Friday, January 28, 2011

A New NASCAR Season Spawns Hope, Optimism and Nervousness

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KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- Painted high on the walls of the sprawling setup room at the Stewart-Haas Racing team shop here are inspirational quotes from Winston Churchill, Thomas Paine, Lyndon B. Johnson and Vince Lombardi, among others, as well as Satchel Paige, the legendary African-American baseball player who made his name as a pitcher rather than a great politician or statesman.

Yet it is Paige's quote -- "Don't look back, something might be gaining on you" -- that seems to best typify the dead-of-winter mood in the race shops scattered around the greater Charlotte area.

Nearly all the teams and drivers are once again filled with hope and enthusiasm, but everyone has to be wondering nonetheless how their season will play out. Will they be competitive right out of the box? Have other teams gained some kind of a little advantage?

"It's just who made the bigger gains" during the off-season and preparing for 2011, said Tony Stewart as the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway media tour, with some 200 media members in attendance, made a stop at his Kannapolis shop Monday afternoon for a visit with him and teammate Ryan Newman.

Chip Ganassi, co-owner of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, echoed the thought earlier Monday during a luncheon with the team. Although both of his drivers, Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya, won races in 2010, "there are lots of places we can improve," he said. "You're looking at that all the time. It's a constant process of looking at yourself and looking at the team."


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