NASCAR Media Tour begins today, but drivers still in idle

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CHARLOTTE – Remaining idle during an offseason isn’t unfamiliar to Danica Patrick, but a long layoff from NACSAR still is having an impact on her life.

“I found myself the other day driving to the airport doing things that were definitely illegal and not just speeding,” Patrick said. “I felt like that was the first (instance) of thinking I need to take out this aggression somewhere right now. So I am looking forward to getting back in a car.”

It still will be another three weeks before the gates swing open at Daytona International Speedway for the 2015 edition of NASCAR Speedweeks. But the offseason begins in earnest Monday with the 33rd annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour.

Though the four-day cattle call of Sprint Cup personalities typically can become a tedious exercise of tallying which team sets the mark for recitations of being “excited” about the upcoming season, this year will mark the first time in a long while that it doesn’t come on the heels of preseason Daytona 500 testing.

That will make for fresh perspectives on the impending retirement of Jeff Gordon and a bevy of rules changes (including lower horsepower and downforce adjustments)

Drivers also will be discussing the antsy feelings of being out of their cockpits since November. New testing restrictions have sidelined much of the field since the checkered fell at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

It’s a familiar feeling for Patrick, who was accustomed to offseasons that lasted up to six months while racing in the IndyCar Series from 2005-11.

“I’m not necessarily anxious because it’s coming whether I like it or not, and it goes on for nine solid months,” Patrick said. “So I know what’s coming. I’m definitely enjoying the time off before the pressure begins, and it’s time to perform every single weekend.

“I am not antsy. I also used to drive Indy cars, and we had really long offseaons. This is nothing unfamiliar to be out of the cars for almost three months.”

This will be a critical season for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver, who is entering her third full-time season in NASCAR’s premier series. Driver and sponsor contracts typically run in three-year cycles, increasing the emphasis on performance in the final year.

Patrick, who closed ’14 with new crew chief Daniel Knost in the final three races, improved her average start (22.3 from 30.1) and finish (23.7 from 26.1) last year from her rookie season. She finished a spot lower in the points standings (28th).

“I wouldn’t say I’m looking at ’15 any different than any other year,” she said. “I know they’re all important. Take for instance my first year in IndyCar. It went so well my first year, I didn’t worry so much about (years) two and three because good things have happened.

“I get nervous about every year and want to do well every year because every year can make or break the continuation. I think that ’14, while it wasn’t necessarily overall so great in the championship, it was a heck of a lot better on everything I wanted: qualifying, practice, getting up to speed better, restarts. All that stuff was way better, so the stuff I wanted to get better was. Now it’s a little bit of a sidestep to get a new crew chief and have to start over a bit in some ways. But there’s also opportunity on the other end of it if we can find a way to make things better.”

Here’s the lineup for the Media Tour, which opens today at 1:30 p.m. in the Charlotte Convention Center with a state of the union address by NASCAR Chairman Brian France. NASCAR.com will stream the formal session for each group:

Monday

–1:30 p.m.: NASCAR — Click here for live stream

–4 p.m.: Joe Gibbs Racing — Click here for live stream

Tuesday

–9 a.m.: Michael Waltrip Racing — Click here for live stream

–11 a.m.: JTG Daugherty Racing; HScott Motorsports — Click here for live stream

–1 p.m.: Stewart-Haas Racing — Click here for live stream

Wednesday

–9 a.m.: Roush Fenway Racing — Click here for live stream

–11 a.m.: Richard Petty Motorsports — Click here for live stream

–1:30 p.m.: Wood Brothers Racing — Click here for live stream

–3:15 p.m.: Team Penske — Click here for live stream

Thursday

–9 a.m.: Furniture Row Racing — Click here for live stream

–10:30 a.m.: Richard Childress Racing — Click here for live stream

–1 p.m.: Chip Ganassi Racing — Click here for live stream

–3 p.m.: Hendrick Motorsports — Click here for live stream