Is Texas the make-or-break race for Jimmie Johnson’s 8th championship hopes?

Leave a comment

With nine previous wins there, Jimmie Johnson came into Sunday’s race as the winningest active driver at Martinsville Speedway.

He failed to add to that total, finishing 12th on a day that saw him start at the back of the field due to a spin in qualifying, then quickly moved up into the top five by the end of Stage 1 thanks to pit strategy.

He eventually got to the front of the pack and led 24 laps before falling back to his eventual finish.

In the seven seasons Johnson has won the NASCAR Cup championship, he’s won the fall race at Martinsville four times (2006, 2007, 2008 and 2016). In the other three championship years, he’s finished second (2009) and fifth (in both 2010 and 2013) at the .526-mile paperclip shaped track, the smallest in NASCAR.

But now with Sunday’s finish, Johnson finds himself in a situation he’s never been in his career: with two races remaining in the Round of 8 semifinal round at Texas and Phoenix, Johnson is below the cutoff line, sitting fifth in the standings.

He’s never been that low at this point of the playoffs – even before the elimination format came into being in 2014 – and still went on to win the championship.

Johnson is going for a record eighth championship, which would put him ahead of the seven Cup titles won by NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

But Johnson’s chances right now are questionable at best.

He’s 67 points behind series leader Martin Truex Jr., 50 points behind Martinsville winner Kyle Busch, 29 behind third-ranked Brad Keselowski, and three points behind fourth-ranked Kevin Harvick.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Johnson holds a three-point edge over sixth-ranked Ryan Blaney, a five-point margin over seventh-ranked Denny Hamlin, and leads eighth-ranked and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott by 23 points.

It’s kind of understandable that Johnson didn’t have much to say after Sunday’s race.

Perhaps part of the reason is he was involved in the last-lap multi-car wreck coming to the finish line that likely kept him from ending with a higher finish.

The other likely reason Johnson wasn’t as chatty as normal after a race is where he sits in the standings and the task he faces in the next two races if he hopes to reach Miami either with a win or via points.

“We were just terrible all day,” he said, shortly after being involved in the wreck. “Oh, what a bummer.

“We had high hopes for this weekend. Man, it just didn’t turn out so well. So, we scored some points here and there. We will go to the next one and try to get more.”

While Johnson can potentially still make it to Miami on points, it’s not going to be easy.

Yet at the same time, Johnson actually couldn’t be in a better position to reach Miami, even with his showing at Martinsville.

Texas Motor Speedway is Johnson’s fourth-most successful track when it comes to wins and overall success, with seven victories and 21 top-10 finishes in 28 career Cup starts there. That includes a win this spring there, as well as six wins in his last 10 starts on the 1.5-mile high-speed oval.

The only tracks he’s won more at are Dover (11 victories), Martinsville (nine) and Charlotte (eight).

Sure, he’ll have to contend at Texas with Martin Truex Jr., who has earned six of his seven wins in 2017 on 1.5-mile tracks, but Johnson definitely holds a decided edge over the seven other remaining playoff contenders heading to the Lone Star State.

And then there’s Johnson’s career record at Phoenix.

Sure, he’s won four times and had 20 top-10s in 28 career starts on the 1-mile oval. But there’s a caveat to that: his last win in the Valley of the Sun was the fall 2009 race.

And in his last six starts there, he’s managed just one top five (fall 2015) and one other top 10 (ninth in this year’s spring race).

So, it’s pretty clear that if Johnson is to make it to Miami and earn a record eighth championship, a win – or a top five at the very least – is almost mandatory at Texas.

Watkins Glen, Michigan announce multi-year sponsor deals

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Watkins Glen International and Michigan International Speedway announced multi-year sponsorship deals for their Cup Series races Thursday.

WGI announced the Aug. 5 race at the road course will be sponsored by The 90-lap race will be called “Go Bowling at the Glen.”

This is not the first time the bowling brand has sponsored a Cup event. It sponsored the spring race at Kansas Speedway from 2016-17 and the August event at Pocono Raceway from 2013-14.

As part of the deal, Go Bowling will have two bowling lanes at the track for the race weekend.

Michigan has renewed its sponsorship deal with FireKeepers Casino Hotel for its June Cup race for “many years.”

The hotel in Battle Creek, Michigan, began its relationship with MIS by sponsoring pole day in 2014. It began sponsoring the June race in 2016.

TheFireKeepers Casino 400 is scheduled for June 10.

ISM Raceway (Phoenix) also announced the title sponsor for its March 11 Cup race.

The event will called the TicketGuardian 500.

TicketGuardian is a mobile ticketing insurance provider. When fans purchase tickets to events at ISM Raceway, they will be given the option to add TicketGuardian’s ticket protection coverage. This allows fans to have insurance on the tickets they’ve purchased in advance.

 and on Facebook

Hendrick, Kelley Blue Book extend relationship through 2020

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Hendrick Motorsports and Kelley Blue Book have extended their sponsorship deal three years through 2020, the team announced Thursday.

The car pricing, research and valuation guide will be a primary sponsor on Chase Elliott‘s N0. 9 Chevrolet in two races each year.

This season it will be on the No. 9 for the Aug. 18 race at Bristol Motor Speedway and the November playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kelley Blue Book has been partnered with Hendrick since 2014 when it had a one-race deal to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It went to a two-race deal beginning in 2016.

MORE: Driving the No. 9 feels like going home for Chase Elliott

 and on Facebook

Danica Patrick has Daytona 500, Indy 500 sponsor; now needs ride

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

GoDaddy will return to be Danica Patrick‘s sponsor for the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, the company announced Thursday.

Patrick said in November that she would retire from racing after competing in those two events. She has yet to secure a ride for either race but that was slowed by the lack of sponsorship until Thursday’s announcement.

A Chip Ganassi Racing executive said last week that the team was no longer in discussions with Patrick for her to drive for the team in either race. Steve Lauletta, president of Chip Ganassi Racing, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the team would stay focused on its current operations instead of adding another car for those races: “We’re going to stay focused on that rather than put another temporary effort together and not doing it up to the standards that we would want to, so I don’t think you’ll see that happening with us in 2018.”

MORE: Danica Patrick confirms she is dating NFL quarterback

GoDaddy signed Patrick in 2006 when she was in IndyCar and followed her to NASCAR, ending its sponsorship after the 2015 season. While together, Patrick was the face of the company, appearing in 13 GoDaddy Super Bowl ads – the most Super Bowl commercial appearances by a celebrity.

“You could say, ‘we’re getting the band back together,” said GoDaddy Chief Marketing Officer Barb Rechterman. “It makes sense in that our goals are so well-aligned – she’s passionate, tenacious and creative just like so many of our customers who are also looking to leverage the power of the Internet and turn their ‘side hustle’ into a full-time business. Danica absolutely epitomizes the heart of our GoDaddy customers. We love it.”

Said Patrick in a statement: “This is definitely the way I want to finish my racing career – at these two iconic races, backed by my iconic, long-time sponsor. GoDaddy was there for me when my career was just really starting so it’s exciting to be getting back in the GoDaddy ‘green’ for my final two races. Our brands have always been powerful together, and I think it’s awesome to have them at my side when I go ‘all in’ with my businesses after racing.”

Patrick has made six starts in the Daytona 500. She won the pole for the 2013 race. She finished eighth that year, her best finish in the season-opening Cup race. She finished fourth in last year’s Advance Auto Parts Clash. She is eligible for that race this year. Patrick has made seven starts in the Indianapolis 500 from 2005-11. She finished a career-best fourth in her first race there, leading 19 laps. She has two top-five and five top-10 finishes in the Indy 500.

 and on Facebook

Atlanta Motor Speedway accepting lucky charms to help Chase Elliott earn first Cup win

Atlanta Motor Speedway
Leave a comment

The president of Atlanta Motor Speedway is hoping history will repeat.

Ed Clark is doing whatever he can to get Georgia-native Chase Elliott to Victory Lane for the first time in the Cup Series.

To do that, he’s using the same marketing scheme he executed in 1983 in the weeks before Bill Elliott’s first Cup victory.

AMS is asking for fans to send lucky charms to the track, which will be presented to Chase Elliott during a special event there Feb. 13.

There’s no restrictions on what can be sent.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver is winless after 77 starts in NASCAR’s premier series.

Bill Elliott in 1983. (Atlanta Motor Speedway).

His father went winless in his first 155 starts from 1976-83.

Clark put together the original lucky charm drive ahead of the October race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he served as public relations director.

“The promotion we came up with for Bill in ’83 created an amazing amount of interest and support from fans all over the country,” said Clark in a press release. “We received package after package full of good-luck charms, and it seemed like everybody was pulling for him to get that first win.”

Three races later, in the season finale at Riverside International Raceway, the 28-year-old Bill Elliott claimed his first of 44 Cup victories.

Fans can send their lucky charms to Elliott by shipping them to AMS at 1500 Highway 19/41, Hampton, GA 30228, with attention to “Good Luck, Chase.” Fans can also participate by using the hashtag #GoodLuckChase across the various social media platforms with pictures and messages to Elliott.

The Cup season begins Feb. 18 with the 60th Daytona 500. The following weekend, the series visits Atlanta Motor Speedway.

 and on Facebook