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Texas Motor Speedway to begin repaving project Monday

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The lengthy delays to dry Texas Motor Speedway should end with Friday’s announcement that the 1.5-mile track will be repaved beginning Monday.

Officials also announced that the banking in Turns 1 and 2 will be reduced from 24 degrees to 20 degrees. The racing surface width will expand from 60 to 80 feet in those turns. The banking and racing surface in Turns 3 and 4 will remain the same.

The project is expected to be completed by mid March. NASCAR returns there April 7-9 with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series. Gossage declined to reveal the cost of the project.

The move comes after issues last year with drying the track at both NASCAR race weekends and the IndyCar race. Last fall’s Chase race for the Cup series was delayed nearly six hours by rain and a slow-drying track. The race also was shortened by rain. That came a few days after a passing shower forced a Camping World Truck Series practice to be rescheduled a day. Last summer, an IndyCar race there had to be postponed because five hours of drying wasn’t enough.

“Given our recent issues with having difficulty in getting the track to dry, we felt it was something we had to do that the fans that come to the racetrack know that the track is going to dry quickly .. and they get what they came for,’’ Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway, said on a conference call with reporters.

Gossage said that he “it would probably be wise” for NASCAR to expand the weekend schedule in April to give teams additional time on the track. A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports that weekend schedules are still being developed but officials expect to work with Goodyear and teams to create an ideal schedule for all.

Gossage also had a message for Goodyear.

“We’re going to strongly encourage Goodyear to test and not just bring a hard tire,” Gossage said. “That would a mistake. We’re going to work hard to try to get Goodyear to do that.”

Gossage has said that the 2-inch top layer had become porous after years of being hammered by ground effects of Indy cars, stock cars and Air Titans.

The track was last repaved in 2001.

Texas Motor Speedway is the second track owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc. to announce this week it will be repaved. Atlanta Motor Speedway officials announced Tuesday that the 1.5-mile track will be repaved shortly after its March race.

The announcements come as Speedway Motorsports Inc. has seen an uptick in its stock price, hitting a 52-week high on Wednesday at $21.97 per share.

Lane Construction Corp., will handle the repaving project. Since 2003, it has paved several tracks, including Charlotte Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Darlington Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway.

The repave will feature an asphalt mix similar to the track surfaces at Kentucky Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The track also is enhancing its drainage system, creating multiple points for water to drain away from the facility more efficiently.

The project will be done in four stages, beginning with the installation of the drainage system on the backstretch. The same construction then will take place on the frontstretch. The banking then will be changes in Turns 1 and 2 with the repaving the final stage.

Gossage also explained that changing the banking was done to enhance the racing.

“It was just an opportunity,” Gossage said. “The track was torn up, so why not do something. Just an opportunity for us to be unique and be special. Wanted to give these drivers a challenge. Wanted to give everybody an opportunity to have more passing opportunities because of having to slow down.”

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Cole Pearn to honor late friend with fundraiser for family next month in Toronto

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A testimonial to Cole Pearn’s best friend, who unexpectedly passed away in early August, as well as a fundraiser for his family will be held Friday, Jan. 5, at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Pearn’s lifelong friend, Jacob Damen, died unexpectedly after contracting a fast-moving bacterial infection on August 3.

Pearn, crew chief for the 2017 NASCAR Cup championship for Furniture Row Racing, will oversee the gala event, which will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. ET.

The evening will also include an appearance by 2017 NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex Jr., silent and live auctions, the opportunity to meet both Pearn and Truex and other events.

All net proceeds from the evening will be given to the Damen Family Fund.

“We miss our buddy Jacob dearly,” Pearn said in a media release. “We all have family and friends that fill a space in our hearts that is irreplaceable.

“Jacob filled the hearts of his wife Carolyn, his sons Lucas and Nolan, his parents Jerry and Kim Damen, twin brother Tyler, sister Julia and countless friends.

“We are going to celebrate his life at the perfect spot, the Hockey Hall of Fame, to support his beautiful wife Carolyn and the two boys, Lucas and Nolan. I can’t wait to get home to celebrate with everyone.”

Click here for more details and to purchase tickets to the ‘Jacob Damen Friend and Fan Remembered’ event.

NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day scheduled for Jan. 20

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The annual NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day will return to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, next month.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 20, the day after the 2018 Hall of Fame class is inducted.

Fans will be able to take part in an autograph session with current national series drivers, Hall of Famers and members of the NASCAR Next class, as well photo opportunities and question-and-answer sessions with a number of NASCAR legends.

Admission to Hall of Fame will be free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis

Admission to driver autograph sessions is free but will require a ticket for participation. Fans can register for the driver autograph sessions at nascarhall.com beginning Saturday, Jan. 13 at 10 a.m. ET. A full driver autograph session schedule will be announced at a later date.

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Ryan Blaney to guest star on NBC’s ‘Taken’ next year

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Ryan Blaney has a particular set of skills; skills that he’s developed through years of professional auto racing.

The Team Penske driver will get to display those skills next year on NBC’s “Taken” TV Series.

The show serves as a prequel to the 2008 Liam Neeson film of the same name.

Blaney, 23, will guest start on the second season of the series, which premieres Jan. 12. He will appear in an episode titled “Imperium” as a special agent who knows his way around a car.

Here’s the plot synopsis for the episode.

“When a dangerous weapons dealer smuggles his wares into New York City, Bryan Mills (Clive Standen) teams up with the FBI in a race to stop him before he reaches the safety of international waters.”

This won’t be Blaney’s first time in front of a camera playing someone else. He had two movie cameos this year in Logan Lucky and Cars 3.

Blaney was filming his role in “Taken” on Tuesday in Ontario. See his tweets from the set below.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram update: Leaves ICU, moves to acute care facility

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram’s condition continues to improve following a serious car crash in his native Asheville, North Carolina on Dec. 3.

According to an online post by his daughter, Ingram was taken out of Intensive Care on Tuesday and moved into an Acute Care facility, which is not as serious as ICU is.

Ingram did suffer a small setback in his recovery, developing a slight infection that is being treated with antibiotics.

Added the note from Ingrid Jones, Jack’s daughter, “The acute care facility will work to start decreasing his pain meds, over time, and put him on less narcotics and more simple analgesics (like really strong Tylenol, but without narcotics).

“Also they will continue his therapies, physical and occupational, as he’s able. It is still hard to know what his long-term health future will be, but we think his color looks really good, and we have no doubts that he has the will and determination to see this through.

“So if it is humanly possible for him to overcome, he will.”

We’ll continue to have periodic updates on Ingram’s condition as they become available.