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NASCAR Chairman Brian France discusses sport’s future, young drivers, series sponsor

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HOMESTEAD, Florida — NASCAR Chairman Brian France praised Monster Energy for what it has done in its first season as the sponsor of the Cup Series and said that “we’re very pleased with where that relationship is.’’

As for if Monster Energy is expected to renew as title sponsor beyond 2018, NASCAR President Brent Dewar said: “We work on those things all the time.’’

France, speaking to the media before Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, noted the challenges with a new sponsor.

“This is only the first year and there are always growing pains, but as I said earlier, we’re thrilled,’’ France said. “The promises they’ve made, they’ve kept, with the young demo, edgy shows, edgy marketing, putting our drivers in different places in different light. That’s what we want. They’ve delivered on that. 

“And like anything else, I think it will get better as they ‑‑ this is also a hard program. It’s a complicated program. It’s the best program, but to execute across all these platforms, it’s a big, big sport. There’s nothing like it, so you don’t get an opportunity to just go, well, we’ll do it like that guy did it or this guy does it over here because nobody can have, today anyway, in a major sports league, an entitlement position like this, so it’s a great program, but it ‑‑ and I think it will get better next year.’’

France and Dewar spoke on several other topics Sunday. Here’s what he said:

On race lengths:

Dewar:  “Race lengths, which interestingly we got a great research and analytics group, and you’ll love this, we asked these things, and one-third like them exactly the length they are, one-third want them to be longer, and one-third want them to be shorter.  So it’s unanimous that they love racing, and so ‑‑ but that’s part of what we work with the track partners, the race teams and the broadcast partners to find that optimal distance so we have the right show.’’

On drivers not being able to continue because of lack of sponsorship:

France: “The reality is, as Brent said a minute ago, Matt (Kenseth) has had a long 20‑year plus career.  That’s unthinkable in most sports, and he’s performed at a high level.  We’ll wish him well, but he may be back, too.  He’ll have to get the right opportunity for him.

“And the rest of it is a performance sport.  If it’s difficult for anybody ‑‑ this is not picking on any one driver, but if you’re not performing at a high level, it may be difficult for you to stay in this sport.  It will be difficult for you to stay in the sport, for any driver.  That’s not picking on anybody.

“I think for those reasons, that’s where we’re at.’’

On the young drivers in the sport:

France: “They are here, and they’ve got to develop their performance, but they’re doing well. You look at Ryan Blaney, you look at Chase (Elliott) almost making the final here in Miami. Go down the list. We’ve got a loaded group. But it’s true, we’re in a transition, too. But that happens from time to time. Not usually in the concentrated manner that we have now, but it happens. But we’re excited. We’ve got a great, great bunch of ‑‑ 19, 20, and they’re talented, so we’re in good shape.’’

On his biggest worry in NASCAR:

France: “Well, I’m really more optimistic right now, and I know you may expect me to say that, but we’ve made the transition largely. We’ve gotten the council meetings going. We’ve gotten charters in position so we can get our interests aligned more closely with drivers, OEMs and the charters and the team owners. We have the young drivers already in place. We’d like a couple more, of course. We’ve got some diversity with Bubba Wallace going in the 43 car. We like that. We’d love to see more of that. And we like all the changes that we’ve made in the last four or five years, including stage racing this year. It has created the things that we thought were important.

“Now, there are things out of our control, how millennials and other fans of ours are consuming not only our sport but all the sports. That’s obviously a challenge for everybody. Attention times, the platforms they want to view and consume, they’re changing.  TV is still ‑‑ always will be linear TV, critically important, but other things now will give us a great opportunity, and we’re positioned well there. But it’s true, there is always disruption when you have the kind of changes on a macro level in sports, and then couple that with our transition stuff, it’s understandable.

“But I’m glad we made all the decisions that we made in the last five to eight years.  hank goodness we did each and every one of those.  Just imagine if we didn’t. Imagine where we would be.  We wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the things that are available to us today.

“So we’re excited about ‑‑ and the biggest thing we’re excited about is, and Brent is leading the charge here, and I attended the last team owner council, is we’re on a fast track to get ‑‑ and it’s hard. It’s always been hard, to get the competition level up, and some of that is done by formats like stage racing and cutoff events and so on, has obviously stepped up the competition level. But there are other things we can do that are important to us.

“So we’re realistic about things that are changing that we don’t control outright, but we like where we’re at and we like where we’re going.’’

Kyle Larson scores second Ohio Sprint Speedweek win in three nights

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Kyle Larson scored his second Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions Ohio Sprint Speedweek win in three nights. Larson won at Wayne County Speedway on Monday. Andrew Palker was second.

The victory is Larson’s eighth in the All Star Circuit of Champions.

Xfinity driver Christopher Bell was fifth Monday. Kasey Kahne placed 17th. Tony Stewart finished 24th in the 26-car field.

Larson won at Eldora Speedway on Saturday night.

Ohio Speedweek continues Tuesday at Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio.

NASCAR America: Sport needs more races like Iowa Speedway

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With the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series taking Father’s Day weekend off, the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series took center stage at Iowa Speedway and put on a pair of shows that had drivers and NASCAR America analysts asking for more.

Late-race battles for the lead with Noah Gragson‘s unsuccessful last-lap pass on Brett Moffitt and Christopher Bell’s near miss at closing the distance on Justin Allgaier is something that has been missing from the Cup series for much of the season, and the action had a lot to do with the configuration of the speedway.

“That’s why this racetrack has become so popular,” Parker Kligerman said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “Because it’s allowing this multi-groove racing like we’ve seen. And it’s got everyone discussing – kind of like Brad Keselowski was saying – why don’t we bring the Cup cars there? It would be awesome.”

Iowa Speedway was built with inspiration from Richmond Raceway and both tracks have characteristics of a short track and a speedway. It is something that Jeff Burton believes the sports needs to embrace.

“There is no doubt that this style of racetrack is what we need more of,” Burton said. “The sport needs more of it. And all this effort we’ve been talking about with the All-Star package. All that is an effort to try and create races like we saw on Saturday and on Sunday.”

For more, watch the video above.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Iowa recap, Scan All featuring Parker Kligerman

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and recaps the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races at Iowa Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut. Jeff Burton joins them from Burton’s Garage.

 On today’s show:

  • The Xfinity & Camping World Truck Series took the spotlight this weekend at Iowa Speedway. We’ll have highlights from both races and also dive into why some of the sport’s biggest names are pushing for Iowa to be on the Cup Series schedule.
  • Dale Jarrett and his father, Ned Jarrett, are champion drivers and NASCAR Hall of Famers. But one member of the family – Dale’s son, Zach Jarrett – didn’t follow in their footsteps. As we come off Father’s Day, we’ll introduce you to Zach and his passion for another great sport.
  • Scan All is usually a Tuesday tradition, but today, we’re changing it up a bit. Listen in as our colleague, Parker Kligerman, hits the track in Scan All Parker!
If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it 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 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Kyle Larson wants to compete in World of Outlaws full-time ‘before I’m 40’

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Late last year Kyle Larson said his main career goal was to compete full-time in the World of Outlaws and that “NASCAR’s just the step to get there.”

Now the 25-year-old Cup driver has told the Internet that he hopes to compete full-time in World of Outlaws “Before I’m 40.”

In a lengthy Q&A session, Larson answered a fan’s question about the topic.

It was on the official World of Outlaws podcast in December where Larson expressed his desire to eventually transition to World of Outlaws.

“NASCAR is where I wanted to make it, but I would have been perfectly fine if I didn’t make it either,” Larson said. “I’d probably be on the Outlaw (sprint car) tour probably right now, racing and loving life … I would say racing on the World of Outlaws tour full-time is my main goal.”

A lot can change between now and 2033 – which would put Larson at 18 full-time Cup seasons after 2032 – so better stock up on those Larson race win diecasts while you can over the next 15 or so years.

Here’s other tidbits from Larson’s Q&A session:

Larson declared his stance on last year’s peaceful protests by NFL players regarding police brutality and unequal treatment of African-Americans that took place during the National Anthem.

Last September, President Donald Trump praised NASCAR in general and its “supporters and fans,” saying “They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag!”

That was after team owner Richard Childress and Richard Petty said they would fire any employees who kneeled during the anthem in protest.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. later tweeted in support of the protests and Jimmie Johnson also said he supported peaceful protests.

Larson’s response was noted by other NASCAR drivers.

If you’ve noticed Larson isn’t running against the wall as much this season, there’s a reason.

Larson believes the Cup Series needs more short tracks to garner more excitement and that the cars are not the problem.

Larson also expressed a desire for there to be mid-week races on the schedule.

Larson is not planning on competing in the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway, which he won in 2016.

Larson thinks a Truck race at Knoxville Raceway, the dirt track that hosts the Knoxville Nationals, would be worthwhile.

Larson also announced where he’ll be competing in some sprint races later this year.