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Souvenir haulers may return to some NASCAR races as merchandise program evolves

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. raised a few eyebrows when he said on Periscope after Sunday’s race at Talladega that team souvenir trailers could be returning to NASCAR.

“I heard a little rumor that the big souvenir tent’s going away and the trailers are coming back,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t know if anyone heard that. That’ll be cool.”

Adam Stern of SportsBusinessDaily.com reported that driver souvenir trailers are coming back – but not in the way they had previously spread out at tracks.

Stern wrote Monday that Fanatics, which signed a 10-year agreement with NASCAR in August 2015 to host a trackside superstore tent that carries driver merchandise, will make modifications to its business model in the coming weeks and months.

A NASCAR official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, exclusively told NBC Sports: “We’re not going to see the tent replaced by haulers. That’s not going to happen. It’s going to be different based on every track. You may see more haulers at the track, at some tracks it may be a different configuration, but it’s always been from Day One that (how merchandise is sold at tracks is) going to evolve and change over time based on the shopping habits of our fans.

“They’re basically adjusting to the marketplace. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach with the tent, they’re going to say that on a road course, it may make sense not to have the tent at all, that it may make more sense to have just in-venue or we’ll just bring haulers to this one or we’re just testing it out. They’re working with the tracks to find the what that right mix is, just like any store is.”

Ergo, the 60,000-square-foot tent, which hasn’t been popular with fans who liked the old driver souvenir hauler stands better, will be replaced with smaller satellite sites both within and outside of various racetracks.

Said the NASCAR official to NBC Sports, “I don’t think you’re going to see the big tent anymore, but you’re going to see a mix of maybe smaller tents, in-venue stores, haulers, other things and other ways – who knows what Fanatics is going to come up with.”

Changes are already on the near horizon for both this weekend’s races at Kansas Speedway, and the following two weekends at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the NASCAR All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600.

It’s possible that fans will see additional trailers dedicated to specific drivers at Charlotte, but the NASCAR official cautioned to NBC Sports, “I wouldn’t read into what you’re going to see at Charlotte or Kansas or wherever as the new thing.”

According to the NASCAR official, Fanatics is working on revised business plans with individual racetracks, but the sense is that instead of a one-size-fits-all tent at all tracks, the kind of merchandise tents, trailers and satellite booths will vary from track to track.

There also may be more driver-specific merchandise offerings at certain tracks that correspond to the drivers being from the surrounding area. For example, there may be more (Illinois native) Danica Patrick or (Wisconsin native) Matt Kenseth merchandise at Chicagoland Speedway when this year’s playoffs begin.

Or another possibility – and pretty much a no-brainer – will be to flood Homestead-Miami Speedway with Dale Earnhardt Jr. merchandise to mark the final NASCAR Cup race of his career.

Stern noted that “despite lower overall sales, sources said that NASCAR has seen upticks in merchandise sales for some key up-and-coming drivers this year, including Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney.”

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Six cars to miss time in final Cup practice session

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Six Cup teams, including playoff contenders Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray, will each miss 15 minutes of today’s final practice session at Kansas Speedway because of inspection issues, NASCAR announced.

Three teams were penalized 15 minutes in Saturday morning’s first practice – Derrike Cope, Landon Cassill and AJ Allmendinger. Each were penalized for being late to qualifying inspection Friday.

Teams penalized 15 minutes in final Cup practice will be Elliott, McMurray, Cope, Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard and Aric Almirola.

Bayne, Elliott and Almirola were penalized for failing qualifying/race inspection twice at Talladega.

Cope, McMurray and Menard were penalized for failing qualfiying qualifying inspection twice at Kansas.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 1:30 – 2:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Today’s Xfinity race at Kansas: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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The Xfinity Series begins the second round of its playoffs with today’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway.

Here is all the info you need for the race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Kansas Lt. Gov. Dr. Jeff Colyer will give the command to start engines at 2:56 p.m. Green flag is scheduled for 3:05 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile oval.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 45. Stage 2 ends at Lap 90.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Qualifying is slated for 12:05 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:25 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Mary Ann Hotaling will perform the anthem at 2:51 p.m..

TV/RADIO:  NBC will broadcast the race at 3 p.m. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. on NBCSN with Countdown to Green. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at mrn.com, starting with its pre-race show at 2:30 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts a temperature of 76 degrees and a 15 percent chance of rain at race time.

LAST TIME: Kyle Busch dominated this race last fall, leading 150 of 200 laps. Elliott Sadler finished second. Daniel Suarez was third.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying is at 12:05 p.m.

Saturday’s NASCAR Cup, Xfinity schedule at Kansas Speedway

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Today’s racing action at Kansas Speedway includes two NASCAR Cup practices, as well as Xfinity qualifying and race.

Today’s Xfinity race will be the first in the Round of 8, which will determine the four finalists for next month’s championship race.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All times are Eastern)

8 a.m. — Xfinity garage opens

9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Cup garage open

11 – 11:55 p.m. — Second Cup practice (NBC Sports App, MRN)

12:05 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (NBCSN)

1:15 p.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

1:30 – 2:20 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

2:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

3 p.m. – Kansas 300 Xfinity race (200 laps, 300 miles) (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Ryan Blaney’s car fails inspection after qualifying

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Playoff contender Ryan Blaney’s car failed inspection after qualifying third Friday night at Kansas Speedway, NASCAR announced.

NASCAR stated that the car’s package tray did not maintain its original shape. That is the metal that holds the rear window in place.

Blaney will start last in the 40-car field and have the last pick of pit stalls this weekend and next weekend at Martinsville Speedway. There will be no further penalties.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said:

“The rules are pushed to the max in every area, and today the NASCAR officials found something they didn’t like about our car. We’re not disputing their decision. We’ll own it and move on.

“We’ll work on our car in Saturday’s practice, line up in the back on Sunday and look forward to watching Ryan drive his way to the front.”

Blaney enters Sunday’s elimination race two points ahead of Jimmie Johnson, who holds the eighth final transfer spot for the next round. Kyle Busch is nine points behind Blaney and Matt Kenseth is 10th.

Four of the 12 playoff contenders will be eliminated after Sunday’s race.

By starting at the rear, Blaney will be challenged to be in the top 10 by Lap 80 to score stage points. If he doesn’t, he could fall behind Johnson and Busch after the first stage.

Below is Section 20.4.17.8 of the Cup Rule Book, which features a diagram of the package tray

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