Thursday, January 26, 2012

Notes From NASCAR's Media Tour

NASCAR announced Wednesday that it will no longer assess secret fines to its drivers, crewmembers and team owners. 

France: No More Secrets
 In recent years, NASCAR has assessed at least three undisclosed fines to individuals for comments deemed detrimental to the sport. Brad Keselowski was docked $25,000 last season for questioning the motives behind NASCAR's conversion to fuel injection. A year earlier, Denny Hamlin was sanctioned for accusing NASCAR of throwing unwarranted caution flags to tighten the field late in races. Ryan Newman was also fined in 2010 after making critical comments following a crash at Talladega Superspeedway.

When those fines became public, NASCAR found itself hip-deep in a public relations quagmire. The so-called “secret fines” gave the sport an unnecessary stigma of secrecy, making it impossible for fans and media members to determine whether drivers were speaking their minds, or simply mouthing the company line.  

NASCAR chairman Brian France said late last season that he would review the policy and consider a change. Wednesday, the sanctioning body issued a statement saying, “NASCAR will no longer issue fines that are undisclosed. We looked at this issue from every angle and gathered feedback from the industry. While there are always sensitivities related to sponsor relationships -- and (while) other leagues may continue issuing disclosed and undisclosed fines -- NASCAR has decided that all fines moving forward will be made public after the competitor or organization that has been penalized has been informed.” 

…Kevin Harvick announced Wednesday the he and wife DeLana are expecting their first child. DeLana Harvick is 14 weeks pregnant, with a due date expected in late July or early August. The Harvicks disbanded their NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck team at the end of last season, and have clearly found a positive use for their newfound free time! 

…Media Tour 2012 has featured a number of new sponsor announcements. Furniture Row Racing announced the addition of CSX Transportation and Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers to its list of associate sponsors for the 2012 season. CSX Transportation, the third largest railroad in the United States – will highlight its “Play it Safe” campaign urging pedestrians and motorists to exercise caution around railroad tracks. Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers will spotlight the importance of keeping America's food supply produced in the United States.

Richard Childress Racing announced an extension of its longtime partnership with BB&T Corporation for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. BB&T will serve as primary sponsor on the No. 31 Chevrolet and driver Jeff Burton for five races, retaining its status as official bank of the 43-year-old Welcome, N.C.-based organization. The No. 31 BB&T Chevrolet will debut in March at Bristol Motor Speedway, with other appearances coming in April at Martinsville Speedway and Richmond International Raceway and in May at Darlington Raceway along with a special edition co-branded paint scheme with Caterpillar at the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. BB&T’s burgundy and gray paint scheme will also adorn the No. 31 entry at Dover International Speedway in June. 

Snap-on Tools will expand its role with Penske Racing, serving as primary sponsor of the No. 22 Dodge Challenger in four NASCAR Nationwide Series races this season. Snap-on will adorn the No. 22 car driven by Brad Keselowski and Parker Kligerman at Darlington Raceway (May 11), Dover International Speedway (June 2), New Hampshire Motor Speedway (July 14) and Richmond International Raceway (September 7). “We are excited to grow and develop our long-standing partnership with Snap-on,” said Roger Penske. “Snap-on has been a terrific partner with our organization now for 30 years and we look forward to celebrating this milestone with a great season together in 2012.” Snap-on will continue to serve as an associate sponsor on all of Penske Racing’s Sprint Cup, Nationwide and IndyCar Series teams.

The WURTH GROUP will sponsor Sam Hornish, Jr ‘s No. 12 Nationwide Series Dodge out of the Penske stable in seven races, as part of a new, multi-year partnership. Hornish will compete in the full Nationwide Series this season, with sponsorship from WURTH and Alliance Truck Parts. WURTH will be an associate sponsor for the remaining 26 Nationwide Series races, and an associate sponsor of Penske’s No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge in the Sprint Cup Series.

… Max Papis will drive the #33 Richard Childress Racing Rheem/Menards Chevy when the NASCAR Nationwide Series visits Road America on June 23. In addition to competing at the 14-turn road course, Papis will serve as a driver coach for his RCR teammates, assisting in strengthening their road-racing skills

…Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – was honored by the National Motorsports Press Association last week with 13 awards for broadcast excellence during the 2011 NASCAR season, including first place in the Live Event category. MRN Radio was recognized at the NMPA’s annual convention in Concord, N.C., with veteran radio voice Steve Blevins named NMPA Broadcaster of the Year. The network also won top honors for its broadcast of the Aaron’s 499 Sprint Cup Series event at Talladega Superspeedway in April, where Jimmie Johnson edged Clint Bowyer by two one-thousandths of a second in a race that featured 88 lead changes among 26 drivers. The network also won third place in the same category for its broadcast of the Camping World Truck Series race in November at Texas Motor Speedway, in which Ron Hornaday crashed early and fell out of title contention in the next-to-last race of the year.

In earning Broadcaster of the Year honors, Blevins contributed to MRN’s coverage of the 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – writing and producing biographical features on Bud Moore and Lee Petty which earned him a sweep of first and second place in the Short-Form Feature Radio category.

…The annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour always produces a number of unexpected, controversial and humorous quotes. This year’s edition has been no different.

Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson issued a candid assessment of his unsuccessful 2011 title defense, saying of champion Tony Stewart, "We got beat by our own equipment.” Stewart’s team campaigns chassis and engines purchased from Hendrick Motorsports.

Not to be outdone, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., raised a few eyebrows this week when asked why NASCAR Nationwide Series teammate Danica Patrick enjoys such a high degree of popularity. Said Earnhardt, “She's a woman."

AJ Allmendinger got a dose of reality Thursday when Media Tour 2012 descended on his new Penske Racing shops. "I finally realized I was a Penske driver this morning when I put on my white Hugo Boss shirt,” said Allmendinger. “I thought, `Now it's real.’"

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