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Report: Lawsuit reveals Farmers Insurance paid $666,000 a race to sponsor Kasey Kahne

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Almost a year after Farmers Insurance announced it would cease sponsoring Kasey Kahne following the 2017 season, a report by ESPN reveals that Farmers Insurance paid Hendrick Motorsports roughly $666,000 a race to sponsor the No. 5 Chevrolet in 2017.

ESPN’s report is based on documents in a lawsuit filed by Sports Marketing Consultants related to “a dispute on the percentage of commissions owed on the deal” between Farmers Insurance and Hendrick Motorsports.

Farmers Insurance, which has sponsored Kahne for six seasons, was the primary sponsor on the No. 5 car in 12 races from 2015-17. There are three races left on the 2017 deal.

Farmers was on the No. 5 when Kahne won the Brickyard 400 in July.

Great Clips announced it would also cease sponsoring Kahne in May. A few weeks after the Brickyard win, Kahne’s only victory since 2014, Hendrick announced he would not be back in the No. 5 next season.

Farmers’ initial contract ran from 2012-14, when it sponsored the No. 5 for 22 races each season. Farmers paid Hendrick $13.5 million in 2012, $14.04 million in 2013 and $16.348 million in 2014, according to the ESPN report.

With the decrease to 12 races a year beginning in 2015, the company paid $7.6 million that season, $7.8 million in 2016 and $8 million this season.

The report also describes various performances bonuses for Hendrick in the initial three-year deal, such as winning a race ($450,000-$550,000) and the Cup championship ($1,157,895).

Read the ESPN story for more details on the contracts.

MORE: Kasey Kahne has new crew chief for rest of playoffs

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his contract, future in an exclusive NASCAR America interview tonight

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A subpar start to 2017 in Cup won’t have an impact on whether Dale Earnhardt Jr. races in NASCAR’s premier series beyond this season.

In an exclusive interview with NBCSN reporter Marty Snider that will air on NASCAR America today (6-7 p.m.), Earnhardt said his decision “won’t be performance-based” as he weighs a contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports.

“I would never let performance make that decision,” the 14-time most popular driver, who has indicated he wanted to wait a couple of months into the season before mulling his future, told Snider in the interview.  “If you don’t run well, it’s almost ‘I’m just not going to go (leave).’ You want to come back and get it right.

“I went through some struggles in a few years, and man, am I glad that I stuck around. I’m glad I fought to get some success. It was so rewarding. I feel good health-wise, and me and (team owner) Rick (Hendrick) are in conversation talking about what we want to do in the future.”

Earnhardt hasn’t finished higher than 14th in his first six races since returning from a concussion that sidelined him for the second half last season. He is ranked 25th in the points standings.

He was running well Sunday at Martinsville Speedway before his No. 88 Chevrolet was caught in a multicar crash with 82 laps remaining

“Looking at the finishes, I’m disappointed,” said Earnhardt, who also crashed out of the Daytona 500 after leading eight laps. “I felt we’ve always started really strong. We’ve had a hard time maintaining that. … We’ve come out flat and haven’t had great finishes. We’ve lacked a little speed. We saw some promise in the car at Martinsville, which made me feel good and made me excited about whether we’re getting back on track.  But we have to get the results when we have an opportunity like we did at Martinsville to get a top-five finish.  We can’t make mistakes and have the poor runs we had at the start of the season and not capitalize when we have those chances.

“If we continue to have that result, we’re not going to make the playoffs. So I’m not really panicking just yet. But we can’t be giving away points like that on a weekend when we need to finish in the top 10.”

Earnhardt told reporters during Speedweeks that the first few months of 2017 were critical to determining his long-term future and establishing confidence in his health.

He told Snider in Tuesday’s interview at the governor’s mansion in Columbia, South Carolina, that his No. 88 Chevrolet team had been a source of strength.

“I believe in our team,” he told Snider. “They believe in me. We’re a great combination. We’re a great group of guys and this is a great opportunity for me, so yeah, we’re struggling and have had challenges and aren’t getting the results, but I don’t expect that to last too long.

During the interview, Earnhardt also discussed the importance of the Southern 500 throwback weekend to NASCAR tradition and his recent dust ups with Ryan Blaney (a good friend and neighbor of Earnhardt’s).

Watch NASCAR America at 6 p.m. on NBCSN for Earnhardt’s full interview with Snider.

Kevin Harvick: Kyle Larson is the best driver to enter NASCAR since Jeff Gordon in 1993

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Kevin Harvick made his debut as a SiriusXM Satellite Radio host Tuesday night and made some news by announcing Stewart-Haas Racing was withdrawing its Phoenix appeal.

But those weren’t the most interesting comments made by the 2014 champion, who had a strong opinion on the most recent winner in NASCAR’s premier series.

Kyle Larson is the best driver to come into this sport since Jeff Gordon, in my opinion,” Harvick said. “I think Kyle Larson is that good.”

How good is that?

Well, let’s peruse a partial list of drivers (and their credentials) who have entered NASCAR’s premier series since Gordon’s arrival in 1993 and Larson’s in 2014:

Jimmie Johnson: Seven championships, tied for the most in NASCAR history. Also led the points and scored three wins as a rookie. He is the only driver who has qualified for the playoffs in all 13 seasons.

–Tony Stewart: The three-time series champion became the first Cup rookie to win in 12 years (and notched three victories in his first season). The 1997 IndyCar champion is regarded by many as his generation’s greatest.

Matt Kenseth: The 2000 rookie of the year won the 2003 championship and has failed to qualify for the playoffs only once in his career.

Denny Hamlin: The 2006 rookie of the year has made the championship round twice and has won in 11 consecutive seasons in Cup.

Kyle Busch: The 2015 Cup champion has won in 12 straight seasons in Cup and has 171 victories across NASCAR’s top three national series.

Kurt Busch: The 2004 series champion has 29 wins on the premier circuit, finished sixth in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 and also qualified for a Pro Stock event in the NHRA.

Brad Keselowski: The 2012 series champion has 21 victories with Team Penske since 2011 and has emerged as NASCAR’s top restrictor-plate racer.

Joey Logano: Two-time championship round contender and is tied with Johnson for most victories (14) since the 2014 season.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: A two-time Daytona 500 winner missed the last half of the 2016 season but was a title contender in 2014 and ’15.

–Harvick: His performance since aligning with crew chief Rodney Childers at SHR three years ago has been astounding: the 2014 championship, 12 victories and more than 5,700 laps led on NASCAR’s premier circuit.

So given all of those names … what would be the purpose of Harvick’s effusively praising the Chip Ganassi Racing driver?

“He’s just a kid that not enough people know about, but he’s won and wins in everything that he’s ever driven,” Harvick said. “He’s just a racer. … I think he’s laser focused on what he does as a race car driver, and I think he’s the best talent to come through this sport in a long, long time and is going to win a ton of races because he’s that good.”

Hey, wait a minute. When is the 24-year-old’s contract up?

Chip Ganassi notoriously is secretive about the lengths of his drivers’ deals (in IndyCar and NASCAR, particularly because the team wants to avoid having its stars poached by other teams). Larson reportedly re-signed toward the end of 2015, but it’s unclear how long his deal runs. It’s believed to run through at least the 2018 season.

That’s why the last part of Harvick’s riff on Larson could have been telling.

“I hope Ganassi has a good contract with him because every team in the garage wants a Kyle Larson. He’s a guy that you can put in your race cars and win races even on a day when they’re not the best race cars. He’s going to make them look good.”

By the way, it also is worth noting that Ganassi was miffed four years ago when Stewart and Gordon had high praise for Larson. The team owner hinted he thought both drivers had motives of courting Larson to join their teams (Gordon openly has spoken about meeting Larson in his Hendrick Motorsports office years ago and pitching him on the organization).

Larson responded to Harvick’s comments in a SiriusXM interview Wednesday afternoon.

“Man, that’s so cool,” Larson said. “I look up to Kevin Harvick a lot. For people I race, there’s not anyone more talented and focused, definitely as focused as it comes, then Kevin Harvick. To see what he’s done since he’s gotten in the No. 4 car has been amazing.

“I always enjoy racing with him. He’s the one guy always on my tablet that I’m watching his lap times. I’m always learning off Kevin. I feel our driving styles are very similar. He’s really aggressive and gotten really good at running the top the last few years. That’s really cool to hear a guy I look up to talk about me like that.”

VIDEO: See what what Jamie McMurray thinks about his teammate’s surge in success in the video above.

Justin Allgaier racing for contract extension with HScott Motorsports

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“Silly season” is almost upon us and that means any NASCAR driver that doesn’t have a contract in place for 2016 or beyond is doing what they can to nail one down.

One of those drivers is HScott Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier, who drives the No. 51 Brandt Chevrolet and finished 40th Sunday in the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway following mechanical issues.

Bloomington, Ill. newspaper The Pantagraph talked with Allgaier, a native of nearby Riverton, Ill., about his status.

“My contract is up at the end of this year, so we’re still trying to figure all of the pieces out, still kind of working through all that,” said Allgaier.

Allgaier is in his second full-time season in the Sprint Cup series after having spent five in the Xfinity Series where he won three races. Allgaier, 29, has only one top-10 in 58 Cup races since 2013, an eighth-place finish earlier this year at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“Obviously the ultimate goal would be to do what we’re doing again, and I have a great relationship with Brandt,” Allgaier told The Pantagraph. “I’ve been very fortunate to have them behind me, so I would hope we could keep putting something together. Their goal would be to have an entirely ag-based car. I know they haven’t given up on that dream and they’ve been actively seeking partners to come in and be a part of the program.”

Allgaier is currently 29th in the driver standings, one spot ahead of the cutoff that would allow him to be part of the Chase for the Sprint Cup should he manage to secure hist first career Sprint Cup win in any of the seven remaining regular season events.

That’s a challenge for a driver with a small team like HScott Motorsports, which Allgaier describes as a “little engine climbing the hill” in the sport.

“We’ve had our struggles being a smaller team,” Allgaier said. “We have less resources, less people, all the different things that add up. I think my team owner, Harry Scott, has done a good job in that we’re trying to do everything we can with what we have. We’re going to try to keep growing and keep doing everything we can and hopefully we can get to that point where we can be a Hendrick Motorsports or a Joe Gibbs Racing.”

 

 

Jimmie Johnson ‘at home’ with Hendrick despite no contract extension

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Six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said there was “nothing new” to report regarding a contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports in an interview with USA Today prior to Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

But Johnson also made sure not to give fans any reason to worry.

“I’m home. I’m not going anywhere,” he said.

Johnson, who also has 74 wins in his 15 years of driving for Rick Hendrick, signed a five-year extension that ends at the conclusion of the 2015 season.

The contracts of Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus and his primary sponsor, Lowe’s, also run out then.

“(Team owner) Rick (Hendrick) likes to get things signed up and done well in advance, so there definitely have been conversations,” Johnson told USA Today. “We’re kind of going down the road to get that all buttoned up and put together.”