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NASCAR Daily News Headlines * November 29, 2007

Penske Plans Test Team

Kurt Busch said Penske Racing has plans to form a designated test team to prepare for the 2008 Sprint Cup Series season when all 36 races will feature the car of tomorrow.

"We need more laps, more time with the new car to be more competitive," said Busch, who finished seventh in points this year, following the NMPA Myers Bothers Awards Luncheon at Cipriani's.

With the addition of new teammate Sam Hornish Jr. in the No. 06 Dodge, the fourth team is expected to focus solely on testing. Busch said teammate Ryan Newman, Hornish, himself or an "outside driver" could all be involved in the tests.

Busch, who has already tested at Atlanta, said the remainder of his offseason schedule includes scheduled stops at Daytona International Speedway, Lakeland, California and Las Vegas. Nashville is also a possibility if the weather cooperates, he said.()

Daytona 500 Flags Will Go To Space

Three Daytona 500 green flags will be launched on the space shuttle Atlantis next week as part of the race's 50th anniversary celebration, as well as NASA's 50th anniversary, the Orlando Sentinel reported Thursday.

The newspaper said NASA came up with the idea to link the two anniversaries earlier this year, and the space agency and Daytona International Speedway are trying to arrange promotional events with astronauts and drivers.

A joint NASCAR driver/Atlantis crew news conference is possible during the shuttle's 11-day mission next month. Atlantis is scheduled to lift off form Cape Canaveral next Friday. (

Bill France Jr. Named NMPA Myers Brothers Award Recipient

William Clifton France Jr., who helped turn NASCAR into a national phenomenon during his tenure as president of the sanctioning body, is the recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association’s Myers Brothers Award for 2007. The award, named in honor of former NASCAR competitors Billy and Bob Myers, was presented Nov. 29 during the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Media Luncheon. France, who died June 4, 2007, was also honored with the Myers Brothers Award in 1989. France, known simply as Bill Jr. to many of those in the sport, guided the family-owned business from 1972 through 2003, but worked in the sport his entire life.

Mike Helton, who succeeded France Jr. as president of the sanctioning body, worked closely with his friend and mentor for a number of years. France “built a family-oriented sport that has a lot of depth and strength to it,” Helton said.

Richard Childress, a former driver and currently a championship-winning car owner, said France not only taught him about the sport, “but he taught me numerous lessons about life.”

“Over the last several years, NASCAR has grown to an unprecedented level of popularity,” Childress said. “None of that would have been possible without the vision and leadership Mr. France provided.”

Voted on each year by members of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA), the Myers Brothers Award recognizes individuals and/or groups who have provided outstanding contributions to the sport of stock car racing.

Myers Brothers Award Winners

2007, Bill France Jr.; 2006, Benny Parsons; 2005, Rusty Wallace; 2004, Kyle and Patti Petty; 2003, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 2002, Mike Helton; 2001, Dale Earnhardt; 2000, Kyle Petty; 1999, Junie Donlavey; 1998, T. Wayne Robertson; 1997, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 1996, Rick Hendrick; 1995, TNN: The Nashville Network; 1994, Brickyard 400/Indianapolis Motor Speedway; 1993, Goody’s Manufacturing Co.; 1992, Richard and Lynda Petty; 1991, Harry Gant; 1990. Dick Beaty;

1989, Bill France Jr.; 1988 Richmond International Raceway; 1987, ESPN; 1986, Hayride 500; 1985, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 1984, Charlotte Motor Speedway; 1983, CBS-TV; 1982, MRN; 1981, Junior Johnson; 1980, STP & Champion Spark Plug Co.

1979, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 1978, Busch Beer; 1977, First National City Travelers Checks; 1976, Junior Johnson; 1975, Bill France Sr.; 1974, H. Clay Earles; 1973, Wood Brothers; 1972, Winston Cigarettes; 1971, Richard Petty; 1970, Richard Howard;

1969, David Pearson; 1968, Wood Brothers; 1967, Richard Petty; 1966, Norris Friel; 1965, Ned Jarrett; 1964, Richard Petty; 1963, Marvin Panch; 1962, Hank Schoolfield; 1961, Ned Jarrett; 1960, Russ Catlin; 1959, Lee Petty; 1958, Bob Colvin

Dale Jr. Wins Most Popular Award ~ Fifth Straight

The final race has been run, and the checkered flag has fallen on the NASCAR racing season; but before it was all over, race fans answered the call to vote for their favorite driver. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was voted the 2007 NASCAR NMPA Chex® Most Popular Driver for the fifth consecutive year and was presented with the award today at the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Media Luncheon in New York City.

“I’m extremely honored to win this award again, because it puts me with a very select group of drivers who I have a lot of respect for,” Earnhardt, Jr. commented. “When I became a Cup driver in 1999, I never would’ve imagined that we’d be talking about five consecutive Most Popular Driver awards. I have a special place at JR Motorsports where I put the MPD trophies, so I’m honored to add another one to the collection.

“I don’t want it to sound like a cliché, but this award really does mean a lot to me after all we have been through this year,” continued Earnhardt, Jr. “This year has marked a significant transition in my life and career, and I knew the fans could go either way in supporting my decision or not. It was tough, and I don’t underestimate the fans’ support. It’s been overwhelming, and I really appreciate it.”

Throughout the race season, race fans could log on to:...( once a day and vote for their favorite driver. Voting ended on November 19 at 11:59 pm CST. A total of 3.8 million votes were cast this year, with Earnhardt, Jr. receiving 1.4 million votes.

“General Mills is very proud to once again present Dale Earnhardt, Jr. with the NASCAR NMPA Chex® Most Popular Driver award,” said Becky O’Grady, Vice President of Marketing for Chex® cereal. “Earnhardt, Jr. has a dedicated fan base that has supported him throughout his racing career, and each year it shows in the number of votes he receives as the most popular driver. We are honored to present this prestigious award to Dale Jr., thanks to his loyal fans.”

After receiving the award this year, Earnhardt, Jr. has joined Richard Petty and Bill Elliott as the only drivers to win five straight awards. Petty won from 1974 – 1978 and Elliott won from 1984 – 1988. Other drivers who finished in this year’s top 10 include Jeff Gordon, who finished second in the voting, followed by Michael Waltrip, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Elliott Sadler and Dale Jarrett.

More than 50 Nextel Cup Series drivers were eligible in 2007 for the esteemed NASCAR NMPA Chex® Most Popular Driver Award, which is administered by the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA). It has been awarded annually since 1956 and is one of the oldest awards in racing.

France Still Wants New York Track

Almost a year ago, International Speedway Corp - which is majority owned by NASCAR's France family - said it would no longer proceed with plans to build a race track on Staten Island in New York. A similar plan in the Seattle area fell by the wayside as well. But NASCAR chairman Brian France says they haven't given up hope. "New York, Seattle, Denver - all are markets that are interesting to us, in particular New York," France told the Reuters Media Summit in New York. "Staten Island is not an option, but that doesn't mean there aren't others."()

Drivers Take Ride Around New York

The usual cacophony of New York City traffic noise – the blare of the horns and screeching of brakes – was interrupted Wednesday morning as 10 of the world’s best drivers fired up their NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series cars for a Victory Lap through the city’s streets. With 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet leading the way, the drivers drove in a 1.5-mile loop through the heart of the Big Apple. The parade started in front of Good Morning America’s Times Square studios and finished up on 43rd Street and 7th Avenue in front of The Hard Rock Café. -- “It’s really an honor for us to drive through the streets of New York City and see everybody,” Johnson said.

A crowd estimated at 150,000 lined the parade route. ABC-TV carried live coverage of the event. The Victory Lap included the top 10 drivers in the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series final standings: Johnson, Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet), Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford), Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet), Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet), Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet), Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford), and Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet).

The day was kicked off with the drivers appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America. Following the parade, the drivers posed for a photo atop The Hard Rock Café marquee before attending the Sunoco Checkered Flag Breakfast, which included interviews with New York and national media. The event was broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio.

“This is what’s going to make me go into next year and work even harder to make sure I’m part of this again,” said Bowyer, who was making his first trip to New York City as a top-10 finisher. “That’s not your typical crowd – when you see all these people in suits watching you drive by. That was definitely a neat thing to see all the fans lining the street and seeing all the work and detail that goes into that.”

Also at The Hard Rock Café, New York City Sports Commissioner Kenneth J. Podziba presented a proclamation on behalf of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City of New York to NASCAR President Mike Helton declaring Nov. 26-30 as NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Champions Week. This is the fourth year the Champions Week has included a Victory Lap, which has become the must-see event of the week for fans.

Even those drivers who have participated in prior years were amazed at Wednesday’s show. “It’s neat to be able to drive a race car through downtown New York – that’s pretty crazy,” said Edwards, who was part of the Victory Lap in 2005. “It’s cool to see all the people amazed at what’s going on.”

Johnson’s championship week activities continued Wednesday afternoon with the champion’s luncheon at the 21 Club with New York and northeast media.

Thursday, the NASCAR/National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Myers Brothers Luncheon at Cipriani on 42nd Street will honor the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series’ 12 Chase drivers, champions from all of NASCAR’s racing series and all NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers who won seasonal awards. Afterward, all 2007 series champions will gather for the traditional champions’ photo shoot at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Johnson will also be part of a private dinner for all of NASCAR’s champions at the Waldorf=Astoria.

Friday, Johnson and his team will pose for formal photos on New York City’s Park Avenue before attending several pre-awards ceremony receptions. That night, Johnson officially will be crowned the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion; the awards ceremony begins at 7 p.m. in the Waldorf=Astoria’s venerable Grand Ballroom. ESPN Classic will air the ceremony at 9 p.m. (ET).

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