Atlanta Update: Clint Bowyer leads as race crosses halfway point

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Clint Bowyer currently leads an off-strategy Joey Logano as the Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway has crossed the halfway mark.

In real-time points, Bowyer has also taken over the championship lead from Jimmie Johnson, who was invovled in an early incident that also featured his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and Wild Card hopeful, Kasey Kahne.

On a restart at Lap 25, Matt Kenseth got into the back of a slow Jeff Gordon, which caused the field to stack up. Kahne then ran into the back of Johnson, while Jeff Burton and Mark Martin got into back of Kahne.

Kahne went to the garage with radiator and oil cooler damage, while Johnson went to the pits with damage to the front and rear ends of his car. Kahne has since returned to action, and Johnson has been simply logging laps toward the back of the field.

Early leader Logano, who, like Kahne, is also on the Chase bubble, has had an up-and-down night. On Lap 102, a vibration forced him to the pits and put him on an alternate strategy.

He inherited the lead following a cycle of green stops around Lap 120-130, but had to stop on Lap 152 as he was unable to get the caution he needed. Another green cycle of stops later on put Logano back in the lead briefly, but Bowyer would gain the point again on the track.

Verizon confirms IndyCar title sponsor role exit after 2018

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As perhaps expected, Verizon has confirmed Friday it will end its role as Verizon IndyCar Series title sponsor following the end of its fifth year in 2018.

Reports surfaced shortly after this year’s IndyCar season finale at Sonoma Raceway that Verizon was re-evaluating its role within the series.

Indeed, as it was before becoming title sponsor in 2014, Verizon will remain a partner with Team Penske despite not also carrying the series title sponsor role.

In a statement, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles thanked Verizon for its support in this overall series role.

“Verizon has been a super sponsor and will continue to be so through all of next season. We appreciate that they reached their decision in a timely way so that we can thoughtfully and deliberately go back into the market for 2019,” Miles said in a statement, via Sports Business Journal.

Roger Penske also issued a statement, also via SBJ, saying, “We want to thank Verizon for the support they have provided the IndyCar Series and the role they have played as they helped us grow the sport as the title sponsor for the past five years. Verizon has helped the series reach new fans through their world-class activation and technology, including the Verizon IndyCar Mobile App. While they will no longer be the Series Title Sponsor after 2018, it is exciting they will still be in the sport through their relationship with our organization.”

The Verizon IndyCar Series has built a wave of momentum over the last few years with its competition level, parity and enthusiasm for some revived events, with Gateway Motorsports Park and Road America standing out as highlights being brought back after an extended hiatus.

The good news for INDYCAR (sanctioning body) is that there’s a new Dallara universal aero kit that’s been busy with testing the last few months and is now in the hands of manufacturers for manufacturer testing, and the series announced long-term extensions with Dallara, Chevrolet, Honda and Firestone earlier this year. New series champion Josef Newgarden has also been busy in a number of media events and appearances since the Sonoma season finale.

With this confirmation, INDYCAR has a new entitlement sponsor to find and a new TV contract to sort, with both existing contracts up after 2018.