NASCAR media tour a thrill ride for drivers and reporters. Or not.
Unless you're really tuned into the NASCAR world, you probably didn't know the biggest media event in the sport is taking place this week in Concord. The annual Sprint Cup Media Tour is hosted each January by Charlotte Motor Speedway. It's 4 days of publicity for drivers, teams and sponsors. In a word, it's exciting. Sort of. Take Bob Pockrass. He writes for NASCARSceneDaily.com. This is his seventh media tour. And you could just hear the enthusiasm in his voice. "UhI look forward to it," he says. " I'm very excited. Well, that's actually what you hear from about everybody who speaks in the next four days." For those who cover NASCAR, there's a running joke about how optimistic NASCAR stars say they are for the upcoming season. And the teasing is not without merit. But Pockrass doesn't necessarily buy it. "I would say 33 percent are excited," he says. " About 33 percent are somewhat excited. And 33 percent are about ready to pee in their pants." Driver Ryan Newman could barely contain himself. "Honestly I'd rather be pressure washing the tractor," he says. "I don't necessarily look forward to it and I don't think it's the worst thing in the world. I think it's definitely great for our sponsors to talk about NASCAR, to talk about what we do and our anticipation and our goals for the season. I'm actually going back home to sink some Christmas trees with cinder blocks in my pond, so" And even more thrilled than the drivers are the crew chiefs. Dave Rogers runs a team at Joe Gibbs Racing. You can tell he's just giddy about being in the spotlight instead of back at the shop building race cars. "It's certainly not the part that I signed up for," Rogers admits. "This is kind of a side note to the position. I certainly don't look forward to it. I don't need the media attention." Make no mistake, fans would kill for this kind of access. German sportswriter Wolfgang Monsehr says reporters here have it made. His first media tour was five years ago. "I was speechless," he says. " I mean, coming from Formula One, you just can't believe how easy it is to access everything. Teams, drivers. How easy it is to make interviews and all this important things from a journalist's point of view. And I'm still getting more and more impressed every year." Besides the access, reporters also get gifts. At the Richard Childress Racing press conference on Tuesday, most media members took home a bag that included a $25 gas card, candy and two bottles of wine. Charlotte Observer columnist Tom Sorensen is one of the exceptions. He says for him ethics get in the way. "But I've been to guy's houses and it's like it's furnished in early speedway," Sorensen jokes. "There's so much, clocks and chairs and it's like "Man". I'm not pointing fingers, you do what you're comfortable with. But the thing is, if you take something then you inherently owe somebody a favor. That's how it works. They know it and at some level you know it. So if you take something it better be good." More than 200 reporters are attending this week's tour. According to Charlotte Motor Speedway, they're here from 18 states and a few foreign countries. It's Adrian Parker's job to organize the event. He says it takes about two months to plan. But by the time it arrives, it's the place to be in NASCAR. "So if you have kind of announcement to make this is the place to do it," Parker says. "If you have a new paint scheme to unveil, this is the place to do it. If you have a new driver lineup, this is the place to get them in front of everyone for the first time." The four day tour wraps up today. The next stop then for this crowd is Daytona where the 2010 season opens next month. And for those who love NASCAR, that for sure is bound to bevery exciting.