Hendrick teammates, fans, rally to Jeff Gordon’s defense


With Ryan Newman getting promoted into the 2013 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup as a result of penalties issued to Michael Waltrip Racing, the one driver who has gotten the short end of the stick is four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon.

Gordon missed out on the 10th place position in the pre-reset points standings by exactly one point to Joey Logano. Radio chatter involving Logano’s car passing another, the Front Row Motorsports Ford driven by David Gilliland, was a subject of debate on Wednesday as to whether a deal had emerged to allow Logano enough points to make the Chase.

As it is, an online petition at Change.org has emerged to see if Gordon could make the Chase and Logano, and for that matter Clint Bowyer, be bumped out. Its official title is “NASCAR: Disqualify Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano from the Chase and add Jeff Gordon.”

One key phrase from the plea reads, “While the fans appreciate the fact that NASCAR did something positive and penalized Michael Waltrip Racing as a whole, NASCAR has not done nearly enough. Jeff Gordon was affected equally by the cheating of MWR and Penske Racing, and he deserves to take a spot in the Chase over Bowyer and Logano. There is no place for cheaters in the Chase or NASCAR. Period.” More information is here.

Additionally, and unsurprisingly, Gordon’s three Hendrick Motorsports teammates who did make the Chase – Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne – all took time at Thursday’s NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup media advance at Chicago’s Navy Pier to assess the recent controversies and come to Gordon’s defense.

“We need to make some changes and look at all options,” Johnson said. “The technology is out there but we do not have it in hand. Let’s figure out a way to police stuff live-time. It’s no fun when you’re waiting for a decision on a Monday or Tuesday because the racing’s what should dictate the finishing order. Jeff Gordon’s a perfect example of that. It put its right for Ryan Newman, but not Jeff. I wish we could let racing play out in the future.

“Right now, if you’re bold enough to make the direct admission, you’ll pay the price. The vagueness of things is what allows wiggle room,” he added.

Kahne didn’t dismiss the possibility of there being another caution within the last 10 laps that wasn’t orchestrated by Waltrip’s team, but still felt Gordon was unjustly affected.

“I think Jeff really took a hit on it,” Kahne said. “More than likely there wouldn’t have been a caution, but there could have been another one if MWR hadn’t have done everything they did. I think Jeff’s the only guy that got messed with on the whole thing. He did get kind of screwed over.”

Earnhardt Jr. took a philosophical approach, noting that the impact of Truex being kicked out will have lingering after effects.

“NASCAR needed to deter this type of activity and that was a good move for the sport. It sent shockwaves through the sport,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Once you get a little further past this, you’ll see how big a deal that was for Truex to be moved out, and the impact for him, his team and his sponsors, that’ll be profound.”

‘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.”