Live Coverage: Media Day
February 8, 2007 | 8:32 A.M. EST
Throughout the day, RacingOne's team of writers will file updates of the media gatherings with all of the top drivers in NASCAR's three premier racing series - the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
While you check out the coverage, make sure to check out the RacingOne Community Forums where fans from all over the world are voicing their opinions on all of NASCAR's hot topics including the upcoming 2007 season.
The day’s action has already begun with David Stremme, David Gilliland, Mark Martin and Carl Edwards amongst the first drivers to speak to the media. They will be followed shortly by Defending NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, two-time former NEXTEL Cup Champion Tony Stewart and heralded rookie Juan Pablo Montoya.
In the afternoon, start drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Kasey Kahne are amongst the many on the slate.
Stay with RacingOne throughout the day for comprehensive coverage of Media Day at Daytona International Speedway.
NASCAR has officially hit Russia – okay, maybe just Montoya-Mania.
While everybody expected Juan Pablo Montoya’s move from Formula One to NASCAR would bring South American followers to the sport – nobody could have expected quite the reach that has already been established.
“Not only the Latin community in the states, but people in Europe and Latin America will be watching and following the races, and I think that’s pretty good. People from Texaco, they are even going to do a promotion in Russia. Russia wants to have their own website about NASCAR, Texaco and everything.
Edwards: “In ’05, I feel like Roush Racing was the team to beat on the track. We had it all going for us. But, it doesn’t take much to go from great to good and from good to struggling. Last year was just a matter of some other people figuring things out. The Childress cars were really good last year. Last year was not a terrible year, it was just mediocre. Kenseth did well, but the rest of us were off. This year we just want to address some things to correct that. We’ve done that. Hopefully, it will pay off.”
Bobby Labonte was one of a growing handful of drivers who didn’t have much of an off-season.
Although many complain about the seemingly-endless NEXTEL Cup season, Labonte raced the grueling Rolex 24 At Daytona – the season opening event for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series – along with participating in two rounds of preseason testing at Daytona International Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"I don’t think that for the Daytona 500, running the Rolex is going to help you as far as racing goes. But I think that in your mind, you’ve run a race. When you get here, you’ve already been suited up, sweated, and now you are ready to go.
"In your mind, I think it’s already started – you don’t have to wait so long."
Should success follow Labonte - or the various others who competed in races during the off-season - expect this trend to continue to rise in 2008.
J.J. Yeley’s head is still spinning from the recent Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he finished second behind Tony Stewart.
"There was an ice storm that came through that shut down any airport within 300 miles, so my biggest problem after the Chili Bowl was over Saturday, I had to be back in Charlotte by 7 o’clock, so I could get to Daytona. I drove from Tulsa through the snow and through the ice to Little Rock, Arkansas, to catch a flight to Charlotte, just in time to catch my next flight to Daytona, so I could come down here to test."
No bid deal for Yeley, though.
"I’ve been traveling since I’ve been a kid. I’m used to it. I think I spend more days in a motorhome than I do in a house."
Denny Hamlin hasn’t forgotten about Kevin Harvick’s lobster prank.
For those of you who missed it, Denny hates lobster and actually carries a bit of a phobia surrounding them. He doesn’t eat them, look at them or, for that matter, talk about them too much.
Harvick put a live lobster in his motor coach bathroom last year, which frazzled Hamlin a bit. Word has it that he had to call his mom for help to get rid of it.
Now, Hamlin is simply waiting.
"We’re going to wait until he almost forgets about it," Hamlin said, "then we’ll get him – but I’m not gonna tell anyone about it until after it happens."
For the first time in his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career, Rick Crawford has a teammate at Circle Bar Racing, fellow series veteran David Starr.
"International Truck and Engine Brand came on board to sponsor both trucks," Crawford said. "We’ll have Roush engines in both trucks, with Ford factory support on the second team, and Dennis Connor as a crew chief. It’s a big package, and now we seem to have the total package. We felt having the second truck would enhance the performance of my No. 14 truck. I want to be the biggest fan of David Starr, too, and being the first one to congratulate him in victory lane."
While Steve Wallace’s main preparation for Speedweeks is the NASCAR Busch Series’ Orbitz 300, he’s also competing in Saturday’s ARCA 200.
"We’ll be in good shape,"' Wallace said. "Our ARCA car ran well in testing, so I’m excited. The biggest deal in that race is staying out of trouble and staying up front all day. I feel real good about my chances. I’m not being overly confident, but I think our car’s good and we’ll have a good run."
Wallace expects stiff competition in the ARCA RE/MAX Series opener.
"Bobby Gerhart’s good, he’s won here four times, and his car was fast. You’ve got me, you’ve got David Ragan, which is Roush; you’ve got a Ganassi car, you’ve got a Richard Childress car – a lot of big-name teams. We’re going to have to work real hard for it, for sure. Our ARCA car is 180 degrees different from our Busch car, but you can learn a lot about the track and how your car is going to handle in the draft."
Wallace wasn’t all business on Thursday. The youngster joked with reporters about his relationship with his father and his two uncles, Kenny and Mike.
"You can’t believe what it was like growing up with all of that," Wallace said. "The practical jokes and whatnot, they never stop. You get to know a lot of the guys they raced with, too, and it’s amazing. It’s one big funfest. Life’s been good so far. Oh, that’s a song, isn’t it?"
While Ken Schrader is cutting back his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule, that doesn’t mean he’ll be racing less in 2007. Far from it.
“That gives me 10 more weekends that I can go and run the dirt car and stuff,” Schrader said. “I’ll probably run more races than I’ve ever run. I thought the limited schedule would be tearing me apart, but it’s not bothering me too much.”
Schrader is fielding a car in Saturday’s ARCA 200, for 2000 RE/MAX Series champ Bill Baird. He joins eight-time titlist Frank Kimmel as the only champions in the field. If Baird should win, the 57-year-old driver would be the oldest winner in ARCA history.
While David Gilliland’s “day job” is racing the No. 38 M&Ms car in NEXTEL Cup Series competition, he races against that car at night.
“We’ve got a Playstation 2, and when my family comes to the races, I compete against my son in NASCAR 2007,” Gilliland said. “He’s a good gamer, for sure. That’s something that we do as a family, and gives me the opportunity to spend time with him. My son always is Elliott Sadler in the No. 38 car.”
If he can’t drive the No. 38, what car does Gilliland drive?
“I’ve been Dale Jr. or Kevin Harvick, I usually rotate between the two. I would be pretty neat to have my name in the game someday.”
One year ago, Gilliland was working in his Busch Series team’s new shop in Statesville, North Carolina, preparing to run a part-time Busch schedule of around 15 races. His career has come a long way in only one year, with a victory at Kentucky Speedway leading to a sudden promotion to the NEXTEL Cup ranks with Robert Yates Racing.
“I was working under the cars, helping set them up, and helping the team build Busch cars,” Gilliland said. “It’s definitely been a great jump since them. We’ve put a lot into one year. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m very excited about my opportunity for the 2007 season. I’ve learned a lot along the way. The thing I learned the most was to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way, and do the best I can. We were able to do that in the Busch Series, and we’re edging towards that direction in the NEXTEL Cup Series.”
Thursday night, Gilliland will be in his motorhome, practicing on his Playstation 2 so he can be ready to take on the No. 38 car when his son arrives this weekend.