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.

BREAKING: John Force taken to hospital after Phoenix eliminations crash

Photo courtesy NHRA
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16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation and examination following a wicked crash with fellow Funny Car driver Johnnie Lindberg.

The crash occurred during the quarterfinals of Sunday’s final eliminations in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Force was headed for a win when the engine on his Peak Chevrolet Camaro blew up just as it crossed the finish line, destroying the body. Lindberg, meanwhile, lost traction about one-third of the way down-track, but then got back into the gas to try and catch Force.

Force appeared to lose control of the body-less car and went across from the left lane he was in to the right-hand lane, where he hit the retaining wall in front of Lindberg.

Lindberg tried to avoid Force, but couldn’t. To make matters worse, the body on Lindberg’s car then came off and Force’s and Lindberg’s cars got tangled up in Lindberg’s parachute, sending both chassis’ into the left retaining wall.

Lindberg emerged from his Funny Car under his own power and was checked at the medical center before heading back to his pit.

Force, meanwhile, was helped out of his mangled wreck by the NHRA Safety Safari and was transported by ambulance to the hospital due to the severity of the impact.

Even though Force will be credited with the round win, he obviously will not be able to continue for the remainder of the eliminations.

To add insult to injury, NHRA officials charged Force with oiling down the racetrack, his third of the season in just the first two races. That will cost him 15 points in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings and a fine of $4,000.

Here are several posts from social media, including video of the incident from NHRA:

This is the second time Force has had an engine explode and the body blew off in the last two weeks. He also wrecked during the qualifying Feb. 9 for the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Here’s the video of that wreck:

MORE: John Force taken to hospital as a precaution after Funny Car motor explodes.

Force’s daughter, Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, suffered a hard wreck at Pomona, but recovered in time to race this weekend in Phoenix.

We’ll update Force’s condition when it becomes available.

Follow @JerryBonkowski