It was just 65 days ago when Tony Stewart secured his third Sprint Cup Championship with a walk off victory at Miami Homestead Speedway.
Starting with the season opening Daytona 500, defense of that championship begins in just three short weeks.
Sandwiched in between those two events is the Sprint Cup Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Strolling to the stage with “How You Like Me Now” playing over the public address system, Tony Stewart kicked off the 2012 Media Tour. He was joined by Ryan Newman, Matt Borland, Tony Gibson, and new comers Danica Patrick, Steve Addington, and Greg Zipadelli.
The biggest news coming from SHR is the 10 race deal with Patrick and Go Daddy as the primary sponsor.
During the media break out sessions, Stewart talked about the growth of his young company.
“I am really proud of the success we have had. It’s amazing how far we have come in such a short amount of time.”
Missing from the SHR superstar lineup was former crew chief Darian Grubb. Stewart stated he was happy Grubb quickly landed somewhere successful. He also made it clear his decision to part ways with Grubb, and hire Steve Addington, was made long before the season ending championship.
It was revealed that during the chase, Stewart kept in touch with Addington via text messaging, including sending an encouraging text to Addington after the final race of the season.
When asked about his new driver, Danica Patrick, Stewart continued his praise and offered a bold prediction.
“Danica is talented and very confident. It is quite possible she could win the Daytona 500. A rookie won it last year, why can’t it happen again?”
Fielding questions from media members on the other side of the room, Patrick echoed some of Stewart’s thoughts.
“My inexperience at Daytona should not be a factor,” said Patrick. “The only thing I really had to work on is the bump drafting. There wasn’t bump drafting in Indy racing, so it took me some time to get used to it in Sprint Cup.”
Stewart and Patrick worked on bump drafting during a recent testing session at Daytona International Speedway. During the three days of testing, both drivers ran multiple laps in single car formations and nose-to-tail formation; taking turns pushing each other around the speedway.
Along with her 10 race deal at Stewart-Haas Racing, Patrick is also running a full Nationwide schedule in 2012 for JR Motorsports.
She reflected on her exit from Indy car racing, and hinted at a possible return in the future.
“I am relieved I can now focus on just NASCAR,” said Patrick. “I will miss Indy, but I am not going to rule out a return in the future.”
Patrick said she doesn’t expect instant success in NASCAR’s top level and would be happy with mediocre results as long as she’s learning something along the way.
“If I finish five laps down, it’s ok. As long as I learn something, improve, or get something from the race, its ok.”
Danica Patrick’s first race of the season will be the Nationwide race at Daytona in February. Tony Stewart, last year’s winner, is also entered in the same race.