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Drivers have last say before new year

 
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BOOGITY! BOOGITY! BOOGITY!

Mark your calendars now and get ready to "reach up and pull those belts down tight one more time!" The Daytona 500 on FOX is set for noon ET on Feb. 24.

What's on NASCAR drivers' minds mere hours before they hit the track for the start of the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season? Welcome to FOXSports.com's Daytona 500 Media Day blog, where we update you on everything that is being said by the top stars in NASCAR on the eve of Speedweeks.

Check for updates throughout the day:

Busy week: As if running a full season of Sprint Cup competition wasn't enough, Danica Patrick now has plans in place to return to her roots ... well, her NASCAR roots.

Patrick will pilot the Turner Scott Motorsports fourth entry in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway, it was announced Thursday. Patrick will be behind the wheel of the No. 34 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet Camaro in the season-opening Drive4COPD 300. Veteran crew chief Mike Greci will be calling the shots for the team. Full story -- FOXSports.com

10-Gallon?: For those wondering, it was a black-cowboy-hat (not white) for Austin Dillon Thursday. And, no, he doesn't hat shop with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Different labels, Dillon said. -- Mike Hembree, SPEED.com

Expanding empire: Dale Earnhardt Jr. is expanding his interests by taking on a role in radio.

Earnhardt and JR Motorsports announced Thursday the birth of Dirty Mo Radio, an online home for radio-style podcasts themed around NASCAR’s 10-time most popular driver.

Dirty Mo Radio will be based at Earnhardt's official site, www.DaleJr.com, but its podcasts will also be available for free on common podcasting outlets such as iTunes. Full story -- FOXSports.com

It Won't Be Fast: Brad Keselowski said Thursday he remains on the hunt for a tank. "A man and a tank," he said. "It sounds right." Really, he wants one. Where would he keep it? "In the driveway." -- Mike Hembree, SPEED.com

Driver Brad Keselowski speaks to the media

Brad Keselowski shows off his new firesuit as he talks with media.

Jonathan Ferrey

Miller Bright: Spiffiest new driver's suit award for Media Day goes to Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, resplendent in blue and white. And no Miller. Yet.

It’s back: Stewart-Haas Racing and sponsor Outback Steakhouse are bringing back Bloomin’ Monday for the 2013 Sprint Cup season.

Every time Ryan Newman finishes in the top 10 of a NASCAR Cup race, fans can get a free Bloomin’ Onion at an Outback Steakhouse on the Monday immediately following the race. Fans simply need to reference the promotion to their server to receive their Bloomin’ Onion.

“I’m happy that Outback Steakhouse is continuing the Bloomin’ Monday promotion for the 2013 season,” said Newman, driver of the No. 39 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing. “It was cool that the fans could get something from our team having a good finish. It gave them another reason to cheer us on.

“Believe me, I heard from fans who were disappointed when we didn’t get top-10s. We had 15 top-10 finishes last year, a number we’re planning to beat in 2013, which will make for a lot of happy Bloomin’ Onion fans.”

The restaurant will be Newman’s primary sponsor in three races this season - at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in April, Daytona International Speedway in July and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth in November. When not serving as a primary sponsor, Outback Steakhouse will be an associate sponsor with placement on the B-post of the No. 39 Chevrolet. -- FOXSports.com

Gen-6 evolution

TRUE INNOVATION

How did NASCAR get from Hudson Hornet to Generation 6 cars? See the transition.

Championship Quest: Ty Dillon knows that if he wants to break through from being a contender to Camping World Truck Series champion, he must deliver the wins. Dillon, who turns 21 at the end of the month, won his first and only race in the Truck series last year in Atlanta before finishing fourth in points.

“We got that rookie stripe off our back now and a whole notebook to go back and review on to fine-tune our setups a little bit,” Dillon said. “The second half of the season we started turning top 10s into top-fives, now that we have that notebook we should be able to tune ourselves in to running up front and winning races. I think that’s all it takes is just a little more experience for us and a little more confidence now that we’ve run a full year.”

Dillon entered the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway third in the points standings, 12 behind eventual winner James Buescher, before getting caught up in a wreck with Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney in the final 10 laps of the race. Dillon has not yet spoken to either driver.

“There will come a time when we talk about it but it’s still a little upsetting how it went down,” Dillon said. “But things happen for a reason. It made us want to work harder in the offseason to get better so we don’t have to worry about the last couple of laps (to determine the title).”

Dillon will run eight Nationwide Series this races and plans to run one Cup race as well. Although Richard Childress Racing has yet to decide at which track it will be, Dillon acknowledges he’s most comfortable on intermediate tracks.

As for where he’ll spend his 21st birthday on Feb. 27, Dillon says a Las Vegas celebration similar to brother Austin might have to wait.

“I’m not planning on doing much, maybe going to Orlando,” Dillon said. “I’m racing in a Nationwide car at Las Vegas and that’s what I want to concentrate on. Maybe after that.” -- Lee Spencer, FOXSports.com

Ahh ... Twitterpated: Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have taken their relationship to a new level – Twitter.

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, the fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup rookies tweeted about their plans – or lack thereof – for the special day.

Stenhouse tweeted a photo of guys lined up buying Valentine’s Day cards with the message: “Nothing like last minute..... sry @DanicaPatrick #guyproblems #procrastinator”

Patrick responded with “@StenhouseJr At least u remembered.....wait til u get on of my "home made cards" aka I forgot to get u one. ...I am crafty though.”

Patrick has since deleted the tweet. The pair will be speaking separately with the media today as part of the annual pre-Daytona 500 appearances. -- FOXSports.com

best of danica

DANICA'S BEST

There's no one like Danica, both on and off the track. Check out some of our favorite photos of Danica in action.

Tough Sledding: The Gen-6 car offers opportunities for adjustment and speed gains, Jimmie Johnson said, but he added that the “toolbox” is small. “We have far less tools today than at Homestead,” he said. “We still have opportunities to find things, but the reward is so small. You’re finding half a 10th (of a second) at best. You have to stack up four or five things to get an advantage.” -- Mike Hembree, SPEED.com

Pretty Obvious? Asked if there were early indications that the Ricky Stenhouse Jr.-Danica Patrick romance was taking shape last year, Joey Logano said, “Yes. Ray Charles could see that one coming.” -- Mike Hembree, SPEED.com

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