Media Tour Lessons Learned

NASCAR

NASCAR kicked off the Media Tour on Tuesday.

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There were several takeaways from the 34th annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom.

After three days of presentations, interviews and news announcements here were the main stories that caught my attention:

NASCAR Changes Continue
There were no major modifications to the Sprint Cup Series championship format unveiled by the sanctioning body but some big changes are coming to the XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series. Both divisions will utilize a Chase-like system in 2016 and feature the same knockout elimination idea that has been used in the Cup Series the last two seasons. While the feedback from most is positive and that move as well as the inclusion of heat races at four XFINITY Series "Dash 4 Cash" races, there is much more skepticism about the “Countdown Clock” announced for Truck Series competition. A green flag run of 20 minutes will trigger and automatic caution flag, a concept some applaud as innovative while others view as manipulation.

Kenseth-Logano Feud Simmers
Anyone who thought Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano would carry last year’s controversial disagreement into 2016 were disappointed, at least in terms of what was said at the Media Tour. Both drivers appear at peace with moving on from the incident that erupted last November at Martinsville and sent Kenseth on a two-race suspension from NASCAR. If there is still any harboring ill will between the two it was not on display in Charlotte.

Roush Fenway Racing Remains Positive
“What’s wrong with Roush Fenway Racing” has perhaps been the most asked question in the sport for the last several seasons. But after another poor year in 2015, the organization remains optimistic for the future. Personnel changes from crew chiefs to engineers have taken place at Roush and while recognizing shortcoming from the past; the entire team spoke positively about renewed enthusiasm for better days ahead this season.

Stewart Speaks Out
Tony Stewart will be under the spotlight during his farewell season in 2016 but don’t expect the warm and fuzzy send-off Jeff Gordon received last year. Stewart made it clear he’s not interested in being a weekly visitor to the media center to receive accolades and gifts from track presidents like Gordon did last year. Stewart also showed he’s still willing to speak his mind when he called out NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France for not being more visible on race weekends or spending the time talking to competitors like his father Bill France Jr. did during his reign in the sport. But Stewart’s biggest concern should be getting back to somewhere near the competitive driver he used to be and ending his career on a positive note.

Last Minute Maneuvers
While the big organizations have had all their personnel moves in place for sometime including driver and crew chief pairings, the week found smaller teams putting the finishing touches on 2016 plans. Tommy Baldwin Racing surprisingly announced Regan Smith would pilot its No. 7 ride this season, a car most thought still belonged to Alex Bowman. Leavine Family Racing has merged with Circle Sport Racing and created a Richard Childress Racing alliance, a partnership that will result in the team changing to Chevrolets and fielding a Daytona 500 car for Ty Dillon. However it now appears the music has stopped and every seat in the Sprint Cup Series garage is filled.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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