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NASCAR: Live from Charlotte

NASCAR media tour: Day 3

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Less than 24 hours after a hotly contested Rolex 24 sports car race at Daytona International Speedway, America's auto-racing media have converged on Charlotte for the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Through Thursday, NASCAR Sprint Cup teams, as well as the sanctioning body itself, will stage a series of news conferences to lay out their hopes and plans for the 2014 season. ESPN will provide full coverage of the week's events over a variety of platforms, including Twitter via @ESPNMotorsports.

The ESPN.com motorsports team will be compiling information for a live blog, which you are familiar with during NASCAR race weekends, so be sure to check the site often for updates throughout the day.

-- John Oreovicz

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Penske committed to youth movement

Team Penske qualified one of its two Sprint Cup drivers for the 2013 Chase for the Cup, but it wasn't the one most people expected.

While Joey Logano participated in his first Chase, 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski was just the second defending series titlist to fail to make the Chase the following year since its inception in 2004.

After finishing eighth in the 2013 standings with a win at Michigan Speedway, Logano is confident he can pick up where he left off when the 2014 season gets underway, while Keselowski vows that he will not miss NASCAR's version of the postseason again.

Logano (age 23) and the 29-year-old Keselowski make up NASCAR's youngest top-team tandem, and waiting in the wings is 20-year-old Ryan Blaney, who will drive a Penske entry in 15 NASCAR Nationwide Series races and make his Sprint Cup debut at Kansas Speedway in May.

"Youth, continuity and consistency is going to be the difference with us," said team owner Roger Penske. "The rules are the same for everyone, and it's up to us to execute. The competition has never been tougher, but our goal is to be at that head table in Las Vegas [at the Sprint Cup championship celebration] in 2014."

Team Penske president Tim Cindric identified pit stops as one area the group could improve on. Although the team has maintained many of the same over-the-wall personnel, Cindric hired Jim Beichner, the former wrestling coach for the University of Buffalo, to help the No. 2 and No. 22 pit crews establish a different psychological philosophy about their jobs.

"I feel like we need to be better in our execution," Cindric said. "As we looked at how we could get better, we felt we need to take a different approach. I think you'll see our pit crew has some different faces. We need to continue to get better, because if we're not winning a championship, the one thing that we want to make sure we give Roger at some point in time is a Brickyard 400 victory."

The team enters its second season partnered with Ford, which Keselowski believes should work to its benefit.

"I think we do have a lot of continuity, and certainly working again with [crew chief] Paul Wolfe falls into that," Keselowski said. "The Ford relationship is obviously critical, and that's a piece we're very proud of. The Roush-Yates engine program has grown a lot since we've been with them, and we're very thankful for Doug Yates and his group over there. We're going to continue to push on that.

"We're committed to working with Ford, so there a lot of pieces moving there," he added. "But I think they're all moving in the right direction, and that's so important for us."

-- John Oreovicz

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For all the success he's achieved in NASCAR, Richard Petty has seen his share of hard times, too.

The man they call The King felt anything but royal a couple of years ago when his partners in Richard Petty Motorsports encountered economic difficulties. Petty essentially reacquired his own team, and the road back to the top has been bumpy.

But Brian Moffitt, CEO of RPM since 2011, has helped put the team back on more solid financial ground. And now Petty believes that drivers Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola are in position to put RPM back into Victory Lane more often.

Ambrose captured the team's last Sprint Cup Series win at Watkins Glen International in August 2012 but is coming off a disappointing 2013 campaign in which he finished 22nd in the standings.

"We're probably in the best shape we've been in the last three or four years," Petty said. "Everybody knows we went really to the bottom a couple or three years ago when our car owner went bankrupt or whatever, and we got with a couple of guys and bought the place out and just tried to get some foundation.

"I don't know that our year last year was that much better than the year before, but it was a lot more stable, and that's what we're trying to do now."

Petty said that his year's sponsorship package with Stanley Tools, the U.S. Air Force and Smithfield Foods (which has increased its contribution by 50 percent) will allow the team to increase its wind tunnel program from six to 20 days.

"We're in a position where we've expanded our engineering effort and we can do more of our own research and development, rather than just take what Roush Fenway gives us," Petty said.

"We feel like that we're way better off than we've been on that part of the deal. I guess we'll have to have a little talk with the drivers and get them to step up a little, too."

Pigeonholed as a road course specialist, Ambrose has been competitive on short and intermediate tracks but is seeking his first career oval race win. He is pleased with the growth of the RPM organization.

"I joined Richard Petty Motorsports four years ago at a fairly tumultuous time," the Australian said. "That was a difficult time for Richard and everybody to rebrand the company and actually rebuy the company and take it from the crumbs. So I've seen it at its darkest days, and I'm really looking forward to 2014 because I think it's the year Richard Petty Motorsports can break out and really show everybody the maturity that it has taken since I've been there, over four years now.

"We've created an R&D program, and that's the first time that's happened since I've been at here," he added. "I'm excited about the potential of unlocking some more brain power on our race program."

Almirola fared slightly better than Ambrose in the 2013 standings (18th) but is still searching for his first Cup series victory.

"The commitment Smithfield Foods made to Richard Petty Motorsports and to me is tremendous," Almirola said. "It's allowed us to go out and hire more people, and I've got a new crew chief this year in Trent Owens. I feel really lucky to have him because he's going to help us a lot.

"We started off last year really well and faltered through the summer, and we're not going to falter this year. We're going to keep it up and keep that going."

-- John Oreovicz

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