The long NASCAR season rarely has a “snow caution,” but as the “NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway” got underway in downtown Charlotte during the last week in January, flurries arrived as well.
Drivers were upbeat and shared warm thoughts about the upcoming season.
Fortunately, no race cars will be spinning wheels in anything wet, slushy or frozen.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup season will launch on February 23 with the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, where snow is not expected. Florida is renowned for plentiful rays of sunshine. Even if numerous days in winter months may be cloudy and chilly, Florida snow is extremely rare.
So NASCAR race cars are expected to complete the famous 500 miles at DIS, the “World Center of Racing,” without snowflakes amid hot competition.
In preparation for the first and most significant motorsports event outside of Indianapolis, NASCAR teams brought upbeat moods to Charlotte’s Convention Center.
All the big teams showed up to speak with members of the media—Stewart-Haas Racing, Levine Family Racing, JTG Daugherty, Chip Ganassi Racing w/Felix Sabates, Richard Childress Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Wood Brothers Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and last, but certainly not least, Joe Gibbs Racing.
NASCAR also hosted its Hall of Fame induction ceremonies the same week
Optimism is always high this time of year, before the long season begins. It permeates the comments from many top drivers, crew chiefs and team owners.
Five top NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers shared their optimism about warm horizons in 2014.
Brad Keselowski didn’t have a banner year after winning the Sprint Cup Championship in 2012, but he is pumped for the running of his No. 2 Ford Fusion in 2014.
“I get goose bumps at the start of every season because it’s a new opportunity and that really comes to fruition starting on media day and Daytona testing,” Keselowski said. “A special thanks to the convention hall and the Hall of Fame for putting this all together.”
Carl Edwards will once again try to get his No. 99 Ford Fusion into the champion circle in 2014 and stressed how the beginning of the year has special vigor.
“The start of the season—always a lot of energy,” Edwards said. “Daytona 500 is huge. Probably one of the most energy-filled days in all of motorsports. The end of the season can get exciting. The whole year there are times where it depends on how you run.”
Kyle Busch is always a champion contender in his No. 18 Toyota Camry and chimed in with Keselowski and Edwards.
“The beginning of the season is always just—you're sort of the freshest,” Busch said. “It's a lot easier to come out of the gate and feel revived and refreshed and ready to go and tackle a whole new season. It's a fresh start. You're not behind in any points.”
Joey Logano comes off a strong year in his No. 22 Ford Fusion and looks to roll well in 2014 as well.
“We’re looking for a year that we try to win this championship,” Logano said. “I feel like we’re in position to do it. We’ve got the best owner in the business, the best teammates and the best crew chiefs, so we’re ready to go, and I can’t wait for Daytona.”
Austin Dillon will stimulate a mix of reactions when he takes to the track in his No. 3 Chevrolet SS for his first full season in NSCS. The No. 3 has been dormant in the Cup Series since Dale Earnhardt died at Daytona in 2001. Dillon was optimistic like his fellow drivers.
“We’ve got two tests now under our belt with a really solid team,” Dillon said. “There’s no weak link on that team, and I’m really excited about how fast our cars have been. The whole gang worked hard putting speed into RCR. I feel like it’s going to show up.”
Drivers remain upbeat coming off the Sprint Media Tour hosted by CMS heading into Daytona. Major changes in rules for qualifying, Chase format and penalties announced around the tour will set a different competitive tone.
NASCAR studies carefully any changes it makes, sometimes for years. This year, the alterations are significant.
Qualifying is now knockout style. Fans may like that better, as it sounds more exciting than single-car qualifying runs.
The new elimination structure of the Chase may have a gauntlet effect that should thrill fans, as only four top contenders can roll into Homestead for their last stand.
As always, only one champion will emerge, but it won’t be because that one driver banked points on the way south to Florida. Indeed, the winning driver can’t have two or three bad races in a row during the Chase and expect to advance.
Penalties will be more visible now to all teams with new procedures and warnings. That might save some points and funds for some teams tweaking an edge that could get penalized.
Time will tell how these dramatic changes will affect drivers, teams and fans. Thirty-six point races over the next 10 fast months in 2014 will tell motorsports fans a lot. Avid fans aren’t expected to be silent about changes, as they are notoriously vocal.
NASCAR will be listening.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.