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ISC cites absence of Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr., Tony Stewart as impacting admission revenue in 2016

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International Speedway Corp. cited the impact of Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart missing races as among the reasons for a decline in admission revenue last year at its tracks.

International Speedway Corp. reported its fourth quarter and yearly earnings Thursday morning in a conference call with investor analysts.

Gordon retired after the 2015 season but returned in 2016 after Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered a concussion and drove in select races. Earnhardt missed the final 18 races of the season. Stewart was injured before the season and missed the opening eight races last year.

ISC reported that its fourth-quarter admissions revenue was down about 9.3 percent from the previous year. The track hosted Cup races at Darlington Raceway, Richmond International Raceway, Chicagoland Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Martinsville Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Earnhardt missed all of those races. Gordon drove in only three of those events (Darlington, Richmond and Martinsville). Stewart competed in each event.

For the year, admissions revenue was down about 5 percent for the company.

“We believe several factors influenced the softened attendance of 2016,’’ said John Saunders, president of ISC, during Thursday’s conference call. “The impact of Jeff Gordon’s retirement was underestimated, which was compounded with Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. missing races throughout the season. The lack of activation from the outgoing series sponsor (Sprint) and the distraction of the presidential election season further exacerbated the situation.’’

ISC announced on the call that three of its 19 Cup races sold out in 2016 — the Daytona 500, Watkins Glen and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Saunders said that advance sales for the Feb. 26 Daytona 500 were at comparable levels to last year’s event at this time. ISC is “optimistic” the race will sell out again. 

Saunders also said that advance ticket sales for upcoming races at Auto Club Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway were “trending slightly ahead” compared to last year.

Saunders noted the impact on corporate sponsorship Monster Energy would have as new series sponsor for NASCAR’s Cup Series.

“It is important to note that 2016 was the last year of our revenue-included agreements between ISC and Sprint for various inventory and activation rights at ISC racetracks,’’ Saunders said. “These agreements were negotiated in the mid-2000s, pre-recession.

“While we currently expect to have similar agreements in place with Monster Energy, we anticipate the economics of the agreements will result in a reset for 2017.’’

Saunders estimates that ISC’s corporate sales will decline by 1 percent in 2017  “due to the reset.’’ Excluding the reset for the Monster deals, ISC forecasts a 1 to 2 percent increase in corporate sales.

In other items:

— Three of ISC’s 20 Cup races this year either have the event sponsorship open or yet to be announced.

— Three of ISC’s 14 Xfinity races this year either have the event sponsorship open or yet to be announced.

— Average ticket price for a Cup event at an ISC track in the fourth quarter declined to $79.92, down from $80.36 for the same quarter a year earlier.

— For the full year, the average ticket price for a Cup event at an ISC track was $90.12, an increase of 5.4 percent. ISC officials cited Daytona’s pricing as a reason for the increase.

— On new series sponsor Monster Energy, Saunders said: “We’re encouraged. Monster Energy speaks to a younger demographic, which is promising for us. … They’re all about fun and activation. … They’re thinking outside of the box, and I think it is going to bring a whole new live entertainment component to the Cup weekends.’’

— On the enhanced formats that NASCAR announced this week, Saunders said: “What we’ve seen from fans is overwhelmingly positive.’’

— For the full report for International Speedway Corp. go here.

— Also, Dover Motorsports Inc., issued its earnings report Thursday. Dover also reported lower admissions revenue. The company plans to spend about $300,000 during the first quarter of 2017 to remove portions of the grandstand. The company also announced that the closing of the sale of Nashville Superspeedway should take place in the second quarter of 2017. For more on Dover’s report, go here.

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Preliminary entry lists for Cup at Sonoma, Trucks at Gateway

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After a week off, the NASCAR Cup Series is back in action this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, just north of San Francisco.

Meanwhile, the Gander Outdoors Truck Series will compete at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis.

The Xfinity Series enjoys this weekend off before it returns at Chicagoland Speedway on June 29.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for this weekend’s Cup and Truck races:

Cup – Toyota/Save Mart 350 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1)

There are 38 cars entered for the race around the twisting road course in Napa Valley’s wine country.

JJ Yeley will make his second Cup start of the season, driving the No. 51 Petty Ware Racing Ford.

Cody Ware will be back in the No. 52 Ford for Rick Ware Racing.

Justin Haley will make his second career Cup start, piloting the No. 77 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports.

NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kligerman will make his seventh start of the Cup season in the No. 96 Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota.

Click here for the preliminary entry list.

 

Trucks – Gateway 200 (10 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

A total of 31 trucks are entered in this race.

There is no driver listed yet for the No. 0 Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing Chevrolet.

Camden Murphy makes his second start of the season, driving the No. 8 Nemco Motorsports Chevrolet.

Daniel Sasnett makes his second start of the season, piloting the No. 32 Reaume Brothers Racing Chevrolet.

Bryant Barnhill makes his first start of the season and second of his Truck career in the No. 34 Reaume Brothers Racing Chevrolet.

Kyle Benjamin makes his third start of the season, driving the No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet.

Following his Truck Series debut at Iowa, Chandler Smith will drive the No. 46 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota.

Christian Eckes makes his second Truck start of the season, piloting the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota.

Click here for the preliminary entry list.

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Five Cup or Xfinity drivers to compete in Saturday’s K&N West race at Sonoma

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Drivers in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will have some extra company in Saturday’s Procore 200 race (4:30 p.m. ET) at Sonoma Raceway.

Five drivers from either the Cup or Xfinity series will take part in the event:

* Driving for road course powerhouse Jefferson Pitts Racing, Austin Dillon will make his 20th career K&N Pro Series start, his third at Sonoma (first since 2015). In prior races at the road course, he’s finished 22nd and sixth.

* Also driving for JPR will be current Cup rookie Ryan Preece, who will be making his first career K&N West start and first race start at Sonoma.

* Daniel Hemric will make his first K&N West start and fourth overall series start (first since 2015 at Watkins Glen). He has also never raced at Sonoma.

* Xfinity Series driver Cole Custer will be making third series start at Sonoma (previous finishes were ninth and 12th).

* Lastly, Noah Gragson will be teammates with Dillon and Preece at JPR and will be making his third appearance at Sonoma, finishing second in 2016 and seventh in 2015.

The K&N Series has long had a history of having Cup or Xfinity drivers take part at Sonoma. Over the last five seasons, that has included Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola, William Byron, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Alex Bowman.

Appeal hearing for Niece Motorsports set for Wednesday morning

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NASCAR announced that the appeal for Niece Motorsports will be heard at 9 a.m. ET Wednesday.

The Gander Outdoors Truck Series team took the checkered flag first with driver Ross Chastain on Sunday at Iowa Speedway only to have the victory taken away when the truck failed inspection after the race.

Brad Moran, managing director of the Gander Outdoors Truck Series said after the race: “We have a procedures and rules in place, trucks are restricted on their ride heights at the front and rear of the vehicles. Unfortunately, the 44 (Chastain’s truck) was low on the front, extremely low.

“We have a process of what happens at that point. They do get an opportunity to roll around. They put fuel in the vehicle, they air the tires. Give them at least five to 10 minutes. Check them a second time. Unfortunately, the 44 did not rise on the front at all.”

The team stated it would appeal and blamed “minor damage during the event” for the truck being too low.

When NASCAR announced before this season that winning vehicles that didn’t pass inspection would have the win taken away, series officials also announced an expedited appeals process.

That will allow the appeal to be completed this week before the Truck Series races this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. Unlike other appeals, where a team or individual can appeal a penalty and then appeal again if they lose the first appeal, there is just one appeal hearing in an expedited matter.

Ross Chastain stands by team ‘100%’ as they appeal Iowa penalty

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Despite losing his win, a $50,000 bonus and almost all of the points he accumulated Sunday at Iowa Speedway, Ross Chastain is still “proud” of the dominating performance by Niece Motorsports in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race.

But that performance was taken out of the record books after the front his No. 44 Chevrolet was found to be “extremely low,” violating the ride-height rules. Chastain’s wins now belongs to Brett Moffitt.

“We stomped everybody’s tails out in Iowa and I’m proud of that and our Niece Motorsports team is proud of that,” Chastain said Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “SiriusXM Speedway. “A little technical hiccup there after the race isn’t going to take away the fact that we start started 19th, won both stages. We were able to drive past trucks. We never got passed once all day.” 

Chastain is credited with a last-place finish and only five points earned instead of 60, a major hit for his hopes of making the Truck Series playoffs after switching his points declaration from Xfinity after eight races in the season.

In the next six races Chastain must win once and be inside the top 20 in the standings to qualifying for the playoffs. Chastain has 43 points. He’s 69 points behind Josh Reaume, who is 20th in the season standings.

“It was a pretty incredible day and something I will never forget and I will not let anything take it away from us,” Chastain said. “No old rule that still is in effect that isn’t applicable anymore, but the rules are the rules, we understand that. But we still kicked their butts and I’m proud of it.”

Chastain affirmed that “I stand by my guys” after the penalty, which the team is appealing.

“I stand by everything we do,” Chastain said. “We have something pretty incredible, something I’ve never been a part of in the Truck Series, where you have a group of guys that pushes as hard as this group does and makes as much speed.

“At the end of the day everybody can talk about their guys working their tails off and all that but we have speed. That’s so hard to find. A lot of times you don’t know why you have it, but I know we have it and we’re only getting better and we’re only going to be stronger as we move forward. We’ve got more trucks coming. We’re building better pieces and putting them together better. So no, I don’t know what the deal is with the truck, but I’m behind them 100%.”

Chastain admitted he looked at reaction on social media, which included accusations that the violation was committed on purpose.

“I’ve got to say, man, in my opinion, I really don’t agree with it, thinking that we did something during the race, cars can be modified tremendously and illegally, I don’t agree with that and I hate that that stuff gets talked about because it’s just not the case,” Chastain said. “Anybody in the sport … knows that tech ride height is not indicative of how low the race car is on the sport. I wish that was explained a little better. I hate that the sport is in a point that people don’t understand the difference between tech height and dynamic height on the race track.”