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NASCAR Chairman Brian France discusses penalties, costs & manufacturers

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NASCAR Chairman Brian France called into SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint” show Wednesday and discussed various topics with co-hosts Jim Noble and Chocolate Myers.

France offered his thoughts to the family of Hall of Fame inductee Robert Yates, who died Monday at age 74. France remembered Yates as “one of the pioneers” of the sport.

France was asked a variety of questions. Here are some of his responses:

Q: What is taking up your attention?

Brian France: “It’s always aligning everybody’s interest. It’s really that simple but hard to do. Things are different than they were five years ago, 10 years ago. I think aligning the interests, getting the costs out of the system … So the team owners can compete with less resources than they otherwise would need to and still do it at a high level. It’s all about that. It’s very hard to do because every stakeholder has their own interest and there’s institutional things that go on that either you can’t change or are hard to change. In the end, my dad used to say what makes it successful, he would always say that everybody has to win. The bigger we get, the more complicated it is, the harder it is to deliver. That’s where our goal is all the time.’’

Q: How do you see the sport’s future with all the young drivers?

France: “That’s the exciting part. The other part is we are in a transition. That happens if you go through our history. Sometimes it happens the way it is now, where a number of the top drivers exit for one reason or another. You didn’t mention Carl Edwards, who left for different reasons. That happens. Usually it’s more of not so many at one time but every once in a while we’ll have these moments. Everybody steps away at their choosing. The good news for us, you’re exactly right, there’s a lot of talent here that is coming through the system that are really going to be competitive and show their thing and that’s the beauty of sports. You can get a different group to put some … fingerprints on success and being a part of NASCAR. We’re looking forward to it.’’

Q: There often has been a lot of talk after races about penalties. How do we keep that from dominating things in the future?

France: “Boy, do I dislike two things. One is having to deal with penalties or infractions even though we have to. We have to keep the playing field even, and we have to do what we have to do. The second part that I would prefer to not have to talk about is the business side of NASCAR. That’s important, too.

“Because all of it takes away from what happened on Sunday or Saturday or Friday night in any of our national series. I look at it this way, I never get worked up over anything because I know the teams are pushing right to that last inch and then every once in a while they flop over the line, and there’s very rarely where it’s somebody just egregiously trying to get an advantage. It’s true that we have to have restrictions and tight rules and so on and it’s also true that the teams are so close to that line they’re going to create a P1 or P2, whatever it’s going to be, I don’t get worked over that because that’s auto racing.

“If we weren’t having some of that, then they’re not competing hard, they’re not trying to out-think, out-engineer, out-do some other teams. I don’t get so worked up over that. Frankly, I’d rather not talk about it. I’d rather we do what we do, which is we issue the penalty and we phrase it in a way … whatever the penalty is and our results on that and just not make it a big deal, but I realize it is easy to get caught up in it.’’

Q: One report that NASCAR is helping find sponsorship for Danica Patrick and Darrell Wallace Jr. for next year and how important is it that both are on the track next year?

France: “We get involved all the time with sponsorship arrangements with individual teams. That’s not inconsistent with what we do. As far as those two drivers, of course we would like to see both of them have a real good opportunity. We can’t control all of that. At the end of the day, you’ve got to compete, and both of those drivers have shown that they can compete at some level. The question is, is it high enough to attract the right sponsorship and interest? We’ll have to see how that plays out.’’

Q: What about new manufacturers?

France: “There’s two that have shown a lot of interest and are examining just how you go about it. It’s hard to do. It’s hard to come in and get the right teams. They all want to come in and compete at a very high level as fast as they can, which makes the challenge even harder. There are two and we’ll see how it plays out. Our preference would be to be able to add one more. Interestingly, the other car manufactures are open to that, too. They’d like to compete themselves with one another and take a lot of pride in that. My hope is that as soon as it can work out, we’ll add a fourth. We’ll have to see how that goes.’’

Q: What would you say to fans who are concerned about the financial future of the sport and the costs associated with racing?

France: “I would say look at history. There’s always cycles. Sometimes we have too many teams. I remember not that long ago, that Richard Petty, when he was racing couldn’t make the event for example. That happened. We’re working on it all the time. That stuff works itself out.

“Every sport has different cycles where it’s better than it was or less than it should be, whatever it is, that will work out. Our job is that if there is a way for us from a policy standpoint, as an example, getting the cost out of the system, that we are going to work, that’s where the charter agreements that we did a couple of years ago allow us to, get at those things.

“I wouldn’t worry about that for one minute if I were a fan because it just works itself out. We will make good decisions and the teams are working very closely with us to take any shortcomings out of the system and figure it out. I wouldn’t worry about that for a minute if I were a fan. I am a fan.’’

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AJ Allmendinger making return to Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2018

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After a one-year absence, AJ Allmendinger will return to the Rolex 24 at Daytona next month.

Allmendinger, who drives for JTG Daugherty Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, will once again drive for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance race at Daytona International Speedway, which will be held Jan. 27 – 28.

A winner in the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Allmendinger will split time in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 in the GTD class with Justin Marks, Lawson Aschenbach and Mario Farnbacher.

Allmendinger drove for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance race from 2014-16. His best result during that stretch was fifth in the Prototype class in 2015.

“I am pumped to be back racing for Shank in the (Rolex) 24. I missed the race last year and I hated to, so I’m really glad to be back,” Allmendinger said in a press release. “His whole team did an awesome job with the Acura last year and it is awesome to be back with him for the Rolex. After racing for the overall win so many years in Prototypes, it will be a completely different experience to be racing in the GTD class, but I’m looking forward to it. Mike (Shank) always puts an awesome team together and this year is no different so I am counting down to get my first shot in this car.”

Allmendinger is coming off his fourth full year of driving the No. 47 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing. He finished the season 27th in the standings, his worst during his tenure with the team. He earned one top five and five top 10s.

Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s to sponsor RCR in Cup, Xfinity in 2018

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Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s will sponsor Richard Childress Racing in multiple races in the Cup and Xfinity Series next year, the team announced Monday.

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s merged in September 2017.

The outdoors brands will be on Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet during the 60th Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 and in several other races during the season.

Richard Childress Racing

They will also be a primary sponsor for Austin and Ty Dillon on the No. 3 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series for several races.

“Our relationship with Bass Pro Shops dates back to the mid-1990s and we’re thrilled to be able to continue it during the 2018 season,” team owner Richard Childress said in a press release. “Austin, Ty and Ryan are terrific ambassadors for the great outdoors. They are all passionate about our hunting, fishing and conservation heritage which has made this partnership thrive.

“Next season will be exciting as we welcome Cabela’s, the iconic outdoor brand acquired by Bass Pro Shops, to the RCR family.”

Bass Pro Shops, founded in 1972 by Johnny Morris, is also a primary sponsor of Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota owned by Furniture Row Racing.

The store chain will be on the hood of the No. 78 in 16 races and on the sides of it in 14 others.

Here’s the eligible drivers for the 2018 Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona

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NASCAR has officially announced the 20 drivers who are eligible to take part in the Cup Series’ season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway.

The 75-lap exhibition event is set for 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 11, the same day as qualifying for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

The race will be divided into two segments. A competition caution on Lap 25 will divide them.

Drivers become eligible for the Clash by winning a pole the previous season, being a Daytona 500 pole-winner who competed full-time the previous season or being a playoff driver the previous season.

Here are the eligible drivers.

2017 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (14)

Former Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (3)

2017 Playoff Drivers (3)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth are not expected to compete in the race. Earnhardt retired from Cup competition following the 2017 season and Kenseth doesn’t have a ride for the 2018 season.

Danica Patrick, the 2013 Daytona 500 pole-sitter, announced last month she was done as a full-time driver but that she planned to race in the Daytona 500. No definitive team plans have been announced for her.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram injury update: still in ICU, but continues to show progress

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram continues to show improvement from the serious injuries he suffered in a December 3 car crash in his native Asheville, North Carolina.

In an update Sunday written on CaringBridge.org, Ingram’s daughter, Ingrid Jones, said her father remains in the Intensive Care Unit at Asheville’s Mission Hospital.

According to Jones:

“Daddy continues to hold his own, making healing steps forward and then a step back, which we fully expected-but he’s surprising us each and every day with his strength and courage to overcome this. Overall, he’s doing amazingly well.”

Ingram’s family had hoped he could have moved out of ICU and into the Trauma Unit as the next phase of his recovery, but he remains in intensive care.

Said Jones:

“For now, he’ll remain in ICU until he can go a full 24 hours without ventilator assisted breathing. We’re almost there … but may still be a few days.”

Ingram, who turns 81 on Dec. 28, was able to sit in a chair and watched part of Sunday’s NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings with his family. Jones wrote that Ingram also was surprised to learn that the mountain near the family’s Asheville-area home received a total of 16 inches of snow Friday and Saturday.

Jones added, “We continue to be optimistic for his health, and we also continue to appreciate the prayers and encouraging thoughts.”