Plenty of pre-party NASCAR events in Sin City
If you were in Las Vegas last week, you had a better than even chance of observing some of the activities leading up to Friday night’s black-tie NASCAR awards ceremonies that took place at Wynn Las Vegas. Events included Fanfest, NASCAR Victory Lap, NASCAR After the Lap, and much more.
And Friday night Kevin Harvick was recognized as the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion with team owner Gene Haas at the head table with his driver. Co-owner Tony Stewart, on crutches after recent leg surgery, elected to sit in the audience.
Although it’s the off-season, there’s a lot of stuff going on in the racing community.
As was reported earlier, Joe Gibbs Racing was expanding its NASCAR Sprint Cup effort to four cars, adding Carl Edwards to the roster. Crew chiefs turnover is also happening. With Darian Grubb moving over to Edwards from Denny Hamlin’s team, Hamlin gets Dave Rogers from Kyle Busch, who’s going to have Adam Stevens on the pit box for 2015. Stevens was Busch’s Nationwide series crew chief on the No. 54 car, and the duo scored 31 wins together in that series. The only unchanged pairing is Matt Kenseth and Jason Ratcliff.
We have seen some major changes in NASCAR recently with the new knockout qualifying procedure and the Chase elimination rounds.
I doubt if we will see any major changes in those areas next season, but we will have to get used to a new broadcaster on the scene. NBC and NBC Sports Network will take over the second half of the season, with FOX and FOX Sports retaining broadcast rights to the first half. In an unusual display of cooperation, Fox Sports and NBC Sports have teamed up to create on-air promotion of NASCAR’s 2015 season. The promotion will build on the excitement generated by the 2014 Chase, and hopefully carry momentum into the beginning of SpeedWeeks at Daytona. Kyle Petty was also recently confirmed as the newest member of the NBC Sports broadcast team, joining Krista Voda, play by play announcer Rick Allen, and analysts Jeff Burton and Steve LeTarte.
Formula One has released an expanded 21-race calendar for 2015 with a race in Korea still to be confirmed. The season will begin in Australia on March 15 and end in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 29. Double points for the season-ending race will not apply in 2015, and use of a “virtual safety car” has been written into the regulations. It will be used for situations such as Jules Bianchi’s crash in Japan, where deployment of the actual safety car will not be required but more than just a local yellow flag condition will be warranted. There have also been changes to penalties for power unit replacements, and minimum weight of the cars has been raised by one kilogram (2.2 pounds).
A pair of racing dynasties will unite in 2015. Second generation IndyCar racer Graham Rahal and second generation Funny Car driver Courtney Force announced their engagement recently. No word on whether ride-swapping would be involved.
Danica Patrick will make history in January as the first person to appear in 14 consecutive Super Bowl commercials, once again touting her main sponsor GoDaddy.com. Unlike the couple above, no word on an engagement ring for Danica from boyfriend and fellow competitor Ricky Stenhouse Jr.