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Dale Earnhardt Jr. has ‘some interest’ in being part of group that buys Carolina Panthers

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not one of two race car drivers who are part of Felix Sabates’ group seeking to buy the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, according to the Associated Press.

NASCAR’s 15-time most popular driver told the AP he hadn’t been asked by Sabates to join the group. But Earnhardt said he reached out to Marcus Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., about the possibility of being part of an effort to pursue the team.

SMI own Charlotte Motor Speedway and seven other NASCAR tracks.

“I said, ‘Hey, Marcus, if you guys are in the middle of it and you think it’s a good business deal, I definitely have some interest,'” Earnhardt told the AP. “But I am not one of the guys that Felix is talking about.”

Sabates, co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing, told the Charlotte Observer last week he was part of a local group in the Charlotte area seeking to buy the Panthers. Sabates said he is not in position to be the majority owner by a “long shot.”

Sabates’ group includes five businessmen, two of the team’s existing minority owners and two race car drivers, who Sabates declined to name.

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is selling the team after it was revealed in December by Sports Illustrated that four former Panther employees received “significant settlements” for workplace misconduct that included “sexual harassment against female employees and for directing a racial slur at an African-American employee.”

NASCAR recently denied a report that CEO and Chairman Brian France was part of a group interested in buying the team.

Earnhardt, a noted fan of the Washington Redskins, recently retired from Cup racing after 18 full-time seasons on the circuit.

“I wouldn’t have the kind of money where I would move the needle too much, but it would be something to have a lot of pride in, and a good Charlotte NFL team is good for the city of Charlotte,” Earnhardt said. “I wish them success because of what it does for our community, not only from a pride standpoint, but an economical standpoint. I wouldn’t be a big player, and it wouldn’t be an investment that would really create a big change in my life.

“But I certainly would love to be supportive to the team and the success of the team to the community. That means a lot to me.”

Earnhardt will make his debut as a member of the NBC Sports broadcasting family next month during coverage of the Super Bowl and winter Olympics.

NASCAR denies report Brian France involved to buy Carolina Panthers

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NASCAR issued a statement Wednesday night denying a report by a Charlotte TV station that NASCAR Chairman Brian France was involved with a group to purchase the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

In the statement to NBC Sports, NASCAR stated: “NASCAR denies the accuracy of the WCNC report. Brian France is not involved.”

WCNC, citing three unnamed, sources reported Wednesday that France is part of a group that wants to buy the Carolina Panthers with France becoming the new major holder.

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson will sell the team at the end of the season. This came after it was revealed in December by Sports Illustrated that four former Panther employees received “significant settlements” for workplace misconduct that included “sexual harassment against female employees and for directing a racial slur at an African-American employee.”

France has served as NASCAR’s Chairman since September 2003. He’s admitted to asking the NFL about its ownership structure in 2005.

The grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and son of Bill France Jr., NASCAR’s second president, Brian France raised eyebrows in Dec. 2008 at a motorsports marketing forum in New York when he said he didn’t anticipate leading NASCAR as long as his father did. Brian France explained his comments a month later, saying:

“This gets misunderstood whether whenever I say something like that, and it simply means that my father was 32 years the CEO and the president of NASCAR and ran the company. And all I said is that that’s not in the cards for me, and I don’t think it’s a smart thing for the sport. That doesn’t mean I won’t have a long run; I hope I do. I hope I’m doing what I’m doing — I really like what I’m doing, and I like working with the industry and the great group of people and Mike (Helton) and I side by side. So that should not be misconstrued. As long as we’re having fun and we’re making progress as an industry, then I would love doing what I’m doing.

“But I am 46 (in 2009), so I don’t think I’ll be 76 and still talking to you. That’s probably a — that doesn’t mean a short window, but it doesn’t mean 30 years, and that’s really where we are.”

France told USA Today in 2013 that when a group bidding on a Major League Baseball team called in 2010, he passed and hadn’t explored any opportunities to that point. 

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Chad Knaus lends a hand at Carolina Panthers game

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If you were Chad Knaus and you just won your seventh NASCAR premier series championship as a crew chief, what would you do next?

If you guessed beat a drum during pre-game of a Carolina Panthers’ football game, you’re right.

On Sunday, Knaus was a guest of the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium, where the NFL team was taking on the San Diego Chargers. Knaus was brought in to beat the team’s “Keep Pounding” drum prior to the start of the game. He was also given a jersey with his name and the No. 48.



Carolina Panther Greg Olsen named pace car driver for All-Star Race

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Greg Olsen, tight end for the Carolina Panthers, has been announced as the pace car driver for the Sprint All-Star Race on May 21.

The Panthers play in Charlotte, North Carolina, which neighbors Concord, the home of Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Olsen has played the last five seasons with the Panthers after being drafted by the Chicago Bears out of the University of Miami (Florida) in 2007.

“Since arriving in Charlotte I have developed a great admiration for NASCAR and their athletes,” Olsen said in a press release. “Their concept of teamwork and commitment to excellence is second to none, and I have a great deal of respect for the drivers and their teams. I am honored to be included in such an event, and I am looking forward to driving the pace car to kick off the 2016 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.”

Olsen, who wears the No. 88, is no stranger to NASCAR. He’s attended races in the past and has joined forces with Dale Earnhardt Jr. to do fundraising work through The Dale Jr. Foundation and The Greg Olsen Foundation’s “HEARTest Yard” campaign.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is buzzing about the Charlotte Hornets’ playoff run

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. was contemplating the impact of a Super Bowl win on Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s profile when his mind suddenly turned to another Charlotte franchise.

“If (Newton) wins in the Super Bowl, without a doubt, it’d be one of the biggest things in this city in a long, long time,” Earnhardt said. “So … don’t forget about the Hornets! We’ve got some good Hornets. Don’t forget about the Hornets.”

NASCAR’s 13-time most popular driver never does.

When Game 2 of the Hornets’ first-round playoff series with the Miami Heat begins tonight, it’s a certainty Earnhardt will be paying rapt attention.

His Twitter timeline is filled with updates about Charlotte’s NBA franchise, and he spent much of a media availability last week offering an unprompted and detailed analysis of the team’s prospects of winning its first playoff game in 14 years.

“The Heat lost a lot of good guys,” the Hendrick Motorsports driver said, referring to a team without star Chris Bosh. “I like our team if we can be healthy and stay healthy. If Marvin (Williams) can just keep playing and shooting 3s, it should be a lot of fun to watch them compete.

“They played well enough this year to get into a series they legitimately have a shot at winning, instead of being the eighth seed and getting swept. They haven’t won a playoff game since ’01-02, so it’d be great for them to be in the series and win it. It would give them a lot of excitement about the future, not just the rest of the playoffs but next year.”

Earnhardt, who frequently attends games at Time Warner Cable Arena, has been complimentary of the team’s chemistry under third-year coach Steve Clifford but worries about maintaining its core by keeping players such as impending free agent wingman Nicolas Batum.

“I know all those guys really like playing for Clifford,” Earnhardt said. “I hope they stick around. Batum, he’s real important. You don’t hear much about contract talks. You don’t hear much about his interest in staying with the city.

“But if they can keep the guys they’ve got, I love to watch them play. We don’t have to have a big guy, five-star player. I like the group we’ve got. They have a lot of fun playing together. And they’re fun to watch.”

Earnhardt, isn’t the only NASCAR driver with a strong affinity for the Hornets. Ty Dillon’s wife, Haley, is a member of The Honey Bees, the Hornets’ dance team, making the Richard Childress Racing driver a frequent attendee at games.