February 15, 2013 in Sports

Daytona media day features loose champ, dating drivers

Mark Long Associated Press
 
Waltrip to pay tribute

Michael Waltrip will honor and raise funds for Sandy Hook Elementary School in the No. 26 car at the Daytona 500.

The two-time Daytona 500 winner was set to drive the No. 30 Toyota in a one-race deal. The number instead will be changed to No. 26 to honor the victims. The car was at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday and had a black and green ribbon on the hood.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Brad Keselowski strolled through the Daytona 500 Club with his cellphone in one hand and a half-empty bottle in the other.

Nope, not beer. Not this time.

Keselowski was drinking orange juice Thursday at Daytona 500 Media Day, which officially kicked off Speedweeks. Still, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion was his usual, laid-back, outspoken self, offering up some of the best one-liners during a daylong event filled with playful jokes, repetitive questions, canned answers and optimistic outlooks for the upcoming season.

For Keselowski, it wasn’t all that different from his last moment in the spotlight. He just didn’t have a little buzz going.

“If you drink enough orange juice, you can drink a lot of beer,” said Keselowski, who memorably chugged away in Victory Lane after clinching his first Cup championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

Three months later, he was fielding questions about defending his title, tweeting from his race car – which he famously did during last year’s Daytona 500, the budding relationship between competitors Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and his plan to purchase a tank.

“There is just something very rootsy about it,” Keselowski said. “A man should own a tank.”

Where would he put it?

“Right in my driveway,” he said.

The tank talk was just one of the many topics addressed by the 50-plus drivers who took part in the eight-hour event at Daytona International Speedway. No surprise, the Patrick and Stenhouse saga – they announced they were dating last month – took center stage.

Patrick and Stenhouse were open about their relationship, clearly ready for all the ribbing. They shared Valentine’s Day plans with reporters. He called her “hot.” She joked about what would happen if he wrecked her on the track.

“He better have a really good, ‘I’m sorry,’ ” Patrick said with a wink.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. praised NASCAR for taking steps to mandate baseline concussion testing for drivers in 2014.

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