2012 NASCAR Media Tour Wrap-Up: What We Learned

When a driver's wife getting pregnant is the biggest revelation of a four-day press event, you know there wasn't much news.

Kevin Harvick's surprise announcement Wednesday night that he and wife DeLana are expecting their first child in July was the top news on the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour, which concluded Thursday afternoon.

Other stories included Danica Patrick's announcement she would not be participating in this year's Indianapolis 500 and Elliott Sadler's entry into the Daytona 500 with Richard Childress Racing.

Aside from that, there wasn't much to report. In this case, though, no news is good news for NASCAR.

At NASCAR's Thursday tour stop, there were no announcements made about rules changes or new programs. After what was perhaps stock car racing's greatest season ever, there was no need to change anything.

The points system will stay the same. The Chase will stay the same. The on-track rules will remain the same.

Honestly, that's the right call. Making any adjustments after such a fantastic season would risk jeopardizing NASCAR's current momentum, which is finally headed in a positive direction again after several disappointing seasons.

There were no "Be more positive!" lectures to the media this year – perhaps for the first time since the sport's bubble burst in 2006. And several key figures – from Brian France to Brad Keselowski – actually thanked reporters for covering the sport.

Clearly, this is a kinder, gentler NASCAR. Mike Helton said officials are more open-minded than ever now, listening to fan and team suggestions and implementing many of them.

For example: NASCAR's Fan Council told officials they didn't like the two-car drafts at restrictor-plate tracks. So instead of trying to spin the tandem racing as a positive and shoving it down everyone's throat, NASCAR shrugged and said, "OK, fine. We'll fix it."

The overall spin declined in general. I got the sense at many tour stops that teams were actually excited – instead of just going through the motions – and multiple team owners reported an improvement in the economic and sponsorship climate for their teams.

That said, NASCAR still lost several race teams and major companies – so it remains to be seen whether the sport is really getting financially healthy again.

Reporters didn't quite get a complete picture of the upcoming season, though, as two of the biggest potential stories of the 2012 season were no-shows.

Preseason favorite Carl Edwards had a miscommunication of some sort and took a vacation during the Media Tour, missing the Roush Fenway Racing stop. And jury duty kept Kasey Kahne away from his media duties on Wednesday, denying reporters the chance to ask about his move to Hendrick Motorsports.

Matt Kenseth (family emergency) and Richard Childress (fishing trip) were also missing, marking a rare string of absences.

Nevertheless, there was still much to talk about. After all, the 2012 NASCAR season has potential to be even better than 2011.

The Daytona 500 may be the most-hyped "Great American Race" yet – since it also marks Danica Patrick's Sprint Cup Series debut – Dale Earnhardt Jr. looks poised to end his long winless drought, and the championship battle seems wide open.

How will Kurt Busch fare at Phoenix Racing – and in teaming up with his brother in the Nationwide Series? Can Jimmie Johnson shake off a disappointing season (by his standards) and win Cup No. 6? Will Stewart be able to defend his title with new crew chief Steve Addington, or will his performance slip? How will the variety of new driver/team/crew chief combinations work out?

There's tons to talk about and anticipate this season. But the hype has to build for a few more weeks first, like a teapot coming to a slow boil.

We're not done yet! Keep checking back here for more updates from the Media Tour (there's a lot of tape to transcribe).

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