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.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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