Examining what’s next for NASCAR after Monster deal ends in 2019

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — NASCAR announced Tuesday that Monster Energy will return as Cup Series sponsor through the 2019 season but is not expected to be in that role after that.

So what does that all mean?

Let us explain.

What happened Tuesday?

Monster Energy’s contract to be the Cup sponsor was set to end after the 2018 season. There was an option for Monster Energy to extend the deal. Monster was to have notified NASCAR before Jan. 1 of its decision. Instead, Monster asked for an extension. Both sides agreed to extend the sponsorship through the 2019 season only.

Why only a one-year extension?

Steve Phelps, NASCAR’s chief operating officer, said both sides wanted it that way.

“For Monster, I think it would be highly unlikely that they would come back,’’ Phelps said. “Both NASCAR and Monster, I believe, are on the same page on that. I wouldn’t say there is anything there hard and fast, but it is highly unlikely that they would return or we would have them return. That is not one-sided. That’s a decision that has been made by both companies. It will give us an opportunity to explore what this new (sponsorship) model looks like.’’

Wait, what is this new sponsorship model?

NASCAR wants to change the structure in how sponsorship would look. The plan would be to bundle the sanctioning body, tracks and media partners instead of having to do separate deals with each.

After NASCAR agreed to a deal with Monster Energy in December 2016, Monster then had to work out agreements with the tracks for signage and such. That took additional time.

Under NASCAR’s new sponsorship model, that shouldn’t be as big an issue.

“What we’re talking about here,” Phelps said, “is looking at combining assets and creating a new sponsorship model.’’

Such a model, though, would not include teams.

“It’s a little more difficult given the number of entities that are out there that are teams to make sure all the teams are participating in one fashion,’’ Phelps said.

So what will the name of the series be after 2019?

Good chance there will be no sponsor name tied to the Cup Series. That way it can be called the NASCAR Cup Series or NASCAR Premier Series or whatever NASCAR chooses to call.

One benefit is that fans don’t have to go through name changes as they have in going from Nextel Cup to Sprint Cup to Monster Energy Cup.

The Premier League did a similar thing in 2016 when Barclays did not renew its deal with the soccer league. There’s no sponsor of the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball, but all those leagues have categories of sponsors. That’s the approach NASCAR wants to take.

What if the new model doesn’t work?

“We want to keep our options open,” Phelps said. “There’s some benefit to trying to go all in on something. I think the stakeholders will be in a good place. If the sponsors come back and say, ‘you know what, we’re not sure this is the best avenue to partner with this sport,’ then we’ll have to pivot and go in a different direction. Could we go back to an entitlement model for our top series? We could. Again, I think that’s not our intention. I don’t think we’ll get there, but we certainly want to keep our options open.’’

How does all this impact the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series?

It does not for now. Xfinity signed a 10-year deal to be the entitlement sponsor of that series through the 2024 season. Camping World has a deal in place to be the Truck Series sponsor through 2022.

What happens with Monster Energy after 2019?

Phelps said NASCAR expects Monster Energy to remain in the sport. Monster Energy was aligned with drivers and teams before becoming series sponsor. That avenue would remain for Monster if it chose to do so.

A Monster Energy spokesperson told the Sports Business Journal that the company “wants to continue to be a part of the sport one way or the other.”

What about the sport using a sponsor to build a younger fan base? What happens now?

NASCAR continues to tout efforts to reach a younger fan base. That includes, among other things, children 12 and younger getting in free for Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races.

Phelps said it was challenging to say if one thing over another was the overriding factor in reaching a younger demographic.

“It’s very difficult to isolate one particular thing vs. another in terms of it being the cause of something,’’ Phelps said. “There are other things that this industry has done over the past couple of years to increase the Millennial audience of NASCAR. That’s a journey we’re going to continue on.

“We have to continue to make sure our content is as strong as it can be that we’re pushing through the digital and social channels. We need to make sure that we continue to cater to kids and to make sure that our Millennial audience is happy. We have to continue the gains we’ve made with our Hispanic fans, which has been significant over the last three years. That journey doesn’t end. And, by the way, we have to make sure that we’re nurturing the existing fan base that we’ve had for many, many years. They’re incredibly important.’’

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NASCAR America: Pete Pistone on dirt racing in Xfinity, Cup

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Dirt racing is at the center of many conversations in NASCAR this week.

That’s thanks to the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway on Wednesday and Tony Stewart‘s comments earlier this encouraging fans to put pressure on NASCAR to bring the Cup and Xfinity Series to his dirt track in the future.

On NASCAR America, Pete Pistone of SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” joined the show to discuss what fans think about the prospect of more dirt races at NASCAR’s national level and more mid-week races.

“There’s not much going on during the week right now until college (football) and NFL training camps start,” Pistone said. “The fans said this morning, ‘We’d like to see more Wednesday racing,’ and I couldn’t agree more.”

While Steve Letarte is in favor of more short tracks and mid-week races, he doesn’t want to see Cup and Xfinity “copy” what the Trucks do at Eldora.

“I think they have such a marquee event and they deserve this event,” Letarte said. “This dirt race, the Dirt Derby, has turned into must-see TV, for the Trucks. And I think it’s great for any national touring series to have that event. … I love the idea of not having to wait all week to watch three races. Why can’t I have a race on Tuesday, Wednesday, have a little news cycle. … I think there’s a lot to be said for timing, but as for Eldora, it holds a special place in my heart for the Trucks. Let them have it.”

Pistone said he tends to agree that the Trucks should get their own special event at Eldora. Where should any other dirt races be held?

“Why not look at a place like Knoxville (Raceway), which is so famous in Iowa that has sprint car races,” Pistone said. “There are so many other tracks in the country, if NASCAR can find a way to do something along the liens of and not just replicate Eldora, I think that would spark a lot of interest and energy and it seems that’s what the fan base is looking for.”

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Eldora recap, Pete Pistone

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to preview this weekend’s racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Steve Letarte in Stamford, Connecticut.

On today’s show:

  • NASCAR’s shipping up to New Hampshire this weekend, and as of late, the Toyotas have had the clear edge at “The Magic Mile.” It’s just one of several storylines to follow as we prepare for Sunday’s 301-lap Monster Energy Series race. We’ll have a full preview!
  • Last night, the Camping World Truck Series put on another incredible show in the Dirt Derby at Eldora. We’ll have highlights from the race, including the paint-trading finish between Chase Briscoe and Grant Enfinger that will be remembered for years to come.
  • SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Pete Pistone will also call in live to talk fan reaction to last night’s Dirt Derby. Plus: Has the drivers’ mindset for New Hampshire changed now that they won’t be heading back there for the playoffs?
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.

Top three Xfinity drivers separated by three points entering New Hampshire

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Things have gotten pretty tight at the top of the food chain in the Xfinity Series.

Following last weekend’s race at Kentucky Speedway, the point standings are not led by just one driver.

Through 17 races, the standings are led by both Elliott Sadler and Daniel Hemric, who are tied with 608 points.

To add to an already close situation, they have Cole Custer breathing down their necks is only three points behind them heading into Saturday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

How did this situation arise considering none of the drivers have claimed a win this year?

Consistency. It’s disappeared for Sadler while Hemric and Custer have used it to catch the JR Motorsports driver.

Following the June 2 race at Pocono Raceway, Sadler had a 62-point lead over second in the standings. His lead slipped away over the next five races thanks to finishing 12th or worst three times.

He placed 30th at Michigan, 28th at Iowa and 12th at Kentucky.

That was after entering Michigan with top-10 finishes in the first 12 races of the season.

In the five races since Pocono, Hemric hasn’t finished worse than eighth and has three top-three finishes. Custer has four top fives and a DNF (wreck, Daytona).

Compared to this point last year, Sadler has more top fives (10 to seven in 2017), the same number of top 10s (14) and his average finish is 7.9 compared to 8.8.

Sadler, is mired in a 56 race winless streak that began in October 2016. And this season he’s been the best finishing Xfinity regular just once and the best finishing JR Motorsports driver only seven times.

Hemric and Custer are each in their second full-time seasons in Xfinity and have shown significant improvement over this same point in their rookie campaigns.

Through 17 races, Hemric has two poles (one in 2017), nine top fives (two in 2017), 13 top 10s (six in 2017) and no DNFs (three in 2017).

Custer has four poles (none in 2017), seven top fives (two in 2017), 13 top 10s (seven in 2017) and two DNFs (three in 2017).

Over the last eight races Hemric and Custer are tied for the most top fives with six. In that stretch, Hemric leads the series in top 10s (eight), average finish (4.13) and race points earned (311).

The point standings would be even narrower if not for two penalties dealt out by NASCAR this season to two of the three Xfinity regulars who have won races.

Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier enter New Hampshire in fourth (-17 points) and fifth (-39).

Bell lost 10 points after the Charlotte race for a post-race heights violation.

Allgaier was dealt a 25-point penalty following his win at Dover for a post-race inspection violation.

The two drivers would be in the same spot in the standings without the penalties.

Among Sadler, Hemric and Custer, it may be Custer who is the favorite to leave New Hampshire with points lead.

Custer is the only one of the trio with any success at the 1-mile track.

He’s won there in the K&N Pro Series East (2013) and in the Camping World Truck Series (2014).

He placed ninth in his first Xfinity start there last year.

“I think we’ve had really good cars in the past at short tracks and I think it’s more natural to me than a mile-and-a-half,” Custer said in a media release. “It’s probably like that for most guys. We just grew up running short tracks and didn’t have to deal with aero as much. We took a lot of good notes from New Hampshire last year that we’ll build on.”

Meanwhile, in 14 career starts at New Hampshire, Sadler has only led 26 laps and he hasn’t finished better than sixth since he returned to full-time Xfinity competition in 2011.

“We’re bringing the car we ran in Richmond, which is one of my favorites,” Sadler said in a media release. “We know it’s fast and is capable of a top-three finish. The end of the regular season isn’t too far away, so we’ve got to stick to our strategy, earn stage points and ultimately get ourselves and our partners a win.”

Sadler led 30 laps and finished third at Richmond.

Hemric placed 12th in his first Xfinity start in Loudon last year. In two Truck Series starts, he placed sixth and 28th (DNF).

“New Hampshire is always a place I look forward going to each year, especially how our company is on the short tracks right now,” Hemric said in a media release. “I feel like I know what I want in terms of speed when I get to a place like New Hampshire, it’s just a matter of getting our race car where we want it. I feel good headed to New Hampshire this weekend.”

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Joe Gibbs Racing returns to New Hampshire, where dominance began last July

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The 2017 Cup season was not too kind to Joe Gibbs Racing through its first 18 races.

Then the series went to New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

After entering last year’s July event at the 1-mile track winless, the race served as a launching pad for JGR, which leads the series in every major stat category in the 36 races since.

Counting Denny Hamlin‘s win in the July 16 race, the four-car team has won 14 times in the following year, which leads all other teams by five victories.

JGR closed out 2017 with eight wins in 19 races, compared to the Martin Truex Jr.‘s six wins in the same span.

Thanks to Racing Insights, here’s a look at JGR’s success against the competition since last July’s race at New Hampshire.

Ten of JGR’s wins in the last year belong to Kyle Busch, including the September playoff race in New Hampshire.

The rest belong to Denny Hamlin (two wins), Matt Kenseth (one) and Erik Jones (one).

Busch is one of six active drivers who have three wins at New Hampshire, including Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Hamlin and Kenseth.

Kyle Busch is the only one of those drivers with a win this season.

New Hampshire has been very kind to Busch and his fellow Toyota drivers.

In the last 11 races at the flat, 1-mile track, Toyota has won eight of them. In the last four races in Loudon, Toyota has led 1,168 laps (97.2 percent) out of a possible 1,202 laps. Chevrolet has led 31 and Ford has led 3.

Chevrolet has the only non-Toyota win in the last six New Hampshire races. That was won by Kevin Harvick in 2016 before Stewart-Haas Racing moved to Ford.

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