Get ready to gorge on some NASCAR
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A headline promoting a recent story in the Charlotte Observer read: "Wild hogs invade Mecklenburg preserves."
It wasn't advancing the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour, which begins Monday.
But it could have been.
Motorsports reporters have been compared to pigs for their eating habits since the first NASCAR public-relations director shouted "Chow!" before the first stock car race at Charlotte Speedway in 1949. Some like eating almost as much as chasing a good story.
There will be plenty of both as the four-day event begins, fittingly, at the tour's Embassy Suite headquarters with lunch provided by the owner/driver who is legendary for trips to Dairy Queen and McDonald's.
If you said Tony Stewart of Stewart-Haas Racing, you win a round-trip ticket through the buffet line at the track formerly known as Lowe's Motor Speedway and an evening in the tanning booth with Ric Flair, who may make a cameo appearance this week.[+] EnlargeFernando Medina/NBAE/Getty ImagesThere can be some unusual sights on the media tour. Heck, even Ric Flair may make an appearance.
There also is a late-night stop at Whisky River, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Uptown bar, where reporters will have the opportunity to work off a few pounds on the mechanical bull.
But mostly we're here for the stories. I'll break it down stop by stop and tell you what we expect to find out. If there's something specific you'd like me to ask a driver or owner, feel free to comment below. It's not Super Bowl Media Day -- where after eight of them I learned no question is too silly -- but it is close.
• First stop, as you already know, is with Stewart-Haas Racing at the Embassy Convention Hall. Stewart won't want to answer this, but what many of us would like to know is, does he plan to add Kasey Kahne and/or Kevin Harvick in 2011? I'll give you the answer to that now: "David, you're not smart enough to try to figure that out."
Some might want to know trivial things, such as: How disappointing was it to finish sixth last season after dominating the standings the first 26 races? Did Rick Hendrick really give you subpar parts once the Chase began so that one of his drivers would win? Whose driver uniform is larger, yours or Ryan Newman's?
• Next stop, Joe Gibbs Racing. There'll be a big crowd around Denny Hamlin to see whether his feud with Brad Keselowski will spill into 2010 and to get an update on how many followers he has on Twitter.
Kyle Busch will get the usual questions about whether he has matured enough to win a Sprint Cup title and how much owning a Truck Series team will prevent him from doing that. Joey Logano will get asked about sophomore slumps and whether his car runs better than the bobsled he raced earlier this year at Lake Placid.
There's also a big announcement -- we are told they all are big -- that probably has something to do with a sponsor. Or maybe Busch defending his Nationwide title.
• Third stop, Penske Racing dinner back at hotel headquarters. Here we'll find out how Keselowski really feels about Hamlin. We'll hear Steve Addington, the only crew chief who can, compare and contrast Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch. I'm pretty sure he won't mention the ears.
But most of us will be tired from a long day and eager to get to the hospitality suite, where ESPN and TRG Motorsports, I hear, will host a wine tasting. Seems a bit wrong in a sport built around moonshining, but 'shine tasting went out when Junior Johnson turned to pork skins.
• First stop, Richard Childress Racing at hotel headquarters. Had we gone to RCR headquarters, there may have been more tasting at Childress' winery. One of the best moments of the media tour came three or four years ago when we walked into the winery and the host said, "Wine to the left and Jack Daniels to the right."
Alas, the highlight of this year's RCR visit will be hearing how the organization turned things around late last season and is ready to challenge Hendrick Motorsports. Wait, they say that every year.
• Second stop, we slide down the hall for the Richard Petty Motorsports Hour -- plus 10 minutes. Here, the King or somebody will admit that the final papers have been signed and that the merger with Yates Racing has been completed.[+] EnlargeJason Smith/Getty Images/NASCARKasey Kahne is likely to get asked a lot about his plans for next year.
It should be interesting. Kahne will not comment on what Stewart wouldn't comment on 24 hours earlier, and there'll be lots of speculation about whether team co-owner George Gillett will be able to pay the bills better now than when the organization was Gillett Evernham Motorsports.
And as usual, the King will say "you know what I mean" more times than he means to, you know what I mean?
• Third stop, we board a bus for the short trip to Charlotte Motor Speedway's Speedway Club. Yes, there is lunch involved. Ford, Front Row Motorsports and Wood Brothers Racing also will be there.
Some will want to know details on how many races the new Ford engine will be used. They'll learn that the Wood Brothers will use it almost entirely and that other teams will integrate it into the system.
Most will be a bit tired and just ready to eat after three stops in half a day.
• Fourth stop takes us to Roush Fenway Racing, where Jack Roush may or may not slam Toyota for invading NASCAR and Japan for bombing Pearl Harbor. There will be a lot of talk about what went wrong with the Roush organization last season and how Carl Edwards could go winless after leading the series with nine victories in 2008.
• Fifth stop, the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Uptown Charlotte. Don't ask me why it's Uptown instead of Downtown, but if you like, I'll ask HOF director Winston Kelly to elaborate.
This will be an opportunity to tour the facility, which will open May 11. We also get to eat, again, then head down -- or is it up? -- to challenge Dale Jr.'s bull. Ride 'em, cowboy!
• First stop, for those not still in the hospital after the bull ride, will be at hotel headquarters for Nationwide Series and Charlotte Motor Speedway announcements. (I wanted to make each of these sexy so you'd be anticipating the news, but I couldn't.)
• Second stop, a short bus ride to Hendrick Motorsports. Four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson will tell us how becoming a first-time father this summer won't stop him from five-peating, and Earnhardt will tell us that he's ready to put a horrific 2009 behind him and drive more like his father.
He may get a few hundred questions about his new Nationwide Series driver. No, not Kelly Bires. Danica Patrick. If anybody wants me to ask whether Patrick has made NASCAR's most popular driver a tote bag on the sewing machine she got for Christmas, now is the time to step forward.[+] EnlargeTodd Warshaw/Getty ImagesMarcos Ambrose, left, and David Reutimann may just have to provide the entertainment at the Michael Waltrip Racing dinner.
• Third stop, dinner at Michael Waltrip Racing. I'm not sure what new we'll learn, but we'll probably bust a gut laughing if last year's dinner is any indication. Waltrip is a combination of Jeff Foxworthy and older brother Darrell Waltrip. OK, maybe I should have said he is somewhere in between them. Maybe I shouldn't have said anything at all.
This will be a chance to grill Martin Truex Jr., who replaces Waltrip in the NAPA car, about what Teresa Earnhardt is really like, since she doesn't sign his checks anymore.
• First stop, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing at hotel headquarters. We'll finally get to hear something from Juan Pablo Montoya other than his tweets on how he's dropping the kids off at school and how cold it is in Miami. Maybe he'll honestly say he despises Stewart, with whom he was involved in an altercation in the final race.
Maybe Chip Ganassi will warm up to me, too, but I'm not counting on it.
• Second stop, zMAX Dragway for lunch and an announcement by the folks from Charlotte Motor Speedway who run this tour. A reminder: You guys promised to let the media on the drag strip a year ago, and weather canceled it. Just saying.
• Third and final stop of the tour with NASCAR at the R&D Center. This usually is on the first day, but the governing body is planning so many changes that they needed the extra time to sort things out.
Here we expect to hear chairman Brian France officially announce a switch from the wing to the spoiler, that bump-drafting will be allowed at Talladega and Daytona, and that drivers will be allowed to police the garage more than they have since the days of Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers. Also under consideration is doing away with the yellow line rule at Daytona and Talladega, although many drivers are opposed to that.
We might hear about other tweaks to the car as well. It's all part of NASCAR's initiative to return the sport to the drivers and fans. Or another way to say that, it's about selling tickets and increasing television ratings.
This is a good story.
Bigger than lunch.
Well, let me check the menu before I totally commit.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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