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Brian France will be at Monday’s NASCAR test at Charlotte Motor Speedway

By Jim Utter
jutter@charlotteobserver.com

Make no mistake, Monday’s NASCAR test at Charlotte Motor Speedway is an important one.

So important, in fact, Chairman Brian France will be on hand.

This is the second test NASCAR has had in recent months as it attempts to tinker with the rules package in the Sprint Cup Series to improve the quality of racing, particularly on 1.5-mile tracks.

“You’ve heard me say this for a while now,” France said. “and we’ll be validating some of our beliefs, a prior test and other things, and I’m liking what I’m seeing.

“It’s tightening up competition, and that’s hallmark. We wake up every day and try to do that, and 43 teams probably do just the opposite. They try to get up in the morning, look at our rules package and want to lead every lap and gain the system.

“That’s how it works, right?”

NASCAR officials are determined to find the right mix, which will help the racing product on the type of track that makes up the bulk of the Cup series schedule.

Monday’s test runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fans can watch the test for free from The Speedway Club’s enclosed Clubhouse seating area on the frontstretch. In case of rain, the test will be conducted Tuesday.

Myers Bros. honor to Stewart

Tony Stewart, a three-time Cup series champion, team and track owner, was named the 2013 winner of the National Motorsports Press Association’s Myers Brothers Award.

The award, named in honor of former NASCAR competitors Billy and Bob Myers, was presented to Stewart in Las Vegas on Thursday.

In addition to competing and consistently contending for the Cup series championship, Stewart is also co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, which will field four Cup teams for the first time in 2014. He also owns Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, and is part of ownership groups in two other tracks.

“Before an injury sidelined him during the second half of the season, he was on pace to compete in more than 100 races in 2013,” NMPA president Kenny Bruce said.

“Tony eats, sleeps, lives and breathes racing and he understands the importance of the local weekend shows better than most,” Bruce said. “It’s where he came from, and he’s never forgotten that or those who made it possible.”

Earnhardt most popular

On Thursday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was announced as the 2013 NMPA NASCAR Most Popular Driver at the Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon in Las Vegas.

It’s the 11th straight year Earnhardt has won the award, a NASCAR record. He was tied with Bill Elliott for the most consecutive wins in a row.

Elliott won the award from 1991 through 2000. Elliott is also the last driver outside of Earnhardt to win the award, having done so in 2002 (In 2001, the year he died at Daytona, Dale Earnhardt Sr. won the award).

Armstrong joins RPM

Richard Petty Motorsports has signed Dakoda Armstrong, 22, to drive the organization’s No. 43 Fords in the NASCAR Nationwide Series next season.

The team’s current crew chief, Philippe Lopez, will remain in the same role with Armstrong, who finished 12th in the Truck series standings in 2013.

Swan Racing to expand

Swan Racing will become a multicar organization in 2014 and compete in the Cup series with drivers Parker Kligerman and Cole Whitt next season. The team will use Toyotas but has not yet set the numbers for its teams.

Swan Racing just completed its inaugural season with team owner Brandon Davis and used a number of drivers with its No. 30 team.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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