(Photo by Dustin Long)

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

Leave a comment

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.

Friday 5: Could Jimmie Johnson score Most Popular Driver award in 2020?

Leave a comment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It would be easy for some to expect that Chase Elliott’s second consecutive NMPA Most Popular Driver award marks the early stages of a streak that could rival, if not top, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s record run of 15 consecutive titles.

But that would be overlooking some challenges Elliott will face.

One could come from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, who said 2020 will be his last full-time Cup season.

That gives him a final chance to win one of the few honors he’s never captured in his NASCAR career.

Johnson is the only seven-time champion not to win the Most Popular Driver award. Dale Earnhardt was awarded the honor posthumously in 2001. Richard Petty won it eight times, the last time in 1978.

If he couldn’t win an eighth championship, would there be a better sendoff for Johnson than to win the sport’s most popular driver award?

“There’s no award that Jimmie could or will ever win that he doesn’t deserve,” Elliott said Thursday night after the NASCAR Awards show at the Music City Center. “Whatever next year brings, I’m looking forward to spending it with him. It’s been an honor to be his teammate. If he gets the (most popular driver) honor next year, that’s great and I’ll be happy for him. There’s no doubt that he deserves it. You do what he’s done in this sport, my opinion, you can do whatever you want. Pulling for him. I’d love to see him get eight (championships). I’d also love to get one.

“Don’t write him off yet because I think he’s pretty fired up, and I could see him having a big year next year.”

Johnson had his fans early in his career but his success turned many off, who tired of the Californian winning so often.

Things changed before the 2016 championship race in Miami as Johnson prepared to go for his record-tying seventh title. He saw it as he went around the track in a pickup during driver intros.

“I usually get flipped off a lot,” Johnson said that day after winning his seventh title. “They shoot me the bird everywhere we are, every state, everywhere we go. I kept looking up and seeing hands in the air thinking they’re shooting me the bird again. It was actually seven. All the way around the race track everyone was holding up seven, and it just gave me goosebumps, like wow, what an interesting shift in things.”

Another key challenger for Elliott for Most Popular Driver is two-time champion Kyle Busch.

Yes, that is correct.

Busch finished second to Elliott in the voting for Most Popular Driver award this year.

It once seemed impossible that Busch would finish in the top five in any type of most popular driver voting, but his Rowdy Nation fan base continues to grow.

If not next year for Busch, there’s the chance his fan base could carry him to a Most Popular Driver award sometime in the future.

Wouldn’t that be something?

 

2. Gut-wrenching pain

The most emotional moment of Thursday’s awards show came when Kyle Busch turned to wife Samantha to thank her for her support and also console her for the multiple failures this year in trying for a second child.

The couple went through in-vitro fertilization to have son Brexton in 2015. They used that experience to create the Bundle of Joy fund to provide money to infertile couples.

Samantha Busch announced in Nov. 2018 that she was pregnant with their second child only to suffer a miscarriage eight days later.

Busch’s voice quivered as he revealed on stage the pain he and his wife went through this year.

“I read quote recently that hit home for me,” Busch said to Samantha. “It said: “The strongest people are not those that show strength in front of the world but those who fight and win battles that others don’t know anything about. I’m right here with you knowing how hard it has been to go through multiple … yes multiple failed attempts of (in-vitro fertilization) this year.

“To walk around and try to face people week after week is difficult for me always knowing in the back of my mind how helpless I feel in life knowing how much I wanted to answer your prayers and be able to give you a gift of our baby girl.”

Busch said he had talked briefly to his wife ahead of time about revealing their loss publicly.

“I think there was a lot of naysay and negative discussions about what my emotions where and who I was in the playoffs and things like that,” Busch said after Thursday’s ceremony. “Not everybody knows exactly what is going on behind the scenes. Focus on your own.”

Busch said he never felt the devastation from the miscarriages impacted his performance.

“There were certain times, maybe, in meetings and things like that that I wouldn’t say it affected but it obviously came across my mind,” he said. “As far as it comes to the race track, when I put my helmet on, I feel like I can zero that out and do a really good job of focusing what the task at hand is.”

 

3. Nashville momentum?

The fan reception in Nashville has those in the sport encouraged that this week can build momentum to have a race at Fairgrounds Speedway.

Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway, continues to lead the efforts for Speedway Motorsports to return NASCAR racing to the historic track.

But to do so, Caldwell and SMI officials will have to navigate through the city’s politics from the mayor’s office to the metro council and the fair board.

“We understand that it’s a new administration,” Caldwell told NBC Sports about Mayor John Cooper, who was sworn into office in late September. “We’re encouraged with the conversations that we’ve had with them and look forward to continuing those. I think we all see a bright future there.

“We all see that there’s a ton of potential at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway to create something that the city can be proud of, race fans can embrace and love, we can protect the heritage and celebrate that but also turn it into a venue that can be used 365 days a year.”

With NASCAR President Steve Phelps’ self-imposed deadline of April 1 to announce the 2021 Cup schedule, it would seem highly unlikely that negotiations can be completed in time for the track to be added to the schedule by then. Caldwell declined to speculate on timing “because we’re still in some conversations with the city to figure that out because there are a lot of moving pieces.”

Chase Elliott hopes this week shows city leaders the value of what a NASCAR race at Fairgrounds Speedway could be.

“Hopefully this sparks something in the city that allows the right people to make the right moves to come and race up here,” Elliott said, “because this place is too perfect not to.”

 

4. New cars for Bubba Wallace

Brian Moffitt, chief executive officer for Richard Petty Motorsports, says the team plans to have some sponsorship news in January. With the additional funding, the team will add new cars to its fleet for Bubba Wallace.

Even with the upcoming news, Moffitt said the team will still have some races available for sponsorships for the upcoming season.

Moffitt has high hopes entering the 2020 season.

“We’re going to be better right out of the gate this year in 2020,” Moffitt told NBC Sports. “We’re going to be right there with our partner (Richard Childress Racing) working with them a lot closer.”

Moffitt said the team anticipates having about half a dozen new cars by the first quarter of the season.

“We are going to have a lot newer equipment than we started (2019) with,” Moffitt said.

The challenge with that is that all the equipment will be outdated by the end of the season with the Next Gen car debuting in 2021.

“It’s still important in 2020,” Moffitt said. “We still have to perform for our partners. We want to be up there. It will help you prepare for 2021 coming out of the gate.”

Moffitt said the team also plans to add engineers and mechanics this season.

“We’re going to have some track engineers we haven’t had,” Moffitt said.

Wallace finished 28th in points last year, matching his finish in the points in 2018 as a rookie.

 

5. Pit road woes

Kurt Busch said a key area of improvement for his Chip Ganassi Racing team will be its performance on pit road. Busch said the team lost 120 spots on pit road.

“You can’t do that,” he said. “You’ve got to try to break even. You’re supposed to have a plus on pit road as far as spots gained. That’s where you’re going to see Gibbs … all those guys at Gibbs gained spots on pit road. We can’t lose that many spots at Ganassi on pit road.”

Losing spots on pit road can be related to when a crew chief calls in the driver to pit road, how quickly the driver goes down pit road without speeding and how well the pit crew performs.

“It just seemed like one pit road penalty led to a bad restart, a bad restart led to now the pit crew has to pick it up and get those spots back,” Busch said.

He noted how his season mirrored another Chevrolet driver.

“Our season was real similar to Alex Bowman,” said Busch, whose one win last season came in July at Kentucky. “Alex Bowman won at Chicago (in June) and then they faded and they were right with us in points all the way through the playoffs.

“Some of it was team. Some of it was me overdriving. Some of it was pit crew mistakes. The Camaro was a bit behind that we saw now at the end of the year with all those Toyotas in the championship 4.”

JGR teammates prank Kyle Busch with 30,000 pennies

Photo: Denny Hamlin
Leave a comment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. pranked Cup champion Kyle Busch by dumping 30,000 pennies on his bed as part of Truex’s payoff for losing a bet to Busch last month in New York City.

Hamlin, Truex, Busch and Kevin Harvick were all together in New York City promoting their appearance in the championship race in Miami. They were riding in traffic when Busch bet he could get to the hotel quicker by jogging. The other three took him up on it.

Busch arrived ahead of them and won.

Truex owed Busch $300 for losing the bet. Hamlin helped him come up with a creative way to pay it back.

Truex said on an Hamlin’s Instagram story: “It’s going to be fun to see his reaction. He’s going to be happy that he’s getting his money, I’m just not sure he’s going to be able to carry it home with him. We’ll see how this plays out.”

Busch didn’t know about the prank until Hamlin asked if he had seen Hamlin’s Instagram story.

“Took a look … and damn it,” Busch said after the banquet.

“I guess it’s in the pillow cases and everywhere. We’ll have to figure that out (how to remove them).

Asked if Truex was still good for paying off the bet that way, Busch joked: “He might get wrecked.”

 

 

What they wore on the red carpet …

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Before the show, drivers and their significant others walked the red carpet. Here’s a look at their outfits for the evening.

Kyle Busch, wife Samantha and son Brexton. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Kyle and Katelyn Larson. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

 

Kevin and DeLana Harvick (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Clint and Lorra Bowyer. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Joey and Brittany Logano.(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

 

Kurt and Ashley Busch. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott and Kaylie Green. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and wife Amy. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

 

Martin Truex Jr. and Sherry Pollex. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

 

Aric and Janice Almirola. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Daniel and Kenzie Hemric. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Chase Elliott wins Cup Most Popular Driver award

Leave a comment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott was selected as the NMPA Most Popular Driver in a fan vote announced during Thursday’s NASCAR Awards show.

It is the second consecutive victory for Elliott in the category.

“Honored to have two,” Elliott said on stage. “It’s really more than a trophy or award. It is about the people you see at the race track.”

Completing the top five in balloting: Kyle Busch, Matt DiBenedetto, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney.

It is the 29th consecutive year that either an Elliott or Earnhardt has won the award. Bill Elliott won the award 16 times.

“To have 18 awards going back to Dawsonville is, I think, pretty cool,” Elliott said of the Most Popular Driver awards he and his father have won. “Obviously, I think a lot of that is due to him and his career and what he and his family built. It’s certainly isn’t all me and what I’ve done. I haven’t done anything … compared to what they did.”

The last driver not named Elliott or Earnhardt to win this award was Darrell Waltrip in 1990.

Other award winners included:

The Bill France Award of Excellence, an award that is not given every year, was presented to car owner Joe Gibbs for his signifiant contribution to the sport.

The NMPA Myers Brothers Award for outstanding contribution to the sport was presented to Darrell Waltrip.

The Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award is Joe Vaughn, who has volunteered for nearly two decades, raising both awareness and funds on behalf of the Project HOPE Foundation, based in Greenville, South Carolina. The foundation’s mission is to provide a lifespan of services to the autism community to help families, open minds, promote inclusion and expand potential.