NASCAR Sprint Media Tour: Day 1
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on January 27, 2014 | 9:13 P.M. EST
JTG Daugherty brings AJ Allmendinger on as its full-time driver and the team will switch to Chevrolets. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The 32nd annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour kicked off with Stewart-Haas Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing and the Nationwide Series taking center stage.
More than 250 journalists from around the world are in Charlotte to cover the annual pre-season tradition and preview the coming season.
Stewart-Haas Racing kicked off the team proceedings with the new quartet of Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick plus new teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch taking the stage.
Stewart reiterated the progress he’s made recovering from the broken leg suffered in a sprint car accident last summer.
"Everything is in good shape to be in a race car,” Stewart explained. “Luckily we're not in a deal where I gotta do a hundred yard sprint. If we had to do that we'd be in a lot different situation and be in trouble but still having to deal with G forces, vibrations, all those things, things that we haven't had to go through that so we're not going to know until we get into the car for the practice sessions before the Sprint Unlimited what we're really dealing with and how much pain we're really in.”
Stewart said the team embraces the spotlight and expectations from many that the high-profile operation will fail.
"Everyone looks at it as a great opportunity to be a disaster, we look at it as a great opportunity to be a great match," said Stewart.
The talk of the week remains the speculation regarding NASCAR’s expected change to the Chase format and the introduction of a “winner take all” finale among four drivers at Homestead-Miami Speedway. However Harvick isn’t yet sold on the idea.
“Not sure about the ‘one and done’ deal,” said Harvick.
Harvick also had a friendly response to Stewart on the subject of any potential in-team unpleasantness.
"If we're fighting, I'm kicking you in the leg,” he cracked.
A combined program featuring Levine Family Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing was next on the schedule. The LFR organization brought in Michael McDowell as driver in 2014 with KLove Radio sponsoring the 95 ride for 20 races.
McDowell is fine with the for now limited schedule.
“I’m just glad I don’t have to start and park anymore,” said McDowell, referring to his time with Phil Parsons Racing before joining LFR.
JTG Daugherty brings AJ Allmendinger on as its full-time driver as a replacement for Bobby Labonte. The team has also made the switch from Toyota to Chevrolet and has entered into an alliance with Richard Childress Racing.
Team co-owner Brad Daugherty believes the retooled team has an opportunity to greatly improve its performance.
“Look the last couple years we got our butt kicked,” said Daugherty. “But the moves we made bringing in AJ and aligning ourselves with RCR really gives us the chance I think to go out and kick some other butts this year.”
Allmendinger believes his recent career challenges can be rectified with having a solid home at JTG-Daugherty.
“This is a good place that I can hopefully be at for a long time. They don’t make me feel like I’m only a race car driver, but they make me feel like I’m part of this family,” said Allmendinger. “This season is all about putting things together, piece by piece, and hopefully that translates into wins and success.”
The day ended with an event featuring Nationwide Series drivers at a bowling event held in uptown Charlotte.
Tuesday’s schedule includes sessions with Chip Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and an evening event featuring Speedway Motorsports Inc. head Bruton Smith.