Dale Earnhardt Jr.: End of final Martinsville Cup race ‘a big deal’ for NASCAR

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MARTINSVILLE, Virginia – The last Martinsville race of Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s Cup career left the driver “jacked up.”

And he didn’t even finish in the top 10.

Fresh off a 11th-place finish in the First Data 500 in his special “Gray Ghost” paint scheme, the 14-time most popular driver took to Periscope with a big grin on his face and a simple message.

“That’s what NASCAR needs every week.”

The racing, cheering, booing and the anger. All of it going on seemingly non-stop for 15 minutes after the race’s chaotic finish.

“I was so jacked up when I got out of the car I felt like I had drank a pot of coffee with everything going on at the end at the finish,” Earnhardt said.

It started when Joey Logano spun 13 laps from the overtime finish because of a cut tire he received after contact with Kyle Busch and continued when Chase Elliott forced Brad Keselowski out of the racing groove to take the lead during the ensuing restart.

It escalated when Denny Hamlin turned race leader Elliott into the outside wall with two laps to go in the original 500-lap distance. Hamlin then lost the lead on the last lap of the overtime finish when Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, forced  him out of the way in Turn 1. It all concluded after a Talladega-like crash at the checkered flag with a shower of jeers and cheers as Elliott and Hamlin exchanged words on the track.

“That was a wiiiild finish, man!” Earnhardt said. “I ain’t seen nothing like that ever. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a short track finish that was so crazy.”

At the time of his Periscope, Earnhardt didn’t even know where he had finished. But he was sure of something else after the first Cup race at Martinsville to finish under the lights.

“That’s what NASCAR needs every week,” Earnhardt said. “NASCAR needs short track racing, particularly and preferably under the lights. If that was going on more often than not in the sport, you wouldn’t have enough tickets. You’d have to build tracks just like Bristol with all the grandstands you can find.

“That’s so much better than a lot of the things that we do. I don’t really know how to put it into words. But that kind of action and drama, that’s what grows the sport and gets people talking. My God. We don’t need guys getting turned around and wrecked every week. I guess what I’m saying is, drama and exciting finishes, the fans in the grandstands cheering like crazy and booing and cheering and booing and cheering after every interview for 15, 20 minutes after the race.

“We need that every weekend.”

Earnhardt, who has three races left as a full-time Cup driver, also was excited about the discussions the race will prompt in the week leading up to this coming weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Woo, that was a big deal for the sport,” Earnhardt said. “We’ll be talking about that a lot this week. Man, is it going to be dominating the headlines and storylines. We won’t be talking about PJ1 and all that mess.

“Martinsville under the lights sure did deliver.”

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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Danica Patrick has Daytona 500, Indy 500 sponsor; now needs ride

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GoDaddy will return to be Danica Patrick‘s sponsor for the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, the company announced Thursday.

Patrick said in November that she would retire from racing after competing in those two events. She has yet to secure a ride for either race but that was slowed by the lack of sponsorship until Thursday’s announcement.

A Chip Ganassi Racing executive said last week that the team was no longer in discussions with Patrick for her to drive for the team in either race. Steve Lauletta, president of Chip Ganassi Racing, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the team would stay focused on its current operations instead of adding another car for those races: “We’re going to stay focused on that rather than put another temporary effort together and not doing it up to the standards that we would want to, so I don’t think you’ll see that happening with us in 2018.”

MORE: Danica Patrick confirms she is dating NFL quarterback

GoDaddy signed Patrick in 2006 when she was in IndyCar and followed her to NASCAR, ending its sponsorship after the 2015 season. While together, Patrick was the face of the company, appearing in 13 GoDaddy Super Bowl ads – the most Super Bowl commercial appearances by a celebrity.

“You could say, ‘we’re getting the band back together,” said GoDaddy Chief Marketing Officer Barb Rechterman. “It makes sense in that our goals are so well-aligned – she’s passionate, tenacious and creative just like so many of our customers who are also looking to leverage the power of the Internet and turn their ‘side hustle’ into a full-time business. Danica absolutely epitomizes the heart of our GoDaddy customers. We love it.”

Said Patrick in a statement: “This is definitely the way I want to finish my racing career – at these two iconic races, backed by my iconic, long-time sponsor. GoDaddy was there for me when my career was just really starting so it’s exciting to be getting back in the GoDaddy ‘green’ for my final two races. Our brands have always been powerful together, and I think it’s awesome to have them at my side when I go ‘all in’ with my businesses after racing.”

Patrick has made six starts in the Daytona 500. She won the pole for the 2013 race. She finished eighth that year, her best finish in the season-opening Cup race. She finished fourth in last year’s Advance Auto Parts Clash. She is eligible for that race this year. Patrick has made seven starts in the Indianapolis 500 from 2005-11. She finished a career-best fourth in her first race there, leading 19 laps. She has two top-five and five top-10 finishes in the Indy 500.

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Atlanta Motor Speedway accepting lucky charms to help Chase Elliott earn first Cup win

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The president of Atlanta Motor Speedway is hoping history will repeat.

Ed Clark is doing whatever he can to get Georgia-native Chase Elliott to Victory Lane for the first time in the Cup Series.

To do that, he’s using the same marketing scheme he executed in 1983 in the weeks before Bill Elliott’s first Cup victory.

AMS is asking for fans to send lucky charms to the track, which will be presented to Chase Elliott during a special event there Feb. 13.

There’s no restrictions on what can be sent.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver is winless after 77 starts in NASCAR’s premier series.

Bill Elliott in 1983. (Atlanta Motor Speedway).

His father went winless in his first 155 starts from 1976-83.

Clark put together the original lucky charm drive ahead of the October race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he served as public relations director.

“The promotion we came up with for Bill in ’83 created an amazing amount of interest and support from fans all over the country,” said Clark in a press release. “We received package after package full of good-luck charms, and it seemed like everybody was pulling for him to get that first win.”

Three races later, in the season finale at Riverside International Raceway, the 28-year-old Bill Elliott claimed his first of 44 Cup victories.

Fans can send their lucky charms to Elliott by shipping them to AMS at 1500 Highway 19/41, Hampton, GA 30228, with attention to “Good Luck, Chase.” Fans can also participate by using the hashtag #GoodLuckChase across the various social media platforms with pictures and messages to Elliott.

The Cup season begins Feb. 18 with the 60th Daytona 500. The following weekend, the series visits Atlanta Motor Speedway.

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