NASCAR Media Day Notebook From Daytona International Speedway

(NASCAR Wire Service)

By Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrates last year's Daytona 500 victory (Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrates last year’s Daytona 500 victory (Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— As an avid football fan, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has seen many a career come and go, but as Jeff Gordon’s final season in full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing approaches, Earnhardt, 40, is thinking more about his own advancing age.

And it still seems strange to Earnhardt that he has seen careers begin and end during his lifetime.

“I think about that with football players a lot,” Earnhardt said on Thursday during Daytona media day sessions at Daytona International Speedway. “We’ve watched… I remember when Peyton Manning was a rookie. It just seems like it was 10 years ago, when it’s more than that.

“It just seems like it’s amazing to think that these guys like Peyton and Drew Brees came into the series and came into the NFL and they’re nearing the end of their careers. It’s crazy to see Joe Montana in these commercials, and he’s an aged man, and you remember when he was this young, athletic quarterback playing on your television screen.”

Gordon’s planned exit from the sport has had even more of an impact.

“It reminds you of how long you’ve been around, and it kind of makes you look at yourself in the mirror and realize how old you are,” Earnhardt said. “Makes me feel old anyways.

“It’s a crazy thing. I think it makes me reflect more about my own age than Jeff’s, because you still see Jeff as this guy that could race another 10 years, as competitive as he is, so he doesn’t appear to – you don’t look at him and go, ‘Man, he’s old. Look at Jeff, man, he’s been here so long.’ It doesn’t feel like it.”


Did Danica Patrick’s string of 10 straight appearances in Super Bowl commercials for sponsor actually come to an end this year?

It depends on how you look at it.

“I was definitely disappointed I wasn’t in the Super Bowl for a commercial, but I was in a Super Bowl commercial — it just didn’t run,” Patrick said on Thursday during NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway.

The ad starring Patrick, which featured a story about a golden retriever puppy, was pulled by GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving after protests from animal rights organizations. In the commercial, which previewed on NBC’s “Today” show, the puppy falls off the back of a truck and ultimately finds his way home to an owner waiting to sell him.

“GoDaddy had every intention to run that commercial,” said Patrick, who has appeared in 13 GoDaddy Super Bowl spots overall. “We thought it was a really funny, slightly left-side joke, but it really was not intentional (in creating controversy). So, was I surprised? I don’t think anything in this culture surprises me anymore.

“People have opinions about everything, especially when you get into that world of animal rights, tree rights or whatever rights. They all have an opinion. I feel like Blake handled it as great as he could have. I feel like he made the most of the moment and showed the character of GoDaddy and of himself and said, ‘Fine. We’re not here to rock the boat. We’re not here to make people angry, and we’ll pull the commercial and run something else.’”

Patrick is in a contract year with both GoDaddy and Stewart-Haas Racing, but on media day she displayed little sense of urgency when asked if she was close to an extension of her deal.

“It’s frigging February, buddy,” Patrick demurred. “It’s really a matter of cart and horse. It’s sponsor and team.

“Both are happy, so it’s a matter of getting GoDaddy in a place where they’re happy and committing to something, and from my understanding, the team wants that, too, and it’s just a matter of time.”


Kyle Larson had a novel approach to preparing for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup — pretend you’re in it even if you’re not.

In a stellar 2014 season in which he won Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, Larson wasn’t quite consistent enough to qualify for the Chase, but his team made decisions in the final 10 races as if the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet were racing for the championship.

The same was true for teammate Jamie McMurray.

“Even though we weren’t in the Chase, we kind of played like we were in the Chase and made race calls and things like that to try to gain experience in the Chase, even though we weren’t in the Chase,” Larson told the NASCAR Wire Service during NASCAR Media Day interviews at Daytona International Speedway.

“The experience we got last year will help… Even though you’re not in the Chase, you act like you are. It’s a good way to gain experience as a team in making race calls.”

That experience may well come in handy this season, given that team co-owner Felix Sabates guaranteed during the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina, in late January that both Larson and McMurray would qualify for the Chase this year.

“That’s our expectation, for sure,” Larson said of Sabates’ guarantee. “I think that’s Chip Ganassi’s expectation every year. I think me and Jamie both expect that our cars are going to be really fast this year.”


If Joey Logano makes a return trip to the Championship 4 Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup this year, he’ll be better prepared to deal with the totality of the experience.

Logano’s championship hopes were derailed in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway by a snafu on pit road — not to mention the speed in Kevin Harvick’s title-winning car. But Logano and his entire tam learned from the experience.

“There is a lot of silver-lining to take from that,” Logano said on Thursday during NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway. “We didn’t finish where we wanted to and didn’t have the championship trophy like we wanted to have going in there, but we learned a lot about the whole week leading into it and how to prepare at the track and how to handle practice and do all that stuff to hopefully be in the same position again and do a better job.

“That’s the biggest thing we took away. There were a lot of positives last year, and it’s something I’m proud of. Unfortunately, it isn’t what we wanted, but we learned a lot about how to mentally prepare for a championship race like that.”

Part of the preparation was dealing with the ribbing he took from Harvick during the contenders’ press conference before the final race.

“Actually that helped me,” Logano revelaed. “Leading into that, after Phoenix (the next-to-last race), everyone was excited about the (Championship 4), and I thought it was great, but I knew it was going to be big. There was no excitement about getting into the (Championship 4) for me. We had to keep our heads down and do everything we could to win the championship. I was looking for something. I didn’t sleep. I was looking for something I could get better at. There was no joking around that week. I was very serious and probably not myself.

“When we got down to Florida and did that press conference, and (Harvick) started poking, I kind of relaxed because it was obvious that he was just as nervous as me. At that point I relaxed a lot. That was a good thing for me and I tried to carry that through my team. I remember when I left there I called (crew chief) Todd (Gordon) and was joking with him about it and told him we were going to do alright. I think that conversation helped him also. I think as a team we did an OK job.”


NASCAR announced during the offseason that manipulating and flaring out of vertical rocker panel extensions (commonly called side skirts) would no longer be allowed.

In a technical bulletin issued on Thursday, the sanctioning body spelled out stiff penalties for manipulation of body work, including side skirts.

If the infraction occurs under caution, NASCAR will notify the team to bring the car back to pit road to correct the infraction. The car will then be subject to a pass-through penalty on pit road after the race goes green.

If the infraction occurs under a green-flag condition, the car must return to pit road and will not be released by a NASCAR official until the problem is corrected.

Any crew member found to have broken the above rule, or to have caused an issue with another car, is subject to a written warning (and penalty, if applicable) at the discretion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series managing director.

The bottom line is that it no longer pays to skirt the law.

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