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Mark Martin gladly embraces whirlwind week of traveling Indianapolis to Charlotte — twice

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CONCORD, N.C. – Mark Martin’s Indianapolis-Charlotte doubleheader will be a scramble, but with a couple planes at his disposal and a recent NASCAR Hall of Fame election, it’s worth it.

“This is an incredible privilege, an honor, and I’m extremely humbled by the opportunity to be a part of the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” Martin said.

He will be driving Sunday, too, the pace car to lead the 57th running of the Coca-Cola 600 to the green flag.

But if he actually were racing this weekend, his itinerary might seem considerably more daunting.

“It could be a nightmare,” Martin said Saturday during a news conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway.  “I can’t imagine having that. What Kurt Busch (running the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in 2014) was amazing. Not everyone could do it. It’s amazing what he did.”

Martin’s whirlwind week began with the arrival of a text message while he was clearing bugs off the front windshield of his motorhome, which he had parked in Indianapolis after driving in from Arkansas for the weekend.

In his second year on the ballot, he had been elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame – an honor he hadn’t expected to realize for years, if ever.

He certainly hadn’t expected it this year, having booked a weekend with his family at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to attend the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

But that couldn’t derail him from traveling to Charlotte to soak in the congratulations from his friends in the NASCAR garage.

Martin shares a plane with a business partner in Arkansas, and they have a pilot who flew Martin’s wife, Arlene, and son, Matt, to Indianapolis. They quickly turned around and flew to North Carolina, where Martin spent Saturday at the track.

He returned to Indianapolis later Saturday. After watching history Sunday at Indy, Martin will hitch a ride back to Charlotte on a NASCAR plane.

The Batesville, Arkansas, native will spend the week in Charlotte and plans to make a NASCAR America appearance on NBCSN.

“We’re going to enjoy being in Charlotte,” Martin said. “I spend most of my time in Arkansas right now. We don’t get over here as much as we like, so we’re going to enjoy being here and having some good restaurants and great grocery stores and stuff like that. It’s kind of rural where we’re at. We might even have time to catch a movie.”

Perhaps there will be time to visit friends at the race shops scattered around the city. The Coke 600 will be the first Sprint Cup race attended by Martin since his final start in the 2013 Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Though he doesn’t miss driving, Martin, 57, said he began to miss the people, particularly this season.

“The longer it’s gone, the more I’ve noticed it,” said Martin, whose career in NASCAR’s premier series mostly ran from 1988-2013. “I’ve really noticed I miss the fans, miss the competitors, and I miss the media and journalists. I do miss that. I didn’t feel like I had a place (at the track). When I drove a race car, there was a place for me here. I felt awkward about attending a race, being I don’t work on a car or drive a race car anymore.

“This is a real cool opportunity to get back and connect with my family for 30 years.”

BRANDT returns for third year with JR Motorsports in Xfinity Series

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BRANDT Professional Agriculture will return as a sponsor for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, the team announced Wednesday.

The company will be a primary sponsor of Justin Allgaier‘s No. 7 Chevrolet in 19 races and an associate sponsor of Allgaier and his three teammates the rest of the season.

Brandt has sponsored Allgaier for eight years, including the last three with JR Motorsports.

Allgaier is a native of Riverton, Illinois, which is 15 miles from Springfield, Illinois, where the company is headquartered.

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Allgaier, 31, is coming off his second season that ended with him in the Championship 4. He earned two wins, 10 top five and 17 top-10 finishes. He also led a series-high 495 laps among Xfinity regulars.

He will be teammates with Elliott Sadler, Tyler Reddick and Michael Annett this year.

The Xfinity season begins Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway.

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NASCAR revamps Rookie of the Year points system in national series

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NASCAR has changed how it determines the Rookie of the Year in all three national series, it announced Thursday.

The new system, which will debut in a month at Daytona International Speedway, reflects the points system that decides the champion in each series, including the stage format in races.

A race win will earn a rookie candidate 40 points and five playoff points. A second-place finish will is worth 35 points and a third-place finish is 34 points, etc.

A rookie candidate who wins a stage will earn 10 points and one playoff point.

“The focus on our rising stars has never been stronger and simplifying the Sunoco Rookie of the Year system made perfect sense,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing operations in a press release. “Our fans track closely the progress of our young drivers and matching the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points structure with the championship points will help them follow this prestigious program and award more closely than ever before.”

Erik Jones was Rookie of the Year in the Cup Series last year. William Byron won the honor in the Xfinity Series and Chase Briscoe won it in the Camping World Truck Series.

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Watkins Glen, Michigan announce multi-year sponsor deals

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Watkins Glen International and Michigan International Speedway announced multi-year sponsorship deals for their Cup Series races Thursday.

WGI announced the Aug. 5 race at the road course will be sponsored by GoBowling.com. The 90-lap race will be called “Go Bowling at the Glen.”

This is not the first time the bowling brand has sponsored a Cup event. It sponsored the spring race at Kansas Speedway from 2016-17 and the August event at Pocono Raceway from 2013-14.

As part of the deal, Go Bowling will have two bowling lanes at the track for the race weekend.

Michigan has renewed its sponsorship deal with FireKeepers Casino Hotel for its June Cup race for “many years.”

The hotel in Battle Creek, Michigan, began its relationship with MIS by sponsoring pole day in 2014. It began sponsoring the June race in 2016.

TheFireKeepers Casino 400 is scheduled for June 10.

ISM Raceway (Phoenix) also announced the title sponsor for its March 11 Cup race.

The event will called the TicketGuardian 500.

TicketGuardian is a mobile ticketing insurance provider. When fans purchase tickets to events at ISM Raceway, they will be given the option to add TicketGuardian’s ticket protection coverage. This allows fans to have insurance on the tickets they’ve purchased in advance.

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Hendrick, Kelley Blue Book extend relationship through 2020

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Hendrick Motorsports and Kelley Blue Book have extended their sponsorship deal three years through 2020, the team announced Thursday.

The car pricing, research and valuation guide will be a primary sponsor on Chase Elliott‘s N0. 9 Chevrolet in two races each year.

This season it will be on the No. 9 for the Aug. 18 race at Bristol Motor Speedway and the November playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kelley Blue Book has been partnered with Hendrick since 2014 when it had a one-race deal to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It went to a two-race deal beginning in 2016.

MORE: Driving the No. 9 feels like going home for Chase Elliott

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