Charlotte Dateline: NASCAR Hot Topics at Media Tour Day 3

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2012

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 24:  Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, gives a kiss to Kenny Wallace, driver of the #09 Federated Auto Parts Toyota, 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 for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Tuesday night was fun and games with the drivers of NASCAR. In an effort to bring out the personalities of the Nationwide drivers, we first watched the Early Evening Show with Elliott Sadler.

Sadler dressed in a suit, sat behind the desk and invited guests to come by and chat after taking a seat on the sofa. This seems to be a trend with the same idea at Michael Waltrip Racing.

Most of the guests were drivers in NASCAR's second tier, but Travis Pastrana stopped by to explain that he had good intentions of debuting in the series, but things sometimes change.

He will be driving in the K&N Series and hopes to still make his way to the Nationwide series. He said he would be testing and that he wanted to be "as least sucky as possible."

The series champ, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Danica Patrick, Austin Dillon, Sam Hornish, Johanna Long, Brad Sweet, Cole Whitt and Justin Allgaier were some of the drivers that made appearances.

The game of Feuding NASCAR Families was next on the agenda, hosted by Kenny Wallace. The teams were Danica and the Other Guys vs. The Honey Badgers, which consisted of media members.

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It was fun for the participants and the audience, but the rules were in uncharted territory and seemed to change as the game went along.

We moved over with a social gathering that included Scott Speed with his No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Ford.

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 24:  (L-R) Sam Hornish Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier, and Brian Scott poses for a photo during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on January 24, 2012 in Concord
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Front Row Motorsports drivers David Gilliland and David Ragan were available for interviews. Gilliland will drive the No. 38 and Ragan will drive the No. 34.

Much of the attention surrounded Kurt Busch and his No. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet that he will drive for James Finch.

Busch was relaxed and anxious to get back to racing at Daytona. He is confident with his Hendrick Motorsports powered car and plans to contend for a win in the "Great American Race."

The hectic schedule continued Wednesday for the troops of the media army at the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. The day's events included not only NASCAR teams, but an NHRA event as well.

The morning stop with JTG Daugherty Racing found Brad Daugherty in high spirits regarding the future of the No. 47 Kingsford Toyota driven by Bobby Labonte.

He receives chassis from MWR, but has more confidence in the engines that will be coming from TRD in Costa Mesa.

Daugherty spoke of the disconnect with Michael Waltrip Racing because they want to get much larger, while JTG Racing wants to remain with one car in 2012 and possibly go to two cars in 2013 if sponsorship can be found.

Daugherty said he "would be real disappointed if we're not a top-20 race team this season."

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 25:  Regan Smith(L), driver of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, and Pete Rondeau, crew chief of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, speak with the media during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Spe
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Veteran driver Labonte has the talent to win and brings a good perspective to the team. That combined with the wisdom of crew chief, Todd Berrier, should lead to more consistent performance.

Kentucky Speedway announced all the fixes they have made after the traffic debacle of last year's inaugural Quaker State 400.

Bruton Smith, Chairman and CEO of SMI which owns the track, said, "I think we should do it over and have a second inaugural race."

Two large tracks of land have been purchased and improved for parking, track access, and many other changes that are going to be completed before the next race.

"We want to be fan friendly and will work hard to prove ourselves," Smith said.

He said they should be able to park at least 18,000 more cars this year.

Next on the agenda was the National Hot Rod Association where Tom Compton, President of NHRA, said, "This year we are celebrating what we call the Nitro Generation."

It will be all about the generations of racers in the sport like the Bernsteins, Kalittas, Forces and Couglins. Special appearances and autograph sessions will be on the agenda this season.

Courtney Force and Alexis Dejoria spoke of their debut in Nitro Funny Cars at the opening event for the 23-race season in Pomona.

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 25:  Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, speaks with the media during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on January 25, 2012 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilto
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

At a Furniture Row outlet, Regan Smith, team owner Barney Visser and others from the team met with the media. They announced that CSX Transportation has come on board as sponsors for six races.

Visser said, "I can't imagine not being involved in this sport after being part of it. I want to stay in it. I don't want multiple teams. I want one team that wins."

They want to win races of course, but they need to find consistency and they know they have the speed. Smith won at Darlington last year and is looking forward to a strong run at Daytona.

At Hendrick Motorsports, Rick Hendrick said, "I think we're as prepared as we have ever been and if we don't get it (the championship) it's going to be our own fault." They want their 200th win.

Hendrick expects all four teams to make the chase and bring the NASCAR Sprint Cup Title back to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012.

One of the HMS drivers was missing. Kasey Kahne has been on jury duty and there was no way they could get him out of it.

Kenny Francis, crew chief for Kahne, has become a great asset to HMS.

"They (Kahne and Francis) fit in like a glove and we're really excited to have them added to our organization," Hendrick said.

Those in the media who chose to participate got to have some fun a zMAX  Dragway. We drove four identical Ford Mustangs at speeds barely under 100 miles per hour in bracket-style racing.

WELCOME, NC - JANUARY 25:  (L-R) Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Menard's Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Mike Dillon, general manager of Richard Childress Racing, speak with the media during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Courtney Force and Alexis DeJoria provided some coaching for drivers who might have been considered novice drag racers.

We were running a pro-tree which makes reaction times a little tougher. The best advice was to not wait for the green light. It was great fun and a welcomed treat from the long hours on the tour.

At Richard Childress Racing, the biggest news was not exactly NASCAR related. Kevin Harvick announced his wife, Delana, is 14 weeks pregnant.

The other big news was the fourth Cup car that RCR will run for at least five races. Elliott Sadler will drive a car sponsored by Kroger in the Daytona 500 and he couldn't be happier about that.

Brendan Gaughan will drive four other races with South Point Casino as the sponsor. If they can find sponsorship, the fourth car will be run in more races.

Richard Childress was not present because of other obligations. Mike Dillon, Vice President of Competition, said the employee headcount has increased at RCR and they have a record number of more than 40 sponsors.

Tony Stewart will drive the No. 33 Oreo car for RCR at the Daytona Nationwide race.

All of the RCR drivers from the top-three series of NASCAR were on hand for interviews.

Ty Dillon and Austin Dillon are very enthusiastic about running for titles in the NCWTS and Nationwide series respectively with the No. 3 on their machines. For them it is all about their grandpa and family.

Tomorrow is the final day of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Tour Hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. Information will be published Friday, because this tired media member has a nine-hour drive home.

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