For years, any time you heard a NASCAR driver being interviewed, you’d hear the word "awsome" used so many times it was enough to make you dizzy.
Everything was "awesome." The car they were driving was "awesome," the team was "awesome," the track was "awesome" and the fans were "awesome."
By the end of the conversation, you were ready to scream.
I can report today that "awesome" is on the way out. Or, at least, I think it is.
I was at the Canadian Motorsports Expo at the weekend and didn’t hear special guests Michael Waltrip or Kyle Busch use that word once. Maybe one or two "awesomes" might have snuck in, but I didn’t hear them.
What I did hear both of them say time and again, though, was how "excited" they were about – well, everything.
They were "excited" to be in Toronto, "excited" about their teams, "excited" about the season, "excited" about this and "excited" about that.
So, expect to hear the word "excited" used by NASCAR drivers about a million times this season.
Which doesn't exactly mean that they are excited. It just sounds good.
Greatest moment during Kyle Busch’s press conference Sunday: when a little girl, maybe 3, asked if she could give him a hug. She got her wish.
Most interesting thing about Michael Waltrip’s press conference Saturday: his frequent references to Tim Hortons (including taking a drink out of a large cup).
Hortons is expanding in the United States and Waltrip will be trying to make the field for the Daytona 500.
Is there a connection there? Is Michael making a pitch for sponsorship? Will we see a "Timmy’s" (Waltrip’s word) logo on his race car?
Formula One finished testing its news cars at Jerez last week and over the course of the four days just about everybody led a session.
I suspect McLaren has a rocket, but doesn’t want to show its hand.
Niki Lauda says Sebastien Vettel in the Red Bull has the edge but that Mercedes will be one of the top three teams once the season gets going. You would expect Niki to say that, of course, seeing as he owns 10 per cent of the Mercedes team and is head of the board of directors.
At the end of the day, however, Mercedes – with Nico Rosberg driving, by the way – was eighth fastest over the course of the week (when you do the math), with Felipe Massa on top in his Ferrari.
Others in the Top Ten: Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus; Jules Bianchi, Force India; Romain Grosjean, Lotus; Vettel; Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber; Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso; Rosberg; Jenson Button, McLaren; Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes.
A bit of surprising news is that Roger Penske announced plans to give A.J. Allmendinger a test in an Indy car at Sebring in a few weeks and there have since been suggestions that Allmendinger will get to start at least two races for Penske in 2013 – maybe more – plus maybe the Indianapolis 500.
Allmendinger, you will recall, flunked a NASCAR drug test last summer and was promptly fired by his Sprint Cup employer, Penske.
Allmendinger completed the Road to Recovery program and was cleared to return to the sport by NASCAR. Penske invited him to a race as his guest and soon after Allmendinger was driving the Phoenix Racing car that had been deserted by Kurt Busch.
Dinger did an okay job but wasn’t hired for 2013 and doesn’t have anything else lined up in NASCAR either. Then came the Penske announcement.
Now, we all know – or those of us who’s followed his career know – that Penske looks after people who put themselves out for him or any of his companies. He’s the classic American entrepreneur whose motto is "Effort equals results." If you've busted your butt, he’s forever on your side.
It turns out that Penske went further for Allmendinger than simply inviting him to a race and re-introducing him around the Sprint Cup paddock. In fact, he called up the owner of Phoenix Racing, James Finch, and suggested if he was looking for a shoe to replace Busch, Allmendinger would be a good choice.
As Allemdninger told Speed Channel’s Marshall Pruett this past week: "People don’t really know, but he talked to James Finch to help me get in that car at the end of last year. Nothing major, but (he) called him and endorsed me (and) said, ‘You know, why don’t you allow A.J. to get into the car?’ It’s little stuff like that people probably don’t see or don’t know about him that he does."
Well, as I’ve reminded people on several occasions in this blog, as well as in several columns over the years, when Penske fired Paul Tracy in 1997, he called Barry Green of Team Kool Green and told him he was going to do it. Now, that call might have been made a second after he pulled the trigger, rather than before, but the first person who knew Tracy was "at large" was Green.
Green’s deal with the cigaret company that made Kool was for a one-car team with Dario Franchitti driving. The tobacco firm’s president happened to be a Canadian, Bob Bexon. Green called Bexon and told him Tracy was available and Bexon doubled the team’s budget – just like that.
You can bet that Penske had connected the dots before he made that telephone call. Although he was fed up with Tracy for any number of reasons, he also wanted to throw him a lifeline, which he did when he called Barry Green.
Allmendinger is just another in a long line of employees, or ex-employees, who Penske has helped.
Having said that, you wonder what’s to become of Ryan Briscoe, who’s been a very good soldier for Penske in recent years. Driving the third Penske car, Briscoe finished sixth in the 2012 IndyCar series but his contract hasn’t been renewed.
Has Roger made another telephone call that we don’t know about?