(Photo by Dustin Long)

A look at this season’s primary sponsors for Sprint Cup teams

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With the NASCAR Sprint Cup season nearing, some teams have secured primary sponsorship for their cars for the year.

Things will look nearly the same as last year for some cars. For others, there will be a new look such as Nature’s Bakery sponsoring Danica Patrick for 28 races and NAPA joining Chase Elliott at Hendrick Motorsports for 24 races.

Here’s a look at the primary sponsors this season for teams that had at least one car in the top 25 a year ago (some teams provided the number of races for each primary sponsor):

JOE GIBBS RACING

Winning the championship with Kyle Busch, in one way, didn’t impact sponsorship. Dave Alpern, chief marketing officer for Joe Gibbs Racing, said primary sponsorship already was sold for all the races on that car before this season.

A championship has meaning in other ways, though.

“Many of our sponsors like to say, ‘Big brands do big things,’ ’’ he said. “The more championships that you win and the more races you win, you solidify yourself as a premier brand. I think Kyle winning the championship rises the tide for everyone on our team.’’

Alpern said that JGR is sold out with its primary sponsorships for all of its cars.

Busch’s car will have primary sponsorship from Mars Brands, which includes M&M’s, Skittles and Pedigree Dog Food. Busch also will have primary sponsorship from Interstate Batteries.

Carl Edwards’ car will have primary sponsorship from Arris, Comcast, Stanley Tools and Subway.

Denny Hamlin’s car will have primary sponsorship from FedEx and Sport Clips.

Matt Kenseth’s car will have primary sponsorship from Dollar General and DeWalt.

STEWART-HAAS RACING

Nature’s Bakery will begin its first season as a primary sponsor for Danica Patrick, while Busch Beer will serve as the primary sponsor in place of Budweiser for 12 races for Kevin Harvick.

Tony Stewart has all his primary sponsors back for his final season in the Cup but looking to fill in some gaps left from Bass Pro Shops taking several of its races to Martin Truex Jr.

Kurt Busch will have primary sponsorship from Monster Energy and Haas Automation this season.

Here’s a look at the sponsorship for each team:

Danica Patrick

28 races with Nature’s Bakery

4 races with Aspen Dental

4 races with Tax Act

2 races sold but TBA

Kevin Harvick

21 races with Jimmy John’s (including Daytona qualifying race)

12 races with Busch or Busch Light

2 races with ditech

2 races with Outback

2 races with Mobil 1

Tony Stewart

(Number of races per sponsor unavailable)

Mobil 1

Bass Pro Shops

Rush Truck Centers

Code 3 Associates

Kurt Busch

20 races with Haas Automation (includes Daytona qualifying race)

18 races with Monster Energy (includes Sprint Unlimited & Sprint All-Star race)

1 race with State Water Heaters

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS

Primary sponsorship for the cars of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson are sold. Primary sponsorship for Kasey Kahne and rookie Chase Elliott nearly are.

Here’s a look at how many races each driver will have with each primary sponsor:

Kasey Kahne

12 races with Farmers Insurance

10 races with Great Clips

3 races with LiftMaster

3 races with Quicken Loans

2 races with Panasonic

1 race with Mountain Dew

Chase Elliott

24 races with NAPA

5 races with 3M

2 races with Kelley Blue Book

2 races with Mountain Dew

Jimmie Johnson

38 races (36 points and 2 non-points races) with Lowe’s and affiliates

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

21 races with Nationwide

13 races with Axalta

3 races with Mountain Dew

1 race with TaxSlayer.com

FURNITURE ROW RACING

The focus is on finding additional sponsorship for Martin Truex Jr.’s team so the organization can expand to a two-car effort next season.

The team announced earlier this month that Bass Pro Shops would serve as a primary sponsor for eight points races and the qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway. Furniture Row, which is owned by team owner Barney Visser, will continue to serve as the primary sponsor on Truex’s car.

TEAM PENSKE

Primary sponsorship for the cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are both sold, the team reports. Car owner Roger Penske has established long relationships with some of his sponsors, so the lineup on each car does not look different from last year.

Brad Keselowski

24 races with Miller Lite (includes All-Star race)

8 races with Alliance Truck Parts

3 races with Wurth

2 races with AutoTrader

1 race with SKF (Sprint Unlimited)

Joey Logano

33.5 races with Shell Pennzoil

3 races with AAA

1.5 races with AutoTrader (co-primary with Shell Pennzoil for one race)

RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING

The team has some spots available heading into the season but Ben Schlosser, chief marketing officer for Richard Childress Racing, notes that they’re “in really good shape” with their Sprint Cup teams.

Paul Menard has backing from Menards and various companies affiliated with Menards. Schlosser says that primary sponsorship on Austin Dillon’s car is “essentially full’’ with Dow, Cheerios, American Ethanol and Bass Pro Shops back. While Quicken Loans moved from Ryan Newman’s team to Hendrick Motorsports and Kasey Kahne, Schlosser said RCR is looking at other companies to fill in those spots. Newman again will have backing from Caterpillar, WIX and Grainger.

CHIP GANASSI RACING WITH FELIX SABATES

Jamie McMurray’s team will continue to have McDonald’s and Cessna as primary sponsors. Steve Lauletta, president of Chip Ganassi Racing, said that the team is looking to announce a new multirace partner before Daytona and that a couple of late-season races remain available on McMurray’s car.

Target is again back with Ganassi as a full-season sponsor — the company has been with Ganassi’s organization since 1990 — and will be the primary sponsor on Kyle Larson’s car. There will be some races where Target won’t be the primary sponsor, but it will be with a company affiliated with Target.

HSCOTT MOTORSPORTS

The team continues to look for sponsorship on its cars. Clint Bowyer will have 5-hour Energy as his primary sponsor in 24 races. The team also previously announced Peak and Blue DEF will be primary sponsors for two races and will have Visine for three races.

Bowyer’s teammate, Michael Annett, will have Pilot Flying J back as primary sponsor.

RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS

Primary sponsorship is filled on Aric Almirola’s car, while Brian Scott’s car has 12 races to fill, according to Brian Moffitt, chief executive officer at Richard Petty Motorsports.

Smithfield increased the number of races it is on Almirola’s car from 29 to 31 this season. Talks continue with some companies that have been with the organization in moving up to a primary sponsorship role on Scott’s car.

“There are a lot of conversations happening right now with corporations,’’ Moffitt said. “There’s an interest with being in NASCAR.’’

Aric Almirola

31 races with Smithfield

2 races with STP

2 races with U.S. Air Force

1 race with Fresh from Florida

Brian Scott

16 races with Shore Lodge/Albertsons

3 races with Twisted Tea

2 races with Goody’s

TBD races with GoBowling.com

ROUSH FENWAY RACING

Two teams will have a familiar look this season with sponsorship. AdvoCare is back as the primary sponsor for Trevor Bayne. Fastenal again will be the anchor primary sponsor for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with Fifth Third Bank and Zest on for select races.

The organization announced recently a multirace partnership with KFC for Greg Biffle’s car. His car also will be sponsored by Kleen Performance Parts and Cheez-It. The team is fielding interest from other potential sponsors.

JTG DAUGHERTY RACING

The team is close to selling all its primary sponsorship for the season for A.J. Allmendinger’s car.

JTG Daugherty will have The Kroger Company and its various brands serve as a co-primary sponsor in 23 races.

Longstanding partners Kingsford, Clorox, Bush’s Beans, Scott Products and Hungary Jack are all set to be on the car as a primary sponsor at times.

GERMAIN RACING

Geico is back as sponsor of the No. 13 car for Casey Mears. The company is with the team through 2018.

NASCAR America at 6 p.m. ET: Las Vegas recap

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will look back at the weekend’s racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Steve Letarte will be joined by Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

After Las Vegas incidents, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson look for Richmond rebound

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Sunday’s NASCAR Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas leaves Chip Ganassi Racing with a mixed bag of potential strategies to develop heading into the next race, this Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

Kurt Busch, the first NASCAR playoff champion in 2004, was involved in a wreck at Vegas with eventual race winner Martin Truex Jr. on Lap 189 that knocked him out of the event, ending with a last-place finish of 39th.

We were trying to go for the same spot in the middle, it wound up four-wide, got a fender rub and our day’s done,” Busch told NBCSN after he left the medical center. “It just happened that fast. Everyone wants to try to get to the middle and that’s where you make up the most spots and Truex and I were going for the same piece of real estate.”

As a result of the poor finish, Busch finds himself in 14th place among the 16 playoff contenders, a distant 63 points behind points leader Truex Jr.

How Busch rebounds at Richmond will go a long way toward determining whether he will advance to the Round of 12 following the Roval elimination race at Charlotte in two weeks. Busch is currently 14 points behind 12th-ranked Aric Almirola, but he is also only 12 points ahead of 16th-ranked Erik Jones.

There’s no question Busch is in need of a big comeback at Richmond, a track that he has had decent success at, including two wins (last time was in spring 2015), seven top five and 15 top-10 finishes in 37 career Cup starts there.

A win would immediately wipe out the Las Vegas nightmare and push Busch into Round 2.

And then there’s teammate Kyle Larson, who had a car that looked like it could challenge for the win at Vegas. But a costly pit road penalty — a behind-the-wall crew member trying to grab tires back over the wall slipped, touching the ground on pit road — pushed Larson back and he wound up playing catch-up the rest of the race. He settled for an eighth-place finish that potentially could have been a top five showing had it not been for the penalty.

Our car was better than what I thought it was going to be,” Larson said. “We were able to battle up front there in the second stage. Then, we had the pit road penalty and had to come from the back.

The restarts were crazy and I was just being safe. It probably cost us a little bit, but we still got a top-10 out of the day and some decent stage points. So, all-in-all, it wasn’t a bad day.”

Busch has one win this season, while Larson is still looking for his first.

Our cars have definitely been good enough to win, we just have to put the whole races together at this point,” Larson said. “We want to win. We’ll keep working at it and hopefully we can knock one out before the season is over.”

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Best of the rest: How non-playoff drivers did in Las Vegas

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The Cup playoffs began Sunday night in Las Vegas, and the playoff drivers made their presence known by occupying every spot in the top 10.

But what about the rest?

The first 16 spots were not filled by the 16 playoff drivers. In fact, playoff drivers only made up 13 positions in the top 20.

Here’s a look at the top-finishing drivers who are not contending for the championship:

Jimmie Johnson – finished 11th

With him not participating in the playoffs for the first time in his career, the spotlight wasn’t focused on Johnson very often Sunday.

But the Hendrick Motorsports driver finally put together his first complete run six races into Cliff Daniels’ tenure as his crew chief.

It was their first race together to not be involved in some sort of incident and it saw Johnson earn his first top-15 finish with Daniels. It’s only his second top 15 in the last nine races.

Austin Dillon – Finished 12th

The Richard Childress Racing driver earned his second straight 12th-place finish and his third consecutive finish of 12th or better.

He’s earned a top-15 finish in four of the last five races. That’s after only having one in a 12-race stretch.

Dillon also finished sixth in Stage 1.

“When the caution came out on Lap 180, we pitted to take another swing at loosening up this Chevy,” Dillon said. “Unfortunately, we had an uncontrolled tire penalty but it did allow us to come back down pit road to top off with fuel and adjust on the car more. We got the car better and made a good strategy to stay out for track position during a late caution to pick up additional spots.”

Paul Menard – Finished 14th

Menard took part in his first race since announcing last week that he would retire from full-time competition after this season.

The Wood Brothers Racing driver kicked-off his final 10 races for the team with his sixth top-15 finish in the last nine races. He finished outside the top 15 just once in his last 11 starts at Las Vegas.

Ty Dillon – finished 16th

The Germain Racing driver earned his best finish at Las Vegas in five starts (previous was 24th).

Dillon has finished 20th or better in six of the last nine races.

Daniel Hemric – finished 17th

The rookie driver earned a top-20 finish after two straight DNFs for wrecks. He has only three top 20s in the last nine races.

“Our handling balance would swing a lot from being really tight and then halfway through the run it was like a light switch and I would get super, super loose,” Hemric said. “We got that better throughout the race and back to where I could run more throttle, which allowed us to move forward into the top 10 and be more aggressive on restarts and make some hay during those time. On that last green flag stop we just got a little too free to where I couldn’t make the most time coming off pit road and just struggled a bit on that last run.”

Chris Buescher – finished 18th

The JTG Daugherty Racing driver extended his streak of finishes inside the top 18 to 16 races. The streak began at Kansas Speedway on May 11.

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Brad Keselowski rebounds to ‘steal’ third-place finish in playoff opener

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Usually when you see a race car on pit road with its hood up in the middle of a race, it’s a sign that a team’s race is over or will be soon.

It’s not typically a prelude to a third-place finish.

But that’s what happened to Brad Keselowski in Sunday’s Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The adjustments made to his No. 2 Ford on pit road during the Stage 2 break, including adjustments to the front suspension, helped cure what was a “miserable” first 160 laps for Keselowski.

“Nothing I was doing was working,” Keselowski told NBCSN after his top-five finish. “We were losing spots to everybody out there.”

Keselowski, the race’s defending winner, qualified 18th. But while his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano went from 22nd to first in 34 laps, Keselowski was “just kind of bleeding positions.”

“I am disappointed we didn’t start the race any better than we did but very proud that we didn’t freak out and everyone kept their head on their shoulders,” Keselowski said.

After Stage 2, Keselowski pitted from 13th. He would pit twice under the caution before the start of the final stage.

“The team worked on it really hard there and got us back to a spot to where we could kind of almost steal a win,” Keselowski said. “I thought for a minute we might be able to.”

Keselowski thought if he had gained one or two spots on the final restart with 71 laps to go, he might have been the winner instead of Martin Truex Jr.

Instead, “we kind of stole a third place today,” Keselowski told NBCSN. “I guess I can’t complain. … Decent recovery, great fight. That’s kind of what these playoffs are about. Minimizing your bad days. That’s what we were able to do.”

Keselowski’s finish is his ninth straight top 10 at Las Vegas. He hasn’t finished worse than seventh on the 1.5-mile track since 2012.