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Williams: Memories Of Media Tour Then And Now

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 29 2012

Clint Bowyer is "interviewed" by Michael Waltrip during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – In 1983, Charlotte Motor Speedway’s publicists created an interesting “experiment” known as the Media Tour. It was designed to provide preseason publicity for the track and NASCAR in a typically slow news month – January. That year the organizers struggled to fill one charter bus and it was

“like pulling teeth” to get the race teams to participate.

This year, more than 230 motorsports media members from around the world descended on the heart of NASCAR country to spend four days visiting with team owners, drivers, track officials and corporate sponsors. It’s the only time when media and competitors are able to socialize and interact with one another in a manner reminiscent of the 1980s.

Media and competitors share meals together, and occasionally hospitality sessions, in addition to formal news conferences and one-on-one interviews.

Each Media Tour produces its own funny moments and this year was no exception.

Michael Waltrip introduced his drivers to the group via a talk show format following a catered dinner at his race shop. Of course, Waltrip was the host and interviewed each of his drivers.

However, it was the Nationwide Series dinner that provided the most laughter and insight into the drivers’ personalities. During the post-Nationwide dinner activities, Elliott Sadler hosted the “Early Evening Show With Elliott Sadler”. Guests included Nationwide Series Director Joe Balash, who talked about taking up archery during the off-season; extreme sports legend Travis Pastrana and rookies Johanna Long, Brad Sweet and Austin Dillon. Sadler presented each rookie with an elementary student’s backpack for his/her trip to Daytona.

However, it was the “Top 10 Reasons To Cover Our Nationwide Races” that drew the most laughter. They included: Trevor Bayne –You get a head start on getting to know your next Daytona 500 champion; Austin Dillon – You get to watch me perfect my slide; Timmy Hill, with a photo of Kentucky Motor Speedway behind him – Easy in/Easy Out; and Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Cause we’re badass drivers.

Sadler’s skit was followed by the most popular of the Media Tour. Kenny Wallace, attired in brown bell bottom slacks reminiscent of the 1970s, hosted a version of the TV show “Family Feud” with a team of drivers, captained by Stenhouse, pitted against a media team headed by The AP’s Jenna Fryer. At one point, Stenhouse playfully put Danica Patrick in a headlock after identifying their team as “Danica and the Other Guys” because “that’s the name of our series.” Wallace portrayed the game show’s original host Richard Dawson, flirting with the women on the teams and receiving a kiss on the check from Patrick after Fryer refused his request. Eventually, the drivers defeated the media, 167-127.

This media tour was my 30th. Yes, I was on the inaugural one. In fact, I’m one of only five people who have survived all 30; therefore, I’ve made some special selections.

Biggest Disappointment – Carl Edwards not attending the Roush Fenway Racing 25th anniversary lunch due to a conflict on his schedule.

Reality Check – Kasey Kahne unable to attend the Hendrick Motorsports stop because he was on jury duty.

Most Surprising Statement – Bill Elliott equating the importance of Walmart sponsoring a car in the July Daytona race to NASCAR racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Threatened and Endangered Species SMI Chairman Bruton Smith Hates – California red-legged frogs and Indiana bats.

Best Dog Chew Toy – Small rubber traffic barrel given by Kentucky Motor Speedway.

Memorable One-Liners – Brad Keselowski, “We don’t have any baby news or girls in heels.” Jeff Burton to Kevin Harvick after he announced wife Delana was 14 weeks pregnant, “Is it yours?” Harvick: “I hope so.”

Outstanding Food – Shrimp, crab cakes and scallops at Richard Childress Racing; Salad at Michael Waltrip Racing.

Favorite Stop – Richard Childress Racing, shrimp tree and free wine.

Best Looking Shoes – Danica Patrick’s 4-inch black stilettos. (Of course, I think my 4-inch chrome heel Harley-Davidson boots provide some stiff competition.)

Another Media Tour is in the books. Now it’s time for Daytona.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 29 2012
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