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Danica Patrick: ‘NASCAR makes a really big mistake of fining for some stuff’

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Danica Patrick wants her money back. Or she at least wants to know what it bought.

Fined $70,000 over the past 17 months for intentionally wrecking a rival driver under caution and tossing and walking onto the track to gesture at another, Patrick was asked Friday at Auto Club Speedway how she felt about Austin Dillon avoiding a fine for crashing Cole Custer under caution at Phoenix.

Give me my money back,” the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said. “I think NASCAR makes a really big mistake of fining for some stuff, especially something that happens in the car because it makes for good TV, just like fights and all that stuff.  We can handle it.

“I think it’s a mistake.  I might be speaking too much, but I’ve been fined a few times, and I think that it makes for good TV, and I think that we handle it out on the track ourselves.”

NASCAR has said it funnels the fine payments to the NASCAR Foundation, which supports several charitable organizations.

Patrick would prefer NASCAR avoid fining everyone but is curious about how the money gets earmarked.

“I would actually rather know what it did,” she said. “I would actually love to see like the playground that got built for it, or homeless people that got food.  I would like to see actually what the money does for fines because it’s supposed to go to charity, right?  So what does it really do?  I would like to see that.”

Daniel Suarez leans on Carl Edwards for advice on and off the track

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Daniel Suarez has been getting many tips behind the wheel from the man he replaced in the NASCAR Cup Series.

The rookie from Mexico recently got some tips from Carl Edwards for how to handle being in front of the camera.

Suarez, 25, is appearing in a commercial with Carl Edwards that will be shown during Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway, the first of four in which the No. 19 Toyota will be sponsored by Subway.

“We have a good time in it,” Suarez told NBC Sports in a phone interview Wednesday. “I’m sure (Edwards) will like it because he’s very, very cool.

“He’s not racing right now anymore, but he still is a part of this group, so I think it was something very important, because he’s been super helpful in the last couple of years in my career. I was just really excited to see how much work it takes to do a national commercial of 10 to 15 seconds. It takes a lot of work, and it turned out super great.”

Edwards, of course, has been one of the best corporate pitchmen in NASCAR since entering the premier series in 2004. (It’s unclear whether Edwards maintains a personal services deal with Subway; NBC Sports was unable to confirm it with the company.)

He stunned the racing world when he announced in January that he was stepping away and turning over his full-time ride at Joe Gibbs Racing to Suarez.

But Edwards, 37, hasn’t disappeared, providing pointers to Suarez during the race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway and in a February test session at Phoenix Raceway. Suarez said he and Edwards talk weekly.

“Oh yeah, we keep in touch,” he said. “Actually, even he’s not racing full time, he’s still helping me in a lot of different areas. Not just in the race car, but out of the race car as well.

“We have to remember that there is a team that I’m racing with right now that he’s known since last year. He knows these guys very, very well, and everything he’s done for me. So yeah, I keep in communication with him, and he’s been helpful trying to make all the communication and chemistry a good deal better.”

Suarez said he hadn’t talked with Edwards about what the future might hold. At Atlanta, Edwards seemed to keep all his options on the table for returning to race stock cars.

“He’s accomplished so many good things in the sport,” Suarez said of Edwards. “He’s got some other things he wants to accomplish as well. And that’s something we don’t talk about a lot. But you never know. He loves racing. Who knows? Maybe he comes back one day to do a few races.”

If he does, Edwards could be in the position of racing his replacement, who has struggled throughout his first four races in Cup. Suarez notched a seventh place at Phoenix after placing 20th or worse in his first three events.

“These cars are just more difficult to drive, and the competition is just tougher,” he said. “When you are off in Xfinity, you can run 10-14th. When you are a little off in the Cup stuff, you are 35th, 36th. It’s pretty different. To learn how to communicate with my crew chief and build that chemistry with my new engineers, Dave Rogers … We’re still learning so many different things, for sure. We’re in the right path moving forward.”

 

Kurt Busch files multimillion-dollar countersuit vs. former management agency SMN

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Kurt Busch filed a multimillion-dollar countersuit Friday in the U.S. District Court’s Eastern District of Michigan against Sports Management Network, which sued the NASCAR driver for $1.4 million.

Busch, who is demanding a jury trial in the counterclaim lawsuit, alleges that the sports management company and its law firm “improperly advantaged themselves” along with the interests of clients Team Penske and Andretti Autosport. The countersuit states that Busch wasn’t made aware of such conflicts and wasn’t advised to seek independent counsel.

Busch and SMN entered into a representation contract in 2005 that was extended Aug. 11, 2010 while Busch was driving for Penske (he previously was with Roush Fenway Racing). Busch drove for Andretti in the 2014 Indianapolis 500, finishing sixth.

The suit refutes the claims made by SMN last month that Busch was delinquent in his payments to the company since the second quarter of 2016. He terminated the deal in March 2016.

Busch’s suit states that he maintained an attorney client-relationship with John Caponigro of Sports Management Network and the law firm of Frasco Caponigro Wineman & Scheible “at all relevant times,” covering all matters and transactions related to Busch’s career.

Busch’s suit requests the court enter a judgment in his favor against SMN, FCWS and Caponigro for “millions of dollars to be proven at trial plus all such other relief that the Court deems just and appropriate.”

Busch is asking for at least $1.3M from SMN and Caponigro for compensation received from the driver from January 2011 to January 2016.

In a response to the countersuit, Frasco Caponigro Wineman & Scheible, PLLC, which is representing Sports Management Network, released a statement:

“Defendants’ allegations are outrageous and have no factual basis. It is a shame that, in an effort to avoid paying fees that are owed, Defendants instead have chosen to disparage the impeccable reputation of our clients who, for more than a decade, maximized Mr. Busch’s career opportunities, financially and otherwise, often during times when Mr. Busch’s conduct, both on and off the track, threatened his career.  We are confident that the court will see through what is nothing more than a desperate, diversionary tactic.”

The counterclaim states that SMN AND FCWS had “fiduciary, legal, ethical and contractual duties to act in Busch’s best interests” but breached their obligations and caused millions in damages.

SMN also represents NASCAR drivers Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney (both of whom are under contract to Penske), according to its website. It has represented other Penske drivers (such as Sam Hornish Jr.) in the past.

The lawsuit also revealed several details about Busch’s contracts.

When it entered into a four-year extension with Busch in 2010, SMN received a 4% fee of Busch’s base salary. That sum was $250,000, meaning Busch’s base salary for 2010 at Penske was $6.25 million.

The lawsuit notes Busch was due to make “considerably less” under future contracts with Phoenix Racing, Furniture Row Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing.

The lawsuit also refers to a two-year deal with Monster Energy for Busch from 2016-17 with an option for 2018, but it’s unclear if that refers to a personal services deal or team sponsorship.

Busch is represented in the counterclaim by the Detroit-based law firm of Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker, P.L.L.C.

Click here to see the counterclaim lawsuit filed on Kurt Busch’s behalf.

Dustin Long contributed to this report.

Drivers unhurt in crash of Furniture Row Racing hauler near Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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The drivers of the Furniture Row Racing hauler carrying Erik Jones’ No. 77 Toyota were uninjured Thursday in a hit-and-run accident 15 miles north of Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Travis Watts, who was behind the wheel, and David Shano were traveling from Phoenix Raceway to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, when their tractor-trailer rig was struck shortly after midnight on Interstate 15, according to a team release. The team said a car carrying two occupants pulled off the shoulder and back onto the highway directly in front of the truck, causing front-end damage to the tractor.

The team said there was no damage to the trailer or its interior, which was carrying Jones’ cars.

“We’re all very relieved no one was injured in the incident,” team president Joe Garone said. “There was substantial damage to the tractor, but everything in the trailer was checked out thoroughly and is OK. We’ve rented a tractor and the No. 77 hauler is on schedule to arrive at Auto Club Speedway later (Thursday).”

The team rented a replacement tractor at a Rush Truck Centers in North Las Vegas.

According to the team, the Nevada Highway Patrol apprehended and arrested the occupants of the car. The team is working to supply police with a video dash cam from the No. 77 tractor.

Aerodynamic changes announced to accompany restrictor plates for Xfinity at Indianapolis

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NASCAR is following one unprecedented move with another at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In the wake of the news that restrictor plates will make their debut at the 2.5-mile track for the July 22 race, NASCAR announced Thursday that it will equip the cars with “aero ducts” for the first time.

The ducts are designed to improve the airflow through the front wheel wells, theoretically enhancing the opportunity for passing on the flat track (which notoriously has been difficult to navigate for stock cars).

NASCAR also will use a taller spoiler and wider splitter (with the same dimensions as 2016) and the 7/8th-inch restrictor plate, which cuts horsepower by reducing airflow to the engine.

NASCAR tested the plates last Oct. 11 with Blake Koch (Kaulig Racing), Ryan Reed (Roush Fenway Racing) and Brandon Jones (Richard Childress Racing).

RCR director of competition Dr. Eric Warren said this week on SiriusXM Satellite Radio that the plate would need to be combined with some aerodynamic tweaks.