NASCAR Sprint Media Tour: Day 4
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on January 30, 2014 | 3:03 P.M. EST
Joe Gibbs Racing has high hopes for the coming year after the strong performances from Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, who both made the Chase, as well as the full return of Denny Hamlin. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The 32nd annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour wrapped up Thursday with programs featuring Michael Waltrip Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing plus a “State of the Sport” address from NASCAR CEO Brian France.
MWR comes into the new season as a two-car full-time operation with Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers returning. A third team will run in a part-time schedule as Michael Waltrip and Jeff Burton share the ride.
One of Waltrip’s starts will come in next month’s Daytona 500 with PEAK Antifreeze as sponsor. The company will also adorn Bowyer’s No. 15 entry for three races joining returning sponsor 5-Hour Energy. PEAK will also sponsor Bowyer for three races along with AAA Mid-Atlantic for two races and Charter for the Sprint Showdown.
Vickers has been cleared to return to the wheel of the No. 55 rise after being sidelined late last year by recurring blood clot issues. He plans on running the full season and will have Aaron’s sponsorship for all 2014 events. (Read More)
Waltrip believes the controversy of last year that caused his team to lose sponsor NAPA and shrink to a two-car organization is behind.
“We’re moving forward in a very positive manner and feel like we’re positioned to be stronger going forward,” said Waltrip. “(Team co-owner) Rob Kaufman had a plan and we’re following it into this season. The truth is we were very solid on track last year and there’s no reason to believe we can’t be even better this year.”
Joe Gibbs Racing also had a sponsorship announcement as part of its program as the team welcomes back Skittles for a pair of races on Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Toyota to augment the team’s M&M’s partnership.
However, Busch wasn’t too pleased about the changes to the Chase that have been discussed for the last two weeks. Despite conversations with NASCAR officials, Busch feels the direction is not correct.
"I’m very frustrated in the way our discussion went the other day,” said Busch. “Whether I get fined for today, I don’t know."
Team owner Joe Gibbs has high hopes for the coming year after the strong performances from Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, who both made the Chase, as well as the full return of Denny Hamlin.
“Having Denny back healthy and strong is gonna be huge for this team,” Gibbs said of Hamlin, who missed significant time last year with a back injury. “He won the last race of the year at Homestead and is feeling great. We think there’s a lot to look forward to with that 11 team this year which is so important for JGR and FedEx.”
The day ended with the annual NASCAR “State of the Sport” address featuring CEO and chairman Brian France, who unveiled the much-speculated change to the Chase that begins in 2014. (Read More)
Prior to that announcement NASCAR unveiled the driver line-up for the 2014 “Drive for Diversity” program: Daniel Suarez, Ryan Gifford, Jay Beasley, Sergio Pena, Paige Decker and Devon Amos. (Read More)