Indianapolis Motor Speedway

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 24:  The #01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost/Target Riley driven by Scott Pruett, Joey Hand, Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam races during The Rolex 24 at Daytona at Daytona International Speedway on January 24, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Should NASCAR run a Cup race on Daytona’s road course?

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Although talk has been that the October Charlotte playoff race could utilize the track’s road course, two Cup drivers suggest running a road course at another track.

Daytona International Speedway.

Ryan Newman and AJ Allmendinger both like the idea.

Understand that Newman has been outspoken about restrictor-plate racing, and Allmendinger, who tested the Charlotte road course last month, has raced on Daytona’s road course in the Rolex 24.

The Cup Series currently has two road courses on the schedule – Sonoma Raceway in June and Watkins Glen International in August. NASCAR has never had a road course race in its playoffs.

Newman says NASCAR should try the Daytona road course before running the Charlotte road course.

I think we should do it at Daytona in July first to get a taste for it,’’ Newman said Wednesday during Daytona 500 Media Day. “Put us on a race track as we are drivers, probably 70 percent have some experience with it. And put us in a position where we can do a litmus test for what that would be. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But I’m all for it.

“I’d rather go to a road course in Birmingham than go to Talladega in the Chase. And I’d rather, right now at least, run the road course in Charlotte than the oval, which we’ve already done twice that year.’’

As for Allmendinger, he’s not sure fans would be for running the summer race on Daytona’s road course.

“I mean, I like change,’’ Allmendinger said Wednesday. “I like the opportunities and obviously, I’m going to be biased toward it, but I will say the infield getting into Turn 1 it’s pretty tight. 

“Now Charlotte it was pretty tight as well. I think you could make it work, but I think it’s more… obviously, you are not going to do it for the Daytona 500.  And the Fourth of July race still has a lot of history behind it. So, I don’t know if fans would kind of take it as well just because of the history behind the Fourth of July race. 

“But you know what it comes down to, if they are looking at change and that is a change, then great. Whatever it takes to build more excitement into some of these races. Especially, during the summer stretch or like NASCAR talked about if it was for the Chase at Charlotte, just to change something up to bring some more excitement to it. 

“I look at probably the best road course to try it on would be the Indy road course. Being able to drive that race track before when I was in the Rolex cars. I think that would be a fun course to try it on, but if they want to keep adding road courses I’m okay with it.”

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Tide returns as primary sponsor of Matt Kenseth in three races

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The “Tide Ride” will return to the track this year with Tide serving as a primary sponsor of Matt Kenseth in three NASCAR Cup Series races.

Tide Pods will be on the No. 20 for the first Phoenix race (March 19), the Brickyard 400 (July 23) and the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Oct. 7). Tide will serve as an associate sponsor throughout the rest of the season.

After a long absence, Tide returned to the Cup Series with a retro paint scheme on Kenseth’s car at Darlington Raceway last season. Kenseth finished sixth in the Southern 500.

The Procter & Gamble brand has a long history in NASCAR. It sponsored Darrell Waltrip in the 1980s, Ricky Rudd in the 1990s and Ricky Craven and others in the early 2000s.

“I’m glad they expanded their role, I think it’s exciting for NASCAR and fans as well because they were such a common name in the sport for so many years,” Kenseth said in press release. “You always noticed that car on the track. I think getting it back on the track is pretty cool for the sport.”

Kenseth, entering his 18th full-time season in the Cup Series, will also be sponsored by DeWalt.

MORE: Cup Series Primary paint schemes for 2017

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Former Daytona International Speedway president John Cooper dies

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John R. Cooper, a former president of Daytona International Speedway, passed away Wednesday at 84, International Speedway Corporation announced.

Cooper served as president of Daytona from 1987 -1990. Previously, he had served as president and CEO of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, beginning in 1979 and until he resigned in 1982.

Prior to that, Cooper was involved in the national sports programs for the Coca-Cola Company for two years.

Cooper also served as vice president of corporate development for ISC until July 1994 while also working on ISC’s Board of Directors from 1987 until April 2003, before being elected director emeritus.

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France released a statement on Cooper’s passing.

“On behalf of NASCAR and the entire France family, I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the friends and family of John Cooper. John served in many motorsports roles throughout his life, including president of two of the most iconic race tracks in the world – Daytona International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But beyond any of his exemplary career stops, there was one role that was personally even more important – dear friend. John was a cherished confidant of both my father and my grandfather. My family has relied on his counsel – both personally and professionally speaking – countless times. We are all saddened by his passing, and will miss John dearly.”

Statement from Lesa France Kennedy, CEO of ISC

“The impact that John Cooper had on the International Speedway Corporation, Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR and the motorsports industry overall cannot be overstated. In addition to being a legendary voice of executive leadership, he also was a longtime friend and confidant to the France Family, starting with his close relationship to my grandfather Bill France Sr.

“John was one of only two people who have served as president at both Daytona International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway – and that represents only a portion of his career and achievements.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s family and friends. We have lost a cherished link to our industry’s past.”

Statement from IMS president Doug Boles

“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been blessed with strong leadership since Carl Fisher founded the track in 1909. John Cooper was one of those iconic leaders. As the IMS president in the early ’80s, John helped lead a new thought process in track promotions, while balancing the importance of history to IMS and the Indianapolis 500. His many experiences in racing and business made him one of the most knowledgeable and thoughtful resources in our sport, and I enjoyed and appreciated the time he would take to offer advice and counsel related to the operations of a race track. John always maintained his love of racing, especially the Indianapolis 500, and is respected throughout the industry. Here at IMS, his influence is still felt today and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Bryan Clauson passes away; Family thanks all for support

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 20:  Bryan Clauson driver of the #39 Sarah Fisher Hartman/ Curb Agajanian car waits to take to the track for the Indinapolis 500 qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 20, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Bryan Clauson, known for his driving prowess and illuminating smile, died Sunday from injuries suffered in a crash while leading the Belleville Midget Nationals on Saturday night. He was 27.

“Last night, the 7th of August, we said goodbye to our son, my fiancé, our friend, Bryan Clauson. He was surrounded by family and friends and we were grateful that we could experience his final moments with him,’’ read a statement from fiancée Lauren Stewart, sister Taylor and parents Di and Tim.

“Our Bryan fought to the end with the same desire that he demonstrated behind the wheel of all the various race cars he would park in victory lane. However, we were more proud of our Bryan that took a moment to make a young fan’s day, or demonstrated his uncommon kindness and appreciation toward his friends, family and fans.

“We would like to thank everybody who has shown their concern toward us and kept us in their prayers. We will never be able to truly thank you. We would also like to thank the staff at Bryan Medical Center who stood and fought with our Bryan since he arrived here early yesterday morning.’’

Clauson suffered severe injuries when his car encountered lapped traffic on the half-mile dirt track in Belleville, Kansas. He hit the wall and rolled several times before his car landed on its side and was struck in the cockpit by an oncoming car. Reports stated that rescue workers needed about 30 minutes to extricate Clauson.

He was airlifted to Bryan Medical Center West in Lincoln, Nebraska, and was listed in critical condition, according to an earlier family statement.

Clauson, a Noblesville, Indiana, native who began racing at age 5, sought to run 200 races this season, driving in winged sprint car, non-winged sprint car, midget and Silver Crown races. Saturday’s race was his 116th start. He had scored 27 wins, his last coming on Wednesday in a midget race in Beloit, Kansas. Clauson finished 23rd in the Indianapolis 500 —the third time he’s run that race — and won a 30-lap sprint car race later that night.

“I say a lot of times I have the best gig in racing,” Clauson told the News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Indiana, days before the Indy 500. “If I want to go run the Knoxville Nationals, I run the Knoxville Nationals. If I want to go run the Indy 500, that’s there too.

“I wake up every day excited to go to the race track. I don’t know any other way to describe it other than I am lucky to be in the position I am in.”

Clauson was a two-time USAC National Sprint Cup champion, two-time USAC National Midget champion, three-time Belleville Midget Nationals champion, 2014 Chili Bowl champion, won an ARCA race (Gateway in 2007) and also earned the pole for an Xfinity race (Daytona in July 2008). He drove 26 races in the Xfinity Series in 2007-08 as a development driver for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Clauson won the 2013 UASC National Sprint Car championship driving for Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing.

“That kid drove for us for a long time and did a great job,’’ Stewart said after Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Car race at Watkins Glen International. “I don’t care what happened, no matter how bad his day was, he always found a way to smile with it. Him and Lauren being engaged; kid had such a bright future.”

Clauson was invited to run some laps with Stewart and Sarah Fisher in a midget car on a temporary 3/16-mile dirt track built inside Turn 3 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month. Indianapolis Motor Speedway built the track as a thank you gift for Stewart, who is in his final year racing in NASCAR’s top series.

USAC President and CEO Kevin Miller said of Clauson’s death: “This is truly one of the darkest days in the 60-year history of the U.S. Auto Club. Not only have we lost one of our greatest USAC champions, we’ve lost a true ambassador for all of motorsports.”

Doug Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway said: “Short-track racing has always been the heart and soul of auto racing in America. Bryan Clauson combined his passion and enthusiasm for grassroots racing with a God-given talent that made him the favorite to win every time he got in a midget or sprint car. And he proved on the world’s largest racing stage – by leading three laps in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 – that he could use that talent in just about anything with wheels.

“More importantly, he possessed a humility and character out of the race car that made him a person that fellow competitors and fans alike enjoyed being around. His spirit, his positive outlook and his thrilling talent will be missed by the entire racing community.”

Clauson is survived by his parents, Tim and Di, sister Taylor and fiancée Lauren Stewart. Funeral arrangements are pending. A memorial service in his honor will take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at a date soon to be announced

In lieu of flowers, or to make a donation, people may direct their contributions to the USAC Benevolent Fund website at http://usacbf.org/cash-donation/ or checks should be made out to the USAC Benevolent Foundation in the name of Bryan Clauson. The address is 124 E Northfield Drive, Suite F #129, Brownsburg, IN 46112.

NASCAR America: plenty of positives at Chip Ganassi Racing

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NASCAR America reviews Chip Ganassi Racing’s performance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which shuffled the Chase standings in their favor, and previews the upcoming race at Pocono Raceway.