Kyle Larson confident about having sponsorship to replace Target next season

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CHARLOTTE – Monday’s sponsor announcement of First Data was bereft of concrete assurances that Kyle Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet will have full funding next season.

But the vibe was positive at the NASCAR Hall of Fame event hosted by Chip Ganassi Racing, which will need to fill the void left by the departure of longtime sponsor Target in 2018.

“I’m confident mainly just because Chip and (team president Steve) Lauletta, they don’t seem worried about it,” Larson said. “They’ve got a lot of great partners. I think Chip’s organization is — not that it’s easy to find sponsors — but it’s more intriguing for sponsors because he has so many different race teams in different series, so there’s a lot more opportunities for sponsors to get coverage, so I’m not too worried about it.

“We’ve got a lot more important things to worry about the rest of the year, with a championship being one of them. We’ll worry about that.”

First Data will sponsor Larson in the October playoff races at Talladega Superspeedway and Martinsville Speedway (where the race also will be sponsored by the company, whose technology helps process more than $2.2 trillion annually in transactions for 4,000 financial institutions).

First Data CEO and chairman Frank Bisignano attended the Monday announcement, which could be a good sign for increasing its investment with Larson in 2018.

“Frank wants to grow more next year,” Ganassi said.

Is the team optimistic about filling Larson’s car next season?

“Yeah, we still have work to do, but obviously winning races doesn’t hurt,” Ganassi said. “If you know anybody out there that’s interested and so inclined, give them my number.”

Ganassi already has begun its transition away from Target in the first 24 races this season, a third of which have featured other primary sponsors on Larson’s car (such as Credit One Bank).

Larson said he doesn’t know how many races remain open on the car for next year, joking his teammate “Jamie (McMurray) gets more involved in the business questions than I do. I just worry about racing.” But he is encouraged by the addition of First Data, which he learned his business team uses to sell his T-shirts.

“Obviously with Target leaving, a lot of people are looking at what we’ve got for the future, and I think this is a great step for partnership,” he said.

Watch: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fans on what the driver means to them

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The fan base of Dale Earnhardt Jr. is large and devoted.

Those fans, affectionately called “Junior Nation,” has voted Earnhardt as NASCAR’s most popular driver 14 years in a row.

Justin Hartley of NBC’s “This is Us” is a member of Earnhardt’s fan base. The actor narrates the above essay on the close relationship between the driver and his fans.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks to Bob Costas about his career, legacy before final Cup start

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Sunday marks Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s last start as a full-time Cup driver in NASCAR.

NBC Sports’ Bob Costas sat down with the 14-time most popular driver before the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to get Earnhardt’s thoughts before he climbed in the No. 88 Chevrolet for the last time.

Earnhardt addressed what he hopes his legacy will be after 20 years in the sport as a driver, including his impact on attitudes towards concussions in sports in general.

Earnhardt, who will join NBC Sports in 2018, also talked about what life has in store for him in the near future.

Earnhardt also made sure to credit his devoted fan base for making his career possible.

“I understand the driving force behind my success and opportunity in this sport, whether it be inside the car or outside the car, is all because of Jr. Nation,” Earnhardt said. “This year we’ve tried our best to show appreciation to them.”

Watch the above video for the full interview.

 

Furniture Row Racing going for Cup title after year of success, tragedy

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It’s been a historic year for Furniture Row Racing, the Cup team that has its base of operations in an old water bed factory in Denver, Colorado.

With Martin Truex Jr. piloting the No. 78 Toyota, they won a team record seven races and a series record six races on 1.5-mile tracks. Combined with a dominating performance under the new stage racing format, Truex has put the team in its second Championship 4 in three years.

But it’s also been a season of perseverance and tragedy.

NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan narrates the above video essay on the story of Furniture Row Racing’s 2017 season.

Staff picks for today’s season finale in Miami

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Martin Truex Jr. wins the championship. Denny Hamlin wins the race.

Dustin Long

Martin Truex Jr. wins the race and earns his first Cup title.

Daniel McFadin

Martin Truex Jr. wins his first Cup title as Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s Appreci88ion Tour ends in Victory Lane after the No. 88 starts from the rear of the field.

Jerry Bonkowski

Brad Keselowski holds off Martin Truex Jr. to win the championship, while Matt Kenseth wins what potentially may be the final race of his NASCAR Cup career.