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NASCAR: Drivers enthusiastic despite economic concerns

By Mark Long
Associated PressDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ó NASCAR’s season-opening event had a much different feel Thursday.
Drivers came to media day with all the typical enthusiasm for the Daytona 500 and the new season. But they ended up fielding more questions about the economic downturn than Jimmie Johnson’s quest for a fourth consecutive championship, Tony Stewart’s new venture as an owner/driver or what could be Mark Martin’s best and last chance at getting a Cup title.
“We obviously are driven by a lot of corporate sponsors, and our fans are the most loyal out there,” four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon said. “They’re all going to be tested during this time.”
Chrysler, Ford and General Motors have seen a significant drop in sales, and world leader Toyota also has been affected by the economic downturn. The problems have created doubt about whether the four automakers will be able to maintain financial and technical support.
“The news is depressing, and I know a lot of it is real,” Roush Fenway Racing driver Matt Kenseth said. “I don’t know how it’s going to affect the sport or our season or our sponsors or any of that.”

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