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Kenseth still surprised by Edwards’ retirement, ready for pivotal 2017

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The fallout of Carl Edwards’ sudden retirement from NASCAR racing continues.

During his session during Tuesday’s NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, Matt Kenseth discussed his now-former teammate.

And yet, Kenseth still can’t believe there’ll be a different driver in the No. 19 Toyota in 2017.

“I was as surprised as anyone else,” Kenseth said. “I knew it was bad news when – this is my fifth year here (with Joe Gibbs Racing), right? – and it was the first time we ever had a conference call with all the drivers and crew chiefs on a Sunday night, after all the football games.”

Kenseth said he’s spoken to Edwards several time since the latter’s retirement announcement, but is still as baffled today as ever.

“I was very, very surprised,” Kenseth said. “But the more I think about it, I wasn’t shocked … but I definitely didn’t see it coming.”

Kenseth, who had a celebrated public run-in with Kenseth several years ago during their prior time together with Roush Fenway Racing, then quipped, “I don’t think it was my fault. I think he liked working with me at the moment. I think it wasn’t me.”

The 2017 season, Kenseth’s 20th season on the NASCAR Cup circuit, could be a very pivotal year for Kenseth. First, he turns 45 on March 10. Second, he’s in the final year of his current contract with JGR (pending any extension in the future).

When asked how he handles the pressure of racing, Kenseth began his answer with yet another quip, but then grew serious, knowing how serious this season could be for him.

“I’m fairly new at it so I’m trying to feel my way around it and try to get through it. I had way too much coffee this morning,” Kenseth chuckled before growing serious.

“I’ve raced since I was 16 years old,” Kenseth said. “The pressure’s never been really different. … I’ve never felt any more or less pressure since I was racing my Late Model to what I’m racing today.

“Although I feel a little less pressure right now since Carl hung it up because I feel like they kind of need drivers right now at the moment, so I feel I’m more secure for the year.

“The pressure is always the same, you want to perform and do your best, you’re racing against all the best stock car racers anywhere, so you have to bring you’re A game every week.”

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BRANDT returns for third year with JR Motorsports in Xfinity Series

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BRANDT Professional Agriculture will return as a sponsor for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, the team announced Wednesday.

The company will be a primary sponsor of Justin Allgaier‘s No. 7 Chevrolet in 19 races and an associate sponsor of Allgaier and his three teammates the rest of the season.

Brandt has sponsored Allgaier for eight years, including the last three with JR Motorsports.

Allgaier is a native of Riverton, Illinois, which is 15 miles from Springfield, Illinois, where the company is headquartered.

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Allgaier, 31, is coming off his second season that ended with him in the Championship 4. He earned two wins, 10 top five and 17 top-10 finishes. He also led a series-high 495 laps among Xfinity regulars.

He will be teammates with Elliott Sadler, Tyler Reddick and Michael Annett this year.

The Xfinity season begins Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway.

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NASCAR revamps Rookie of the Year points system in national series

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NASCAR has changed how it determines the Rookie of the Year in all three national series, it announced Thursday.

The new system, which will debut in a month at Daytona International Speedway, reflects the points system that decides the champion in each series, including the stage format in races.

A race win will earn a rookie candidate 40 points and five playoff points. A second-place finish will is worth 35 points and a third-place finish is 34 points, etc.

A rookie candidate who wins a stage will earn 10 points and one playoff point.

“The focus on our rising stars has never been stronger and simplifying the Sunoco Rookie of the Year system made perfect sense,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing operations in a press release. “Our fans track closely the progress of our young drivers and matching the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points structure with the championship points will help them follow this prestigious program and award more closely than ever before.”

Erik Jones was Rookie of the Year in the Cup Series last year. William Byron won the honor in the Xfinity Series and Chase Briscoe won it in the Camping World Truck Series.

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Watkins Glen, Michigan announce multi-year sponsor deals

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Watkins Glen International and Michigan International Speedway announced multi-year sponsorship deals for their Cup Series races Thursday.

WGI announced the Aug. 5 race at the road course will be sponsored by GoBowling.com. The 90-lap race will be called “Go Bowling at the Glen.”

This is not the first time the bowling brand has sponsored a Cup event. It sponsored the spring race at Kansas Speedway from 2016-17 and the August event at Pocono Raceway from 2013-14.

As part of the deal, Go Bowling will have two bowling lanes at the track for the race weekend.

Michigan has renewed its sponsorship deal with FireKeepers Casino Hotel for its June Cup race for “many years.”

The hotel in Battle Creek, Michigan, began its relationship with MIS by sponsoring pole day in 2014. It began sponsoring the June race in 2016.

TheFireKeepers Casino 400 is scheduled for June 10.

ISM Raceway (Phoenix) also announced the title sponsor for its March 11 Cup race.

The event will called the TicketGuardian 500.

TicketGuardian is a mobile ticketing insurance provider. When fans purchase tickets to events at ISM Raceway, they will be given the option to add TicketGuardian’s ticket protection coverage. This allows fans to have insurance on the tickets they’ve purchased in advance.

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Hendrick, Kelley Blue Book extend relationship through 2020

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Hendrick Motorsports and Kelley Blue Book have extended their sponsorship deal three years through 2020, the team announced Thursday.

The car pricing, research and valuation guide will be a primary sponsor on Chase Elliott‘s N0. 9 Chevrolet in two races each year.

This season it will be on the No. 9 for the Aug. 18 race at Bristol Motor Speedway and the November playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kelley Blue Book has been partnered with Hendrick since 2014 when it had a one-race deal to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It went to a two-race deal beginning in 2016.

MORE: Driving the No. 9 feels like going home for Chase Elliott

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