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Five drivers (plus three) with Formula One ties that we’d like to see race the Daytona 500

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Fernando Alonso’s entry into the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 is the latest mega-crossover in a race that has been famous for them for decades.

With a few notable exceptions (wins by Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt and a 1993 one-off for Al Unser Jr.), the Daytona 500 hasn’t featured as many interlopers from other circuits.

While some major hurdles would need to be cleared to put together a car and team for the 2018 Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway, it would be a PR win for NASCAR to add some international flavor to the Great American Race.

Here are five drivers (plus three additions) with Formula One ties that we would like to see race in NASCAR’s crown jewel.

  1. Lewis Hamilton: Based off his attendance at the 2015 Cup finale to watch Jeff Gordon and his car swap with Tony Stewart, the prospect obviously entices him. And with apologies to Alonso and everyone else on this list, Hamilton’s presence at Daytona easily would have the most resonance for NASCAR. His friendship with Gordon and Stewart ensures he would receive a wealth of good advice on drafting tips, and if he were driving a Hendrick- or Stewart-Haas Racing-prepared car, there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t contend given the proper training.
  2. Kimi Raikkonen: There’s unfinished business for the incomparably laconic Finn. Raikkonen has said he wants to run a Cup race to put a cap on his 2011 foray into truck/Xfinity at Charlotte Motor Speedway (a planned debut in NASCAR’s premier series at Sonoma that year was dashed by a testing wreck). Based on how he impressed at Charlotte (15th in his first career race on an oval), Raikkonen surely would acquit himself quite well on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval. And his effervescent congeniality no doubt would win over the media center with every mumbled quote.
  3. Nico Rosberg: Hey, what else does the reigning Formula One champion have going on at the moment? Rosberg seemingly would have the most ample time for focusing on learning how to drive a stock car, and the 31-year-old also remains at the height of his powers (23 victories in F1 from 2012-16).
  4. Rubens Barrichello: He has the big-league oval experience from his 2012 season in IndyCar, starting 11th and finishing 10th in the Indianapolis 500.
  5. Mark Webber: The man whose Twitter handle is “@AussieGrit” seems to have the right temperament for tackling a 500-mile race, and he also seems friendly with a few NASCAR blokes.

UPDATE: Naturally, our alert readership brought some notable misses to my attention, so here are 5a and 5b:

Daniel Ricciardo: He ran a No. 3 go-kart as a tribute to “The Intimidator” … which has earned him an open invite from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to race a JR Motorsports car on a road course.

–Haas F1: Obviously, acquiring a ride probably would be easiest for drivers Romain Grosjean (who wanted to run Sonoma last year with Stewart-Haas Racing) and Kevin Magnussen.

AJ Allmendinger making return to Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2018

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After a one-year absence, AJ Allmendinger will return to the Rolex 24 at Daytona next month.

Allmendinger, who drives for JTG Daugherty Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, will once again drive for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance race at Daytona International Speedway, which will be held Jan. 27 – 28.

A winner in the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Allmendinger will split time in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 in the GTD class with Justin Marks, Lawson Aschenbach and Mario Farnbacher.

Allmendinger drove for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance race from 2014-16. His best result during that stretch was fifth in the Prototype class in 2015.

“I am pumped to be back racing for Shank in the (Rolex) 24. I missed the race last year and I hated to, so I’m really glad to be back,” Allmendinger said in a press release. “His whole team did an awesome job with the Acura last year and it is awesome to be back with him for the Rolex. After racing for the overall win so many years in Prototypes, it will be a completely different experience to be racing in the GTD class, but I’m looking forward to it. Mike (Shank) always puts an awesome team together and this year is no different so I am counting down to get my first shot in this car.”

Allmendinger is coming off his fourth full year of driving the No. 47 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing. He finished the season 27th in the standings, his worst during his tenure with the team. He earned one top five and five top 10s.

Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s to sponsor RCR in Cup, Xfinity in 2018

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Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s will sponsor Richard Childress Racing in multiple races in the Cup and Xfinity Series next year, the team announced Monday.

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s merged in September 2017.

The outdoors brands will be on Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet during the 60th Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 and in several other races during the season.

Richard Childress Racing

They will also be a primary sponsor for Austin and Ty Dillon on the No. 3 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series for several races.

“Our relationship with Bass Pro Shops dates back to the mid-1990s and we’re thrilled to be able to continue it during the 2018 season,” team owner Richard Childress said in a press release. “Austin, Ty and Ryan are terrific ambassadors for the great outdoors. They are all passionate about our hunting, fishing and conservation heritage which has made this partnership thrive.

“Next season will be exciting as we welcome Cabela’s, the iconic outdoor brand acquired by Bass Pro Shops, to the RCR family.”

Bass Pro Shops, founded in 1972 by Johnny Morris, is also a primary sponsor of Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota owned by Furniture Row Racing.

The store chain will be on the hood of the No. 78 in 16 races and on the sides of it in 14 others.

Here’s the eligible drivers for the 2018 Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona

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NASCAR has officially announced the 20 drivers who are eligible to take part in the Cup Series’ season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway.

The 75-lap exhibition event is set for 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 11, the same day as qualifying for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

The race will be divided into two segments. A competition caution on Lap 25 will divide them.

Drivers become eligible for the Clash by winning a pole the previous season, being a Daytona 500 pole-winner who competed full-time the previous season or being a playoff driver the previous season.

Here are the eligible drivers.

2017 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (14)

Former Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (3)

2017 Playoff Drivers (3)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth are not expected to compete in the race. Earnhardt retired from Cup competition following the 2017 season and Kenseth doesn’t have a ride for the 2018 season.

Danica Patrick, the 2013 Daytona 500 pole-sitter, announced last month she was done as a full-time driver but that she planned to race in the Daytona 500. No definitive team plans have been announced for her.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram injury update: still in ICU, but continues to show progress

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram continues to show improvement from the serious injuries he suffered in a December 3 car crash in his native Asheville, North Carolina.

In an update Sunday written on CaringBridge.org, Ingram’s daughter, Ingrid Jones, said her father remains in the Intensive Care Unit at Asheville’s Mission Hospital.

According to Jones:

“Daddy continues to hold his own, making healing steps forward and then a step back, which we fully expected-but he’s surprising us each and every day with his strength and courage to overcome this. Overall, he’s doing amazingly well.”

Ingram’s family had hoped he could have moved out of ICU and into the Trauma Unit as the next phase of his recovery, but he remains in intensive care.

Said Jones:

“For now, he’ll remain in ICU until he can go a full 24 hours without ventilator assisted breathing. We’re almost there … but may still be a few days.”

Ingram, who turns 81 on Dec. 28, was able to sit in a chair and watched part of Sunday’s NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings with his family. Jones wrote that Ingram also was surprised to learn that the mountain near the family’s Asheville-area home received a total of 16 inches of snow Friday and Saturday.

Jones added, “We continue to be optimistic for his health, and we also continue to appreciate the prayers and encouraging thoughts.”