Fan at the Track – Daytona Pre-Season Thunder 2012

January 12 – 13, 2012 – Daytona 

By Sheri Albritton

Sheri is a rookie blogger. Her favorite race team is Stewart-Haas Racing and her favorite drivers are Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski and…in short, she is a NASCAR fan.  Sheri’s father was a local dirt track racer, so she is not a rookie at the track.  Her father’s favorite driver was Dale Earnhardt Sr. and his favorite team was Richard Childress Racing. Upon becoming a NASCAR  fan, Sheri chose a driver from a different team and manufacturer, with Jeff Burton the 1994 Rookie of the Year, driving a Ford with Stavola Brothers.

For the second year in a row my NASCAR season began at Pre-Season Thunder with me driving through the tunnel into the infield of Daytona International Speedway.  
I would not have it any other way.  
If you ever have the opportunity to do this take it, you will not be disappointed.

Day 1

Thursday January 12, 2012

My first day started early 8am and ended late 10pm.  

Starting the day with a walk up on the fan deck, which overlooks the garages, 
there are all our boys in their glory getting set for another year of “Boys have at it.” 

You can see the excitement in the garage with loads of
high fives, fist pumps and hand shaking. 

Butt slapping only happens in the #14 garage, 
but you can see that everyone is ready to be here.

Clint Bowyer in his firesuit with a new sponsor 5-Hour Energy
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with Paul Menard walking in the garage area

Brad Keselowski in his Miller Lite Dodge
The first guy on the track is none other than my hero of the 2011 season, 
Brad Keselowski

And from there we were off, 
with drivers doing 200 mph plus on a beautiful day in Daytona. 

The first session consisted mostly of single car runs. 

It was great to see the cars back on the track.  
You could feel the excitement in the air from the fans, media and crews.

SPEED Reporter Wendy Venturini on the job
I did have the honor of taking a HOT pass garage tour in the afternoon. 
This is always fun and a must do if you ever get the chance. 

Last year I actually tripped over Kevin Harvick!  
Nothing like that this year but it is fun!! 

Kevin Harvick with crew chief Shane Wilson and crew
Crew chief Bootie Barker talking with his driver, Casey Mears
Champion Tony Stewart with Clint Bowyer

Fanfest begins at 5pm and runs until 10pm. 

This is your chance to see your favorite driver and get their autograph. 
They also do a Q & A session.  

I managed to pick up autographs from 
Dinger, Burton, Bowyer, Keselowski and last but not least Jr.

The following is a sampling of two Q & A sessions 
and what I thought was best!!

Q&A session from left to right, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Jeff Burton

Okay, So I am going with Jeff Burton here…

Question to Jeff Burton: What does it mean to you to lose 
Clint Bowyer as a teammate?

Jeff’s Answer:  Everyone will feel better in the morning; 
we will get more done before noon.
I will miss him he was a great teammate and an awesome friend.

Q&A session from left to right, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip
Whom ever put these three guys on the same stage is a genius! 
All I can say is “You had to be there.”

In all seriousness, the best exchange was between Michael and Tony.

Question to both Michael and Tony: How does it feel to be relatively new teams and having the successes and or prospect of success at this level.

Tony’s Answer: I am very pleased and humbled with what we have been able to accomplish in the short time we have been here.

Michael’s Answer: We started from nothing, where Tony had everything from Haas and only had to build from there. It’s been harder for us but we are getting there and we are ready for 2012.

Tony to Michael: But you have 2 really Cool Big Trophy’s.

Michael to Tony: Yes, but you have 3 even Cooler Bigger Trophy’s.

I don’t believe either is willing to trade!!

Day 2

Friday January 13, 2012

And the fun continues, on to day 2  

It’s very cold, only 42 degrees at 8am and

I will be here ’til 8pm tonight.

This is something I look forward to every year. 
If you have a chance, you need to add
Pre-Season Thunder to your bucket list!!

The day stared with single car runs and some tandems.
I really enjoyed watching 
Brad Keselowski and  A. J. Allmendinger in the tandems.  

The Garage was busy with all the teams trying different things.

Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart driving in the garage area
They say a picture is worth a thousand words… 
I wonder what Carl and Tony are talking about here?

Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards looking on as Kurt Busch drives by…
Come on Tony…he just wants to talk to the other Champion from 2011!!

2011 Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart walking past
2011 Daytona 500 Champion Trevor Bayne
Coming back from lunch and look what we got!!

2012 Pre-Season Thunder in Daytona – Testing Pack Racing
As a fan, I love the pack…I so missed you!! 
I realize it’s a little boring at home to watch, 
but at the track it makes your heart beat fast and will take your breath away!!

And as a result of pack racing,
I was able to get my favorite picture of the weekend…a bitter sweet moment.

 This….while JB’s team worked to repair his car!!

Jeff Burton on the sidelines while #31 car is repaired by his crew
Caterpillar crew works hard to get the #31 car back on the track

At 3:30 some of us tweeples got together 
for our first tweetup of 2012! 
Hosted by Jeff Gluck and attended by several media members 
and Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon.

The first tweetup of 2012 with organizer Jeff Gluck, from SBNation and Miss Sprint Cup, Kim Coon
By the way…Bob Pockrass is there too…do you see him?
Do you recognize anyone else?

Fanfest begins at 5pm and runs until 8pm

Again this is your chance to see your favorite drivers and get autographs.
They also do a Q & A sesson.  
This time I managed to pick up autographs from 
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Aric Almirola, Greg Biffle and Marcos Ambrose.

These Q & A’s were not as entertaining as Thursday night.  
But I left with the understanding… 
These guys are happy to be doing what they do 
and they really like US … THE FANS!! 

And you can bet Aric Almirola will be smiling all year!

Q&A session from left to right, Steve Byrnes from SPEED, Marcos Ambrose,
Aric Almirola and Jimmie Johnson 
Q&A session from left to right, Steve Byrnes from SPEED, Greg Biffle,
Jeff Gordon, Casey Mears, and Michael McDowell
At the end of the day, 
If I could never attend another race and could only do this…
I would be one very happy NASCAR fan!!

Sheri loves going to the race track and has agreed to be our “Fan at the Track” on her next race weekend. So, plan to see her again on Fan4Racing.
You can follow Sheri on twitter @31SpazCat15
So…Who will be our next Fan at the Track? Maybe YOU!
Let Fan4Racing know when you will be…at the track!

NASCAR limits car to car communication for 2012

January 13, 2012 Testing Pack Racing
Daytona’s Pre-Season Thunder
(Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

In 2012, as part of NASCAR’s initiative to limit two car drafting, the use of  team radios have been limited. While it doesn’t mean teams won’t be able to draft together, it will certainly make it more challenging. It’s one of several changes implemented in hopes of bringing traditional restrictor plate racing back to Daytona and Talladega.

When the two car drafting began a couple of seasons ago, teams learned ways to make it an art form, especially in time for 2011 Speedweeks at Daytona to kick off the season. It went beyond two drivers hooking up and simply drafting with one another throughout the course of a restrictor plate race. Teams were able to provide drivers the chance to change to other team channels during the course of a race. When any two drivers hooked up to draft together, one driver would switch to the others radio channel allowing for the chance to talk with one another. This was important because drivers would be able to discuss braking points to stay hooked together, swapping points to change positions from pusher to leader and vice versa to combat cooling issues, timing for making runs to the front of the field, and overall race strategy.

Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton finish 1-2
in Talladega Fall Race – 2011
(Photo by Associated Press)

Some teams even took the communication to the next level. In the most recent restrictor plate event last fall at Talladega, then RCR teammates Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer not only communicated all race long on Burton’s team channel, but also used Burton’s spotter to almost exclusively spot both cars (when running in tandem) throughout the event. It was an extra tool that further allowed each driver to be on the same page. Bowyer would eventually take the checkered flag followed by Burton in second.

Moving into 2012, each driver will have to stay on their respective channel, meaning that drivers may no longer communicate with one another and will use their own spotters throughout the course of races. Drivers will undoubtedly find ways to work together and will be able to relay messages to other drivers through either crew chiefs or spotters. However, it simply won’t be as effective as talking to one another over the radio.

Tell us your thoughts about this decision by NASCAR for the 2012 Daytona 500.  Do you think NASCAR will reverse this decision before the season-opener?