Marty Snider

Bubba Wallace, Columbia Sportswear sign multi-year deal

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Four days after Bubba Wallace teased a potential deal, Columbia Sportswear and Richard Petty Motorsports announced a multi-year deal with the driver.

Wallace will be the newest brand ambassador for the outdoor clothing company, which will also serve as a sponsor on Wallace’s No. 43 Chevrolet in the Aug. 23 Cup race at Dover International Speedway.

“Columbia Sportswear is a perfect fit for my lifestyle away from the track,” Wallace said in a press release. “I love spending time outdoors – boating, golfing, hiking, photography – just anything to help me decompress from a hectic racing schedule. I’m beyond excited to be a part of the Columbia family and can’t wait to work with them on some unique content and fly their colors next weekend at Dover.”

Columbia will use Wallace and its team sponsorship to promote its product lines and proprietary technologies, including its PFG (Performance Fishing Gear) collection.

“There has always been a strong correlation between NASCAR and Columbia, especially with PFG,” Joe Boyle, Columbia Brand President, said in a press release. “We are excited by the opportunity to work with Bubba and Richard Petty Motorsports to engage our shared fans.”

Added Boyle, “In addition to his racing talent, Bubba is a charismatic and courageous leader. It is his internal fortitude that most aligns with the Columbia brand and our Tested Tough ethos. Bubba is a Tested Tough trailblazer and we are thrilled to be working with him.”

This is the second big sponsorship deal for Wallace in the last month. On July 14, RPM revealed a multi-year sponsorship deal with Cash App. The deal included primary sponsorship in five races this season. Three races remain at Darlington Raceway, Bristol Motor Speedway, and Kansas Speedway.

Wallace’s contract with RPM expires this season. Wallace told NBCSN’s Marty Snider last weekend that he has offers from RPM and Chip Ganassi Racing.

Entering Sunday’s race on the Daytona International Speedway road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC), Wallace has a career-best four top-10 finishes this season, including a ninth-place finish Saturday in Michigan.

Bubba Wallace says he has offers from RPM, Ganassi

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Bubba Wallace confirmed to NBCSN’s Marty Snider on Sunday that he is mulling offers from Richard Petty Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing for next season.

Snider reported that Wallace and RPM co-owner Andrew Murstein both confirmed that Wallace already has ownership in the team as first reported by Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports. Snider reported that Wallace, whose contract expires after this season, said that it is “not locked and loaded” that he’ll stay with Richard Petty Motorsports after this season.

The offer from Chip Ganassi Racing would be to drive the No. 42 car next season.

Former champion Matt Kenseth drives the No. 42 for Chip Ganassi Racing, having joined the team in April after Kyle Larson was fired.

Kenseth told NBC Sports this weekend that “we really haven’t had any very meaningful discussions really about any of that to be honest with you. I think that when things are going as bad as they’re going I don’t think either side is probably super anxious about talking about what’s happening six or eight months for now.

“I think we’re more worried about trying to get this ship righted as soon as possible and start getting some finishes and start running up front. … We really believe that the cars and the team and everything, if we have a really good day, is capable of winning. I think that’s probably what is at the forefront of our mind right now, trying to get running good first of all then hopefully executing and possibly get in a position where we could sneak one out.”

Entering Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan, Kenseth had two top-10 finishes in 17 starts with the team. He finished 17th in Saturday’s race at Michigan. His best finish since returning to Cup this season was second at Indianapolis in July.

Chip Ganassi Racing changed crew chiefs on the No. 42 team on Aug. 4. Engineer Phil Surgen replaced Chad Johnston, who is no longer with the team.

Bubba Wallace places 9th, hints at ‘big deal on the line’

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Bubba Wallace scored his first top-10 finish in a month Saturday and teased a potential deal.

NBCSN’s Marty Snider reported Sunday that Wallace confirmed he has an offer from Richard Petty Motorsports for next season and also has an offer from Chip Ganassi Racing for the No. 42 car.

Wallace finished ninth after starting 24th Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. Kevin Harvick won the race.

“Everybody say a prayer for us,” Wallace told NBCSN’s Marty Snider after the race. “There’s a big deal on the line right now and this can only help so much. I’ve yet to check my phone to see the status of it. This will send us over the top if we can get it done. Been a lot of hard work off the racetrack from my team, everybody involved to make things better and that’s what we’re trying to do. So putting solid runs tighter and having awesome restart all night this is only going to help the effort.”

Wallace acknowledged that silly season also has weighed on him. His contract expires after this season. RPM owner Andrew Murstein has offered ownership in the team as part of a contract extension. There also is believed to be interest from other teams in Wallace.

“We’re in the middle of silly season right now,” he said. “My mind is there, it’s here.”

Wallace was pleased with the finish Saturday – his fourth top-10 of the year and the most he’s had in any Cup season – but seeks more performance Sunday.

“I know this whole COVID-19 deal has been tough,” he said. “I haven’t been able to go to the shop and show my appreciation (to the team) and how much they really work and make our cars better week in and week out. It’s been fun. …  To come out with a solid top-10 finish for us is positive. We’ve got a lot of work to do.

“I was not happy with the car, but I think that’s the racer mentality. I’m not sure if Harvick is happy about his car either. We always strive to be better. All in all a solid day.”

Richard Petty Motorsports offers Bubba Wallace ownership stake

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Richard Petty Motorsports owner Andrew Murstein told Forbes SportsMoney that Bubba Wallace has been offered an ownership stake as part of a new deal. Wallace’s contract expires after this season.

NBCSN’s Marty Snider reported during Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that Wallace told him before the race that he has “a lot of options on the table” and was uncertain what he would do. Snider said Wallace planned to listen to all options.

“We’re in discussions with him about an extension that includes ownership in the team,” Murstein told Forbes SportsMoney. 

Murstein told Forbes SportsMoney that he expects an agreement to be finalized “within the next couple of weeks.”

MORE: Sunday Cup race at New Hampshire – start time, TV channel, lineup

Sports Business Journal reporter Adam Stern, citing unnamed sources, stated Friday that another possibility for Wallace is with Chip Ganassi Racing and sponsor McDonald’s. Kurt Busch signed a multi-year contract extension with the team in 2019. In April, Matt Kenseth replaced Kyle Larson after the team fired Larson.

Wallace, 26, is in his third season with Richard Petty Motorsports. He enters Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway 20th in the points. Wallace finished a career-best second in the 2018 Daytona 500. His best finish this season is sixth at Las Vegas.

How Austin Dillon’s Texas win was set in motion 1,100 miles away

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When the caution flag waved 27 laps from the end of last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, crew chief Justin Alexander had a decision to make.

Austin Dillon was seventh. Pitting was the easy call — all the leaders came to pit road.

The key question was if to take two tires, four tires or no tires. Figuring a few of the leaders would take two tires, Alexander contemplated a quicker no-tire stop to pass those cars on pit road to gain track position.

In a command center 1,100 miles away at Richard Childress Racing in Welcome, North Carolina, a different option was presented.

Pit for two tires. Specifically, pit for two left-side tires.

Alexander made that call, Dillon exited pit road second to teammate Tyler Reddick, whose team changed no tires. Dillon took the lead and went on to win the race and earn a playoff spot.

“The call was the win,” Dillon said after his third career Cup victory.

Many things had to happen — Dillon’s pit crew needed a fast stop and he had to hold off the field on multiple restarts — for Dillon to win, but the role the command center played was critical.

The sport’s top teams have places in their race shop dedicated for engineers and team officials to use to study in-race data and provide input for the crew chief at the track. Such centers have become more valuable this season with teams not practicing and qualifying before races, meaning a car’s first laps at speed are when the green flag waves. NASCAR announced this week that there will be no practice and no qualifying the rest of the season.

NBCSN’s Marty Snider will give fans an inside look at the RCR command center during tonight’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App), showing what takes place and how the decisions there impact a race.

RCR’s command center, which was built about five years ago, has 10 stations for engineers and others to work and a wall-sized screen that can show various data about the RCR cars or any other car in the field along with the race broadcast. Computer programs also provide instant analysis of when to pit, how many tires to change and where each option is likely to put the car.

Austin Dillon and his team after winning Texas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“Definitely the command center has helped,” said Alexander, who led the organization’s research and development and worked race days in the command center before reuniting as Dillon’s crew chief this season. “There’s more eyes on things than I can look at on my computer.”

With crew rosters limited, Alexander does not have either of his engineers with him at the the track. They work from RCR.

“As they feed me data, I can make better decisions,” Alexander said.

Dr. Eric Warren, RCR’s chief technology officer, spearheaded the effort to build the center. The technology has grown from analyzing timing and scoring to deciphering the car’s performance and strategies each team is likely to use in the race.

“The basic foundation of it is trying to learn what is the real performance of the car,” Warren told NBC Sports. “That way you are taking out things like weather, track position and laps on tires, all those things. As it gets more accurate in really understanding you’re an eighth-place car, then you can make those tradeoffs. If I take two tires and gain five seconds of track position, what’s my fall-off going to be and what’s my performance going to be?”

With such knowledge, teams can decide if such gambles are worth making.

Computer programs also study other teams and learn their tendencies and that can help plot strategy against.

Warren noted the key for Dillon came well before that last pit stop. Dillon had a four-tire stop on Lap 213 of the 334-lap race. That allowed the team to go with two-tire stops later since lap times did not significantly increase the longer the car ran on the same set of tires.

Dillon came in for a two-tire stop on Lap 245 under caution, a move that allowed him to go from 11th before the stop to eighth. The top six cars did not pit, meaning Dillon was second among those that had stopped.

A caution on Lap 307 when rookie Quin Houff made contact with Christopher Bell and Matt DiBenedetto trapped five of those six cars that had not pitted on Lap 245 a lap down, forcing them to take a wave around and not pit during that caution. That all but eliminated Ryan Blaney, who led 150 laps and pole-sitter Aric Almirola, among others.

“We knew, even an entire stop before, there were a lot of people that the way they did their pit strategy, they were going to be left exposed for a long period of time,” Warren said, noting Blaney, Almirola and others who pitted under green around Lap 290 and would remain a lap down until the rest of the field cycled through under green. “We actually altered our strategy way before those (late) cautions came out and kind of knew the likelihood of a caution happening (near Lap 307) was pretty high.”

That caution is when Dillon came in for two left-side tires, as the computer program suggested, and Reddick changed no tires, also as the program suggested. Dillon and Reddick went on to give RCR its first 1-2 finish in a Cup race since 2011.

“It’s starting to show that the speed of the cars are there,” Reddick told NBCSN’s Kyle Petty on this week’s Splash and Go. “Just taking advantage of some track position, taking advantage of some strategy calling played into our strengths, and it really showed that our cars had the speed on the older tires to be able to hold off the guys on four fresh tires.”

Warren also notes that while technology plays a key role in races, the human factor remains important.

“The relationship between the crew chief and the driver is critical because we might say 100% we definitely think you need to take right-side tires here,” Warren said. “The crew chief is going to know, even a little bit more than us, how far is the driver on the edge and maybe we’re not seeing a little damage on the car. My way of thinking about it has always been like we used to not have computers to do word processing, right? Well, now you have that and you can, so now you can spend time doing the next advanced thing. That’s the same with us.

“I don’t think the human element ever really is going to be replaced, at least not short term. I think it allows you to think about things more complex.”

Like winning races.