NASCAR Media Tour Content Recap: All posts, one place

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We’ve had a busy week here on MotorSportsTalk with Nate Ryan and Dustin Long in Charlotte and Jerry Bonkowski, Chris Estrada and myself keeping tabs on all team press conferences from the Charlotte Motor Speedway media tour.

The four days produced a bevy of story lines across most of the teams competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for 2015, and within the entire NASCAR world as well.

In case you missed any posts in our comprehensive coverage, all are linked below:

RYAN: Chase Elliott’s Cup promotion perfectly timed for NASCAR (Nate Ryan)
NASCAR considers unveiling ’16 rules package at All-Star Race (Nate Ryan)
LeBron James’ agent involved in Darrell Wallace Jr.’s search for sponsorship (Nate Ryan)
Why Hendrick won’t retire the No. 24 (Dustin Long)
Larson not disappointed he won’t drive the No. 24 (Dustin Long)
Bowyer on Gordon: It’s still ugly (Dustin Long)
Kyle Busch says Toyota teams are “idiots” for not working together (Dustin Long)
Rick Hendrick: No pressure on Gordon, just go win 14 races and the championship (Jerry Bonkowski)
Jimmie Johnson is going for seven titles, but isn’t the story at media tour (Tony DiZinno)
Logano talks about Penske camaraderie… and his lost wedding ring (Chris Estrada)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. ready for new crew chief Greg Ives to take him to the next level
Kasey Kahne, Keith Rodden gear up for better year in 2015
Why Hendrick won’t retire the No. 24
Jimmie Johnson is going for seven titles, but isn’t the story at media tour
Rick Hendrick: No pressure on Gordon, just go win 14 races and the championship
RYAN: Chase Elliott’s Cup promotion perfectly timed for NASCAR
Elliott confirmed to replace Jeff Gordon in No. 24

Ryan Newman – and his brass knuckles – are ready to fight for Sprint Cup crown in 2015
RCR seeks wins, momentum carryover into 2015
RCR names two new development drivers, Kate Dallenbach and Ahnna Parkhurst

Ganassi, Sabates praise McMurray as team’s “big game hunter” into 2015
Larson not disappointed he won’t drive the No. 24
One look at his wrist, and Larson says it’s time to win

Truex’s girlfriend passes milestone in cancer recovery
Truex sees brighter days ahead, both on and off-track, in 2015

TEAM PENSKE (Wednesday)
Keselowski: Hard to believe it’s my sixth season with Team Penske already
Logano talks about Penske camaraderie… and his lost wedding ring

Wood Brothers plan expanded 18-race schedule for Ryan Blaney (VIDEO)

No “I” in team, but plenty of family for No. 95 squad

RPM seeks sponsorship for Hornish for 26 races
Hornish fitting in nicely at RPM
After 2014 Chase berth, Aric Almirola looks for more in 2015

Roush Fenway Racing still seeking sponsorship for Wallace (see additional LeBron post below)
Roush Fenway looks for big rebound in 2015
Stenhouse Jr. channels Marshawn Lynch: “I’m just here so I won’t get fined”

Tony Stewart buys All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint car series
Outcry over GoDaddy Super Bowl Danica/puppy ad causes company to pull it
Harvick: “I’m as comfortable as I ever have been”
Gene Haas provides update on F1 team progress
Kurt Busch: “What I said was under oath”
Kurt Busch hasn’t yet discussed an Indy 500 return
Danica enters final year of contract, wants to stay at SHR
Danica wants to build on ’14 successes in ’15
Poll: Which SHR driver will improve most in ’15?

MWR responds to Kyle Busch’s comments on working together
Bowyer on Gordon: It’s still ugly
Vickers can’t wait to race again
Moffitt to drive No. 55 car at Atlanta (Waltrip in Daytona 500)

Kyle Busch says Toyota teams are “idiots” for not working together
Kyle Busch has a message for those that are confusing him with his brother
JGR prepares for new era as a four-car team (VIDEO)
Poll: Which JGR driver will have best season in 2015?

NASCAR (Monday primarily)
NASCAR and RTA are communicating, but not commenting much
NASCAR 2015 Start Times: Sprint Cup, XFINITY, Camping World Trucks
NASCAR considers unveiling ’16 rules package at All-Star Race
Brian France: State of NASCAR is strong and getting better
France: NASCAR not looking to expand four-car team number
No early exit expected for Sprint
Drive for Diversity class announced; Daytona Rising update comes in
NASCAR outlaws practice of flared fender side skirts

NASCAR on NBC’s Jeff Burton has an impromptu Twitter Q&A (Wednesday night)
NASCAR on NBC: Nick Offerman tells you to get some NASCAR in your life (VIDEO)
Dale Jarrett to join NBC NASCAR team

Hall of Famer David Pearson recovering from mild stroke
LeBron James’ agent involved in Darrell Wallace Jr.’s search for sponsorship
Sponsorship woes sideline Jeb Burton again
Ross Chastain moves up to XFINITY Series with JD Motorsports
JJ Yeley to be BK Racing’s primary driver in 2015
Petty says NASCAR’s next big star could be in XFINITY (VIDEO)
HScott announces second car for Michael Annett
ISC shows strong revenue growth
NASCAR Media Tour begins today, but drivers still idle

INDYCAR’S contract at Laguna Seca not affected by new track management

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INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles told NBC that INDYCAR’s season-ending race at WeatherTech Raceway in Monterey, California is not in any type of jeopardy after Monterey County officials sought a new management company for the Laguna Seca facility.

After 62 years of continuous management of the Laguna Seca Raceway, the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) was advised via email by County of Monterey Assistant County Administrative Officer (ACAO) Dewayne Woods last month. The email said, “…the County is now in negotiations with another proposer for management services at Laguna Seca Recreational Area.”

At a November 19 Board of Supervisor’s meeting, a proposal centered on Monterey County’s direct management of the Raceway and Recreation Area.  The Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to have a management group led by Monterey businessman John Narigi take over for SCRAMP.

The NTT IndyCar Series returned to Laguna Seca in September for the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. It was the first time IndyCar had competed at Laguna Seca since September 12, 2004 after it had been a regular on the CART schedule from 1983 to 2004.

NBC asked Miles if the new management group would impact the multi-year contract at the picturesque road course near Monterey, California.

“I’m happy to answer that,” Miles told NBC “We have following the situation closely for several months. At this point, we don’t have any concerns. Our sanctioning agreement is with the county and not was not with SCRAMP. The county is excited about the event and looking forward to the next edition in 2020.

“The county has appointed a new management team for the operation of the facility. There is plenty of work to do on their part and on our part to make sure they understand the requirements for the event and to make sure they execute well.

“The event is certainly going on. The financial underpinnings and the contractual obligations are between us and the county. They think they have selected the best possible management team and we look forward to working with them.”

Miles said INDYCAR vice president of promoter and media partner relations Stephen Starks has been working directly with the new management group at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca.

“The agreement is between us and the county and the county is absolutely comitted and excited about the future, they have appointed a new management team at Laguna Seca, and we look forward to working with them,” Miles said.

INDYCAR officials believe the series return to Laguna Seca was very successful in terms of promotion and spectator turnout.

“We were really pleased,” Miles said. “I think we under-estimated how outstanding it is both for the race and for the venue and the region. I thought it was better than we expected but it bodes well for the future.

“We’re going to be looking at how to take better advantage of it in the promotion of the series.

“There is plenty of room for growth and they will find ways to manage that from a traffic perspective,” Miles said. “We thought it was a great success. We think it can be even bigger. We have the commitment of the county and look forward to working with the new management team.”

Miles and INDYCAR are optimistic of continued success at WeatherTech Raceway with new management. However, the decision to end a 62-year relationship with SCRAMP was a surprise.

“This news comes as a surprise to the SCRAMP organization,” said Tim McGrane, CEO of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and SCRAMP, who took over the position in June 2018. “We were starting to make real progress on getting the facility and the raceway operations turned around and poised for the future, but it appears at this time we may not have the opportunity to see these plans through.”

SCRAMP believed the Monterey County Board of Supervisors denied the chance for it to continue with its plan.

“As the existing facility operator, we were stunned by the fact that we were not provided the opportunity to discuss our proposal with the ACAO,” McGrane said. “The entire process has been unconventional, ranging from the bypassing of the County’s usual Request For Proposal (RFP) process, the announcement in mid-October requesting proposals from any interested parties with only two weeks’ notice, and complaints that SCRAMP had not met deadlines to submit a proposal when in fact a submission date had been agreed upon in May, and subsequently met, has been challenging.

“We have been in this position before with the County administration, but we, our fans, racing series and teams, do have to look at the possibility of the era of SCRAMP operating Laguna Seca Raceway coming to an end.”

In 2015, Monterey County began private talks with International Speedway Corporation (ISC) who, after a careful review of the operational parameters of the facility, determined not to submit a formal proposal for management of the track. In 2016, the Monterey County Administrators Office entered into negotiations with another group to replace SCRAMP for 2017 but were unable to agree to terms that were mutually acceptable. The County then reverted back to a three-year agreement with SCRAMP to continue running Laguna Seca.

According to a statement from SCRAMP, in 2018, the SCRAMP-run Laguna Seca Raceway attracted 263,888 attendees and generated $84.4 million in direct spending generated by event attendees over 26 days of the seven major events. 2019 saw SCRAMP orchestrate the long-awaited and highly successful return of IndyCars to Laguna Seca, with a larger than anticipated spectator count for the weekend.

2019 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

“We’ve delivered an extensive, forward-looking proposal to the County for a new, long-term 20-year management and operating agreement that incorporates solid plans for revenue generation and expense reduction, expansion of the use of existing facilities, and development of Laguna Seca into a world-class destination,” said CEO McGrane. “We are building the right team, both paid staff and volunteers, with extensive motorsports experience, institutional knowledge, and the dedication to lead this important Monterey County asset into a successful future. We hope we still have the opportunity to present our plans directly to the County Board of Supervisors and we would be proud to continue SCRAMP’s 62-year stewardship of Laguna Seca on behalf of Monterey County.”

The Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula, a 501(c)4 not-for-profit, was formed in 1957 by local business owners and civic leaders. SCRAMP’s goal was to raise the funds needed to construct a permanent motor racing circuit to maintain the tradition of sports car racing on the Monterey Peninsula which had begun in 1950 in the Del Monte Forest at Pebble Beach. SCRAMP is comprised of a Board of Governors, Race and Events Committees, and hundreds of loyal volunteers who donate thousands of hours each year to ensure the successful operation of events here.

The SCRAMP organization acquired leased land from the US Army at Fort Ord on August 7, 1957, and the now-legendary track, built with funds raised by SCRAMP, held its first race, the 8th Annual Pebble Beach at Laguna Seca SCCA National Championship Sports Car Road Races, on November 9 & 10, 1957. In 1974 the site was transferred from the Army to Monterey County, who together with SCRAMP, have managed the facility through this year.

SCRAMP’s current three-year management and operating agreement with Monterey County ends on December 31, 2019. SCRAMP currently employs a full-time professional staff of just over 40 team members.

INDYCAR, itself, is about to have an ownership change as racing and business icon Roger Penske and the Penske Corporation completes its acquisition of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500, INDYCAR and IMS Productions sometime after January 1. Miles and the INDYCAR staff as well as the staffs at IMS and IMS Productions will be retained.

Miles will become CEO of Penske Entertainment and will continue his duties that he currently has. Since the sale was announced on November 4, Miles and key officials have met with Penske and his top officials on a weekly basis.

“It’s been great,” Miles said. “We are covering tons of ground. Roger and his team are all about adding value.

“It’s a very focused effort that is making great progress.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500