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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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NASCAR America: Dale Jr.’s aggressiveness at Sonoma pays off, will need it at Daytona

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Dale Earnhardt was very aggressive in his final Cup start at Sonoma Raceway, and while it may have resulted in his Lap 14 accident in Turn 11, it also helped produce his third top 10 of the year and his second in a row.

“I think being offensive is better than being passive on a road course, nothing wrong with that,” said NASCAR America analyst Max Papis, who also broke down what caused Earnhardt’s bizarre spin early in Sunday’s race that also involved Danica Patrick and Kyle Larson.

“You’ve got to commit, usually the pass has happened before you actually arrive at the corner,” Papis said. “He thought that was a good opportunity, (then) committed. ”

NASCAR America’s analysts also discussed Earnhardt’s upcoming start at Daytona, which likely will be his final Cup start there. The track may be his best shot to earn a win and a spot in the playoffs.

The analysts believe the aggressiveness that was on display at Sonoma will be necessary for Earnhardt to pull a win out at Daytona.

Earnhardt’s year got off to a rough start in the Daytona 500. He was leading the race when Kyle Busch lost a tire in Turn 3 on Lap 105, spun and collected Earnhardt, Matt Kenseth and Erik Jones.

Earnhardt was near the front at Talladega in May late in the race when he was forced to pit for a loose tire with less than 15 laps to go.

That leaves the 14-time most popular driver with just two more chances to win a restrictor-plate race, the format he’s earned 10 of his 26 Cup Series wins.

“They’ve got to find a way to give him a car where he can be aggressive Dale Jr.,” Jeff Burton said. “What makes him so good at Daytona and Talladega is that he doesn’t hesitate. He’s the guy setting the tempo, he’s the guy forcing the issue. … He can’t drive with caution, he can’t drive worried about if ‘is my car going to stick?’ He’s got to stick it in there and know it’s going to stick. He hasn’t had that the last several plate races.”

Watch the above video for the full discussion.

NASCAR’s preliminary entry lists for Daytona

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NASCAR returns to Daytona International Speedway this weekend with the Cup and Xfinity Series.

Cup teams will compete in the Coke Zero 400, which will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday on NBC and the Xfinity Series holds the Coca-Colca Firecracker 250, which will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday on NBCSN.

Here are the entry lists for both races.

Cup – Coke Zero 400

Forty cars are entered into the 17th race of the Cup season. That would make it the sixth race this year to have the most possible cars in the field.

Darrell Wallace Jr. will be back in the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports. Brendan Gaughan will drive the No. 75 Chevrolet for Beard Motorsports.

Ryan Sieg will drive the No. 83 Toyota for BK Racing in his third start for the team.

Kurt Busch won the last trip to Daytona, leading only the last lap of the Daytona 500 after multiple leaders ran out of gas in the closing laps. Brad Keselowski won last year’s Coke Zero 400.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Coca-Cola Firecracker 250

There are 43 cars on the preliminary entry list for this race, including four full-time Cup drivers. They are Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Joey Logano.

There is no driver announced for the No. 93 Chevrolet owned by RSS racing.

Ryan Reed won the February Xfinity race at Daytona after being involved in two crashes and leading nine laps. Aric Almirola won last year’s July race after a caution on the last lap forced NASCAR to review video and loop data and determined him the winner over Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the entry list.

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch can afford to lose interim crew chief for Daytona

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Kyle Busch may have yet another view in his ear this weekend when he races in the Coke Zero 400.

Interim crew chief Ben Beshore may be suspended for the race after two unsecured lug nuts were found on the No. 18 Toyota after the Sonoma race.

The possible loss of Beshore comes after Busch’s usual crew chief, Adam Stevens, was suspended four races for a wheel falling off Busch’s car following a pit stop at Dover.

Daytona will be the fourth race of that suspension. NASCAR America’s analysts discussed the impact of the possible suspension for Busch, who is still looking for his first win since July of last year.

“They’re not making mistakes, they’re just finding themselves in difficult positions,” Dale Jarrett said. “This is certainly another one of those, going to a race track Kyle Busch can win at. But who you have on that pit box means a lot as for performing all through a race.”

Said Jeff Burton, “The frustration level is mounting, obviously. Kyle Busch is expecting to win races. … I think if you’re going to lose your crew chief, this is probably the race you want to lose it for. Going to Daytona, you pretty much have a plan going there. The pit strategy will be interesting with the stages, but if I was going to a race track, this would be the race I’d feel most comfortable without my crew chief.”

Watch the above video for the full segment.

Eddie Pardue named crew chief for Jeffrey Earnhardt’s No. 33 car

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The Circle Sport/The Motorsports Group announced that Eddie Pardue is the new crew chief on its No. 33 Chevrolet effective immediately.

Pardue, who was the team’s head of engineering, will lead the effort on Jeffrey Earnhardt‘s car this weekend in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. This will be his first Cup race as a crew chief since 2008, when he led Greg Biffle in one race at Auto Club Speedway. He has three wins in 338 races as crew chief in the Xfinity Series dating back to 1998.

The former competition director for Red Horse Racing in the Camping World Truck Series, Pardue replaces Pay Tryson, who has been released from the team.

Tryson directed Boris Said at Sonoma Raceway, where he finished 29th. Earnhardt has been in the No. 33 in every other race. His best result in his first 15 starts was 26th in the Daytona 500.

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