Just like with the recently finished Daytona test sessions, NASCAR last week held another one of its annual rites of passage with the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour. Centered each year in Charlotte, the event guarantees not only the sanctioning body but also the vast majority of Cup teams a large audience of media members for any news they would like to announce.
The Media Tour is more like a traveling caravan as the larger organizations play host to the assembled members at their own shops so they can not only make their announcements public, but also allow the media access to their drivers and crew chiefs. It’s like the calm before the storm as every organization attempts to paint a picture of what it has been doing over the winter that has it so excited about the upcoming season.
One of the biggest announcements from Hendrick Motorsports is that all of its four cars are fully funded with the exception of Dale Earnhardt Jr. The No. 88 team has 13 unsponsored races at this time, but car owner Rick Hendrick said he is close to putting a deal together, and that he is actually looking for a deal that can transition into a long-term agreement.
When the tour stopped at Joe Gibbs Racing, the first order of business was for owner Joe Gibbs to announce that he had signed driver Kyle Busch to a long-term contract extension. Busch said that he had two serious offers from other Cup teams, but feels his best chances to win a championship are with JGR. Gibbs also announced that JGR would be fielding a full-time Nationwide team with Busch behind the wheel for 25 races.
Maybe the biggest news to come from Penske Racing wasn’t about something new for the upcoming season, but about a deal that was almost made. Owner Roger Penske announced that he had talked with Ryan Newman about the possibility of leaving Stewart-Haas Racing and returning to the organization that gave him his first full-time ride in the sport. Apparently there was never enough sponsorship for the deal to come together, but Penske said that Newman could return in 2014.
Stewart- Haas Racing announced that it would not be involved with any owner’s points swap involving Danica Patrick as she begins her first full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series. Patrick will have to make the races on speed, as owner’s points will no longer guarantee a starting position but will be used for determining provisional starting spots 37th thru 42nd. Owner Tony Stewart also announced that all three of SHR’s teams still have some races where they were looking for a primary sponsor.
Richard Childress finally made it official when he told media members that his driver Kevin Harvick would be leaving at the end of the season to drive for Stewart Haas Racing in 2014. All three of his teams could be looking for a driver for 2014 as the contracts of his two other drivers, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard, run out at the end of this season.
Roush-Fenway Racing owner Jack Roush announced that he was looking to put driver Trevor Bayne in a full-time Cup ride in 2014. He presently drives a part-time Cup schedule for the Woods Brothers but is under contract to RFR. The only sponsorship opening with RFR is with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who will be in his first full-time season in the Cup Series.
Michael Waltrip Racing driver Mark Martin announced that he would not be returning to drive MWR’s No. 55 in 2014. He will be behind the wheel of the No. 55 Toyota for 25 races this season, but said he would be trying to get the team in a position where a driver could run for the championship in that ride next season. Martin also said that the move didn’t signal the beginning of his retirement from the sport. MWR would like to field a fourth team next season if sponsorship could be found, and that should keep Martin in that organization for at least another year.