Day one of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour included the Sprint Media Luncheon and an explanation of the Sprint Unlimited race, a presentation by Stewart-Haas Racing, and a trip to Richard Childress Racing’s headquarters in Welcome, NC. We will report on the trip to RCR later on tonight.
The race that has traditionally started the season will change in 2013. Once known as the Busch Clash and the Budweiser Shootout is now the Sprint Unlimited, and brings with it a whole new format that will be a fan’s choice event. Fans will determine how the race is run.
Hosted by FOX’s television team of Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds, and Jeff Hammond, the February 16th race will feature a format whereby fans can choose how the race is run. By voting via text message, mobile phone application, or on Sprint’s website, fans can decide between three options for race format, whether or not teams will able to pit one time for two tires, four tires or even no pit stop, and finally whether or not cars will be eliminated for the final run to the checkered flag. In addition, fans can vote on what fire suit they would like Miss Sprint Cup to wear.
The three race formats are three segments of 40/20/15 laps, 35/30/10 laps, or 30/25/20 laps. Several of the FOX analysts said it was uncertain whether the new Generation Six car could go 40 laps without a pit stop. Others wanted to see the ending segment to be twenty laps. Fans will decide. Voting closes for this on February 23th at 11:59 PM.
Fans will also have a choice of voting for allowing teams to have a two-tire stop, four-tire stop, or no pitting at all for tires. The voting for this poll will end on February 16th, the day of the race at the end of the first segment.
An elimination scenario will allow fans to vote whether or not there will be eliminations for the final segment. Fans have a choice of having no cars eliminated from the final segment, two cars, four cars, or six cars. The theory is that it will keep drivers from sandbagging in the first two segments. When asked if there weren’t enough cars left in the final segment, would cars still be eliminated? Mike Joy’s answer was, “we’ll get back to you on that.”
Fans can finally vote on the uniform Miss Sprint Cup will wear. The choices are pictured on the Sprint smartphone application and on the website. The smartphone application called NASCAR 13 can be found in the App Store for iPhones and Google Play for Android devices. Fans can also go to www.NASCAR.com/sprintunlimited to vote. A vote can also be cast by text message. Fans were encouraged to “vote early and often.”
The Stewart-Haas presentation included drivers Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and their crew chiefs along with director of competition Greg Zippadelli. Each crew chief oozed confidence for the new season as did the drivers. As was expected, some of the questions about Danica Patrick’s outlook for the 2013 season, many of them directed at team co-owner Stewart. Stewart said that Danica was a fast learner and was “far ahead” of where he was with the same amount of time on the track in stock cars. When asked if he might consider swapping points with Patrick to give her a head start, Stewart replied, “No. I worked hard for those points, but I have the most confidence that Danica will be fine.”
On writer asked if Stewart’s mother had encouraged him to continue his racing career once it became obvious he was talented enough to make it in racing. “You know what, that started a big fight. She wanted me to go to college.” Newman must have had the same conversation at home. The holder of an engineering degree from Purdue University, Newman said, “I lost that argument.
When asked if the new car had caused problems, citing the drafting accident at Daytona that took so many cars out, Stewart said, “Every year it’s trial and error on drafting and setting the car up. I really don’t feel any anxiety on this at all.” When asked if he had even considered the Roger Penske offer of an Indianapolis 500 ride for 2013, Stewart said no, but he thought the offer was still available in the future. Patrick was also asked about Indy, but she insisted her focus was on Sprint Cup this year.
“Being competitive in Sprint Cup is going to be two handfuls of work, so my focus is on NASCAR,” Patrick said. “I’m supportive of that as long as things are going well here,” Stewart chimed in.
Sponsorship continues to be iffy for the SHR team. Stewart revealed that nine races are still without sponsorship on his No. 14 Chevrolet. Furthermore, Newman’s ride has eight unsponsored races and Patrick three. Stewart expressed that he felt things would work out.
Patrick said that she has “nothing set in stone” for the Nationwide Series this year. “We’re working on it. It’s the perfect plan for next year,” Patrick said.