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Rick Hendrick wants Jeff Gordon ‘in my place’ when he steps away

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In an interview for an Autoweek story detailing NASCAR teams and their plans for ownership succession, Rick Hendrick dropped news about who sees as being the future leader of Hendrick Motorsports.

Hendrick, 69, said his former driver, Jeff Gordon, would someday take charge of the team he started in 1984.

“That’s the way we’re going. Whenever I finally step away, it’ll be Jeff Gordon in my place,” Hendrick told Autoweek.

Gordon, 47, is already a long-time minority owner of the team, a result of a contract he signed in 1999.

But don’t expect Hendrick to give up the reigns soon.

“I love this and still enjoy it so much, and it’s tied to my automotive businesses,” Hendrick said. “My health is good, so I expect to be around for a long time.”

But it’s possible Gordon’s heart wouldn’t be into being sole owner of the race team he competed for from 1992 – 2016, or at least as the owner of his own team.

Gordon discussed the possibility of ownership on Tuesday during a Q&A related to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s podcast, “The Dale Jr. Download.”

“I would not be an owner if it weren’t for Rick Hendrick and being there for such a long time and the contract that I signed that helped me be an equity owner,” Gordon said. “I want to be partners with Rick in the business. I certainly would never want to go out and do this on my own. Nor would I even be capable of (it).”

Gordon has a history of ownership outside Hendrick. He and his former crew chief, Ray Evernham, co-owned Gordon-Evernham Motorsports, an Xfinity Series team they fielded from 1999-2000.

Gordon went on to explain what keeps him from being more involved in Hendrick Motorsports: the state of the NASCAR business model.

“I’m always so interested in what’s happening from the business aspect,” Gordon said. “I’ve got to say, (Interim CEO and Chairman) Jim France and the France family and the involvement they have right now, (President) Steve Phelps. I’m seeing some momentum of some thing things, what’s happening with the (Race Team Alliance). There’s just some cool things that are happening and it all got started I think talking about Comcast coming in and buying NASCAR.

“Whether that was ever a reality or whatever was going to happen, what it’s generated is concerted efforts where people are coming together to try and take the sport to the next level from a business viability standpoint. That’s what I’m excited about. If it could do that, you would see me far more involved. But right now, if you look at the business model on paper, no, it doesn’t make sense. We’re lucky to have racing as more of a hobby and do it the level we do it because of our partners.”

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Jim France wins NMPA Myers Brothers Award

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Jim France, NASCAR’s interim CEO and Chairman, was awarded the National Motorsports Press Association’s Myers Brothers Award Wednesday in Las Vegas.

France, 74, is the fourth member of the France family to receive the award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to stock car racing.

The son of NASCAR founder William H.G. France, Jim France was vice chairman/executive vice president of NASCAR before Brian France took a leave of absence following his arrest for aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance in August. Jim France also is chairman of the board at International Speedway Corp.

Jim France founded Grand-Am Road Racing in 1999 and played a role in the merger of that series and the American Le Mans Series in 2012 into what is now known as the International Motor Sports Association.

The Myers Brothers Luncheon came the day before the Cup Series awards banquet (9 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Here is the complete list of award winners from the Myers Brothers Awards

·   NMPA Myers Brothers Award: Jim France

·   Buddy Shuman Award: Grant Lynch

·   NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award: Mobil 1

·   American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award: Kevin Harvick

·   Busch Pole Award: Kurt Busch

·   Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company Award: Joey Logano

·   MAHLE Clevite Engine Builder of the Year Award: Doug Yates

·   Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award: Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 team

·   Mobil 1 Driver of the Year Award: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

·   MOOG Go the Extra Mile Crew Chief of the Year Award: Adam Stevens, crew chief No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team

·  Sunoco Diamond Performance Award: Joey Logano

·  Champion Sponsor Award: Shell-Pennzoil

·   Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award: William Byron

·  Champion Crew Chief Award: Todd Gordon

Friday 5: What Joey Logano has in common with other champions

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While Joey Logano might not have had the best season statistically, he left Miami as the Cup champion.

For those who question Logano’s merits as a champ because he didn’t win the most races, understand that it is common for the champion to not have the most wins in a season.

In the last 20 years, the champion has not had the most wins 65 percent of the time. That’s a stretch that includes when the championship was decided by season-long points total, when the Chase was created and when the elimination format debuted in 2014 that led to the one-race championship.

Logano admits that he didn’t think he was a title contender in the first third of the season.

“I thought, man, if we get to the Round of Eight, that’s pretty good this year for where we were at the time,” Logano said. “We were consistent, that’s what kept us up in the points all year long. We didn’t have many bad races throughout the season.

“But I guess just as the playoffs went, everyone rose to the occasion. You always talk about how you have to find another little bit inside of you to just maintain when the playoffs starts because everyone is able to get a little bit better, and then as we do that, we started running better, and we were running top five and winning stages.”

And becoming a champion.

Logano is in some good company among champions who didn’t win the most races in their title season.

In four of Jimmie Johnson’s seven championship years, he did not have the most wins those seasons. In two of Tony Stewart’s three championship years, he did not have the most wins those years.

Logano’s three wins this season are the fewest for a champion since Kurt Busch won three times in 2004. Matt Kenseth has the fewest wins for a champion in the last 20 years with one when he won the title in 2003 — the last championship determined by the season-long points total.

2. Changes coming?

While the idea of a spending limit for teams was discussed in the recent owners meeting a few days before the season finale in Miami, nothing is expected for next year.

“I think there’s two things when you start to consider financial stuff,” car owner Joe Gibbs told NBC Sports. “There’s cut and revenue. I think that’s where we are, trying to get those two to meet so you have healthy owners, healthy sport and you’re inviting new people to come in, all those things are a part of it.

“I think right now is a critical time. Maybe I look at every year that way, but right now is a big, big, critical time for our sport, where we’re going. I think there will be some big decisions within the next year.”

Gibbs said the owners and NASCAR also discussed how to get more fans to attend races.

“There’s all kinds of things that affect that, our racing on the track, what it takes to come to the race, our venue, where we go racing some places are obviously better than others,” Gibbs said. “All those kind of things are wrapped into it. The one thing I’m really thankful for is NASCAR and now Jim (France, interim Chairman) being involved the way he is, they’ve been pretty aggressive on not being afraid to go after stuff and change stuff, which I think is good.”

3. What a difference a year makes

After last year’s season finale in Miami, Brad Keselowski noted Toyota’s dominance and looked ahead to a 2018 that featured a new car for Chevrolet.

“As to what will happen for 2018, you know, I don’t know,” Keselowski said after the race a year ago. “I would assume that Chevrolet will be allowed to design a car the same way that Toyota was for this one, but Ford doesn’t have any current plans for that. If that’s the case, we’re going to take a drubbing next year, so we’ll have to see.”

This year featured the debut of the Optical Scanning Station, a camera-based inspection station that scrutinized the car in a way it hadn’t before. Ford teams hoped before the season that it would keep all three manufacturers close.

When the checkered flag waved in Miami last weekend, Keselowski’s teammate, Joey Logano, won the race for Ford — the company’s 19th Cup victory in 36 points races. Logano’s championship marked the first time since 1999 that Ford won the driver and manufacturer’s title in Cup in the same year.

“I’m certain that the inspection process … that changes part of it because any time you go through a big change like that, it does affect how the teams prepare the cars and bring the cars to the track,” Mark Rushbrook, Global Director of Ford Performance said of what led to the manufacturer’s success this season.

“But I think the biggest part is the advanced tools that we’ve developed over the last couple years have really matured to the point that they were able to help us, especially in the area of CFD, where we use that advanced computational fluid dynamics tool, the same tool that we use on our road cars and road trucks to make them better. 

“We have turned that and applied it into racing starting two years ago, and it took a little bit of time to adjust those tools, test those tools in this environment to make them even better, and now that is paying off on the performance on the track with the Fusion with what we’ve seen, hopefully contributing to the Mustang to come strong out of the box at Daytona next year.”

4. Gone but not forgotten

Overlooked Sunday was JJ Yeley’s 32nd-place finish with the team that once was BK Racing.

Days before the Daytona 500, BK Racing owner Ron Devine put his team in Chapter 11 bankruptcy to keep a bank that stated it was owed more than $8 million from taking the team’s charter.

So began numerous court hearings over the year that eventually led to a judge approving a Trustee to run the team instead of Devine and eventually the sale of the team in August. Front Row Motorsports purchased BK Racing for $2.08 million and kept the team intact.

During all that and after the sale, the team ran every race — as required by the charter it had.

It wasn’t pretty. The team finished 35th among the 36 charter teams in owner points, but the team made it to the end.

5. Something to ponder

Greg Maffei, CEO of Liberty Media, which owns, among other things, Formula One and the Atlanta Braves, gave a wide-ranging interview with NBC News this week.

Maffei was asked about NASCAR possibly being on the market.

“We like motor sports,” Maffei said. “If NASCAR were available, we’d certainly take a look.”

During an investor analysts call May 10, Maffei responded to a question about if NASCAR in light of the reports then that NASCAR could be for sale.

“I think it’s not as clear what the synergies are between the two assets (Formula One and NASCAR), and I would note the trends have not been perfect in NASCAR,” Maffei said. “Unless we had a good thesis on how and why we could fix them, it’s not an obvious to us.” 

NASCAR President Steve Phelps discusses multiple topics in media session

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. — NASCAR President Steve Phelps met with the media for about 40 minutes Sunday, answering various questions about the sport.

Here’s a synopsis of some of the topics he discussed:

On the transition in NASCAR’s leadership that includes Jim France as interim Chairman and CEO: “You have seen Jim France at all the races since Michigan. He goes to driver councils, (manufacturer) councils, team councils, Jim is involved in the business in a significant way.”

On the 2019 rules package: “The rules package was put in place because we want to have the most competitive racing that we can. We believe the 2019 rules package does exactly that. … We do believe that this racing, which today arguably is the best we’ve ever had, is going to get better. We have a promise to our fans and that promise is about close, competitive side-by-side racing and we believe this 2019 rules package will give us exactly that.”

On the inspection process: “We’re going to look at the inspection process. Will there be changes to it? There might be.”

On if Brian France be back as Chairman: “I can’t speak to whether Brian is coming back or not. I do know that Jim France is our Chairman and CEO. I do know that Jim France is incredibly involved in this sport.”

On trying to find new ownership of teams: “I think it comes back to making sure that owning a race team is something that is not a hobby. It is a business. You need to have people that love it. Roger Penske loves racing. We need to make sure we find that next Roger Penske, we find that next Jack Roush, we find that next Rick Hendrick.”

On what is realistic to expect on changes to the schedule: “I think everything is in play. We’ve heard from our fan base that they would like to see more short track racing, they want to see more road courses, they want to see less cookie-cutter tracks, whatever that means. We are looking with our broadcast partners and with our tracks and teams and drivers to get input on what each of them believes would be an idea schedule and then we’re obviously doing fan research as a part of it. Do I believe that everything is on the table? I do. Will we see a lot of the things that have been talked about? So more short tracks, more road courses, doubleheaders, mid-week racing, pulling the season forward, all those things would be in play. Don’t know what’s going to happen, but we are working diligently on what a 2020 schedule would be.”

On if IndyCar and NASCAR could race at the same track on the same weekend: I know that there are people that would like to see that. I think it would be a good show. We would have to figure out how that works.

On how NASCAR can bridge the gap so a driver who performs on track (such as Truck champion Brett Moffitt, who does not have a ride for 2019) can help such drivers with rides: “Listen, Brett Moffitt is obviously a very talented race car driver who has won more this year obviously than he’s ever won.  He has a bright future. What that future looks like, I don’t know.  What I do know is that we work with race teams from a revenue standpoint as much as we can. We also work with drivers to try to bridge driver opportunities. Are we always successful in getting a driver who wants to be driving in whatever series they want to drive in? No. But there are a lot of historical things that we have done to try to make sure that if a driver is interested in continuing that that driver has that opportunity.”

Click here for full transcript of Steve Phelps media session

Long: Why must-win situation was no pressure for Christopher Bell

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — In a season where Christopher Bell battled Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski to score Xfinity wins in back-to-back races in July and faced a must-win situation at Phoenix last weekend to advance to the Championship 4, such pressure situations don’t phase him.

“I feel like my mentors have just done such a good job of raising me throughout my young racing career and preparing me for moments like this,” Bell said after his victory last weekend at ISM Raceway. “I put so much pressure on myself for really any racing that we go do. Whenever I line up for the Chili Bowl heat race, I’m literally throwing up and that’s the most nervous, most pressure I feel of any race just because of what that race means to me. Today was nothing compared to that Chili Bowl heat race.”

Before people start bad-mouthing Bell for talking about dirt track racing over his main job in NASCAR, a couple of things.

One, there doesn’t need to be divide. This notion, which has been forced upon Kyle Larson after he’s talked about his fondness of racing in the World of Outlaws, is parochial.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps said in September that Larson should freely speak about his love of dirt track racing.

“We may be at the pinnacle of (short-track) racing from a popularity standpoint, but we can learn from them, they can learn from us, and we can promote each other in a far better way,” Phelps said. “So this notion of NASCAR trying to muzzle Kyle Larson and his love of racing couldn’t be further from the truth.

“We want Kyle Larson to talk about NASCAR racing and dirt racing and things that are his passion. We think he can bring his fan base from other forms of racing that he’s doing to us. And we can take our fans and bring them down to that racing as well, so we all get stronger by doing something.”

Second, so you understand. The way the Chili Bowl is set up, if one has a bad heat race, it can make a driver’s path to the A main on the final night infinitely harder. And the next chance to overcome something like that doesn’t happen for a year. So that’s why Bell, an Oklahoma native and two-time reigning champion of the event in his home state, feels such pressure for that event.

So he could be somewhat relaxed entering last weekend’s race at Phoenix. Bell said he had accepted the notion that he might not advance to the Xfinity championship race and that freed him from the shackles of pressure.

“For me, I have a problem of beating myself so if I sit here and say, ‘Hey, I have to win, my season’s on the line,’ then I’m more likely to beat myself,” he said. “We’ve won six races before today and it was a great year. Whenever I go into a season, my two goals are to win races and compete for the championship and we won races and we competed for the championship all the way up until things that were outside of our control happened. It was still a successful season in my standards. I’m happy that I’m still alive.”


There are many key decisions for NASCAR in the coming months from how long will Jim France serve as interim Chairman to finding ways to make teams more viable financially and ways to ensure close, competitive racing

Next season will be headlined by rule changes intended to improve the races, but NASCAR has signaled that there could be more dramatic moves in 2020, particularly to the schedule.

As NASCAR contemplates mid-week races, different venues, and ending the season sooner so there’s less conflict with football, here’s a little help to take one thing off the agenda.

There’s no need to change the final two races of the season.

Phoenix is the right track to be the last race before the season finale. It provides the short-track flair without having speeds so slow that it could create an endless amount of cautions late in the race as drivers bump their way to the front.

Even with the speeds, there have been memorable moments including Ryan Newman diving under Kyle Larson’s car, hitting it and using it to get through the final corner of the last lap to gain the position and advance to the title race in 2014. Last year, Matt Kenseth scored an emotional win, beating Chase Elliott, who exacted revenge against Denny Hamlin late in that race for Hamlin’s contact at Martinsville.

Phoenix allows the driver to be more of a factor than at many 1.5-mile tracks. Just look at Saturday’s Xfinity race where Austin Cindric, who had to win, was aggressive. At one point Cindric and Christopher Bell were dueling before Bell backed out and then worked his way back around Cindric. On a 1.5-mile track, where aerodynamics is so important, Bell might not have been able to have been as patient.

And there’s no need to change the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which has provided among the best racing at a 1.5-mile track with its progressive banking on a consistent basis. The races have been dramatic and the track provides multiple lanes for drivers to work.

So NASCAR can play around with the schedule as much as it wants, but there’s no need to change the final two races of the schedule.


On the first day of trading since the news Friday that NASCAR had made a bid to purchase all outstanding shares of Class A and Class B common stock of International Speedway Corp., the stock price for ISC closed 8.78 percent higher than it opened. The closing price was $42.49. It is the highest the stock has closed since Oct. 1.


For the second weekend in a row, one organization swept the Xfinity and Cup races.

Stewart-Haas Racing did it at Texas with Cole Custer winning the Xfinity race and Kevin Harvick the Cup race.

Joe Gibbs Racing did it at Phoenix with Christopher Bell winning the Xfinity race and Kyle Busch the Cup race.