The 2011 races already have some new things happening, including Jeff Gordon getting backing the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) anti-hunger program, the first time a NASCAR racer has ever been sponsored by a major cause. Everyone knows NASCAR makes paying the car insurance look like a good idea, but now it’ll be making another point as well.
Sponsorship is becoming an issue in other ways. Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) is still reported to be looking for a way of shutting down the various financial holes it’s been experiencing. That’s put the next moves of some big name drivers in doubt, notably A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose, who were slated to join RPM in 2011. The actual situation is anything but clear, from media reports.
Further indecision is affecting NASCAR itself as a result. TV ratings and attendances are reported to be weighing on the minds of NASCAR as these shufflings of people and teams continue.
Some good news might help. Major name Jacques Villeneuve is definitely concentrating on his NASCAR role, so things aren’t likely to be dull, whatever else is happening. Villeneuve is said to have decided to leave F1 behind, meaning this highly competitive driver will be working on making a mark in his new field.
Also definitely entering for the 2011 series is Danica Patrick, for up to 14 races. That could create an interesting situation if Patrick, a confirmed visual presence, makes a mark. She was a bit unlucky on debut, but so were a few others in that pile up. If she wins anything, there’s going to be a few red faces, rather than red necks, who’ll have to eat some crow. Indy car drivers don’t mind giving the elite NASCAR guys something to think about, either, so this could now be called a real competition in more ways than one.
The story with Red Bull is now that Scott Speed is also a definite starter for 2011. Talk to dates says that Red Bull will be running two cars, and that Brian Vickers health remains a concern. Speed is looking like a backup, and Red Bull is obviously looking for performance levels.
Meanwhile Dupont is sticking with Jeff Gordon and will be wearing the primary paint jobs for 14 races in the series. Dupont’s association with Gordon dates back to the very start of his career, and both parties seem pretty happy with the arrangement.
The good news for NASCAR fans is that the NASCAR packages for 2011 are now on sale. These are the full spread packages, with some ticket upgrades available.
The season starts with the preliminary Shootout on February 12, followed by Duels 1 and 2 on the 17th.
The races start on the 20th of February at Daytona. This is definitely going to be a season to remember, if the buildup is any indication. Danica Patrick, Jacques Villeneuve and Scott Speed have something to prove, and that’s likely to produce some great racing.
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