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ISC welcomes ‘stability’ in attendance, admissions for Cup events in third quarter

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The president of International Speedway Corp. described attendance and admission at the company’s Cup races in the third quarter as comparable to the same point last year and “a welcome sign of stability.’’

International Speedway Corp., which owns 12 tracks that annually host Cup races, reported its third-quarter earnings Thursday morning.

ISC hosted Cup races at Daytona, Watkins Glen and Michigan in the third quarter.

Admissions revenue was $22.8 million, a decrease of less than $100,000 compared to the same period in 2016.

Greg Motto, senior vice president and chief financial officer for ISC, said on Thursday’s call with investor analysts that attendance in the third quarter was down slightly for those events but admission revenues were close because of ticket prices. The average ticket price for those events was $85.60, an increase of three percent from last year.

ISC noted that admissions revenue increased at Daytona in July and that reserved grandstands were sold out a third consecutive year at Watkins Glen. John Saunders, president of ISC, said that “some softness” at Michigan’s Cup events offset totals at Daytona and Watkins Glen.

Saunders said that races in the fourth quarter at Darlington, Richmond and Chicagoland Speedway were “in line with expectations.’’ He said advance sales for the remaining races at ISC tracks — Talladega, Kansas, Martinsville, Phoenix and Homestead-Miami Speedway — are “trending comparable to prior year quarter.’’

Saunders later said on the call that ISC advance ticket sales are “trending just up a tick versus last year.’’

“We remain confident our consumer-focused marketing and sales strategy are working to bring ticket sales in line to deliver stronger results,’’ he said.

Saunders noted that ISC is “pleased with the year-over-year to-date increases in the younger demographics attending the events.’’

Asked about challenges for 2018, Saunders said: “Our most popular driver (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) is retiring, while we don’t have any visibility into (first quarter 2018) on any impact there, the good news is that Dale Jr. is going into the booth with NBC, so he will be at the race tracks. Jeff Gordon is in the booth with Fox.

“One of our primary focused areas, in partnership with NASCAR, is we’ve got great young talent coming along. I mentioned Ryan Blaney, there’s Chase Elliott Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, William Byron, a very young, very talented driver. … Building their brands are a key focus area. All sports go through a period of time where big stars … retire and we’re seeing Jeff and Tony Stewart and Dale and others stepping out of the car and so I wouldn’t call it so much a challenge as an opportunity.

“They are very engaging people, they resonate with younger folks. They’re active in engagement in social and digital platforms. I would say that is one of our greatest opportunities for the first quarter and going into 2018.’’

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Kurt Busch re-signs with Stewart-Haas Racing

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Kurt Busch has re-signed with Steward-Haas Racing, putting him back in the No. 41 Ford for the 2018 Cup season.

The winner of the 2017 Daytona 500 confirmed his re-signing in a statement.

Motorsport.com has reported Busch signed a one-year deal.

Busch, 39, will continue to be sponsored by Monster Energy as he enters his fifth season with SHR. Monster Energy is also the entitlement sponsor of the Cup Series.

“Having my hard work pay off by winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and the 2017 Daytona 500 has given me the drive to continue conquering the NASCAR world,” Busch said. “I am excited to enter the 2018 racing season as a Monster Energy athlete where I will continue to drive my favorite manufacturer, the Ford Motor Company. Knowing that SHR is committed to optimum performance, I believe that I have everything I need to win races this season and take home the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup. I look forward to taking on next year with my team, sponsors and determination.”

Busch completes SHR’s 2018 Cup driver lineup with Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and newcomer Aric Almirola.

SHR announced over the summer that Busch’s original contract option would not be picked up.

The 2004 Cup champion will enter his 18th full-time season in the Cup Series.

He made the playoffs in 2017 with his Daytona 500 win, but was eliminated after the first round. He finished the season with six top fives and 15 top 10s. In his four seasons with SHR, Busch has five wins.

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Richard Childress Racing, Caterpillar extend relationship

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Richard Childress Racing announced Tuesday it has extended its partnership with Caterpillar Inc., which will continue to sponsor Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet in select races in 2018.

Caterpillar was the primary sponsor on the No. 31 in 20 races last season.

Caterpillar has been a sponsor of Cup teams since 1997 and partnered with RCR in 2009. Newman has been sponsored by the company since joining RCR in 2014.

“I am happy to announce the continuation of our partnership with Caterpillar and the No. 31 Chevrolet in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series,”  Richard Childress said in a press release. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with so many Cat dealers, customers and equipment operators through the past nine years. They are passionate about both racing and their Cat equipment, and I share their passion for both. I have used Cat equipment for many years and there is no better heavy machinery on the market. We’ve enjoyed our long-term association with Caterpillar, and helped them sell a lot of equipment over the years. I’m proud to represent the Cat brand.”

Newman is coming off a season where he earned one win (Phoenix I), his first since 2013 and first with RCR. Newman qualified for the playoffs. He was eliminated after the first round and finished the season in 16th.

The 2018 season will be Newman’s 17th full-time year in Cup.

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John Hunter Nemechek to race part-time for Chip Ganassi Racing in Xfinity Series

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John Hunter Nemechek, the son of former Cup driver Joe Nemechek, will join Chip Ganassi Racing in 2018 to compete part-time in the Xfinity Series, the team announced Tuesday.

At 20-year-old driver will pilot the No. 42 Chevrolet in multiple races, sharing the ride with Kyle Larson. Fire Alarm Services, which sponsored Nemechek in the Truck Series, will move up to Xfinity with him.

The No. 42 has significant meaning to the Nemechek family. Joe Nemechek earned his first of four Cup wins driving the No. 42 for Felix Sabates in 1999 at New Hampshire. He drove for Sabates from 1997-99.

Sabates is a co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing.

John Hunter Nemechek spent the last two years full-time in the Camping World Truck Series driving the No. 8 Chevrolet for his family-owned team, NEMCO Motorsports. He has 76 starts in the series since 2013 and five wins, two coming in each of the last two seasons.

“I couldn’t be more excited to join Chip Ganassi Racing,” Nemechek said in a press release. “I feel like their cars and organization were the talk of the garage in 2017 and I hope to play a part in continuing their run of success in 2018 and beyond. Also, Fire Alarm Services has been a supporter of my career since 2016 at our family-owned team, and I am looking forward to continuing that partnership at Chip Ganassi Racing. I am extremely grateful to Shannon and Connie Smith, owners of Fire Alarm Services, Inc. I also want to thank my father for all that he has done to help grow my passion for racing.”

Nemechek will work with veteran crew chief Mike Shiplett, who has led the No. 42 team for the last four seasons.

Nemechek announced he’d be making a career change with a video posted to Twitter on Dec. 5.

NEMCO Motorsports made clear on Twitter that it is not closing its doors.

Larson, Tyler Reddick and Alex Bowman split time in the No. 42 in 2017 and combined to earn five wins.

The No. 42 will be the only full-time entry for Ganassi in the Xfinity Series in 2018. It fielded the No. 48 for Brennan Poole the last two seasons. No announcements have been made about Poole’s future.

We are happy to have John Hunter join our organization and also announce the relationship with Fire Alarm Services,” Chip Ganassi said in a press release. “We had a very successful 2017 with our Xfinity program and look to improve upon that.  We feel that John Hunter has the talent to be a future star in the sport and can’t wait to get him behind the wheel.”

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NASCAR announces 2018 Xfinity Series start times, TV schedule

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NASCAR has revealed the start times and TV broadcast plan for the Xfinity Series in 2018.

The season opens Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. The race is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

The NBC portion of the schedule begins June 30 at Chicagoland Speedway with a 3:30 p.m. ET broadcast on NBCSN.

Both races at Richmond Raceway are night events. The April 20 race begins at 7 p.m. ET. The Sept. 21 race begins at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The June race at Iowa Speedway is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 17 on FS1.

The road course race at Road America is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25 on NBCSN. The race was run on Sunday in 2017.

See the entire schedule below.

All times are Eastern

Date Location Network Start time
Sat, Feb 17, 2018  Daytona FS1 2:30 PM
Sat, Feb 24, 2018  Atlanta FS1 2:00 PM
Sat, Mar 03, 2018  Las Vegas FS1 4:00 PM
Sat, Mar 10, 2018  Phoenix FOX 4:00 PM
Sat, Mar 17, 2018  California FS1 5:00 PM
Sun, Apr 01, 2018  Off week – Easter
Sat, Apr 07, 2018  Texas FOX 3:00 PM
Sat, Apr 14, 2018  Bristol FS1 1:00 PM
Fri, Apr 20, 2018  Richmond FS1 7:00 PM
Sat, Apr 28, 2018  Talladega FOX 3:00 PM
Sat, May 05, 2018  Dover FS1 1:30 PM
Sat, May 26, 2018  Charlotte FS1 1:00 PM
Sat, Jun 02, 2018  Pocono FS1 1:00 PM
Sat, Jun 09, 2018  Michigan FOX 1:30 PM
Sun, Jun 17, 2018  Iowa FS1 5:00 PM
Sat, Jun 30, 2018  Chicagoland NBCSN 3:30 PM
Fri, Jul 06, 2018  Daytona NBCSN 7:30 PM
Fri, Jul 13, 2018  Kentucky NBCSN 8:00 PM
Sat, Jul 21, 2018  New Hampshire NBCSN 4:00 PM
Sat, Jul 28, 2018  Iowa NBCSN 3:30 PM
Sat, Aug 04, 2018  Watkins Glen NBC 3:30 PM
Sat, Aug 11, 2018  Mid‐Ohio NBCSN 3:00 PM
Fri, Aug 17, 2018  Bristol NBCSN 7:30 PM
Sat, Aug 25, 2018  Road America NBCSN 3:00 PM
Sat, Sep 01, 2018  Darlington NBC 3:30 PM
Sat, Sep 08, 2018  Indianapolis NBCSN 4:00 PM
Sat, Sep 15, 2018  Las Vegas NBCSN 5:00 PM
Fri, Sep 21, 2018  Richmond NBCSN 7:30 PM
Sat, Sep 29, 2018  Charlotte NBCSN 3:00 PM
Sat, Oct 06, 2018  Dover NBCSN 3:00 PM
Sat, Oct 20, 2018  Kansas NBCSN 2:30 PM
Sat, Nov 03, 2018  Texas NBC 3:30 PM
Sat, Nov 10, 2018  Phoenix NBC 3:30 PM
Sat, Nov 17, 2018  Homestead-Miami NBCSN 3:30 PM