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NASCAR digital and social media numbers continue to grow in 2016
During his State of the Sport press conference prior to the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier this month, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France relayed an anecdote about watching a scaled-down, highlight-driven Duke college basketball game on his laptop. The story painted a broad picture of the shift in fan consumption habits. And for NASCAR , that has meant a shift in strategy to serve fans who want an immersive experience, whether attending live in-person, watching on TV, or engaging with sports at home or on the go. By all metrics, NASCAR ’s digital and social media numbers have shown strong growth over the 2016 season, validating a strategic choice to reach race fans in the multifaceted ways they opt to consume NASCAR content. Consider these numbers: Overall, NASCAR drew 256 million social engagements across all its digital platforms, an 87 percent increase year-over-year, and a massive increase of video content views. NASCAR saw a 14 percent growth in followers across its social and digital platforms. Of particular note was a spike in the growth of Snapchat followers after NASCAR announced its partnership with that platform in February. NASCAR competitors and fans provided live content from four races, starting with the Daytona 500 , under the aegis of "Snapchat Live Story." The Daytona 500 itself saw a 63-percent increase in race day impressions, while engagement with NASCAR content tripled. "It’s been fantastic," said Jill Gregory, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer. "I think that what it has done is validated our strategy that we set out at the very beginning of this season, when we talked about leading with digital and social and really trying to talk to our fans where they were and going to reach them at all the places they consume NASCAR . "We started that with our 'Ready.Set.Race' campaign and the Hashtag 500 around the Daytona 500 , and it’s really just continued to build throughout the whole season." The Hashtag 500, the race to win Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s firesuit, generated 13,000 NASCAR -related mentions in a single minute, a high-water mark for NASCAR content since the advent of the sanctioning body’s Fan and Media Engagement Center. Central to the success of the 2016 digital and social media campaign was heavy promotion of #TheChase across all platforms, leveraging Twitter, Vine, Periscope, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to engage fans throughout the 10-week playoff. Capturing the drama of the Chase, which concluded with Jimmie Johnson claiming his record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, was the digital film series "Ready.Set.Chase." All told, the five-film series garnered more than 13 million views. "I think we’re seeing it at NASCAR , and obviously we see it happening across the sports and entertainment landscape, that fans want to customize their experience regardless of what they’re watching or looking at," Gregory said. "If we want to talk to those fans, we have to go places that are convenient for them. "If they’re watching on their mobile app, if they’re watching via NASCAR .com, if they’re watching on television, it’s our job as the league to provide all of that great content in all of those places and then make sure that we deliver the right experience for each of those platforms."
Busch brothers relish prospect of second Las Vegas date
BUY TICKETS: See the races in Las Vegas LAS VEGAS -- Never mind that Kurt Busch has three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories at New Hampshire -- and none at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Busch, a Las Vegas native, was delighted with the Wednesday announcement that Las Vegas would get a second date in NASCAR's top series -- along with accompanying XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series races. The second Las Vegas event, to be held on a yet-to-be-determined date in September starting in 2018, replaces the fall race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in NASCAR's 10-race playoff. Busch's enthusiasm for the additional Las Vegas date was tempered only slightly by the absence of New Hampshire in the playoff. After all, the most recent of Busch's victories at the Magic Mile came in 2008. "That's big, to have Trucks on Friday, XFINITY on Saturday, Monster Energy Cup Series on Sunday," Busch said in advance of Sunday's Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "That's big. And then it's a playoff atmosphere in September. It will be a little warm, but we'll see how that plays out, but the way this city continues to grow around sports … there's an NHL team that's now here, the Raiders continue to flirt with coming down here. With the way that this town evolves, you see it as a win-win with the entertainment side and the sporting side. "To lose a date at New Hampshire, I think that will really push the New Englanders out hard for their July race, and there will be much more support around their race then. I haven't won there in many years, so I'm OK with winning three times early in my career. I haven't won there as of late, so it doesn't matter." The way Busch sees it, the addition of a fall race at Las Vegas also will amplify the importance of the spring event. "Wherever the date is, you have to be ready for it, and now when you have a springtime race at a track such as Phoenix, Martinsville, Texas -- Vegas now fits in this category. All those races are that much more important in the spring because they are playoff races in the fall (at the same tracks)." Busch's brother Kyle, the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, backed his brother's sentiments. "It's a great opportunity for the city of Las Vegas to have another race here and for NASCAR to come to town two times," Busch said. "I look forward to that." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Kevin Harvick captures pole in Atlanta
BUY TICKETS: See the races in Atlanta RELATED: Starting lineu p HAMPTON, Ga. – Kevin Harvick saved his best lap for the best possible moment on Friday afternoon, putting his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford on the pole for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX). In the third and final round of knockout qualifying for the second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the season, Harvick toured the 1.54-mile track in 29.118 seconds (190.398 mph) to post the fastest lap of the entire qualifying session. In winning his second pole at Atlanta and the 18th of his career, Harvick edged Ryan Newman (189.870 mph) by .081 seconds. "In the last run there, I was able to carry more speed and do some things with the car that I wasn't able to do in the first two runs," Harvick said. "At that point I just didn't want to screw it up, because I felt like I'd gotten to the green, which I didn't do in the second round. "I got to the green good, I got through (Turns) 1 and 2 good. I just needed to hit the bottom and get that left front on the line so that it would hook and get up off the corner. That was by far the best of the three laps, and we saved it perfectly for the end." Newman, who hasn't won a pole since the fall race at New Hampshire in 2013, failed to add to his career total of 51 and failed to break his tie with the late Buddy Baker for most poles at Atlanta (seven). Newman's No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet was second fastest behind Kyle Busch's No. 18 Toyota in the opening round of the time trial and fastest in the second round. "We were so close," Newman said. "I really wanted to beat my old buddy Buddy Baker's record there. Been tied with him for a while, so that was kind of rough. But I'm just proud of the guys and proud of the effort. It is the litmus test for us for a lot of the rest of the season. It was a good start for sure." Busch qualified third at 189.850 mph, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano in fifth and sixth, respectively. Five cars failed to make qualifying attempts, and thus, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Michael McDowell, Cole Whitt, Derrike Cope and Cody Ware will start from the final five positions in the 39-car field. </p>
Keselowski captures Las Vegas pole for first time
BUY TICKETS: See the races in Las Vegas RELATED: Full lineup LAS VEGAS -- Brad Keselowski blew the first and second corners on his money lap in Friday's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Then he blew away the rest of the field. Perhaps "blew away" is a bit of an exaggeration. Keselowski covered the 1.5-mile distance in 27.881 (193.680 mph) to edge Martin Truex Jr. (193.458 mph) for the top starting spot in Sunday's Kobalt 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) by .003 seconds. The Coors Light Pole Award was Keselowski's first of the season, his first in nine attempts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the 13th of his career. With most drivers in the final round stronger through the first two corners before tightening up in Turns 3 and 4, it is conceivable that missing 1 and 2 actually helped Keselowski's lap. "I don't know what the answer is," said Keselowski, the defending winner at Las Vegas and last week's winner at Atlanta. "I'll have to look through a bunch of data, and the smart guys -- the engineers and crew chiefs -- will probably point some of that stuff out to me. But, yeah, every time I looked at the tracker, the cars that were fast in 1 and 2 weren't in 3 and 4, and we were the opposite. "We were really good in 3 and 4… but we'll take it either way." Ryan Blaney qualified third after setting the fastest lap of the day (194.147 mph) in the second of the three rounds. Matt Kenseth will start fourth, followed by Kyle Larson and Joey Logano. Like Keselowski, Truex missed Turns 1 and 2 on the lap that counted but was strong through Turns 3 and 4 in securing his front-row starting spot. "I felt like we had a pretty well-put-together lap, but it wasn't perfect," Truex said. "Not quite as good through Turns 1 and 2 with the bumps as I'd like to be, and it felt like we hit 3 and 4 good. I felt like the bumps in 1 and 2 got us. "All in all, I felt like we just missed the pace a little bit. We were really strong in practice and thought (the track) would pick up quite a bit of speed tonight, and it didn't. That threw us a little bit of a curve and kind of hurt our setup. It was a good recovery. We made a lot of changes as qualifying went on and got better at the end. That's all you can ask for." After a strong start to the season in Daytona and Atlanta, the Stewart-Haas Racing cars were sluggish in Friday's time trials, with none of the four advancing to the final round. Series leader Kevin Harvick will start 19th on Sunday, two spots behind Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch. Clint Bowyer was the fastest of the SHR drivers, earning the 13th starting position after missing the final round by .001 seconds. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Earnhardt Jr. busy in final Daytona 500 tune-up
RELATED: Final practice results In Saturday’s final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, Dale Earnhardt Jr . ran 30 laps at Daytona International Speedway , second only to the 36 posted by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne . The No. 88 team changed from a qualifying engine to the race engine after practice on Friday, a practice customary at the Daytona 500. But Earnhardt found his car less responsive with the new engine; in addition, the car developed a slight vibration that led to the team changing drive shafts in the car. "We changed the motor and went to the race engine today, took the qualifying motor out last night," Earnhardt explained. "I thought our car was a little better yesterday in practice. In the pack, it would develop runs a little bit better. It just seemed like I had to get a little luckier today with what was happening behind me, where yesterday the car would do some things or develop some things kind of on its own. "The thing about that is every time you get out there -- you might not even change anything -- it just depends on what kind of pack you get in, what kind of cars are around you, and your car's performance can change and kind of fool you a little bit. I'm just hoping that today was a little more laid back, not quite as many cars out there, not quite as active in the draft, and maybe that’s why we didn't see our car respond like it did yesterday." RELATED: Junior's Daytona 500 history The vibration was of particular concern. "You worry about that, because any kind of thing that is out of balance is going to hurt that straight-line speed," Earnhardt said. "We tried to work on that and were able to fix it right there on that last run. It's just simple stuff like flipping drive shafts and things like that. "You want to get all that out of there so you don't have any doubts about anything holding your car back. Otherwise, it's been really uneventful. We haven't had any issues or problems with the car mechanically, and nothing happened on the race track, so it looks like we are going to get this thing on the grid tomorrow and ready to go." The change in drive shafts won't affect Earnhardt's second-place starting position on Sunday.
Bowman lands first Coors Light Pole at Phoenix
RELATED: Starting lineup " See every car " Points standings " Chase Grid Alex Bowman stormed to his first Coors Light Pole Award in Friday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying at Phoenix International Raceway . Bowman, prepping for his eighth start in place of the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr ., guided the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet to a best lap of 140.521 mph around the 1-mile track. The Arizona native's first pole position comes in the 80th start of his Sprint Cup career. "Man, it's amazing," said the 23-year-old from nearby Tucson. "We weren’t really that strong in qualifying trim in practice (earlier on Friday). I don't really know where that came from, but I just can't thank everybody at Hendrick Motorsports enough. "To do this in Phoenix, so close to home, means so much to me. We have had such fast race cars. We haven't had an ounce of luck, but to get a pole here means a lot." Kyle Larson posted the second-fastest lap, turning a 140.263 mph qualifying pass in the final round in the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet. He'll start on the front row alongside Bowman in Sunday's Can-Am 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the ninth of 10 events in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. Rookie Chase Elliott was third-fastest at 140.236 mph, completing a 1-2-3 sweep by drivers out of the eight-driver playoff picture. Sunday's 312-lapper is the final race in the Round of 8 to determine the final four qualifiers for the Nov. 20 Championship 4 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Only Jimmie Johnson , who qualified 17th Friday, and Carl Edwards (11th) have clinched title shots, leaving two open spots up for grabs among the six remaining postseason hopefuls. The rest of the Chase field's qualifying spots: Joey Logano (fourth), Denny Hamlin (fifth), Kevin Harvick (sixth), Matt Kenseth (10th), Kurt Busch (12th) and Kyle Busch (19th). Harvick, who tops the series with eight Phoenix victories, has won five of the last six races for the series on the Arizona oval. Fourth on the grid wasn't what Logano wanted in his quest to make the Championship 4 at Homestead, but his position on the outside of the second row could be an advantage at the start of the race. "No, it's not first, right?" said Logano, who is tied for third in the Chase standings with Kyle Busch . "We had a fast Shell Pennzoil Ford again in qualifying and didn't get the pole. That part is frustrating. The good part is we are fourth and not that far back, and the outside lane is usually a good place to be here at Phoenix on the restarts. "Usually the leader takes the outside, and that works out pretty well. Overall, we should get a decent pit stall and be able to race toward the front. I'm frustrated because I am not first, which I guess is a good thing -- but it kind of stinks." The Chase drivers aside, the story in qualifying was Bowman, who ran a third lap after posting his fast time in the second, not knowing he had run fast enough to secure the pole. Earnhardt, who watched from pit road, was elated at the success of his relief driver. "This is his hometown, kind of, so it's awesome that all his friends are around to see him do this," Earnhardt said. "This is great for his career. This is exactly what we were hoping to happen for him. Hopefully, he can put it together on Sunday." Austin Dillon was second-fastest in the opening round of qualifying, but committed a "blend-line" violation with an improper merge onto the race track early in the second round. It mattered little as last weekend's pole winner at Texas wound up seventh in Friday's qualifying in the desert. Martin Truex Jr ., whose Chase hopes ended in the Round of 12, will start last in the 40-car field after his Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota failed to make a lap. After a wreck with its primary car in Friday practice, the team had difficulties getting its reserve through inspection. The backup car cleared with roughly one minute left in the opening 20-minute round, and time ran out before Truex could get buckled in. Tony Stewart , scheduled to run his final Sprint Cup race at Phoenix, just missed a chance at advancing past the first elimination in qualifying. His 137.825 mph lap was just .014 seconds slower than Casey Mears , who took the 24th and final spot in the first round. Contributing: Reid Spencer , NASCAR Wire Service &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
NASCAR checks in to Hotels for Hope
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR announced today a multi-year partnership with Hotels for Hope designating the company as the "Official Hotel Booking Partner of NASCAR ®." Hotels for Hope, a hotel inventory brokerage with a philanthropic business model, services large scale consumer events across the country and will now include NASCAR race weekends. As part of the partnership, a landing page on NASCAR .com ( www. nascar .com/hotels ) launches today, allowing the industry and fans to book hotels for upcoming race weekends through its "Raceday Hotels by Hotels for Hope™" platform. For each actualized room night booked through Hotels for Hope, one dollar will be donated to The NASCAR Foundation. "There's really nothing like attending a NASCAR race and partnering with Hotels for Hope will provide our fans with a convenient and streamlined process to book travel," said Chad Seigler, NASCAR vice president of business development. "Hotels for Hope drives awareness and funds for notable charitable organizations and we are proud that The NASCAR Foundation will be represented among them." Hotels for Hope's database of over 600,000 hotel partners are utilized across a wide variety of events including music festivals, food and wine festivals, business conferences, trade shows, and more. With custom branded solutions and room block management, Hotels for Hope's technology will fulfill the hotel accommodations for any type of event. "Hotels for Hope's industry leading technology uses hotel reservations as a vehicle to raise awareness and support nonprofit partners, including The NASCAR Foundation," said Neil Goldman, Hotels for Hope CEO and founder. "Servicing NASCAR .com and the fans allows us to reach a larger audience, and to drive more bookings with meaning through this sport." Similar to The NASCAR Foundation, Hotels for Hope's mission is to improve the lives of children worldwide. All the nonprofits on its preferred list work to help children live happier and healthier lives. The NASCAR Foundation is committed to making children's health and medical needs a top priority. "The NASCAR Foundation is rooted in improving the life and health of children," said Nichole Kreiger, The NASCAR Foundation acting executive director. "We are thrilled to be working with an Official Partner that has the same commitment, and look forward to making an impact together." Through the Speediatrics Children's Fund, the Foundation supports needs for hospitals, clinics, and other organizations providing children's medical care. Since its inception, more than one million children in need have been aided. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season will continue with the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, March 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
NASCAR announces race package for XFINITY Series race at Indianapolis
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Indianapolis Teams competing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway later this year will do so with a race package that incorporates three major modifications aimed at one goal -- improved competition at the legendary 2.5-mile speedway. Designed specifically for the 100-lap race scheduled for July 22, the modifications consist of a taller rear spoiler and splitter package; aero ducts on the lower front bumper area; and a 7/8th-inch restrictor plate currently used for superspeedway events at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. The static ride height of the cars will remain at 4 inches, which is unchanged from the current 2017 rules package. The Indy package was crafted after much in-house simulation and development and then field-tested on Oct. 12 at IMS for verification. XFINITY Series teams from Richard Childress Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and Kaulig Racing participated in the test. "We (develop) the analytical package and come to some conclusions," Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Senior Vice President, Innovation and Racing Development, told NASCAR .com. "But then we also need to go on the track and verify this. So this approach has been a two-step approach, analytical creation of the package and then on-track verification. "We race at 29 tracks (across all three national series) and they're all very special," Stefanyshyn added. "Indianapolis has a long history; it's a wonderful track. Our objective is to give our fans the best possible show we can. We are very proud of being able to participate at Indy; we want to put our best foot forward. We believe we have come up with a package that gives us the best opportunity to do that." MORE: IMS announces updated race weekend schedule Stefanyshyn said officials had teams run various packages during the test. While the use of the restrictor plates enabled the cars to run closer together, the ability to pull out and pass remained difficult. "We saw the cars were closer together, but we weren't able to create some passing until we introduced the aero ducts," he said. "That's the main purpose of the ducts, to give the trailing car more of an advantage … we always hear about clean air and how the leader has clean air. Our objective here is to try to give the trail car more benefit." Without the aero ducts, cars running down long straightaways such as those at IMS hit a wall of air, which creates "a significant horsepower deficit" when they get within approximately one car-length of the lead car, Stefanyshyn said. The aero ducts direct air in through the existing brake ducts and out through the wheelhouse on each side. The high speed air flowing out creates a larger hole or "envelope" for the trailing car. Use of the aero ducts should increase the amount of horsepower differential for the trailing car by approximately 25 percent. "We're giving the driver more momentum from four-five car lengths back, gaining coming into within half a car length; when he gets right into that bubble, he's still got to cross through it, but he's carrying momentum and he can break through it," Stefanyshyn said. Stefanyshyn said incorporation of the package isn't "a slam dunk," but studies and testing have thus far validated the changes. "Our belief is that we will create a situation where they can pass on the straightaways," he said. "That's been done analytically, it's been done with three cars. The question is when we turn 40 cars loose on the track can that still manifest itself and that's still what we’re hoping will happen." Speeds likely won't vary greatly with the new package, and the use of restrictor plates isn't expected to generate the big packs of traffic on the track similar to what typically is seen at Daytona and Talladega. Stefanyshyn said it's more likely that there will be several groups of five or six cars each, "and in each of those groupings we're hoping to see passing on the straightaways." The XFINITY Series has competed at IMS since 2012, and the lack of passing on the big, flat track has been a concern for NASCAR and speedway officials. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) led more than half the laps in winning the last two XFINITY Series races at Indy and he led 92 of 100 when he won the race in 2013. Dale Earnhardt Jr. addressed the racing package this week during his weekly Dale Jr. Download podcast. Earnhardt Jr. competes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for Hendrick Motorsports. He is also co-owner of JR Motorsports, which fields four full-time teams in the XFINITY Series. "I'm curious to see (the changes)," he said. "I think NASCAR sees this as an idea on how fix racing in general at Indianapolis." According to NASCAR officials, there currently are no plans in place to utilize the package at any other venue or in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins
BUY TICKETS: Celebrate Auto Club's 20th anniversary See all of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories.
Kahne recovers at Atlanta, continues hot start
BUY TICKETS: See the races in Las Vegas " Complete race results Atlanta Motor Speedway is a track that has given Kasey Kahne three of his 17 career victories, but the start of Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 was anything but auspicious for the driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Kahne started 29th, and early handling problems caused him to lose a lap to race leader Kevin Harvick. But astute adjustments to the car by crew chief Keith Rodden enabled Kahne to regain the lost lap, and a lightning-fast pit stop late in the race put him in position to claim a fourth-place finish. "We got behind early and just battled and battled," said Kahne, who posted his best result since a third-place run last October at Charlotte. "Had to battle (Matt) Kenseth for a long time for the lucky dog, and he got it and he drove to the front. I knew he was really good. We just got a lot better. The adjustments were spot on. If we didn't have those, we would have been two or three laps down." In the end, the quality work of Kahne's crew made a crucial difference. "The pit stops were really solid, and then our final pit stop was the best stop we had all day at the perfect time," Kahne said. "That put us in row three (for a restart with 11 laps left), and we were able to get to fourth. "It was a great race. Our Farmers Insurance Chevrolet really came alive. It was good. It was fun. It was quite the battle. Five hundred miles at Atlanta is a long time to run right on the wall or right on the white line and switch it up." &lt;/p&gt;