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Charlotte Dateline: NASCAR Hot Topics at Media Tour Day 2

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2012

CORNELIUS, NC - JANUARY 23:  Michael Waltrip (R), owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, speaks on stage with (L-R) Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-Hour Energy Toyota, Mark Martin, driver of the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyoya, and Martin Truex Jr., diver of the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on January 23, 2012 in Cornelius, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The media marched forward through the second day of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway chock full of news that will impact the 2012 NASCAR season.

First I will summarize the remaining activities of the first day.

Last evening, we headed to Michael Waltrip Racing, which was quite impressive compared to the operation that was begun back in 2007.

Michael Waltrip had hopes and dreams of the future, and now, he has confidence in what has been accomplished.

There is a close alignment between MWR and Joe Gibbs Racing with engines and technology. Waltrip believes he is a tier-one Cup team at the same caliber as JGR with the progress that has been made.

Waltrip will be working for Fox Sports in the Hollywood Hotel, alongside Chris Myers, as an analyst when the 2012 season begins, unless he is in a race car.

Waltrip is hoping he will be in his 27th Daytona 500, but nothing has been confirmed. His main goal is to get the Aarons No. 55 exposure at the "Great American Race."

Mark Martin and Waltrip will be sharing driving duties with the Aarons Dream Machine, but actually, there are two separate No. 55 Toyotas.

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As Waltrip sat behind a desk, he brought his drivers out one by one to sit on a plush sofa. He claimed he was rehearsing for his next gig with the routine.

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 24:  Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, speaks to the media during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on January 24, 2012 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Clint Bowyer walked out on the stage, and he and the boss toasted with a bottle of 5-Hour Energy and they downed it. Bowyer's new sponsor is the energy drink.

Bowyer was asked about his move to MWR and stated, " Anytime you have a change, you're freaking out."

As it turned out, Bowyer is happy with the equipment and things seem to be going well.

Bowyer is pleased with his crew chief, Brian Pattie, who he defined as precise and motivated. The two have similar backgrounds and get along well.

The driver for the 5-Hour Energy Toyota finds the EFI a bit weird, being that someone he probably doesn't even know can control his car through the mapping process with a laptop while he is on the track.

Bowyer called the EFI a "new can of worms in the sport." It is new and will present challenges, and someone will always be trying to make changes.

Waltrip summoned Mark Martin to the stage and addressed the fact that he had been racing longer than the 30 years of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Martin was described as a "great communicator" with a "great attitude" by Waltrip. He believes his knowledge is a tremendous asset to MWR.

Martin did say that tandem racing was alive and well at the super speedways because it gives you 10 mph more, and drivers won't unlearn that.

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 24:  Chip Ganassi, owner and president of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, speaks with the media during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on January 24, 2012 in Concord, North
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The veteran driver spoke of the talented people at MWR, the resources and the sponsors. He sees lots of potential.

Martin was asked how different it was from Hendrick Motorsports and described it as a whole different level, but MWR is trying to get there.

Martin Truex, Jr., the driver of the No. 56 NAPA Toyota, spoke of the changes that have been made at MWR to clean things up from the prior years, making the cars competitive and equal.

Truex stated, "We've taken a huge leap forward."

Bowyer finds it a bit hard to believe that he is a teammate of Martin. He described him as a "machine." He added, "He lives his whole life for racing."

He also believes he is plenty capable of winning.

The night progressed with a social gathering hosted by Fox Sports and SPEED, where most all their on-screen personalities made an appearance.

The mission at SPEED TV is storytelling, production and making sure people know who drivers are. They want to tell people why they should care about people they watch for three or four hours during a race.

They want those drivers and crew chiefs to be more humanized with the fans. The goal is also to increase viewership and ratings.

TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 22:  Team owner Jack Roush looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 22, 2011 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

Technology will be enhanced in various forms with in-car audio etc., and social media will be promoted.

Jeff Hammond will be "unshackled" to take viewers to places they have never been at the NASCAR events, and there will be 10 analysts.

Dave Despain will celebrate his 535th episode and 10th anniversary of his show, Wind Tunnel.

SPEED TV will broadcast 15.5 hours of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Andy Lally, who will be one of the drivers, said, "There  is a ton of GT cars that are the most competitive ever with drivers from most every series. 

The first stop of the second day was the breakfast celebrating 30 years of the NASCAR Media Tour that has been hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

There was a lot of story telling of the events that took place on the tour over those 30 years, and seven people were in attendance today that had been on every annual NASCAR Media Tour.

Next on the agenda was Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing with Chip Ganassi, Felix Sabates, Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Steve Byrnes hosted the introduction and said it had been "a bittersweet year" for EGR, with Ganassi having so much success with the open-wheel cars and a somewhat dismal NASCAR season in 2011.

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 24:  The 2013 Ford Fusion is unveiled and driven on track during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on January 24, 2012 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The EGR drivers finished 21st and 27th in the 2011 point standings. Ganassi reflected on the lackluster season and said of 2012, "The great thing is, you get to start the year over."

Major personnel changes were made at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing for the upcoming season, including bringing in Chris Heroy from Hendrick Motorsports as crew chief for Montoya.

Montoya said of the 2011 season, "The team was headed the wrong way."

McMurray stated, "Our season started out OK and slowly got worse."

New sponsors were announced, Belkin on McMurray's car at Martinsville, Liftmaster as the major sponsor for the fall race at New Hampshire and Banana Boat Cool Zone sun protection will be a primary sponsor for the June race at Pocono.

Charlotte Motor Speedway made some announcements, including the fact that they will have 114 days of events at the track in 2012.

Country music superstar Blake Shelton will provide pre-race entertainment at the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

There will be 10 days of racing and activities surrounding the Coca-Cola 600 in May, and Liftmaster will sponsor Pole Day.

At the Roush-Fenway Racing lunchtime event held at Charlotte Motor Speedway's Speedway Club, it was all about celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2012.

Jack Roush has had 46 drivers drive for him, and 17 have won races. Of course, some won titles as well.

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 24:  The 2013 Ford Fusion is unveiled and driven on track during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on January 24, 2012 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The fact that Carl Edwards only needed one more point to win the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship was repeated several times. They don't intend to lose the title this year.

After Roush recapped highlights of his 25 years, they spoke of the changes made with Greg Biffle's No. 16 team and how they hope to see him back in winning form.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. is still basking in the glow of winning the NASCAR Nationwide championship and said, "He doesn't want to jump in Cup too early."

Trevor Bayne is savoring his last few weeks as the defending Daytona 500 winner and plans to use David Pearson's advice about being there at the end to go for the win and not being too aggressive.

Perhaps the biggest event of the day was in the Nationwide garage at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where a stock 2013 Ford Fusion was on display and a plethora of Ford people explained what all went into the design of the new NASCAR Cup car that will mimic it.

Suddenly, in the darkened room with the bright lights focused on the new Fusion, a loud rumble was heard, and through the black curtain came Greg Biffle in a 2013 Ford Fusion NASCAR Sprint Cup car.

It is very close to what will be running on the track, but is not yet fully certified with all the specs that are involved.

Ford has done an outstanding job with this car, and it is one really good-looking race car that will actually have fans watching on Sunday and buying on Monday, just like in the good ole days.

The consensus of the media and others in attendance was that it looked the way a race car is supposed to look and not like the "twisted sister car," as Mike Joy put it, that we see today.

We headed out to the track, and Biffle did a long burnout heading on to the track in the race car.

He then met up with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in another 2013 Ford Fusion Cup car on the back stretch, and the two made several laps. It was pretty impressive, and the photographers were in their glory.

Joy had reminded us that in the past, "Cars that you raced were aspirational cars." Fans wanted them in their driveways.

Brand identity has always been important to race fans, and they have it with this new Ford Fusion. Approximately one-third of all new car buyers are race fans, according to research.

More events are scheduled throughout the evening into the late hours, so news from those events will be in the next edition of what is going on at the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour Hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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