NASCAR: No early exit expected for title sponsor Sprint

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CHARLOTTE – The last time NASCAR needed a title sponsor for its premier series, the existing company was replaced with four years remaining on its contract. But executives aren’t expecting a repeat with Sprint already having announced its impending exit after the 2016 season.

“Do I think (Sprint) will exit early? No,” NASCAR Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps told MotorsportsTalk after NASCAR played host to the opening news conference Monday of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour. “Do I think we’ll find someone for ’16? No. Only because we want to make sure the process is really followed smartly.

“Trying to rush through to find something for ’16 … although on one hand, people might say, ‘You get someone new, (and) they’re not a lame duck’ or whatever term, I don’t think that’s the right approach. And the good thing is since Sprint is very engaged, they are honoring their commitments to us, which are extensive. So I think we’re in a good spot.”

Sprint officials have indicated they fully will honor the remainder of its deal, and NASCAR Chairman Brian France said Monday after his annual State of the Sport address that he didn’t expect Sprint would be replaced early.

NASCAR and Sprint entered into negotiations about the title sponsorship last fall, and the wireless communications company announced its departure in mid-December with two years left on a three-year extension that was signed in 2011.

Sprint was rebranded as the title sponsor in 2008 after its merger with Nextel, which signed a 10-year deal estimated at $70 million annually to replace R.J. Reynolds’ Winston brand starting in 2004.

RJR revealed in January 2003 it had requested an exit from its deal (which ran through 2007) if NASCAR could find a replacement. Less than six months later, Nextel was unveiled in a splashy New York news conference as the successor for the following season.

The economic climate isn’t as strong for NASCAR funding a decade later, but Phelps said the candidate pool was less of a factor than finding a suitable fit. Phelps said it took about a year to land XFINITY, which will replace Nationwide as the backer of NASCAR’s second-tier circuit this season.

“I know what this process is going to look like,” Phelps said. “Getting XFINITY on board, we were very regimented, because it’s not just about money. It’s about finding the right marketing partner for the sport. It’s about brand alignment for our sport and for their brand, so it’ll be a very thoughtful process.”

Phelps wouldn’t disclose any potential candidates but said “we’ve had a number of calls saying, ‘Sure, we would like to take a look at this.’ ” NASCAR also hasn’t limited the search to any particular categories.

“We’re trying to stay as broad as we can at this point,” he said. “Given the investment that it will require, you’ve already started to narrow your field. A local company selling widgets is not what it’s going to be. We need a company with significant resources, particularly on the marketing side to be able to really look at this.”

Phelps said Chief Sales Officer Jim O’Connell will be leading the search for a new title sponsor, but NASCAR’s executive team would be involved heavily.

“It’s a big undertaking because it’s such an important position in the sport,” Phelps said. “There’s a lot of weight on the whole organization’s shoulders. Everyone is going to have a touchpoint to this.”

“We do have time to find someone, and I firmly believe we will find someone. We’ll find the right partner for us.”

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.