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NASCAR announces merger agreement with International Speedway Corp.

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International Speedway Corp. announced Wednesday morning that it has entered into an agreement and plan of merger with NASCAR. The deal is valued at approximately $2 billion.

Shareholders will receive $45 for each share.

This deal is expected to close this calendar year.

International Speedway Corp. owns 12 tracks that host NASCAR races, including Daytona International Speedway, Darlington Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

NASCAR issued a statement Wednesday: “We are pleased with the progress that the negotiation and execution of the merger agreement between NASCAR and ISC represents.  While important regulatory and shareholder approval processes remain, we look forward to the successful final resolution of this matter and continuing our work to grow this sport and deliver great racing experiences for our fans everywhere. With a strong vision for the future, the France family’s commitment to NASCAR and the larger motorsports industry has never been greater.”

NASCAR Chairman Jim France told competitors in the drivers meeting before the Daytona 500 that “this sport was built by families and we’re just a part of it. It’s so important that we remember that this is still a family business. Our family is committed to it.”

The agreement announced Wednesday allows NASCAR to control those tracks, along with Iowa Speedway, which it already owns. That could make it easier for NASCAR to move dates to take a date from one track to another. NASCAR President Steve Phelps has stated that the schedule is among the areas the sanctioning body is looking at making changes. NASCAR’s five-year sanctioning agreement with tracks ends after next season.

With NASCAR private, it won’t have to publicly report attendance revenue and other financials as ISC had to do as a publicly traded company.

ISC also announced that a class-action lawsuit that had been filed against it after NASCAR and ISC announced last November plans to merge will be dropped.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns eight tracks that host NASCAR races, including Charlotte Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, announced April 24 that it had received a non-binding proposal from Sonic Financial Corp. to acquire all outstanding shares of common stock other than those already held by Sonic. Bruton Smith and his family own and control Sonic Financial Corp. Smith is the founder and majority stakeholder in Speedway Motorsports Inc.

The only tracks not owned by ISC or SMI that host Cup races are Pocono Raceway, Dover International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

How Kevin Harvick ‘won’ NASCAR’s version of Groundhog Day at Dover

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Kevin Harvick’s phone started blowing up with texts and voicemails offering congratulations late Sunday afternoon for winning the Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway.

There’s only one problem with that – actually, a couple of problems:

First, there was no race on Sunday. It was rained out and ran the following afternoon (Martin Truex Jr. won).

Second, and the main reason so many folks offered Harvick congratulations is that Fox Sports 1 – in lieu of Sunday’s rainout and to fill time – replayed last year’s spring race at Dover, which Harvick did indeed win in dominating fashion.

But because the network only sparingly made notice to viewers during the telecast that they were watching last year’s race, many either didn’t see the notification or didn’t pay attention to it. Hence why Harvick’s phone blew up.

It was like a NASCAR version of the movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray has the same day replay over and over.

“The first text I got was from (sponsor) Jimmy John himself, and talked about how he had just sat with his whole family and watched the race and how excited he was,” Harvick said during Wednesday’s Happy Hours show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It took me like 15 minutes to get up the nerve to text him back.

“He copied myself, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer and so nobody said anything on the text. Finally, I broke the ice and said, ‘Hey man, that was last year’s race.’ At first, he thought I was messing with him. I’m like, ‘No, that was last year’s race.’ And then it was Clint and Tony piling on. But he wasn’t the only text I got.

“I don’t know if it was misleading or if it said ‘re-air’ or something … maybe thinking people kind of think it was live.”

Then things took an even bigger turn. The corporate headquarters of Outback Steakhouse, another of Harvick’s primary sponsors, has a promotion that if Harvick scores a top-10 finish on Sundays, fans can come into an Outback restaurant on Monday and get a free Bloomin’ Onion appetizer. He finished fourth on Monday, his fifth fourth-place finish in the first 11 races of the season.

Said Yocum, “So many people thought you had won on social media, Outback sent out a corporate memo to all their restaurants that if anybody comes in on Monday and says, ‘Hey, I want the free Bloomin’ Onion,’ go ahead and give it to them because that’s just the kind of partner we are.”

Even Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne — who some fans thought was back racing in NASCAR because he competed in that race (but we’re not using it here because it contains profanity) — got into the mix on social media:

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Kevin Harvick on Dover fallout: ‘The driver’s voice is not being heard much’

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In light of the lingering dismay among many drivers and team owners about Monday’s Cup race at Dover, Kevin Harvick gave his take on Wednesday’s edition of Happy Hours on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Harvick spoke at length with co-host Matt Yocum about his own frustrations over the race and the aero package that brought speeds up to what some drivers considered dangerous or too fast. Harvick particularly noted Kyle Busch’s well-publicized, post-race complaints.

MORE: Kyle Busch on not being fined for Dover comments: “I’m not sure I said anything wrong.”

You look at the things he does and places he races, those are big comments from somebody like Kyle,” Harvick said of Busch. “Look at the facts, my car was 17 mph faster through the corner than it was last year and 4 mph slower on the straightaway.

That’s something the drivers have really talked about the last 3-4 years, getting the corner speeds down. That’s where some of the frustration showed up at Dover….  We’ve slowed the cars on the straight, but the center of the corner speeds are still up at most every racetrack we go to. So I understand and agree with his frustrations.”

Harvick also had his own frustrations.

In my opinion, (race winner Martin Truex Jr.) had the dominant car that could win the race,” Harvick said. “When you hear him say it was tough to pass, that says to me that I need to stop and think about what he said and why he said that. When you have the dominant car and the car to beat on a particular day, it should not take you 250 laps to get to the front (both Truex and runner-up Alex Bowman started from the back of the field).

(Truex) took the lead on the last lap of the second stage. That’s what he’s talking about it. He made it to the front eventually. … I think the thing that’s speaking from the race winner, Kyle Busch and myself, the frustration is it takes so long to make a pass. At Dover, it took a long time to pass no matter who you came up on. It slowed you down. Having to take 15-20 laps to pass each car takes time. That’s really where the drivers are coming from in this particular instance. You can pass, but you have to wait for a mistake.”

Harvick also lamented how drivers don’t have the kind of leaders or communication avenues as open with NASCAR that others had in the past, most notably the late Dale Earnhardt.

“From a driver’s standpoint, in the past we started the driver’s council and that has kind of faded away this year and there’s a little frustration on the driver’s side because it has fallen on deaf ears over the past couple of years,” Harvick said. “I think a lot of Kyle’s (Busch) frustration and what he’s saying bleeds over to other drivers. You don’t feel like your voice is being heard. … The driver’s voice is not being heard very much on things when it comes to competition, especially when it comes to this particular style of rules package, and then you get to Dover and it boils over after the first 11 weeks.

“… Before Dale Sr. passed, he was the kind of guy NASCAR trusted, could go to and say things and the drivers all trusted and said we’re on board with him. I don’t really feel there’s that type of communication since Dale Sr. left. There’s no guy and no one really in the very top of the NASCAR executive side of things that has the experience inside the car that can relate to the drivers and say this is what these guys are feeling, what they’re saying and I understand their frustrations.

“It’s a very tough, tough position that everything is in right now, after all this stuff is laid on the table by the race winner, (team owner) Bob Leavine and Kyle Busch. There’s a lot of things to digest here.”

How can that communication be improved?

I don’t think all of it lays on NASCAR,” Harvick said. “Some of it lays on the team owners, to get the drivers more into the mix. It’s not like that on a lot of teams. Our team is not aligned with a lot of the decisions and some of the things that have happened in the sport. … I think we’ve got to pull the owners into this conversation because a lot of them have pushed NASCAR into doing the things they’ve done from a financial situation. … We have to get the drivers and owners to be more on the same page with what’s going on from the owner’s and NASCAR standpoint  and get that communication right. That’s a piece of the puzzle that’s missing. 

“… I wouldn’t lay all the decisions that have been made in the sport are definitely not all on NASCAR’s shoulders. Thats one of the more frustrating things that happens. Everybody comes into how do we make the sport better, whether it’s competition or social media or whatever, and can’t set aside those agendas to do what’s right for the sport.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of politics in every decision that gets made and everything we do in today’s world. This is not my favorite thing to talk about, but obviously with everything that happened this week, this is definitely a topic we have to talk about.”

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Penalty report from Dover

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NASCAR has penalized the crew chiefs of two Cup teams for unsecured lug nut violations incurred in Monday’s Gander RV 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Billy Scott, crew chief for the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford driven by Daniel Suarez, and Chad Johnston, crew chief for the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet driven by Kyle Larson, were fined $10,000 apiece for unsecured lug nuts on their respective cars.

Larson finished third, his best showing of the season, while Suarez finished 11th.

There were no other violations in the Cup, Xfinity or Truck Series.

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Ryan: Dover criticism at interesting juncture for leadership, rules

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How much would Kyle Busch’s excoriation of the racing Monday at Dover International Speedway draw the ire of NASCAR?

Discussions took place Tuesday (as part of the sanctioning body’s weekly postrace analysis) on whether to punish the 2015 series champion. Late Tuesday afternoon, a NASCAR spokesman said Busch wouldn’t be fined.

It was an interesting window into the new dynamics of NASCAR leadership and the sanctity of a rules package that has been a central storyline of the 2019 season.

By previous standards, Busch’s harsh assessment of how higher speeds impacted the racing at Dover might have crossed NASCAR’s boundaries for language detrimental to stock-car racing.

Series officials previously have said drivers are welcome to criticize them for their calls but draw the line on assailing the entertainment value of the on-track product. In announcing the abolition of its “secret fine” policy, Brian France said sanctions publicly would be levied on those perceived as denigrating NASCAR, and it’s been applied (sometimes capriciously) to Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart for their views on restrictor plates, the Gen 6 car and loose wheels.

However, Busch’s comments weren’t completely out of line given NASCAR’s expectations for a radically different rules package in 2019.

During a critical preseason test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, vice president of development and innovation John Probst told JeffGluck.com and other reporters that NASCAR “wanted cars close together. We don’t want people falling off and going laps down. We don’t want people checking out.”

Martin Truex Jr. won Monday’s rain-delayed race at Dover by 9.5 seconds, a margin of victory greater than the previous 10 races combined this season, and even Truex said passing was difficult for his No. 19 Toyota.

It’s also worth noting that Probst said during the Las Vegas test that most drivers were opposed to the new rules – and many seem to have been biting their tongues when asked to evaluate the rules. The introduction of 550 horsepower at larger speedways was intended to keep cars closer together, but the reviews have been mixed.

Though Kevin Harvick offered a stronger opinion Monday after Dover, his restraint after a March 23 qualifying session at Martinsville Speedway reflected the reticence many drivers have had about the package this season.

“Look, I bailed on having an opinion on rules and downforce the middle of last year,” Harvick said, apparently referring to when NASCAR moved in the direction of the 2019 rules after a version was used in the All-Star Race.

Martinsville was among the 2019 races in which drivers were more vociferous about the impact of the rules on passing.

Those complaints have undoubtedly been heard by Jim France, who took over as NASCAR CEO for his nephew, Brian, nine months ago and has been a much more visible presence and sounding board at the racetrack.

Though his leadership style has been universally praised for its connectivity, Jim France also has an old-school approach that is in line with his late older brother who ran NASCAR for more than 40 years.

Traditional hard-line leadership at NASCAR has been less receptive to rebukes from drivers, and a punishment for speaking out against the 2019 rules – which likely will remain for the foreseeable future – might have sent the message that some sacred cows remain in Cup.


Perhaps more at risk for NASCAR sanction was Leavine Family Racing owner Bob Leavine, who began tweeting his support of Busch and his dissatisfaction with the rules since shortly after Monday’s race ended in a tweetstorm that lasted more than a day.

“It’s unfortunate, especially when a team owner does social media,” NASCAR senior vice president Steve O’Donnell told SiriusXM’s NASCAR channel Tuesday morning. “I don’t think that’s the right way to do it at all. It’s a choice that was made. We’re available every race and talk to every constituent we have. Jim France is at every race, which is phenomenal. The ability to say that you don’t have a chance to talk to us about your feedback is a bit questionable.”

NASCAR ultimately declined to punish Leavine, too.

The team owner has some leverage. As he noted, he is a Race Team Alliance board member. He also has a midpack team that joined the Toyota Racing Development fold this season.

With open speculation about Toyota’s desire and need to add another car to its lineup, an expansion of LFR would be the easiest option. If Leavine were to leave NASCAR (and this tweet didn’t exactly inspire confidence about his long-term belief in the product), it would leave a gaping hole that would take a lot of effort and money to fill.


Prior to Martin Truex Jr.’s wins at Dover (1-mile track) and Richmond Raceway (the 0.75-mile layout where he scored his first short-track win in Cup), his previous 12 wins had come at ovals either 1.5 miles and longer or road courses.

Because his 2017 championship was built on the 1.5-mile tracks (a record seven wins, including the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway), it’s easy to overlook Truex’s versatility. His 0-for-80 winless stretch on short tracks was an anomaly, and his team’s only weakness is on superspeedways, which are largely immaterial to winning a title once a driver has qualified for the playoffs.

With two wins in three races, Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn seem fully assimilated into Joe Gibbs Racing and poised to continue a five-season run as a first-tier championship-caliber duo.


Truex’s win also helped make a strong case for cementing JGR as the reigning top team in NASCAR’s premier series. Between Busch, Truex and Denny Hamlin, Toyota is the only manufacturer with a trio of multiple winners, and Erik Jones has shown signs of righting the ship in the past two races.

Team Penske might remain a clear second in the pecking order, but there weren’t many highlights at Dover with Joey Logano (who fought for a sixth after getting mired deep in traffic from playing two-tire strategy to win a stage), Brad Keselowski (who faded greatly to 12th after leading 58 of the first 181 laps) and Ryan Blaney (15th).

Those struggles, coupled with Hendrick Motorsports’ four top 15s, underscored that the battle behind Gibbs has been tightening.


The tactics of Logano and William Byron revealed how strategy can be tricky with races that run largely incident-free. Both drivers sacrificed track position for Stage 1 points and then spent much of the remaining 280 miles trying to regain ground.

Dover marked the sixth of 11 races in 2019 that didn’t feature a multicar wreck, and the resultant lack of yellows can make it difficult to catch a tactical break. Logano and Byron both abandoned long-run strategies to short pit and get on sequence with the other lead-lap cars for their final stops with around 80 laps to go.

Gambles on being able to stay out longer under the final green-flag run (which lasted 131 laps) went unrewarded for Daniel Suarez, Jimmie Johnson and Aric Almirola, who would have benefited if there’d been a late caution.


The return of single-car qualifying at Dover was kindest to the less experienced. Four of the top five qualifiers (Chase Elliott, Byron, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman) weren’t running Cup full time in 2013, the last season before the debut of group qualifying.

With only one driver starting in the top 10, qualifying at Dover was surprisingly unkind to JGR. During the 2013 season, JGR had three of the top four qualifiers (Matt Kenseth, Busch and Hamlin), and Truex also ranked in the top 10.


The demise of Furniture Row Racing sadly cut short one of NASCAR’s great underdog stories, but it’s good to see at least one thread remains to the Denver-based team.

Though only a handful of several dozen team members at Barney Visser’s defunct organization migrated with Truex to the No. 19 Toyota, Pearn keeping his postrace victory selfies tradition alive is a welcome reminder of the iconoclastic camaraderie that powered Furniture Row (even if the beards are gone).