Long: Could NASCAR action come soon enough to help Michael Waltrip Racing?

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LONG POND, Pa. – The biggest race for Michael Waltrip Racing might be one without a defined finish line.

Amid the subtext of co-owner Rob Kauffman agreeing to purchase an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing, and with primary sponsor Aaron’s not stating if it will return to MWR after this season, is a push to give teams greater value.

Call it franchising, although the most popular word being bandied about the Sprint Cup garage is medallion. Think of it like a taxi medallion – a city-issued license to operate a cab and often viewed as a sound investment because of its scarcity.

Just how a medallion system – or something similar – might work remains a question to many in the Sprint Cup garage. And how soon it might begin is another key question. Some think it could start as early as next year. Others say it’s further down the road. Questions abound on how many teams would be covered. Would it be 25, 30 or 43? Will it be based on this season’s owner points or performance in recent years?

If anything can help provide value to a team, the sooner the better. For all the buildings, cars, and equipment teams have, their true value is in sponsor contracts. If those deals go away and can’t be replaced, a team could cease and have to sell its equipment.

“Yeah the only thing they’ve got is equipment, which is 10 cents on the dollar, and land and buildings and shop equipment and everything else, which is 50 cents on the dollar,’’ Kyle Busch said.

Busch was fortunate that when he quit running his Xfinity team after the 2013 season, it moved to Joe Gibbs Racing. That came two years after Kevin Harvick sold his Camping World Truck teams and his Xfinity operation moved to Richard Childress Racing.

Others have not been as lucky through the years. Former drivers Ricky Rudd, Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace saw teams they formed fade away when sponsors left, leaving them little.

That’s why the talks that have taken place behind the scenes provide hope to car owners that what they’ve invested could soon provide a return.

“It’s critical,’’ car owner Richard Childress said Friday at Pocono Raceway. “We’ve just got to have some long-term equity in these race teams and we don’t have it. NASCAR is aware of it, and they’re taking a deep look at everything.’’

Even for Childress’ success – six Sprint Cup championships – he’s had Chartwell Investments as a minority partner since 2003. The team first announced in July 2012 that Chartwell was considering selling its stake in the team. Chartwell announced in February it had retained a global investment bank to assist in selling its equity position.

While Childress talks about how important some sort of value for team owners is, Michael Waltrip has remained mum other than a statement this week about Kauffman’s intention to pursue a portion of Chip Ganassi Racing.

Clint Bowyer spoke on behalf of MWR on Friday at Pocono Raceway, saying: “There’s obviously change on the horizon and we’re going to have to work on the future and see what that looks like.’’

Bowyer, who reportedly could join Ganassi next year with the No. 15 team and Kauffman, said the focus for he and his team is on this season and making the Chase.

The quest for MWR is to stay around in whatever form possible in case NASCAR introduces a franchising model next year. That would provide value for MWR, which debuted in 2007 and is the only remaining original Toyota team after Bill Davis Racing closed in 2008 and Red Bull Racing left the sport after the 2011 season.

The hope among those in the garage is that a medallion system would create a value for a team so that an owner could sell their stake. Another benefit is that such a system could entice others to join the sport by coming on board as a partner. Additional money could improve the health of teams and ensure their viability.

“The sport is at a point,’’ Childress said, “(that) to be able to keep quality teams, NASCAR knows they’ve got to work in other areas to try to help all the teams survive.’’

That work can’t be completed soon enough for Michael Waltrip Racing.

 

Starting lineup for Talladega Cup race: Christopher Bell wins pole

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Six playoff drivers will start in the top 10 for Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Christopher Bell won the pole for the race Saturday with a speed of 180.591 miles per hour. He was followed by Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola and Chase Briscoe.

MORE: Talladega Cup starting lineup

MORE: Talladega Cup qualifying results

Playoff drivers starting in the top 10 are Bell, Larson, Hamlin, Briscoe, Ross Chastain (sixth) and William Byron (ninth).

Noah Gragson, who qualified seventh, is replacing Alex Bowman, who is sitting out the race with concussion-like symptoms.

Ryan Blaney, starting 19th, is the lowest playoff driver on the starting grid.

 

Christopher Bell wins Cup Series pole at Talladega Superspeedway

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Playoff driver Christopher Bell won the pole position Saturday for Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Bell, 11th in the playoff standings and below the cutline entering Sunday’s race, ran 180.591 mph to edge second-place Kyle Larson at 180.516.

Playoff drivers took six of the top-10 starting spots.

MORE: Talladega Cup qualifying results

The race is the second in the second round of the playoffs. Any playoff driver who wins the race will automatically advance to the next round.

Joey Logano leads the playoff standings.

Noah Gragson, replacing Alex Bowman, who is sitting out the race with concussion-like symptoms, qualified seventh.

The race (2 p.m., ET) will be broadcast by NBC.

 

 

Sunday Talladega Cup race: Start time, TV info, weather

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Sunday will mark a difficult crossroads for NASCAR. As several of its top drivers express serious concerns about safety, the Cup Series is at Talladega Superspeedway, the circuit’s biggest track and site of many massive wrecks over its 53 years of existence.

Adding to the tension is the fact that Sunday’s 188-lap, 500-mile race is the middle event in the second round of the playoffs. With a win automatically advancing any of the 12 playoff drivers to the next round, the final laps are likely to be frantic.

Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, NBC) will begin with Joey Logano atop the playoff point standings. Following him in the top eight are Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe.

Below the cutline are Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman. Byron fell below the line this week when NASCAR penalized him for bumping Hamlin under caution during last Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports has appealed the penalty.

Bowman will miss Sunday’s race because of concussion-like symptoms he has experienced after a crash at Texas. Noah Gragson will replace him.

Bell won the pole Saturday with a speed of 180.591 mph.

Details for Sunday’s race:

START: The command to start engines will be given by Jimmy Rane, president of Great Southern Wood Preserving, at 1:52 p.m. (ET). … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:04 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 11 a.m. … Driver introductions are at 1:15 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Barbara Embry, chaplin of Citizens Baptist Medical Center, at 1:43 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by the 313th U.S. Army Band at 1:45 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 188 laps (500 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 60. Stage 2 ends at Lap 120.

STARTING LINEUP: Talladega Cup starting lineup

TV/RADIO: NBC will broadcast the race at 2 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 1 p.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 1 p.m. … SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. High of 78. 5% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Bubba Wallace won last October’s race, which was shortened to 117 laps by rain. Brad Keselowski was second.

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Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway

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Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)