Sprint set to replace CEO; NASCAR title sponsor status TBD beyond 2016

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One of the things in the business of racing you have to watch is when a company makes a change at the top, and what impact the new person will have on a company’s racing program.

Oftentimes, if the new person fails to match the enthusiasm of interest level of his or her predecessor, or deems the sponsorship isn’t worth the ROI, the sponsorship either runs to the end of its contract or ends early. This occurred in IndyCar last year as Phillips Van Heusen’s IZOD brand, under new management, slowly decreased its involvement before announcing – in what was no real surprise – it was withdrawing as a title sponsor at the end of the 2013 season.

So with the news Wednesday that Sprint is making a change at the top – CEO Dan Hesse will be replaced by billionaire entrepreneur Marcelo Claure, per media reports – the status of Sprint in the business world is something NASCAR will need to watch for at least the next two years.

Per The Wall Street Journal, a Sprint board meeting Tuesday determined the company would end its pursuit of T-Mobile, which after Sprint (third) is the fourth largest telecom company behind leaders Verizon and AT&T. Those two combining did not please regulators, the WSJ said.

The report has one other key piece of news that’s NASCAR-related: Sprint, as a company, has lost money every year since 2007. That 2007 season marked the end of Nextel’s title sponsorship before Sprint, the new parent company after it took over Nextel, was named starting with the 2008 season.

Per Sporting News’ Bob Pockrass, Sprint’s contract as NASCAR Cup title sponsor runs through 2016, and roughly a year from now, there will be questions as to whether this will be extended or whether NASCAR’s marquee series will need to begin a new search.

Sprint/Nextel has been the Cup Series’ title sponsor since 2004, when it replaced R.J. Reynolds and Winston – a partnership that dated to the 1970s.

The Nationwide Series has not yet named a title sponsor to replace Nationwide; that sponsorship ends at the end of this season.

New Formula E champ, teammate fined for ‘underwear violation’

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During this past weekend’s pair of season-ending races in New York, newly-crowned Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne and Techeetah teammate Andre Lotterer were fined nearly $6,000 apiece for, well, there’s no easier way to say it than, “underwear violations.”

According to Jalopnik.com, the two drivers were fined for “wearing non-compliant” underwear during qualifying for Sunday’s second and final race of the weekend.

In addition to cash, the duo also lost two penalty points each for violating Article 30.14 of the Formula E 2017/2018 regulations.

In case you’re wondering, the violation has nothing to do with not wearing the right sponsor’s brand of jockeys or boxers.

Rather, Formula E ruled the underwear the drivers wore was a “safety issue” and that the drivers were penalized for wearing “non-compliant” underwear.

Drivers are required to wear fire- and flame-resistant outer- and under-garments while behind the wheel to help minimize the risk of being burned in the event of a crash and resulting fire.

Here’s how Formula E characterized the violation in a statement about Vergne’s penalty

“After checking the clothes, helmet and front head restraint of the driver, it was found that he was wearing non-compliant underwear pants which are not allowed by the [FIA’s] international sporting code. The driver apologized. The stewards consider that in this case the infringement occurred during group qualifying with limited cars on circuit for a short period of time.”

It’s not the first time Formula E drivers have been penalized for having on the wrong kind of drawers.

Former F-E champ Lucas di Grassi was penalized three points and nearly $10,000 in March for fire-resistant underwear that FIA officials called “too short.”

Gee, who knew that pre-qualifying “inspection” could be so personal?

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