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Noah Gragson addresses where he stands with Todd Gilliland, 2019 plans

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Noah Gragson said he doesn’t know where he’ll race next year but stated Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio where things stood with Todd Gilliland after their last-lap incident Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

Gragson attempted to pass Gilliland for the lead on the last corner but made contact. Both trucks spun, allowing Justin Haley to win the playoff-opening race in the Camping World Truck Series and secure a spot to the next round. Gragson finished ninth. Gilliland placed 11th.

Gragson addressed the incident with Gilliland, his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate, on “SiriusXM Speedway.”

“I’ve talked to Todd a little bit,” Gragson told host Dave Moody. “We’re back on good terms. I wanted to get his opinion on that last lap. He wanted to get my opinion. At the end of the day, we were racing for a win. I hate the result for everybody at Kyle Busch Motorsports. Not my intention. We’re both going to move on from it and keep racing each other hard and going out there and trying to beat the rest of the competition.”

As for what car owner Kyle Busch said to him, Gragson said: “I don’t think he’s too happy. He’s been on vacation this week. I’m sure we’ll hear about it later on.”

Another question for Gragson is about his future.

Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported Wednesday that JR Motorsports is expected to sign Gragson for next season in the Xfinity Series. Gragson would replace Elliott Sadler, who announced earlier this month that this would be his final full-time season in NASCAR.

“I think the key word to that whole phrase,” Gragson told Moody when asked about being a part of the rumor mill, “is rumor. Right now it’s not really my focus. I know my guys at Clutch Management have been working really hard on finding me an opportunity next year. My main focus is to win a championship at Kyle Busch Motorsports and compete for wins on a weekly basis.”

Asked about how quickly he’d like to advance to the Xfinity Series, the 20-year-old Gragson said: “I’m not really sure what I’m going to do next year. I think it would be a great opportunity if I was in position to race in the Xfinity Series.”

Gragson finished second in his Xfinity debut at Richmond in April and followed it with a fourth at Talladega and a seventh at Dover for Joe Gibbs Racing. Those were all Dash 4 Cash races and Cup drivers were not allowed to compete in those events.

Gragson is in the Truck playoffs and is third in the points after one race. He has one win this season.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France upbeat Monster Energy will remain beyond 2018

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NASCAR Chairman Brian France expressed optimism Tuesday that Monster Energy will remain as series sponsor after this season and said that the Cup Series could use one more manufacturer.

France made his comments on “SiriusXM Speedway” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Monster Energy, which completed its first year as series sponsor in 2017, was to have informed NASCAR by Dec. 31 if it would remain beyond the 2018 season. NASCAR President Brent Dewar said last month that the sanctioning body agreed to extend that deadline

“They have had a really good run with us, and we’ve had a good run with them, and my hope and feeling is that that’s going to continue,’’ France said Tuesday. “They’ve been good partners. They’re bringing a lot to the sport. They’ve got a lot on their plate and so do we. We’re working with them to make sure that we have as long an agreement as we can. I think we will. I think it’s working that good for everybody. I’m real pleased with it.’’

Asked by “SiriusXM Speedway” host Dave Moody if there is a deadline on when Monster Energy must inform NASCAR of its decision, France said:

“There’s always that, but we just look at our partners differently. We work though everything. Everything to us is long term, whatever that means in a given relationship. My sense is that it has really worked for everybody. It’s also new. They’ve only been here, my goodness, just completed the first year. They’re working out some things and that’s understandable. It’s all good, actually really good with those guys. Love those guys.’’

Last month, Rodney Sacks, chairman and chief executive officer of Monster Beverage Corp., said during an investor meeting that the company was “evaluating” its future with NASCAR.

Sacks was asked in that meeting about the return on its investments, including NASCAR.

“I think that we have been quite successful,’’ Sacks said. “I think we have got a lot more visibility, a lot more recognition for the brand through the NASCAR sponsorship. It’s very extensive. It’s on TV. It’s appearing on the talk shows. We look at the metrics that the NASCAR folks give us and it certainly does seem to have been enhanced. Now to what degree, that we don’t know.

“Certainly we do believe we have been able to increase penetration but again it takes some time. I think we really started in NASCAR at the beginning of the year — very, very quick decision to go into NASCAR (and) it took us a little bit of time to get up to speed and get our activation going. We think we’ll see lot clearer benefits and more benefits coming from that relationship this year.’’

As for manufacturers, France said he felt there was room for one more in the Cup Series to join Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota.

“There’s a lot of work going on on that. Clearly we believe that the sport could not only absorb but welcome another manufacturer. These are tricky things to do. They’re very difficult to pull off. We’re just going to work toward that goal. I believe over time we’re the best opportunity not only in North America, maybe the world in terms of motorsports. We’re going to be aggressive in talking to other manufacturers as we go down the road.’’

Why just one more manufacturer?

“I think there is a limit,’’ France told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “There’s only so many key teams that a manufacturer can get their hands on and that takes time,’’ he said. “They want to have good performance and the right team alignments. Most importantly, they want to align themselves to the right teams and sometimes the teams aren’t available to do that.

“Using the Toyota approach that they had, that took them a long time to be competitive. I think the next manufacturer would probably like to shorten that timeline a little bit and be more competitive quicker. We will get another manufacturer, but it’s one step at a time.’’

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