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Charlotte Dateline: NASCAR Hot Topics at Media Tour Day 1

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IJanuary 23, 2012

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 23:  Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, speaks with the media during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on January 23, 2012 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

What began as an experiment 30 years ago with a handful of motorsports journalists that could hardly fill the chartered bus has evolved into the nation's premier preseason media event in professional sports with journalist from around the nation and the world.

The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour, hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, kicked off the first of a four-day news-packed media extravaganza in the heart of NASCAR country. 

The 230-plus credentialed members of the media get the scoop for NASCAR fans with a preview of the season that is about to unfold.

The agenda will include race shop tours, interviews with drivers, crew chiefs and team owners, as well as announcements from teams in NASCAR's top divisions and the NHRA thanks to support from Sprint and NASCAR.

First stop was with Stewart-Haas Racing, where they had a fleet of race cars available for our viewing, including Danica Patrick's GoDaddy No. 10 Chevrolet.

It has been announced that Aspen Dental will be the primary sponsor for Ryan Newman during the July Daytona race and fall New Hampshire race. They will be an associate sponsor for the remaining races.

Patrick announced she will be running the Coca-Cola 600, but described it as the "Coca-Cola 6000," being that it is such a long race.

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CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 23:  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, speaks with the media during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on January 23, 2012 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Patrick also stated she will not try to pull double-duty and run the Indianapolis 500 this year, though she won't rule it out in the future.

SHR continues to work closely with Hendrick Motorsports engine tuners, and they are at the shop at least a couple times per week.

Tony Stewart was asked how things were going with his new crew chief, Steve Addington. In typical Stewart fashion, his comeback was, "He thinks he's on vacation."

Ryan Newman is in the best place ever as far as sponsorship with the No. 39 car, as is Stewart-Haas Racing.

Stewart said in response to what special things he did to celebrate his third title and said, "It's been business as usual."

Patrick expects to shoot for a win at Daytona, but so far as the Cup, she will be looking for top-20 finishes at the rest of the races as she gets her footing in that series.

Stewart will be making an appearance on the television show Last Man Standing on Feb. 14 and will run the No. 33 Oreo car at the Nationwide race on the high banks of Daytona in February.

Tony Gibson, crew chief for Newman, best summed up Stewart-Haas Racing and the success they have by saying they were, "good ole-fashioned racing people."

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 23:  J.D. Gibbs (L), president of Joe Gibbs Racing, and Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, speak with the media during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on January 23, 2012 in Concord,
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The second event was hosted by Joe Gibbs Racing, and Joe Gibbs is focusing on the excitement of the two new crew chiefs on the Cup level, Jason Ratcliff with Joey Logano and Darian Grubb with Denny Hamlin.

Though Gibbs would not name the companies, he was pleased that three of his major sponsors have renewed their commitment, even in this trying economy.

Brian Scott will be driving the Nationwide Dollar General Toyota for the full schedule, and Michael McDowell will drive the Pizza Ranch Toyota on a limited schedule.

All the engines will come out of TRD in Costa Mesa, and they are feeling confident with that program and fuel injection as well.

There was mention by Gibbs that the deal Kyle Busch put together with his brother was done on their own and they will be "hard to beat" in the Nationwide series.

Denny Hamlin was pleased that he was selected to be the driver Darian Grubb wanted to be the crew chief for after he departed SHR.

Grubb said, "technology and engineering" at Joe Gibbs Racing was the biggest surprise to him because it is at such a high level.

Grubb is a people person and his goal at JGR is to bring together the three Cup crew chiefs and work together as one team. He said, "It's all about people."

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 23:  Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, speaks with the media during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on January 23, 2012 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Grubb was asked if he felt more equal with the driver at JGR and responded that, "Tony was the boss, but he did a good job separating (owner/driver role)."

He is pleased to have a mediator should it be needed at JGR in the form of Gibbs and his son, J.D. Gibbs.

Grubb spoke of the fire and passion that remains in Hamlin and said, "He is very in tune with a race car."

Hamlin spoke about his teammate, Busch, and reminded the media that as a driver, he was maturing despite the steps he takes back now and then.

Hamlin said of Busch, "When he puts it all together, he will be a champion."

A fact that may not be the most fascinating to everyone but is an indicator of Hamlin's work ethic is that in 2006, his body fat was 27.5 and now it is 10.

Joey Logano said, "I thought I was mature as an 18-year-old, but I didn't know jack."

He doesn't work on race cars, but works on himself daily and is confident about the 2012 season.

Logano doesn't feel any added pressure to win in 2012 because it is a contract year. He pretty much feels a driver should perform like every year is a contract year.

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 21:  The #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet driven by Tony Stewart is seen during the NASCAR Preview presented by Sprint on January 21, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The driver of the No. 20 Home Depot car did feel that the crew chief change was needed and that Jason Ratcliff replacing Greg Zipadelli was a good thing.

Busch spoke about being parked at Texas and said he, "Went through a lot for about a month."

Now, everything is good, and he better understands the serious ramifications that ripple through so many people because of poor judgment.

News from Michael Waltrip Racing will be on tap this evening, followed by a social event hosted by Fox Sports and SPEED.

Once again, the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway looks to be chock full of news and quotes that will get the fans amped up for the upcoming 2012 season.

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