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Good news, race fans: few conflicts with NFL games during 2017 NASCAR playoffs

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For the most part, NASCAR and the NFL won’t butt heads in the same cities too much when it comes to the 10 NASCAR Cup playoff weekends this year.

The NFL released its 2017 regular season schedule Thursday night, and with a few exceptions, racetracks in or near NFL teams are fairly in the clear when it comes to going head-to-head against their gridiron counterparts.

The most notable matchup will come on Sunday, November 5, a date Texas Motor Speedway boss Eddie Gossage is probably cursing about now.

While TMS’s NASCAR race begins at 2 p.m. ET that day, about 2 ½ hours and 30 miles down the road in Arlington, Texas, America’s Team – the Dallas Cowboys – will play host to the Kansas City Chiefs.

One other conflict of note – more so because of sentimental reasons – is September 24, when the New England Patriots host the Houston Texans, while New Hampshire Motor Speedway will host its last fall race (its race date is being moved to Las Vegas starting next season).

There’s also October 1, when Dover International Speedway hosts the third race of the playoffs. And while the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins are on the road, the Baltimore Ravens have a big game against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here’s how NASCAR stacks up against the NFL during the 10-week NASCAR Cup playoffs:

Sept. 17 — Playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway – no conflict as Chicago Bears play at Tampa Bay.

Sept. 24 — New Hampshire Motor Speedway – moderate conflict – New England Patriots host the Houston Texans about 110 miles away. However, Pats fans who are also NASCAR fans may decide to skip the game to attend what will be the last fall race at NHMS for sentimental reasons.

Oct. 1 — Dover International Speedway – minor conflict – Baltimore Ravens host the Pittsburgh Steelers 90 miles away. However, other nearby teams play on the road: Philadelphia Eagles play at Los Angeles Chargers and the Washington Redskins play at the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 2 (Monday Night Football).

Oct. 8 — Charlotte Motor Speedway – no conflict – Carolina Panthers play at Detroit Lions

Oct. 15 — Talladega Superspeedway – minor conflict – Atlanta Falcons host the Miami Dolphins, but that’s about 110 miles and two hours away.

Oct. 22 — Kansas Speedway – no conflict – Kansas City Chiefs play at Oakland Raiders on October 19 (Thursday Night Football).

Oct. 29 — Martinsville Speedway – no conflict – (Carolina Panthers are at New York Jets, but Washington Redskins host Dallas Cowboys four hours and nearly 300 miles away).

Nov. 5 — Texas Motor Speedway – MAJOR conflict – NASCAR race starts at 2 p.m. ET, while Dallas Cowboys host the Kansas City Chiefs at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, at 4:30 p.m. ET (and 30 miles from TMS).

Nov. 12 — Phoenix Raceway – no conflict – the Phoenix Cardinals host the Seattle Seahawks, but that game will be held on November 9 (Thursday Night Football).

Nov. 19 — Homestead Miami Speedway – no conflict – the Dolphins enjoy a bye week (don’t be surprised if several players wind up at the NASCAR race).

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ISC cites attendance decline in recent Cup events; increase in some younger demographics

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International Speedway Corp. reported Tuesday that attendance was down about 7 percent on average for NASCAR Cup events at Phoenix, Auto Club Speedway and Martinsville, but officials are encouraged by increases in some younger demographics.

International Speedway Corp. owns 12 tracks that host NASCAR Cup events, including Daytona International Speedway. The company reported its first-quarter results in a conference call with investor analysts Tuesday. The first quarter covered only the Rolex 24, Daytona Speedweeks and the Ferrari World Finals.

John Saunders, president of ISC, stated that advance ticket sales for NASCAR Cup events at ISC tracks in the second quarter — Richmond, Talladega and Kansas — are down 7 percent.

“We’re seeing the rate of decline slow, which is good news,’’ Saunders said to investor analysts. “We’re just in this transition with new drivers coming online, younger drivers resonating with younger audiences. We’re very committed to the initiatives. We’re starting to see them bear fruit, particularly in the younger demographics.

“I would also point out that both in venue and on broadcast, for the first time, we’re seeing double-digit increases for the 18-34 (category). That bodes very well for us. Some bright spots there but a lot of work to do. We remain optimistic that we’re going to stabilize it and grow it from there.’’

Saunders highlighted some areas that have shown increases. He said TV viewership of the Daytona 500 increased about 5 percent from last year and was up 16 percent for males 18-34.

Saunders cited new series sponsor Monster Energy as helping increase the 18-34 numbers. Saunders also said the Daytona 500 saw an increase of about 5 percent in youth attending the event.

In other ISC matters:

— Saunders was asked if ISC is looking to move a Cup race from one track to another: “Currently, we don’t have any plans to realign a date from one facility to another.’’

— ISC stated that attendance and admission revenues were up for this year Daytona 500. The stands were sold out for a second consecutive year.

— The average ticket price for Cup events during the first quarter (Daytona) increased 3.5 percent to $165.

— ISC’s motorsports revenue in the first quarter was $103.5 million. ISC’s domestic TV broadcast and ancillary revenues were $62.7 million for the first quarter.

— ISC had a decrease of 1.6 percent in net admissions for its events in the first quarter of 2017 (Ferrari World Finals, Rolex 24 and Daytona Speedweeks)

— As of March, ISC states it had sold race entitlement sponsorships for all but three of its Cup events, all but two of its Xfinity events and all but one of its Camping World Truck events this season. At this time last year, ISC had not sold or announced entitlement sponsorships for one Cup and two Xfinity races. ISC expressed confidence at selling its race entitlements this year.

— ISC reiterated that it will spend up to $500 million on existing facilities from fiscal 2017 to fiscal 2021. Included in that is the Phoenix Raceway redevelopment, which is scheduled to be completed in late 2018, the first phase in development at Richmond International Raceway and other improvements at other facilities. The Phoenix project is expected to cost $178 million.

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NASCAR docks Brad Keselowski, Team Penske 35 points; suspends crew chief Paul Wolfe

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NASCAR docked Brad Keselowski 35 points, suspended crew chief Paul Wolfe three races and fined Wolfe $65,000 because Keselowski’s car failed inspection after finishing fifth in the March 19 race at Phoenix Raceway.

NASCAR also docked the team 35 owner points for the L1 infraction. NASCAR stated that Keselowski’s result is an encumbered finish.

NASCAR cited Keselowski’s car for failing weights and measurements on the laser platform. NASCAR stated in Wednesday’s penalty report that the team failed the rear wheel steer on the Laser Inspection Station. 

MORE: NASCAR suspends crew chief Rodney Childers one race

Team Penske issued a statement Wednesday:

“We have acknowledged the penalties levied against the No. 2 team following last weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.  The race cars returned to the race shop today and we are in the process of evaluating the area in question. In the meantime, we have decided Brian Wilson will serve as Brad Keselowski’s crew chief at Auto Club Speedway while we evaluate our approach relative to today’s penalties.”

The penalty drops Keselowski from second in the standings to fourth heading into this weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

The more significant issue is how this could impact Keselowski, who already has a win, in the playoffs.

The top 10 in points before the playoffs begin earn additional points. The points leader earns 15 playoff points. The driver second in the standings earns 10 playoff points, the driver third in the standings earns eight playoff points, the driver fourth in the standings earns seven playoff points. It goes down to the driver 10th in the standings earning one playoff point.

Those playoff points carry through the first three rounds, which is different from last year. Falling behind in the regular season – or losing points because of a penalty – could have ramifications in the playoffs. 

“I think it’s real important to explain why points matter this year,” Keselowski said on Fox Sports 1’s “Race Hub” on Wednesday night. “Last year, you got a win and you locked in and you got to the next round. This year with points, you still lock in with wins. The difference is there’s a huge points bonus for having the most points at the end of the season that carries all the way through the playoffs, and you only get that bonus if you’re one of the best cars and leading up front at the end of the regular season, which requires having a lot of points. Thirty-five points is a pretty big deal, and so is 10 points for Kevin (Harvick) and his team.”

 

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NASCAR America: Scan All from Phoenix Raceway

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After almost four years, Ryan Newman returned to victory lane in the NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday.

This week’s Scan All relives the best moments from the race at Phoenix Raceway through highlights and the best selection of team scanner communications.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. offers frank assessment on recent issues, NASCAR’s reaction and potential impact

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. questions what type of message NASCAR could be sending if it doesn’t further penalize Austin Dillon a week after not punishing Kyle Busch for swinging at Joey Logano.

Earnhardt made his comments Tuesday on his podcast, the Dale Jr. Download.

Earnhardt spent about 10 minutes on the topic, which branched out to how he would punish Dillon and NASCAR’s fluid enforcement of such issues through the years.

NASCAR parked Dillon after he pinned Cole Custer’s car against the wall in last weekend’s Xfinity race at Phoenix Raceway. Dillon retaliated for contact by Custer that wrecked Dillon. Custer apologized on the radio afterward and on social media. NASCAR is expected to reveal Wednesday if there will be any other penalties with the incident.

“This isn’t nothing against Austin or Kyle for that matter,’’ Earnhardt said on his podcast. “The only thing that I worry about really isn’t what the fans think about the penalties or to penalize or not to penalize, (or) whether the sponsors have a problem with their car getting penalized or not penalized, what I worry about is what do you want to happen in the future? Like next week, six months from now, a year from now.

“How do you want the next guy, the next driver that is in this situation, that is in Austin’s position, how do you want that driver to react? Do you want him to think that it’s OK to smash into this car?’’

A point that Earnhardt made in his podcast is that Custer is competing for the Xfinity points title, while Dillon is not.

VIDEO: When will Dale Jr. break his winless streak?

“Austin is a Cup regular in a series that is a privilege for the Cup regulars to run in,’’ Earnhardt said. “They’re limiting the opportunity for the Cup regulars in that series. It’s a privilege to be in that series, and I have an opportunity to run in it, so running into one of the regulars, I know you’re mad, should have probably punched him. Just don’t run into him.

“If punching is OK, obviously going and punching or karate chopping or karate kicking or roundhouse kicking somebody on pit road is fair game, but smashing into their car on the race track in between the flags has never been good.’’

Earnhardt’s comment was in reference to Busch’s actions after the Las Vegas Cup race earlier this month. After contact from Logano caused Busch to spin and go from a likely top-five result to a 22nd-place finish, Busch walked up pit road to Logano and swung at the driver.

Earnhardt also worries that if series officials allow drivers to be more confrontational, how that might impact younger drivers racing elsewhere with dreams of competing in NASCAR.

“These kids that drive these (Late Model) cars are usually as young as 13 years old, right?’’ Earnhardt said on his podcast. “Incredibly impressionable. If they’re seeing this on TV on Saturday and Sunday, they’re going to take that into their mind thinking that is how you do it, that’s OK, that’s acceptable. We don’t want these kids growing up with that mindset that, yeah man, I’m going to smash into this guy because I felt he wronged me.’’

Read more on Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt also said he would have a unique penalty for Dillon.

“You don’t have to go overboard on fines,’’ Earnhardt said. “Parking Austin wasn’t the thing to do. I would have probably fined him $5,000 and made him go do an appearance for an Xfinity race. Make him think about it during his out-of-market appearance promoting another Xfinity race, maybe next time he won’t do this. Plus, you get some free marketing out of it. You got a driver on the clock promoting the next race for free. It’s good for everybody.’’

If nothing else, Earnhardt said some sort of penalty would be good.

“Even if it is a slap on the wrist, at least it is sending a message that we really don’t want this to happen,’’ Earnhardt said. “I talked to NASCAR a little bit about this. Their position is that they don’t want a bunch of buddies out there racing around. They don’t want everybody all friendly and letting each other go and slapping each other on the back and all that stuff to the finish line. They want personalities. They want drama, but I think the drama belongs in between the flags.’’

But how NASCAR oversees the drivers has changed through the years, he admits.

“It seems like the sport goes through this ebb and flow of we’re going to let them have at it and let them do whatever they want, and then they flow into a couple of years of we’re going to penalize everything, we’re going to have a six-tier penalty system … and then it flows back to there’s too many penalties, we’re just going to let them do whatever they want to do.

“We keep cycling in and out of that, and we can’t really find some sort of happy, consistent medium. I don’t know. I’m disappointed when I see what happened with Kyle and Joey, and if Austin and all those guys, if some sort of repercussion isn’t delivered. It’s just disappointing.’’

Go here to listen Earnhardt’s podcast, which covers several other topics.

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