Talladega gives awesome gift to Dale Earnhardt Jr.: his father’s former race car

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There are things that are neat and cool and awesome, but Talladega Superspeedway and the state of Alabama went way beyond those superlatives Friday when they thanked Dale Earnhardt Jr. for all the memories he’s given fans there.

The track and state honored Earnhardt Jr. — who will race at ‘Dega for the last time Sunday — by presenting him with one of his father’s former race cars as both a going away and belated birthday (he turned 43 on Oct. 10) gift.

That’s right, not a replica, but the actual car., a 1979 Chevrolet Monte Carlo that Junior’s father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., drove to his first career Cup win at Bristol in 1979.

David Pearson also won in the same car that season in the Southern 500 at Darlington when he filled in for the injured Earnhardt.

When the senior Earnhardt returned, he also drove the same car for several races en route to his first Cup championship in 1980.

While this particular car – emblazoned in gold and blue and wearing the No. 2 on the doors – never raced at Talladega, it still was a treat for Junior to receive.

To say he was surprised is an understatement.

“That was great,” Dale Jr. told NBCSN’s Marty Snider (see full video above). “I’m pretty surprised. I didn’t think I was going to take home a race car this weekend.

“The state of Alabama owns this car but they’re going to let us take it to Mooresville, N.C., and show it around in our shop, so it’s going to be fun for the guys. I got to take it for a couple laps, that was fun, drove it through the garage so all the guys could see it.

“It was pretty neat just trying to imagine what it’d be like running one around here at 180, 190 mph.

“They ran a Monte Carlo here in 1979, but in 1980 they ran an Oldsmobile 442 (at Talladega). This was the car he ran at Bristol and all the short tracks and mile-and-a-half’s.”

It was one of the few times in Junior’s life that he actually drove a car that his father had previously competed in, he told Snider.

“I drove his No. 3 Goodwrench car a couple times in tests that first year we were together, but never anything old like this, with some real history,” he said. “I love to be able to sit in the car and just see the perspective of how much the view was like. It’s so different than our cars today, no head rest or nothing like that. You see everything, you feel the wind blowing around, it’s pretty crazy.”

Earnhardt then added, “I just want to thank Talladega Superspeedway, the state of Alabama. They’ve been really good to me and hopefully we can get ‘em a win this weekend.”

Off-camera and before he climbed into the car, Junior joked about the 38-year-old car: “Are we sure the brakes are working before we take it for a ride?”

BRANDT returns for third year with JR Motorsports in Xfinity Series

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BRANDT Professional Agriculture will return as a sponsor for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, the team announced Wednesday.

The company will be a primary sponsor of Justin Allgaier‘s No. 7 Chevrolet in 19 races and an associate sponsor of Allgaier and his three teammates the rest of the season.

Brandt has sponsored Allgaier for eight years, including the last three with JR Motorsports.

Allgaier is a native of Riverton, Illinois, which is 15 miles from Springfield, Illinois, where the company is headquartered.

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Allgaier, 31, is coming off his second season that ended with him in the Championship 4. He earned two wins, 10 top five and 17 top-10 finishes. He also led a series-high 495 laps among Xfinity regulars.

He will be teammates with Elliott Sadler, Tyler Reddick and Michael Annett this year.

The Xfinity season begins Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway.

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NASCAR revamps Rookie of the Year points system in national series

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NASCAR has changed how it determines the Rookie of the Year in all three national series, it announced Thursday.

The new system, which will debut in a month at Daytona International Speedway, reflects the points system that decides the champion in each series, including the stage format in races.

A race win will earn a rookie candidate 40 points and five playoff points. A second-place finish will is worth 35 points and a third-place finish is 34 points, etc.

A rookie candidate who wins a stage will earn 10 points and one playoff point.

“The focus on our rising stars has never been stronger and simplifying the Sunoco Rookie of the Year system made perfect sense,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing operations in a press release. “Our fans track closely the progress of our young drivers and matching the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points structure with the championship points will help them follow this prestigious program and award more closely than ever before.”

Erik Jones was Rookie of the Year in the Cup Series last year. William Byron won the honor in the Xfinity Series and Chase Briscoe won it in the Camping World Truck Series.

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Watkins Glen, Michigan announce multi-year sponsor deals

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Watkins Glen International and Michigan International Speedway announced multi-year sponsorship deals for their Cup Series races Thursday.

WGI announced the Aug. 5 race at the road course will be sponsored by GoBowling.com. The 90-lap race will be called “Go Bowling at the Glen.”

This is not the first time the bowling brand has sponsored a Cup event. It sponsored the spring race at Kansas Speedway from 2016-17 and the August event at Pocono Raceway from 2013-14.

As part of the deal, Go Bowling will have two bowling lanes at the track for the race weekend.

Michigan has renewed its sponsorship deal with FireKeepers Casino Hotel for its June Cup race for “many years.”

The hotel in Battle Creek, Michigan, began its relationship with MIS by sponsoring pole day in 2014. It began sponsoring the June race in 2016.

TheFireKeepers Casino 400 is scheduled for June 10.

ISM Raceway (Phoenix) also announced the title sponsor for its March 11 Cup race.

The event will called the TicketGuardian 500.

TicketGuardian is a mobile ticketing insurance provider. When fans purchase tickets to events at ISM Raceway, they will be given the option to add TicketGuardian’s ticket protection coverage. This allows fans to have insurance on the tickets they’ve purchased in advance.

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Hendrick, Kelley Blue Book extend relationship through 2020

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Hendrick Motorsports and Kelley Blue Book have extended their sponsorship deal three years through 2020, the team announced Thursday.

The car pricing, research and valuation guide will be a primary sponsor on Chase Elliott‘s N0. 9 Chevrolet in two races each year.

This season it will be on the No. 9 for the Aug. 18 race at Bristol Motor Speedway and the November playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kelley Blue Book has been partnered with Hendrick since 2014 when it had a one-race deal to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It went to a two-race deal beginning in 2016.

MORE: Driving the No. 9 feels like going home for Chase Elliott

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