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

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After two weekends off, the Xfinity Series is back in action today at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Elliott Sadler enters as the points leader with a 29-point advantage on JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier. William Byron, who also drives for JR. Motorsports, is third in the standings. Byron and Sadler are going for their first victory of the season, while Allgaier seeks his second win this year.

Here are the particulars for today’s Xfinity race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The Evil Genius’ Halo ESports Team will give the command for drivers to start engines at 1:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 1:18 p.m.

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

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

PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Xfinity garage opens at 6:30 a.m. The drivers meeting is at 11:15 a.m. Driver introductions are at 12:30 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Star Swain will perform the Anthem at 1:01 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race at 1 p.m. Its coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at gorpn.com. PRN’s coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 85 degrees at race time with a 15 percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Denny Hamlin led 76 laps to win this even a year ago. Austin Dillon was second and Joey Logano third. Logano led the final 12 laps to win at Charlotte in October. Elliott Sadler was second and Daniel Suarez was third.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying is at 10:05 a.m.

Today’s schedule at Charlotte: Cup practice, Xfinity qualifying and race

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NASCAR goes racing today with the Hisense 4K TV 300 Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Denny Hamlin won this race last year.

Here is today’s track schedule, as the countdown to Sunday’s main event of the weekend, the Coca-Cola 600, ticks closer:

(All times Eastern)

6:30 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Cup garage open

9 – 9:55 a.m. – Cup practice (FS1)

10:05 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (FS1)

11:15 a.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

11:30 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. – Cup final practice (FS1)

12:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

1 p.m. – Xfinity Hisense 4K TV 300 (200 laps, 300 miles) (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

My Home Track: North Carolina’s Caraway Speedway (video)

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Sure, NASCAR is synonymous with Daytona Beach, the state of Florida and Daytona International Speedway.

But there is no other state that is so linked to NASCAR than the Tar Heel state, North Carolina.

Numerous racetracks, from the smallest grassroots short track to Charlotte Motor Speedway dot the state, offering a plethora of race action from amateur all the way to the best of the best.

On Friday’s My Home Track: 50 States in 50 Shows segment, NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty shared some of his fondest memories of one of his favorite short tracks, Caraway Speedway.

Check out the video above.

NASCAR America: Steve Letarte reflects on mentor Ray Evernham’s Hall of Fame selection

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Steve Letarte learned the sport of NASCAR from a number of different individuals.

But no one compares to Letarte’s greatest mentor, Ray Evernham, who was selected earlier this week as one of five individuals that will enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame in its 2018 class.

Evernham, who led Jeff Gordon to three of his four NASCAR Cup championships as Gordon’s crew chief, was not only an innovator in the sport, but also a leader, mentor and team owner.

On Friday’s NASCAR America, Letarte, an Evernham protege, discussed what made his former boss, teacher and close friend so special.  Check out the video above.