Roger Diez: Another name change for NASCAR’s top series
Originally called the Strictly Stock series in 1949, NASCAR’s premier series has also gone under the titles Grand National, Winston Cup, Nextel Cup, Sprint Cup, and Monster Energy Cup. Well, that’s all in the past. In 2020 it will be the NASCAR Cup Series, with Busch Beer, Coca-Cola, Geico, and Xfinity holding what are called Premier Partner positions. NASCAR’s relationship with Monster Energy has been on shaky ground the past season, and no other single entity has stepped up to take the title sponsor spot. All four “Premier Partners” have a history of participation in the sport.
In a press release, NASCAR says that the new model includes premium assets for each Premier Partner to engage the most brand-loyal fans in sports throughout the entire season. “Premier Partners will collectively own a presence connected to the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race and NASCAR All-Star Race.” There’s more, including a statement that Xfinity will be the prime sponsor of the fall Martinsville race, which will determine the Final Four that will compete in the season championship, which moves from Homestead to Phoenix this season. I’m sure further details will unfold as the season progresses.
Penske Racing announced an organizational shuffle, with driver/crew chief pairings to be changed for 2020. Brad Keselowski will have Jeremy Bullins atop his pit box, Ryan Blaney will work with Todd Gordon, and Joey Logano will be paired with Paul Wolfe. With none of Penske’s drivers making it to the final championship round last year, the Captain thought it was time to make a change. Also, Richard Petty Motorsports announced that Jerry Baxter is joining the organization as crew chief for Bubba Wallace.
A Mazda DPi prototype was the fastest qualifier at last weekend’s Roar Before the 24 at Daytona. The lap time was 1.33.324 around the 3.81-mile combination road and oval course, for a speed of 146.97 mph. Penske Acura DPi machines took second and third fast times at 1:33.543 and 1:33.565. Cadillac DPi prototypes were fourth, sixth, seventh, and eighth fastest with the second Mazda fifth. In the LMP2 category for ORECA prototype machines, the top time was 1:38.056. The fastest of the production-based classes, GTLM, a Ferrari 488 GTE was top dog. The Ferrari clocked a lap at 1:42.685, just .001 second faster than the Porsche 911 RSR-19 in second spot. The silver Corvette C8.R was third at 1:42.793, followed by a BMW M8 GTE, a second Porsche, a second BMW, and the yellow team Corvette. Finally, the GTD class leader was a Lexus RC-F GT3 at 1:46.754, followed by an Acura NSX GT# with a 1:46.873 lap. A BMW M6GT3 was third, and a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 fourth. The fastest Porsche in the class was seventh at 1:47.185.
And finally, some sad news. Long-time motorsports broadcaster Bob Varsha, 68, is battling a rare and aggressive form of prostate cancer. He will be undergoing extensive chemotherapy treatments for the next several months. Varsha has been a fixture in motorsports coverage since 1986 when he started with ESPN. Later moving to SpeedVision (later renamed Speed), he covered Formula One, Le Mans, Champ Car, the World Rally Championship, and the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction. He covered IMSA (now the Weathertech Sportscar Championship) for Fox Sports 1 and 2, the FIA World Endurance Championship, and Formula E. Our best wishes for a speedy recovery go out to Bob, with the hope that we see him on the air again soon.