Frontstretch Staff · Monday January 28, 2013
Did you see all of the race action this weekend? Or, like a lot of busy fans, did you miss a late-night adventure, a Friday controversy, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each week, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch moving forward. Let our experts help you get up to speed for the coming week no matter what series you might have missed, all in this edition of Pace Laps!
Sprint Cup: Sponsorship Headlines 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour Last week’s NASCAR Sprint Media Tour Hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway featured several teams and drivers from NASCAR’s top division, and one common thread in discussions was sponsorship. While several teams added new backers, some high-profile ones still have open races just a month before the season begins with the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona. Tops on the list is perennial Most Popular Driver award winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who still has up to 13 unsponsored races.
Stewart-Haas Racing is still looking for backing for all three of its teams, including eight races apiece for three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart and 2002 Rookie of the Year Ryan Newman, along with three for rookie Danica Patrick. Other notables still searching for sponsorship include Jamie McMurray and Roush-Fenway Nationwide Series driver Travis Pastrana. Several of the smaller Cup teams also have races available for potential sponsors.
But the news wasn’t all bleak as several teams announced new partnerships. Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing has added Cessna and parent company Textron as primary sponsor for McMurray for ten races in 2013 as well as in an associate sponsorship role for all of Chip Ganassi’s Sprint Cup, IndyCar and Grand Am teams. Interstate Batteries signed an extension with Joe Gibbs Racing as primary sponsor for Kyle Busch in six races, and JGR also announced that all of their Sprint Cup sponsors except one are now signed to long-term deals, though Gibbs did not name the sponsor who remains unsigned beyond this year. Front Row Motorsports announced sponsorship from CSX Transportation for David Ragan at Richmond in April; CSX will also be on Ragan’s car in additional races in an associate role. Alliance Truck Parts extended their sponsorship of Sam Hornish, Jr. at Penske Racing for two more years, and Penske also added the Hertz car rental brand to its Nationwide Series stable for select races and one Cup race with Joey Logano. In addition, Shell-Pennzoil has inked a multi-year contract to stay on the No. 22 Penske Cup car of Joey Logano, and Richard Petty Motorsports resigned Smithfield Foods on the No. 43 for 25 races this year. All in all, while people are pointing to the Earnhardt hole the final sponsorship numbers were more of a mixed bag than you might have thought. Amy Henderson
Nationwide Series: Nationwide Drivers Take on Press During Media Tour Several drivers from the NASCAR Nationwide Series challenged members of the media during a Media Tour event hosted by title sponsor Nationwide, but not about their coverage for the sport. Instead, Nationwide drivers and media members faced off at a number of games, including Foosball, ping-pong, darts, Skee-Ball, Free Throw basketball, and driving simulators. Both drivers and media members took part in the games, for which drivers earned money for Speedway Children’s Charities by participating in as many different ones as possible, while media members interacted with as many drivers as possible to qualify for a prize drawing.
Drivers and media still participated in more traditional question and answer sessions throughout the night, but the games were the highlight of the evening, with both sides enjoying the challenge of competition in a relaxed atmosphere. Few note pads or tape recorders were seen in the arcade room, with the formal pieces of the evening being reserved for the separate press room Q & A sessions. (In case anyone is wondering, I lost to Ty Dillon in Skee-Ball and Parker Kligerman in darts…both by a small margin.) It was the type of atmosphere that allowed both sides to see a different side of each other, setting the right attitude for a positive beginning to 2013 for all. Amy Henderson
Truck Series: Riggs’ Last Chance To Rebuild? Lost in the hustle and bustle of Media Tour Week, overshadowed by everyone from Chase Elliott to Danica Patrick was a small, seemingly insignificant press release from Ricky Benton. The news was simple: his team, the little-engine-that-could single truck No. 92 would run at least the first five Camping World Truck races of 2013 with Scott Riggs.
Wait a minute… Scott Riggs? As in the former Truck Series title contender, from over a decade ago turned Nationwide competitor, turned Cup Series regular, turned unemployed-and-over-the-hill? OK, that last part is clearly a joke but that’s certainly what all the Cup owners seem to think these days; Riggs hasn’t had a full-time opportunity since 2008, a victim of Tony Stewart’s move to team ownership with Haas CNC. For years, Riggs resisted the urge to start-and-park, publicly criticizing the practice and its goals while hocking his resume. But after two years on the outs, the old saying of “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” kicked in, a sad example of how modern NASCAR is forcing drivers to race the wrong way for a paycheck. Since February, 2011 Riggs has had 57 starts in the sport’s top three divisions, getting to finish a grand total of three of them.
That’s why this 2013 gig is so important. Riggs built his reputation on being a quick learner in Trucks, and it’s not inconceivable RBR could find more money to run all 22 events. The key is to get off to a quick start, and the equipment is in place to do that; Riggs was fifth, at Martinsville last year in the only race he ran with the team. Could a solid beginning for this veteran, who turns 42 this year keep a once-promising career alive? You may very well be remembering this news bite two months from now, as desperation off the track sometimes leads to wonderful things on it. Tom Bowles
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