Yeah, that's ZZ Top. Why ZZ Top? Because it's Texas, that's why, and Texas does everything big, including beards. (That and ZZ Top played the pre-race concert at Texas Motor Speedway last fall.) Anyway, Friday is Media Day at Texas Motor Speedway. Hang here all day while we bring you the news and notes from the day's press conferences and happenings on the track. Check back often to keep up with the latest.
Some notes to get us started:
• Jeff Gordon's last victory came on April 5, 2009 at Texas Motor Speedway. It was Gordon's first victory there, leaving just Homestead-Miami Speedway as the only track on the current Sprint Cup schedule where he hasn't won.
• Sunday's Samsung 500 will be the first race where the new spoiler really matters. NASCAR rolled it out at Martinsville, ramped it up a bit at Phoenix, but Texas is the first downforce track where the spoiler's true impact will be felt. What will that impact be? Stayed tuned. We'll get a better idea as the day progresses.
• Last week it was Denny Hamlin getting peppered with questions about his surgically repaired knee. This week it will be Kasey Kahne about his future. Kahne will speak to the media later today. We'll tell you what he has to say.
9:28 a.m. CT: Carl Edwards is predicting that the spoiler will provide more front downforce and that the cars will turn better.
9:30: Foster Gillett, whose family is the majority owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, said in regard to losing Kasey Kahne, they are focusing on "what opportunities we have rather than what we’re losing."
Gillett is certain Kahne will finish the season with RPM.
Gillett: "We will put maximum effort in keeping Anheuser-Busch as a sponsor with RPM."
10:35: Burton cautions people to withhold judgment on the spoiler.
"I think the racing this year has been good. I thought it was good midway on last year." He said if this race is good, then it will be status quo. If this race is exceptional, people will say it's because of the spoiler. If it is boring, people will say it's because of the spoiler.
10:40: Burton said "double-file restarts have changed the game. People are more apt to take track position over four fresh tires."
10:45: When asked if Rick Hendrick's signing of Kasey Kahne scares him, Burton said, "A little bit". Burton said that the addition of Kahne "sends a clear message to everyone in the sport that [Hendrick] intends to continue winning championships in the future."
Burton added that signing with a team for 2012 without knowing what he's going to do in 2011 - Kahne will drive the Hendrick No. 5 in 2012, but where he will drive next season is still unknown - is a risk he doesn't know if he could take.
"I have a lot of respect for Kasey making that call," Burton said, "because that had to be a hard call to make."
11:07: Jimmie Johnson said he welcomes Kasey Kahne into the Hendrick fold.
"When the question [of Kahne coming to Hendrick Motorsports] came to me, I was two thumbs up," Johnson said. "Think we should move forward with it."
11:16: The first Cup practice isn't until Noon CT, so the drivers still don't know how the spoiler is going to impact things. We should get a better idea during the afternoon press conferences, which begin with Matt Kenseth at 1:50 CT.
11:17: Mark Martin says he will NOT be retiring at the end of 2011. "I will be racing somewhere in 2012. I just don't know."
11:38: Kyle Busch said he is frustrated by the inconsistency across Joe Gibbs Racing, particularly how it seems that when one of the three cars is running well, the other two aren't. He said that he and Denny Hamlin use similar setups but drive them completely different, while Joey Logano uses a vastly different setup.
1:30 p.m.: Greg Biffle was fastest in the first practice session, where teams were working on both race and qualifying setups. Tony Stewart was second fastest, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr (who was fast the entire practice session, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman.
1:50: Matt Kenseth's report on the spoiler after the first practice session: "We didn't spend a lot of time in traffic. A better time to comment on it will be after Sunday's race when we're in a big group of cars."
2:00: Tony Stewart said he hasn't had any discussions regarding Kasey Kahne joining Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2011 season. Speculation has been that Kahne could join Stewart-Haas, a Hendrick Motorsports affiliate, while he waits for the No. 5 seat to open up at Hendrick.
"I think you guys need to talk to Kasey, because we don't know anything about it," Stewart said.
Stewart said he first got word of Kahne's signing on Wednesday.
"You guys [the media] know as much if not more than I do right now. Nobody's talked to me about it. It's all a lot of speculation right now."
Stewart said he would start a third team if the right opportunity, sponsor and driver came along.
3:10: Kasey Kahne, when asked about his 2011 plans: "I'll work through it with Mr. Hendrick. We'll figure out exactly what we need to do in ‘11 that makes the most sense. As far as right now, I still don't know. I'll leave it up to those guys. They made promise to me and Rick said he'll make sure it's right, and I'll take that as I'll be in a pretty good situation."
While there hasn't been a decision on who will be Kahne's crew chief when he does arrive in the No. 5, Kahne said he hopes to continue working with his current crew chief Kenny Francis.
"Kenny Francis to me is good as anybody in garage. I like working with Kenny. ... Hopefully I'll work with him for a long time, because I really like Kenny Francis."
3:20: That's it for press conference today. Qualifying begins at 3:30 CT.