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Danica Patrick explains why she isn’t racing in The Clash

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Danica Patrick answered the question before it was even asked.

Introduced as “a former pole winner” in a news conference Saturday morning about her final NASCAR start in the Daytona 500, Patrick immediately interrupted the moderator.

“Being a former pole winner and watching myself not out there in Clash practice, you mean?” Patrick asked, glancing at a TV monitor showing cars turning laps at Daytona International Speedway for Sunday’s season-opening exhibition race.

Well, yes. Exactly.

Patrick, who became the first woman to win a pole position and lead laps in NASCAR’s premier series when she qualified first for the 2013 Daytona 500, is eligible for The Clash, and the 75-lap warmup on the 2.5-mile oval provides a good refresher for drivers getting re-acclimated to the draft.

But the No. 7 Chevrolet is here only for the Great American Race, a fact that Patrick recently was lamenting.

“A couple of days ago I was thinking to myself that we should have run the backup car in the Clash,” said Patrick, who had made four consecutive starts in The Clash with a best finish of fourth last year. “We don’t want to crash the primary anyway, so we are going to be careful in the (Can-Am Duel qualifying races Thursday), then you don’t have to worry about practicing too hard because you will have already had The Clash race.

“I was like, ‘Man, where was I on that one?’ It would have just been a good gamble to use the backup but didn’t think of it soon enough and was honestly just really concerned about the work getting done to put the primary car out there for the 500. Just came together too late and thought of it too late. It would have been good practice. It always is. It’s good for these guys too.  It’s good for everybody.”

A sponsorship deal with GoDaddy to close her racing career with Daytona and the Indianapolis 500 was announced last month and was followed by confirmation of Premium Motorsports as the NASCAR team fielding her car. Patrick has said the hunt for funding took longer than expected and The Clash wasn’t offered as part of the sponsorship package.

“It was really just to do Daytona and Indy and The Clash wasn’t a priority,” she said. “If it would have come together sooner, I’m sure that we would have been able to put something together for The Clash. But I’m sure it would have been extra, you know what I mean? It’s not free. Turning a wheel, turning the engine on, it’s never free.

“So, we would have surely found a way to put something together, but it just didn’t come together fast enough.”

Because NASCAR is using a new optical scanning inspection system, the team also considered it prudent to focus on car preparation for the one-off.

“There was no time to really worry too much about anything other than the primary (car),” Patrick said.

Patrick will have the comfort of being reunited with Tony Eury Jr., her 2010-12 crew chief with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series.

“It should all be familiar, but it’s a new team, and it is new stuff to sit in,” she said. “It should all be really, really, close, but hopefully it feels familiar and I slip right into it.”

Todd Parrott joins Premium Motorsports as crew chief

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Todd Parrott, who won the 1999 Cup championship as crew chief for Dale Jarrett, has joined Premium Motorsports in the same role, the team announced Tuesday.

Parrott, who has 31 Cup wins, joins a leadership team that includes owner Jay Robinson, Scott Eggleston, Pat Tryson, Tommy Baldwin and Brian Keselowski.

“The addition of Todd Parrott is the culmination of a plan that started a couple of years ago,” Robinson said in a press release. “We wanted to assemble the most experienced professionals available to our team in an effort to stay relevant and competitive. We are very pleased to have Todd join our staff and are looking forward to this season as we continue to build this team.”

Parrott previously served as crew chief for Michael McDowell at Leavine Family Racing.

“I’m excited for my first day here at Premium Motorsports,” Parrott said in a team release. “I’ve been talking to Jay (Robinson) for about a month or so regarding the possibility of coming here to help him with this program. He has quite a few good people here like Pat Tryson, Scott Eggleston, Brian Keselowski and Tommy Baldwin who I actually worked with before. As I walked around the shop this morning I recognized several other people that I’ve worked with in the past as well, so I’m really looking forward to this new and different opportunity for me here. I just can’t wait to get going and get racing.”

Premium Motorsports will field entries for Danica Patrick and Justin Marks in the Feb. 18 Daytona 500. Patrick will drive the No. 7 Chevrolet and will be paired with crew chief Tony Eury Jr. Marks will drive the No. 51 Chevrolet that is also operated by Rick Ware Racing.

The team also fields entries in the Camping World Truck Series, an operation overseen by Keselowski.

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Justin Marks to drive No. 51 car in Daytona 500

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Rick Ware Racing and Premium Motorsports have aligned for Justin Marks to drive the No. 51 car in the Daytona 500.

Marks is guaranteed a starting spot because Rick Ware Racing has a charter, which is leased from Richard Petty Motorsports. Marks will drive a Chevrolet Camaro and be powered by ECR engines with sponsors Harry’s Shaving Products and Katerra on the car.

“Racing in the Daytona 500 is a dream come true,” Marks said in a statement from the team. “The team has taken a dramatic step forward for 2018 and I think we’re going to have some real good equipment for this year’s 500. Going down there in the race, without the drama of having to qualify, is going to relieve a lot of pressure and we can focus on our race car’s handling and race ability so were fully prepared for the event. Additionally, it’s awesome to welcome a new company, Harry’s, to NASCAR.  The car looks great, they’re excited, and it’s going to be fun to introduce NASCAR fans to a new way of shaving.”

This will be Marks’ fourth career Cup start and first in the 500. He has one victory in the Xfinity Series in 32 career starts.  Marks is competing fulltime in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for Michael Shank Racing. He told “Tradin Paint” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he was looking at running Cup road course races this year.

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Danica Patrick to sport familiar green for Daytona 500

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Danica Patrick unveiled the green Go Daddy car that she’ll drive in the Feb. 18 Daytona 500, the first half of what is being called the Danica Double.

The Daytona 500 will be her final Cup event. She will end her racing career driving in May’s Indianapolis 500.

Patrick’s Cup car will sport the familiar green at Daytona International Speedway. A couple of changes from her earlier Go Daddy green cars in NASCAR is that this car will have a white numeral on the door and Go Daddy will be in black letters on the hood.

Patrick will drive for Premium Motorsports in the Daytona 500. It will be her seventh Daytona 500 start. She won the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500 and her best finish in the race was eighth that year.

Friday 5: Questions about size of future Hall of Fame classes

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After NASCAR celebrates the ninth Hall of Fame class tonight (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN), questions may soon arise about how many inductees should be honored annually.

NASCAR inducts five people each year. When NASCAR announced eligibility changes in 2013, a former series executive said that the sanctioning body would “give strong consideration” to if five people should be inducted each year and if there should be a veteran’s committee “after the 10th class is seated.’’

The 10th class — which Jeff Gordon will be eligible for and expected to headline— will be selected later this year and honored in 2019. That gives NASCAR a year to determine what changes to make if officials follow the schedule mentioned in 2013. NASCAR has discussed different scenarios as part of its examination of the Hall of Fame.

Among the questions NASCAR could face is should no more than three people be inducted a year? Should only nominees who receive a specific percentage of the vote be inducted? Should other methods be considered in determining who enters the Hall? 

Only one of the last five classes had all five inductees selected on at least 50 percent of the ballots. Five people in the last three classes each received less than 50 percent of the vote.

The challenge is that if NASCAR reduced the number of people inducted after the Class of 2019, it could create a logjam in the coming years.

Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards (provided Edwards does not return to run a significant number of races) would be eligible for the Class of 2020.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth (provided Kenseth does not return to run a significant number of races) would be eligible for the Class of 2021.

Stewart would appear to be a lock for his year and it seems likely Earnhardt would make it as well his first year.

If the Hall of Fame classes were cut to three a year, and Stewart, Earnhardt and Kenseth each were selected in those two years, that would leave three spots during that time for others.

The nominees for this year’s class included former champions Bobby Labonte and Alan Kulwicki, crew chief Harry Hyde (56 wins, 88 poles) and Waddell Wilson (22 wins, 32 poles), car owners Roger Penske, Jack Roush and Joe Gibbs and Cup drivers Buddy Baker, Davey Allison and Ricky Rudd.

A 2019 Class that might feature Jeff Gordon, Harry Hyde, Buddy Baker and two others would still leave some worthy candidates who might not make it for a couple of years if the number of inductees is reduced.

Of course, there are those who haven’t been nominated that some would suggest should be, including Smokey Yunick, Humpy Wheeler, Buddy Parrott, Kirk Shelmerdine, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant and Tim Richmond. That could further jumble who makes it if the number of inductees is reduced.

Those are just some of the issues NASCAR could face as it examines if any changes need to be made.

2. Hall of Fame Classes and vote totals

Note: NASCAR did not release vote totals for the inaugural class (2010 with Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Junior Johnson, Bill France Sr., and Bill France Jr.). Below are the other classes with the percent of ballots each inductee was on:

2018 Class

Robert Yates (94 percent)

Red Byron (74 percent)

Ray Evernham (52 percent)

Ken Squier (40 percent)

Ron Hornaday Jr. (38 percent)

2017 Class

Benny Parsons (85 percent)

Rick Hendrick (62 percent)

Mark Martin (57 percent)

Raymond Parks (53 percent)

Richard Childress (43 percent)

2016 Class

Bruton Smith (68 percent)

Terry Labonte (61 percent)

Curtis Turner (60 percent)

Jerry Cook (47 percent)

Bobby Isaac (44 percent)

2015 Class

Bill Elliott (87 percent)

Wendell Scott (58 percent)

Joe Weatherly (53 percent)

Rex White (43 percent)

Fred Lorenzen (30 percent)

2014 Class

Tim Flock (76 percent)

Maurice Petty (67 percent)

Dale Jarrett (56 percent)

Jack Ingram (53 percent)

Fireball Roberts (51 percent)

2013 Class

Herb Thomas (57 percent)

Leonard Wood (57 percent)

Rusty Wallace (52 percent)

Cotten Owens (50 percent)

Buck Baker (39 percent)

2012 Class

Cale Yarborough (85 percent)

Darrell Waltrip (82 percent)

Dale Inman (78 percent)

Richie Evans (50 percent)

Glen Wood (44 percent)

2011 Class

David Pearson (94 percent)

Bobby Allison (62 percent)

Lee Petty (62 percent)

Ned Jarrett (58 percent)

Bud Moore (45 percent)

3. Charter Switcheroo

Five charters have changed hands since last season. One will be with its third different team in the three years of the charter system.

In 2016, Premium Motorsports leased its charter to HScott Motorsports so the No. 46 team of Michael Annett could use it.

The charter was returned after that season, and Premium Motorsports sold the charter to Furniture Row Racing for the No. 77 car of Erik Jones for 2017.

With Jones moving to Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing not finding enough sponsorship to continue the team, the charter was sold to JTG Daugherty for the No. 37 team of Chris Buescher for this season. (The No. 37 team had leased a charter from Roush Fenway Racing last year).

So that will make the third different team the charter, which originally belonged to Premium Motorsports, has been with since the system was created.

4. Dodge and NASCAR?

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne excited fans when he said in Dec. 2016 about Dodge that “it is possible we can come back to NASCAR.’’

One report last year stated that Dodge decided not to return to NASCAR, and another countered that report.

While questions remain on if Dodge will return to NASCAR, Marchionne announced this week at the Detroit Auto Show that he’ll step down next year, and that Fiat Chrysler will release a business plan in June that will go through 2022. The company will announce a successor to Marchionne sometime after that.

Marchionne said, according to The Associated Press, that the U.S. tax cuts passed in December are worth $1 billion annually to Fiat Chrysler.

A Wall Street Journal story this week stated that Fiat Chrysler makes most of its profit from its Jeep and Ram brands, writing that those brands “have been on a roll as U.S. buyers shift to these kinds of light trucks and away from sedans, which is a segment the company has largely abandoned.’’

5. NMPA Hall of Fame

The National Motorsports Hall of Fame will induct four people into its Hall of Fame on Sunday night. Those four will be drivers Terry Labonte and Donnie Allison and crew chiefs Jake Elder and Buddy Parrott.

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