Busy Times Ahead

There won't be much down time in the racing world over the winter months with several events and even some off-season racing on the calendar before Speedweeks rolls around at Daytona International Speedway.

Most every team is hard at work preparing for the fast-approaching 2010 season and despite being banned from testing at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks that won't stop several organizations from heading to spots like Florida's New Smyrna Speedway, Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina or Virginia International Raceway to shake down their new mounts.

Drivers will also be busy away from the shop and track with many participating in a variety of charitable and fan-oriented events.

Sprint Speed & Sound, a two-day affair in Nashville that combines country music stars and NASCAR is scheduled for January 8-9 in the Music City. The popular event also raises money for several charities including the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

Some of the greatest names in country music will kick off the two-day event at the Grand Ole Opry on Friday, Jan. 8. The special night of music, which will include two shows at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., will feature American Idol Season 8 finalist Danny Gokey, making his Opry debut, Holly Williams (9:30 p.m. show only) and Jason Michael Carroll (7 p.m. show only) along with already announced participants Hank Williams Jr. (9:30 p.m. show only), Chris Young and Kyle Petty and his band.

There will also be appearances by Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray and Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Greg Biffle during the Friday night event.

On Saturday, Jan. 9 the event continues at Nashville's Municipal Auditorium, where fans of racing and country music will have the opportunity to get up-close and personal with drivers, team owners, and top-name artists for autographs, story-telling, and question-and-answer sessions. The fan event will feature show car and sponsor displays, as well as a charitable auction with memorabilia from the racing and entertainment industries. NASCAR stars Aric Almirola, Justin Allgaier, Kyle Petty, Michael Annett, Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, James Buescher, Brad Kesolowski, Logan Ruffin, Brian Scott and Morgan Shepherd join already announced participants Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip, Clint Bowyer, Reed Sorenson, and David Stremme. Also participating in the festival will be Danny Gokey, Danielle Peck, Corey Smith, Ashton Shepherd, Brady Seals, Nathan Lee Jackson and duo Kate & Kacey who join previously announced participants Jason Michael Carroll, Josh Turner, members of Diamond Rio, and Chris Young.

The following weekend Daytona 500 champions Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are among the drivers that will appear at NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fests at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, Jan. 15 and Saturday, Jan. 16.

Tickets, which are available for $15, are on sale now at 1-800-PITSHOP or online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com with autograph session availability limited to 250 people per driver in advance.

Also on tap that weekend is the annual "Chili Bowl" indoor midget race in Tulsa, Oklahoma. With 252 entries from 27 states as well as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the 24th annual event has become one of the season's most anticipated events. The top three finishers from each night's main event from January 12-15 will be locked into the 50-lap main event Jan. 16, with the balance of Saturday’s feature lineups determined by qualifying night finishing positions.

Kasey Kahne and Jason Leffler are a couple of the NASCAR contingent expected to participate in this year's event.

The following week in Charlotte the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway takes place. More than a 1,000 media members from around the world gather for a pre-season look at the sport and a chance to talk with drivers and team members about the upcoming season.

Following the "Roar Before the 24" test session on January 8-10, the twice-around-the-clock Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona ends the month of January on the 30-31st, kicking off Speedweeks 2010 with the sports car stars of the world joined by several NASCAR drivers including Jimmie Johnson.

Also that weekend on January 29th and 30th the seventh running of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, which brings together the top racers from across North America will be highlighted by the 225-lap Camping World Series all-star race will take place at Toyota Speedway of Irwindale. Each race winner during the 2009 Camping World Series season is eligible for a protected starting spot, as are the 2009 champions from each of NASCAR’s six regional touring series and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion.

In addition to eligible 2009 race winners and series champions, the starting lineup will be determined through time trials, limited provisionals for Camping World Series regulars, and the last-chance "Open" race that provides drivers one final chance to make the grid.

The 2010 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown schedule also includes 100-lap Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model and 75-lap Late Model races. Both nights of racing will air live on SPEED.

And then the first week of February the stock cars roll into Daytona to officially kick off the season with Daytona 500 qualifying and the Budweiser Shootout set for Saturday, February 6 - one day before the Super Bowl. That day also includes the ARCA 200 which will see Danica Patrick make her stock car debut.

So while the official beginning of the 2010 season may still be more than a month away, there is no shortage of activities to get race fans through the long winter months.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2010

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