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Brian France praises Dale Earnhardt Jr., young drivers in media session

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NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France met with the media before Sunday’s Cup race Richmond International Raceway.

Here are highlights of what he said:

On Dale Earnhardt Jr:

“He’s meant a lot to the sport in many ways, on and off the track. Not just his popularity but to carry on the Earnhardt name in such a good way. Always competitive on the track. Always raced at a high level and always worked with NASCAR to make the sport better, just like his father did. That’s not always the case with drivers who come in. Some of them just drive the car. That’s what they do. Dale Jr. was quieter about that, but nonetheless that was important to him, to always give his input in a quiet way and we always listened to him.’’

On young drivers coming up:

“If you look back at our history, we always tend to see drivers in waves move in one direction. It’s really not uncommon to have three, four or five of your top drivers exit for different reasons within a short period of time. The good news is, and you guys have seen the talent pool that is coming, it is deep. We’re excited about that. I always tell them this, they’ve got to compete at high level and they can’t be humble about that. They can’t be humble as they race out there with veteran stars that they looked up to. They can’t be humbled to say I’m happy to be here. They’re here for a reason, they’re very, very good.’’

On Monster Energy’s series sponsorship:

“I’d say in one word, great. Digitally and socially they’re one of the leading companies in the county and how to manage that new frontier. By the way, they’ve never had a property at this level. They’re doing this all in the first couple of months. We’re excited to have them.’’

On sponsorship woes for some teams and drivers:

“It’s only April. Those kind of decisions from a corporate America are typically made in August or September, something like that. I know that the team owners, talked to Rick Hendrick the other day, he’s already met with Nationwide as an example. They understand the changes that are coming. Those are the kind of discussions team owners have with their sponsors. Pick a year, we always see somebody, Richard Petty at one point, we always see at one point, why are they not doing well in that area for one reason or another. We’ve always had that. That’s not anything abnormal. It always gets worked out over time because the property works in a way for many companies that they can’t do in any other sport. They can’t own a team in any other sport as they can here.’’

On reaching millennials:

“Understand that the digital age is well within the present and future. We’re going to focus on that. We’re going to focus on social. We’re very focused on getting young fans, by the way we’re not isolated here. Every sport is trying to unlock the new consumption levels and fan interest by a young demographic. Of course we love our core fan. Every sport is thinking carefully how to reach millennial fans and get them excited about their sport.’’

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Matt Kenseth: Brickyard 400 restarts ‘kind of ridiculous’

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Matt Kenseth came close to winning Sunday’s Brickyard 400, but ultimately finished fifth.

Kenseth called the race “kind of ridiculous” down the stretch because of the several restarts that brought about further havoc and wrecks.

Kenseth competed in his final Brickyard 400 for Joe Gibbs Racing. With his future uncertain and whether he’ll be able to continue racing in 2018, could Sunday have been the final Brickyard 400 of his career, much like good friend Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is retiring after this season?

Check out the video above for Kenseth’s comments on the race.

Rick Hendrick on Kasey Kahne’s future: ‘Our plans are not set for the No. 5 car’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Brickyard 400 winner Kasey Kahne has a contract for 2018 at Hendrick Motorsports but possibly doesn’t have a job next season.

Team owner Rick Hendrick confirmed Sunday night that “our plans are not set for the No. 5 car” after Kahne ended a 102-race winless streak in the Cup Series.

“There’s nothing concrete or done, and that hasn’t changed,” Hendrick said. “We’ll see how things shake out the rest of the year.  There’s a lot of things involved, sponsors and a lot of things we look at.  We’re going to try hard.  But there’s no decisions made at this time.”

Kahne felt the 18th victory of his career helped him make a case for staying in the No. 5 Chevrolet.

“I think this shows I still want to win races,” he said. “It shows I gave it all that I can to get a win and shows that I’m passionate about driving stock cars, and that I can still win races, too.

“I have a deal through 2018 with Hendrick Motorsports. I hear a lot of things, but it’s tough to say exactly what’s going to happen. I don’t know at this point and time. I know me and Mr. H will figure it out. I think this shows that I want to be and still have the drive and passion to do it, so I’m going to keep trying hard I know that.”

During a Sunday morning pre-race news conference to formally introduce Alex Bowman as the replacement next season for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick said he planned to run four cars next season but deflected a question about Kahne’s status (“that’s for another day”).

Xfinity Series rookie William Byron, who is under contract to Hendrick, would be an option for the No. 5 Chevrolet, but Hendrick said “we’re not ready to cross that bridge yet” when asked about Byron’s Cup future.

Kahne is ranked 22nd in the points standings with only four top 10s in 20 races this season.

“When you’ve had a rough road, your confidence gets down,” Hendrick said. “He said, ‘I know I can do it. The harder I try, the more it seems like I have this rough bad luck.’

“Something like this (win) can be really good for any guy to have, the whole team, to have confidence.  … All I can say about Kasey is he shows up, he shows up on time, and he shows up on time with his game face on, and he puts in the effort. Sometimes it just takes a break.  But he’s done everything.  I know in his heart he wants to do it.  He’s trying, so … ”

Ryan Newman on Brickyard 400: ‘That’s not racing, just craziness’

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Ryan Newman was in the right place at the right time in Sunday’s Brickyard 400, finishing third.

It was Newman’s second-best finish of 2017 after his win earlier this year at Phoenix.

But Newman, who is never afraid to speak his mind, did just that after Sunday’s race. Even with his strong finish, he echoed the comments of several other drivers that the racing action — particularly restarts — by saying, “That’s not racing, just craziness.”

Check out what Newman had to say in the video above.

Joey Logano’s fourth-place finish is bittersweet as playoff chances dip

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Joey Logano had a bittersweet day in Sunday’s Brickyard 400.

He finished a strong fourth in the incident-filled 24th edition of the Brickyard 400. It was just Logano’s second top-five finish and third top-10 showing in the last 11 races.

But there was also bad news, too.

Kasey Kahne‘s win knocked Logano further back in his bid to rejoin the top-16 drivers eligible for the upcoming NASCAR playoffs. With Clint Bowyer dropping out of the top-16 and Kahne moving into playoff contention, Logano has slipped back to 18th place in the playoff-eligible standings.

As a result, Logano all but has to win one of the next six races to qualify for the playoffs — unless he can point his way in with continued strong top-five finishes.

Logano talked about the situation he faces with NBC Sports after Sunday’s race. Click on the above video to see what he had to say.