Sprint Media Tour – Day Four – Ford, Roush-Fenway, and Joe Gibbs RacingBy Ron Fleshman
The final day of the Sprint Media Tour had it all—announcements, fireworks, and humor at Joe Gibbs Racing. The first stop was the Ford breakfast where all the Ford teams with the notable exception of Roush-Fenway were represented. After a short introduction, drivers were given designated places for interviews. Drivers and officials from Richard Petty Motorsports, Front Row Motorsports, Germain Racing, and Wood Brothers Racing were in attendance along with Ford’s Edsel Ford and Jamie Allison.
The only major announcement was that Smithfield Foods had announced an expansion of its partnership with RPM. This extension will include being primary sponsor on the famous No. 43 Ford Fusion in 25 events during the 2013 season. Those brands include Eckrich, Farmland, Gwaltney, and Smithfield and all will appear on the car. Aric Amirola will continue to drive the No. 43 as announced earlier. Smithfield Packing will be the sponsor at Daytona in February.
Next, the media headed to Uptown Charlotte to the NASCAR Hall of Fame for the Roush-Fenway presentation. The 2013 drivers were announced and included Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in Sprint Cup. Trevor Bayne will pilot the No. 6 Mustang in the Nationwide Series while Travis Pastrana will drive the No. 60 Mustang.
Pastrana said he was humbled to be with Roush-Fenway.
“I’ve always wanted to be with a team that has won championships and knew what takes to win. I’m there now,” Pastrana said. “I’m in awe of that No. 60 Ford and all the success it has had.”
Robbie Reiser was promoted from General Manager to Vice President of Competition. “That’s the job he was doing anyway,” Roush said. Roger Penske said Wednesday night that their main contact with RFR was Reiser, but Roush said that “they have a dramatically different car than our car. The underbody and the suspension do not relate.”
Roush said he was looking to add a fourth team as soon as possible. The driver of that car would be Trevor Bayne. Regardless, Bayne said to this writer, “All I have so far is the Nationwide Series and Cup with the Wood Brothers. I hope someday to run Cup. That’s what I want.”
Roush said they were able to renew nine sponsorships even with the tough economic times. When asked about the No. 17 to be driven by Stenhouse, he commented that there was sponsorship available to run the entire season there.
The most spectacular end to the visit was when all the Ford Cup cars paraded around Uptown Charlotte in their new 2013 Fusion race cars. Biffle, Edwards, and Stenhouse from RFR, Ambrose and Almirola from RPM, Keselowski and Logano from Penske, Casey Mears from Germain Racing, and David Ragan and David Gilliland from Front Row Motorsports took a wild run through the streets of the Queen City with a police escort. During the run, the drivers had fun with the photographer’s F-150 truck just ahead of the cars, nearly touching the truck at times.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Keselowski. “I hope we didn’t get into trouble and we might have.” When told that he had scared the photographers, Keselowski said, “That’s what we intended to do.” The cars made the trip around two city blocks and came back to the plaza of the Hall of Fame for pictures with drivers and car owners, as well as Edsel Ford.
The final stop on the Tour was Joe Gibbs Racing where the driver lineup of Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, and Brian Vickers were introduced. Elliott Sadler was testing and couldn’t attend. It was a light-hearted affair with Kenseth and Busch throwing jabs at each other. At one point, Kenseth told the crowd that Busch had told him not to be disappointed in their restrictor plate performance because it wasn’t too good. Kenseth was fast off the truck at Daytona. Later on Busch proclaimed his desire to be a Sprint Cup Champion, and hoped to challenge Hamlin in that race in 2013. Gibbs said, “What about that guy,” pointing at Kenseth. “He already has his,” Busch said.
Gibbs announced a multi-year extension with Busch.
“I’ve always wanted to be here,” Busch said. I love Joe Gibbs and J.D. and he work so well together, Busch said. “That’s not always the case with a father and son as I can tell you about my father and me.” When asked if he wanted to end his career at Gibbs, Busch said he would never say never, but for now, it’s a perfect fit for him.
It was also announced that Busch would once again be driving in 25 Nationwide Series races for JGR. He will drive the No.94 Toyota Camry along with Matt Kenseth.