Posted on: February 8, 2012 12:43 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 12:50 pm

Penske poised for Sprint Cup championship run

By Pete Pistone

  A.J. Allmendinger, Driver Of The #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, Speaks
(Allmendinger joins Keselowski in a new-look Penske Racing tandem that many believe can challenge for the title)

Roger Penske
has accomplished nearly everything possible in the world of auto racing.

Indy Car Series crowns, Indy 500 wins, sports car titles and Daytona 500 victories all adorn the resume of “The Captain.”

However there is one major item still on Penske’s bucket list and that is a Sprint Cup Series championship. 

That may change in 2012. 

Penske Racing enters the coming campaign with a new look duo of Brad Keselowski and A.J. Allmendinger and both drivers are poised to continue the success the team enjoyed last year. 

Despite the turmoil caused by the controversial departure of Kurt Busch from the stable at season’s end, the Penske team enjoyed a year that included five trips to victory lane and both drivers earning spots in the Chase. 

Ultimately things didn’t turn out the way he had hoped but the performance was encouraging enough for Penske to feel confident about where his organization is headed. 

“It takes good people to be successful in any business including auto racing,” said Penske. “We have that here in place all around our NASCAR program and to me I think we’re in as good of a position to succeed as we’ve ever been. What Brad did last year and what we believe A.J. can accomplish with us this year has us pretty excited for 2012.” 

Keselowski’s break out season that included three wins and a championship run once he got into the Chase as a wild car entry has the former Nationwide Series champ feeling pretty good about his chances this season. 

“I’m really happy with how we ended last year,” Keselowski said. “There certainly are some areas to improve on, some of which I’ve seen us make large strides and some of which I have not.

“The areas where we’ve made large strides I’m very proud of and we’ve got to hit the items that we haven’t and we’ve got to hit them hard and have got to hit them quickly.” 

Even before Busch’s departure, Keselowski had inherited the role of team leader, a position he completely embraces going forward. 

Penske says she isn’t surprised Keselowski evolved into the leader of the race team or of the impact he’s had on the entire organization. 

“He’s fully engaged; you can see the sponsors that we just renewed ... you don’t do that unless you have a good driver,” Penske said of Miller Lite signing on to continue its backing of the Blue Deuce. “I think that he helped us; he was instrumental in talking to AJ coming on to the team to give him some insight because when you’re changing drivers, you don’t have months and months to do research. It’s what you see on the track.” 

Keselowski has embraced the leadership position and sees it as another example of his commitment to do whatever it takes to succeed. 

“Sometimes you have to step up and do things,” Keselowski said. “It’s not because I necessarily enjoy it but it’s what we need to be successful and it’s what I’m committed to.

“I don’t really think I’ve changed that much off the track, but maybe I have. I don’t know. I’m certainly more confident and in a better position to be a leader at Penske Racing.” 

Although Allmendinger hasn’t had much time working with the team or his new teammate, he’s already connected with Keselowski due in great deal to the two sharing similar backgrounds. 

“The biggest thing for me is I look at Brad and he's a true racer,” Allmendinger said. “He's come up from a racing family. He's worked hard to get to this point. And something that I saw, which was pretty amazing, was the middle of the year where he was at to the end of the year and how much him and this organization stepped up their game and really worked well together and made their race cars better.” 

Allmendinger, who started the year with a Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona win last month, has made great strides in his Sprint Cup career the last two seasons when he drove for Richard Petty Motorsports. 

However he wasn’t able to get over the hump and break into victory lane last year despite finishing a career-best fifteenth in the Sprint Cup standings. 

When the opportunity to take the seat of Penske’s No. 22 Dodge to replace Busch arose, Allmendinger did not hesitate to answer the call. 

He realizes there’s a lot of work to be done but Allmendinger is confident he was the right man for the job. 

“I'm coming into a race team that's got a lot of momentum, an organization that's got a lot of momentum from a great solid year,” Allmendinger said. “So I feel like the race cars are going to be pretty good. It's more about myself and (crew chief) Todd (Gordon) and the race team gelling, and the quicker we can do that, the better we can be early on.

“And really when the season starts, you've just got to be solid .... You can't put yourself in a hole. So I think that's going to be a big thing for us is just to try to gel together as quick as possible.” 

Enthusiasm is high at Penske who again remains the only full-time Dodge team in the Sprint Cup stable. 

But even though last year’s successful campaign provided a foundation the team hopes to build on in 2012, it will remain a challenge to remain a factor in a highly-competitive Sprint Cup Series that produced eighteen different winners a year ago. 

“We’ve got to work hard, work smart,” Keselowski said. “This sport is a constant moving target. The only way that you’re going to continue to hit it is to fire a lot of bullets at the target and keep reloading.

“We’ve got a lot to do over the next few months as a company and as a team. We’ve got to make it happen, got to get stuff done. If we can do that, we can come back and not only repeat this year, but have a shot at the title."

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Posted on: February 7, 2012 11:25 am
Edited on: February 7, 2012 5:22 pm

Wrestler as honorary starter raising eyebrows

Posted by Pete Pistone

There are those who still liken NASCAR racing to professional wrestling.

Even three time series champion Tony Stewart has done it during one of his more infamous riffs a few years ago when things didn't go his way in the outcome of a race.

“I guess NASCAR thinks ’Hey, wrestling worked, and it was for the most part staged, so I guess it’s going to work in racing, too,”’ Stewart said in the wake of a 2007 race. “I can’t understand how long the fans are going to let NASCAR treat them like they’re stupid before the fans finally turn on NASCAR.

“I don’t know that they’ve run a fair race all year.”

Stewart later apologized for the remarks and those who know him understood some of what was said was done so in a combination of anger and humor.

However the connection does still get made by some and that will most certainly be reinforced with the announcement that WWE "Superstar" John Cena will be the honorary starter for this year's Daytona 500.

Cena has been involved in the sport before and has proclaimed being a big fan. The speedway no doubt is looking to generate buzz around the announcement and tap into the huge pro wrestling following that follows Cena and his WWE counterparts.

But there will still be more than a few people who feel it's the perfect marriage between the two "sports," likely to generate some bad publicity along the way.

Here's the official release from the speedway:

News Release

WWE Superstar John Cena will wave the green flag as Honorary Starter of the 54th annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, Feb. 26 at historic Daytona International Speedway.

Cena was invited to participate in this year’s big race by 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series runner-up Carl Edwards last night on WWE’s Monday Night Raw. Edwards got out of his official No. 99 Fastenal Ford and told Cena, “NASCAR asked me to come to Monday Night Raw and personally invite you to drop the green flag and officially start the Daytona 500 on February 26.” An appreciative John Cena enthusiastically accepted with an emphatic “Yes!”

“John Cena is the greatest Superstar in WWE today,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said. “We look forward to seeing him on the flag stand waving the green flag to start ‘The Great American Race’ and kick off the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.”

Cena, who made his WWE debut in 2002, is a ten-time World Champion. He can be seen each week on the hit cable series Monday Night Raw on USA Network. The avid NASCAR fan will headline WrestleMania against The Rock at Sun Life Stadium in Miami on Sunday, April 1, 2012.

Cena’s success has led to starring roles in various Hollywood films. He recently starred in The Reunion from WWE Studios and alongside Patricia Clarkson and Danny Glover in the family drama Legendary. His first theatrical film was the 2006 action-thriller The Marine from Twentieth Century Fox. Always a fan favorite with kids, Cena played himself in Nickelodeon’s popular teen comedies Fred: The Movie and Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred. A popular talk show guest, Cena has appeared on The Today ShowThe Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Talk and many more.

Cena, like many NASCAR drivers, has a long standing relationship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He is on pace to grant his 300th wish, making him the first celebrity wish granter ever to reach that lofty goal. The Make-A-Wish Foundation recently dedicated a room to WWE at the foundation’s headquarters in Phoenix, AZ, in honor of Cena’s unwavering dedication to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Past Honorary Starters for the Daytona 500 include NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Richard Petty, actor Ashton Kutcher, comedian Whoopi Goldberg and singer Mariah Carey. 

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Category: Auto Racing
Tags: John Cena, NASCAR
Posted on: February 6, 2012 4:08 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2012 4:08 pm

Ryan Pemberton named crew chief for Dave Blaney

By Pete Pistone

Tommy Baldwin Racing continued its preparations for the 2012 season with the hiring of veteran crew chief Ryan Pemberton.

Pemberton will join the team and work with driver Dave Blaney as they attempt to make the Daytona 500 February 26. The No. 36 team’s 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series chedule is still being finalized as the team seeks funding for all 36 events.
Pemberton most recently served as crew chief for Brian Vickers at Red Bull Racing. During his career as a NSCS crew chief, he compiled two wins, 21 top-fives, 92 top-10s and 15 poles.
“I’m thrilled to join Tommy Baldwin Racing,” explained Pemberton. “TBR has shown a lot of growth in a short time, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of stepping up the program this year. Tommy, Dave and I all come from families of racing and have similar backgrounds, so I think it will be a good fit.”
This season will mark TBR’s fourth season of competition. TBR began as a part-time, one-car NSCS team in 2009 and developed into a top-35 team by 2011. In 2012, TBR plans to compete with two NSCS teams and a part-time NASCAR Nationwide Series team. The team would like to increase the number of races in both the NSCS and NNS schedules, provided more sponsorship can be found.
“Hiring Ryan is another stepping stone for TBR,” Tommy Baldwin commented. “Ryan brings experience and a wealth of knowledge from all the years he has been in the sport. He has been successful with every team he has worked for, and we are excited to have him be a part of our program.”

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Posted on: February 6, 2012 12:24 pm

NASCAR helps inspire Giants to Super Bowl win

Posted by Pete Pistone

From NASCAR News Release

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 6, 2012) — Last night in the Daytona 500 of Football, the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots, employing a thrilling, breathtaking and awe-inspiring defensive package named after a thrilling, breathtaking and awe-inspiring sport – NASCAR. 

The moniker, and its genesis, makes sense. Think about it… 

DE Justin Tuck went to college at Notre Dame, a quick three-hour drive from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Look at him during a game, dancing here – then there – behind the line of scrimmage. Aren’t his shimmies – which often result in a spike of some poor quarterback – reminiscent of Darrell Waltrip in Daytona International Speedway’s Victory Lane after winning The Great American Race in 1989? 

Then watch the swim move from DE Osi Umenyiora, whose college (Troy University) sits about a two-and-a-half hour drive from big Talladega Superspeedway. His go-to move: Juking right, swatting a helpless defender away, and launching left. Can’t you envision a similar slingshot maneuver on Lap 200 on Feb. 26? 

And now everyone’s down with JPP – DE Jason Pierre-Paul. He went to school at the University of South Florida, near NASCAR’s bookend tracks – Daytona and Homestead-Miami Speedway. His specialty: Off the block speed, every single play. If the NFL had an American Ethanol Fastest on the Restart Award (they don’t, but NASCAR does), he’d win it every game. 

No wonder the Giants nicknamed its all-out pass rush after the world’s most competitive form of motorsports. 

“We came up with NASCAR; we call it our speed package,” Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, who notched two sacks last night, told ESPN. “Why do we call it that? All of us compete about who’s the fastest and who gets to the quarterback the fastest. So NASCAR’s just something that felt right.” 

So there’s a competition about who’s the fastest? And they bicker about who will be first to an all-important prize? Do the similarities ever end? Maybe the NFL should just give in and end games with a checkered flag. 

Among the NASCAR drivers who attended Super Bowl XLVI were Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Austin and Ty Dillon. 

Next, on Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. on FOX, NASCAR’s best will run the Daytona 500 for their chance at immortality. 

The storylines for the much-anticipated opener are plenty. Will it be defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, who looks to fill the only hole in his brilliant career with his first win in The Great American Race? Or maybe Dale Earnhardt Jr. will nab his second 500 win, to join his 2004 trophy. 

Then there’s the debut of Danica Patrick. Could she shock the world, winning the sport’s biggest race in her first series start?

Either way, the Daytona 500 appetizer is over. The main course is now only three weeks away. 

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 6, 2012 11:24 am
Edited on: February 6, 2012 11:28 am

2012 Nationwide Series season preview

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Stenhouse Jr. will be back to defend his championship in 2012 and looks to bring Mustang another title)

The days of the Nationwide Series being referred to “Sprint Cup Lite” may be coming to a close. 

Thanks to NASCAR’s new championship system, the disappearance of Cup regulars running full-time in the series and a brand new race car, stock car racing’s number two series is beginning to find an identity of its own. 

The sanctioning body’s decision to mandate drivers choose which championship they intended to compete for at the beginning of last season provided an opportunity for Nationwide-only competitors to shine. Although Sprint Cup drivers won their share of races last season, the title fight that went down to the wire between series regulars Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler did exactly what NASCAR had hoped it would by providing more exposure and awareness. 

"I think it's worked just the way we wanted it to," said NASCASR CEO Brian France. "We wanted to showcase the young drivers in their own series, and still have the participation of drivers with a lot of experience, and that's exactly what we've gotten. I think it's been good for the young drivers to get some different notoriety and the honor and prestige of winning a championship, and the money that comes with that, and all the best. It's been a good thing." 

Eventual champ Stenhouse had to fight the likes of Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski for wins throughout the year but he didn’t have to worry about battling those Cup interlopers for the championship. 

"When they changed the points system, nobody really counted us in," Stenhouse said after claiming the crown for Roush Fenway Racing. “But we felt like as a race team, that gave us an even better shot to win it. We just fought really hard all year. We came into this season feeling like we had a shot at it." 

As the 2012 season nears, Stenhouse will get a shot at back to back titles. Despite some sponsorship issues and the challenge of finding the necessary funding, team owner Jack Roush has committed to bringing Stenhouse back for another title assault. 

“They’re working on sponsorship for it right now, so everything is good,” said Stenhouse, who will also run a handful of Sprint Cup races for RFR including his first Daytona 500. “It sounds like we’re going to be able to go and defend our title again. … We’ve been planning on running for it.”

The road to a second straight crown won’t be an easy one for Stenhouse who will face a tough group of challengers including Sadler and his Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon, last year’s Camping World Truck Series titlist. 

The duo is pumped up about their assault on the championship for the restructured and re-energized RCR Nationwide effort, which absorbed the Kevin Harvick Inc. program Sadler drove for last season. 

“I’ve already seen a difference on a lot of stuff,” said Sadler, who will also run the Daytona for RCR in a limited Sprint Cup program. “We feel like right now our cars are prepared as good as we can make them. We really feel like we’ve got our stuff together here to start the first four or five races.” 

Luke Lambert, who worked with RCR Cup driver Jeff Burton at the end of last season, will guide Sadler’s No. 2 Chevrolet team. 

Dillon, team owner Childress’ grandson, will carry the iconic No. 3 entry into his full Nationwide Series program after brining RCR the truck title in 2011. 

He believes his experience and subsequent success last season will be paramount to the road that lies ahead in the Nationwide Series. 

“In 2010, I was able to learn all the Truck Series tracks and that’s what helped me in 2011,” said Dillon. “Kind of knowing what to expect the next year and how to pick up my game, I guess.  

“It was a good year last year winning a championship,” Dillon said. “You want another championship because you know what it feels like standing up there at the table and everything. But I think where we’re at, being a rookie, top five in points and winning a few races would be great. Winning rookie of the year would be great. It’s going to be fun and exciting.” 

Image Detail
(Patrick makes her full-time move to NASCAR in 2012 with a Nationwide Series program for JR Motorsports)

While Stenhouse, Sadler and Dillon bring their own recognition into the new campaign the will have to battle for attention against the highest-profile name on the Nationwide Series driver roster in 2012 – Danica Patrick.

The former open wheel driver will go from dipping her toe into the NASCAR waters to a full dive into the deep end of the pool with a fulltime Nationwide effort at Junior Motorsports. 

Patrick, who spent parts of the last two seasons juggling an Indy Car-NASCAR schedule, believes she’s ready to make the complete move to stock cars. 

“There's a lot of things that are unknown, especially with running the full-time Nationwide championship, wanting to do really well in that and wanting to make a good impression in the Cup races I'm doing," said Patrick, who has a ten race Sprint Cup schedule as well in a collaborative Stewart-Haas Racing/Tommy Baldwin racing effort. "But overall, I'm feeling comfortable, as comfortable as I could imagine myself in this situation." 

Patrick admits she’s learned a lot in her so far limited stint in NASCAR and that she may have to change her approach going forward now as a full-time competitor. 

“There’s still going to be moments for sure where I’m going to be patient and I’m probably am not going to go all the way, but I’m getting more comfortable around the drivers,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want to come in and start pushing my way around because that’s not my style.

“Now I’ve been here for a little while, I feel more comfortable with the style of racing, when you can push and when you can’t push. Ultimately, just having a bigger comfort zone with the car is going to give me the ability to push harder and put the car on the track wherever I want and do more with it.” 

Patrick will be teamed up with another driver making a full Nationwide season debut in Cole Whitt, who takes the wheel of the JR Motorsports No. 88 entry vacated when Aric Almirola got the call to drive for Richard Petty Motorsports in the Cup Series. 

The young driver made a solid impression in the truck series and now hopes to capitalize on the opportunity afforded him by co-owners Dale and Kelley Earnhardt. 

“This is a big opportunity for me, and I’m happy to be a part of the JR Motorsports team,” said Whitt. “I’m grateful to Dale, Kelley and everyone at JR Motorsports for giving me this chance. It’s an honor to work with the Eurys, and I will do everything in my power to put this No. 88 team where it belongs in Victory Lane.” 

There are others who will try to make their mark in the Nationwide Series title race this season including Justin Allgaier of Turner Motorsports, Sam Hornish Jr. in a full-time program for Penske Racing and Michael Annett, who wound up at RPM after Rusty Wallace’s team was forced to close up shop. 

There will still be Sprint Cup regular influence with the likes of Keselowski, Kyle and Kurt Busch with the new Kyle Busch Motorsports entry, Kasey Kahne at Turner, Trevor Bayne for RFR and the Joey Logano/Denny Hamlin combo at Joe Gibbs Racing.

But there is a distinct flavor of excitement and anticipation to the 2012 Nationwide season that hasn’t been present for some time.

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Posted on: February 3, 2012 3:20 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 3:20 pm

Todd Bodine lands Daytona truck race sponsor

Posted by Pete Pistone

From News Release

Red Horse Racing announced today that former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Todd Bodine will drive the team’s Toyota Tundra at Daytona International Speedway this month, with sponsorship from Good Sam RV Club. Good Sam is a sister organization to the series’ title sponsor, Camping World, and provides roadside assistance to recreational vehicles, automobiles, SUVs and motorcycles.
Bodine said he is happy to be heading to the World Center of Racing with a sponsor on board. “Good Sam has been a part of our sport before and (CEO) Marcus Lemonis is obviously a big supporter of our series,” said Bodine. “The Camping World Truck Series has been a great marketing tool for them, and they understand what the series is all about. I’m proud to be going to Daytona with them and I hope to make something more out of this down the road.”

The 2006 and 2010 Truck Series king said the remainder of his season remains uncertain, and that the search continues for additional sponsorship.

“Tom Deloach at Red Horse Racing made the commitment to me that we were going to Daytona, one way or another,” he said. “Now, Good Sam has stepped up to ensure that we’ll have something on the quarter panels.
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Posted on: February 3, 2012 3:18 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 3:19 pm
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Posted on: February 3, 2012 2:24 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 2:30 pm

Hopes high at Hendrick Motorsports

By Pete Pistone

  Rick Hendrick(R), Owner Of Hendrick Motorsports, And Jimmie Johnson, Driver Of The #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet,
(Johnson is hungry to bring Hendrick another Sprint Cup Series championship in 2012 - Getty Images)

Jack Roush
put his entire stable of then five Sprint Cup Series drivers into the 2005 Chase field. 

NASCAR has since forced team owners to dial back to a four-car operation, but Rick Hendrick believes there’s no reason why his whole fleet can’t make this year’s playoffs. 

Optimism always runs high at this time of the season as organizations prepare for the upcoming campaign. But Hendrick is unusually pumped up about the prospects for 2012 and what the quartet of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and newcomer Kasey Kahne can accomplish. 

I’m going to be really disappointed if we don’t have all four cars in the Chase and I’m going to be really disappointed if we don’t win the championship,” Hendrick said. “I can’t remember having four teams this solid, this strong, at the beginning of the year. 

“I think we’re as prepared as we’ve ever been and if we don’t get it, it's going to be our fault.” 

After a season that saw Johnson’s five year reign as Sprint Cup Series champ come to a halt, the entire Hendrick group seems to be re-energized to put the team back on top again in 2012. 

Hendrick’s positive outlook that the goal can be accomplished in due in large part to the elimination of some unknown quantities that lingered heading into the 2011 effort. 

"Looking at last year, I didn't know how Dale and (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) were going to work,” Hendrick said. “I didn't know how Jeff and (crew chief Alan (Gustafson) were going to work. I thought they would be good, and they were much better than I anticipated. 

"I had Mark (Martin), knowing it was his last year. I had Kasey waiting to come. I didn't know if we were going to get (crew chief) Kenny (Francis), and then I get Kenny and their engineer and Kasey, and they are here and they're fitting in like they've been here forever. Then all of the sudden, I know, I've got a better 88 team. I've got a better 24 team. I've got a pissed-off 48 team, and I've got a something-to-prove 5 team with a guy who had one of the best Chases of anybody. So that gives me the confidence that, if we don't blow it up, we're going to be good." 

Johnson has made no bones about the fact that he’s using last year’s result as motivation for the coming season. The anger that came from not having his name engraved on the Sprint Cup trophy for the first time in five seasons is pushing Johnson hard at the dawn of a new year. 

“Yeah, and we're pissed off at ourselves," said Johnson. "There could be a lot of good coming from this." 

Johnson sees it as a time to learn from mistakes and in a way re-invent himself as a driver. 

“Through losing the championship last year, I think I can strip some layers down and figure out how to do things differently,” he said. 

“There’s a lot that I’ve thought about and once I get into the season I’ll know more and really be able to work through those things,” Johnson continued. “But I feel like over the five years of winning championships, there are certain things, even as basic as the way I approach a weekend and the notes I take and what I do from a driver’s standpoint, that’s all been well documented. Every driver does it now. Were they doing it then? No.

“I need to find new ways to do a better job as the driver of the 48 car and that’s what this year is about for me. That’s what this offseason was about for me. Really, the first half of the season is going to be about understanding how I can do my job better.” 

Earnhardt thinks he and the entire No. 88 team can also do better. Although they made tremendous improvements last season in a performance that saw Earnhardt make the Chase and ultimately finish seventh in the final standings, the sport’s Most Popular Driver sees even more success in 2012. 

“We definitely took a step in the right direction with the changes we made last year,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I don’t know what our potential is past that, but we’re going to work hard to see if we can find it and find more and be more competitive. We were close to winning a few races and hadn’t had that in a long time.

“Working with Steve, he gave me the opportunity, whether it was our strong performance or his strategy, one way or another, he’s given me the chance I didn’t have. I felt closer to winning than I felt before.” 

Gordon was able to win and once he broke the winless drought he was engulfed in the previous season, the four-time champion showed several flashes of brilliance throughout the schedule. 

He also brings a great deal of confidence into 2012 after last season’s effort and shares his employer’s optimism about the entire organization. 

However with that view there does come a bit of stress. 

“I agree with Rick, it’s the strongest combination we’ve ever had coming into a season, and when you see that, it gives you some pretty high expectations and puts the pressure on,” Gordon said. 

Kahne and Francis don’t appear to be feeling any pressure as the new kids in the house. The duo has already made it clear they are quite at home at Hendrick turning in a very impressive Daytona testing performance last month. 

Kahne knows there will be growing pains but believes he is in the best position of his Sprint Cup career to excel.

“It definitely takes time because it's all different,” Kahne said. “The way they build the parts and pieces and the way that feels to me and the way I relay that to Kenny, that's something that takes time, and hopefully it doesn't take us too long. 

“The biggest thing is the stability and knowing that I have four years here where I just need to make the best out of it” I need to put all the effort that I have into it. It could be my best four years ever.” 

Hendrick has ten Sprint Cup championship trophies in his possession and the way he sees it not getting number eleven last season may actually have been a good thing overall.

“Getting beat sometimes is not a bad thing,” he said. “If you’re a very competitive company, you got to know you’ve got to work a lot harder to get back to where you were. So we’re motivated.” 

That could be bad news for the rest of the Sprint Cup garage area.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com