FYI WIRZ: NASCAR Sprint Media Tour on final view of 2011

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FYI  WIRZ: NASCAR Sprint  Media Tour on final view of 2011
Joe Gibbs talks about Tony Stewart during 20th anniversary of JGR

When the National Assocaition for Stock Car Racing Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway completed its fourth and final day in late January, justifiably fatigued media members had happily endured more than 21 press conferences, taken 12 bus trips and visited six NASCAR team garages in four days.  

Uninterrupted presentations, interviews, dining and hospitality certainly put a strain on the creative time for 200 select media members, but they proceeded into the final day of activities to gather more information starting with a NASCAR.com breakfast.  
 
The last work day was shorter but impressive.

NASCAR.com has a new page for loyal internet fans and Jason Williams, general manager, was quick to point out what’s coming.

 "We see NASCAR.com as the 24/7/365 presence of this sport,” Williams said.  “It's always on, and it's always available.  And in some cases, it's the first interaction a new fan has with NASCAR.  So, we need to consistently deliver every single product available. It gets them more deeply engaged in the sport, or maybe even introduces them to something they have never experienced before.
 
"Our redesigned home page will have a lot of new data.  Fans can actually watch it change during the race to reflect the status of the race.

“For our Race View product, it will be absolutely the most in-depth and in control a
fan can get with both the action on track and some of the data."

Jack Roush takes media questions at his headquarters

National Hot Rod Association drag racing is as different from NASCAR stock car racing as straight is different from circles, but they share speed.  In Charlotte, they also share turf with Charlotte Motor Speedway with the zMAX Dragway built by Bruton and Marcus Smith in Concord, N.C.   

NHRA President Tom Compton announced the creation of a limited-edition pewter
version of the Wally trophy that will be awarded during NHRA’s 60th anniversary this
season.

 "It's hard to believe it's been three years since we sat here and talked about building the Bellagio of drag racing," Compton said. "At our awards ceremony last November, we presented Bruton (Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports, Inc.) with a 'Wally' trophy for what he's done for our sport. We've never honored a non-driver like that before."

Compton also said to celebrate its 60th season in 2011 the NHRA will have special programs aimed at "an homage to hot rods and our fans."

"The NHRA Legends program is how we will introduce our young fans to the glory of the past at races," Compton said.  "Those Legends will participate in special media events before and during races.  A very special one is the Walk the Track program, where a lucky group of fans will get to walk the track before final eliminations on Sunday with one of the legends of our sport."

Buses loaded with media members took to the road again for stops at Roush Fenway Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. 

Shirley Muldowney and Larry Dixon with pewter NHRA torphy

At the Roush Racing headquarters jet hanger, Jack Roush was optimistic about the future.

 "All of our sponsors agree they continue to see NASCAR as the sport that's very important to their marketing efforts," Roush said.  "They see Roush Fenway as an organization that's a terrific investment and for good reason. For 2011, every Cup program has all new cars built.  We have realigned our engineering department and we have new software to run our programs on.

"The economy is getting better," Roush said.  "The challenge now is to bring new partners into the sport."

Award time came to the Roush hanger as Edsel Ford presented the Spirit of Ford Award to Kevin Kennedy, director of Ford Racing public affairs for PCGCampbell.

Also announced were the AFLAC Russ Catlin Award winners.  The 26th annual Aflac Motorsports Journalism Awards of Excellence recipients were: Daily News—Nate Ryan of USA Today.  Other News—Chris Johnson of NASCAR Illustrated.  National Broadcasting—Lauren Stovall of ESPN.  Local Broadcasting—Brian Kessler of Fox News

Then the buses rumbled on to the final stop of the tour at Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters where media members were treated to a 20th anniversary presentation.  Joe Gibbs and J.D. Gibbs invited guests on stage former JGR drivers Tony Stewart and, Bobby Labonte and then current drivers Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano with vice president of racing operations, Jimmy Makar.    
 
 "Twenty years ago we had 16 employees working in a small leased building," Joe Gibbs said.  "Today, we have more than 400.  This is a good time for us.  We've had two of our most important sponsors re-up in the middle of this financial situation.  We're also adding a Nationwide team this year."

Sprint Media Tour banners

Labonte remembered his JGR moments. 

"What made the team click for that 2000 championship?" Labonte asked.  "A lot of things were responsible, but Jimmy Makar and I were very tight.  That had a lot to do with it."

Joe Gibbs was quick to talk about Stewart’s reputation.

"There were only a few times that were a little bit, uh…Gibbs said.  “Then, he became an owner and not one ripple.  He doesn't call Goodyear names, nothing.  I wondered, 'has he had a lobotomy?'”

J.D. Gibbs brought up a piece of history about Tony Stewart.

"For 1997, we wanted to form a second team,” Gibbs said.  “We asked all the guys to write down the name of the driver they wanted the most and put it in a hat.  There was one name on every piece of paper.  That was Tony Stewart."

The tour ended on the high note of the humorous display by many on the JGR stage and one-on-one interviews later.  It was great entertainment for weary press members.

With that the buses fired their hearty engines and press members were released at the Hilton late afternoon.  Most climbed into their vehicles and hit the road without a bus under them. 

Rest for those on the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway is something done after the trek home.

Photo credit: Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com

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

FYI WIRZ is the swift presentation of pertinent motorsports topics by Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com.

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