(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon competing together for likely final time at Martinsville

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FORT WORTH, TEXAS – Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon entered Sprint Cup racing seven years apart, but they’ll be leaving together, just on very different terms.

Stewart and Gordon, winners of seven combined Sprint Cup titles, will make what is likely their last NASCAR start together this weekend at Martinsville Speedway in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500.

If you can’t help but feel we’ve gone through this before, well, we have.

“Keep in mind we thought we were doing that last year in the same scenario,” Tony Stewart said two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway during his “Smoke Show” fantasy camp to benefit the Speedway Children’s Charities. “Who knows, he might be here 10 more years at the rate he’s going.”

Gordon and Stewart made their original “last” start together in the November 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, capping off Gordon’s farewell tour after 24 years on the circuit. Two months earlier, Stewart announced that 2016 would be his final season driving full-time in Sprint Cup after 18 full-time Cup seasons.

Stewart made it clear then that he did not want his final season to mirror Gordon’s, which consisted of gifts and special presentations by every track, including horses from Texas Motor Speedway.

“I’m not really that kind of guy,” Stewart said. “I’m content to go race and be around the racing community and the racing family and be around our fans. They can just send me a note from the track president and say, hey, thank you, and that’ll be sufficient for me.

“I think it’s been very fitting for Jeff. I don’t think I’m worthy of that kind of admiration because I think Jeff has really done so much for the sport that nobody will ever be able to do again.”

But as 2016 unfolded, Gordon wrote an unexpected epilogue in his racing story, while Stewart’s final chapter was shortened. A pre-season back injury kept Stewart from making his first start of 2016 until the ninth race at Richmond International Raceway.

When Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered a season-ending concussion in June that didn’t present symptoms until July, Gordon was enlisted by Hendrick Motorsports to drive his No. 88 Chevrolet in eight races. That’s eight more races for “Smoke” and “Wonder Boy” to write history together.

“I haven’t thought about it a lot, to be honest,” Stewart said at TMS. “No more than I did last year. But it’s cool to run (against him) again.”

Aside from giving the command to start engines for the Sprint All-Star Race in May, the only real ceremonial moment Stewart has taken part in was at the July 24 Brickyard 400, Gordon’s first race in the No. 88.

The two drivers, who have both called Indiana home at one point in their lives, did a post-race parade lap around the 2.5-mile track they’ve won seven combined races at as a salute to the fans and the state that gave birth to their Hall of Fame racing careers.

“The Indy deal was special because it was Indy,” Stewart said. “He lived in Pittsboro, he wasn’t born there, but he lived in Pittsboro a lot of his life and he was 20 minutes away, I was 45 minutes away from there (in Columbus, Indiana). That’s a special place to us. It was neat to share that together.”

And they’ll get to share their final Martinsville start together.

Gordon is the active all-time wins leader at the short track with nine victories, including his final Cup win there last October.

Stewart has three wins there, including one during his third and final championship campaign in 2011.

Entering Sunday’s race Stewart and Gordon have combined for 1,418 Sprint Cup Series starts, 142 wins, 96 poles, 37,751 laps led and seven championships.

Here’s a look at the tracks Stewart and Gordon have enjoyed much success at together:

Martinsville Speedway – Gordon (nine wins), Stewart (three wins)

Watkins Glen International – Stewart (five wins), Gordon (four wins)

Daytona International Speedway – Gordon (six wins), Stewart (four wins)

Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Gordon (five wins), Stewart (two wins)

Sonoma Raceway – Gordon (five wins), Stewart (three wins)

Dover International Speedway – Gordon (five wins), Stewart (three wins)

NASCAR America: Matt DiBenedetto on Indy success with small team

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Matt DiBenedetto has just three top-10 finishes in his three years of competing in the NASCAR Cup Series. But two of them have come this year in two of the biggest races in the sport.

DiBenedetto, who drives the No. 32 Ford for Go Fas Racing, finished ninth in the Daytona 500 in February and eighth in Sunday’s Brickyard 400.

DiBenedetto, who was also celebrating his 26th birthday, joined NASCAR America to discuss his run at Indy and what is considered a successful race for his team, which has 15 crew members.

“You’ve got to keep it in the perception of your versions of wins are a little bit different than everybody else’s version,” DiBenedetto said. “We look at it as who we’re racing around. I would say on a regular week where there’s not a ton of chaos like Indy was, a top 20 is a really good day. A top 25 is if we just do our job.”

Watch the video for the full segment.

Chase Elliott, AJ Allmendinger unveil Darlington throwback schemes

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Both Chase Elliott and AJ Allmendinger have revealed the paint schemes they’ll drive in the Sept. 3 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Elliott will use his No. 24 Chevrolet to pay tribute to the car his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, drove in his first Cup start.

The light blue look was on his No. 9 car when he started in the Feb. 29, 1976 race at Rockingham Speedway.

The car was revealed on Facebook in the below video.

AJ Allmendinger will pay tribute to two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte with his No. 47 Chevrolet.

The car will resemble the No. 44 Piedmont Airlines Oldsmobile that Labonte drove in during the 198 Cup season when he competed for owner Billy Hagan.

NASCAR America: Felix Sabates: ‘I’m lucky to be here’ after near-death experience from illness last year

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For nearly a month last year Felix Sabates was at death’s door.

The fears were so great that Sabates might not wake up from a coma he spent 29 days in, Chip Ganassi bought a blue suit for the possibility he might have to attend his co-owner’s funeral.

But the 71-year-old made a full recovery through a rehab process that included learning to walk again.

NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty and Sabates have a special relationship. Petty drove the No. 42 car for Sabates’ SABCO Racing for eight years in the 1980s and 1990s, winning six of his eight Cup races for the millionaire owner from Cuba.

Sabates sat down with Petty to discuss the ordeal, which began in January 2016 when Sabates began feeling ill during the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I came home and woke up the next morning and I (couldn’t) breath,” said Sabates, who drove himself to the hospital. “The minute they saw me I was in intensive care.”

Sabates was in the hospital for two and half weeks before he was released, but Sabates “should’ve know I wasn’t cured.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner returned to his usual grind until it caught up to him in August.

“My blood pressure was through the roof, my oxygen level was 55, which you should be dead then,” recalled Sabates, who has no memory of a three-month stretch. “They thought was I was brain-dead. They were pretty much going to disconnect me. So 4 o’clock in the morning, they took my tubes out.”

That’s when Sabates began the process of waking up.

“I’m lucky to be here,” said Sabates, who aside from being back at the track is also back to playing golf.

“I used to worry about little things,’ Sabates said. “Now I don’t even worry about big things.”

The full feature will air Sunday on Countdown to Green, which begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN before the Cup race at Pocono.

NASCAR America: Ryan Blaney glad Team Penske news is finally out in the open

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On Wednesday it was finally announced that Ryan Blaney would move from Wood Brothers Racing to Team Penske full-time next year in the Cup Series in the No. 12 Ford while Paul Menard will take over the No. 21 Ford.

NASCAR America’s Dave Burns caught up with Blaney on Thursday. Blaney was happy that his 2018 plans were finally public knowledge.

Blaney also acknowledged how a technical alliance between the two teams helped Wood Brothers Racing return to a competition level that allowed Blaney to get his first Cup win this season earlier this year.

“That was a big deal,” Blaney said. “That was getting us to where we could run a full-time season. That was really helpful not only to me but to (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins, will be coming with me to the 12 car.”

Blaney has been driving for Team Penske part-time in the Xfinity Series since 2012.

“It’s been nice to get the news and tell everybody finally about what we’re doing,” Blaney said. “But mainly we’re trying to finish this year out strong with the Wood Brothers, getting their 100th win, that’s really big. That’s on my bucket list for this year and getting as far as we can in the playoffs.”

The No. 21 team returns to Pocono Raceway this weekend, the site of Blaney’s first Cup win last month.

Watch the video for the full interview.