Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

(Photo by Dustin Long)

A look at this season’s primary sponsors for Sprint Cup teams

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With the NASCAR Sprint Cup season nearing, some teams have secured primary sponsorship for their cars for the year.

Things will look nearly the same as last year for some cars. For others, there will be a new look such as Nature’s Bakery sponsoring Danica Patrick for 28 races and NAPA joining Chase Elliott at Hendrick Motorsports for 24 races.

Here’s a look at the primary sponsors this season for teams that had at least one car in the top 25 a year ago (some teams provided the number of races for each primary sponsor):

JOE GIBBS RACING

Winning the championship with Kyle Busch, in one way, didn’t impact sponsorship. Dave Alpern, chief marketing officer for Joe Gibbs Racing, said primary sponsorship already was sold for all the races on that car before this season.

A championship has meaning in other ways, though.

“Many of our sponsors like to say, ‘Big brands do big things,’ ’’ he said. “The more championships that you win and the more races you win, you solidify yourself as a premier brand. I think Kyle winning the championship rises the tide for everyone on our team.’’

Alpern said that JGR is sold out with its primary sponsorships for all of its cars.

Busch’s car will have primary sponsorship from Mars Brands, which includes M&M’s, Skittles and Pedigree Dog Food. Busch also will have primary sponsorship from Interstate Batteries.

Carl Edwards’ car will have primary sponsorship from Arris, Comcast, Stanley Tools and Subway.

Denny Hamlin’s car will have primary sponsorship from FedEx and Sport Clips.

Matt Kenseth’s car will have primary sponsorship from Dollar General and DeWalt.

STEWART-HAAS RACING

Nature’s Bakery will begin its first season as a primary sponsor for Danica Patrick, while Busch Beer will serve as the primary sponsor in place of Budweiser for 12 races for Kevin Harvick.

Tony Stewart has all his primary sponsors back for his final season in the Cup but looking to fill in some gaps left from Bass Pro Shops taking several of its races to Martin Truex Jr.

Kurt Busch will have primary sponsorship from Monster Energy and Haas Automation this season.

Here’s a look at the sponsorship for each team:

Danica Patrick

28 races with Nature’s Bakery

4 races with Aspen Dental

4 races with Tax Act

2 races sold but TBA

Kevin Harvick

21 races with Jimmy John’s (including Daytona qualifying race)

12 races with Busch or Busch Light

2 races with ditech

2 races with Outback

2 races with Mobil 1

Tony Stewart

(Number of races per sponsor unavailable)

Mobil 1

Bass Pro Shops

Rush Truck Centers

Code 3 Associates

Kurt Busch

20 races with Haas Automation (includes Daytona qualifying race)

18 races with Monster Energy (includes Sprint Unlimited & Sprint All-Star race)

1 race with State Water Heaters

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS

Primary sponsorship for the cars of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson are sold. Primary sponsorship for Kasey Kahne and rookie Chase Elliott nearly are.

Here’s a look at how many races each driver will have with each primary sponsor:

Kasey Kahne

12 races with Farmers Insurance

10 races with Great Clips

3 races with LiftMaster

3 races with Quicken Loans

2 races with Panasonic

1 race with Mountain Dew

Chase Elliott

24 races with NAPA

5 races with 3M

2 races with Kelley Blue Book

2 races with Mountain Dew

Jimmie Johnson

38 races (36 points and 2 non-points races) with Lowe’s and affiliates

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

21 races with Nationwide

13 races with Axalta

3 races with Mountain Dew

1 race with TaxSlayer.com

FURNITURE ROW RACING

The focus is on finding additional sponsorship for Martin Truex Jr.’s team so the organization can expand to a two-car effort next season.

The team announced earlier this month that Bass Pro Shops would serve as a primary sponsor for eight points races and the qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway. Furniture Row, which is owned by team owner Barney Visser, will continue to serve as the primary sponsor on Truex’s car.

TEAM PENSKE

Primary sponsorship for the cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are both sold, the team reports. Car owner Roger Penske has established long relationships with some of his sponsors, so the lineup on each car does not look different from last year.

Brad Keselowski

24 races with Miller Lite (includes All-Star race)

8 races with Alliance Truck Parts

3 races with Wurth

2 races with AutoTrader

1 race with SKF (Sprint Unlimited)

Joey Logano

33.5 races with Shell Pennzoil

3 races with AAA

1.5 races with AutoTrader (co-primary with Shell Pennzoil for one race)

RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING

The team has some spots available heading into the season but Ben Schlosser, chief marketing officer for Richard Childress Racing, notes that they’re “in really good shape” with their Sprint Cup teams.

Paul Menard has backing from Menards and various companies affiliated with Menards. Schlosser says that primary sponsorship on Austin Dillon’s car is “essentially full’’ with Dow, Cheerios, American Ethanol and Bass Pro Shops back. While Quicken Loans moved from Ryan Newman’s team to Hendrick Motorsports and Kasey Kahne, Schlosser said RCR is looking at other companies to fill in those spots. Newman again will have backing from Caterpillar, WIX and Grainger.

CHIP GANASSI RACING WITH FELIX SABATES

Jamie McMurray’s team will continue to have McDonald’s and Cessna as primary sponsors. Steve Lauletta, president of Chip Ganassi Racing, said that the team is looking to announce a new multirace partner before Daytona and that a couple of late-season races remain available on McMurray’s car.

Target is again back with Ganassi as a full-season sponsor — the company has been with Ganassi’s organization since 1990 — and will be the primary sponsor on Kyle Larson’s car. There will be some races where Target won’t be the primary sponsor, but it will be with a company affiliated with Target.

HSCOTT MOTORSPORTS

The team continues to look for sponsorship on its cars. Clint Bowyer will have 5-hour Energy as his primary sponsor in 24 races. The team also previously announced Peak and Blue DEF will be primary sponsors for two races and will have Visine for three races.

Bowyer’s teammate, Michael Annett, will have Pilot Flying J back as primary sponsor.

RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS

Primary sponsorship is filled on Aric Almirola’s car, while Brian Scott’s car has 12 races to fill, according to Brian Moffitt, chief executive officer at Richard Petty Motorsports.

Smithfield increased the number of races it is on Almirola’s car from 29 to 31 this season. Talks continue with some companies that have been with the organization in moving up to a primary sponsorship role on Scott’s car.

“There are a lot of conversations happening right now with corporations,’’ Moffitt said. “There’s an interest with being in NASCAR.’’

Aric Almirola

31 races with Smithfield

2 races with STP

2 races with U.S. Air Force

1 race with Fresh from Florida

Brian Scott

16 races with Shore Lodge/Albertsons

3 races with Twisted Tea

2 races with Goody’s

TBD races with GoBowling.com

ROUSH FENWAY RACING

Two teams will have a familiar look this season with sponsorship. AdvoCare is back as the primary sponsor for Trevor Bayne. Fastenal again will be the anchor primary sponsor for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with Fifth Third Bank and Zest on for select races.

The organization announced recently a multirace partnership with KFC for Greg Biffle’s car. His car also will be sponsored by Kleen Performance Parts and Cheez-It. The team is fielding interest from other potential sponsors.

JTG DAUGHERTY RACING

The team is close to selling all its primary sponsorship for the season for A.J. Allmendinger’s car.

JTG Daugherty will have The Kroger Company and its various brands serve as a co-primary sponsor in 23 races.

Longstanding partners Kingsford, Clorox, Bush’s Beans, Scott Products and Hungary Jack are all set to be on the car as a primary sponsor at times.

GERMAIN RACING

Geico is back as sponsor of the No. 13 car for Casey Mears. The company is with the team through 2018.

2016 Team Preview: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

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CHIP GANASSI RACING WITH FELIX SABATES

SPRINT CUP DRIVER LINEUP: Jamie McMurray (crew chief Matt McCall), Kyle Larson (Chad Johnston).

XFINITY DRIVER LINEUP: Part of HScott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi; drivers splitting duties are Kyle Larson, Brennan Poole and Justin Marks (crew chief is Mike Shiplett).

CHANGES: Chad Johnston joins Larson’s team as crew chief after serving in the same role with Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing. Johnston replaces Chris Heroy, who is now crew chief for Brian Scott at Richard Petty Motorsports… Former Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman is now a minority owner of CGR.

DID YOU KNOW: Team owner Chip Ganassi recorded the fastest rookie qualifying speed in the 1982 Indianapolis 500, faster than fellow rookies Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan, who both eventually won the 500 as drivers (while Ganassi has won it several times as a team owner).

EXPECTATIONS: After struggling during his sophomore season, Larson enters his third full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series. Will this be the year he finally earns his long anticipated first Sprint Cup win, as well as making the Chase for the first time? As for McMurray, he made the Chase for the first time in his career last season and looks to build upon that, as well as his strong performance in the second half of 2015.

WHAT THEY SAID:

– “You’ve got to finish races. That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve learned. That’s the biggest thing I still need to work on. I’ve had a lot of DNFs and that takes you out of contention to make the Chase. A lot of them were mechanical, but a lot of them were also my doing. Just being more patient. There’s a lot of times where they’ve been mechanical failures but they’ve been probably mistakes I made in the race car. Shifting or abusing the tires and blowing the tires. I’ve just got to get better at being patient,” Kyle Larson said.

– “The fact that we had three different rules packages (last year), we didn’t put a lot of effort into the high-drag and the low-downforce package. There was a little bit of effort, but minimal because we knew we were going to make the Chase at that point and we wanted to run as well as we could in the Chase. There were only so many resources and so much time. I don’t feel like we put the same effort in that a Gibbs or a Hendricks did. Taking with Matt (McCall) and the other engineers at our shop, they have made significant improvements from Darlington and Kentucky. So I think from a team side, the gains we have made should be bigger than, hopefully, what the other guys already have,” Jamie McMurray said.

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Kyle Larson brings Mello Yello, ‘Days of Thunder’ to Southern 500

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The roll out of retro paint schemes for the Sept. 6 Southern 500 continues thanks to Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

Unlike previously announced paint schemes, the No. 42 Chevrolet of Kyle Larson will have a more modern feel.

Larson’s ride will be sponsored by Mello Yello and will have the paint scheme used by the character Cole Trickle in the 1990 film “Days of Thunder” starring Tom Cruise. It would then be used by Kyle Petty in real life from 1991 to 1994 while racing the No. 42 for Sabates at SABCO Racing.

“Days of Thunder is definitely one of my favorite racing movies, and I know it’s a favorite for a lot of fans too,” Larson said in a team release. “The connection with Felix is pretty cool. Even though I was too young to watch Kyle Petty driving the Mello Yello car, I know people will remember the scheme from those days, as well as his crazy hair from back then. There’s just a lot of fun stuff surrounding this car, so I’m really glad that the Target team is able to run it for Darlington’s throwback race. I think the fans are really going to like it.”

The field for the Southern 500, broadcast on NBC, will be almost unrecognizable. Larson’s paint scheme joins those of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jimmie JohnsonRyan BlaneyChase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Tony StewartAustin Dillon and Denny Hamlin.

Chip Ganassi Racing confirms Rob Kauffman’s agreement to buy interest in team

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Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has confirmed a Wednesday report by SportsBusinessDaily.com that Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman has agreed to buy an interest in its NASCAR team.

The report also had said Kauffman would take the No. 15 of Clint Bowyer with him in the move to CGR, giving it three teams in addition to Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson.

The team’s statement:

We confirm that Rob Kauffman has agreed to acquire an interest in the team. Further discussions regarding the 2016 season and beyond are underway.

Michael Waltrip Racing quickly followed with its own statement.

Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, has agreed to buy an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. The companies will continue to operate separately and compete against each other for the remainder of the 2015 season. They are also currently evaluating ways to field the most competitive race teams possible to provide an excellent platform for their partners and employees for the 2016 season and beyond. More details will follow in due course.

The team later released a statement from Michael Waltrip.

My focus is on 2015 and fulfilling the commitment we have made to our partners and Toyota which is placing our teams in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. There are a lot of details yet to be sorted regarding 2016. I will work closely with Rob Kauffman and our sponsors to formulate the best way forward.

Aaron’s, the main sponsor of Michael Waltip Racing’s No. 55, sent NASCAR Talk the following statement:

Right now we are focused on the remainder of the 2015 season and we are looking forward to Aaron’s driver David Ragan and No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota finishing strong. We’ve been in talks with MWR about the 2016 season and we will be evaluating our options.

The confirmation of the report comes after CGR co-owner Felix Sabates told Motorsport.com “I am not going anywhere.” Sabates also released a statement to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, setting his own exit date from the team.

“This is about making our team stronger, a three-car team is stronger than a two-car (team),” Sabates said. “But the rumors that Rob is buying me out are not true. My last race will be five years from Sept. 9. I will be 75 years old then and will be done.”

NFL coach Ron Rivera gives motivational speech to Chip Ganassi Racing

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Chip Ganassi Racing is hoping that history will repeat itself, except this time in a points race.

On Wednesday, Ganassi’s NASCAR team hosted Carolina Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera at its Concord, N.C. shop, where the NFL coach gave a 20 minute motivational speech.

It was the second time the fourth-year coach had spoken to the team.

The first time, Jamie McMurray won the 2014 Sprint All-Star Race days later. Should history repeat itself, either McMurray or Kyle Larson would earn a much needed win this weekend in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Doing so would help lock them into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“He’s been a really good friend of (team co-owner Felix Sabates), and he’s become a really great friend of our team’s, and I’ve become a real big fan of his,” McMurray told NASCAR.com. “When you watch on TV and watch other sports, I don’t know that you appreciate everything that goes into it and how talented people are behind the scenes but he is an amazing guy and he is where he is because of his ability.”

With seven races left before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins, McMurray is the only CGR drive eligible. He is 11th on the Chase grid of 16 drivers and could possibly get in on points despite not having a win. Larson is much farther back in 21st, also without a win.

“I know at the end of the day, they’ve still got seven weeks left,” Rivera said. “They have every opportunity to get into the Chase for the Cup, so who knows. That’s really the message, that they can control it. They control their own destiny and the truth of the matter is, on any given Sunday, they’re the best race team and they’ve got a chance to win.”

Rivera pulled off something of a coaching miracle in 2014 with the Panthers. He guided the team to wins in its last four games of the season after six-straight losses, earning a 7-8-1 record and the NFC South title in a weak division.

“My message is to make sure everyone’s doing what they want to do and everybody’s doing what the group wants to do because at the end of the day, if somebody’s not on board and doing the things that they need to do to give you a chance to win, you’re not going to win. Also, the parallel being that last year as a football team, we started hot then had our problems. Same thing with these guys — they started hot and have had their problems.”