Daytona Media Day

Thursday's highlights from Daytona media day at Daytona International Speedway:

And away we go!

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It's media day at Daytona, a whirlwind eight hours where all the drivers run through a gantlet of reporters and broadcasters, and who knows what we will hear.

The ESPN.com gang will be posting live blog entries throughout the day on what the drivers have to say, along with Twitter and Facebook photos we take of the proceedings.

It's your best way to keep up with all the activities to kick off the 2013 season. Ed Hinton will have an overview column this afternoon on all the day's interesting topics.

Oh, and by the way, Happy Valentine's Day.

-- Terry Blount






Hair today ...

Kasey Kahne didn't take the $20 team owner Rick Hendrick offered last month to get the rest of his haircut.

But Kahne did get it cut.

The high fade style that drew so many jokes during the media tour has been replaced by a simple tight cut. Kahne said he wasn't guilted or joked into doing it.

-- David Newton



Sorry, gals

In case you missed it during the offseason, 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne is off the market.

And, no, he's not dating a driver.

Bayne is engaged to high school sweetheart Ashton Clapp. The two plan to get married in June sometime between the Dover and Iowa Nationwide Series races.

-- David Newton




Junior not worried

Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains confident that Hendrick Motorsports will find additional sponsorship needed for the No. 88 Chevy this season.

"We're talking to a lot of people and have a lot of things in the works," Earnhardt said. "But you have to find the right partner. We're looking for a partner for the long term. You don't just take the first guy that comes along.

"We also have a [financial] number we have to reach to fund the car. We can't sell out other sponsors short."

The National Guard is on the car for most of the season, but Earnhardt's car doesn't have primary sponsorship for 13 of the 36 races.

-- Terry Blount



Welcome, Kurt

Paul Menard is glad to see Kurt Busch as part of the Richard Childress Racing group this season; Busch is the driver for Furniture Row Racing, which acts as a satellite operation of RCR.

"Kurt is a race-winning champion," Menard said. "Even though his team is out in Colorado, it's almost like a fourth car [for RCR]. We share a lot of information.

"Kurt is in our weekly meetings and our race-weekend meetings also. He's a highly driven, motivated guy, not afraid to speak his mind, either, which is a good thing."

Does Busch fit in with the three RCR drivers?

"Yeah, we all get along great," Menard said. "All four of us get along. We all have pretty different personalities, but we have a good working relationship and feed off each other."

-- Terry Blount

Four-Time's take on Danicky

Jeff Gordon had an interesting answer when asked if he thought Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. would race differently against each other.

"I've raced my wife [Ingrid] on a [go-kart] track and I can tell you I raced her differently," Gordon said, chuckling.

Did he let her win?

"Oh no," he said. "I scared her a little and bumped her a few times. She's very competitive."

Gordon, 41, also was asked, probably for the 1,000th time, how much longer he will race.

"I know I don't have 10 more years left," Gordon said. "But I definitely think I have a few more good years left. Winning the final race of the season last year was big for us. I know we can get it done and win another championship."

-- Terry Blount



Gordon dances again

Jeff Gordon isn't afraid to make fun of himself.

Let's hope not. Have you seen this "Harlem Shake" video on the Funny or Die website?

It's Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports crew having a little fun on Wednesday. It took only two takes.

"It probably was the best time I had in my race shop," Gordon said. "Luckily, it was quick and didn't take them away from their jobs. It turned out pretty good."

Jeff, did you really look at your dancing?

"OK, I'm a little embarrassed about my dancing," Gordon said. "It was still worth it."

-- Lynn Hoppes

Ricky wannabe

The Performance Racing Network spent much of the morning asking drivers who they would be if they could trade places for a day.

A couple said President Obama. One said NASCAR president Mike Helton so he could address everyone who has wrecked him.

Then there was Kyle Larson, the reigning K&N Pro East Series champion who will attempt to run a full Nationwide Series schedule for Turner Scott Motorsports.

"Right now, Ricky Stenhouse,'' Larson told the radio network.

When asked why, Larson responded, "You know why.''


-- David Newton





Seriously, Biff?

Greg Biffle was asked how he would feel if teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. moved away from Biffle's car in the Daytona 500 to draft with Danica Patrick's car.

"Well, I'd be heartbroken," Biffle said, bringing laughter from the reporters. "But seriously, you are going to go with whoever you think gives you the best opportunity to win. It's the same for me. If her car has been fast all day and Ricky's hasn't, and I'm able to push her to the front but not Ricky, then I'm going to draft with her."

Biffle also was asked an age-old question that many drivers have heard before: Would you rather win the Cup title or win the Daytona 500.

"They both have their place," Biffle said. "But to me, you want to win a championship. Not that I don't take this race seriously. Everybody wants to win the Daytona 500, but [Daytona and the Cup title] are two different animals."

Biffle hasn't done either one yet, but he has come close. Biffle was the championship runner-up in 2005 and finished third in 2008. He also has finished third twice in the Daytona 500, 2010 and last year.

-- Terry Blount



The daredevil within him

Brian Vickers considers himself an experienced skydiver. He also doesn't feel like it's too dangerous.

"You can get hurt doing almost anything," Vickers said. "Carl Edwards broke his foot throwing a Frisbee. Denny Hamlin injured his knee playing basketball."

Vickers is racing full time in the Nationwide Series this season for Joe Gibbs Racing. He's considered one of the favorites to win the championship. He was asked to compare the upcoming Nationwide season to the one in 2003 when he won the title at age 20.

"I think it's fair to say this season may be more similar to that one than a lot of the recent years in Nationwide," Vickers said. "There are so many competitive drivers out there this year, just as there was in 2003."

But Kasey Kahne is the only full-time Cup driver now who finished in the top 10 of the 2003 Nationwide standings. He was seventh with one victory.

-- Terry Blount




Danica gets Nationwide ride at Daytona

Danica Patrick will drive for Turner Scott Motorsports in the Feb. 23 Nationwide Series opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Patrick, who is moving full time to the Sprint Cup Series this year at Stewart-Haas Racing, said primary sponsor GoDaddy.com stepped up to make sure she is in the No. 34 Chevrolet for the DRIVE4COPD 300 (Feb. 23, 1 p.m. ET on ESPN).

Patrick said she would like to drive in as many as 10 races for Turner, but said five may be a more realistic number.

"I feel we have a chance to win [Daytona] and that has me excited," Patrick said during Thursday's media day.

-- David Newton

Love, NASCAR style

Like it or not, Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be the highlight of media day.

It is the most anticipated coming-out party of a Sprint Cup driver-driver courtship in the history of Speedweeks.

That's because it is the first for this event in the male-dominated sport, as far as anybody knows.

That it occurs on Valentine's Day only adds to the hype.

Patrick, 30, hasn't addressed this relationship publicly since she told the Associated Press last month she was dating the two-time defending Nationwide Series champion. That she's also in the middle of a divorce, having filed Jan. 3, will intensify the tabloid-like intrigue when she speaks during the morning session.

Stenhouse, 25, hasn't publicly addressed his relationship with the former IndyCar darling.

So a big deal will be made of how NASCAR's power couple came to be as they prepare to battle for rookie of the year in the Sprint Cup Series. Everything from when they first became a couple to when they first kissed to how they will react to each other on the track after a lover's spat will be fair game.

It could be a circus.

But in the grand scheme of one high-profile athlete dating another, this really isn't that big. Neither Patrick nor Stenhouse has won an event on the biggest stage of the sport. They aren't even the most talked-about power couple in sports these days. That honor goes to professional golfer Tiger Woods and Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn.

Think about it. Stenhouse gets kudos for introducing Patrick to country music and rodeos.

Woods reportedly sent his private jet to Austria to fly Vonn home after she suffered a devastating knee injury in the Alpine world championships.

Now that's romantic.

-- David Newton



Five-Time's take on Danicky

Jimmie Johnson was the first interview of the day, and take a wild guess what the first questions were to Five-Time?

Can he win a sixth title this year?

Is reigning champ Brad Keselowski the man to beat?

Uh, no, those weren't on the top of the question list. It was the relationship between Patrick and Stenhouse. Will it affect their racing?

"If it does, it will impact their lifestyle and their jobs," Johnson said. "We're paid to race. If they let anything else get in the way, their team owners and their sponsors won't be happy."

-- Terry Blount

Love means never having to say you're sorry!

Stenhouse apologized in advance for the all the attention he knows his relationship with Patrick will get.

"Sry in advance to all the drivers today about the questions. But I'm excited Daytona media day #Gen6 is gunna b awesome this year #bestbuy1,'' he wrote on Twitter.

No mention of what he got Patrick for Valentine's Day.

-- David Newton



Junior's new deal

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and JR Motorsports announced on Thursday the birth of "Dirty Mo Radio."

This online home for radio-style podcasts will be based around NASCAR's most popular river, whose property in the Mooresville, N.C., area is called "Dirty Mo Acres."

It will be based on Earnhardt's official site, www.DaleJr.com. The official launch is Feb. 18.

"Racing is the biggest part of Dale's life, but it's not the only part," said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, the general manager of JR Motorsports. "We hope to create programming not just about Dale but about his interests, such as music, sports and NASCAR history."

-- David Newton

Piquet Jr. doing what his dad wouldn't?

Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr., son of the three-time Formula One champion, was asked if his dad critiques his NASCAR racing.

Piquet moves to the Nationwide Series full time this season after competing in the Camping World Truck Series.

"He's getting older now, so he says he can't always watch," Piquet Jr. said of his father. "He says his heart can't take it, especially when we get three-wide out there."

The senior Piquet isn't exactly ancient. He's 60. Piquet Jr., who finished seventh in the CWTS standings last year and won twice, is 27.

"Most of the family members are just fans, but he's the one serious observer," Piquet Jr. said about his dad. "He doesn't always understand everything that's going on in this type of racing. He doesn't like how we run so close to the wall. He just wants me to do well."

-- Terry Blount

Logano expects same wild Daytona ride

Joey Logano, one of 19 drivers in the Sprint Unlimited all-star race Saturday night, was asked what he thought about the fans voting for a short, 20-lap segment to end the event.

"It will be the typical end to a Daytona race that never changes," Logano said. "You don't want to get shuffled back. You'll want to stay near the front so you can make a charge with about five [laps] to go. If you're 15th or so, you pretty much know you'll get in a wreck."

-- Terry Blount