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Tony Stewart racing at Le Mans? Ford would ‘never rule that out’

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Jeff Gordon’s return has been a major storyline entering the Rolex 24 this weekend.

Another recently retired NASCAR star could have joined him at Daytona International Speedway – and also could be headed to a future debut in the globe’s most prestigious sports car event.

Tony Stewart explored running both the Rolex 24 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year, and he remains interested in the world-renowned race in France in the future.

Ford returned to Le Mans last year and won the LM GTE Pro class with Sebastien Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Muller in the No. 68 Ford GT fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.

The victory came 50 years after Ford had scored a 1-2-3 sweep at Le Mans in 1966.

Ford Performance began a new multiyear deal this season with Stewart-Haas Racing, the NASCAR team that remains co-owned by Stewart.

During a recent event at Ford’s racing facility in Concord, North Carolina, Raj Nair, executive vice president for Global Product Development and chief technical officer for Ford Motor Co., said the company was interested in Stewart running Le Mans in the future.

“I’d never rule that out,” Nair said. “I’m not sure what’s going to be happening in the meantime. I think he’s going to stay sharp. Right now we’re pretty happy with our driver lineup.”

That brought a friendly staredown from Stewart, who was sitting beside Nair.

“Not that we wouldn’t be happy if you were in it,” Nair said with a laugh. “He’s also got those eyes that burn, you can really feel it. So if he stays in shape and makes sure he can handle 24-hour races …”

“I have incentive now,” Stewart said.

Stewart has started the Rolex 24 four times, most recently in 2006. He scored a career-best third twice, in 2004 and ’05 with Howard Boss Motorsports.

Though he has left NASCAR, the three-time champion still is racing and intends to enter as many 80 races this year (many are expected to be in sprint cars on dirt tracks).

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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