The “Tide Ride” will return to the track this year with Tide serving as a primary sponsor of Matt Kenseth in three NASCAR Cup Series races.
Tide Pods will be on the No. 20 for the first Phoenix race (March 19), the Brickyard 400 (July 23) and the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Oct. 7). Tide will serve as an associate sponsor throughout the rest of the season.
After a long absence, Tide returned to the Cup Series with a retro paint scheme on Kenseth’s car at Darlington Raceway last season. Kenseth finished sixth in the Southern 500.
The Procter & Gamble brand has a long history in NASCAR. It sponsored Darrell Waltrip in the 1980s, Ricky Rudd in the 1990s and Ricky Craven and others in the early 2000s.
“I’m glad they expanded their role, I think it’s exciting for NASCAR and fans as well because they were such a common name in the sport for so many years,” Kenseth said in press release. “You always noticed that car on the track. I think getting it back on the track is pretty cool for the sport.”
Kenseth, entering his 18th full-time season in the Cup Series, will also be sponsored by DeWalt.
MORE: Cup Series Primary paint schemes for 2017
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NASCAR Cup rookie Erik Jones was fastest in the first of two practice sessions Saturday at Auto Club Speedway in preparation for Sunday’s Auto Club 400.
Jones drove his No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota to the top of the speed charts at the Fontana, California track with a best lap of 187.251, the only driver to exceed 187 mph.
Jones was followed by Chase Elliott (186.843), Ryan Newman (186.732), Jimmie Johnson (186.384) and Brad Keselowski (186.292).
There were two incidents of note during the session:
* With just over nine minutes remaining in the practice session, Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet hit hard into the outside retaining wall, sustaining damage on the right side.
However, the team chose to repair the damage rather than go to a backup car.
Prior to the incident, Harvick’s car was sixth-fastest (186.128 mph).
* In the final two minutes, David Ragan spun and impacted the Turn 3 wall. It appeared something came loose from under Ragan’s car before impact.
Given the amount of damage, Ragan will likely have to go to a backup car.
Click here for how Saturday’s first of two practice sessions played out:
Danica Patrick wants her money back. Or she at least wants to know what it bought.
Fined $70,000 over the past 17 months for intentionally wrecking a rival driver under caution and tossing and walking onto the track to gesture at another, Patrick was asked Friday at Auto Club Speedway how she felt about Austin Dillon avoiding a fine for crashing Cole Custer under caution at Phoenix.
“Give me my money back,” the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said. “I think NASCAR makes a really big mistake of fining for some stuff, especially something that happens in the car because it makes for good TV, just like fights and all that stuff. We can handle it.
“I think it’s a mistake. I might be speaking too much, but I’ve been fined a few times, and I think that it makes for good TV, and I think that we handle it out on the track ourselves.”
NASCAR has said it funnels the fine payments to the NASCAR Foundation, which supports several charitable organizations.
Patrick would prefer NASCAR avoid fining everyone but is curious about how the money gets earmarked.
“I would actually rather know what it did,” she said. “I would actually love to see like the playground that got built for it, or homeless people that got food. I would like to see actually what the money does for fines because it’s supposed to go to charity, right? So what does it really do? I would like to see that.”
After four races, Xfinity Series regulars have won twice (Ryan Reed at Daytona and Justin Allgaier at Phoenix) and Cup drivers have won twice (Kyle Busch at Atlanta and Joey Logano at Las Vegas). The Xfinity Series regulars will look to take the lead in that category at Auto Club Speedway.
Here are the particulars for today’s race:
(All times are Eastern)
START: Stu Crum, COO of Service King, will give the command for drivers to start engines at 4:07 p.m. ET. The green flag is scheduled for 4:16 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 150 laps (300 miles) around the 2-mile oval.
PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Xfinity garage opens at 10 a.m. The drivers meeting is at 2:15 p.m. Driver introductions are at 3:35 p.m.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Karen Waldrup will perform the Anthem at 4:01 p.m.
TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Its coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at mrn.com. MRN’s coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.
FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 63 degrees at race time with a 7 percent chance of rain at the start of the race.
LAST YEAR: Austin Dillon took the lead on a wild final lap and went on to win. Kyle Busch led and cut a tire. Daniel Suarez took the lead but ran out of fuel. Busch managed to retake the lead. Dillon got by Busch for the lead in Turn 4 after hitting the wall. Busch finished second and Darrell Wallace Jr. was third.
STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying at 12:30 p.m.
The Xfinity Series ends its part of the “West Coast swing” today with the Service King 300.
But the day is filled with Cup Series practice and Xfinity qualifying prior to the race.
Here is the full schedule for the day with TV and radio info.
All times are Eastern.
Saturday, March 25
10 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens
10 a.m. – 6 p.m. – Cup garage open
11:30 a.m. – 12:25 p.m. – Cup practice (FS1, MRN)
12:30 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying; single vehicle/two rounds (FS1)
2:15 p.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting
2:30 – 3:20 p.m. – Final Cup practice (FS1, MRN)
3:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions
4 p.m. – Service King 300 Xfinity race; 150 laps/300 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)