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.

IndyCar will eliminate double points from the 2020 season finale

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Though the NTT IndyCar Series hasn’t confirmed the date of its 2020 season finale, it has determined that double points won’t be in play.

An IndyCar official confirmed Monday to NBCSports.com that whether the season ends at Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, or on the streets of St. Petersburg, neither race will feature double points. Team owners were informed of the change during a conference call last week.

The news was first reported by RACER.com.

With the original 17-race schedule having been shortened by the cancellation of at least three races (Circuit of The Americas, Barber Motorsports Park, the Long Beach Grand Prix), using double points in the finale would have carried even greater weight (and perhaps more so if more races are unable to be run because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

IndyCar has been using double points at select races since the 2015 season. The 104th Indianapolis 500 will remain a double-points event.

In rescheduling the Indy 500 to Aug. 23 last week, IndyCar unveiled a revised schedule that listed Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as TBD for its season finale. The race originally had been scheduled to open the season before being called off because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles told reporters last week that St. Pete probably would be slotted into the first two weeks October after the Sept. 20 race at Laguna Seca that had been slated to be the season finale for the second consecutive year.