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Xfinity among four premier partners for NASCAR Cup Series in 2020

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Xfinity, Busch Beer, Coca-Cola and GEICO will serve as inaugural premier partners for the NASCAR Cup Series in 2020, the sanctioning body announced Thursday morning.

The new sponsorship model, which goes away from one company having its name solely tied to the Cup Series, includes premium assets for each premier partner to engage fans throughout the upcoming season. Premier partners will collectively own a presence connected to the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 race and All-Star Race. All four partners also will be prominently featured in multiple platforms across the sport, including integrations in broadcast, NASCAR digital and social channels, event entitlements, in-market promotions and at-track activations.

The contracts for all four companies were staggered three to five years to avoid them from all expiring at the same time. NASCAR also has stated that it’s goal is to have three to five premier partners. Even with these companies, it does not limit the categories teams can search for sponsors.

“This has been a monumental year for our sport, one highlighted by significant changes in our business model to ensure long-term viability and growth,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR President, in a statement. “As we begin this new chapter, we are joined by four incredible brands with deep-rooted histories across all levels of our sport. We are honored to have this elite group represent our NASCAR Cup Series for years to come.”

Said Daryl Wolfe, NASCAR executive vice president and chief sales and operations officer, in a statement: “This new model will provide our premier partners with a heightened level of integration and visibility across all aspects of our sport. Each of these partners have demonstrated their commitment to our brand-loyal fan base and we are excited about how these brands will elevate the NASCAR Cup Series.”

Here is how each company’s involvement will be seen in 2020:

Xfinity

Comcast’s Xfinity brand entered the sport with a landmark 10-year partner agreement in 2015, positioned as the title sponsor of the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the “Official Entertainment Partner of NASCAR.” As a premier partner, Xfinity will maintain its Xfinity Series sponsorship. Xfinity also will sponsor the Championship 4 elimination race of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Martinsville Speedway.

“The first five years of our partnership with NASCAR has exceeded our expectations and the season-long national platform has provided increased exposure for the Xfinity brand and allowed us to demonstrate how our products and services enhance the way race fans enjoy this great sport,” said Matt Lederer, vice president of brand partnerships, Comcast, in a statement. “Given the overwhelming fan reaction and how the industry has embraced the Xfinity brand, we’re thrilled to expand upon that commitment by becoming a premier partner of the NASCAR Cup Series, while also continuing to showcase the young stars of the NASCAR Xfinity Series.”

Throughout the past five years, Xfinity has elevated the series’ “Where Names Are Made” theme, supported the introduction of an elimination-style playoffs, reenergized the Dash 4 Cash program, reimagined how champions are celebrated at Xfinity Champion’s Day at Universal Orlando Resort and has honored charitable efforts within the industry through its prestigious Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award platform. Xfinity continues to change the way fans access the sport through its Xfinity Stream app, Xfinity X1 video and Xfinity xFi internet.

One of the changes is that the champions in the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series each will go to Universal Orlando Resort for Xfinity Champion’s Day in November. Previously, only the Xfinity Series champion went there. And, Xfinity Philadelphia Takeover in May will continue to be an integral part of the Xfinity NASCAR partnership, along with the other programs Xfinity does.

Busch Beer

Busch Beer returned as a NASCAR official partner in 2018. The deal provided the beer brand exclusive sponsorship of the Busch Pole Award, a position it will continue with throughout its premier partnership. Busch Beer also will sponsor a NASCAR Cup Series event in 2020.

 “We are continuing to evolve our presence in NASCAR because we have a significant connection to its fans and believe in the future of the sport,” said Nick Kelly, vice president partnerships, beer category and community, Anheuser-Busch, in a statement. “The premier partner position strengthens our deep-rooted history in the sport and will provide fans with even more opportunities to enjoy a crisp, cold Busch Beer on race day.”

Anheuser-Busch’s history in NASCAR dates back to 1978, when it sponsored the Busch Pole Award. Additionally, Busch Beer was the “Official Beer of NASCAR” from 1988-97. Beginning in 1998, Anheuser-Busch sponsored the Bud Pole Award through its Budweiser brand, which also became the “Official Beer of NASCAR” through 2007.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola has been involved with stock car racing for 50 years and became a NASCAR official partner in 1998. As a premier partner, Coca-Cola will continue its sponsorship of both NASCAR Troops to the Track and NASCAR Salutes, the portion of the season focused on highlighting industry-wide appreciation of the U.S. Armed Forces. Coca-Cola will also continue to own race entitlements at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Daytona International Speedway. Additionally, Coca-Cola becomes the presenting sponsor of the NASCAR Cup Series regular season championship trophy.

“Coca-Cola has a long history of successful collaboration with NASCAR and elevating our position to premier partner provides even more opportunity to connect fans to unforgettable experiences,” said John Mount, vice president, sports marketing, Coca-Cola North America, in a statement. “Further integrating our two brands affords Coca-Cola the opportunity to build on our winning formula and contribute to the growth of the sport in the years ahead.”

The agreement further enhances Coca-Cola’s position as the “Official Soft Drink of NASCAR.” A signature part of the brand’s marketing strategy is the Coca-Cola Racing Family – an exclusive group of top drivers representing Coca-Cola who are featured across company advertising, promotions and packaging.  

GEICO

GEICO’s involvement in NASCAR spans more than a decade and the company became the “Official Insurance Provider of NASCAR” earlier this year. As one of the most fully integrated brands in the sport, GEICO will enhance its existing assets through its Premier Partnership and become the presenting partner of a season phase.

“Our affiliation with NASCAR has been successful over the past decade and expanding our role to Premier Partner was the next logical step,” said Bill Brower, assistant vice president of marketing for GEICO. “Our expanded presence will allow us to further engage the most brand-loyal fans in sports, bolster our effective marketing platform and play a prominent role in the sport in the years ahead.”

In addition to GEICO’s team partnership with Germain Racing and Ty Dillon, the brand’s involvement in NASCAR includes highly visible assets such as the GEICO Restart Zone, its race entitlement at Talladega Superspeedway and campground sponsorships.

Through the viewfinder: Memorable photos of 2019 season

Photo by Dustin Long
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The end of each NASCAR season provides a chance for reflection … and a time to go back and look at the many photos taken at the track. Here are some photos I took in 2019 and what made them stand out to me.

Photo: Dustin Long

If you’ve been to a race, you’ve likely seen pit crews stand in their pit box and wave to their driver as they pass by on pit road before heading to the track to begin the race (at least at races where cars are staged on pit road).

The Richard Petty Motorsports pit crew, though, waves to every vehicle that passes them on pit road. Often drivers will wave back.

“If you don’t wave at them, you actually feel bad because they’ll like make sad faces,” Martin Truex Jr. said. Above was the scene at Charlotte in May on All-Star weekend.

 

Somewhere in this photo is Kyle Larson‘s car after he won the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. Photo by Dustin Long

 

Photo by Dustin Long

After each event, one of the biggest races is for the spotter of the winning team to make it down from atop the press box to Victory Lane to celebrate with the team. Sometimes the spotter can’t make it down in time before photos begin to be taken.

Spotter Chris Lambert makes sure to get a picture with his driver, Denny Hamlin, after each win because Lambert often misses the group pictures. This photo is of them after Hamlin’s win at ISM Raceway put the No. 11 driver in the championship race.

But there is more to Lambert than being the voice that tells Hamlin “clear” or “inside” or “outside.” His first wife and infant son were killed in a car crash 20 years ago. After the tragedy, a series of seemingly unrelated events over the next few years led him to marry one of his wife’s best friends. Before each race, Lambert honors the family he has and the one had.

 

Photo: Dustin Long

The intensity on Cole Custer‘s face is striking in the moments after he finished second for the Xfinity Series championship for the second year in a row in Miami.

Custer moves up to the Cup Series in 2020, joining a talented rookie class that includes two-time Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell. This could be one of the best rookie of the year races in recent years.

 

 

The throwback schemes for the Southern 500 have made the event at Darlington Raceway even more special for many race fans. The Wood Brothers crew uniforms help the past come alive. Photo: Dustin Long

 

Photo: Dustin Long

This photo is of artwork in the Talladega Superspeedway media center celebrating 50 years of NASCAR racing at the track.

After I tweeted the photo, I was a bit surprised by the reaction from fans and their comments about the artwork. That’s one of the things I’ll remember most about this picture.

Of course, seeing some of the sport’s most famous cars on track together also was memorable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Dustin Long

Another special story on pit road in 2019 was the return of Daniel Smith, rear tire changer for Kevin Harvick’s team.

Smith’s last event of the 2018 season was the Bristol night race before he was treated for testicular cancer. His treatment included four rounds of chemotherapy, which consisted of one week in a hospital and two weeks of recovery each time. Still, he continued to work out in the hospital.

Smith returned at Daytona in February. He remained on pit road through the Bristol night race this past season until surgery to remove lymph nodes in his lower abdomen. He returned to his job on pit road at Talladega Superspeedway in October.

 

 

Nothing else needs to be said as Mike Wheeler, crew chief for Matt DiBenedetto, stares at the damaged left front corner of the car after DiBenedetto finished second in the Bristol night race. Photo: Dustin Long

Black Friday, Cyber Monday ticket deals from NASCAR tracks

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Black Friday is here and that mean it’s time to save money.

Here’s at look at all the Black Friday-Cyber Monday deals on tickets being provided by NASCAR tracks:

Auto Club Speedway

From Nov. 29 – Dec. 6,  No service fees on Auto Club 400 ticket orders (savings up to $27.00).

Holiday package:

  • 2 Tickets to the Auto Club 400 (rows 1-13)
  • 2 Pre-Race Pit Passes
  • 2 Gatorade Victory Lane Passes
  • All for only $99 – a $254 value. Offer expires Dec. 31

Bristol Motor Speedway

Through Monday (Dec. 2), all Food City stores will offer the “Black Friday” price of $40 for an adult ticket to the Food City 500 on April 5. Kids tickets for those 12-and-under are also available in-store for just $10. Each ticket purchased awards shoppers 500 additional ValuPoints on their Food City ValuCard.

All tickets will feature blind-reserved seats selected by members of the BMS ticket office. Tickets will be sold at the customer service area of each Food City location and emailed within seven days of purchase.

Also, Friday (Nov. 29) – Monday (Dec. 2) the track will be offering a “Cyber Weekend” deal.

The track is offering the lowest price of the season for the Food City 500 with $40 tickets, alongside $10 tickets for kids 12-and-under online via Ticketmaster.

Charlotte Motor Speedway

50% discounts on select 2020 All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 tickets.

Black Friday Blowout, which runs from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. ET, gives race fans the opportunity to drive their personal cars on the track. The only requirement is spending $50 on merchandise or tickets to 2020 NASCAR or NHRA events, or donating $25 to Speedway Children’s Charities. The ticket discount will run through Cyber Monday on Dec. 2.

Chicagoland Speedway

A Section L NASCAR Cup Series Grandstand Ticket and a Infield Fan Zone Pit Pass for $75. A Fan Zone Pit Pass experience includes the opportunity for live driver special Q&As, front-and-center access to the drivers’ red carpet walk and pre-race pit road access.

Available from Nov. 29 – Dec. 2.

Darlington Raceway

Two Holiday Offers: 

Offer One: 1 Reserved Grandstand Seat to the Bojangles’ Southern 500 for $50

Offer Two: Three-day package to include: Practice day admission, 1 Reserved Grandstand Seat to the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 and 1 Reserved Grandstand Seat to the Bojangles’ Southern 500 for $60

These deals expire at 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, Dec. 2.

Daytona International Speedway

On Friday and Monday, the track will offer the following $60 ticket package specials (these deals expire at 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, Dec. 2):

  • Rolex 24 At Daytona: General admission frontstretch seating and infield access for the Jan. 25-26 event, a Rolex 24 event hat, UNOH Fanzone/Pre-Race Access and garage access on Sunday, a savings of 37%.
  • The Clash At Daytona/Daytona 500 Qualifying: General admission frontstretch seating and $20 in concession vouchers for the Sunday, Feb. 9 Cup Series doubleheader, a savings of 20%.
  • Bluegreen Vacations Duel At Daytona: General admission frontstretch seating ticket and UNOH Fanzone/Pre-Race Access for the 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday night, Feb. 13, a savings of 43%.
  • NextEra Energy 250: General admission frontstretch seating ticket and UNOH Fanzone/Pre-Race Access for the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race on Friday night, Feb. 14, a savings of 29%.
  • NASCAR Racing Experience 300: General admission frontstretch seating ticket and UNOH Fanzone/Pre-Race Access for the Xfinity Series season-opener on Saturday, Feb. 15, a savings of 43%.
  • Daytona 500: Deal includes reserved seat for the Daytona 500, commemorative Daytona 500 shirt and commemorative Daytona International Speedway hat.

Kids 12 and under are FREE in general admission frontstretch seating and UNOH Fanzone for the above events.

There are also ticket package specials for fans of Bike Week At Daytona and the Coke Zero Sugar 400:

  • 50th annual Daytona Supercross: Reserved ticket and Trackside Access can be purchased for $50 – a savings of 33%. The Supercross event takes place Saturday, March 7.
  • Coke Zero Sugar 400: Reserved ticket and a Racing Electronics scanner rental for $69, a savings of 28%, for the historic first NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 29.

Homestead-Miami Speedway

A free 3’ x 5’ 25th anniversary flag with the purchase of a ticket.

ISM Raceway

For $79 you receive:

• One Grandstand Ticket (Sections: 144-115, Rows: 11-17) to the FanShield 500, March 8, 2020
• One Scanner Rental headset

This holiday offer gives you nearly 40% in savings.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Purchase an adult weekend package and get exclusive access to the Cup garages and a unique look at the teams and drivers at work. Open garage access time is limited to Saturday, Feb 22, 2020 from 7:30 a.m – 9 a.m. Subject to change. Use code GARAGE2020

Martinsville Speedway

On Black Friday, ticket packages starting at $66 include access to the Pre-Race Experience prior to the first Cup Series night race at Martinsville on Saturday, May 9.

Michigan International Speedway

$140 package that includes two tickets to either the FireKeepers Casino 400 on June 7 or the Consumers Energy on Aug. 9, plus two mugs.

Special holiday pack that includes four tickets to either of the Cup Series races at the track that starts at $250 per pack. Guests will also receive an eight foot by 2.5 foot green fleece blanket as part of the ticket package.

Cyber Monday deal: Guests can save up to $25 for the FireKeepers Casino 400 or the Consumers Energy 400 on select grandstand tickets along with Pit and Driver Introduction Passes.

Cyber Monday Deal:

$59 Adult ticket – Regular price $79
$30 Children 12 and under ticket – Regular price $40
$60 Pit/Driver Introduction Pass – Regular price $75

New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Two separate deals:

Black Friday “4 for $99” Deal

Available from 12:00 a.m. ET on Nov. 28 to 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 2

Get four general admission tickets to enjoy the racing on Saturday, September 12, 2020, featuring the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the ARCA Menards Series East, during Full Throttle Fall Weekend for only $99, saving you $81 on race day pricing!

Cyber Monday “2 for $50” Deal

Available from 12:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 2

Get one general admission ticket to enjoy the racing on July 18, featuring the Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, during the NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 race weekend PLUS one general admission ticket to enjoy the racing on Saturday, September 12, 2020, featuring the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the ARCA Menards Series East, during Full Throttle Fall Weekend for only $50, saving you $50 on race day pricing

Pocono Raceway

The track is offering three “champion’s week” deals through next week for ticket packages of $90, $240 and $350 for the Cup doubleheader weekend.

The $90 package includes a 100-level grandstand seat for Saturday and Sunday.

The $240 package includes a 200-level bucket-seat grandstand ticket for Saturday and Sunday and a pre-race pit/paddock pass valid all race week.

The $350 package includes 300-level Saturday and Sunday ticket, pre-race pit/paddock pass valid all race week and a FanVision rental both days.

Richmond Raceway

Ticket for the April 14 Toyota Owner 400, FanGrounds pass and holiday ornament, $94 for adults, and $39 for kids 12 & under. The offer is available from 12:01 a.m. ET Friday, Nov. 29 until supplies last.

The race ticket is located in the Dogwood grandstand located in Turns 1 and 2, sections AA-H, rows 1-10.

Sonoma Raceway

Two Adult Main Grandstand Tickets for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 (June 14) plus a scanner and two headsets for $119 (savings of $130). Additional kids tickets are available for $10 each.

Talladega Superspeedway

Two separate packages with savings of more than $35:

  • 2-Day Tower and Talladega Garage Experience Package – $219 plus free shipping
    • One (1) 2-Day Lincoln Tower Ticket (located between the exit of Turn 4 & the entrance to pit road) and one (1) 2-Day Talladega Garage Experience Pass for the MoneyLion 300 and the GEICO 500
  •  2-Day Grandstand and Talladega Garage Experience Package – $179 plus free shipping
    • One (1) 2-Day Talladega Grandstand Ticket (Sections F-L, located between the start-finish line & Turn 1) and one (1) 2-Day Talladega Garage Experience Pass for the MoneyLion 300 and the GEICO 500

*NOTE: When purchasing, you will select your seats first, then add the Talladega Garage Experience admissions. The quantity of tickets and Talladega Garage Experience admissions must match. Limited quantities available. Offer ends Dec 2.*

Texas Motor Speedway

Friday ticket to the 2020 O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 weekend (March 27-29) just $30 as well as 30% off all other tickets for Sunday’s Cup Series race.

These will be the lowest-priced tickets offered for the March 27 ticket that will include: practice sessions for the Cup and Xfinity Series and the qualifying and race for the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.

The track’s Black Friday special offer starts Friday, Nov. 29 at midnight CT and ends Dec. 1 at 11:59 p.m. CT.

WWT Raceway at Gateway

Racing Electronics

25% off + free shipping with the code CYBER2019

Austin Theriault not medically cleared by NASCAR to race at Kansas

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Austin Theriault announced Thursday morning he has not been medically cleared by NASCAR to compete in this weekend’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway after his involvement in a wreck in Monday’s race at Talladega.

Theriault, 25, competes for Rick Ware Racing and was set to drive its No. 52 Chevrolet this weekend. Theriault said Garrett Smithley will take his place.

A NASCAR spokesperson said its policy is to not discuss a competitor’s medical information.

A spokesperson for Rick Ware Racing told NBC Sports all info on Theriault would be released by the driver on social media or by NASCAR. The team said “we expect to have Austin back in the car very soon.”

The native of Fort Kent, Maine, has missed races due to medical issues before.

In 2015, while racing part-time for Brad Keselowski Racing in the Truck Series, he suffered a 10% compression fracture in his back in a wreck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after his HANS device broke.

Theriault missed several races before returning in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Since 2015 he has made five Cup starts, three Xfinity starts and four Truck Series starts.

Ryan: Even without plates, Talladega still served up a spectacular show

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Better plate than never?

That was a major question entering this year’s Daytona 500 — and particularly after a pair of lackluster races at Talladega Superspeedway last season.

The 2019 season opener marked the last superspeedway race before horsepower-sapping restrictor plates permanently were removed and replaced by the (similarly shaped) tapered spacers used to choke down engines at the rest of the tracks on the circuit.

The plates defined some of the most indelible moments, both tragic and triumphant, in NASCAR over the past three decades

So what would the post-plate era look like in NASCAR?

The 26 Hours of Talladega provided a definitive answer: A lot like most of everything that transpired on the biggest, fastest tracks in NASCAR for the previous 31 years.

Incessant chaos, crushed sheet metal and costly errors.

In other words, insanity on four wheels (as Marcos Ambrose infamously dubbed it) for 500 miles at a time.

It’s the bedrock upon which superspeedway racing happily has rested for three decades in the interest of entertainment (and, ostensibly, safety in ensuring speeds are manageable enough to prevent cars from sailing over catchfences with disturbing regularity at Daytona and Talladega).

After an off-year in 2018, NASCAR found its sweet spot in Sweet Home Alabama this season.

The most arbitrary form of racing delivered by NASCAR’s premier series again felt as predictably unpredictable as it ever had since the restrictor-plate era began in 1988. There were colossal crashes, double-crossing duplicity and razor-tight finishes.

That was great for fans. It wasn’t necessarily good for Cup drivers.

Of course, it rarely is in the finicky and violent environs of Dega, which was unusually tame last year with only two wrecks of at least a half-dozen cars across 1,013 miles (this year, there were three times as many).

The knock on plate racing in 2018 was the lack of driveability. It’s hard to make passes when cars aren’t stable at 200 mph-plus in the draft.

That put the leader at a huge advantage of being able to tow lines at will and control the front of the pack in a decidedly un-Talladega-esque manner. It was most evident last October when Stewart-Haas Racing led 155 of 188 laps with cars that (stunningly) were built for handling instead of speed.

NASCAR addressed this by raising spoilers to 9 inches with the advent of the spacers. That didn’t do much for handling, but it did punch a bigger hole in the air that caused massive acceleration in the draft and eradicated the “aero bubble” barrier that drivers said made it difficult for trailing cars to pass last year.

So the ability to catch the leader improved … even though handling didn’t nearly as much (look no further than Joey Logano’s in-car camera, which was a furious blur of hands manhandling the steering wheel on every shot).

That was a recipe for the return of the huge wrecks that felt like Dega of yesteryear. Holes in the draft vanished much more quickly, and blocking became futile as drivers scrambled (and often failed) to adapt to the higher closing rates.

If there was a theme, it was that misjudgment on blocking and bumping made the racing much more treacherous – particularly in the rain-shortened July 7 wreckfest at Daytona and the extravaganza Sunday-Monday.

As analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. noted in the NBC broadcast, though the bumpers don’t line up as well with the Gen 6 as in the previous iteration (which spawned the nefarious tandem drafting), the bump-drafting has become even more aggressive in the era of stage points and playoff berths tied to wins.

With bigger runs coming from every direction, an increased susceptibility to being passed and cars just as unstable when in a pack, the lead no longer was the place to be at Talladega.

There were more lead changes Sunday-Monday (46, up from 38 in the April 28 race) than the combined total (40) for both 2018 races. There were 22,214 green-flag passes (59 per lap) at Talladega in 2019, up from 13,294 last year (35 per lap).

A NASCAR without restrictor plates?

Talladega still served up the action for fans — on a silver platter strewn with twisted sheet metal, of course.


The situations weren’t entirely analogous, but NASCAR’s non-call on the final lap Monday was reminiscent of its controversial non-call on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s winning pass of Matt Kenseth in the April 6, 2003 race at Talladega. In both instances, officials claimed the spirit of the yellow-line rule wasn’t violated even though the letter clearly was.

Here’s how the rule was presented in the drivers meeting at Talladega: “Drivers, this is your warning. Race above the double-yellow line. If in NASCAR’s judgment, you go below the double-yellow line to improve your position, you will be black-flagged. If in NASCAR’s judgment, you force someone below the double-yellow line in an effort to stop someone from passing you, you may be black-flagged.”

It’s indisputable that, just like Earnhardt did in passing Kenseth 16 years ago, Ryan Blaney went below the yellow line before taking the lead for good Monday from Ryan Newman. It’s possible that contact with Newman caused Blaney to dip below the boundary, and that seems to be NASCAR’s explanation in why no call was made.

But it also seems like the rule demands that (as it did in 2003) a penalty should have been called on either Blaney or Newman. NASCAR can rule that “in its judgment,” Blaney didn’t intentionally go below the yellow-line to improve his position … but if that’s the case, it means he had to have been forced there, right?

Regardless, NASCAR officials say they are happy with the language of the rule.

Given that it affords them tremendous leeway to turn every yellow-line pass into a ball and strike call, it’s easy to see why.


As many have noted, manufacturer alliances at Daytona and Talladega were invented long before the 21st century. In the 1990s, Chevrolet and Ford drivers regularly worked together – when possible — to try to ensure their makes won the race.

But there were some glaring differences about the tempest that sprung forth last weekend and sparked major disgruntlement among fans and media.

Chevrolet’s decision to call an in-race meeting at Garage Suite 3 in full public view was ill-advised, at best. The references afterward to shilling Corvettes and watching PowerPoints were too clever by a factor of maybe 100, and they also were indicative of why the optics were problematic.

Chevy’s extremely disciplined approach felt too corporate, and it seemed micromanaged to the point of making Michael Scott blush. Chastising drivers for racing three wide instead of single file while still in Stage 1 is hardly palatable to anyone in NASCAR, which has an appealing undercurrent of cutthroat intensity (especially at Daytona and Talladega).

It’s understandable why Jim Campbell demanded his Chevy drivers stay on script. The heat from GM headquarters in Detroit surely was unbearable after Hendrick Motorsports essentially helped Toyota win the Daytona 500. And Ford and Toyota drivers surely were given virtually the same marching orders at Talladega – just much more discreetly.

That might be the right line to choose next time.


The focus on manufacturer alliances wasn’t all bad, though.

It forced some good discussions on awkward topics into the open, and it raised important issues about how much influence manufacturers and teams should have in effectively determining race winners. If younger drivers for midpack teams essentially are told to subjugate themselves for the greater good (or risk being stripped of perks), is that a just sacrifice at a track that might offer their best opportunity at winning all year?

That conversation got shoved to the forefront by the weekend’s manufacturer debate. And it was nice that none of it actually mattered at the conclusion of a race that featured a passel of unheralded underdogs vying for the checkered flag.

It also could be indirectly good for NASCAR while continuing to court new manufacturers to enter with its next generation engine (which probably won’t happen until 2023). With the overall decline in the corporate sponsorship spend over the past decade, there are few entities investing as much in stock-car racing as the automakers.

At least they got good bang for their bucks at Talladega, particularly if you ascribe to the idea that there is no such thing as bad publicity.


Ryan Blaney still isn’t a favorite to reach the Championship 4 this season, but Monday might be remembered as a turning point if the No. 12 driver eventually wins a Cup title.

Ryan Blaney receives congratulations from teammate Joey Logano (Photo by Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

There is enormous pressure on the 25-year-old to perform at Team Penske, which has been enjoying a worldwide results bonanza well beyond NASCAR that is impressive even for this storied organization. Never mind championship teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, Blaney also is competing against winners of the Indianapolis 500, Bathurst 1000 and Rolex 24. If he makes the playoffs but still goes winless this year, it gets noticed more than it would at a less successful team.

It was important that his 2019 breakthrough happened at Talladega after a string of plate failures the past few years. Blaney’s Fords led four of the past six races at Talladega but didn’t finish higher than 11th in any of them. He finished seventh in the 2018 Daytona 500 despite having the best car and leading a race-high 118 laps.

The confidence-booster of making every right move over the final two laps (including the bold decision to choose the outside for the lead on the final restart) should go a long way toward making Blaney feel his place is secure at one of racing’s greatest teams.