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Longtime sponsor OneMain will leave Elliott Sadler, NASCAR after 2016 season

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Only 16 races into his first year with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, Elliott Sadler felt as if his No. 1 Chevrolet team already was meeting every expectation.

“If you had a list of boxes you had to check for a season, especially for your sponsor, we feel like we have checked every box,” said Sadler, who is ranked second in points with 13 top 10s and a playoff-securing victory at Talladega Superspeedway. “It’s been a great season. We’ve won. We’ve been a part of the championship chase. We’re running good enough to be on TV and in contention to make something good happen every week. So from a competitive standpoint, it’s been awesome.”

From a business standpoint, though, the news wasn’t so good. The night before the July 1 race at Daytona International Speedway, Sadler received a call that longtime primary sponsor OneMain wouldn’t return for 2017.

For the Emporia, Virginia, driver, whose cars have carried the company’s colors for more than five years, the news came as a shocking blow – particularly given his results this season and JRM’s reputation as an Xfinity Series mainstay known for its innovative approach to digital platforms, such as its podcasting network.

OneMain was sold last year by Citigroup to Springleaf Holdings, and it isn’t unusual for companies to abandon NASCAR sponsorships after management changes. Dollar General, which named a new CEO last year, announced earlier this season it would be leaving the Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup ride of Matt Kenseth because of a shift in marketing priorities.

OneMain didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.

“I think they want to go in a different direction than what racing is,” Sadler said. “They didn’t share a lot with me other than that part of it.”

His team’s focus now shifts toward trying to win the inaugural Xfinity Series’ inaugural Chase for the Championship, which will begin in late September with Sadler firmly in the 12-driver field for the seven-race playoff.

Sadler, who has been friends with JRM co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. for over two decades, dating back to their days of racing Late Models together, hopes a championship would shore up his prospects for staying put. The 41-year-old, who made his first Xfinity start in 1995, believes this season has shown he is competitive enough to keep racing.

“The future is 100 percent uncertain with all this happening, but if I could get a blank sheet of paper and write down a wish list, it’d be to still race with JR Motorsports moving forward,” Sadler said. “It’s a great company, and off the track, they offer stuff no other team has with social media and digital consumption. Dale and I have been friends since we were teenagers, and that has made the season so special.

“We kind of looked each other in the eyes last year and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to win races with each other?’ We’ve done that. That’s what made the phone call so hard to take, but I’ve got to look at the flip side of it. There’s so many positives going on with this year, it was definitely sad to get that phone call, but man, we’ve got unfinished business. We’ve got to do a lot of little things to get where we need to win the championship. But we’re close where we need to be.”

In a statement, JR Motorsports co-owner Kelley Earnhardt Miller said the team wants to maintain three Chevys again next season. JRM also fields the No. 7 for Justin Allgaier and a No. 88 that is split between several drivers.

“Obviously we were disappointed to hear that OneMain will end its longtime NASCAR presence but understand their reasons and respect their decision,” she said. “We’ve enjoyed their partnership – they’ve been nothing but class – and will continue to work hard to win a championship with our No. 1 team and Elliott Sadler.

“As for JR Motorsports, our goal for 2017 is to continue to run three full-time teams in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Hopefully we can do that. This is a business, and sponsorship drives the business.  We’re already working hard to secure the funding we need to race three teams. I like what JR Motorsports has to offer. We’re as competitive as we’ve ever been, and we deliver value far beyond the track.”

That also has been a plus for Sadler, an affable driver whose knack as a corporate spokesman attuned to keeping sponsors satisfied has helped him race full-time in Xfinity since 2011 after a 1999-2010 stint in Sprint Cup.

CitiFinancial initially backed an Xfinity car for Sadler at Robert Yates Racing in 2005, beginning a relationship that grew into his current sponsorship deal. OneMain has followed Sadler to five teams in the past six seasons. He held the sponsorship with Kevin Harvick Inc. in 2011, Richard Childress Racing in 2012, Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013-14 and Roush Fenway Racing last season.

“It’s the way of the world sometimes,” Sadler said about the sponsor’s departure. “I’ve got so many calls and text messages from friends I’ve made over the years with OneMain that it’s pretty special to hear from everybody. But it was definitely hard when I was told of the news.”

With Xfinity drivers increasingly needing to have sponsor ties in order to land rides, Sadler said there is urgency to post results that will attract new business partners.

“The business model has definitely changed in our sport,” he said. “The drivers with the sponsors have a better chance of getting a full-time ride. We understand that. That’s what makes it so key to me these last 17 races. We have to run good and try to win races and end everything as good as we possibly can end it. We’ve got to go with a full head of steam here to November.

“We want to win that championship. The news coming out to me kind of put it in perspective. We’ve got to show up ready to race each week to keep our name in the middle of it, so we’re going to do it.”

Xfinity race results, point standings after Bristol

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Chase Briscoe led the final six laps and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol for his seventh win of the season.

Briscoe beat Ross Chastain for the win. The top five was completed by Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the race results.

Playoff standings

The 12-driver field for the playoffs has been set with Briscoe’s win in the regular-season finale.

Brandon Brown placed 12th and clinched the 12th and final spot.

Here are the re-seeded point standings entering the playoffs.

Chase Briscoe – 2,050 points

Austin Cindric – 2,050

Justin Allgaier – 2,033

Noah Gragson – 2,025

Brandon Jones – 2,020

Justin Haley – 2,018

Harrison Burton – 2,014

Ross Chastain – 2,010

Ryan Sieg – 2,002

Michael Annett – 2,002

Riley Herbst – 2,001

Brandon Brown – 2,000

Click here for the re-seeded standings.

Click here for the normal point standings.

Chase Briscoe wins Xfinity race at Bristol Motor Speedway

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Chase Briscoe took the lead with six laps to go and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which marked the end of the regular season.

Briscoe passed Austin Cindric to assume the lead and went unchallenged to the checkered flag. The victory is his series-leading seventh of the season.

“I was so mad after last week (at Richmond),” Briscoe told NBCSN. “I told all the guys there ain’t no way we’re getting beat today. I was so mad after how we ran last week and I get on the internet all the time and see guys count us out after one bad race and I know what this team is capable. … I finished second here the last two races and I wanted to win here so bad and it’s awesome that I can actually celebrate it with all these race fans.”

The top five was completed by Ross Chastain, Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

More: Race results, playoff standings

Allgaier dominated the early portion of the race, leading 126 laps and winning the first two stages. But he lost the lead for good in the pits during the Stage 2 break.

Brandon Brown finished 12th and clinched the 12th and final playoff spot.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ross Chastain led three times for 117 laps, but had to settle for his fifth runner-up finish of the season without a win … Austin Cindric earned his 13th top-10 finish in the last 14 races … Harrison Burton earned his 13th top five of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Brett Moffitt finished 27th after he had to pit three times in the opening laps and was penalized for taking fuel before the competition caution … BJ McLeod finished 34th after he was eliminated in a multi-car wreck that began when he made contact with teammate Jeffrey EarnhardtMichael Annett finished 31st and Joe Graf Jr. placed 27th after they were involved in an incident on Lap 120.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “I hit pit road and I wanted to cry.” – Ross Chastain after he finished second for the fifth time this year. He is winless entering the playoffs.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity playoffs open at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 26 on NBCSN.

 

Fans not allowed at Las Vegas races

Fans not allowed
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Spectators will be not be allowed for any of the NASCAR playoff races next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the track announced Friday night.

A press release said only essential personnel will be allowed to attend the Cup, Xfinity and Truck playoff races there.

“To say we’re disappointed that we will conduct the South Point 400 playoff weekend without fans would be a gross understatement,” said Las Vegas Motor Speedway President Chris Powell. “Our staff has been working – many of them remotely – since the February Pennzoil 400 to prepare the speedway for our playoff tripleheader.

“But we must adhere to Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directive that limits gatherings due to COVID-19.  While we disagree with this policy, we have no choice but to oblige.  We certainly regret this situation for the thousands of race fans who won’t be able to attend our NASCAR-weekend events.”

Nevada’s re-opening plan does not permit fans at sporting events, concerts. Groups are limited to 50 or fewer people.

The Las Vegas Raiders announced last month that they would not have fans at any of the team’s home games in its inaugural season there.

The Truck playoff race will be at 9 p.m. ET Sept. 25 on FS1. The Xfinity playoff opener will be at  7:30 p.m. ET Sept. 26 on NBCSN. The Cup playoff race will be 7 p.m. ET Sept. 27 on NBCSN.

Fans holding tickets for those events will be contacted by the speedway ticket services department to discuss credits for future races or refunds.

Pit crew change for Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson teams

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Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson each will have a pit crew change for Saturday night’s playoff race at Bristol.

The change is the result of an injury to one pit crew member.

Dustin Lineback, jackman for Bowman’s team is out with an injury, the team stated. Kyle Tudor, who has been Johnson’s jackman, moves over to that role for Bowman’s team. Eric Ludwig, a backup for Hendrick Motorsports, moves up to be the jackman for Johnson.

MORE: Saturday Cup race at Bristol: Start time, forecast, lineup

Bowman enters the elimination race 27 points ahead of teammate William Byron, the first driver outside a transfer spot to the second round. Bowman opened the playoffs by finishing sixth in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He followed that by placing ninth at Richmond. Bowman was collected in a crash and finished 37th in the May Bristol race.

Johnson, who is in his final full-time Cup season, seeks his first victory of the season. He finished third at Bristol in May.