NASCAR: Phil Parsons Racing removes Florida governor campaign ads from Josh Wise’s car

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Perhaps they should have just kept the cute dog on the hood.

Phil Parsons Racing, which runs the No. 98 for Josh Wise that sometimes features DogeCoin (and images of its Shiba Inu mascot), was set to have ads for Florida Democrat and gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist on that car for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.

However, that didn’t sit well with the state’s Republican Party, which filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission on the grounds that the ad was a violation of the $3,000 limit on campaign contributions.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, a spokesman for Crist’s campaign said that the ad was “an in-kind donation” from a supporter and that the campaign spent no money themselves.

But the matter has become moot as of this morning. PPR has chosen to remove the Crist stickers from the car, with Parsons himself saying that the decision was made not because of the Florida Republicans’ complaint but out of respect to business partner Mike Curb.

Curb, a former Lieutenant Governor of California, happens to be a Republican.

In comments to Bob Pockrass of the Sporting News, Parsons said Curb “didn’t feel comfortable” about the Crist ad and noted his support of the team. Additionally, the team will return the money earned from the Crist ad.

“I’m going to give it back,” Parsons said according to Pockrass. “Mike’s been a huge supporter of us and Josh for years. We just felt like it was the right thing to do.”

Parsons also added that he had no intent on creating a ruckus with the ad, insisting that all he had in mind was “trying to keep the doors open any way we can” for his small team.

While Crist will not be on the No. 98 this weekend, Curb has told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that he’s reached an agreement with Parsons to have his record label, Curb Records, step in to be its primary sponsor.

“We tried to turn it into a positive,” Curb said to the N-J. “Crist will not be on the car in any capacity.”

The N-J story also sheds light on where the Crist ad came from. Former Sprint Cup team owner James Finch said to the paper that he made a deal worth around $25,000 to have Parsons promote Crist’s campaign (Curb himself pegged the deal’s value at $50,000, while Parsons declined to comment on that matter).

In yesterday’s first practice session at Daytona, Wise was 22nd on the time sheets.

IndyCar’s 2018 full-field grid nearing completion

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Following Wednesday’s confirmation of the all-Canadian tandem at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, each of the eight full-time teams in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season have announced at least one driver for 2018, leaving very few remaining question marks.

What stands confirmed is below:

CONFIRMED

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (1, Honda): Scott Dixon
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (1, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

There are four additional drivers confirmed for selected races or an month of May program:

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Calmels Sport with SPM (1, Honda): Tristan Gommendy
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser

All told that’s 17 full-season driver and team combinations confirmed and four additional part-time programs, at least, that are set. Several of those driver/team combinations will have engineering and strategist changes, as well.

In a minor note since our last update at Sonoma, Marco Andretti confirmed he won’t run No. 27 next year. Of note, Bryan Herta served as Andretti’s race strategist this year, although the car he was an entrant on was Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 car. Herta will continue his relationship with Andretti Autosport again next season.

WHAT’S LEFT TO SORT? NOT MUCH

Elsewhere, there’s only a handful of remaining question marks as the series hits mid-October, a rarity from past years and an illustration of the urgency to fill seats to get as much preparation time in testing with the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit as possible.

NBC Sports expects 2016 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Ed Jones to be confirmed soon as second driver in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda alongside Sebastien Bourdais, with team personnel and Bourdais both having indicated a preference in keeping the Dubai-based Brit for a second year.

NBC Sports also expects Jones’ successor as Indy Lights champion, Kyle Kaiser, to have his future announced shortly in terms of which team he’ll step up to IndyCar with. It would not be a surprise if Kaiser does graduate along with Juncos Racing, although Kaiser is known to have talked to multiple teams. The Mazda Motorsports scholarship nets him $1 million for a three-race program, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500, with the driver then needing to secure additional funding for further races, as Jones and Pigot both have each of the last two years.

The status of Brendon Hartley has now been thrown up as a slight question mark dependent on how his Formula 1 debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso goes at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, and if Toro Rosso provides him a further race opportunity in one of the remaining three Grands Prix thereafter. Having been all-but-earmarked for Chip Ganassi Racing’s second seat in 2018, if an F1 offer comes, Hartley’s potential IndyCar bow could get delayed.

A McLaren-named entry competing either in the Indianapolis 500 or full-time seems further off than realistic for next year, McLaren’s Zak Brown told reporters on a teleconference this week. McLaren maintains an IndyCar technical presence though, via its McLaren Applied Technologies outfit.

What’s left then are the dominoes of whether Carlin’s IndyCar plans officially come to fruition as the team has gotten closer than it ever has to doing so, and who emerges in the second seats at A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Ed Carpenter Racing (road and street courses), respectively.

A number of young IndyCar veterans – Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly namely – are yet to land for 2018 and there’s no guarantee all four of them will be back in IndyCar next season.

There’s also a handful of young drivers, namely RC Enerson, Jack Harvey, Esteban Gutierrez, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Sage Karam and Matthew Brabham among others, who could well emerge in the frame for seats.

Gutierrez’s status seemed dependent on Mexico City being added to the 2018 calendar, and although the race still could be added, the fact neither is in place at this point doesn’t inspire as much confidence about his presence as a regular on the grid as it did earlier this summer.

All told, there’s not nearly that much to sort out as IndyCar’s grid for 2018 is looking very much close to set at this early stage of a long offseason.