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Friday 5: Questions about size of future Hall of Fame classes

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After NASCAR celebrates the ninth Hall of Fame class tonight (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN), questions may soon arise about how many inductees should be honored annually.

NASCAR inducts five people each year. When NASCAR announced eligibility changes in 2013, a former series executive said that the sanctioning body would “give strong consideration” to if five people should be inducted each year and if there should be a veteran’s committee “after the 10th class is seated.’’

The 10th class — which Jeff Gordon will be eligible for and expected to headline— will be selected later this year and honored in 2019. That gives NASCAR a year to determine what changes to make if officials follow the schedule mentioned in 2013. NASCAR has discussed different scenarios as part of its examination of the Hall of Fame.

Among the questions NASCAR could face is should no more than three people be inducted a year? Should only nominees who receive a specific percentage of the vote be inducted? Should other methods be considered in determining who enters the Hall? 

Only one of the last five classes had all five inductees selected on at least 50 percent of the ballots. Five people in the last three classes each received less than 50 percent of the vote.

The challenge is that if NASCAR reduced the number of people inducted after the Class of 2019, it could create a logjam in the coming years.

Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards (provided Edwards does not return to run a significant number of races) would be eligible for the Class of 2020.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth (provided Kenseth does not return to run a significant number of races) would be eligible for the Class of 2021.

Stewart would appear to be a lock for his year and it seems likely Earnhardt would make it as well his first year.

If the Hall of Fame classes were cut to three a year, and Stewart, Earnhardt and Kenseth each were selected in those two years, that would leave three spots during that time for others.

The nominees for this year’s class included former champions Bobby Labonte and Alan Kulwicki, crew chief Harry Hyde (56 wins, 88 poles) and Waddell Wilson (22 wins, 32 poles), car owners Roger Penske, Jack Roush and Joe Gibbs and Cup drivers Buddy Baker, Davey Allison and Ricky Rudd.

A 2019 Class that might feature Jeff Gordon, Harry Hyde, Buddy Baker and two others would still leave some worthy candidates who might not make it for a couple of years if the number of inductees is reduced.

Of course, there are those who haven’t been nominated that some would suggest should be, including Smokey Yunick, Humpy Wheeler, Buddy Parrott, Kirk Shelmerdine, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant and Tim Richmond. That could further jumble who makes it if the number of inductees is reduced.

Those are just some of the issues NASCAR could face as it examines if any changes need to be made.

2. Hall of Fame Classes and vote totals

Note: NASCAR did not release vote totals for the inaugural class (2010 with Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Junior Johnson, Bill France Sr., and Bill France Jr.). Below are the other classes with the percent of ballots each inductee was on:

2018 Class

Robert Yates (94 percent)

Red Byron (74 percent)

Ray Evernham (52 percent)

Ken Squier (40 percent)

Ron Hornaday Jr. (38 percent)

2017 Class

Benny Parsons (85 percent)

Rick Hendrick (62 percent)

Mark Martin (57 percent)

Raymond Parks (53 percent)

Richard Childress (43 percent)

2016 Class

Bruton Smith (68 percent)

Terry Labonte (61 percent)

Curtis Turner (60 percent)

Jerry Cook (47 percent)

Bobby Isaac (44 percent)

2015 Class

Bill Elliott (87 percent)

Wendell Scott (58 percent)

Joe Weatherly (53 percent)

Rex White (43 percent)

Fred Lorenzen (30 percent)

2014 Class

Tim Flock (76 percent)

Maurice Petty (67 percent)

Dale Jarrett (56 percent)

Jack Ingram (53 percent)

Fireball Roberts (51 percent)

2013 Class

Herb Thomas (57 percent)

Leonard Wood (57 percent)

Rusty Wallace (52 percent)

Cotten Owens (50 percent)

Buck Baker (39 percent)

2012 Class

Cale Yarborough (85 percent)

Darrell Waltrip (82 percent)

Dale Inman (78 percent)

Richie Evans (50 percent)

Glen Wood (44 percent)

2011 Class

David Pearson (94 percent)

Bobby Allison (62 percent)

Lee Petty (62 percent)

Ned Jarrett (58 percent)

Bud Moore (45 percent)

3. Charter Switcheroo

Five charters have changed hands since last season. One will be with its third different team in the three years of the charter system.

In 2016, Premium Motorsports leased its charter to HScott Motorsports so the No. 46 team of Michael Annett could use it.

The charter was returned after that season, and Premium Motorsports sold the charter to Furniture Row Racing for the No. 77 car of Erik Jones for 2017.

With Jones moving to Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing not finding enough sponsorship to continue the team, the charter was sold to JTG Daugherty for the No. 37 team of Chris Buescher for this season. (The No. 37 team had leased a charter from Roush Fenway Racing last year).

So that will make the third different team the charter, which originally belonged to Premium Motorsports, has been with since the system was created.

4. Dodge and NASCAR?

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne excited fans when he said in Dec. 2016 about Dodge that “it is possible we can come back to NASCAR.’’

One report last year stated that Dodge decided not to return to NASCAR, and another countered that report.

While questions remain on if Dodge will return to NASCAR, Marchionne announced this week at the Detroit Auto Show that he’ll step down next year, and that Fiat Chrysler will release a business plan in June that will go through 2022. The company will announce a successor to Marchionne sometime after that.

Marchionne said, according to The Associated Press, that the U.S. tax cuts passed in December are worth $1 billion annually to Fiat Chrysler.

A Wall Street Journal story this week stated that Fiat Chrysler makes most of its profit from its Jeep and Ram brands, writing that those brands “have been on a roll as U.S. buyers shift to these kinds of light trucks and away from sedans, which is a segment the company has largely abandoned.’’

5. NMPA Hall of Fame

The National Motorsports Hall of Fame will induct four people into its Hall of Fame on Sunday night. Those four will be drivers Terry Labonte and Donnie Allison and crew chiefs Jake Elder and Buddy Parrott.

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Martin Truex Jr., Sherry Pollex win prestigious Myers Brothers Award

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Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. and girlfriend Sherry Pollex were selected as the recipient of the Myers Brothers Award Wednesday in Las Vegas.

The Myers Brothers Award, named for Billy and Bob Myers, honors those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport. The award, presented annually since 1958, is voted on by members of the National Motorsports Press Association.

WATCH: NBCSN to air special NASCAR America at 7 p.m. ET Thursday, followed by Cup Series Awards Show at 9 p.m. ET.

Truex and Pollex were honored for their charitable work around childhood and ovarian cancer that includes the Catwalk for a Cause, which was held an eight consecutive year and raised more than $550,000 this year, and their second annual “Drive for Teal & Gold.”

“I didn’t see that coming,” Truex said to Pollex on stage after accepting the award.

“I didn’t either,” Pollex said. “I’m going to try really hard not to cry. It’s been a crazy, crazy year for both of us. Personally and professionally with my cancer and …” she could not continue.

Truex then added: “This is definitely an unbelievable honor to receive this award. We definitely didn’t see it coming. Did not expect it. I think Sherry and I have been very fortunate in our lives to have all the things we needed, great families, great parents that raised us right and taught us right from wrong. I think they probably deserve a lot of the credit for us being who we are and being able to give back and help people. Being a part of this sport, it’s who we are.

“We are so proud of everybody. We’ve learned so much from past champions. Just everybody in this sport is willing to give back and willing to give their time to great causes. We don’t deserve all the credit for this. I think we’ve learned a lot of lessons from a lot of people in this room and a lot of people in this sport in general. We’re very fortunate and definitely lucky to be able to give our time to great causes, and I’m so proud of (Pollex) for her fight and her battle and what she’s been able to pull through and get through, and at the same time willing to help others to give her time. Just really, really proud of this. Thank you all very, very much.

“We’re humbled. We’re very lucky to be here, and we’re very proud of this.”

They both then said: “Thank you.”

Previous winners of the award include Ned Jarrett, Richard Petty, the Wood Brothers, Junie Donlavey, Kyle Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Mike Helton, Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Benny Parsons, Barney Hall, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

Truex was named on 82 percent of the ballots cast for this year’s award. Others receiving votes were NASCAR team owner Jack Roush and seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.

Other awards presented Wednesday at the Myers Brothers Awards included:

SMI Chairman Bruton Smith won the Buddy Shuman Award for contributions to the sport.

Chevrolet honored Dale Earnhardt Jr. with the Chevrolet Lifetime Achievement Award and donated a car for his foundation to auction.

NBC Sports and Fox Sports were jointly honored with the 2017 NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award.

“We are fortunate to have two world-class television partners dedicated to presenting our sport in new and innovative ways each weekend,” said Steve Phelps, EVP, Chief Global Sales and Marketing Officer. “Both FOX Sports and NBC Sports are deserving honorees, each delivering dynamic marketing campaigns that introduced our sport to new audiences and brought fans closer to our athletes than ever before.”

“NBC Sports is incredibly proud of our long-standing partnership with NASCAR, and we are thrilled to accept this award,” said Jenny Storms, Chief Marketing Officer, NBC Sports Group. “This prestigious honor is the direct result of an insights led strategy, combined with the passion and creativity of our team, to continue to connect and engage with fans in new and exciting ways.”

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Upon Further Review: Where will a second Vegas race come from for SMI?

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After years of teasing, pleading and politicking, Las Vegas Motor Speedway is on its way to hosting a second NASCAR Cup race in 2018.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway has scheduled a press conference for 5:30 p.m. ET Wednesday to make a “special announcement.’’ The press conference will be held 30 minutes after the board of directors of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority meets to approve a sponsorship agreement that would pay the track $2.5 million a year for seven years to promote two Cup races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

This isn’t the first time the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, funded by a hotel room tax, has sought to be involved in a second Cup race at Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in 2010 that the Convention and Visitors Authority was offering between $5-$8 million then to help land a second Cup date.

The track has hosted one Cup race a year since 1998, but Bruton Smith, founder and executive chairman of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., which owns the track, has exhorted NASCAR for years for a second date at Las Vegas and to host the season finale. He’s also used the threat of moving a race date from one of his tracks to Las Vegas to leverage local governments for better deals.

Marcus Smith, chief executive officer and president of SMI, told reporters Sunday at Atlanta that he’s heartened by the interest in Las Vegas for a second Cup date.

“We love the support we get out of Las Vegas,” Smith said. “I think the fans love it. It’s a great track for us. When we see that the community is supportive of racing there, it’s definitely encouraging to us.”

What’s encouraging is the potential financial windfall. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority states the 2016 Cup race drew more than 114,000 fans with about 96,000 coming from out of town. That generated $138 million in economic impact for the community.

OK, if Las Vegas gets a second date, where is it coming from?

Don’t expect the NASCAR schedule to add a race. That means a track will have to lose a date.

SMI likely will move a date from one of its tracks to Las Vegas instead of purchasing a race date.

SMI’s most recent track purchase was in 2008 when it bought Kentucky Speedway for $78.3 million. SMI paid $15 million in cash and assumed $63.3 million debt. That was for a track that didn’t have a Cup date.

The only candidates to purchase a race date from would be Indianapolis, Pocono and Dover. None has given any indication of selling. The other Cup race dates are owned by International Speedway Corp.

With this just the third year of a 10-year TV contract, no track should look to sell.

Dover’s annual report states it received $30.9 million in broadcasting revenue for its two Cup, two Xfinity and one Truck race in 2016. That means it received about $14 million per Cup race in broadcasting revenues, which increase about 3 percent annually, before paying its purse. Tracks keep 65 percent of the TV money paid (25 percent goes to teams and 10 percent to NASCAR). With seven years left on the TV contract, that would equate to about $80 million in broadcasting revenue for one Cup event after purse payments. SMI isn’t likely to pay that when it can move a date from one of its tracks.

Also, Matthew Brooks, a securities analyst for Macquarie Securities says that if SMI wanted to purchase a race date or track, International Speedway Corp., would likely outbid it.

“If (SMI) was able to do a deal to get a track or date from someone else, I think, with a much better balance sheet, (ISC) would come in there and say, ‘I’ll give you $10 million more or some number … and I’ll take it,’ ’’ Brooks told NBC Sports. “(ISC) is in a much better position to outbid (SMI) because they have a balance sheet that is net cash, their cash is bigger than their debt.’’

Macquarie Securities also downgraded SMI’s stock on March 3 from neutral to underperform. Brooks said Macquarie Securities values SMI’s stock at about $16 a share. SMI’s stock was priced at $19.17 a share after Tuesday’s trading (ISC’s stock was valued at $35.88 a share at the end of Tuesday).

Brooks cited the declining admissions revenue as a reason for the stock downgrade. SMI reported that admission revenue declined 10 percent in 2016 but noted in a conference call with investor analysts March 1 that eight of its 13 Cup weekends were negatively impacted by weather.

“You can’t have drops that big constantly just because of rain or whatever,’’ Brooks said. “It just signals something wrong with the business.’’

If purchasing a race date isn’t likely, that leaves moving a date from a track SMI owns.

SMI won’t take a date away from Texas (being repaved and major TV market), Sonoma (diversity in schedule with road course), Kentucky (repaved last year and additional layer of asphalt added since) and Bristol (has invested much into facility). That leaves Atlanta, Charlotte and New Hampshire.

Provided SMI goes through with repaving Atlanta — a decision is expected this week — it won’t spend millions on such a project and then abandon the facility.

That leaves Charlotte and New Hampshire.

The Coca-Cola 600 isn’t going off its Memorial Day weekend spot at Charlotte. That leaves the fall race. That is expected to feature parts of the oval and infield road course in 2018, giving the playoffs its only road course. SMI will complete upgrades and construction to the road course this year.

With the work being put into road course, that date isn’t moving.

The only option would be the All-Star Race, but that’s a midyear event and who wants to be outdoors in Las Vegas then? The average high in May is 89 degrees. The average high there from June to August is above 98 degrees.

That leaves New Hampshire.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway had its July Cup race run without a sponsor last year and has yet to announce a sponsor for either Cup race this year. 

Marcus Smith mentioned in the call with investor analysts March 1 that SMI plans to “repurpose” seating areas at Charlotte, Kentucky and New Hampshire in the first quarter of this year. An SMI spokesperson told NBC Sports that overall capacities for each track won’t change, but details on such fan enhancements will come at a later date.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway has one of the smaller seating capacities of the SMI tracks. Sonoma (47,000), Atlanta (70,000) and Charlotte (86,000) have smaller capacities than New Hampshire (89,000), according to SMI’s 2015 annual report.

Even with that capacity, swaths of empty seats have been prevalent in recent years at New Hampshire. While the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is investing in Las Vegas Motor Speedway, such investment is not as readily available for New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Bruton Smith also has wanted the state to widen the highway that leads to the track for years.

The bottom line is that it will come down to money. There is money in Las Vegas for a second Cup date. If there is more there than at another track, then it is time for SMI to make a change and put another Cup race in the desert.

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Friday night’s NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony postponed by weather

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A winter storm that brought snow and sleet to Charlotte has forced tonight’s NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony to be postponed.

The event at the Charlotte Convention Center moves to 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday and will air on NBCSN and be streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra. The event also will be broadcast on radio by Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The induction dinner will become a luncheon at 1 p.m ET Saturday. A Red Capet event has been canceled as well as Hall of Fame autograph sessions that had been scheduled for Friday night.

NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day, an event scheduled for Saturday featuring autograph sessions and programs, also has been canceled. The NASCAR Hall of Fame said a complete rescheduling isn’t possible because of scheduling conflicts for drivers and NASCAR, but the venue is exploring options to accommodate fans who had autograph session tickets. Details will be announced by the end of next week.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame will be open from noon-5 p.m. Saturday. Fan Appreciation Day guests still will be admitted free.

Terry Labonte, Bruton Smith, Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac and Curtis Turner will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as its seventh class of five members.

Speedway Motorsports Inc.’s Bruton Smith is cancer free

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Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith has even more reason to celebrate this Christmas, according to his daughter-in-law Cassi Mitchell Smith.

Mitchell Smith tweeted, “Today we received an early Christmas gift. This person I love so much is cancer free!” with a photo of her and Smith hugging.

The 88-year-old Smith announced in August that he had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Smith’s legendary career began as the operator of the National Stock Car Racing Association – an early competitor to NASCAR – and he was one of the founders of Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Smith is one of five luminaries that will be part of the 2016 induction class into the NASCAR Hall of Fame class on January 22, 2016. Joining Smith in being inducted will be Curtis Turner, who was also co-founder of CMS, as well as Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac, and Terry Labonte.

From Jeff Gordon’s last year to Kyle Busch’s championship, 2015 was filled with excitement. Check out NASCAR: The List of Memorable Moments.

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