Editorial

NASCAR 2004 – New sponsors, new points, new ideas

by Dave Yaeck
January 24, 2004

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Just a few weeks away from the 2004 Daytona 500 and the start of what could be one of the most exciting seasons in NASCAR history has been overshadowed by the change in the point system. Whether you like it or hate it, there is nothing you can do to change it so…..

It’s time to move on and let the racing do the talking.

There are other reasons why the 2004 Nextel Cup Series will be exciting.

First off is the change in sponsors. Nextel Communications, which brand of phones that goes right in line with the concept of the NASCAR fan of today, with its two-way communication, paging and cellular functions, not to mention the wireless web access, has become a leader in wireless communication. With joining NASCAR, they will provide new outlets to bring fans to the sport.

For example, later on this year, Nextel will be releasing a new line of phones that are going to be fan friendly for NASCAR. The 10 new models will emulate some of the color schemes of NASCAR’s top drivers including, Tony Stewart, Rusty Wallace, and reigning champion Matt Kenseth and will include a digital stopwatch, NASCAR wallpaper, and ring tones geared toward the sport.

Nextel has committed $750 million in prize money over the next 10 years as well to promote the sport and its participants.

Secondly is the rookie class of 2004. With six drivers going after the 2004 Raybestos Rookie of the Year title, that in itself is going to be enough to keep fans busy with five of the drivers coming from the NASCAR Busch series and one from the Craftsman Truck Series.

At the top of the list will be the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series Champion, Brian Vickers, driving the #25 GMAC Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. At just 20 years old, Vickers has bolted onto the NASCAR scene and has made a tremendous impact in a short time.

Next is Kasey Kahne in the #9 Dodge Dealers Dodge for Evernham Motorsports. Kasey, a young one at just 23 years old, drove under a developmental contract with Ford racing last year in the Busch series drove the #38 Great Clips Ford and won the 2003 Busch finale at homestead.

From the Craftsman Truck Series comes the fireball Brendan Gaughan, driving for Jasper Motorsports in their #77 Kodak Dodge. Gaughan is known for a spark plug attitude with an intensity not seen in a rookie since Tony Stewart came into the series.

Rounding out the six rookie hopefuls will be Scott Wimmer in the #22 CAT Dodge, Scott Riggs in the #10 Valvoline Chevrolet, and Johnny Sauter in the #30 America Online Chevrolet. With this field of drivers, this could turn out to be the closest rookie race in the history of the sport.

Thirdly, NASCAR has introduced a new night race. This year, Labor Day weekend will have a whole new meaning when NASCAR invades the California Speedway for its first ever race under the lights at the Fontana complex. The Pop Secret 500 replaces the Southern 500, a Labor Day tradition at Darlington raceway for over 30 years. The Southern 500 will now be the second to last race of the season on November 14th.

The 2004 season starts off with Speed Weeks in Daytona, Florida on Monday, February 2nd. Some of the festivities included in Speed Weeks include qualifying for the Daytona 500 as well as the Budweiser Shootout, Gatorade 125’s, and the Busch and Truck Series openers as well, and finally the Daytona 500 on February 15th.

Look forward to the usual during season rivalries at short tracks like Bristol, Richmond and Martinsville. The road racing at Sonoma and Watkins Glen and all the tracks in between, but don’t let the new point system get you down.

After all, it’s all about the racing anyway… right?

The author can be contacted nascar@autoracing1.com

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Author

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