2011 NASCAR Media Tour: Day 4
The 29th annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway concluded on Thursday, bringing to a close the four-day media event that covered a dozen NASCAR Sprint Cup teams and over 30 Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series drivers as they gear up for the season-opening races at Daytona.
Highlighting the final day of the tour was a visit with Roush Racing, who will return with all four fully funded Sprint Cup teams in 2011.
“All of our sponsors agree they continue to see NASCAR as the sport that’s very important to their marketing efforts,” he said. “They see Roush Fenway as an organization that’s a terrific investment and for good reason. For 2011, every Cup program has all new cars built. We have realigned our engineering department and we have new software to run our programs on.”
Roush said that the team’s NASCAR Sprint Cup cars are fully funded for 2011 and that the Nationwide Series entry to be fielded by Carl Edwards is sponsored for about half of the races.
“The economy is getting better,” Roush said. “The challenge now is to bring new partners into the sport.”
Among the new initiatives undertaking by Roush Racing is an effort to become a more environmentally efficient, or “green”, team.
Company wide, Roush Racing has implemented recycling and energy saving programs that have already shown a cost savings for the team. The company has recycled 200,000 pound of steel and 66 tons of waste and added solar power to their race shops to reduce heating and energy costs.
“We want to lead by example,” said Roush. “What we are doing is only a small part in the scheme of things but we hope to change the culture and make for more awareness for energy reduction and recycling. In 2011 our initiative is for air cleaning. We have replaced our paint system with a water based system. There will be no fluorocarbons going into the air. We will also have a no-idling policy for our employees in starting their cars. It’s a small impact, but we are getting the message out. We are reducing our operating costs.”
Roush Racing also hosted the 26th annual Aflac Motorsports Journalism Awards of Excellence presentation. Five journalists were presented the Russ Catlin Award represent excellence in journalism covering Motorsports
Receiving their awards today were Nate Ryan of USA Today, Chris Johnson of NASCAR Illustrated, Lauren Stovall of ESPN, Brian Kessler of Fox News in Denver, Colo. and Marl Rebilis of US Presswire.
“Twenty years ago, we had 16 employees working in a small leased building. Today, we have more than 400,” said Gibbs. “We bought a bunch of stuff from Rick Hendrick so we could get started. We had to design, find, and build a race shop. We had a few things working against us, but we got it together quickly.”
In 1992, after a fruitful career as a head coach in the National Football League for the Washington Redskins, which included three Super Bowl titles, Joe Gibbs turned to new endeavors and founded Joe Gibbs Racing.
With backing from Interstate Batteries and Dale Jarrett piloting the no. 18 Chevrolet, JGR made their NASCAR debut in the 1992 Daytona 500, which ended in a 13-car pileup on lap 91, netting them a 36th-place finish.
“I'll tell you what a novice I was,” said Gibbs of the team’s first race. “I was down there talking to (crew chief) Jimmy Makar and it was a qualifying race. And Jimmy was sweating, walking back and forth, and I wondered why he was so upset. He said, 'If we don't make this thing, we're not racing.' And I was like, 'What? Are you kidding me?' I had no clue.
“About halfway through that race, they got three abreast on the backstretch and tore our car up. Dale got hit about five times. Of course I'm totally depressed and I'm back there with (Interstate Batteries chairman) Norm (Miller). They've got TV cameras all over the place, our car's torn up, Dale's wobbling and Norm says, 'Hey, this isn't so bad. If we're not running good, the best thing is to wreck. We're getting a lot of attention here.’”
The team’s fortunes changed for the better the following year, when Jarrett led the team to victory in the 1993 Daytona 500. Seven years later in 2000, with Bobby Labonte behind the wheel, the team scored the first of the their three Sprint Cup titles.
Tony Stewart, who joined the team in 1999, scored two titles for JGR in 2002 and 2005.
“I had the hardest time tracking him down," Gibbs said of hiring Stewart. “But I remember that he had three girlfriends at once. So I got all their numbers and I would call them and ask for him. Sometimes they would yell at me, 'Don't ever call this number again!' Then I knew he'd broken up with that one.”
Stewart and Labonte were among the surprise guests at the event, as was Jarrett who made a cameo appearance via video, remembering the day the team won the Daytona 500.
“What a day that was in 1993 at the Daytona 500,” Jarrett said, “bringing Joe Gibbs and Jimmy Makar their first and my first Daytona 500 victory. We started preparing for that victory in 1991 getting ready for the 1992 season. No one envisioned that in a little over a year we would be sitting in victory lane at Daytona International Speedway.
“Later, I got a call from Joe Gibbs telling me before we got to Richmond that he would be quitting his job as coach of the Washington Redskins. I wasn’t sure if one victory was enough to make him give up his job. I got letters from a lot of people who thought it was my idea that he should quit his coaching job.”
When Stewart was asked what he learned most from Gibbs, he said, “Don't come to any 20th anniversary reunions.”
“Honestly, a lot of things we do at Stewart-Haas Racing are things I learned from Joe,” said Stewart. “The one thing about this guy, he's been successful in three different forms of professional sports, two of those being motorsports and professional football. You can't be that successful without a common denominator, and that's him. Joe knows how to organize the right people for the right jobs.”
Gibbs said he was so surprised at Stewart’s calm demeanor now that he was owner himself, he was convinced he’d had a lobotomy, then, referring the Stewart’s recent legal troubles in Australia “it all come back again last week”.
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