NASCAR media tour: The fun begins

CONCORD, N.C. -- The 31st annual NASCAR media tour has begun, but all of us at ESPN.com are doing something for the first time: We are hitting the whole social media thing hard with a daily live blog to keep our readers informed as we go.

We're also tweeting like crazy, which will be displayed here for everyone to review.

And we'll have video hits a couple of times a day to discuss the highlights -- and lowlights, maybe -- for all the stops along the way.

So don't miss it. We'll do our best to keep you entertained.



Bowyer and Gordon OK? Not so fast

Maybe a festive New Year's Eve night on P. Diddy's $72 million yacht didn't end the Jeff Gordon-Clint Bowyer feud as Gordon recently insinuated.

Kevin Harvick, who was with Gordon and Bowyer on the yacht docked off St. Barts in the Caribbean, had a different opinion of the so-called makeup conversation.

"Ummmmm, I don't have the million-dollar picture everybody wants," Harvick said during the Sprint media tour's Monday night stop at Richard Childress Racing in Welcome, N.C. "I don't necessarily think you could call that making up. The conversation I saw was OK, but I wouldn't call it making up by no means."

In case you missed it, Gordon intentionally wrecked Bowyer in the next-to-last Chase race at Phoenix, igniting a brawl on pit road and ending any chance the Michael Waltrip Racing driver had of winning the title.

Bowyer finished second in the final standings, 39 points behind Brad Keselowski. Gordon, who was fined $100,000, finished 10th.

Since then the two have been at odds, with Bowyer showing no sincere desire of wanting to make up.

Then by a strange twist of fate they ended up together on the R&B mogul's yacht for what Gordon called the "party of the year." Asked if they cleared the air, Gordon said, "We talked. I had a great New Year's [Eve]."

Made up, right?

Harvick apparently didn't see it quite that way.

"I don't think anybody was in any condition to do any fighting," he said coyly.
"We had a good time, I know that for sure."

Perhaps the bigger question was how Harvick and Bowyer got onto the yacht for this private party. Gordon indicated they crashed it.

"What do you know about this before I get started?" Harvick asked with a smile.

Told to simply answer the question, he replied, "In order to get past the security guard you have to be invited to get onto the boat. I believe our friend Guy Fieri [host of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives"] had something to do with it."

At least part of this saga has been resolved.

As for Gordon and Bowyer, stay tuned.

-- David Newton







High-heeled traction

Danica Patrick has discussed just about everything possible regarding racing over the past two weeks of testing at Daytona and Charlotte, so I tackled a different subject during the first day of the Sprint media tour:

Her shoes.

You don't see a lot of Christian Louboutin stilettos at NASCAR's annual preseason event. OK, you never saw any until Patrick became a part of the sport a little more than two years ago.

But there she was on Monday, sitting next to Stewart-Haas Racing owner Tony Stewart wearing a dazzling black pair that apparently cost well over $1,000.

For Stewart, who says he's worn the same pair of tennis shoes for two years, that represents about 400 Steak 'n Shake chocolate milkshakes, like the one the three-time Sprint Cup champion stopped for on the way to the press event.

Or as Patrick's crew chief, Tony Gibson, said, "I don't think anything I have in my closet combined is worth that much. I do most of my shopping at Bass Pro [Shops]."

Stewart didn't exactly appreciate the conversation turning from how he was going to trim down before the season to Patrick's shoes. His response to me was a stern, "You really are an idiot."

Not the first time, and won't be the last.

But Stewart did speculate that Patrick spends more on shoes than he does. My guess is the pair she wore Monday cost more than he spent all of last season.

For the record, Patrick likes talking about her shoes almost as much as she does racing. She has more than 100 pairs in her closet.

And while she doesn't know if she'll win the pole for the Daytona 500 -- top six is her goal -- she knows the French designer gives her a decided edge around the garage in footwear.

But some of Stewart and Gibson is wearing off on Patrick. Last year she was in Miranda Lambert's country music video "Fastest Girl in Town" and during the recent Daytona test she surprised Gibson by tuning in to a country station while the two were riding in his truck.

Gibson, decidedly country, has a goal of getting her into deer hunting and fishing.

"Get her in some camo[uflage], some boots, and try to tame her down a bit," he said with a laugh. "Maybe some camo stilettos."

They'd still have to be designer boots and cost at least $1,000, I told him.

"I know," Gibson said. "But at least I can get my camo in there."

-- David Newton



Great expectations at Stewart-Haas

Tony Stewart has talked a lot about the challenges of being a NASCAR owner, but what does he enjoy most about the role?

"The real satisfaction comes from helping someone else have a good finish or to win, to achieve something together as a team," he said. "It's about having a great day, like in the past where Ryan [Newman] might win a race and I would finish fourth.

"That's a great day as a team, and as an owner that's what you strive for. Now with Danica [Patrick] in the mix, it will be nice if the three of us all do well at the same time. It's not as much fun if I'm winning and the other drivers finish way back. I'll be a lot happier if we're all at the same level, doing well."

-- K. Lee Davis



We knew him when …

Technically, the NASCAR media tour always starts on a Monday morning. In reality, it begins the weekend prior, with Saturday night's National Motorsports Press Association's Hall of Fame induction dinner and all-day Sunday convention.

At Sunday night's awards dinner, reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski dropped by to accept his trophy for winning the prestigious NMPA Richard Petty Driver of the Year award. In typical Keselowski style, he was genuinely appreciative of the honor (more often than not, the winning driver doesn't show up to accept in person). He thanked the motorsports media for continuing to cover the sport, particularly during what has been a brutal few years for the newspaper industry.

Then he recalled the last time he had been in this particular building, Charlotte's University Hilton. It was eight years ago and he'd been brought in for his first-ever NASCAR media tour, a soon-to-be 21-year-old rookie in the Truck series. He recalled being flown in from Detroit. He recalled the excitement of sharing the stage with the stars of the sport, particularly defending champion Bobby Hamilton.

But above all, he remembered one significant aspect of that day:

"No one asked me a single question."

He admitted how disappointed, even a little embarrassed, that he was at the time. However, he also used it as motivation. It's just another chapter of the rags-to-riches Keselowski story that has, deservedly, been well-documented since he clinched the Cup last November. Converting slights and stumbles along the way into fuel to keep moving up the ladder.

Then the champ took a downright sentimental turn. He looked to the far end of the stage and said that he wondered who the young unknown might be this year's media tour. "The one who will one day end up right here where I am now."

He closed by offering a suggestion to the motorsports media corps in attendance. That we would be wise to make sure that the perhaps future champ got at least a few questions thrown his way. When that racer becomes the next Brad Keselowski, he said with a smile, "then you can look back and say you knew them back when, and look really smart."

-- Ryan McGee






Eldora a hot ticket

Eldora Speedway announced on Monday that only 600 tickets remain for the inaugural July 24 Camping World Truck Series race at the half-mile dirt track.

Due to the demand, on Tuesday the track will offer 1,000 general admission tickets that will allow fans to sit on the grassy hillside.

NASCAR announced at the end of last season that the Rossburg, Ohio, track owned by three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart would host the first race on dirt since 1970.

Stewart said that more than 16,000 reserved seats have been sold.

"Pretty excited about it,'' Stewart said. "Moving along very well.''

-- David Newton



Hamlin's a daddy

Sprint Cup driver Denny Hamlin finally has something in common with Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.

Not a Sprint Cup title.

He's a father.

Hamlin's girlfriend, Jordan Fish, gave birth to Taylor James Hamlin late Sunday night. Taylor, a girl, was born 6 pounds, 5 ounces and 20 inches long.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver announced in August at Pocono that he and Fish were going to become parents.

"My family has done a lot for me to get to this point, obviously, and just all of the sacrifices and all that they've gone through," Hamlin said at the time. "My dad tells me all of the time that some of the best times he had is just carrying me around in his pickup truck every day taking me to work with him and things like that.

"It's going to be a great experience, and so I'm really excited about it and really just excited to be a part of it. For my parents to have grandkids is all going to be good."

-- David Newton