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Erik Jones knows his Michigan history — well, most of it

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Erik Jones is a proud native of Michigan.

During a recent interview with NBC Sports, the 20-year-old from tiny Byron (population 581) was tested on his knowledge of his home state.

To start off with, Jones was asked about how much snowmobiling he does back home.

“Funny part, I never have,” Jones said. “Where I grew up, everybody snowmobiled. Everybody I knows snowmobiles. But we never had snowmobiles.

“There’s not a ton (of snowmobile trails) by me. Honestly, it doesn’t snow enough most of the time. Sometimes it does, but a lot of it’s up north. But if you go up to the U.P. (Michigan’s upper peninsula), you can go up there and there’s tons of trails. I know people that go up there and they’ll ride 150-200 miles a day. I can’t imagine. It’s freezing. It’s like negative 10 degrees out.”

It’s no wonder Jones spent his winter vacation in the balmy Dominican Republic instead of the frozen tundra of northern Michigan.

As the test began, Jones quipped, “I don’t know about the state flower or anything.”

Here’s some of the things he did – and didn’t know.

Q) Which city was Henry Ford born?

Jones: “Was it Flint or Grand Rapids? It might have been up north. I don’t know for sure.”

Answer: Dearborn, Michigan, Ford Motor Company’s headquarters. Said Jones in reply, “Dang it, I was going to say Detroit, which is close.”

Q) On what holiday do the Detroit Lions play on every year?

Jones: “Thanksgiving. That’s easy.”

Answer: Thanksgiving is correct.

Q) Who was the first driver to win a NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway (in 1969)?

Jones: “That’s a long time ago. I don’t know that era very well. Was it Benny Parsons?”

Answer: Cale Yarborough is the correct answer.

Q) Who was the first NASCAR Premier Series from Michigan?

Jones: “Well, I know the most recent one. Is it Brad (Keselowski)?”

Answer: Keselowski is correct.

Q) What do you think of Mackinac Island?

Jones: “Mackinac? It’s Mackinaw. It’s spelled like Mackinac, but it’s Mackinaw City.”

Answer: Mackinac is the correct spelling, but it’s pronounced Mackinaw.

Q) What sweet treat is Mackinac known for?

Jones: “Fudge. They do have real good fudge, very good.”

Answer: Fudge is correct.

Q) What is the real name of the Detroit rapper who wrote “My Name Is …”?

Jones: “Marshall Mathers (aka Eminem). He’s from Detroit. That’s an easy one. I go by Eight-Mile (Road) all the time when I’m home.”

Answer: Marshall Mathers is correct.

Q) How many NBA titles do the Detroit Pistons have?

Jones: “Maybe four? Is it three? I knew it was three or four. Bad Boys from the late ‘80s. Who hasn’t heard of them? I wasn’t alive for the first two. I remember ’04. That was a good team.”

Answer: Three is correct (1989, 1990 and 2004).

Q) What is the team name for the University of Michigan?

Jones: “Like the Wolverines? Yeah, the Wolverines.”

Answer: Wolverines is correct.

Q) Born in Romeo, Michigan, who is Robert James Ritchie better known as?

Jones: “Oh, Bob Ritchie? Kid Rock? Yeah. Who doesn’t know Bob Ritchie? I never met him but I like his music.”

Answer: Kid Rock is correct.

Q) What band, formed in 1997 in Detroit, wrote “Seven Nation Army?”

Jones: “I never heard of that song. I don’t know that one. I was only one year old then.”

Answer: The White Stripes.

When the impromptu test was over, Jones quipped, “What about a Bob Seeger question or something? He was born in Flint. Or what about Grand Funk Railroad?”

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NASCAR America: Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones get a feel of how Olympians train (video)

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NASCAR drivers talk almost continuously about how they have to be in top physical condition to endure sometimes often very difficult conditions while on a racetrack and behind the wheel.

One only needs to look at seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson to see the rewards of being fit.

But going to one of the Olympic training centers in the U.S. is a whole other thing, something that separates folks who think they’re fit from those that really are.

Ask Toyota drivers like Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones, who recently participated in a two-day training session at an Olympic training facility.

We wouldn’t be surprised if they’re still nursing sore muscles, given the workouts they endured – and which gave them new appreciation for what many Olympians must go through to be the best.

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NASCAR America: Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch ready for Daytona fireworks (video)

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NASCAR’s summer classic, the Coke Zero 400, celebrates this country’s independence, its military heroes and concludes with a great fireworks show.

But as Clint Bowyer and this year’s Daytona 500 winner, Kurt Busch, will vouch for, there’s also a lot of fireworks during the race, as the 2.5-mile, high-banked tri-oval can be one of the most difficult and intimidating places to race upon.

If a driver isn’t dodging fellow drivers, he or she is trying to stay in the draft to gain forward movement and momentum. Unfortunately, a lot of times when dodging and draft collide, so too do a lot of cars and drivers, as well.

It may not be the Daytona 500, but winning at Daytona in July is still a big prize that everyone wants to win. And don’t forget, because it’s Daytona, it’s also a place to be careful at because of the danger that can pop up at any moment.

Find out why by clicking on the above video.

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NASCAR America: Steve Letarte kicks off weekly feature honoring pit crews (video)

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They’re the unsung heroes of NASCAR, the guys who typically don’t get enough praise when things go right, and then oftentimes have the finger of blame pointed at them when things go wrong.

We’re talking about one of the most important jobs in NASCAR: pit crew member.

Starting with Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, a guy who knows a lot about pit crews – former crew chief turned NBC NASCAR analyst Steve Letarte – kicked off a feature that will run each week for the 20 remaining weeks of the season.

Letarte’s series will spotlight the importance of pit crews, and he’ll also choose pit crew all-stars to recognize their contributions to the sport and their perseverance on pit road.

This week’s first bunch of pit crew all-stars are Caleb Hurd, gasman for Denny Hamlin; Jeff Zarella, tire specialist for Kurt Busch and Frank Mathalia, engine tuner for Austin Dillon.

Give them and their peers some love and check out the above video.

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants one final Daytona win for himself and his father (video)

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Daytona International Speedway has been a bittersweet place for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It’s been the place of his biggest NASCAR Cup career wins, including the Daytona 500 in 2004 and 2014.

But it’s also the same place where he lost his father  in a last-lap wreck in the 2001 Daytona 500.

Now, Earnhardt returns to the “World Center of Speed” for what will be the final time in his 18-year NASCAR Cup career.

On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Earnhardt reflected upon all the good and bad Daytona has meant to him and his family.

On his first time back to Daytona after his father’s death nearly five months earlier: “Once we got to Daytona, we drove by the racetrack, pulled in, parked in Turn 3, got out and walked around. The track was empty, quiet and I’d never been to the crash site. That’s where dad, in my mind, lost his life. That was where we all remember him last.”

Returning to Daytona for the first time after his father’s death there: “I felt like that was a place I wanted to visit. And every time I go to Daytona, even today, I go around that racetrack, I look at that spot, I look at that knoll of grass before the exit of Turn 4. I wanted to go there and see how I felt and see what kind of emotions happened so that I could get whatever was going to be out of the way.

“I told myself what I was going through is the same sadness that some guy somewhere in the Midwest is dealing with right now. Who am I to go on and on about how hard it was, because somebody, somewhere right now is dealing with a loss.”

How he wishes his father was still here to see the man and driver he’s become: “I’d have loved it if he’d stuck around a lot longer, but that’s not the way it was supposed to be. And we figured out how to make it (when he won the 2001 Coke Zero 400 in his father’s honor).”

On wanting to win one last time at Daytona in a Cup car this Saturday night: “I’d love to win at Daytona and add another win to the Earnhardt column. Every time I win there, I think it’s another win for me and dad because his success there stretches far beyond the Daytona 400 and July 400. But any time I win there, that’s one more stake in the ground that we claim this track as a place we dominate.”

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