Lesa France Kennedy

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N.C. Governor to reveal plans this week that could impact NASCAR

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that he will detail plans later this week on what it will take to ease the state’s stay-at-home restrictions, which could lead to the return of NASCAR racing as soon as next month.

North Carolina residents are under a stay-at-home order through April 29. Most NASCAR teams are based in North Carolina and have had their shops closed since the order began March 30. Until teams can prepare cars, NASCAR can’t race anywhere in the country. 

Since Sunday, five North Carolina state senators, the state’s Speaker of the House in the General Assembly and the state treasurer have all asked Gov. Cooper to allow NASCAR to race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend without fans.

“We are working to ease restrictions in a responsible way, in a staged way,” Gov. Cooper said during Tuesday’s media briefing. “We will be bringing forward this week more specifics on that plan to move forward and what trends, testing and tracing, that we are going to be looking at in order to begin the process to ease the restrictions.

“We understand that we can’t stay at home forever and that this is not something that is sustainable long-term, but what we have to do is ease back into it and make sure this virus does not spike, which it very easily could do, overwhelming our hospitals. You only have to look on TV at what’s happening in New York and Italy to see what could happen here. We have modeling that shows what could happen if we just remove the restrictions and say everybody go back as you were.”

NASCAR has not commented on discussions with Gov. Cooper or any discussions with governors from other states. NASCAR has stated it intends to run all 36 races, including the eight races that have been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other governors are pushing for NASCAR to return to racing in their respective states.

Florida has been active in talking with NASCAR officials. Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he’s talked with Lesa France Kennedy, executive vice chair of NASCAR, about the series racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

DeSantis made sports an essential business in Florida last week provided they are closed to the public.

“I think if NASCAR does a race and can televise it without having a large crowd, I think that’s a good thing,” Gov. DeSantis said last week.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Monday that he had talks with NASCAR about racing at Texas Motor Speedway and said he hopes “to announce the exciting details in the near future.” His tweet raises the possibility that NASCAR and IndyCar could race at Texas Motor Speedway on the same weekend in June with no fans. Gov. Abbott said Tuesday that he will announce new plans on opening more of Texas on April 27.

Other potential states for hosting NASCAR races soon could be South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster reversed restrictions on some businesses Monday, allowing retail businesses that had been deemed nonessential earlier this month, to open. Those include sporting good stores, book, music, shoe and craft stores, among others. He also will leave it to local communities on if to open beaches in the state. Gov. McMaster made no mention of Darlington Raceway.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday that he will allow certain businesses, such as gyms, barber shops, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys, among others, to open Friday as part of a “measured” approach to balancing economic and public health concerns. He did not mention Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Monday that his stay-at-home order will not be extended past April 30 and that some business will be reopening next week. That could allow for Bristol Motor Speedway to be used depending on NASCAR’s schedule.

President Trump seeks to make sports central part of economic revival

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President Donald Trump spoke with sports leaders Wednesday, expressing his desire to make sports a central part America’s economic revival, according to a press pool report.

The report sates that Lesa France Kennedy, executive vice chair, represented NASCAR on the call. Others on the call included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred.

According to the press pool report: “The President expressed optimism to the major sports organizations that are eager to get their athletes back on courts, courses, and fields of play, and for the millions of sports fans who are missing their favorite teams and players. Leaders of the sports organizations expressed appreciation for the President’s attention to their industry and offered innovative input on social distancing guidelines.

“President Trump acknowledged the important role that sports play in American life and expressed his desire to make sports a central part of the great American economic revival.”

MORE: Dr. Anthony Fauci on how sports can return: Regular testing, no fans

MORE: N.C. Gov: “Our new normal” may have no in-person crowds for awhile

President Trump held a call with sports league executives April 4. That call included NASCAR President Steve Phelps. President Trump later said in a press briefing that day:

I want fans back in the arenas. Whenever we’re ready and as soon as we can, obviously. The fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out on the golf courses and breath nice clean beautiful air.

“I can’t tell you a date, but I think it’s going to be sooner rather than later. We’re not going to have to have separation for the rest of our times on the planet. We need it for this period of time. Eventually, people are going to be able to occupy those seats in arenas next to each other like we have for all of my life and all of your life.”

NASCAR has postponed seven races through May 3 at Dover International Speedway. NASCAR’s next scheduled race is May 9 at Martinsville Speedway, but Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order from March 30 to June 10. The next scheduled events after that would be All-Star weekend (May 14-16) and Coca-Cola 600 weekend (May 22-24) at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina.

According to the press pool report, these were the individuals on Wednesday’s call with President Trump:

* Todd Ricketts—Chicago Cubs
* Jerry Jones—Dallas Cowboys
* Mark Cuban—Dallas Mavericks
* Ari Emanuel— Endeavor
* Robert Kraft—The Kraft Group
* Mike Whan—LPGA
* Robert Manfred— MLB
* Don Garber—MLS
* Adam Silver—NBA
* Lesa Kennedy—NASCAR
* Mark Emmert—NCAA
* Roger Goodell—NFL
* Gary Bettman—NHL
* Lisa Baird—NWSL
* Jay Monahan—PGA TOUR
* Dana White—UFC
* Sarah Hirshland—U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee
* Patrick Galbraith—USTA
* Cathy Engelbert—WNBA
* Vince McMahon—WWE

NASCAR completes merger with International Speedway Corp.

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NASCAR announced Friday morning it had closed on its merger with International Speedway Corp.

Jim France will serve as the company’s chairman and chief executive officer. Lesa France Kennedy will be the executive vice chair. Steve Phelps has been appointed president and will oversee all operations of the company.

“The merger of NASCAR and ISC represents a historic moment for our sport,” France said in a statement. “There is much work ahead of us, but we’re pleased with the progress made to position our sport for success. Delivering for our race fans and partners is job number one, and we look forward to doing that better than ever for years to come.”

As part of the new organization, the Board of Directors will consist of France, France Kennedy, Mike Helton and Gary Crotty, chief legal officer Phelps’ direct reports will include Ed Bennett, executive vice president & chief administrative officer; Jill Gregory, executive vice president & chief marketing and content officer; Craig Neeb, executive vice president & chief innovation officer; Steve O’Donnell, executive vice president & chief racing development officer; and Daryl Wolfe, executive vice president & chief operations and sales officer.

Helton and John Saunders will serve as senior advisors under the new leadership structure.

“With great racing across all of our series, an exciting 2020 schedule on tap, and the Next Gen race car in development, we are better positioned than ever before to lead the sport into a new era of growth,” said Phelps in a statement. “We have a strong, experienced leadership team in place with incredibly dedicated employees at every level throughout our organization. Our best days are ahead of us and our new organization is going to allow us to better deliver great racing to our fans everywhere.”

Jim France reaffirms that France family is ‘committed’ to NASCAR

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — NASCAR Chairman Jim France spoke briefly to competitors at the start of the driver’s meeting Sunday, reaffirming the France family’s commitment to NASCAR and asking drivers to join Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott on the bottom lane during the Daytona 500 to “put on a good show today” after days of single-file racing at Speedweeks.

France, who took over for Brian France in August after his nephew’s arrest for aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, represented NASCAR’s leadership in speaking to the drivers before the first race of the season.

It was one of his few public appearances. He has yet to grant an interview since becoming NASCAR’s Chairman.

France spoke to competitors with niece Lesa France Kennedy, NASCAR vice chairperson, standing beside him:

“On behalf of Lesa, Ben (Kennedy) and myself, welcome all of you to the 61st running of the Great America Race, the Daytona 500. Also, I’d like to recognize some of the family members. There’s not time to recognize all of them, but this sport was built by families. You have the Petty family, the Earnhardt family, the Jarretts, I could go on and on all morning, but I know that you’ve got other things to do.

“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. It’s a tough, tough sport, tough business. It’s hard, but we’ve got a soft family side and that’s what makes NASCAR special. So on behalf of us and all of us in this room, we appreciate the great drivers, the great teams and the great sponsors that are here today making this happen.

“And I’ve got just one other little thing, two things, to add. One of my big hopes was one day I would be passing out a trophy in victory lane to Ben. He and I have still have that plan but don’t tell Lesa.

“The other thing is that I hope a few of you drivers out there will get down on the bottom with Denny and Chase and put on a good show today.”

France reaffirming the family’s commitment to NASCAR comes as NASCAR seeks to take over International Speedway Corp. ISC is run by the France family and operates tracks, including Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway, among others.

NASCAR announced in November that it had made an offer to purchase all outstanding shares of Class A and Class B common stock in International Speedway Corp. That came after reports that NASCAR was looking to purchase a stake in the company.

Long: Kansas a warning sign for Martin Truex Jr.?

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — The voice did little to mask the frustration, confusion and level of desperation.

For much of the season, Martin Truex Jr. has been in control, and at times dominant, winning four races and finishing in the top five in 17 of the first 31 starts entering last weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway.

But little went right for Truex on Sunday.

That the team finished fifth — in the odd stat category, all 18 of Truex’s top-10 finishes this year have been top fives — was a testament to its ability to persevere but the question is if that will be enough in this round? It helps that he has plenty of playoff points but that almost wasn’t enough to keep his title hopes alive beyond Kansas.

The issues they had with the car Saturday in practice weren’t resolved in the race. That proved frustrating for Truex and the team.

At the completion of the first stage on Lap 80, Truex radioed crew chief Cole Pearn: “I don’t know what to do. Maybe I just need to tighten this thing up and run the wall.”

Pearn responded: “We’re not making any ground with what we’re doing.”

About 25 laps later, Pearn asked Truex what he needed to run better near the wall. Truex said: “Everything. It does the same thing on the bottom. Won’t turn.”

Twice in the first 120 laps, Pearn brought Truex in early to start a wave of green-flag pit stops. Pearn did that with the hope that having fresh tires sooner would help the No. 78 leapfrog a few cars. The gain proved minimal.

On Lap 140, Truex, running 11th, told Pearn: “I’m so bad in traffic. It’s ridiculous.”

On Lap 165, Pearn told Truex, who was running sixth, that the points were tight and that “you’ve got to race as hard as you can.”

Truex said: “Doing all I can right now.”

He did enough to advance.

We had to dig deep,” Truex said afterward. “A lot of pressure and a bad situation and we were able to come out looking good. That being said, we’ve had a lot of headwind that we’ve had to battle through the playoffs, we haven’t had much go our way.

“We had a few races like that this year, we had a few like that last year. Seems like this year they’ve been a little bit more frequent but again we finished fifth. You can’t complain too much. At the end of the day, we’re still searching a little bit at certain race tracks.”

One of the things that Truex can take away is how strong his pit crew was Sunday. Twice he gained four spots on pit road. The second time came after the end of the second stage and allowed Truex to restart sixth.

Even with his struggles, that track position was critical. He never ran worse than seventh in the final 100 laps and finished high enough to advance to third round and continue his quest for back-to-back Cup titles.


Don’t expect to see another Roval on the schedule at this point. Marcus Smith, chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports Inc. and creator of the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway, said after the event there that he was not looking at having another Roval at any of SMI’s other tracks.

“I feel like this is unique to Charlotte, and we’ve got other speedways out there that produce their own unique action,” Smith said.

International Speedway Corp., which owns 12 tracks that host Cup races, also does not have any plans at this point of turning one of its oval races into a Roval event.

Lesa France Kennedy, chief executive officer of ISC, praised Smith for the Roval.

“I think Marcus Smith did an amazing job of taking his idea from start to finish … to get to the point that he did,” Kennedy said this past weekend at Kansas Speedway. “I think the fan reaction was amazing. I think it’s created a lot of hype and attention to the sport and I really applaud him and his team’s efforts. I think everybody is paying attention.”


John Hunter Nemecheck’s victory in Saturday’s Xfinity race was celebrated throughout pit road among title contenders.

Nemechek was not eligible for the playoffs since he didn’t run the full season. His victory takes away an automatic spot to the championship finale in Miami and means at least two of the four contenders will advance via points.

“It was big because that keeps us all in play where it doesn’t give anybody an advantage for Homestead where you can work on your stuff (early) for that particular race,” Elliott Sadler told NBC Sports after the race.

A first-lap crash triggered by playoff contender Justin Allgaier took him out along with title contenders Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric. The incident also damaged playoff contender Cole Custer’s car. 

The Xfinity Series is off this weekend. Teams are back in action Nov. 3 at Texas Motor Speedway.


NASCAR is expected to issue its penalty report Wednesday. Daniel Hemric‘s Xfinity car was found to be too low in post-race inspection. The likely L1 penalty will cost Hemric 10 points. If so, that will drop him out of the lead. He currently leads Elliott Sadler by nine points.

Should Hemric lose 10 points, it will put the top six drivers within 18 points.


NASCAR examined why the hood flew off Ross Chastain‘s Xfinity car during Saturday’s race. The car suffered front-end damage in an earlier incident.

NASCAR also planned to review this week why a caution was not called when Chastain’s hood flew off near Turn 3. It was run over and broken into smaller pieces.