Random News - January 2003

Forward Looking Statements
NEW YORK, N.Y. (January 25)- - Hendrick Motorsports begins the 2003 Winston Cup racing season with the same crop of drivers it had at the conclusion of the previous season. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte, and Joe Nemechek will drive the four Winston Cup cars for the Charlotte-based racing empire owned by Rick Hendick. Stability is a common theme as all four crew chiefs who ended the 2002 season with HMS return for another year. Jeff Gordon and Robbie Loomis hope to return to championship form after an up-and-down 2002 season. One area that Gordon hopes to improve upon are the road courses. Gordon posted sub-par finishes at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen in 2002. He told the assembled media during the Winston Cup Media Tour on Thursday that his team would test at a road course in 2003. As for the other HMS teams, Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus are out to prove that their inaugural season together was not a fluke. Terry Labonte and Jim Long look to bring the Kelloggs Chevrolet into victory lane for the first time since 1999. Joe Nemechek and Peter Sospenzo communicated well toward the end of the 2002 season culminating in a strong season-ending performance at Homestead. The unknown factor in the 2003 equation is the new Chevrolet Monte Carlo body style. If the team adapts quickly, the organization should be in the thick of the title hunt with more than one driver. As with anything, a wait and see philosophy pervades.

WC Media Tour Audio Files - January 23
+Jeff looks ahead to 2003 | <<Jeff talks about road course racing

WC Preview - January 18
+Preview images | <<More images from the Preview

Under The Milky Way
NEW YORK, N.Y. (January 12)- - Jeff Gordon hosted Saturday Night Live on January 11. It was Gordon's first time hosting the late night comedy show. "What an honor to be given the chance to host the show," Gordon said. Gordon has tried his hand at acting in cameo appearances in movies and sitcoms. However, Saturday Night Live was his first feature acting performance. During the show he appeared in several skits that were definitely out of character. Most notably his roles included a snake handler, an aggressive waiter, and a military pilot talking to students on Career Day. The musical guest for Saturday Night Live was Avril Lavigne. She performed the songs "I'm With You" and "Complicated" from her debut CD "Let Go" which has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide.
+Screen captures | +Episode chronology/characters

Being And Nothingness
NEW YORK, N.Y. (January 8)- - NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. has proposed outlawing autographs in the garage except for the areas immediately around a driver's hauler and in designated spots at specified times. While some view the move as NASCAR becoming even less fan friendly than before, France's plan has the support of the drivers. "We've got to educate the drivers and the fans on what's appropriate and what is not appropriate," Jeff Burton said. "There is no autograph etiquette, there is no proper understanding of what to do and when to do it and how to do it. I think to get an education process started, we've got to make some rules and just stick to them." France said Winston Cup champions Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart both support his proposal, which would force the drivers to decline many autograph requests and blame it on the sanctioning body. NASCAR has always been fan friendly, giving the average spectator almost total access to its teams. But overcrowding in recent years has led to complaints from drivers and crews, as well as injuries among spectators. The sanctioning body plans to unveil new rules for garage access later this month, with a goal of reducing the number of people in the garage during competition by some 20 percent. "We have to be careful about what we do, we have to find a way and a proper place to do autographs and spend time with the fans," Burton said. "If we don't find time to do that, then we will be doing the fans and we'll be doing this sport a huge injustice." As gated motorhome compounds at race tracks across the country have sprung up to house the drivers and team owners, another barrier of insolation against fans was put into place. After all, nobody's sticking around three hours after a race to sign autographs for fans in the parking lot anymore. The latest policy changes put NASCAR's fan friendly era of 1955-1985 further into ancient history.

Annual Chores
CHARLOTTE, N.C.- - It is an annual tradition. In the midst of the off-season, there are sponsor promos to shoot for the upcoming year. DuPont writes a rather large check to plaster its logos on Jeff Gordon's car and uniform. In return, the driver is accessible to the sponsor for their advertising and marketing plans. In mid-December, Gordon spent a day in front of the camera shooting promotional campaigns for his sponsor. Just another day in the life. Of note is the new sponsor logo of Bosch Spark Plugs on Gordon's right sleeve. Gone is the Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse logo from his uniform as well as from the quarterpanel of the DuPont Chevrolet.

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