Editor’s note: This race notebook will be updated periodically throughout the day. Check back later for more news.
JUNKYARD DOG — Dale Earnhardt Jr. has quite a junkyard on his farm in Mooresville, N.C., with the latest — and arguably most infamous — acquisition being the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet that Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a jet dryer during the Daytona 500, necessitating a two-hour delay to repair the track The car was a gift from Chris “Sunshine” Heroy, who is Montoya’s crew chief but used to be Earnhardt’s engineer.
“‘Sunshine,’ man, he’s a buddy of mine and he gave it to me,” Earnhardt said Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “I got about 50 or 60 cars out there and I didn’t buy any of them.”
Asked where the Montoya car ranks in his collection, Earnhardt said, “It ranks right up there. It’s one of the top two or three.”
KENSETH COMES CLEAN — Despite a stellar record that includes the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, Matt Kenseth ended last season with no sponsors for this year. Slowly, however, the financial package is coming together for Kenseth’s No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. Best Buy moved over to Roush Fenway from Richard Petty Motorsports, and this weekend at Las Vegas, deodorant soap Zest is sponsoring Kenseth’s car.
“Zest had been an iconic brand, but neglected for a number of years, so we’ve taken this brand, we’re investing in it,” said Jim Daniels, president and CEO of High Ridge Brands, the parent company of Zest. “And we thought, ‘What better way to show our interesting in growing this brand and investing in than coming to NASCAR,’ which is obviously a huge sport, a loyal population and fan base, and, of course, when we had the opportunity to work with Roush Fenway and Matt Kenseth it was a no-brainer, so we’re thrilled.”
Kenseth, the Daytona 500 winner, said he is still getting caught up on his rest after the marathon media blitz following his big victory less than two weeks ago.
“It always feels good to get home for a few days, especially after being gone that long,” said Kenseth. “Winning the Daytona 500 is a dream come true and to do all of that stuff afterwards is certainly something you try to take in and enjoy and certainly not complain about, so I was happy to get home, I was happy to sleep in my bed and see my kids and see Katie, and spend a few days to get caught up, but it was still a short week and it will probably be another week or two before you feel like you’re back to normal.”
KYLE BUSCH NOT SURPRISED — Denny Hamlin has started the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season red hot and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch said he expected nothing less. Hamlin finished fourth in the season-opening Daytona 500 and last week scored a huge victory in Phoenix.
“We were in our team debrief on Friday (at Phoenix) and he (Hamlin) was just complaining about how slow he was, he didn't have any speed and this and that and everything else and I said, ‘Just shut up. You'll be fine. You'll make it work,’” said Busch. “So, obviously, he did and he was fine. It seems like when you get around cars it's a lot easier to figure out what kind of car you have. They did make a lot of adjustments and wholesale changes to it, so certainly we look at some of those things that they did and we'll learn from those and try to understand how it makes the car better so then it just makes all of us better.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.