Kentucky Update: Red flag out at Lap 49 for multi-car wreck

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After numerous rain showers forced Kentucky Speedway and NASCAR officials to throw in the towel last night, the Quaker State 400 finally got underway this afternoon under partly cloudy skies and in front of a decent but noticeably thinner crowd.

Carl Edwards immediately took the lead from pole sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. and led all the way up to the Lap 30 competition caution that was announced prior to last night’s rainout. “Cousin Carl” then brought the leaders down pit road for service, but Earnhardt and teammate/Sprint Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson managed to beat Edwards out after they all opted for two-tire stops.

Earnhardt took the Lap 36 restart on the outside lane above Johnson and managed to hold off the five-time Cup champion in a brief battle for the lead. But three laps later, the yellow flew again after a flat tire came apart for Denny Hamlin as he was traveling on the pit access road between Turns 3 and 4. The rubber then went through the grass and hit Earnhardt’s car, then Johnson’s at speed in Turn 4, triggering the race’s second caution period.

Both of them sustained visible front-end damage, but the Hendrick Motorsports duo opted to keep their track positions and led the field back to green at Lap 43. However, almost immediately, Caution No. 3 came along as Kyle Busch spun coming out of Turn 2 while running fifth, causing the field behind him to scatter quickly. Luckily, they were able to evade him and Busch was able to get back going.

Johnson managed to take the lead through all of that and on a Lap 47 restart, he quickly pulled away from Earnhardt, who fell back into the pack. As that was happening, Brad Keselowski (pictured), running 10th at the time, was turned around by Kurt Busch, who was on the tri-oval apron attempting to make the pass. Keselowski then came up the track in Turn 1, where he was hit from behind by an oncoming Greg Biffle. The incident collected seven cars in all and forced the red flag to fly at Lap 49.

“I knew I needed to get to the bottom but my car was a little bit loose getting into [Turn 1] and I just had nowhere to go,” Biffle told TNT afterwards. “I just couldn’t get it turned down to miss [Keselowski].”

TNT later replayed radio transmissions from Kurt Busch, who said the transition from the apron to the banked tri-oval straight caused him to slide into Keselowski, and Jeff Gordon, who called for NASCAR to ban use of the apron.

Keselowski and Travis Kvapil have been checked and released from the infield care center following the wreck.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”