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  • DiBenedetto leaves BK Racing: Matt DiBenedetto tweeted Thursday evening, "I've decided to go in a different direction next year. Exciting announcements coming soon. It's been a great ride @BKRacing_2383 Thank you!".(12-8-2016)

  • Earnhardt, Jr. medically cleared to return to racing: Following a test session Wednesday afternoon at Darlington Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been medically cleared to resume NASCAR competition after making a full recovery from a concussion. He will return for the beginning of the 2017 season at the Feb. 26 Daytona 500. Earnhardt, 42, was cleared Wednesday evening by Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh, in consultation with Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty. Petty attended the test at the 1.366-mile South Carolina racetrack.
    "Dale is one of the hardest-working patients I've ever encountered," Collins said. "He's done everything we've asked, and we believe he is ready to compete at a professional level again and can withstand the normal forces of a race car driver. Dale has been very open with us, and we've had plenty of time for his treatment, so we feel very good about his long-term prospects and how this has been managed by everyone involved."
    Earnhardt, driver of the #88 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports, completed 185 laps during a nearly five-hour session at Darlington under the guidance of his crew chief, Greg Ives. In addition to the on-track test, which was observed by NASCAR, the driver has logged more than 15 hours in a racing simulator during his recovery.
    "I feel great, and I'm excited to officially be back," Earnhardt said. "I expected things to go really well yesterday, and that's exactly what happened. Actually getting in a race car was an important final step, and it gives me a ton of confidence going into 2017. Thanks to the staff at Darlington for hosting our team and to NASCAR for giving us the opportunity to put a car on the track. I'll do more testing in January to help knock the rust off. When it's time to go to Daytona, I'll be ready."
    "Dale deserves so much credit," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. "I'm proud of him for listening to his body and standing up to take responsibility for his health. He's worked extremely hard and set a terrific example for others. It's great news as we go into the off-season, and we can't wait to see him back on the racetrack at Daytona."
    Bowman will race the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS in the Feb. 18 season-opening, non-points The Clash at Daytona International Speedway, which will feature pole position winners from the previous year. Bowman won the #88 team's lone 2016 pole at Phoenix in November.
    "Alex did such a great job in the car this year, and I felt like he deserved another opportunity," Earnhardt said. "When I spoke with Rick and the team about him driving The Clash, everyone agreed that he more than earned it, and Nationwide was 100-percent on board. I'm really grateful to him and Jeff for what they did for our team, and I'm glad Alex is getting another run with us."(Hendrick Motorsports)(12-8-2016)

  • Newmark discusses Roush Fenway's plans: The decline in performance at Roush Fenway Racing is best expressed in one stark statistic. In 2005, half the Chase field consisted of Roush Fenway drivers -- when there were only 10 drivers in the Chase. In 2016, there were no RFR entries in a 16-driver Chase field. How does that happen? RFR has been asking itself the same question while attempting to right the ship. Once the dominant organization in the Ford camp, Roush will drop to third in the pecking order upon the arrival of Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017.
    RFR President Steve Newmark called the downsizing at RFR a strategic move - albeit an extremely tough decision. The company considered more than a dozen options before arriving at its current organizational chart. "The whole goal and the whole objective of doing whatever we did is to make sure we would improve our performance and make our race cars faster," Newmark told Motorsport.com. "Obviously, there are different opinions on how you do that and ultimately what we decided is we need to be more of an engineering, laser-focussed company. We've always been good at production and manufacturing. I think sometimes you fall back on what you're comfortable with.
    Over the last two weeks, close to 30 Roush employees have been displaced - some in house, some such as veteran crew chief Bob Osborne who had been overseeing Chris Buescher's campaign at Front Row Motorsports. Together, the pair made the Chase. Buescher, Roush's most talented prospect in its driver stable, is now on loan to JTG Daugherty Racing (along with a RFR charter) for 2017.
    Roush Fenway Racing will continue its technical alliance with Bob Jenkins and Front Row Motorsports. Newmark says the multi-year deal with FRM is one of the best collaborations Roush has had over the years. Although it's unlikely that one of the RFR prospects will replace Buescher in the #34 Ford. "They have some great folks there and we''ll continue to work with them next year," Newmark said. "We have dialogue with Bob quite a bit, but I don't think that (driver development) will be part of the relationship next year." That's not to say that Ryan Reed or Darrell "Bubba" Wallace couldn't see seat time in a Cup car in 2017. However, Newmark says the company's immediate focus remains on getting Bayne and Stenhouse up to speed.(Motorsport)(12-8-2016)

  • Stewart to help broadcast Jason Leffler Memorial Race: Racing icon Tony Stewart teams with SPEED SPORT and Ralph Sheheen to broadcast the Jason Leffler Memorial Race presented by Great Clips, which airs Thursday, Dec. 8, at 7:00pm & 10:00pm/et on MAVTV. The $20,000-to-win special event is co-sanctioned by USAC and the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series, bringing some of the biggest names in racing to Wayne County (Ill.) Speedway. Stewart, a multi-time champion across several styles of racing from NASCAR to IndyCar to USAC sprints and midgets, joins Sheheen to call the action with Tony Bokhoven delivering all the news trackside. Leffler, a three-time USAC midget champion who went on to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR, died from injuries sustained in a sprint car crash in 2013. The race in his memory also helps to raise funds for his son, Charlie. "I was honored to know Jason and to race with him, so I am happy to be able to share a little of his story through the broadcast of this race," Stewart said. "The SPEED SPORT team does a tremendous job bringing events like this to television every week and it was definitely a fun experience to work with them."(Speed Sport)(12-8-2016)

  • Speedway Motorsports announces award winners: As part of its effort to recognize the success across its premier motorsports facilities, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. officials have named Vice President of Operations and Development Stephen Swift as the O. Bruton Smith Award recipient for 2016. In addition, Bristol Motor Speedway earned Track of the Year honors and Bristol General Manager Jerry Caldwell was recognized as Promoter of the Year for the second straight year.
    Annually presented to one employee across all of Speedway Motorsports and its subsidiaries, the Bruton Smith Award recognizes someone who exhibits the traits that define Speedway Motorsports Executive Chairman and Founder O. Bruton Smith: character, enthusiasm, drive, a heart for helping others, respect and appreciation for team members, vision and determination. A 2000 graduate of East Tennessee State University, Swift joined the Speedway Motorsports family as a construction manager in June 2004. He became the vice president of operations and development at Kentucky Speedway in July 2011 and acquired the same title under the Speedway Motorsports banner last year. His numerous contributions to the company include playing a pivotal role in Kentucky Speedway's repaving project, which drew positive reviews after July's Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts.
    Bristol Motor Speedway was chosen as Track of the Year from among the eight Speedway Motorsports facilities. The award is presented annually for best overall performance in aspects such as fan friendliness, attendance, financial performance, sponsor relations and creativity. In 2016, Bristol Motor Speedway hosted a thrilling entertainment lineup which included two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, two NASCAR XFINITY Series races, one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, an NHRA drag race weekend and the first-of-its-kind Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol college football game in the speedway's infield. The long-awaited showdown between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Virginia Tech Hokies included a record crowd of 156,900 people packed into "The Last Great Colosseum" for a showcase event that set a Guinness World Record for college football attendance. Bristol's impressive year also featured the heralded debut of "Colossus," the world's largest four-sided video board which features four 30-foot-by-63-foot screens suspended from cables above the speedway.
    The Promoter of the Year award is presented by Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith to the general manager who best displayed the creativity, innovation, leadership, planning and execution that are fundamental to the company's success. For the second consecutive year, Jerry Caldwell was honored for outstanding achievement promoting both of Bristol Motor Speedway's 2016 NASCAR event weeks, plus the Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol, "Colossus'" introduction and the Honda Ridgeline Presents Bristol's Tailgate Party concert, which celebrated Kenny Chesney's homecoming to his native east Tennessee. The Bristol branch of Speedway Children's Charities also played a prominent role in the year's success, raising more than one million dollars through events including The Pinnacle Speedway in Lights.(Speedway Motorsports)(12-8-2016)

  • Mears working on 2017: Casey Mears, who will be replaced in the #13 GEICO Chevy next season by Ty Dillon, tweeted Tuesday, "Thank you for all the support out there. Working on what's next. Having fun exploring all options and directions."(12-7-2016)

  • NASCAR suspends one crew member, reinstates another: Tuesday afternoon, NASCAR announced the following penalty and reinstatement:
    Ryan D. Hess was given an indefinite suspension for violation of Sections 12.1; 19 (Substance Abuse Policy)
    Michael Casto successfully completed NASCAR's Road to Recovery Program. His NASCAR suspension has been lifted.(NASCAR)
    This is the third violation for Hess, who most recently was a gas man for BK Racing. Casto was working for Stewart-Haas Racing at the time of his suspension.(12-7-2016)

  • Rinnai sponsoring XFINITY race at Atlanta: Peachtree City, Georgia-based Rinnai America Corporation has signed on as a multi-year sponsor of the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, beginning with the 2017 race scheduled for Saturday, March 4. The race will officially be named the Rinnai 250 and will serve as the front-end of an XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series same-day doubleheader unique to Atlanta. The Rinnai 250 will be the first of three NASCAR national touring series races during the 2017 Atlanta NASCAR Weekend. Following the 1:30 p.m. Saturday race, the Camping World Truck Series Active Pest Control 200 will polish off the twinbill with a scheduled green flag at 4:30 p.m. The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 NASCAR Cup Series race will round out the weekend with a 2:30 p.m. start time on Sunday, March 5. Established in 1974, Rinnai America Corporation is a subsidiary of Rinnai Corporation, based out of Nagoyoa, Japan. Rinnai is the No. 1 selling brand of tankless water heaters in North America. Rinnai also manufactures gas appliances, including a wide range of kitchen equipment and heating and air conditioning units. This year, Rinnai's Ultra Series RUR condensing tankless water heater was named among the "Top 100 Products" in the mechanical and electrical category by Professional Remodeler Magazine.(AMS)(12-7-2016)

  • Dodge talking to NASCAR about returning UPDATE2: Sergio Marchionne, who is the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said he spoke with NASCAR vice-chairman Jim France and International Speedway Inc. CEO Lesa France Kennedy about the return of Dodge to the stock-car series. The three had dinner Saturday night during the Ferrari Finali Mondiali at Daytona International Speedway. Marchionne, who is also CEO of Ferrari, was in town for the Ferrari-only World Finals and Sunday's Formula One exhibition. Asked about the return to NASCAR, Marchionne said, "Yes," then explained it. "I talked to Jim France about this (Saturday) night," he said. "I was the one who made the decision to pull out of NASCAR. I am the guilty party at the table. In 2009, we came out bankruptcy and tried to race NASCAR (but) with the big bills and make payroll was a stretch. We are in a different place now. I think it is possible we can come back to NASCAR. I think we need to find the right way to come back in, but I agreed with both Jim and Lesa we would come back to the issue." France confirmed that he had spoken to Marchionne about bringing Dodge back into NASCAR's top series.(Daytona Beach News Journal)(12-4-2016)
    UPDATE: NASCAR vice president of marketing and communications David Higdon commented: "There is increasing excitement around NASCAR. We continue to have on-going dialogue with a number of auto manufacturers about their interest in joining our sport. We look forward to exploration with them on this topic."(12-5-2016)
    UPDATE2: Any manufacturer wanting to come into NASCAR for the 2017 season would have had to make a formal request by September 2015. The current NASCAR rules require race-car renderings for new models to be submitted by more than a year before they ever are raced on the track. The deadline is Oct. 1 (more than 15 months before the actual debut), if the production car is already in production, and Jan. 1 (13 months before the debut), if the production car will start being sold in the year the Cup model debuts. A full-scale race car must be submitted to NASCAR by April 1 prior to the year of debut. To accomplish those tasks, an incoming manufacturer likely would have to hire some top personnel away from current NASCAR teams, and that has yet to happen (ESPN)(12-6-2016)

  • HScott Motorsports Will Not Compete in NASCAR in 2017 UPDATE: Harry Scott, Jr. announced in a team meeting that HScott Motorsports would not field a NASCAR entry during the 2017 season. Below is Mr. Scott's statement: "Over the past several months I considered a number of options for moving forward with the team. Regrettably there are no viable sponsor/driver options immediately available to allow the team to participate in 2017. One thing I learned about NASCAR is that it is a 'people business.' I will forever be grateful to the men and women who worked tirelessly to make HScott Motorsports successful. This includes our dedicated employees, sponsors and partners. We were fortunate to have the support of world-class sponsors like Brandt, DC Solar, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Pilot Flying J, and 5 hour ENERGY. Our racing program would not have been possible without the assistance of Rick Hendrick, Hendrick Motorsports, and Chevrolet. I love this sport and being part of it. I invested in NASCAR because I truly believe it represents the best racing competition in the world and the best people in all sports. Looking back, I will always be especially proud of the unprecedented success of our NASCAR K&N Series teams, including four consecutive championships and for the lifelong friendships that were forged over the last seven years. My hope is that we were able to develop drivers that will thrive at the highest levels for years to come. In a deal that was finalized late last week the #15 Charter, which was owned by HScott Motorsports, has been sold to Premium Motorsports (#55 & #98). The charter that was leased for the #46 team was sold by Premium Motorsports to Furniture Row Racing."(HScott Motorsports). So that means the 2nd FRR #77 with Erik Jone has a Charter for 2017. Premium Motorsports still has one Charter left (from the #15) to use, sell or lease in 2017.(12-5-2016)
    UPDATE: Scott had leased a charter from Premium Motorsports owner Jay Robinson for Annett's #46 car in 2016. That charter was returned to Premium, who then sold it to Furniture Row Racing, which is adding a car for rookie Erik Jones next season. Premium then bought the single charter Scott owned for the #15 car of Bowyer.(ESPN)(12-6-2016)

  • 50 Most Influential: Introduction in Sports Business: NASCAR's CEO and Chairman, Brian France, is ranked 23rd by the Sports Business Journal on its list of 50 most influential in sports business. 50 Most Influential: No. 23 - Brian France, Change from 2015: -10: The last 12 months were quieter for France after a two-year run of progressive moves that included a new playoff format, green initiatives, new TV deals, a new retail model and the sport's charter system. Critics debate the relevance of NASCAR compared to years ago, but France is hoping to end his year on a high note by landing a new title sponsor that could help the sport skew younger.(Sports Business Daily)(12-6-2016)

  • Johnson, Gordon gear up for 'high-spirited races' on Disney Junior: Disney Junior is racing into the new year with "Mickey and the Roadster Racers," a car-racing adventure series for preschoolers, featuring Mickey Mouse and his Disney friends, along with several NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers, including Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. The first episode of the series -- which features Johnson's animated character -- will premier Sunday, Jan. 15 at 9:00am/et and 9:25am/et on Disney Channel and Disney Junior, respectively. Two additional episodes will air Monday, Jan. 16 at 9:00am/et and 9:25am/et on Disney Channel. Episodes will also be available on the Disney Junior app and Disney Junior VOD, as well as on iTunes. The series follows Mickey, his friends and their transforming vehicles as they race around the world and in their hometown of Hot Dog Hills. Off the track, Minnie and Daisy Duck run the Happy Helpers business, offering a helping hand to anyone in need. Johnson and Gordon appear as recurring race car drivers Jiminy Johnson and Gordon Gear, respectively. The two join a star-studded guest cast which includes Jay Leno, Gordon Ramsay and Hoda Kotb, among others. Designed for children ages two to seven, the episodes and story lines are geared toward teaching kids social and emotional lessons about friendship, teamwork, optimism and good sportsmanship.(HMS)(12-6-2016)

  • Cindric: An earlier Indy 500 start would bring NASCAR drivers: Team Penske president Tim Cindric says that the Indy 500's noon start is a major negative for NASCAR drivers who wish to attempt the Indy 500/Coke 600 'double' on Memorial Day Weekend. Cindric believes one obvious way to regularly encourage more fans through the gate for the race, and to boost TV viewership, is to encourage drivers to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, N.C.. He says the idea last attempted by Kurt Busch in 2014 could become more widespread were the Indy 500 to move from 12 noon back to its once-traditional 11a.m. start time. He commented: "The Indy 500's heritage was about getting the best drivers in the world racing there, whatever their specialized form of racing. So I'm in favor of anything that can add to the race's legacy, and someone doing the Indy 500/Coke 600 IndyCar/NASCAR double is an intriguing thing."(Motorsport)(12-6-2016)

  • Daniel Suárez receives hero's welcome in Mexico City: A NASCAR championship aside, Daniel Suárez is still making his name known in the United States. In his native Mexico, his name is etched in gold. He's a rock star, the kind of guy who draws large crowds of adoring fans, each one seeking an autograph or selfie or handshake or high-five. Need proof? Just look at the crowd that packed Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez on Sunday. Suárez served as the grand marshal of the NASCAR PEAK Mexcio Series exhibition race, continuing a whirlwind celebration that hasn't stopped since he won the NASCAR XFINTIY Series championship last month. Suárez could barely take a step without posing for a picture, signing an autograph or hearing the words "felicidades campeón (translation: congratulations, champion)." Suárez went out of his way to show his appreciation to fans who came to see him in Mexico City. After being interviewed over the public address system, Suárez slowly walked down the length of the frontstretch and waved to all of his fans. Chants of "Dani! Dani! Dani!" could be heard as a beehive of photographers followed his every step. The 24-year-old from Monterry, Mexico, was the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series Rookie of the Year in 2010. He finished third in the championship battle in 2012 and runner-up in 2013.(NASCAR Wire Service)(12-6-2016)

  • NASCAR offers big economic boom for Virginia: NASCAR has seen attendance decline at its events in recent years, from 7.66 million in 2008 to under 6 million in 2015, and tracks are removing seating. Its teams struggled to get by as the Great Recession left sponsors less able to put money into their brand and into the sport. But despite these setbacks, the sport continues to be profitable and popular. Not only that, but it has proved to be a major draw and huge economic driver in the state. The Old Dominion University report said that while many studies and surveys talk about economic impact of sporting events and activities, such as college football games, it often excludes what it called "displaced expenditures." NASCAR fans from across the country come to where a race is being held and spend days in the area. They spend money lodging at local hotels, fueling up at area gas stations, eating at local restaurants and shopping at local stores. The report highlights two economic studies from 2009 on tracks in Virginia. One showed that Richmond International Raceway, which hosts two NASCAR premier series events every year, generates $557 million for the state, including $36 million in local and state tax revenues. The other showed that Martinsville Speedway generates $170 million a year statewide. That track also hosts two events a year. The report said stock car racing plays a major role in many parts of the state, both economically and socially. However, its concern is that if the trend of weakening attendance continues, it not only affects the sport, but also hurts the economies of these smaller communities in southern Virginia that in many cases are already struggling.(in part from WTOP)(12-6-2016)

  • Most Mentioned Drivers 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:
    Driver, Interviews, Interview Time, Mentions #4-Kevin Harvick, 34, 0:35:16, 3,923
    #48-Jimmie Johnson, 21, 0:21:31, 3,071
    #18-Kyle Busch, 28, 0:28:27, 3,031
    #78-Martin Truex Jr., 26, 0:30:52, 2,834
    #22-Joey Logano, 25, 0:34:06, 2,688
    #19-Carl Edwards, 28, 0:27:40, 2,529
    #20-Matt Kenseth, 18, 0:14:01, 2,469
    #2-Brad Keselowski, 25, 0:24:12, 2,385
    #11-Denny Hamlin, 29, 0:26:59, 2,189
    #24-Chase Elliott, 21, 0:15:36, 1,871
    #41-Kurt Busch, 15, 0:11:19, 1,671
    #42-Kyle Larson, 13, 0:14:38, 1,549
    #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr., 17, 0:12:26, 1,247
    #3-Austin Dillon, 23, 0:17:01, 1,090
    #14-Tony Stewart, 18, 0:20:41, 1,084
    (Statistics reflect all live race telecasts and replays of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season)
    (Joyce Julius & Associates)(12-5-2016)

  • Sparks to Sing National Anthem at DAYTONA 500: Multi-platinum recording artist, actress and DAV Ambassador Jordin Sparks, whose faith-based film God Bless The Broken Road will be in theaters early 2017, will perform the National Anthem for the 59th annual DAYTONA 500 NASCAR premier series race at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, Feb. 26. "We're thrilled to have Jordin Sparks be a part of the pre-race ceremonies and sing the National Anthem prior to the DAYTONA 500," Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said. "Jordin is an incredible talent and we look forward to her rendition of the National Anthem before the start of the 59th 'Great American Race.' " Sparks was the season 6 winner of American Idol. In addition to a successful recording career, she has branched out to pursue an acting and Broadway career, starring in films such as the music film Sparkle, The Grace of Jakes, Left Behind and The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete. Tickets for the 59th annual DAYTONA 500 and other Speedweeks events can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.(DIS)(12-5-2016)

  • Cassill returning to Front Row UPDATE: Landon Cassill will return to the Cup Series for Front Row Motorsports in 2017. The 27-year-old has competed full-time in the Cup Series for the past six seasons, finishing a career-high 29th in the championship standings in 2016. At Bristol in the spring, the #38 car was out front for 20 laps, the most laps he has ever led in a single race. Cassill is seeking to secure sponsorship for next year, much like he did in 2016, in hopes of moving forward after a career year. "We're continuing to work forward on everything with Front Row Motorsports," Cassill said. "I don't see any changes being made, but everything will be getting buttoned up in the next few weeks I'm sure." Cassill had a career-high seven top-20 finishes in 2016, led by veteran crew chief Donnie Wingo. With a best finish of 11th at Talladega, the Iowa native is tired of being underrated, instead wishing he was "overrated." Cassill wants to climb the ladder with FRM, moving them up the ranks to be a more competitive team in 2017. Jerry Freeze, General Manager at Front Row Motorsports, confirmed to Frontstretch that Cassill will return in 2017, admitting that the organization's plans are not completely laid out for 2017. "I think so, too," Freeze said of Cassill remaining with the team. "We still have to get everything worked out with all the partners, but we are really close."(Frontstretch)(11-26-2016)
    UPDATE: The contract for (Lamdon) Cassill to return (to Front Row Motorsports) for next season is not official. Cassill said this week that it's in the process of being finalized and "should be in the next week or so that it's all buttoned up, but they've made it clear this is what they're working towards and what they want to do, and I'm completely fine with that." Cassill is currently the only driver in FRM's stable for NASCAR's premier series after (Chris) Buescher was announced to be moving to JTG-Daugherty Racing with a leased charter from Roush Fenway Racing. What FRM does with the #34 still is to be determined, but Cassill said his entry looks to be in good shape sponsor-wise headed into 2017. A return to FRM is ideal for Cassill because, he said, he's seen what his team has done with technology and information from the alliance with RFR, and in turn what he's then been able to do with that behind the wheel.(The Gazette)(12-4-2016)

  • Reiser out as general manager at Roush Fenway UPDATE: Robbie Reiser was relieved of his duties as general manager at Roush Fenway Racing on Tuesday, Motorsport.com has learned. Reiser, 53, has been with the company for 17 seasons, first as a crew chief and eventually graduating to a managerial role. Reiser has been offered a position in the car production side of RFR, but he has yet to decide where his future lies. Calls to Roush Fenway Racing were not immediately returned. Neither Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Trevor Bayne or Greg Biffle finished inside the top 20 in the Sprint Cup standings this season. For the second year, there was not a Roush driver in the Chase.(Motorsport)(11-23-2016)
    UPDATE: Robbie Reiser didn't really have a lot he wanted to say about his situation at Roush Fenway Racing. He was relieved of his duties as vice president of competition. But he's not going anywhere. He doesn't yet have a title or even a full job description for his next role as the team struggles to regain its footing. But he is as dedicated to doing his part to bring success as he was in 2003, when he won a NASCAR title as Matt Kenseth's crew chief, or in 2007, when he answered Jack Roush's call to lead the whole operation. And at this point in his life, the 53-year-old, second-generation racer from Allenton is OK with it all. "This is going to free me up for my family, to be able to spend some time with them," said Reiser, who has one son in college and twin boys in high school, one of them a dirt-bike racer he has rarely watched. Reiser's choice of words Thursday was interesting - he was "relieved" of his duties - because you have to believe there's a part of him that is relieved. He works hard, he's stubborn and he's not cut out to lose.(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)(12-4-2016)

  • Some NBC NASCAR TV Ratings news: After 21 consecutive weeks of race coverage, NBC Sports Group concluded the 2016 NASCAR season on Nov. 20th with more than 8.4 million peak viewers tuning in for the Championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This bookended a successful year that kicked off at Daytona International Speedway in July, which stands as most-watched summer Daytona race since 2011, with 5.7 million viewers on NBC.
    Highlights surrounding the 2016 NASCAR on NBC season include:
    The 2016 Brickyard 400 stands as the most watched NBCSN telecast on record (5.2 million). Sprint Cup races now account for the 5 most watched telecasts ever on NBCSN.
    Seven of NBCSN's NASCAR Sprint Cup races ranked as the top cable sports program of their respective weekends.
    Consumption of NASCAR content on NBC Sports' digital properties (NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and connected devices) garnered 105 million live minutes and 873,000 unique devices this season, up +56% and +50%, respectively, compared to the 2015 NASCAR season.
    This season has featured four Sprint Cup races with more than 5 million live minutes streamed (Bristol, Texas, Indianapolis, and Pocono). Last year, no Sprint Cup Series race finished with more than 5 million minutes streamed.
    The average Sprint Cup Series race is up 43% in live minutes streamed over the 2015 average.
    In 2016 NASCAR America has reached a total audience of 4.5 million viewers, up 13% vs. 2015.
    The Nov. 20, 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship on NBC and NBCSN combined to average 6.08 million viewers and a 3.51 national HH rating, marking increases of +16% (vs. 5.22 million) and +12% (vs. 3.14 HH), respectively, over 2014's presentation on ESPN.
    Viewing peaked from 6:45 - 7 p.m. ET with more than 8.4 million viewers and a 4.8 HH rating as the Championship Four drivers battled for position in the final laps.
    Excluding last year's decade-high Championship race, which was delayed into primetime by rain and celebrated Jeff Gordon's retirement, the 2016 Sprint Cup race from Homestead-Miami Speedway was the most-watched and highest rated NASCAR season finale since Tony Stewart's Championship win in 2011.(NBC PR)(12-4-2016)

  • some 2017 schemes added:
    #1 GearWrench, #2 Miller Lite, Alliance Truck Parts, Wurth, AutoTrader, #3 Dow, American Ethanol, AAA, #5 Farmers, Great Clips, #22 Shell Pennzoil, AAA Insurance, AutoTrader, #24 NAPA Auto Parts, #27 Menards, #31 Caterpillar, #43 Smithfield, US Air Force, #77 Five-Hour Energy, #88 Nationwide

  • NASCAR luminaries gather to honor Johnson, Stewart at awards gala: Jimmie Johnson was unfailingly humble, even on a night when the NASCAR community came together to honor his monumental accomplishment. With a victory on Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Johnson claimed his record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Nevertheless, the driver of the #48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy was reluctant to claim the same stature as the two seven-time champions who preceded him - Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. "Dale said this in '94 after winning his seventh," Johnson said in concluding his remarks during the Sprint Cup Awards on Friday night at the Wynn Las Vegas. "I might've won as many championships as Richard Petty, but he will always be the King. I completely agree and must say, I might've won as many championships as Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt but... I will never be the King or the Intimidator. I'm just a guy from California who always wanted to race." But Johnson will continue to shape his own legacy, having brought a 12th series title to team owner Rick Hendrick, who also fielded championship cars for Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte.
    As he addressed the packed house in the Latour ballroom, Johnson said the magnitude of the seventh title was still sinking in. "Loyalty and a never-quit attitude are at the foundation of our success," Johnson said. "Add that with Mr. Hendrick's leadership and the unwavering support from (sponsor) Lowe's, and put it all in a Chevy... good stuff happens. We've been through a lot over the years. Ups and downs, winning and losing, heartache and heartbreak. Even a golf cart incident (a reference to Johnson's fall from the roof of a golf cart after his first championship in 2006). Amongst it all, we are still together and more unified than ever."
    Hendrick also was an integral part of an unexpected honor for three-time champion Tony Stewart, who is retiring from NASCAR Sprint Cup competition after 18 years. Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, who befriended Stewart earlier this year, introduced the driver, and Hendrick added a surprise. Hendrick announced a $1.8-million donation from the motorsports industry in Stewart's name to Vedder's effort to combat EB, a pernicious skin disease. Stewart said he got involved with Vedder's charity, "when I met him earlier this year is South Carolina. It's a very important charity to him and his wife. When you meet people like him that are that passionate about something, it immediately makes you want to be that passionate as well. That's why we got involved."
    For his part, Hendrick also had strong words for his seven-time champion driver and his crew chief, Chad Knaus. "Jimmie, you are a champion in every sense of the word," Hendrick said. "Chad, you are what your record says you are, the best crew chief of all time." Even Johnson's fiercest competitors expressed deep admiration for his accomplishments. "If I had to finish second to someone, I guess the third seven-time champion in our sport's history is acceptable," said Joey Logano, who finished second to Johnson in the final standings. "Congrats to Jimmie, and thank you for always being a great representative for the sport."
    "Great to finally see you guys make it up here on the big stage," quipped 2015 champion Kyle Busch. "But seriously, when you tie a record set by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, the accomplishment pretty much speaks for itself."
    Despite missing half the NASCAR Sprint Cup season because of a concussion, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was named the series' most popular driver for the 14th straight year. The fan support, Earnhardt said, "really motivated me to get healthy. It motivated me to come back." Earnhardt will test in December and expects to be back in the #88 Chevrolet for the season-opening Daytona 500 in February.
    Team owner Roger Penske, who celebrated his 50th year in motorsports this season, received the Bill France Award of Excellence from NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France (NASCAR Wire Service)(12-3-2016)

  • Earnhardt voted Most Popular Driver for 14th consecutive year: Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s hot streak in Las Vegas continued Friday night. The driver of the #88 Chevy was named the National Motorsports Press Association Sprint Most Popular Driver for the 14th consecutive year, extending his record streak. "That's pretty cool," Earnhardt said to open his acceptance speech. Earnhardt's 14 consecutive wins mark the longest streak since the award was first presented in 1953. Bill Elliott -- Chase's father -- holds the record for all-time Most Popular Driver honors with 16. He was presented with the award at the black-tie NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards held at Wynn Las Vegas. The award is determined solely by fan voting, and Earnhardt said it was especially touching to know that his fans supported him even during a year in which he missed the second half of the season due to a concussion. "This year was a difficult year for us and our team," Earnhardt said. "You think you know just how incredible the NASCAR fans are and how supportive they are. You see them support the drivers through victories and through defeat. But when you go through recovery from an injury or maybe the loss of a loved one or something like that, you really get to the core of what's great about our fan base." Earnhardt's 2016 season came to an end when he was sidelined after the race at Kentucky Speedway in July. In the 18 races in which he participated, he earned five top-five finishes -- including four runner-up results -- and six top-10s. "I want to thank the fans for all the support and all the well-wishes," he said. "It really motivated me to get healthy and it also motivated me to come back. I'm looking forward to next year."(Hendrick Motorsports)(12-3-2016)

  • Dale Jr. wedding date announced: While in Las Vegas for the Sprint Cup Series Awards ceremony in Las Vegas, #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr. confirmed when he and fiancée Amy Reimann are tying the knot. The longtime couple are set to wed on New Year's Eve. No wedding location was revealed.(NASCAR.com)(12-3-2016)

  • Kurt Busch getting married: He finished seventh in final points, making NASCAR's Elite Eight, as he calls the Round of 8 in the Chase for the championship, for the second straight year. Plus, his beloved Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series, and he was witness to Game 2 in Cleveland and Game 5 in Chicago. Plus, he's getting married soon. So all things considered - especially the last two - native NASCAR son Kurt Busch said the 2016 season has been a good one. He sneaked in the bit about an impending marriage to girlfriend Ashley Van Metre toward the end of the media scrum with Chase drivers leading up to Friday's Champion's Week black-tie awards soiree at Wynn Las Vegas. The two have been engaged since 2015. "To be up in Virginia with my fiancee's family, and then a wedding shortly thereafter," the 2004 Cup Series champion said about his holiday plans. "It's going to be fantastic to be able to go to the Caribbean, and to get married to the love of my life, Ashley, and have my family there, her family, and then before we know it, we'll be back in Daytona. It's going to be a nice off-season. I can't wait." Busch said there would be a grand reception in Florida during January for family and friends.(Las Vegas Review-Journal)(12-3-2016)

  • Earnhardt Jr. confident ahead of upcoming private test: "I feel 100 percent," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Friday after accepting the NMPA Most Popular Driver award during the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards at the Wynn Las Vegas. "I don't feel we're going to have any issues." Earnhardt, 42, missed the final 18 races of the 2016 Sprint Cup season because of a concussion in June that impacted his vision and balance. He plans to return for the 2017 Daytona 500 as long as NASCAR-approved on-track tests don't trigger any symptoms. Earnhardt will do a private half-day test this month in which he won't be able to have data-acquisition sensors on the car in order to limit any advantage the organization gets from the private test. The test had not been allowed until NASCAR made a rule earlier this year that permits a private test following injury. "I had balance and vision issues and some nausea when I was going through the illness, so we'll just make sure that I don't have any vision issues and no nausea," Earnhardt said. "I don't expect anything, because I've been through the simulator several times. I was getting sick in the simulator before I was injured. I have been able to do the simulator without any nausea or any vision issues at all." If things go well, Earnhardt will do the NASCAR open test Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at Phoenix International Raceway. Earnhardt said he probably will have a doctor at the first test but that he shouldn't need a follow-up examination if he feels fine during the test.(ESPN)(12-3-2016)

  • Motorsports Industry Honors Tony Stewart with Sizeable Charitable Donation On His Behalf to EB Research Partnership: To honor three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart as he retires from his 20-year NASCAR driving career, the motorsports industry came together in unprecedented fashion at the season-ending NASCAR Awards Banquet by making a $1.8 million contribution on Stewart's behalf to the EB Research Partnership, the largest global non-profit dedicating to curing EB. EB, or Epidermolysis Bullosa, is a devastating skin disorder. Those with EB lack critical proteins that bind the layers of skin together. Without these proteins, the skin can tear apart, blister and sheer off, leading to severe pain, disfigurement and wounds that never heal. EB can also affect the body internally, causing blisters in the eyes, mouth, esophagus and the fusing together of fingers and toes. EB affects one in every 50,000 births and is not specific to any ethnicity or gender, but because it only affects an estimated 25-30,000 people in the United States, advancing research to combat this disease relies on the generosity of individuals and corporations.
    The industry initially targeted a $1.4 million donation to the EB Research Partnership as a subtle nod to Stewart's #14 car number, which he drove to his third Sprint Cup title in 2011 and chose in honor of his hero and friend, the iconic A.J. Foyt who raced the #14 throughout his versatile career. However, widespread support for this initiative quickly gained momentum and the original $1.4 million target was easily surpassed.
    "Tony wanted to have a very low-key sendoff during his final NASCAR season and he was pretty emphatic about it. He certainly earned a lot of recognition for all that he accomplished, and as an industry we felt it was important to honor him," said Mike Helton, vice chairman, NASCAR. "People know how passionate he is about motorsports, but he's equally passionate about helping others. On behalf of the entire motorsports industry, we felt this collective donation in Tony's name was a fitting tribute to all that he's accomplished during his NASCAR career."
    Well known for his accolades on the racetrack, which includes 12 driving championships and victories in nearly every American-based racing series, Stewart is also known for his philanthropy. In 2003, he formed his own charitable foundation. Known simply as the Tony Stewart Foundation, the 501(c)(3) organization's goal is to raise funds primarily distributed to serving three specific groups - chronically ill and physically disabled children, animals that are endangered or at-risk, and drivers injured in the sport of motor racing. To date, the Foundation has awarded more than $6.5 million to assist charitable initiatives for more than 150 well-qualified organizations throughout the United States. Stewart's work on behalf of the foundation crossed paths with his love for music earlier this year when he met Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder. The two discussed their work in racing and in music, respectively, before the conversation dovetailed into their mutual commitment to charity. It was here where Stewart learned about EB from an impassioned Vedder, who co-founded the EB Research Partnership.
    "When I first heard about it, it was quite hard to grasp the intensity of the condition," Vedder said. "It's about the most insane skin disorder you could imagine. And when you realize it also affects the internal organs, you see it as diabolical. It's very hard to describe until you meet the young folks with it, and they make you realize how much you take for granted. You also realize that these are some of the strongest, coolest, most admirable people on the face of the Earth." The tenacious and sometimes cantankerous demeanor Stewart carries at the racetrack vanishes when he is off the track and in the presence of children, especially those who face physical and mental challenges. Children fighting EB have a perseverance and strength that is unworldly, and it has resonated with Stewart. "The pain these kids face is constant, and yet they still find ways to stay upbeat," Stewart said. "You quickly realize that your idea of a bad day is nothing. It puts your life and the things you take for granted in perspective. But it also makes you mad, because this is a devastating disorder that no one should have to endure. Yet it exists, and after seeing it, you want to do anything you can to make it go away."
    Stewart's $1.8 million donation to the EB Research Partnership will accelerate life-changing research and reduce the timeframe of getting results for children with EB, while ensuring treatments go to those in need as swiftly as possible. This donation on Stewart's behalf is an embodiment of all the philanthropic work Stewart has performed as a NASCAR driver. He never sought accolades for his work, but his charitable efforts have been noticed nonetheless.(SHR)(12-3-2016)

  • Five-Hour Energy Statement about their future sponsorship: While its current Cup sponsorship of Erik Jones at Furniture Row Racing has been grandfathered in, 5-Hour Energy's ability to change teams in the future is unclear after Monster has signed to sponsor the series. Statement from Living Essentials (5-Hour Energy): "Living Essentials is not privy to any negotiated provisions of the agreement between NASCAR and its new entitlement sponsor, therefore we could not speak with any clarity on whether yesterday's announcement has any bearing on Living Essentials' primary sponsorship of Furniture Row Racing 5-Hour ENERGY car and driver Erik Jones. We value NASCAR as a marketing platform and have been a sponsor of races, media, promotions, teams and drivers. We will gather more information in the near future and expect to remain a part of the racing community."(ESPN)(12-2-2016)

  • NASCAR Press Conference - Monster Energy named entitlement sponsor: NASCAR has announced the will hold a press conference with Brian France, NASCAR Chairman & CEO' Steve Phelps, NASCAR Executive Vice President & Chief Global Sales and Marketing Officer; and "Special Guests" for Thursday, Dec. 1 at 1:45pm/pt - 4:45pm/et at Margaux 2, Wynn Las Vegas. The press conference will be streamed live on NASCAR.com/presspass.(NASCAR)
    AND NASCAR is expected to announce Monster Energy as the replacement for Sprint as the sponsor of NASCAR's premier series, industry sources have told ESPN. NASCAR has scheduled a news conference Thursday afternoon with Chairman Brian France, Global Marketing Officer Steve Phelps and "guests" in Las Vegas, and industry sources said Monster Energy would be named as the new sponsor. Monster Energy Vice President of Sports Marketing Mitch Covington said he had no news when asked Thursday morning about the status of negotiations. NASCAR spokesman David Higdon would not confirm Thursday afternoon when asked about whether the news conference would introduce Monster as the new sponsor. Sprint announced in December 2014 it would not return after the 2016 season, and NASCAR has spent nearly the last two years searching for a replacement. A powerful force in the energy drink category and owned 16.8% by Coca-Cola, Monster Energy turned a $546 million profit in 2015.(ESPN)
    UPDATE: NASCAR announced on Thursday at Wynn Las Vegas a multi-year deal that will make Monster Energy only the third entitlement sponsor (RJ Reynolds/Winston and Sprint/Nextel) in premier series history. The length and terms of the deal were not disclosed, but both parties hailed the partnership as the perfect fit for both brands. "Monster Energy is a brand built on excitement and enthusiasm, qualities that align with NASCAR," said Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO. "This sponsorship position is the most unique in all of sports and entertainment, and we are thrilled to have a partner that will help us further elevate the series. Today's announcement is the culmination of a thorough search, one that resulted in the right partner at this important time in our sport's history."
    Monster Energy has existing sponsorships with a number of motorsports sanctioning bodies, athletes and teams, but the NASCAR deal signals the biggest sponsorship step in the company's history. "Monster has built its brand on racing and motorsports, and NASCAR is the pinnacle of motorsports in America," said Mitch Covington, vice president of sports marketing at Monster Beverage Company. "It's American racing; we're an American brand that's a global company, and NASCAR is, too. When the opportunity came along to further associate yourself with a sport like NASCAR, it was the perfect fit for us. ... NASCAR is just a hard-hitting, close-racing, fun property to be associated with."
    Along with naming rights to NASCAR's top series, Monster Energy will also hold race sponsorship to the NASCAR All-Star Race and become the Official Energy Drink of NASCAR. Monster Energy also said it will continue to sponsor Stewart-Haas Racing's #41 Ford of Kurt Busch.
    Thursday's announcement is the culmination of a lengthy and thorough search by NASCAR to find the successor to Sprint, whose entitlement sponsorship will end on December 31, 2016. Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief global sales and marketing officer, said that the sanctioning body spoke with numerous companies throughout the process, ultimately choosing Monster Energy for a number of reasons, not the least of which was its lifestyle culture. "We have the good fortune of finding a brand that we believe works for our sport," Phelps said. "They're going to bring their lifestyle to their activation. ... They're going to bring their brand, their excitement, their energy to this partnership, and the fans are going to be the winners. It's all about engaging the fans and having the fans have unique, fun experiences whether at the race track or through different mediums, through social, digital, content." Phelps said a number of ancillary details will be announced in the coming weeks. Among those still under discussion is the name of the series, the series mark and the championship trophy. Under the agreement, energy drink sponsors already involved in NASCAR may remain in place. Potential sponsors from the energy drink category will not be eligible for future sponsorship if not already involved in the sport.(NASCAR)(12-1-2016)
    UPDATE2: Monster will carry "official energy drink" status and any energy drink not currently sponsoring a driver in Sprint Cup will not be able to sponsor a Cup car, NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said. Higdon would not talk about the details of the grandfather clause and whether 5-Hour Energy, sponsor of Erik Jones at Furniture Row Racing, would be included -- as an energy shot, it is slightly different from an energy drink. 5-Hour Energy, according to the agency that handles its NASCAR marketing, has not gotten details yet from NASCAR on whether it will be affected.(ESPN)(12-2-2016)


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