My thoughts on the week that was in NASCAR...
NASCAR loves to see its drivers get recognition in the public eye. Carl Edwards and Trevor Bayne are leading the charge with nominations for...Cartoon Network awards!
Edwards, who won the "In It To Win It" award last year, is in the running for the "Dance Machine" title. Edwards is well-known for his signature back flip after winning a race. Bayne, who won the Daytona 500 in just his second Sprint Cup start last February, is in the running for "Gnarliest Newb."
Fans can vote for Edwards and Bayne on www.hallofgame.com now through Feb. 17. The winners will be announced on February 20 on Cartoon Network's "Hall of Games Awards" show, which will be hosted by Shaquille O'Neal. Jimmie Johnson will be making a guest appearance to present "The World's Fastest Award."
Hendrick Motorsport's Kasey Kahne underwent knee surgery on Friday morning after experiencing swelling in his left knee. An MRI revealed a torn meniscus and the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet was quickly treated with a partial medial meniscus removal. Kahne underwent a similar operation in April 2011, and will be ready to drive in Saturday's Budweiser Shootout.
Landon Cassill, who recently backed out of a deal to race for Front Row Motorsports at Daytona, will be driving the No. 83 for the group that took over the assets of the recently shuttered Red Bull Racing. Cassill will be driving the entire season for the yet-to-be-named team. Doug Richert will serve as crew chief for the No. 83.
"It's my first time going into a NASCAR season with a signed deal knowing I'm going to be in the car every week," Cassill said. "It's my first time attempting the Daytona 500—wait, I am locked into the Daytona 500. That's a pretty big dream came true."
A couple of Cup teams introduced new crew chiefs for the 2012 season. Pat Tryson, who has served as crew chief for both Mark Martin and Kurt Busch in the past, will sit atop the No. 38 pit box for David Gilliland and Front Row Motorsports. Most recently Tryson worked for Michael Waltrip Racing and Martin Truex Jr.
Tommy Baldwin Racing announced that Ryan Pemberton will take over as crew chief for the No. 36 of Dave Blaney. Pemberton's last crew chief gig was for Brian Vickers at Red Bull Racing. The No. 36 team’s 2012 schedule is still being finalized as the team seeks funding for all 36 events.
Both Tryson and Pemberton are taking jobs at teams that are not of the same caliber of the teams they are leaving behind. This is similar to the trend we've seen with free agent drivers—Kurt Busch, David Ragan, and David Reutimann recently took jobs with lower-level teams than they were driving for in 2011.
The Daytona 500 announced several pieces of news. WWE's John Cena will be the honorary race starter, recording artist Lenny Kravitz will perform the prerace show, and co-stars Jane Lynch and Kate Upton from the new Three Stooges movie will be grand marshals for the Great American Race. The drop of the green flag for the Daytona 500 is scheduled for 1:00 pm EST on Sunday, February 26. The first (non-points) race of the year is the Budweiser Shootout at 8:00 pm EST this Saturday on FOX.
In the Nationwide Series, MacDonald Motorsports announced that Jason Bowles will be the driver for its No. 81 Dodge. Bowles is a nine-time winner and 2009 champion of NASCAR's K&S Pro Series West, but has limited experience in the Truck and Nationwide Series. The team's 2012 sponsor will be American Majority, a conservative political activist group.
J.J. Yeley will be attempting the Nationwide Daytona race for Robinson-Blakeney Racing. Yeley is also the team's driver in the Cup Series. RBR is moving to the Cup Series for the first time in 2012 after competing in the Nationwide Series since 2000, and unless additional funding is procured, Daytona could be the team's only NNS start of the year.
In the Camping World Truck Series, RAB Racing's Jon Wes Townley was arrested for DUI on Tuesday, and on Friday the team announced that Townley was suspended indefinitely as driver of the No. 09 Toyota. The team still plans to make its Truck Series debut at Daytona on Friday, Feb. 24, but has yet to announce a replacement driver. Townley last drove in NASCAR in 2010.
The Budweiser Shootout takes place this Saturday night at 8 pm EST on FOX. Stay tuned to Sports-at-Work for coverage of the first NASCAR action of the year as Daytona Speedweeks gets underway!