|Earnhardt Jr.’s car finally fully funded|
|Thursday, September 05, 2013 12:15 AM|
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. will have a new look during the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship as Hendrick Motorports has finally sold the remaining inventory on his No. 88 Chevrolet.
Time Warner Cable signed on as primary sponsor for five races this season, beginning Saturday night at Richmond in the final race before the 12-driver Chase field is set. Time Warner will also sponsor Earnhardt at Chicago, New Hampshire, Kansas City and Charlotte.
It closes out the inventory on the No. 88, which opened the season with races to sell. Hendrick was able to fill the void over the course of the year when National Guard picked up an additional eight races, pushing its total to 29 total races. Diet Mountain Dew also sponsors five events.
Time Warner’s sponsorship is part of an expanded sponsorship package with Hendrick Motorsports that saw the company add one additional race with Kasey Kahne, bringing its total to six this year, while adding five races in 2014 and 2015. The additional races means the No. 5 Chevrolet is sold out for 2014 for Kahne, who has been featured in Time Warner’s “Enjoy Better” national brand campaign.
“This is the second time in the last year that Time Warner Cable has expanded its commitment to Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR,” added team owner Rick Hendrick. “We’re now leveraging more of our assets, from both Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick Automotive Group, to drive even greater value into what’s been a very effective program. It’s a terrific partnership that works on multiple levels.”
Time Warner Cable will become a marketing partner with Hendrick Automotive Group to collaborate on offerings specific to the automotive industry.
“We’ve been extremely happy with the results from our NASCAR initiatives,” added Jeffrey Hirsch, Time Warner Cable’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “The on-track performance of Hendrick Motorsports is well documented but they’ve also put significant resources into building a world-class marketing operation. It’s been a team effort and we’re seeing terrific exposure and return.”
FRESH PLASTER: Martin Truex Jr. had a new cast applied to his broken right wrist after the one he had on last week appeared to melt in the late stages of Sunday night’s race at Atlanta.
Despite the issues, Truex managed to finish third to stay in contention for a spot in the Chase. He heads into Saturday night’s race at Richmond ranked 13th in the standings with one win on the season, good enough for the second wild card. Truex is only 15 points out of 10th but believes his Michael Waltrip Racing team is far better than where they sit in the standings.
“To be honest, with the season we have had with all the ups and downs, I am so excited to still be in this thing,” he said. “We have fought so hard this year and have overcome a lot to be in this position. It will be awesome and a huge deal for us if we can make it in again. This NAPA team is not a 12th- or 13th-place team. In my opinion, we are a top-five team. We want to get in and make up for the mistakes and mishaps we experienced earlier in the year to have a great ending to our season.”
He doesn’t expect any issues with his wrist at Richmond, either. He was injured in a wreck at Bristol two weeks ago.
“The cast did its job at Atlanta. It got a little soft in the palm area during the race but all and all, everything went fine,” he added. “I’ve had it checked over again and had a new cast put on. We’ve made a few adjustments to this new cast and I expect it to be a whole lot better. Everything has gone well so far. I cannot complain. I mean to go to Atlanta and to have a shot at the win at the end, at that point, what pain I felt was gone.”
LABONTE STILL AILING: Bobby Labonte will miss his second consecutive race while recuperating from three broken ribs suffered in a cycling accident near his North Carolina home Aug. 28. AJ Allmendinger will again drive the No. 47 Toyota for JTG Daugherty Racing at Richmond on Saturday night.
“I am feeling a lot better but I don’t want to put the race team in any compromising position this weekend,” Labonte said. “It just makes more sense to focus on my rehab one more week to ensure that I’m ready to go at Chicago with no issues. I plan to be back with the team then and back behind the wheel.”
Allmendinger was named last week the full-time driver by JTG for 2014 and Labonte, the 2000 NASCAR champion, is looking for a ride.
“Bobby Labonte means a lot to the JTG Daugherty Racing team and to our sport,” Allmendinger said. “For me, it’s a tough situation. I do not want to get more races with the team because someone is injured. Bobby is a guy that I believe is a Hall-of-Famer and he is a champion. It’s tough to have that type of injury. Hopefully, he gets better as soon as possible to get back into the (car).”
ANOTHER RACE FOR TRUEX: Richard Petty Motorsports development driver Ryan Truex will get another shot at a Sprint Cup Series race on Saturday night when Phoenix Racing gives him a shot at Richmond.
Truex made his Cup debut at Bristol two weeks ago, but got only 39 laps under his belt before crashing out of the race.
“My first Cup start didn’t go the way I wanted, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to get another chance,” Truex said. “I was really happy with qualifying 18th at Bristol but we cut a tire and that was disappointing. It’s just nice to get back in the seat and get another chance so quickly.”
It’s been slow going for the younger brother of Martin Truex Jr., with only one Cup start and one Truck Series start on the year. The 21-year-old has yet to put together the funding for a full season at any NASCAR national level but does have some experience at Richmond, where he has four previous Nationwide starts. His best finish was fourth in 2011.
“Now that I’ve got that first (Cup) start out of the way and I know what to expect, I can’t wait to get back on the track,” Truex added. “We’re trying to secure some sponsorship with RPM for next year and a good run helps. I just want to go out, learn as much as possible and complete all the laps.”
HAWKSWORTH-TEST: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will give Indy Lights rookie Jack Hawksworth his first drive in an Indy car with a test at Sebring International Raceway on Sept. 17.
“I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of an Indy car,” Hawksworth said. “I have been working towards this moment since the day I first jumped into a go-kart many years ago and I feel ready to use all those years of experience now at the highest level.”
The British driver is a 3-time Lights winner this season and is 11 points out of the series lead with two races remaining this season. Hawksworth moved to Indy Lights this season as the reigning Star Mazda champion.
“We are pleased to work with Jack on his first test in an Indy car and happy that he came to RLL for this monumental experience,” said Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. “We have watched Jack from afar in Indy Lights, he is obviously a proven winner there and there is no reason to think that he couldn’t be competitive in Indy cars and be a future winner there as well. We are anxious to put Jack in the car at Sebring and see how he does.”
Dixon expects fine for criticizing IndyCar
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Scott Dixon expects to be fined by IndyCar for calling for race director Beaux Barfield to be fired following a second consecutive frustrating race that affected his championship chances.
Dixon told The Associated Press on Wednesday after a few days to cool off, he realized he probably deserves a penalty for his frank comments after crashing out of Sunday’s race at Baltimore.
“Reflecting on it, I shouldn’t have been so outspoken and I probably will be fined for it and I respect that,” Dixon said. “It was just frustration of a 2-week period. For me, I love the sport, I want to see it better and what I did didn’t help. My concern is not making things look bad for the series. I love my job and don’t want to be doing anything else and I don’t want it to be perceived otherwise. I want to learn from the mistakes we’ve made.”
Dixon has been outspoken before in his desire for consistency from race control but the New Zealander has amped up his criticism after back-to-back races cost him valuable ground in his race with Helio Castroneves for the IndyCar championship.
Dixon was penalized in Sonoma two weeks ago when his car made contact with a crew member for Will Power, Castroneves’ teammate, on the final pit stop. Barfield said Dixon had driven into the Penske Racing work space but Dixon alleged the crew member walked into his car. The penalty cost Dixon a chance to race for the win and opinion was split through the paddock as to who was at fault and if race control perhaps should have not penalized anyone.
At Baltimore, Dixon was angered when officials ignored a Chip Ganassi Racing request to tow his car back to pit lane so his team could attempt to repair it following an accident with Will Power with 22 laps remaining.
Dixon finished 19th and lost more ground to Castroneves in the championship race. Dixon is 49 points behind Castroneves with three races remaining.
“For me, it’s just about consistency; that’s the only thing,” Dixon added. “The actual accident with Power, it got me fired up. Then we were trying to get the car back and that is what set me off and I used words I shouldn’t have used. It was a chain of events.”
Both Dixon and Ganassi team manager Mike Hull have had several conversations with IndyCar President of competition Derrick Walker since Sunday about the car not being towed back to pit lane.
“Derrick gave us an answer that they (race control) didn’t receive communication for it to happen and he doesn’t know why and it’s never going to happen again,” Hull explained Wednesday. “I don’t like the answer but I am going to accept the answer. That’s how our team chooses to operate. I think we are in a transitionary phase with Derrick and the position he’s in. I’m willing to be patient while Derrick builds a product.”
Dixon is also satisfied that Walker, who joined IndyCar in May after the Indianapolis 500, is investigating various incidents over the last few months, adjusting to his new role and can be a positive addition to the series.
Regardless of how the last two races have gone, the Ganassi team does not believe it’s out of the championship race. And Dixon won’t blame a call at Sonoma or not being towed back to Baltimore for his deficit, instead pointing to issues at Texas and Iowa as races where he lost valuable points.
But Hull still likes where the team is sitting with only a doubleheader in Houston and the finale at Fontana remaining.
“I’d be more concerned if we didn’t have quality race cars and a quality driver who didn’t give us a chance to win,” he added. “I think the pressure is on Helio. They’ve got to decide how they are going to race going forward. We don’t.”
And just like Dixon, Hull wants the focus to be back on the championship battle and the on-track product and not on the off-track drama or issues with race control. It was the overwhelming story in 2011 when Dario Franchitti and Power raced for the title as drivers complained weekly about race director Brian Barnhart, who was ousted at the end of the season.
NASCAR bans driver’s girlfriend for slapping rival
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — NASCAR has indefinitely banned a driver’s girlfriend from all events for slapping a rival racer after the Truck Series race Sunday in Bowmanville, Ontario.
NASCAR announced Wednesday that Kelly Heaphy, driver Mike Skeen’s girlfriend, also was fined $2,500 for slapping Max Papis in the face.
Papis and Skeen had been battling for third in the closing laps of the race until contact between the two on the last lap ruined Papis’ finish. The two hit again during the cool-down lap and Papis voiced his displeasure about Skeen during his post-race interview. Heaphy then approached Papis and slapped him.
Papis finished sixth in the road race; Skeen was 13th.