NASCAR’s next owner? Ten things we learned from Day Four of the CMS Media Tour
Ten things we learned on Thursday, the final day of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom:
NO TEAM FOR GORDON: Once Jeff Gordon announced he would no longer race full-time after 2015, fan speculation was rampant that he would divest his shares in Hendrick Motorsports and start a spin-off team, much like Tony Stewart did in 2009 with Stewart-Haas Racing. So we asked Gordon about it, and there was absolutely no ambiguity in his answer, which essentially amounted to, "Fugetaboutit."
"I have no interest whatsoever," Gordon told FOXSports.com. "This is a tough business to be in and I’ve got the best partner in the world in Rick Hendrick. All I want to do is enhance Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been everything to me as a driver and I want to give back to Hendrick Motorsports and the employees and the teams and be a part of that for a long, long time to come. If I’m involved in an ownership position in any way, it will be there, nowhere else."
DALE JR. TO RACE A TRUCK? Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Thursday admitted an interest in making at least one start for JR Motorsports’ new Camping World Truck Series program, which will field a part-time entry for 17-year-old Cole Custer this season.
"I’ve never driven a truck before and I’ve always had that interest to race in the truck," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I’d tell you I would run Martinsville, today, but Cole’s going to get all the shorter tracks due to his age, and we need to get him that experience when we can, and it’s a great opportunity at Martinsville for him to run. So if I run a race, it’ll be at a bigger track where Cole’s not quite cleared to run through NASCAR’s process. It ain’t going to be Daytona."
RCR RIDING HIGH: Ryan Newman’s second-place finish in the 2014 Sprint Cup standings was the best for Richard Childress Racing since Dale Earnhardt won his last title in 1994. Is this the most confident RCR has been going into a season in some time?
"I would say so, because there’s a lot of things that people don’t see," said RCR vice president of competition Mike Dillon. "Obviously, the most important thing is the results on Sunday or what you read in the paper on Monday. But the momentum and the speed that we’ve gained, what we’ve seen in practices and the little things that other people don’t see, we’ve got a lot of momentum. We’ve got a lot of good stuff coming."
FEELING BETTER: Martin Truex Jr. announced Thursday that longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex on Monday underwent what is expected to be her final chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer.
"Things are really looking good," Truex said of Sherry, who was diagnosed last August. "She’s doing great, feeling great, and hopefully this is the start of her returning back to normal, for both of us. It’s been a long journey and she’s been just incredible through the whole thing. She’s a special individual and I’m proud of her for what she’s done. … I’m happy that she’s doing good and we can move on with our lives."
NO WEDDING PLANS: Ty Dillon tied the knot with fiancee Haley Carey last month. So does older brother Austin — who is two years Ty’s senior –foresee wedding bells anytime in his near future?
"I’m good right now, man," Austin said. "I got to experience Ty’s wedding, and Ty’s one of those guys that he found love. It’s cool to see and it’s amazing, but it doesn’t happen very often, so for him I’m very happy and was proud to be a part of the wedding. He found the one … but right now I’m not looking for anything. If it’s out there, it’s out there, but I’m just going on and having fun and trying to stay focused on what I need to do to better my career as far as a race car driver. … I’m going to stay single for a long time, hopefully."
NEW DADDY LARSON STILL LEARNING: A little more than a month after becoming a father for the first time, Kyle Larson says his parenting experience with son Owen "hasn’t been as tough as what everybody has said it’s going to be like." There is at least one area Larson admittedly hasn’t mastered, however.
"I don’t know if it’s the way I put him in the car seat or what, but when I put him in the car seat, he cries a lot, but when (girlfriend) Kaitlyn puts him in there, he’s good," Larson said. "I don’t know if I’m getting it too tight or what, but the last couple days when I buckle him in, he screams the whole way to where we’re going."
BUDDY SYSTEM: Luke Lambert and Justin Alexander both are employed as crew chiefs for Richard Childress Racing, Lambert with the No. 31 car of 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series runner-up Ryan Newman and Alexander on Paul Menard’s No. 27 RCR Chevrolet. But their connection goes much deeper: Lambert and Alexander were actually both roommates at North Carolina State University.
‘FUN‘ MAN STEVE LETARTE ALREADY MISSED: Jimmie Johnson said Thursday that the absence of former crew chief Steve Letarte from Hendrick Motorsports’ 48/88 shop this year has left a void that he hopes to help fill. Greg Ives, Letarte’s successor as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief, tends to act a bit more on the serious side. Ditto for Johnson’s longtime pit boss, Chad Knaus.
"I think we’re going to have to as a group inside the 48/88 shop remember to have fun, because Steve just created that environment," Johnson said. "With Chad and Greg being as serious as they are, it’d be easy for us to kind of be more introverted than we need to. So that’s something that I think Junior and I need to be there for our group and have them count on us for that, and help lighten things up and have a little fun in the shop."
RTA NOT A BIG DEAL: Last year, when the NASCAR Sprint Cup team owners formed the Race Team Alliance, it made headlines. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said the coalition was unnecessary and that NASCAR would continue to talk to teams on an individual basis. As it turns out, there may be less to the RTA than originally thought.
"I think the press has made more about this RTA than there really is," said Felix Sabates, co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. "I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t even gone to a meeting. To me, it’s just one more thing we’ve got to do. We’ve got to figure out a way to cut costs. And NASCAR’s doing a good job trying to cut costs, and now it’s us (the team owners) that have got to cut costs. Because sometimes we as car owners inflict our own pain. When it comes to cost savings, there’s a lot of things that we could do as car owners that we don’t."
ENGINE SHOP CRANKING: NASCAR’s new-for-2015 engine regulations are keeping engine builders busy, and Hendrick Motorsports is no exception. Doug Duchardt, the team’s general manager, said his technicians are hard at work as the start of the season approaches.
"I can tell you we’re burning a lot of fuel doing development, that’s for sure," said Duchardt. "It’s a big change. … there’s a lot of work going into it."