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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.”

Daytona road course entry lists

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NASCAR’s national series will make their debuts on the Daytona road course this weekend. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck events will be held without any practice or qualifying.

NASCAR is prohibiting drivers from competing in more than one series this weekend on the Daytona road course in an effort to get extra track time. NASCAR states that is to make the event fair for everyone.

Sunday’s Cup race will be broadcast on NBC.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for the races at the Daytona road course 

Cup – Go Bowling 235 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-nine drivers are entered for the race at the Daytona road course.

JJ Yeley is in the No. 27 for Rick Ware Racing.

Joey Gase is in the No. 51 for Petty Ware Racing.

Gray Gaulding is in the No. 53 for Rick Ware Racing.

Brendan Gaughan is in the No. 62 for Beard Motorsports.

Timmy Hill is in the No. 66 for Motorsports Business Management.

Reed Sorenson is in the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports.

Click here for Cup entry list

 

Xfinity – UNOH 188 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-eight cars are entered.

Andy Lally is back in the No. 02 Our Motorsports car after finishing fifth last week at Road America.

AJ Allmendinger, who finished second last week at Road America, is in the No. 16 for Kaulig Racing.

IMSA driver Earl Bamber will make his Xfinity debut this weekend in the No. 21 for Richard Childress Racing.

Brandon Gdovic will make his second start of the season, driving the No. 26 for Sam Hunt Racing.

Click here for Xfinity entry list

 

Truck – Sunoco 159 (Noon ET Sunday on FS1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered in the race that will be held before the Cup event on Sunday on the Daytona road course.

Alex Tagliani will drive the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Click here for Truck entry list

Silly Season Scorecard: Christopher Bell moves back to JGR

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No surprise that Christopher Bell moves over to the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing next season with Leavine Family Racing being sold and Erik Jones not remaining with JGR beyond this season. Joe Gibbs Racing made the announcement Monday.

While JGR lets the 24-year-old Jones, who has 133 Cup starts go, it brings in the 25-year-old Bell who has made 22 career Cup starts. Jones said before Sunday’s race he was “blindsided a little bit” by JGR’s move.

It’s part of the building momentum of Silly Season. In the last week, Team Penske signed Brad Keselowski to a reported one-year extension and Bubba Wallace said he has an offer for next year not only from Richard Petty Motorsports but also Chip Ganassi Racing.

Here’s how the Cup Silly Season scorecard looks as of Aug. 10.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said in a press conference Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through at least 2021.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 10: Aric Almirola is in a contract year at Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon is in a contract year at Germain Racing.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto is in a contract year at Wood Brothers Racing. He said after the Aug. 9 Michigan race: “I haven’t really talked about that stuff for next year yet, but we’ve just been so focused and head down on digging and trying to make the playoffs and run well. We haven’t even really talked about it, so, hopefully, I stay here for a very long time to come and that’s what they had expressed to me when I came over here.”

No. 32: Corey LaJoie is in a contract year at Go Fas Racing.

No. 42: Matt Kenseth told NBC Sports on Aug. 8 in regards to talks with Chip Ganassi Racing for next year: “We really haven’t had any very meaningful discussions really about any of that to be honest with you.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace said Aug. 9 he has an offer from Richard Petty Motorsports and an offer from Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 42 car next season.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Leavine Family Racing announced it was selling its assets earlier this week. The buyer has not been announced. Christopher Bell will move to the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team for 2021.

Christopher Bell to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021

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Christopher Bell will drive for the No. 20 next season for Joe Gibbs Racing, the team announced Monday, a decision that was expected with Erik Jones’ contract expiring after this season and it not being renewed. 

“I’m so appreciative of the opportunity I have this year with LFR and I want to finish this season strong for Bob (Leavine) and everyone there,” Bell said in a statement from the team. “At the same time, I’m extremely excited to return to Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 2021. It’s an organization I’m very comfortable with and have had a lot of success with.”

Said car owner Joe Gibbs: “We are excited to bring Christopher into our Cup Series program starting in 2021. He obviously had tremendous success in the Xfinity Series with us and we look forward to his return to JGR.”

Bell drove for JGR in in the Xfinity Series in 2018 and 2019, winning 15 races, before moving to the Cup Series and Leavine Family Racing this season. Leavine Family Racing announced last week that it has been sold.

Entering Sunday’s race at the Daytona International Speedway road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC), Bell is 19th in points. His best finish this season is fourth at the first Pocono race in late June.

Xfinity playoff grid after Road America

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Brandon Brown extended his hold on the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid last weekend at Road America after struggles early in the race.

Brown needed to be pushed back to pit road before the field took the green because of a mechanical issue. He fell a lap down as his crew diagnosed the issue, got his lap back, scored four stage points in the second stage and finished 12th, one spot off his best career finish on a road course.

MORE: Brandon Brown wants to reward father with a special celebration

MORE: Austin Cindric wins at Road America 

Brown’s effort and Jeremy Clements misfortune in being collected in a crash to finish 29th led to Brown extending his lead on Clements for the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid to 53 points. Myatt Snider is 73 points behind Brown. Eight races remain until the Xfinity playoffs begin Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Here is a look at the playoff grid. Drivers shaded in green are locked in the playoffs. Those shaded in yellow are in a playoff spot based on their point total. Drivers shaded in red are outside a spot in the Xfinity playoff grid.