Report: Home Depot leaving NASCAR, Joe Gibbs Racing at season’s end

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The Home Depot’s time as a primary sponsor in NASCAR are numbered according to a report from the Sports Business Journal.

The SBJ’s Tripp Mickle relays word from sources that the home improvement chain will leave the sport entirely when its contract with Joe Gibbs Racing runs out at the end of this season.

Home Depot currently serves as a main co-sponsor with Dollar General on the No. 20 JGR Toyota of former Sprint Cup champion Matt Kenseth.

Dollar General, however, has become the bigger backer of the two and is running as the No. 20’s primary sponsor for the bulk of the races this season. In those events, Home Depot’s branding and orange color has usually been relegated to the car’s rear bumper.

Home Depot has been part of the JGR portfolio since 1999, when it signed on to back Tony Stewart when he drove the No. 20 car. Stewart took Home Depot to two of his three Sprint Cup championships (2002, 2005) before leaving JGR following the 2008 season.

The company then ran with Joey Logano from 2009-2012, followed by Kenseth starting in 2013.

However, Dollar General announced last December it would increase its primary sponsorship of Kenseth’s No. 20 to a total of 27 races in 2014, up from 17 in 2013; Home Depot had been slated to run 21 races in that role prior to this particular decision.

Now, with the SBJ report comes obvious questions. It would appear that Dollar General now has an opening to turn its involvement with the No. 20 into a season-long sponsorship – but will they choose to do so?

Then there’s the matter of how this will impact JGR’s possible plans for expanding to a four-car operation for 2015. Sonoma winner Carl Edwards has been linked to joining the team in that scenario, but he has stayed quiet on that subject.

Team president J.D. Gibbs said this past weekend that a final decision on JGR’s expansion won’t come until at least September. He also confirmed that M&M’s would remain on the team’s No. 18 car for Kyle Busch next year.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.