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Camping World set to feature on Scott Dixon’s car at Indy 500

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INDIANAPOLIS – The topic of Scott Dixon’s primary sponsor has been a story line since Target’s withdrawal from the Chip Ganassi Racing Verizon IndyCar Series program at the end of 2016.

A big name will be on board as its primary sponsor for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, in the form of Camping World.

Camping World chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis revealed the announcement late Friday night on Twitter, that the company would take over primary sponsorship of Dixon’s No. 9 Honda for this race.

If history is a guide, Andretti-Herta Autosport completed a late deal with NAPA Auto Parts the Friday before qualifying last year and Alexander Rossi promptly won last year’s 100th running just over a week later.

Dixon’s car has featured NTT Data primary signage since Long Beach, while running GE LED primary signage at the St. Petersburg season-opening race.

The car has been in NTT Data colors this week, as has the garage signs above Dixon’s entry in Gasoline Alley.

Speaking at a press conference today, Ganassi said Dixon is so good that if he’s not winning, it’s always down to the car.

“A lot of you know I’m friends with Leonard Wood down at the Wood Brothers and you obviously know the Wood Brothers’ history here in Indianapolis,” he said.

“I think Leonard gave Scott the greatest compliment. He said that Scott reminds him of David Pearson. He said, ‘When you have David Pearson driving your car, if you didn’t win, you knew you had to work on your car a bit.’ So I thought that was the ultimate compliment.

“He said: “That’s what Dixon is. If you win with him in your car, you know you’ve got to work on your car.” That’s pretty good.”

Dixon last won this race in 2008, but enters this year second in points on the strength of five top-five finishes in as many races to start the season.

Qualifying takes place this weekend, and Carb Day coverage runs on NBCSN from 11 a.m. ET on Friday, May 26.

Sprint to end title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Cup Series after 2016 (VIDEO)

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NASCAR must now search for a new title sponsor of its top national series.

Communications giant Sprint, which has backed what’s currently known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since 2004, has announced that it will not renew its title sponsorship following the end of the current agreement that concludes following the 2016 season.

In the opening of its press release on the subject, Sprint cited “a need to focus more directly on its core business properties.” The company’s vice president of marketing, Steve Gaffney, had this to say:

“We are proud of our association with NASCAR’s top series but have made the decision not to extend our sponsorship beyond the next two years. As we look to the future, Sprint is focused on investing in maintaining a competitive edge and providing consumers with the best value in wireless.

“Sprint has long benefited from the unprecedented level of brand integration available in NASCAR, and the passionate fan base that is the most loyal in sports. Without question, the NASCAR sponsorship property has been a valuable investment for us and will be for our successor.”

“We genuinely appreciate the fans, teams, drivers, tracks and media who have been so supportive and welcoming to us during these many race seasons. We look forward to our remaining time as sponsor of the Sprint Cup Series and eventually assisting with the transition to NASCAR’s next title partner.”

NASCAR has also released its own statement through its senior vice president and chief communications officer, Brett Jewkes:

“NASCAR and Sprint have enjoyed a long and productive partnership that has returned significant value to both parties. We understand significant changes within Sprint and the highly competitive business environment it is in has led to a decision not to extend its Cup Series entitlement position following the 2016 season. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is a very unique, premium sports marketing platform with strong momentum, so we are very confident of moving forward in 2017 with an outstanding new partner. In the meantime, we look forward to Sprint’s partnership on the best racing series in the world for the next two seasons.”

The Sprint partnership dates back to 2004, when Nextel Communications signed a 10-year deal to replace the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company’s Winston cigarettes brand as title sponsor of NASCAR’s top division.

What became the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series turned into the current Sprint Cup Series in 2008 as a result of Nextel and Sprint’s merger. At the end of the original 10-year contract, Sprint chose to extend the agreement for an additional three years through 2016.

But Sprint has undergone recent changes at the top with a new CEO installed this past summer in billionaire entrepreneur Marcelo Claure.

And with the company reportedly having lost money since 2007 and battling to stop customers from going to rivals such as Verizon (title sponsor of the IndyCar Series), AT&T, and T-Mobile, it would appear that supporting the most popular form of racing in the U.S. is no longer as important a priority for them as it once was.

Meanwhile, NASCAR will again look to seek out a major series sponsor after what has been a busy – and successful – year for them on that front.

In May, NASCAR scored a seven-year extension with Camping World for its Truck Series. A few months later in September, Comcast’s XFINITY broadband/TV/phone service signed up for a 10-year deal (2015-2024) to replace Nationwide Insurance as chief backer of what was known as the NASCAR Nationwide Series from 2008-2014.

Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, whose NBC and NBC Sports Network will begin broadcasting NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series events next summer in a concurrent, 10-year agreement.

Crafton on verge of repeat as NASCAR Trucks’ youth movement grows

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Now 38, Matt Crafton doesn’t consider himself “old.”

He’s just older than a host of teenagers and 20-somethings who are trying to assume the throne of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Crafton leads 20-year-old Ryan Blaney by 25 points heading into the series’ season finale tonight, the Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Provided he scores a top-20 finish, regardless of what Blaney does, Crafton will repeat as champion.

But he’ll do so in a year where youngsters have made their mark. Blaney and Darrell Wallace Jr. (21) have consistently challenged for the title all year, Erik Jones (18) and Cole Custer (16) have won races and countless others in looking through the Trucks point standings have made an impact.

Age is just a number for Crafton.

“It’s pretty crazy to think that some of the ones you’re racing are 16 years old,” he said during Thursday’s media day. “I’m 38, and I honestly don’t feel old.  I feel like I’m 16.  And to say that you’re the old guy and you’re 38 years old, like I said, it’s really crazy how young they’re starting, and like I said, the talent that they do have.”

Youthful or not, their presence has only added to what is consistently great racing.

“The Series itself, I say it each and every week, I truly believe it is the best racing in NASCAR,” Crafton said.  “I mean, I always compare it to, like I said, if anybody watches NFL, the college football, and you always see the better games in the college football.  Like I said, that’s one of the ways I consider the Truck Series.  Just like I said, it’s a step up to get to the Cup Series, but I truly believe it’s great, great racing.”

Blaney, who’s mature beyond his years, extolled the virtue of racing against the veterans as well as praising his fellow youngsters.

“These young guys coming into the Truck Series, 16 years old, you know.  I’ve been on the losing end of it,” Blaney said. “I had a great race with Erik Jones, and Cole Custer with his win this year, a bunch of others that have really impressed me.  They’ve done a great job.

“I think that’s the one thing I love about the Truck Series is they’ll allow young kids to come in and run. Even though it’s only a mile and under race tracks, you can still get a lot of experience. You can go to Dover, and that’s almost like a mile and a half. It feels like it at least. It’s been really great to race with the young up and comers, like I said, 16, 17, 18 years old. It’s been great to run with them.As well as Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter, it’s been great to learn from them too.”

Unlikely as overcoming that points deficit is, Blaney is still satisfied with his season.

As for Crafton? He’s won twice this year and also been the most consistent driver in the series, with a series-leading 13 top-fives and 16 top-10 finishes. Blaney isn’t far behind with one win, 11 top-fives and 16 top-10s.

Either will be crowned champion this evening.

NASCAR XFINITY, Truck Series to change qualifying, field size, windshield banners for 2015

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NASCAR has announced several changes for the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series 2015 seasons.

Both series will see their qualifying formats brought into line with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Positions 1-33 in XFINITY and 1-27 in Trucks will be determined by their single fastest qualifying lap.

Positions 34-39 in XFINITY and 28-31, for six and four positions, respectively, will then fall to the highest ranked cars/trucks in owner points not already qualified. The last spot, the 40th and 32nd for the two series, will fall to the most recent past champion not already qualified; if all are, another “provisional” spot for someone on owner points will occur.

The top 30 (XFINITY) and 25 (Trucks) had been locked in prior to this change.

If a qualifying session is cancelled because of inclement weather, each series’ field will be set per the rule book with starting lineups determined by practice speeds.

That qualifying breakdown reveals the next change for Trucks: a maximum field reduction from 36 down to 32, starting in 2015. Truck fields have been down in recent years and haven’t hit the 36 capacity that frequently; this change reflects that.

Meanwhile both series will also see drivers’ names plastered across the rear windshields, similar to what NASCAR Sprint Cup does, except theirs are on the front. Placing the drivers’ names on the rear windshields allows for the XFINITY and Camping World logos to continue across the front windshields.

Johnny Sauter, new crew chief combine for big win at Michigan in fastest race in Trucks history

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Johnny Sauter held off ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton in the closing laps to win Saturday’s Career for Veterans 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Michigan International Speedway.

It was the fastest race in Truck series history.

In a way, it was a trifecta for the Necedah, Wisc. native:

* He earned his first win of the season and it was the first race and win with Sauter for new crew chief Jeff Hensley, who just joined the team.

* It was his 10th career win in the Truck series and his first since winning 15 races ago at Talladega Superspeedway.

* He leaves Michigan as the points leader in the Camping World Truck Series standings, leading Crafton by nine points.

“This is just a great, great day,” Sauter said after the race on FoxSports 1. “I can’t thank the Good Lord and being blessed enough.

“We’re just now past halfway (in the season). This is great, this is the momentum we needed to swing it. We’ve had a good year, but not a great year. We’ve been consistent and finally got some speed this weekend.”

As for Hensley, his debut couldn’t have gone any better.

“It’s huge, it really is,” Hensley said. “To get this opportunity with ThorSport, it was a dream come true. It was a good career move for me to come up here and work with these guys. … It’s amazing, to win and leave here with the points lead is a big thing.”

Crafton gave it everything he had, but just couldn’t quite catch his teammate.

“I thought we were definitely a top-3, top-5 team,” Crafton said. “All in all, not a bad day.”

As for finishing behind his teammate and is also right behind Sauter in the standings, Crafton added, “1-2, it can’t get much better.”

Ron Hornaday Jr. finished a career-best third in the event, followed by Tayler Malsam with a career-best finish and Kyle Busch in fifth.

Busch, who led at halfway of the 100-lap event, made a great recovery after running out of gas on Lap 53 and falling back deep into the pack. He coasted onto pit road and into his pit stall, but lost valuable time when it took several attempts to re-fire the engine after his Toyota was refilled with fuel.

Sixth through 10th were German Quiroga Jr., Timothy Peters, Jeb Burton, Joey Coulter and Joe Nemechek.

Bubba Wallace finished 11th, followed by Jason White, Spencer Gallagher, Tyler Young, Bryan Silas, Mason Mingus in 16th, Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, Ben Kennedy and Jennifer Jo Cobb.

Rounding out the rest of the field were Ryan Blaney, Norm Benning, Justin Jennings, Jimmy Weller III, T.J. Bell, Travis Kvapil, Todd Peck, Adam Edwards and Caleb Roark.

As for the overall series points standings:

Former points leader Ryan Blaney dropped two spots in the standings to third after the race. He’ trails Sauter by 16 points, followed by Ron Hornaday Jr. (19 points back) and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. in fifth place (36 points back).

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