After questioning NASCAR’s integrity, 5-Hour Energy prez now says “we’re good”

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In the aftermath of last fall’s race manipulation incident at Richmond International Raceway that centered around Clint Bowyer, the president of his primary sponsor, 5-Hour Energy, wondered how NASCAR CEO Brian France could expand the Chase to include a 13th driver.

“There’s a lot of talk about integrity,” 5-Hour president Scott Henderson said to reporters at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “When the guy who’s in charge can say, ‘I can do whatever I want and I’m going to do it and I just did,’ I wonder about integrity. I want to make sure we can win in this sport, OK?”

Fast forward to now, and 5-Hour Energy has not only stuck with Bowyer and Michael Waltrip Racing, but is sponsoring tonight’s Sprint Cup event at Kansas Speedway and recently announced an extension that will have their brand on Bowyer’s No. 15 Toyota for 24 races annually over the next three seasons.

While Henderson told USA Today and NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan that he still hasn’t spoken personally with France after the Richmond saga, he said that in regards to working with NASCAR, “we’re good.”

“Obviously, we wouldn’t have signed up for three more years if we weren’t OK with it,” he said Friday at Kansas.

Overall, Henderson feels that NASCAR’s handling of the saga was “probably a learning experience” for everyone but that things have turned out alright.

“Obviously, they made some changes on how the Chase is done this year,” he said. “So, I don’t know Brian France personally. I haven’t talked to him.

“[NASCAR president] Mike Helton is a good guy, [and] I’m sure they sat down in the off-season and figured out how do we structure this so it works going forward…I think they got it.”

Bowyer, along with MWR drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Brian Vickers, were fined 50 points each after Richmond last fall. That caused Truex to fall out of the Chase, and elevated Ryan Newman into the post-season as a Wild Card.

Jeff Gordon was later added to the Chase as the aforementioned 13th driver by France.

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski