It's a job change for Jeff Gordon, but there are familiar aspects
From a teamwork standpoint, Jeff Gordon's new day job won't be that much different from his old one.
"It's such a team effort," said Gordon, who is transitioning this year from the seat of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to the FOX Sports broadcast booth. "(There are) so many comparisons to what I've done as a driver in the sport, as to what I've already seen in the broadcast booth, whether it was Xfinity races that I did last year, or working with these guys (play-by-play man Mike Joy and analyst Darrell Waltrip) when we did rehearsal at the Truck race in Texas.
"And then following that up in December and January with a lot of meetings, and talking about preparation and the technology that they're bringing to the broadcast and just how we're working together as a team, coming up with great ideas. It's going to be a lot of fun -- I can't wait to get to Daytona."
Gordon landed his new job after a phone call to Eric Shanks, president, COO and executive producer at Fox Sports. Though Gordon expressed interest in a broadcasting career, Shanks wanted to make sure the four-time champion was a good fit with the brand that Joy, Waltrip and Larry McReynolds established in the last 15 years.
"NASCAR on FOX didn't exist before Larry, Mike and Darrell," Shanks said on Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "They created what the NASCAR on FOX brand is. When Jeff said this was something he was interested in, you do take a step back and say, 'OK, can Jeff carry on the tradition and be a part of the group of what you guys have done?' which is fun and entertaining and self-deprecating.
"You look at the drivers that are coming out. How many other drivers have hosted SNL ("Saturday Night Live"), and have gone through makeup to be a taxi driver to freak somebody out in a Pepsi commercial? Getting to know Jeff really well and his brand and how it fits with what these guys have created -- I think it's going to be really special."
Those who see transformed Daytona International Speedway for the first time are likely to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the changes to the Birthplace of Speed, but Lesa France Kennedy, CEO of parent company International Speedway Corporation, thinks one of the most compelling differences may well be the scope and level of technology available to fans after the completion of the Daytona Rising project.
"I feel like one of the biggest 'wow' factors will be technology and how it'll be so much more interactive with the fans," Kennedy said. "I think that you're going to see ... we talked about our new mobile app, for instance, and it'll give fans the opportunity to go to reward stations and get prizes, all types of interactive events like that. I think they're going to enjoy it.
"We're also going to have new larger high-def video screens, so they're going to feel more up close and personal with the competition, the drivers and what's going on at the track. And the one thing I love at Daytona -- but across all the facilities -- is the WiFi capabilities. We've all been to a stadium where you can't get out and you can't communicate out, and we have so many cool things that are going on, I want our fans to be able to be telling everybody what's happening there during the event, and I think that's going to be really good for all of us."
Kennedy also emphasized ISC's ongoing commitment to the safety of competitors and fans, noting that, throughout the company's portfolio, ISC has added 54,000 linear feet of new SAFER barrier to its facilities.
And now that the Daytona Rising project is reaching fruition, Kennedy said Richmond and Phoenix are two of the next company priorities for capital improvements.
What's in a name
With elimination-style playoffs in all of its top three national touring series this year, NASCAR has done the sensible thing, dropping the nomenclature from the four rounds of the Chase for the Sprint Cup in favor of more traditional Round of 16, etc.
"Yes, we have removed the round names from the #Chase, including #NASCAR Sprint Cup," tweeted David Higdon, vice president of NASCAR integrated marketing communications. "Now: Round of 16, Round of 12, Round of 8, Championship Round."
Drivers, teams hoping for long-term deals
"I think Mike (Wheeler) will be my last crew chief," Hamlin said of his new pit partnership. "I've got such a great relationship with JGR and (sponsor) FedEx, I'd be a fool to leave either one."
In a similar vein, Furniture Row Racing general manager Joe Garone said his team is happy with its relationship with driver Martin Truex Jr. and would sign him to a multiyear contract if it had assurances that sponsorship dollars were in place.