Report: Comcast’s Xfinity, NASCAR closer to series sponsorship deal

According to Tripp Mickle of the SportsBusiness Journal, Comcast’s Xfinity and NASCAR have entered contract negotiations regarding title sponsorship of the racing league’s No. 2 national series.

Mickle’s report relays word from an unnamed source “familiar with the negotiations” that Xfinity – Comcast’s broadband, cable television, and phone service – is considering a five-to-six year deal valued at over $100 million to become the new backer of what’s been known as the NASCAR Nationwide Series since 2008.

Comcast would not comment for Mickle’s report, but NASCAR gave him the following statement: “We anticipate NASCAR will soon be aligned with an outstanding brand that will help take this series to new heights, but out of respect for our current partner and the process, we will not comment on speculation about any potential replacements until there actually is one.”

NASCAR is finishing out its current TV deal that features Fox Sports (who will stay on for the new TV deal) and the outgoing Turner Sports and ESPN; Turner aired its final NASCAR race last month at New Hampshire and ESPN will officially leave the sport at season’s end.

Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal Media and the NBC Sports Group. Last summer, the Group announced that it had struck a deal with NASCAR to broadcast 20 Sprint Cup and 19 Nationwide Series events annually from 2015 to 2024, with the bulk of those events to be shown on NBCSN.

Xfinity first emerged in June as a possible candidate to take over NASCAR’s No. 2 series sponsorship from Nationwide Insurance. In September of 2013, the insurance company said it would end that sponsorship and expand its role in the top-tier Sprint Cup Series.

To that end, Nationwide has since been confirmed as a primary sponsor for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet over the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Cup seasons.

Going back to Xfinity’s potential deal with NASCAR, Mickle reports that there are still some obstacles involved; one of them apparently involves Fox, which according to sources, wants assurances that Comcast would spend equally on advertising across both Fox and NBC, and not just the network it owns.

However, Mickle writes that should this and other “category issues” be settled, a deal may be officially announced in the coming weeks.

Valiant efforts from Hunter-Reay, Dixon come up just short at Road America

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Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon drove about as hard as they possibly could during Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix, and they both drove nearly perfect races.

Hunter-Reay took advantage of Will Power’s engine issues on the start to immediately jump into second, and stalked pole sitter and leader Josef Newgarden from there, often staying within only a couple car lengths of his gearbox.

Dixon, meanwhile, had a tougher chore after qualifying a disappointing 12th. Further, he was starting in the same lane as Will Power, and when Power had engine issues when the green flag waved, Dixon was one of several drivers who was swamped in the aftermath.

Scott Dixon had to come from deep in the field on Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix. Photo: IndyCar

However, as is his style, he quietly worked his way forward, running sixth after the opening round of pit stops, and then working his way up to third after the second round of stops.

It all meant that, after Lap 30, Newgarden, Hunter-Reay, and Dixon were nose-to-tail at the front, with the latter two in position to challenge for the win.

Yet, neither was able to do so. Hunter-Reay never got close enough to try to pass Newgarden, while Dixon couldn’t do so on either Hunter-Reay or Newgarden. And, neither driver went longer in their final stint – Dixon was actually the first of that group to pit, doing so on Lap 43, with Hunter-Reay and Newgarden pitting together one lap later.

And Newgarden pulled away in the final stint, winning by over three seconds, leaving Hunter-Reay and Dixon to finish second and third.

It was a somewhat bitter pill to swallow, with Hunter-Reay noting that he felt like he had enough to challenge for a win.

“I felt like we had the pace for (Newgarden), especially in the first two stints,” he asserted. “I really felt like it was going to be a really good race between us. Whether it be first, second, third, fourth stint – I didn’t know when it was going to come.”

He added that, if he could do it over again, he would have been more aggressive and tried to pass Newgarden in the opening stint.

“In hindsight, I should have pressured him a bit more in the first stint,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “We were focused on a fuel number at the time. Unfortunately that Penske fuel number comes into play, can’t really go hard.”

Dixon, meanwhile, expressed more disappointment in the result, asserting that qualifying better would have put him in a possibly race-winning position.

“I think had we started a little further up, we could have had a good shot at trying to fight for the win today,” he expressed.

The disappointment for Dixon also stems from the knowledge that his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda had the pace to win, especially longer into a run.

“The car was pretty good on the long stint,” he asserted. “I think for us the saving grace was probably the black tire stint two. We closed a hefty gap there. We were able to save fuel early in the first stint, which enabled us to go a lap longer than everybody, had the overcut for the rest of the race.

“I think speed-wise we were right there. Had a bit of a crack at Hunter-Reay on his out lap on the last stint there, but cooked it too much going into (Turn 14), got a bit loose, lost momentum. That would have been really the only chance of passing him.”

Dixon remains in the championship lead, however, by 45 points, while Hunter-Reay moved up to second, tied with Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi.

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