Menard follows Michigan Nationwide win with 4th place Cup run

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The Irish Hills were good to Paul Menard this weekend.

On Saturday at Michigan International Speedway, the Richard Childress Racing driver took advantage of Joey Logano’s late misfortune to earn his second career Nationwide Series win.

And in today’s Sprint Cup main event, Menard turned in his second Top-5 result of the year with a fourth-place finish – his best since taking third this past spring at Las Vegas.

“I obviously got to be in Victory Lane yesterday with my daughter and my Dad was here today, so it was a good Father’s Day weekend for sure,” said Menard.

“The car has been fast all weekend [but] we needed some clean air at the end and my guys got me out front on some pit strategy and good pit stops…We just lost a little track position during the race, and Slugger [Labbe, crew chief] and Justin James made a good call to do the pit strategy the way we worked it out.

“It all worked out at the end. Really good car. Good clean air.  The clean air at the end made a difference.”

Additionally, Menard has now collected his third Top-10 finish in the last four races counting an eighth in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and a 10th two weeks ago at Dover (he was 26th last weekend at Pocono).

More consistency out of Menard could turn him into a possible threat for the Chase as the summer wears on. Thanks to his Michigan result, Menard is now within the Top 16 after leaping four spots in the Sprint Cup driver standings to 13th.

But will RCR be able to raise its overall game to support his bid for the post-season? It bears noting that Menard’s two Top-5s are the only such results that the team has across its three-car stable (the team’s other drivers, Ryan Newman and rookie Austin Dillon, have combined for six Top-10s).

The number of potential spots on the Chase Grid for winless drivers is likely to shrink a little further, too. However, with Menard running well as of late, there’s at least hope for the time being.

Optimism abounds with new INDYCAR media partnership

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Wednesday morning’s announcement that NBC Sports Group will become the exclusive home to the Verizon IndyCar Series via TV, digital, streaming, and direct-to-consumer rights was the conclusion of a long and thorough process to finalize a media partnership that can build on the recent growth of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

And CEO of Hulman & Company Mark Miles believes the final outcome is one everyone can be happy about.

“We’re delighted by every aspect of this announcement today and these arrangements,” Miles asserted in a media teleconference on Wednesday, also making note of a number of highlights about the new media package. “The increase in broadcast, the number of races on broadcast, is really important to the continued growth of the series. The continuity with one media partner who is committed to the sport and to INDYCAR, who can help promote from race to race to race to race throughout the season is important. Having our first product, if you will, our first offering to fans in the direct-to-consumer channel is important to us.”

Miles added, “It met our objectives of increasing the exposure of the sport, increasing the promotion of the sport, and getting us into the over-the-top (streaming) market. We couldn’t be more pleased.”

MORE: NBC Sports Group, INDYCAR partner on new TV and digital rights agreement starting in 2019

John Miller, president of programing for NBC Sports and NBCSN, echoed Miles’ enthusiasm and noted that INDYCAR viewership on NBCSN has grown substantially in recent years, and this new and enhanced partnership, which will feature the 103rd Indianapolis 500 broadcast on NBC in 2019, will build upon that.

“From the NBC perspective, we’ve seen the growth of IndyCar on our cable network NBCSN. We’ve had sustained growth each of the past several years. So the opportunity to have the entire series was very important to us. Of course, to be able to do the crown jewel, the Indy 500 on NBC, really puts the icing on the cake for us and makes our championship season portfolio even stronger,” Miller said.

James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, added that this will also help the individual drivers grow their brands and attract more sponsorship opportunities.

“As drivers, we’re out there risking our lives to put on a good show,” Hinchcliffe said. “The more people that get to see it, get entertained by it, the better it is for us. As athletes, we’re all individual brands in and of ourselves. Getting ourselves in front of more people, it raises our value to our current partners and potential partners. From every element, this is a huge win across the board.”

The sponsorship angle is a critical side-piece to the new media contract, especially in light of several new sponorship announcements for a number of IndyCar teams as well as IndyCar’s ongoing effort to find a new title sponsor for the series in 2019.

Miles further emphasized that new media partnership will do a lot to serve the business of the teams, drivers, and the series in regards to sponsorship.

“I think it’s important to the entirety of the IndyCar ecosystem,” Miles noted. “For the series itself, at some point we should talk about our sponsorship effort, how we think they’re going to be benefited with this relationship. James earlier talked about our drivers or athletes, and they are individual brands. They’ll get more exposure. That will be good for them.

“We earlier this morning spoke to our team owners. They’re enthusiastic about it as it gives them more to say in the marketplace, more value. Certainly that will be true for our promoters of the races as well.”

A few highlights of the partnership are below.

  • Eight races will be broadcast on NBC, including the Indianapolis 500. The remaining races will be broadcast on NBCSN.
  • Qualifying and practice for all events will also be available live, either through NBC, NBCSN,, the NBC Sports App, or NBC Sports Gold an over-the-top streaming service offered by NBC.
  • NBC Sports Gold will also feature extra content to further supplement IndyCar coverage such as archived races and full event replays. Further information about that content will be revealed in the coming months.
  • Details about international coverage are pending.
  • NBC Sports Gold will also do a handful of exclusive live broadcasts for practice and qualifying sessions that are not televised.
  • NBC Sports Gold will do live broadcasts for all Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races. More details about coverage for the Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires series will come at a later date.