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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 17, 2010
JOHN ROBERTS: I'm John Roberts from SPEED. I can say on behalf of everybody at SPEED, it is a huge honor to be involved in the only major league All-Star event that actually matters, that people care about the outcome. I don't think many people, you can go up to somebody and ask them who won the NBA All-Star Game, the east or west, but I think about any race fan can tell you it was a dramatic win for Tony Stewart at the All-Star Race.
It will mark the 26th running of the All-Star Race. We'll walk you through a lot of the schedule things, some of the adjustments to the week and some of the adjustments to the race itself. As exciting as those last 10 laps were in the 2009 All-Star Race, you'll be hearing how NASCAR and Sprint has ramped it up once again this year so you'll see even more excitement.
It's very rare in sports that we can point to one event that actually changed the history of the sport. We look back on this All-Star Race, the double-file restarts, the fans loved it, they asked for it, now we have it.
Before we get started, I would like to acknowledge the boss at SPEED, Hunter. We appreciate you keeping us employed. SPEED is not only the home of the All-Star Race itself, but all of the programming throughout Sprint All-Star week including the Pit Crew Challenge. Hunter, thanks on behalf of all of us for making that come to fruition every year, because it's a big undertaking.
Now we want to hear from the man who's track has hosted this All-Star Race, the president and general manager of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Marcus Smith.
MARCUS SMITH: Thank you. Welcome, everybody. It is great to have everybody here at the mecca of motorsports. It's really exciting to start up the discussion about having the Sprint All-Star Race here at Charlotte Motor Speedway, all the race time activities. I've been calling it the 'Season of Speed' because we have so many things going on with the drag race next week, the auto fair, the All-Star Race and the Coke 600.
Today on All-Star, one of the things JR mentioned, the double-file restarts, for the last full season and since the All-Star Race last year, we've been hearing about this double-file shootout style restart. It kind of warms my heart because I know it started here, which is fantastic we have this great competition that's been going on for a long time.
This will be the 26th running of the All-Star Race. It's really amazing when you look back on it and see the first winner, Darrel Waltrip, that won what is now the Sprint All-Star Race, it's come a long way. The most amazing thing are the memories that have come from this race. I've talked about it to several of you in the room. Y'all have been around to see the first one. You think about the incredible All-Star remembers with DW winning the first one, Dale Sr., Bill Elliott getting together for the 'pass in the grass' on the frontstretch, the history that was made there. You have Junior that won in his rookie season, which is fantastic. Then of course one hot night with Kyle Petty and Dave (indiscernible) crossing the line with sparks flying, cars on their hoods. That was a night that actually kind of went down as one of my favorite in history and one that really got me into being a fan of NASCAR. I grew up around it, as you know, but that night, seeing the sparks fly, like they tend to do at the All-Star Race, that was what really turned me on to the sport. Then last year with Tony winning his first time being an owner was a special night. I could not believe how the cars were going through turn four three-wide lap after lap after lap. They were a little bit sideways each time, which was fantastic, and added fun to it for me.
We have a lot of fun in store for fans at this year's All-Star Race. To tell you more about what the fans have in store, I'm going to invite Scott Cooper up to tell us.
SCOTT COOPER: As Marcus mentioned, Tony Stewart took home a million dollars last year. I think the true winners this event with the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race are always the fans. We have more than a couple dozen fans that actually got messages through our social media and through Miss Sprint Cup social media today. Let's give a round of applause for some of our folks that showed up here. We're looking forward to having you back in a few weeks when we run this race for real.
We have a jam-packed entertainment lineup. It's going to kick off in the afternoon with a prerace concert by Creed. This is a group that has sold more than 35 million albums worldwide. They were the only rock group to have seven No. 1 consecutive singles. This concert is going to be free in the infield for anybody that buys a race ticket to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. For the next three thousand people that buy race tickets, there's going to get a special golden ticket which will allow them into the concert area early. We're trying to provide even more fan access, give people opportunities they don't normally get anywhere else.
After the concert that evening, we're going to bring back the Pennzoil Victory Challenge. We'll have another exciting Burnout Challenge at the start/finish line that will be televised by SPEED. We'll have announcements in the coming weeks telling you more about the celebrity judges panel and some of the drivers signed up to participate in that burnout contest.
That evening of course we'll have the Sprint Showdown starting about 7:30, and that of course is that last chance race for people who haven't prequalified for the All-Star Race to try to race their way in.
Then the most spectacular driver introductions in all of racing, courtesy of our friends at Sprint. Man, I mean, the fireworks prerace are just as good as the fireworks at the end of the race that we have on the night of the Sprint All-Star Race that, is going to give us that grand finale, then the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, starting a little after 9 p.m. that evening.
We talked earlier about Tony Stewart trying to go 2-for-2 after winning his first race as a driver/owner this year. We have a special ticket offer. We're calling it Smoke Double Down to give fans the opportunity for more access. Those Tony Stewart fans are going to like this. We have two frontstretch tickets, two Tony Stewart souvenirs, two passes to a fan forum lunch with Tony here in the infield on May the 3rd. We're going to kick off our motorsports month that Monday with Tony here. That entire package for the race is priced at $149. Even more, $20 of every ticket package sold it's going to go back to the Tony Stewart Foundation. We're excited about that ticket offer. We're excited about getting a ton of people to come in and enjoy the most spectacular event in all of professional All-Star events. We're going to have a good time.
I know there's a lot more for the rest of the week. I'm looking forward to hearing more about it.
JOHN ROBERTS: That's a lot of stuff in one night. We see racing back to its roots, a Saturday night Shootout, winner take all. People trying to really win. The stick-and-ball sports, I don't think those guys are trying to win those All-Star Races. Guys would wreck relatives to get out there.
We have a calendar over there. We'll go through this quickly because you can get a lot of this information on the websites we'll mention. The calendar shows what's happening during All-Star week. Tickets for NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge presented by Craftsman, an event that continues to grow, went on sale a few days ago. That features head-to-head competition between four of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams. It involves the guys behind the scenes, the unsung heroes and gives their families a chance to see them up close and permanent. That's Wednesday, May 19th, on SPEED, 7 p.m. eastern. It will be on SPEED that same evening televised at 9 p.m. You can go to PitCrewChallenge.com. With the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge on Wednesday, NASCAR's Revved Up will be held the following night, May 20th, from 4 to 10 p.m., interactive displays, driver appearances, and a free concert for the fans. That's in the same location, at 3rd and Mint. The concert will be free to the public. We have another big band on the way. We'll be announcing that in just a matter of a couple of days.
Friday, May 21st, we have the NASCAR charity event. The annual celebration of the NASCAR spirit enables fans and corporate partners to join together to make a difference in the lives of children. So that's a very important event as well on the track.
We have the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice and qualifying on Friday with the Carolina Lottery Truck Series race that evening at 8 eastern. If you've ever seen trucks do battle on this track, you know that's worth your time. We have practice and qualifying for the Sprint All-Star Race that day as well.
Saturday will have a full day of activities, highlighted by the 25th running of the Sprint All-Star Race that evening.
Ever since they've become the title sponsor of NASCAR's All-Star event, Sprint has put its mark on All-Star week through the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge and the introduction of the Sprint Fan Vote, which was a great way to get fans involved in that.
Here to talk more about what Sprint is offering the fans for this All-Star week, we have the vice president of corporate marketing for Sprint, Steve Gaffney.
STEVE GAFFNEY: Thanks and good afternoon. I want to thank members of the media for joining us today. I thank NASCAR for their tremendous partnership with Sprint. I'd like to thank SPEED for their passion and commitment that they bring to the stellar coverage of the sport, not only for the Sprint All-Star Race, but throughout the season.
I want to thank Marcus and the Charlotte Motor Speedway for always being a tremendous host both to the fans and to the industry.
It's an honor for Sprint to be the title sponsor at an event that is consistently considered one of the most exciting events during the Sprint Cup season. As our only entitled race, it certainly is a highlight of our season. It gives us a chance to bring new and exciting ways for the fans to get closer to the sport, especially true Sprint technology. And as evidenced by last year's 10-lap shootout, it also provides a fantastic opportunity to continue to push the competition forward. We'll talk more about that a little bit later.
One area that we've reached out to the fans since the inception of Sprint's title sponsorship back in 2004 is the Sprint Fan Vote, something that the fans continue to push every year. It's become part of the fabric of the All-Star competition. We've seen tremendous growth since its inception and especially in the last three years. We had about 200,000 votes in 2007. That's grown up to more than 700,000 votes in 2009.
Because of that popularity and because of the emphasis that we see the teams and sponsors and fans putting on trying to get their driver into the race, we're taking a new approach this year. We're going to open up the voting a little bit early. So next week on March 24th, fan voting will open for the Sprint All-Star Race. That's approximately four weeks earlier than we have in the last years and basically doubles the amount of time that people can cast their votes to get their driver into the race.
We also know that our technology is critically important to Sprints being a part of the NASCAR team. In addition to the vote, we know the fans love inside access and nothing is more inside than the driver crew chief meeting. For the second year in a row, with our partnership with NASCAR and Sprint technology, Sprint customers will have a chance to listen in live on the All-Star Race driver/crew chief meeting through Sprint Cup Mobile. Thanks to SPEED, it will give fans the chance to watch NASCAR on SPEED's coverage of All-Star week. Customers will be able to see practice sessions, qualifying, and watch the entire Sprint All-Star Race live on their Sprint devices.
Finally, I think everyone who witnessed the All-Star Race last year, or saw the highlights, would agree the final 10 laps were among the most exciting moments of the 2009 season. In those 10 laps we confirmed that no other event generates the no-holds-barred racing competition. To refresh your memories of everything that happened last year, let's go to a video.
STEVE GAFFNEY: Ladies and gentlemen, the 2009 Sprint Pit Crew Challenge champions, the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team from Richard Childress Racing.
So perhaps you're all now asking, what was that all about (laughter). So we all know that the pit crew's performance is critical in the Sprint All-Star Race. So to give you some additional details, I'd like to introduce my friend, vice president of competition for NASCAR, Mr. Robin Pemberton.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I was wondering what the hell was going on myself (laughter). How quickly we forget.
Anyway, you know, I think last year's format all in all is probably one of the best formats we've had in relationship from the Pit Crew Challenge to that setting, the pit stall picks, in order of the finish of the Pit Crew Challenge.
I think sooner or later we'll be able to quit calling these guys the unsung heroes because with today's media coverage and drivers being able to twit and tweet and all that other stuff about their good and bad pit stops, they're going to know every one of these guys' names. So it's definitely turned in to be a major team sport. It's not just the driver anymore.
I think last year's format went very well. There is a tweak to this year's format as it relates to the All-Star Race. We felt like everything goes well. We meet. We talk about it. Hunter always throws in the ring of fire, the loop to loop. We voted him down again this year. He's picked up where Humpy left off. Marcus, you are well represented on that.
Anyway, going back to the pit crews, they are such an important part of everything we do week in and week out. And this year the pit crews will become even more important. As the format will remain the same through the first three segments with a green flag pit stop in the first segment, regular pit stops in the second and third, in between the second and the third. Our 10-minute break will be that. It will be a 10-minute break. It will be an opportunity for the drivers, crew chiefs, crews to discuss the changes they need to make and they can make a lot of those chassis changes. Those rules will remain the same.
But the twist is after that 10-minute break, the cars will leave pit road. They will line up as they finish the third leg, and they will follow the pace car around the first time, the second time by pit road will be open and there will be a four-tire pit stop by the teams. So the last segment will be the starting lineup will be set according to how they come off of pit road.
So I think this adds a little bit of extra twist to it. A little bit more pressure on the pit crews. We're looking forward to it.
I think this is going to be probably the biggest and the best we've ever had. I think we've improved it year in and year out. Right now things are going very well. I think this is another opportunity for us to have a great Saturday night.
So that being said, thanks for everything. John Roberts is next. I never get to announce a driver, unless he's coming to the hauler. See you at Bristol.
JOHN ROBERTS: And what a challenge that is for NASCAR and Sprint to outdo the show each year, but they manage to do it in some way, shape or form, improving on this Sprint All-Star Race every time.
We have a driver with us today that fits the bill in a lot of things we've been talking about. Martin Truex, Jr. knows how important it is to have a great pit crew. Last year's five members claimed individual champion honors in the Pit Crew Challenge. This year his No. 56 NAPA Toyota crew is on a roll as well. They won the Precision Pit Crew Award at both Las Vegas and Atlanta. That means his Toyota spent the least time on pit road. That way Martin couldn't twit or tweet anything bad about the crew. He probably twitted they were good.
Martin also knows something about the fan vote as well. It was back in 2005 Martin was voted in by the fans and had the honor of advancing up into the Sprint All-Star event. It is my pleasure to the present driver of the No. 56 NAPA Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, Martin Truex, Jr.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: The excitement is already building. You can tell. You watch the videos. You see all these things. This is really a truly exciting event for the drivers and teams to be part of. I've been fortunate enough to race in this event three times, been voted in, raced my way in and qualified my way in by winning a Sprint Cup event. I can tell you this is truly an event we all want to be a part of. We think it's great. It's awesome to get the pit crews involved.
The changes this year are going to be incredible. I will be campaigning this year for the fan vote as we stand here right now. Since we're kicking all this off a little bit early, I need to encourage all the fans to vote for their favorite driver, not mention any names, Martin Truex, Jr., obviously (laughter). But we look forward to it. It's a great event obviously. All these people, thank you to Sprint for all they do for us, make these events exciting. This is truly a no-holds-barred, best-of-the-best of Sprint Cup racing going at it in a Shootout for a million bucks. Doesn't get any better than that. We want to be a part of it. Thank all the fans for voting in advance, hopefully. We look forward to seeing you.
Obviously of the changes with the pit crew thing, look forward to that, too. I've got the best crew on pit road this year. They've showed that the last two weeks with the Precision Pit Crew Award. Hopefully I get a chance in those last 10 laps to show what they can do. Thank you.
JOHN ROBERTS: We encourage everybody to vote. We won't mention any names about who to vote for. The neat thing on the years have been the campaigns the drives have come up with. Since we have more time, we look for the drivers and teams to come up with creative ways to get votes.
I want to invite our four special guests to come up here and we'll open up the floor to questions.
Q. Robin, last year the double-file restarts were the last 10 laps. Like races now, are they throughout the All-Star Race?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yes.
Q. Not just the last 10 laps?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yes.
Q. Is it three attempts at a green-white-checkered if you have to go to that?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: All the rules are the same till we tell you that they're different (laughter). Right now they're the same. Vote early and often.
Q. Martin, you follow other sports. Talk about how you think the All-Star event for NASCAR stacks up against what you have seen of other sports having All-Star events?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, I think for us, the All-Star event is something we all want to win. We put a lot of effort into it. I think not to say that other sports, they don't. But I think if you watch, for instance, the NFL All-Star Game this past year, a lot of guys couldn't even play because they were going to be in the Super Bowl. So their best of their best couldn't even play.
I just feel like they don't put in the effort. It's not as big of a deal as it is for us. It could be the million dollars that's up for stakes. I don't know. But a lot of things. Being here at home at our home racetrack, having all our family and friends here from the teams, it's a race that everyone wants to win. It's prestigious. It's had a lot of great names win it in the past. I haven't had a chance to win it yet. I'm not even in it yet this year but hopefully we will be and we'll have a shot at it. Vote early and often (laughter).
Q. Martin, could you talk about what you think has made your pit crew so good so far, how close you are to racing your way into this thing by winning and how crushing it would be if you weren't voted in and didn't get to race?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I can tell you last year it was tough to watch. I wasn't in it. I didn't race my way in. I didn't get the fan vote. It was difficult. You know, it was heartbreaking to have to watch it on TV and watch how much fun the guys were having. It was such a great race.
You know, our pit crew has been really good. I think a lot of the guys have been together before last year and they brought in some new guys. It just made -- I'm not sure what they did to make them so good, but they're just incredible. They're super fast every week. They don't make mistakes so far. That's gone well.
As far as my team goes, I feel like we're moving forward constantly. Obviously we've only had four races together. For a new group being together, I feel like we've done well. The finishes haven't really been indicative of how we've ran, but our cars have been fast. Very happy and proud to drive the car. You know, I've really enjoyed working with Pat and all the guys he's put together. I've got an awesome team. I think we're just going to keep getting better. Hopefully we can win before it comes time to come back for this All-Star event.
Q. Martin, I understand putting the focus on the pit crews, but is starting position critical for that segment? I don't remember where Tony Stewart started last year.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I think it would be a lot easier to win it from the front. If you can gain spots on pit road, it's a no-brainer. It's going to help you. Putting a lot of pressure on the pit crews is what we face every Sunday. To bring part of that into the All-Star Race I think is a great thing.
Q. Martin, can you gain anything by running in the Showdown that you can use in the All-Star Race?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah. Track time, experience, car setup. But this place is one of those tracks we go to that really changes from daylight to dark. The Showdown usually ends at dusk and the sun is still out a little bit. Yes, you can learn some. It's great to have 40 laps or whatever that race is now, 50 laps, to feel out your car and see what changes you need to make and be ahead of the curve when the All-Star Race starts.
To say that winning the Showdown is going to help you win it is probably not a good statement.
Q. Robin, testing here next week. What are you going to be looking for?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, I think the teams will be looking for more than what we are. I think that we've had some really good tests over the wintertime as it relates to spoiler implementation. Coming to Charlotte, I think it's a great opportunity for the teams to get tuned up for all their mile-and-a-half races that are coming up. Also it will further impact what happens during the Sprint All-Star week. It's been quite some time since we've had a test of this magnitude at any racetrack.
You know, I think the teams will be working hard. The setup that we're going to come back with, with the spoiler, many of the teams have already got a month under their belts testing it at various places around the country.
They've got some experience and they're not coming in totally blind. I think you're going to see what we've got in front of us for the rest of the year as it relates to the spoiler.
JOHN ROBERTS: I wanted to add in for the folks at Charlotte Motor Speedway, if you have a Cup ticket for the 600 or the All-Star Race, as a fan, you can come into a special VIP zone, sit with Miss Sprint, take pictures, get a behind-the-scenes look at what this test is.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Hard card get you in?
JOHN ROBERTS: Yes. But ticketholders can get into a special VIP zone for the test.
Q. Robin, is Martinsville going to be the first official spoiler race?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yes, it is. Yesterday morning the 83 spoilers went out the door to teams by 7:30, 7:45 a.m. Actually Monday morning. Yesterday we were at Talladega. Things are going well. So we look forward to Martinsville.
Q. Marcus, official opening of the Hall of Fame now, can you talk a little bit about the overall added benefit of those things that will be going on in addition to what already transpires in the two weeks with the All-Star Race and the 600?
MARCUS SMITH: Thanks. I think it's it really underscores how much of a Disneyworld of NASCAR that Charlotte is. It's just the ultimate race fan destination. If you go anywhere in the world, you've got the NASCAR Hall of Fame that's going to be opening up the week after the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, then we get right into the 600, and all the shops, all the team shops around the area. It really is phenomenal. For the city and the region, it's really just building on a strength we've already got. I think that is a tremendous investment from that standpoint, that we can all gain from.
It's going to be a lot of fun to go down there. I know a lot of people are planning on it. The Hall of Fame is planning on busting at the seams. With all activities, with Speed Street the week after the All-Star Race, it's going to be really fantastic.
Q. I can't remember last year, the Sprint fan vote winner, it says here the car has to be in raceable condition. One year it had to be on the lead lap. Is that different? Is that the same?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Has to be raceable condition.
Q. Was it like that last year?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: We've had numerous rule changes over the years. Do I have to go into all of them (laughter)? I can't remember that many.
No, raceable condition.
Q. Martin, could you give your reaction to the spoiler at Martinsville, also what you're looking for out of that test year?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, be nice, right? (Laughter) everything we've done with the spoiler has went really well. We had the Talladega test yesterday. That went very well. We actually ran it about two months ago down in New Smyrna on a short track. Obviously we haven't ran it where it really matters, that's mile-and-a-half, two-mile type downforce tracks. We're looking forward to the test next week really. We're going to learn a lot in those two days about the car.
My first reactions were obviously it looks better. Every car I've ran except for the last two years of my life had a spoiler on it. I feel a little bit more comfortable with it. I'm a fan. I'm being honest. I'm not scared of him (laughter).
Q. Robin, along those lines, with Bristol coming up after what happened at Atlanta, a lot of reports out there that guys were feeling like it might be a little bit more of an open season on retaliation. Are you sending messages to drivers? What's the line?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: The message that we have sent out there is they have to be responsible, all right? Actions that are way out of line, we will deal with. We're still going to maintain law and order on the racetrack and in the garage area.
We know these guys get together occasionally. Sometimes the result of that are unintended consequences, like a car getting upside down. We expect our drivers to race hard and occasionally lean on each other. I think they're capable of doing that without causing any harm, harming the show or anything else.
Everybody knows where we stand, drivers included. Sometimes a driver may act or react to something that doesn't go exactly how they want it to. I think the garage area understands how they need to race each other with a little bit of respect, so... We'll see.
Q. What do you think the chances, Martin, of you wearing white gloves in Bristol?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: No. I wear yellow ones.
Q. Robin, on the Atlanta thing. Have you had time to come to any conclusions about the car getting up in the air? I know Mike had said on the teleconference that was going to be a priority to look at in the days immediately afterwards.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, we know why. What we're trying to do is fix that so it has less opportunity.
Some of the things that we've implemented actually this week for Talladega with the larger shark fin up the back glass and on the deck lid, some of those changes we will put into play at all of the racetracks, but it will start at the Texas race. Those are the types of things that help us with the cars at least getting off the ground.
We'll continue to work on that. We have made some gains which doesn't lengthen the hunting season by any means. We'll still have to maintain our law and order, but we have made some reasonable gains.
Q. Robin, how do you define 'a little bit of respect'?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I think they should define it amongst themselves. My idea of what a little bit is, the drivers, they know. I mean, they're in control of it. They got steering wheels. They're in control. They know what's respect and what isn't respect. They know what hard racing is. You know, some that may go overboard will learn they went overboard and they'll need to take care of some of that.
Q. Robin, can you talk about why Martinsville, why you would want to start the spoiler there?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: It's as soon as we could be ready. You could have the teams build them. They would have been ready in 10 days. But as it relates to trying to give every team enough opportunity to get into the wind tunnels, to get to the racetracks test, and for us to regulate how the spoiler goes on the car, those big templates, the big grid we use to inspect the cars, all of that had to be changed, a lot of it had to be changed.
So, you know, when we went to work, as I told you, Monday morning is when the spoilers went out, so we figure we cut it pretty close by being able to start at Martinsville. We tried. That's as soon as we could get it done.
Q. What are the dimensions? Is it 64 and a half by 4 flat?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yes. We'll let you know if it changes.
JOHN ROBERTS: These four gentlemen will be available for one-on-one interviews. I want to thank everybody for coming out. Remind you once again, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, the spoiler tests will be going on here. Fans with a ticket to a Cup event can get in a special VIP zone. Thank you for coming out. We appreciate your time. Thank you.
End of FastScripts