Located in the hills of North Carolina, just a few clicks from the interstate, lies an industrial park.
Hidden inside this rolling landscape of paved roads and concrete structures are a handful of NASCAR race shops.
Situated around this modern day Who-ville of racing are names like Yates, Kahne, Braun, Truex and JR Motorsports.
The cool morning air of December would soon give way to thermal heating from hundreds of motor vehicles snaking their way towards a common destination.
JR Motorsports opened its doors to the media, and a few lucky fans, to introduce Danica Patrick and Kelly Bires as their drivers for the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide campaign.
Photo Credits: All photos David Yeazell.
All photos are copyright David Yeazell.
The guest of honor were (from left to right),
Tony Eury Jr., crew chief for Danica Patrick.
Kelly Earnhardt, General Manager.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., co-owner.
Kelly Bires, driver of the No. 88 Hellmanns Chevrolet.
Tony Eury Sr., Director of Competition and crew chief for Kelly Bires.
The events were emceed by Steve Byrnes of SpeedTV, carried live by SpeedTV and Sirius-XM Radio, and kicked off promptly at 11 AM.
Kelly Earnhardt, General Manager of JR Motorsports, started off the panel discussion by outlining a few races Danica Patrick will be running, and that she could potentially run as many as 13 events in 2010.
Kelly Bires, driver of the No. 88 Hellmanns Chevrolet, appears to be taking a short siesta.
While all the focus and media attention seem to be centering around Danica Patrick, Bires does play an important role for JR Motorsports.
Running every week will give Bires a chance to showcase his abilities and garner his own slice of the media attention pie.
Bires is scheduled to run a full season, but complete funding has not yet been secured.
Sponsorship opportunities for the car are still available and JR Motorsports hopes to fill those gaps.
About 30 lucky contest winners of Jr. Nation were on hand to watch the festivities and eligible to participate by asking questions of the panel.
Once again Jr. Nation delivers.
A question from Facebook asked the panel which driver, Bires, Patrick, or Dale Jr., will win the first race of the 2010 season.
This seemed to amuse the panel, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., and was noted by the media in attendance with a round of applause.
Once the panel discussion was finished, Jerry Gappens, Executive Vice President and General Manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, figured he would get right to promoting his race track.
The giant lobster was brought in in an effort to convince Danica to race in their first Nationwide race held on June 26.
Finally settled in for a more intimate Q&A session, Danica was asked about her thoughts on the giant lobster.
"Thats not really my thing," she said. "I mean, I eat meat and know that a cow dies, but I don't want to know the cow, I don't want to have a relationship with something I am going to eat."
"The thought of that lobster being steamed to death doesn't really make me feel good."
Patrick talked about her love for animals and how the life of a bird, dog and a rabbit came to an abrupt end by contact with her car.
"It really bothers me when I hit something or see something squashed on the road."
Patrick was also asked about her four-inch heels and if anyone made driving shoes like what she wears casually.
"I don't think Christian Dior does," said Patrick, "but thats a great marketing idea."
No, it's not a sign of the hard economic times, at least not yet.
A worker lowers the front suspension on this Danica Patrick show car.
Without the engine and transmission installed, the car sits far above the ground in the front.
Dale Jr. seemed to think they were sitting too high for the safety of the invited guest, and asked that they be lowered as much as possible before the event got started.
This picture is a sign of economic times. Hard times starting with the 2011 season.
These five race cars are ready to roll for Kelly Bires when the season starts at Daytona.
They're good looking, brand new, and obsolete.
Starting with the 2011 season NASCAR has mandated the use of the new COT for the Nationwide series also.
This means a complete stable of new cars must be built.
Ray Evernham once stated the first batch of COT's for Jeff Gordon cost $22 million to build.
Kelly Earnhardt has taken care of Dale Earnhardt Jr's business affairs for a long time.
Jr. said Kelly handled the complete deal with Danica and he was not involved until the end.
"She was born for this stuff," said Earnhardt of his sister, "I trust her completely."
The details of Patricks contract are not exactly known. It was rumored she was shopping an eight-race deal for $1 million per race.
That's a lot of GoDaddy.
This event was certainly high profile and centered around Danica Patrick.
When was the last time Dale Earnhardt Jr. called a press conference, held the press conference in his facility, and didn't get asked a question for the first 15 minutes?
Well he finally got some TV time to chat with the affiliates in attendance and answer some questions.
One of the questions was being an owner vs. driver.
Jr. said being an owner was much more fun and much easier.
With Kelly handling the day to day aspects of the business, he had more time to focus on other things, like his cup career.
"Lord knows I need to focus on that."
Danica Patrick is certainly a high profile catch for JR Motorsports.
Her driving skills and marketability were absolutely part of the decision to hire her.
While she is not the sole future of JR Motorsports, at least not yet, she can almost single-handedly alter its course.
If she hits the ground running and becomes a force in the Nationwide series, even securing a win or two, then her stock is certainly going to go up, as will JR Motorsports stock, but Danica is GoDaddy, just as Gordon is Dupont and Johnson is Lowe's.
JR Motorsports has no Cup program, yet.
A two year deal isn't that much time. Just as your getting a solid start, your almost finished.
Looking forward to the next press conference.