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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 is 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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Ford chooses Sebastien Bourdais replacement for Le Mans (and it isn’t Tony Stewart . . . yet)

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CONCORD, N.C. —  Ford has chosen a replacement for injured Sebastien Bourdais at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is expected to announce the driver soon – but don’t hold your breath NASCAR fans.

It isn’t Tony Stewart, who has indicated his desire to run the renowned event.

While taping an upcoming episode Thursday of the NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ford Performance director Dave Pericak said the three-time champion, who retired from NASCAR’s premier series last year, still is lobbying “every time he sees us” to race a Ford GT car.

“We love Tony, and he wants to get behind the wheel of that GT but not at LeMans” in 2017, Pericak told NBC Sports at the Ford Performance Technical Center.

However, the new co-driver will be relatively inexperienced on the famous Circuit de la Sarthe road course in France. Pericak said Ford’s high-tech simulator (which mainly is used for NASCAR but also is used for sports cars and street models) at its North Carolina facility would help prepare the replacement.

“We will be using the simulator heavily between now and then for that driver to become fully up to speed not only in the GT but at Le Mans,” Pericak said. “There’s a great example of where we’re going to get tons of hours behind the wheel before that driver gets on an airplanes and heads over the France.

“The realism is unbelieveable. It’s a fantastic tool to have with this situation. Otherwise, you pick a driver, send him to Le Mans and take your chances. We’re going to be much more prepared. We already have the simulator ready to run that track because we ran it all last year.”

Returning to France last year, Ford won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a Chip Ganassi Racing GT driven by Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Muller.

Bourdais, who suffered pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip in an Indianapolis 500 qualifying crash last Saturday, was released from an Indianapolis hospital Thursday.

“Thank God, he’s going to be OK,” Pericak said. “We’ve talked to him, he’s in good spirits, but we’re really pleased he’s going to make a full recovery.”

Pericak said an announcement of Bourdais’ replacement was likely Thursday or Friday.

NASCAR suspends Camping World Truck crew chief one race

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NASCAR has suspended Camping World Truck Series crew chief Kevin Bellicourt one Truck event and fined him $5,000 because Justin Haley‘s truck failed minimum height requirements after last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The L1 penalty also docked Haley 10 points and the team 10 owner points. He finished 17th in an encumbered finish.

NASCAR also announced Thursday that Joseph P. Light has been reinstated after successfully completing NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program. He was indefinitely suspended March 16.

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Stewart-Haas Racing, Nature’s Bakery reach tentative settlement

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Counsel for Stewart-Haas Racing reported to North Carolina Superior Court on Wednesday that it has executed settlement documents with Nature’s Bakery.

A status report was pushed back 21 days to June 23 in the event the that the parties have not filed a stipulation of dismissal by that date.

No details of the settlement documents were detailed to the court.

Stewart-Haas Racing filed a $31 million breach of contract lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery on Feb. 3. Nature’s Bakery had two years remaining on a three-year contract to sponsor Danica Patrick’s team when the company sent the team a notice of termination on Jan. 19 . Nature’s Bakery was to have paid $15,212,000 each season to sponsor the team.

Nature’s Bakery filed a counterclaim Feb. 25 stating it did not see the return it was led to believe in sponsoring Patrick’s team.

Click here to read court document

Thursday’s schedule for NASCAR Cup, Xfinity at Charlotte

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Charlotte Motor Speedway kicks off its weekend leading up to Sunday’s main event, the Coca-Cola 600, with today’s action.

The Xfinity Series will hold two practices, while the NASCAR Cup Series has one practice and qualifies in the evening.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All Times Eastern)

11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. – Cup garage open

1:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

2 p.m. – 3:25 p.m. – First Cup practice (Fox Sports 1)

4 p.m. – 4:55 p.m. – First Xfinity practice (FS1)

6 p.m. – 6:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

7:15 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (FS1, Performance Racing Network)