Media Tour Musings
January 29, 2005 | 11:36 A.M. EST
Other than that, it was a pretty quiet week.
For the 22nd year, media members from around the country gathered in Charlotte for a week-long visit with team owners, drivers and crew chiefs. The public relations staff from Lowe's Motor Speedway, headed by Jerry Gappens, does a great job of organizing this annual right of winter. The week includes visits to several team shops around the area, breakfast and dinner functions and an opportunity to talk with drivers about the upcoming season.
Unfortunately, there isn't much in the way of breaking news to report.
Optimism runs high on the tour with most everyone reciting the "I'm excited about 2005" mantra. But it seems NASCAR's new "Pre-Season Thunder" test session in Daytona has replaced the tour as an announcement destination.
Daytona generated Robby Gordon's sponsorship plans, the revision of NASCAR's qualifying procedure for the Top 35 in points and the Daytona 500, Bill Elliott's limited schedule in 2005 and the IROC field for the coming season.
That didn't leave much for Charlotte.
Even the annual "Tireside Chat" with Bruton Smith and Humpy Wheeler, which is usually good for at least a few quotes, was muted with the absence of Smith, who was away on business. Wheeler did his usual good job of covering a variety of topics and was generous with his time for reporters, but there simply wasn't much to report this year.
The tour does provide the chance to interact with drivers on a much more personal level than a weekend at the track. All teams are gracious hosts and the time is well spent for feature stories and previews.
And the opportunity to walk through the jaw-dropping headquarters of Penske Racing South would have made the trip to Charlotte this year worthwhile on its own.
So with a notebook full of optimistic quotes and a bag full of goodies, we're ready to head to Daytona and get the season started in earnest.
And come to think of it, maybe I will have that second helping of dessert.