Editorial

2004 UAW-GM NASCAR Media Tour - Day 1
by Stan Creekmore, NASCAR Editor

January 19, 2004

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The first day of the UAW-GM Media Tour got underway with a breakfast hosted by MB2/MBV. On hand were drivers Scott Riggs, #10 Valvoline Chevrolet, Joe Nemechek, #01 ARMY Chevrolet and the recovering Jerry Nadeau.

Riggs paid his dues the last few years in the Busch Series; missing the championship on a couple of occasions. Riggs brings with him crew chief Doug Randolph, an important fact for the driver given it’s the first time he’s worked with the same crew chief for more than a year.

Nemechek slid behind the wheel of the ARMY Pontiac, now Chevrolet, for the final four races of the 2003 season after being pushed out to make room for rookie Brian Vickers in the #25. Nemechek now looks at those four races as a real blessing.

“It gave us a great opportunity to learn,” said Nemechek. “I learned how they do things and they learned what I like in a race car.”

While Riggs and Nemechek spoke up the positives of the coming racing season, Jerry Nadeau floundered over questions of when he might actually be able to race again.

“I don’t know. I can’t tell you and the doctors can’t tell me,” said Nadeau, a solid look on his face despite the mounting odds against his being able to return. There are already concerns that his recovery has begun to affect his stamina, facts borne out by a recent test.

Besides the lingering effects of his brain injury, numbness on his left side, Nadeau has been forced to lower his standard of living. He admitted he has recently sold his home and purchased a less expensive home.

While the team continues to support Nadeau in his efforts to return to racing, they are not paying the driver a salary.

The second stop on the tour involved a ceremonial changing of the guard as workers raised a new NASCAR/NEXTEL banner over an existing WINSTON banner. One could hardly miss the obvious. The old WINSTON banner was just that, a banner that said WINSTON. The new banner’s artwork was split approximately 55/45 between Nextel and NASCAR.

After a brief look at extensive construction ongoing inside Lowe’s Motor Speedway, the media mob moved inside the Speedway Club for an enlightening presentation by Nextel executives.

Nextel showed the same passion for promotion as demonstrated by their predecessor, RJR. To the advantage of Nextel, executives at the wireless company are not hindered by legal bans on advertising on television, radio and print like those that eventually forced RJR to abandon its sports marketing.

In an amazing revelation, it was learned the initial contact between NASCAR and Nextel occurred on the same day the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were establishing themselves as the 2003 Super Bowl champions. NASCAR officials had gotten the go ahead from RJR to look around and a salesman in the New York NASCAR offices placed a call to Mark Sweitzer, senior vice president of Marketing for Nextel during the Super Bowl broadcast.

Nextel had looked around the NASCAR arena looking to sponsor a racecar to the point that Tim Donahue, President and CEO of NEXTEL attended the Busch Series race at Daytona International Speedway the following month. However, when the series sponsorship became available the company moved quickly to secure an agreement with NASCAR.

A third stop on the tour included a diatribe by H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler that oft times seemed seriously disjointed and off topic. Wheeler did throw his support behind the soon to be announced changes to the points system.

The true purpose of the stop was to highlight several up-and-coming young drivers including the sons of Randy Lajoie and Eddie Wood. Also on hand was a winner of the Alan Kulwicki scholarship, Tiffany Daniels. Daniels, from Smithfield (Va.) put together an impressive year of legends racing while studying engineering at UNCC.

The author can be contacted stanc@autoracing1.com

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