The final day of the 2013 Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway featured Fords racing through the streets of downtown, Roush-Fenway Racing showing off a driver who will no doubt add a splash of color to an otherwise monochrome sport and the folks from Joe Gibbs Racing doing it Gingham style.
After breakfast with drivers from the Ford camp, those who weren’t with Roush-Fenway the team we would see later and those with Penske who we’d seen the night before, we loaded up the busses one final time for the trip downtown and a return to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Roush-Fenway Racing presented their lineup for 2013. The biggest change on the Sprint Cup side is of course is the addition of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who will take over the No. 17 Ford from recently departed driver Matt Kenseth. Trevor Bayne joins the team on the Nationwide side along with Travis Pastrana. Pastrana will be colorful addition to the sport as evidenced by his entrance. While the other drivers came out wearing matching gray suits, Pastrana sported a very loud checkered suit coat with the familiar Red Bull cap perched atop his head. The entrance brought chuckles from all. Pastrana joked that he didn’t get the memo as he took his seat. Perhaps the best media gift of the tour was revealed shortly after. The meeting was being held in the spacious theater and each seats cupholder held a RFR key chain; two of these had a special dogtag attached. The media members who got those will get to enjoy a full week’s use of a Roush Stage 3 Ford Mustang. No, I didn’t get one, yes I wish I had.
After the breakouts were held in the great hall, the drivers prepared for a lap around Charlotte. All the Ford drivers suited up and took to the streets of the city in their Sprint Cup cars; a route that was easy to follow by simply listening to the noise they made as the moved around the streets. The only snafu came when a train decided to cross one street as the parade made its way towards the crossing. The cars, led by a dozen police officers on motorcycles were forced to wait as the train passed; I had to wonder what the commuters thought as they looked out their windows as they passed. The parade ended at the plaza in front of the Hall of Fame, but not before several burnouts and a trip over the curb by one driver.
“I loved that,” Carl Edwards told me after he got out of the car. “But I don’t think they will let us do it again!” Since none of us got to see the entire parade, we can only wonder what was left in its wake. After a photo opportunity with all the drivers, we headed to the last stop on the 2013 tour, Joe Gibbs Racing.
Unlike years past, the JGR team seems more at ease, less stiff and much looser. After the drivers were introduced new JGR driver Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, who were sitting together, traded some funny quips. After Kenseth said he felt right at home already and he was looking forward to bringing a Sprint Cup title to the team in 2013. “Didn’t you already win a championship,” NASCAR Nationwide Series teammate Brian Vickers said. “That was a long time ago,” Busch quipped. The barbs continued for a few moments before JD Gibbs introduced a video the team produced for Christmas. Taking advantage of the Gingham Style craze, the video featured the drivers and team doing the now famous dance to the song and was nothing short of riotous.
After the break-out sessions, the busses were loaded for the final trip to the hotel we spent four fast and furious days at. Just like that we said our goodbyes and parted ways. The 2013 Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway was over.
This marked my tenth tour and like in years past, it will take a week to sort through every transcript, audio file and photo. Eventually however it will all come together, the preseason stories will be written and just as suddenly as the media tour seemed to end, we in the NASCAR media will be staring at each other in the media center at Daytona International Speedway ready for the season to begin.
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