NASCAR Sprint Media Tour: Day 1

Austin Dillon

Austin Dillon's No. 3 NASCAR Nationwide Series Advocare Chevrolet Camaro. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)


CONCORD, N.C. – The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway kicked off Monday with Stewart-Haas Racing and Richard Childress Racing taking the spotlight.

More than 200 journalists from around the country are on hand for the 31st annual sneak peek of the upcoming NASCAR season.

The tour began with an official announcement from Sprint about plans for the upcoming Sprint Unlimited race at Daytona Int’l Speedway. Formerly known as the Budweiser Shootout, the February 16th event will undergo a drastic change determined by a variety of fan voting. Segment lengths, pit stop strategies and the number of drivers eliminated before the final laps dash to the checkered flag will all be decided through fan choices. (See Also: Fans to Design The Sprint Unlimited)

NASCAR on FOX television analysts Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond discussed the myriad of possibilities that now exist with the race’s new style and applauded the opportunity for fans to dictate the format.

"Today's fans are so much more knowledgeable,” said Waltrip. That makes us more accountable."

Stewart HaasStewart-Haas Racing took center stage for the first official team presentation of the tour. Co-owner Tony Stewart along with fellow SHR drivers Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick were on hand with crew chiefs Steve Addington, Matt Borland and Tony Gibson respectively. (See Also: New Car, New Lineup for SHR)

Stewart is a fan of the new Gen 6 Sprint Cup car and said early feedback from fans has expectations high for the new season.

"If these cars race as good as they drive, it's going to be an awesome year," Stewart said of the off-season testing program.

Patrick will make her move to full-time Sprint Cup Series driver in 2013 with veteran crew chief Tony Gibson calling the shots. Gibson took over the role late last season and believes Patrick and the No. 10 team has a chance to excel.

"The sky is the limit," said Gibson with a smile.

Although Patrick did make ten starts last season she is well aware of the learning curve that remains in his first full Sprint Cup campaign. But she's prepared to deal with the challenges that lie ahead.

We are going to be ‘intelligently patient,’ ” said Patrick. “With on board, we’ve been able to take it nice and slow and have been able to learn and take our time before jumping into the deep end.”

Richard Childress Racing hosted the final stop of the day with an evening session at the organization's Welcome, North Carolina headquarters. Team owner Childress will again field a three-car Sprint Cup Series effort with Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard and after a disappointing 2012 is ready to have things headed in a better direction this season.

"We've made some changes including bringing in Dr. Eric Warren (new competition director) that we think will strengthen our team from top to bottom," said Childress. "We have the people in place to get this team back to being competitive on a weekly basis."

Childress is also excited about the new Chevrolet SS that his team will campaign in 2013 and believes the new Gen-6 Sprint Cup car is a step in the right direction for the sport.

"They're sharp looking cars for sure and fans really like them," said Childress. "Everyone's working hard to make the racing competitive this year to go along with the cars that look a lot like the cars our fans drive."

Childress addressed the speculation about the number "3" returning to the Sprint Cup Series. The iconic number, made famous by Dale Earnhardt during his Hall of Fame career with RCR, has not been used in NASCAR's top division since the tragic Daytona 500 accident in 2001.

But Childress, who has grandson Austin Dillon running it in the Nationwide Series, has not ruled out the possibility of returning the famous number back to the Sprint Cup Series.

“This past season, with Austin running it in Nationwide as much as he did, it’s kind of re-energized a lot of the fans,” Childress said. “The fans come up and the cards and the calls and the emails we get, when we said he was going to run the 33 at Daytona, overwhelmingly people wanted to see the 3.

“Who knows? We haven’t made any decisions at this time.”

Childress did confirm speculation that Kevin Harvick would leave RCR after this year and join Stewart-Haas Racing as was reported by late last season.

"We had a meeting and he told me his plans and we discussed what we were going to do in '13," Childress said. "He'll do well over there at Stewart-Haas, and RCR will keep going and moving forward. I think him and Tony will have a good relationship."

RCR will also run for a Camping World Truck Series title with Ty Dillon while his older brother Austin returns for another full season in the Nationwide Series. Austin will campaign the brand new Chevrolet Camaro in his second full Nationwide effort and likes the look of the iconic car.

'The coolest thing that NASCAR has been able to do and working together with the manufacturers this year is build some awesome looking racecars," said Dillon, who will also pilot an RCR Chevy SS in the season-opening Daytona 500. "Especially the Chevrolet Camaro looks great, I've got one myself. It relates so much to speed and as a driver you want something that looks good on the track and is also fast and I think that's something we're gonna have."

Austin Dillon also announced that he joined the DRIVE4COPD campaign to raise awareness about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. DRIVE4COPD will serve as an associate sponsor of the No. 3 AdvoCare Chevrolet driven by Dillon in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and as a major associate sponsor of the No. 33 Honey Nut Cheerios Chevrolet driven by Dillon in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in this year's Daytona 500.

"It means a lot to be able to work with DRIVE4COPD, a campaign of the COPD Foundation," said Dillon. "It's an honor to play a small part in helping to raise awareness about COPD and work towards improving the quality of people's lives."

The day ended with an announcement from Goody's introducing Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the company's new spokesperson to work alongside Richard Petty.

The second day of the tour is set for Tuesday and will include presentations from Furniture Row Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Speedway Motorsports Inc. and Chevrolet along with the annual state of the sport from NASCAR CEO Brian France.

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