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ISC cites absence of Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr., Tony Stewart as impacting admission revenue in 2016

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International Speedway Corp. cited the impact of Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart missing races as among the reasons for a decline in admission revenue last year at its tracks.

International Speedway Corp. reported its fourth quarter and yearly earnings Thursday morning in a conference call with investor analysts.

Gordon retired after the 2015 season but returned in 2016 after Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered a concussion and drove in select races. Earnhardt missed the final 18 races of the season. Stewart was injured before the season and missed the opening eight races last year.

ISC reported that its fourth-quarter admissions revenue was down about 9.3 percent from the previous year. The track hosted Cup races at Darlington Raceway, Richmond International Raceway, Chicagoland Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Martinsville Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Earnhardt missed all of those races. Gordon drove in only three of those events (Darlington, Richmond and Martinsville). Stewart competed in each event.

For the year, admissions revenue was down about 5 percent for the company.

“We believe several factors influenced the softened attendance of 2016,’’ said John Saunders, president of ISC, during Thursday’s conference call. “The impact of Jeff Gordon’s retirement was underestimated, which was compounded with Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. missing races throughout the season. The lack of activation from the outgoing series sponsor (Sprint) and the distraction of the presidential election season further exacerbated the situation.’’

ISC announced on the call that three of its 19 Cup races sold out in 2016 — the Daytona 500, Watkins Glen and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Saunders said that advance sales for the Feb. 26 Daytona 500 were at comparable levels to last year’s event at this time. ISC is “optimistic” the race will sell out again. 

Saunders also said that advance ticket sales for upcoming races at Auto Club Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway were “trending slightly ahead” compared to last year.

Saunders noted the impact on corporate sponsorship Monster Energy would have as new series sponsor for NASCAR’s Cup Series.

“It is important to note that 2016 was the last year of our revenue-included agreements between ISC and Sprint for various inventory and activation rights at ISC racetracks,’’ Saunders said. “These agreements were negotiated in the mid-2000s, pre-recession.

“While we currently expect to have similar agreements in place with Monster Energy, we anticipate the economics of the agreements will result in a reset for 2017.’’

Saunders estimates that ISC’s corporate sales will decline by 1 percent in 2017  “due to the reset.’’ Excluding the reset for the Monster deals, ISC forecasts a 1 to 2 percent increase in corporate sales.

In other items:

— Three of ISC’s 20 Cup races this year either have the event sponsorship open or yet to be announced.

— Three of ISC’s 14 Xfinity races this year either have the event sponsorship open or yet to be announced.

— Average ticket price for a Cup event at an ISC track in the fourth quarter declined to $79.92, down from $80.36 for the same quarter a year earlier.

— For the full year, the average ticket price for a Cup event at an ISC track was $90.12, an increase of 5.4 percent. ISC officials cited Daytona’s pricing as a reason for the increase.

— On new series sponsor Monster Energy, Saunders said: “We’re encouraged. Monster Energy speaks to a younger demographic, which is promising for us. … They’re all about fun and activation. … They’re thinking outside of the box, and I think it is going to bring a whole new live entertainment component to the Cup weekends.’’

— On the enhanced formats that NASCAR announced this week, Saunders said: “What we’ve seen from fans is overwhelmingly positive.’’

— For the full report for International Speedway Corp. go here.

— Also, Dover Motorsports Inc., issued its earnings report Thursday. Dover also reported lower admissions revenue. The company plans to spend about $300,000 during the first quarter of 2017 to remove portions of the grandstand. The company also announced that the closing of the sale of Nashville Superspeedway should take place in the second quarter of 2017. For more on Dover’s report, go here.

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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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