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After cancer diagnosis, NASCAR, IndyCar to honor John Andretti with #CheckIt4Andretti decals

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NASCAR and the Verizon IndyCar Series will both honor former driver John Andretti next weekend with decals that raise awareness about getting colonoscopies after the former driver was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer.

All cars in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 will have the decals, which are headed with the hashtag “CheckIt4Andretti.”

Andretti, 54, was the first driver to attempt “The Double” of competing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coke 600 in the same day.

Andretti was at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Thursday for a press conference to update his cancer battle and discuss the importance of getting colonoscopies.

“I turned 50 several years ago, and every year I get a physical, and I go through and I understand what’s happening,” Andretti said. “One thing I was always lacking was a colonoscopy, and you would ask about it or whatever, and I’d forget about it. I never avoided it. It just didn’t happen.

“And unfortunately my wife has an issue that she has to go get them several times. And so she was in getting hers, and I decided to schedule mine. … But I was about three minutes away from walking out of the next doctor’s office because patience is not my strong suit. And so fortunately I didn’t, and immediately after the colonoscopy, they scheduled a surgeon. I was in surgery a few days later to have a tumor removed and another cancer spot. Unfortunately, the tumor had spread outside the colon.”

The initial surgery removed 12-14 inches of his colon and scans showed the cancer had spread to his liver and possibly his spleen. Doctors don’t know for sure because spleens can’t be biopsied.

Another surgery is scheduled and will take place halfway through his chemo treatments. Andretti will do chemo treatments in Indianapolis and North Carolina.

Dr. Paul Helft, Andretti’s oncologist in Indianapolis, said colon cancer affects 150,000 people a year, roughly 10 percent of all cancer patients in the United States.

“It’s been a struggle, but the people around me have made it really — you know, much easier, the prayers and everybody that’s reached out to me,” Andretti said.

A two-time Cup winner, Andretti said his cousin Michael Andretti and others underwent a colonoscopy after he told them he wouldn’t go public with his ailment unless they did.

“I figured I’d never get him to go so I would never have to go public with it, and two weeks later he’s doing it,” John Andretti said. “He fought a little bit, but he didn’t fight hard.”

The special decals are not the only way Andretti and his cause are being honored in the NASCAR world. This weekend, the No. 34 Ford of Landon Cassill will have #CheckIt4Andretti logos on it.

“John was the original driver of the No. 34 when Bob Jenkins first ran the car full-time in the Cup series, and he’s still a good friend of Bob’s and a friend of the team,” Cassill said in a press release. “We’re all thinking about him as he battles colon cancer, and we want to help spread his message. He’s been using his diagnosis as a platform to encourage everybody to go to the doctor and get checked, and we’re happy to help spread that message in his name.”

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Darlington celebrates NASCAR’s 70th birthday by revealing 4th throwback weekend details

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Darlington Raceway on Thursday celebrated the 70th birthday of NASCAR in a big way, announcing details for the fourth annual NASCAR throwback weekend.

The track revealed the 2018 edition of the throwback weekend will celebrate “Seven Decades of NASCAR,” to be held Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at the legendary 1.366-mile track.

The weekend will include the Cup Series’ Bojangles’ Southern 500 and the Xfinity Series’ Sports Clips Haircuts VFW 200.

NASCAR held its first of several organizational meetings on Dec. 14, 1947, at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida. That ultimately led to the official formation of NASCAR on Feb. 21, 1948.

The throwback weekend will honor and feature highlights of some of the biggest moments in the sport’s history over its first 70 years.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Darlington Raceway and the NASCAR industry to celebrate the sport over a seven decade period during our 2018 throwback weekend,” Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp said in a media release.

“We have been era specific the past three years,” Tharp added, “so we felt it was important to recognize the 70th anniversary of NASCAR with our ‘Seven Decades of NASCAR’ celebration next season and give the teams, sanctioning body and others a wider brush to paint a picture capturing memorable moments we might not have celebrated in year’s past.”

Memorable moments to be celebrated include several that took place at Darlington itself, including Ned Jarrett’s record-setting 14-lap victory in the 1965 Southern 500, Ricky Craven’s record-setting photo finish win over Kurt Busch in 2003, and Jimmie Johnson’s 2012 Southern 500 win, which gave team owner Rick Hendrick his 200th career victory, among others.

Cup winners of the first three throwback weekends have been Carl Edwards (2015), Martin Truex Jr. (2016) and Denny Hamlin (2017).

As has been the case for the first three throwback weekends, the track will once again issue commemorative tickets for the Southern 500.

“We have produced commemorative tickets for our fans every year of the throwback program, which is an important part of our platform,” Tharp said. “We appreciate how much the fans have supported Darlington Raceway and want them to walk away from our weekend with a special keepsake that recognizes our rich history and honors the stars of our sport.”

Front Row Motorsports adds Michael McDowell, expands technical alliance with Roush Fenway

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Front Row Motorsports will field entries for David Ragan and Michael McDowell in 2018 while expanding its technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing, the team announced Thursday.

McDowell joins the Bob Jenkins-owned team after four years of driving the No. 95 Chevrolet for Leavine Family Racing before being replaced by Kasey Kahne.

The native of Phoenix, Arizona, McDowell replaces Landon Cassill as Ragan’s teammate.

McDowell, 32, has 249 Cup starts since 2008, but only two full-time seasons under his belt. He made one start for Front Row at Watkins Glen in 2013.

“Since I first drove for Bob at Watkins Glen, we’ve kept in touch and have felt like there might be an opportunity to work together again, and the timing worked out perfectly,” McDowell said in a press release. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a teammate, so I’m really looking forward to working with David, whom I’ve become pretty good friends with over the years. As a team now, we go into the season knowing we have five or six races that put us in position to get a win and earn a spot in the playoffs.”

Ragan returns to Front Row for his fifth season. Ragan earned the organization its first Cup victory in 2013 at Talladega. Ragan has two wins, 15 top fives and 39 top-10 finishes in his Cup career.

“Bob Jenkins and I have developed a good relationship over the years, both professionally and personally,” Ragan said in a press release. “I believe in this team and am proud to have been part of its growth and its successes. I’m excited that Bob and Ford have agreed to take the program to the next level, and I’m happy I’ll be here to help the team continue to grow.”

Crew chief assignments have not been finalized. FRM will announce sponsor partners and driver car numbers at a later date.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s ‘Last Ride’ diecast is Lionel Racing’s bestselling ever

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. has set a new benchmark for Lionel Racing’s most purchased diecast in its 25-year history.

Lionel Racing, NASCAR’s official diecast producer, has announced that the diecast of Earnhardt’s “Last Ride” No. 88 Chevrolet in the Cup season finale last month is now its bestselling diecast in company history.

The “Last Ride” car is based on the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet that Earnhardt drove in his rookie Cup season in 2000.

The previous bestseller was another Earnhardt diecast, for his 2014 Daytona 500 win.

Lionel Racing says that QVC’s “For Race Fans Only” show that featured Earnhardt and unveiled the car helped contribute to sales. But even without QVC, sales of the “Last Ride” diecast outpaced the 2014 Daytona 500 diecast by more than 10,000 units.

“The demand for this car has been simply astounding,” Lionel Racing President Howard Hitchcock said on the company’s website. “The fan response to this diecast is a true measure of how much Earnhardt has meant to both casual NASCAR fans and serious diecast collectors.”

Lionel Racing has also revealed the top-10 selling diecasts for the year, which you can find below. Earnhardt has six cars on the list. Chase Elliott has two and Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney each have one.

Casey Mears likely to split 2018 between NASCAR, Global Rallycross and Stadium Super Trucks

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Casey Mears still plans to compete part-time in NASCAR in 2018, but he’s also looking to expand his racing horizons.

The veteran NASCAR driver told The Checkered Flag recently that he also expects to race in the Red Bull Global Rallycross series, as well as Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks series.

“Right now I’m talking to a few NASCAR programs to do maybe limited stuff,” Mears told The Checkered Flag. “I don’t have anything that would be a full-time ride in a NASCAR series.

“I’ve been speaking with Robby Gordon in the Stadium Super Truck program. I think that’s a really cool up-and-coming-series and I’d definitely like to be involved with the GRC. It looks like a lot of fun.

“I think there’s enough difference between all those that it could leave room for doing a bit of both so we’ll see how it works out.”

Mears did not race in the Cup Series in 2017, having lost his ride at the end of 2016 to Ty Dillon in the No. 13 Geico Chevy. He has amassed 488 starts and one win (2007 Coca-Cola 600) in his Cup career, along with 13 top fives and 51 top 10s.

However, he did compete on a part-time basis in 2017 in the Xfinity Series, making 14 starts, with season-best finishes of ninth place at both Richmond and Road America. He also has 107 Xfinity starts with one win, 16 top fives and 34 top 10s.