FYI WIRZ: NASCAR Sprint Media Tour on Second View of 2011

Dwight DrumCorrespondent IIIFebruary 3, 2011

Michael Waltrip taking questions during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
Michael Waltrip taking questions during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour

The first green flag of the long and furious NASCAR season will drop soon, and in preparation 200 select media in late January attended the 29th annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC. Media members filled three buses to become guests at various shop headquarters in the area, while attending breakfasts, luncheons, dinners and hospitality events.      

The first day with Earnhardt Ganassi, Stewart-Haas, Penske Racing and SPEED/FOX has been reported in this series. The object of this four-part endeavor is to take fans where they can’t be. The result should give fans a closer look at attitudes and changes for the new season.

The second day, the next view of the 2011 season on the horizon had the most rigorous agenda of the tour, from 7:30 am to midnight.

The day began with Michael Waltrip introducing his book on Dale Earnhardt, "In the Blink of an Eye," to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Earnhardt’s passing.

"When I started writing the book," Waltrip said, "I thought it would be therapeutic and I would come out of it with a better grasp of that day. I think it is healthy to delve into things from your past that hurt, and I did that. Even after going through this experience, I still can't explain how that day turned out the way it did. That'll be a question I'll find out when I'm not on this earth anymore."

The Nationwide Series might be more exciting with new body styles that resemble manufacturer cars and the change in championship choices that take place in 2011.  Nationwide Series Director Joe Balash explained.

“There has been a lot of talk about the drivers having to select the series that they were going to run for the championship,” Balash said. “There has been a lot of involvement with the teams, the drivers and the sponsors. It really adds emphasis to the Nationwide Series, putting that emphasis back on the Nationwide drivers.”

The first bus stop of the day was at Charlotte Motor Speedway to see the construction of the World’s largest HDTV construction, Panasonic's 16,000-square-foot "flat screen to end all flat screens," Marcus Smith, GM of CMS, explained.  

"With more than nine million LED lamps, this video board will give people the benefit of being at the race—having the whole race experience—and getting to see replays and important events up close," Smith said. "I can't wait to see it.”

NASCAR television commentators Jeff Hammond and Mike Joy joined Smith on the track.

"Bruton, Marcus and the speedway are always raising the bar," Hammond said. “Once again, here it is. My question is, will guys going down the back straight try to look up to see how good they are doing?"

Mike Joy added, “This is a fantastic project. A lot of ballparks put in big screens so fans don't miss replays of important events. This is a groundbreaking project. No fan is ever going to miss the action.”

Many experts look to Richard Childress Racing to continue its winning ways.

Richard Childress was presented with the Sporting News Owner of the Year Award for the third time.

"Each time I have been fortunate enough to get this award it's not about Richard Childress," he said. “This is for all our people at RCR, our drivers, our teams and our sponsors. My name is on it but this belongs to RCR."

RCR drivers Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton commented on last year and this year.

"We had a good 2010 season with two wins," Bowyer said. "But that is all in the past. You are only as good as your last race, your last performance."

Harvick said, "To compete on a week to week basis was very important to us. I'm glad we had that experience. As we go into the year, we want to be as good as we were last
year. We want that trophy."

"We put ourselves in the position to win a lot of races early in the year," Burton said. "We just never were able to execute on that. This year I feel good about everything the team is doing."

Kevin Buckler and his TRG Motorsports organization that competes in NASCAR and Grand- AM sponsored a hospitality hour prior to Red Bull Racing hospitality moments with Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne.
Vickers is medically and mentally ready to return to racing after sitting out part of the 2010 season.

 “I’ve used this quote several times, and I have to give Dale Earnhardt credit for it," Vickers said. “He said being out of the car was like watching his wife cheat on him. Sitting on top of that box, I know exactly what he went through.”

Kasey Kahne left Richard Petty Motorsports late in 2010 to join Red Bull before his move to Hendrick Motorsports in 2010.

“I didn’t really have a next step for 2011, but this whole Red Bull thing came together, and it’s as good as anything I’ve ever had—if not the best thing I’ve ever had,” Kayne said. “It’s pretty exciting. I look forward to the whole season.”

The long day ended after eventful touring and vigorous media participation in press conferences and one-on-one interviewing.    

Quotes and schedule courtesy NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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