brian Vickers will miss the first two races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season as he recovers from heart surgery last month. But the veteran driver said Tuesday that when he returns at Las Vegas Motor Speedway he will be ready to go all-out.
"From a health standpoint, my doctors have insisted on giving me enough confidence that I’ll be healthy and ready to go and strong as ever," Vickers said Tuesday. "Mentally, how do I feel about it? I’ve gone through this several times now and I feel just fine, but until Las Vegas I won’t know."
TONY LIKES RICO: Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart is a huge fan of 4-foot, 4-inch Rico Abreu, who bested more than 200 drivers to win the recent Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"He’s awesome," Stewart said of Abreu. "He’s another guy who’s going to turn heads. He’s small in stature, but he’s got a ton of talent. He’s got talent that rivals what (Kyle) Larson and some of these guys that have come up lately have. He was the second-winningest driver in sprint cars last year, so his stats speak for themselves.
MWR FIRES BACK AT BUSCH: Speaking during Monday’s Joe Gibbs Racing portion of the media tour, Kyle Busch called the Toyota teams of JGR and Michael Waltrip Racing "idiots" for not working more closely together for the betterment of both organizations, which collectively won just two races throughout all of 2014. On Tuesday, MWR’s Clint Bowyer responded to Busch’s harsh assessment.
"If we could get Kyle to work better with us, I think that it would be beneficial, for sure," MWR driver Clint Bowyer said, as the room broke into laughter.
MOFFITT STEPS UP: Brian Vickers, who is recovering from last month’s heart surgery, will return to the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 Toyota in the third race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Tuesday morning, team co-owner Michael Waltrip announced that Brett Moffitt will drive the No. 55 in the second race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Waltrip himself will pilot the car in the Daytona 500. Vickers has been granted a medical exemption and will be eligible to race for the championship despite missing the first two races of the season.
MIKEY‘S SCHEDULE SLIM: Michael Waltrip said he’ll run the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota in the Daytona 500 and perhaps in the other three restrictor-plate races. But beyond that, nothing is scheduled.
"I’d like to run Daytona and Talladega, and I don’t have a plan for any other (races) at this point," said Waltrip. "… If we can find the right sponsor partner for Talladega that wants me to drive, I’ll do that and the second Daytona again in July. So just play it by ear. We still have some open inventory on Clint’s car. … That’s the first priority — putting someone on Clint’s car."
NO DOUBLE OUTLAW YET: Kurt Busch said Tuesday that he’s not had any discussions with Michael Andretti about making a second attempt at the Indianapolis 500-Coca-Cola 600 double this year. Last year, Busch won rookie-of-the-year honors and finished sixth in the 500, only to suffer an engine failure midway through the Charlotte race.
Then again, with team co-owner Gene Haas starting a Formula One team, maybe Busch can try his hand at that. "That would be fun, to drive the Formula One car," said Busch, who has also driven a V8 Supercar and an NHRA Pro Stocker. "You would probably work through the Ferrari connection, where they have the facility and the test track. I’ve been trying to get my hands on any vehicle that moves here the last few years. It’s fun to experience different forms of motorsports."
‘DINGER TIME: Last year, AJ Allmendinger won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race and made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time as a driver and for JTG Daugherty Racing as a team. This year, Allmendinger said, starting strong will be important. As a result, he’s pointing to the second race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which will be the first one with the new rules package.
"It’s critical, especially for a team like ours," Allmendinger said of getting the season started on the right foot. "For us, to go have strong races, get to Atlanta and you’ve got that Thursday test day and really just kind of starts the season. If we can go there and have some good races early on, that just makes the momentum, the confidence so much higher than struggling. It just makes the season a lot easier. These first seven, eight races, that’s really critical for us."