The first day of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Sprint Media Tour involved three teams—Stewart-Haas Racing and a joint media event with JTG Daugherty Racing and Leavine Family Racing. Following the usual presentation by each team where an opening statement was made with questions from those present, all drivers and team principals were available for breakout sessions.
First up was Stewart-Haas Racing. The new four-member team of Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch was announced to the multitudes present. The first question fielded by Stewart was the obvious one. Will the team be a clash of egos as the season goes along?
“We do have four alpha drivers here, but we understand each other,” Stewart said. “It’s like a support system.”
Stewart went on to say since the drives know each other so well, it will tend to make them stronger rather than weaker.
Stewart was asked about his health after last summer’s injury and if he was cleared to compete in the Daytona 500 in February. His first response was, “Read the internet,” followed by, “I got released a couple of weeks ago. I feel great and I’m ready. It was harder not being in the car than it will be getting in the car. We’ve all had injuries.”
Patrick was asked how she viewed 2014 and what she expected for the new season.
“Kurt and Kevin have been a big help already,” Patrick said. “I have so much to learn from this group since they have all this experience already. I’m growing.” She was upset that the team got better in the middle part of the schedule in 2013, but floundered as the season ended.
Team co-owner Gene Haas also took the stage, which was unusual. He has been taking more of a hands-on approach of late, but insisted no changes were going to be made in the management area.
“I’m the kind of guy who hires great people and lets them do what they do best,” Haas said. “I’m there and I take part in all the big decisions, though.”
Haas also commented on his publicized desire to form a Formula One team. He made it clear that he would not want to buy an existing team, nor would he move the team from North Carolina, but said it was going to be a tough road getting a team.
“Mr. Ecclestone made it clear that he didn’t think I could get a team. I don’t know if that was his way of just showing me how tough it was going to be or what,” Haas said. “I’m interested in that form of racing because it’s the most difficult racing in the world. It would show the world Haas Automotive could compete with the best and it might open markets worldwide for our products.”
Harvick and Busch admitted they were excited to start the season with Stewart-Haas. Harvick, who was fast at Daytona, was beaming.
“I’m really excited to start (2014). This team is what I have been seeking for a long time. I think we can go out and be fast immediately and challenge for a championship. I can’t wait for the season to start.”
The day began with a noon luncheon presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway. Attending were the Governor of North Carolina, Charlotte’s mayor, and the staff at CMS, as well as other Speedway Motorsports facilities. At the luncheon, Governor Pat McCrory admitted he saw his first race at CMS by sneaking in the speedway. He offered SMI’s CEO, Bruton Smith, the price of a ticket since he was honored at the luncheon. Later on, McCrory offered Smith $5 for the ticket—half of the cost of admission because he only saw half the race.
The media met with JTG Daugherty and the Leavine Family Racing principals later on and will be reported on in a separate article.