Chip Ganassi meets with Danica Patrick about ‘fabulous opportunity’ to run Daytona and Indianapolis

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Chip Ganassi confirmed Friday he met with Danica Patrick and her representatives the past two days about running the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500 next season.

The car owner in NASCAR and IndyCar heartily endorses the concept announced Friday by Patrick, who plans to end her career after those two races, but Ganassi said negotiations weren’t far along.

“I think it’s a great idea for her to do that,” Ganassi told a small group of reporters after Cup qualifying at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “I think it’s a fabulous idea. I think it’s a fabulous marketing idea. It’s a fabulous opportunity.

“Obviously the business side of the deal has to work. I just learned about all this yesterday. That’s what has to be worked out. I’m a long way from saying, ‘Yes, I can do that.’”

Ganassi said Patrick’s team indicated it would be an option for her to do one or both races with his team. Asked by NBC Sports during her Friday news conference if she wanted to run both races with one team, Patrick said “that’s an option I suppose, but it doesn’t have to be.

“I think that when we’re talking about Daytona, it is what it is. There’s a lot of luck involved. To some degree, that doesn’t seem as critical. In IndyCar I think that it’s a little more, but I think there are probably a little bit more options as well. A little bit more flexibility there. I think it would make it easier, but I don’t think that it’s an absolute necessary.”

Ganassi and Roger Penske would be Patrick’s only options for running championship-caliber cars in both races with one team.

Penske wasn’t available for comment at Homestead-Miami Speedway most of Friday, but a Team Penske representative indicated the team hadn’t discussed the possibility with Patrick.

Would a one-team approach be the best option for running the two biggest races in the United States in the same season?

“That’s for her to decide,” Ganassi said. “I don’t know. I’m not the one doing it, she is. I would think it would be better to do it with one team.”

Because Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske don’t field the maximum allowable cars in Cup, they also would offer an option at Daytona that the four-car teams of Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing can’t (NASCAR rules preclude teams entering five cars, even for a one-off situation).

Ganassi deflected questions about whether Patrick would bring sponsorship (“I don’t talk about that kind of stuff and who brings what”) or if he would have the same crew if Patrick ran both races for his team. He also didn’t have a deadline for deciding on Daytona, which is three months away.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “Like I said, I just learned about all this yesterday and today.”

But he is interested?

“I need to know more to be interested,” he said. “I need to know more. I need to talk to my people. There’s a lot of moving parts on a deal like that.”

There would be even more logistics if Ganassi attempted to also field an Indy 500 entry in 2018 for Cup star Kyle Larson, who has said he wants to run the Brickyard in May and become the latest to attempt the NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader with the Coca-Cola 600.

“I haven’t even talked to him about it,” Ganassi said when asked about Larson running the Indianapolis 500 next year.

Ganassi’s IndyCar team is downsizing from four full-time entries to two next year. He wouldn’t rule out running Larson and Patrick at Indy next year but also added “I doubt I would do four (cars)” in the 102nd running of the race.

Front Row Motorsports adds Michael McDowell, expands technical alliance with Roush Fenway

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Front Row Motorsports will field entries for David Ragan and Michael McDowell in 2018 while expanding its technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing, the team announced Thursday.

McDowell joins the Bob Jenkins-owned team after four years of driving the No. 95 Chevrolet for Leavine Family Racing before being replaced by Kasey Kahne.

The native of Phoenix, Arizona, McDowell replaces Landon Cassill as Ragan’s teammate.

McDowell, 32, has 249 Cup starts since 2008, but only two full-time seasons under his belt. He made one start for Front Row at Watkins Glen in 2013.

“Since I first drove for Bob at Watkins Glen, we’ve kept in touch and have felt like there might be an opportunity to work together again, and the timing worked out perfectly,” McDowell said in a press release. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a teammate, so I’m really looking forward to working with David, whom I’ve become pretty good friends with over the years. As a team now, we go into the season knowing we have five or six races that put us in position to get a win and earn a spot in the playoffs.”

Ragan returns to Front Row for his fifth season. Ragan earned the organization its first Cup victory in 2013 at Talladega. Ragan has two wins, 15 top fives and 39 top-10 finishes in his Cup career.

“Bob Jenkins and I have developed a good relationship over the years, both professionally and personally,” Ragan said in a press release. “I believe in this team and am proud to have been part of its growth and its successes. I’m excited that Bob and Ford have agreed to take the program to the next level, and I’m happy I’ll be here to help the team continue to grow.”

Crew chief assignments have not been finalized. FRM will announce sponsor partners and driver car numbers at a later date.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s ‘Last Ride’ diecast is Lionel Racing’s bestselling ever

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. has set a new benchmark for Lionel Racing’s most purchased diecast in its 25-year history.

Lionel Racing, NASCAR’s official diecast producer, has announced that the diecast of Earnhardt’s “Last Ride” No. 88 Chevrolet in the Cup season finale last month is now its bestselling diecast in company history.

The “Last Ride” car is based on the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet that Earnhardt drove in his rookie Cup season in 2000.

The previous bestseller was another Earnhardt diecast, for his 2014 Daytona 500 win.

Lionel Racing says that QVC’s “For Race Fans Only” show that featured Earnhardt and unveiled the car helped contribute to sales. But even without QVC, sales of the “Last Ride” diecast outpaced the 2014 Daytona 500 diecast by more than 10,000 units.

“The demand for this car has been simply astounding,” Lionel Racing President Howard Hitchcock said on the company’s website. “The fan response to this diecast is a true measure of how much Earnhardt has meant to both casual NASCAR fans and serious diecast collectors.”

Lionel Racing has also revealed the top-10 selling diecasts for the year, which you can find below. Earnhardt has six cars on the list. Chase Elliott has two and Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney each have one.

Casey Mears likely to split 2018 between NASCAR, Global Rallycross and Stadium Super Trucks

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Casey Mears still plans to compete part-time in NASCAR in 2018, but he’s also looking to expand his racing horizons.

The veteran NASCAR driver told The Checkered Flag recently that he also expects to race in the Red Bull Global Rallycross series, as well as Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks series.

“Right now I’m talking to a few NASCAR programs to do maybe limited stuff,” Mears told The Checkered Flag. “I don’t have anything that would be a full-time ride in a NASCAR series.

“I’ve been speaking with Robby Gordon in the Stadium Super Truck program. I think that’s a really cool up-and-coming-series and I’d definitely like to be involved with the GRC. It looks like a lot of fun.

“I think there’s enough difference between all those that it could leave room for doing a bit of both so we’ll see how it works out.”

Mears did not race in the Cup Series in 2017, having lost his ride at the end of 2016 to Ty Dillon in the No. 13 Geico Chevy. He has amassed 488 starts and one win (2007 Coca-Cola 600) in his Cup career, along with 13 top fives and 51 top 10s.

However, he did compete on a part-time basis in 2017 in the Xfinity Series, making 14 starts, with season-best finishes of ninth place at both Richmond and Road America. He also has 107 Xfinity starts with one win, 16 top fives and 34 top 10s.

Make donation to Martinsville toy drive to take laps around track

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Have you ever dreamed of making a lap around the oldest track in NASCAR?

Today and tomorrow, Martinsville Speedway is making that dream come true.

With a toy or monetary donation for the Grace Network of Martinsville and Henry County, you can drive your own car around the half-mile track in Martinsville, Virginia.

A $10 donation gets you five laps and $20 gets you 10 laps.

The laps are being held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET today and Friday.