Rutledge Wood

Talladega Superspeedway

NASCAR connections to Monday’s college football National Championship

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The 2017-18 college football season ends tonight with the National Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The game (8 p.m. ET on ESPN) pits the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs, two Southeastern Conference teams.

We decided to take a look at the two schools and their connections to the NASCAR world.

If we missed any NASCAR connections, let us know.

The paths of Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski crossed last year.

In September, the driver of the No. 2 Ford visited the school’s Tuscaloosa campus, which is located just under 110 miles west of Talladega Superspeedway.

Saban actually served as the grand marshal of the 2009 spring Cup race at the 2.66-mile speedway, when Keselowski won his first Cup race.

During the visit, the two swapped jerseys, with Keselowski receiving a No. 2 jersey with his name on it.

“I can tell you this, I hope the tide rolls us right into victory lane when we get back to Talladega,” Keselowski said. “Like Coach Saban and his teams at Alabama, there is a winning tradition at Team Penske. We hope to add to that legacy with another Talladega Superspeedway triumph, and ultimately another championship.”

Two weeks later, Keselowski claimed his fifth Talladega win.

Saban will be looking for his sixth national championship tonight.

Hendrick Motorsports has a few team members who have ties to the game.

Rowdy Harrell, a former walk-on linebacker at Alabama, is a rear tire carrier on the No. 88 team. He won three championships with the Crimson Tide, the last coming in 2013. He joined Hendrick in September of that year.

Harrell was brought to the team by Chris Burkey, a pit crew coach for Hendrick. Burkey is a former scouting assistant for the Miami Dolphins from Saban’s time as head coach of the team.

The colors of the Crimson Tide have made their way to the high banks of Talladega multiple times over the last 17 years.

The first Alabama-themed scheme belonged to Scott Pruett and his No. 32 Tide car in 2000.

Michael Waltrip Racing was the vessel for three more schemes in 2010, 2012 and 2013, the seasons following Alabama National Championships.

2010 – David Reutimann

(Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

2012 – Clint Bowyer

(Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

2013 – Michael Waltrip

There are far fewer connections between NASCAR and the University of Georgia, but they’re there.

Chase Elliott, the Hendrick Motorsports driver and native of Dawsonville, Georgia, is a noted fan of the Bulldogs.

Hendrick’s strength and condition coach, Darius Dewberry, was a Georgia linebacker from 2006-09 and joined Hendrick in June 2013.

NASCAR on NBC’s own Rutledge Wood is a native of Alabama, but he moved to Georgia in 1995 and graduated from the school with a degree in marketing.

Bulldog sports teams have interacted with the NASCAR world a few times.

In 2014, the football team was part of the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina, playing against the University of Louisville. As part of their bowl week festivities, the teams visited Charlotte Motor Speedway to participate in the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

Two years later, the Georgia baseball team visited Charlotte to play the University of North Carolina – Charlotte 49ers.

As part of their visit, they visited Hendrick Motorsports to get a taste of the life of a NASCAR pit crew.

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Rutledge Wood takes hike around Phoenix Raceway to show changes to come

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NBC’s Rutledge Wood on Sunday took a pre-race hike around the area surrounding Phoenix Raceway.

Not only did he show viewers the beauty of the area, especially Rattlesnake Hill, but also gave viewers a vision of what Phoenix Raceway will look like once a nearly $200 million renovation program ends more than a year from now.

Work has already begun on the renovation, but the heavy work begins tomorrow after everyone clears out.

Check out Rutledge’s video above to get an idea of what the “new” Phoenix Raceway will do for fans and the racing.

NASCAR America: Virginia is rich in stock car history

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NBCSN’s Rutledge Wood takes you through the vast NASCAR history that originates from the state of Virginia.

While it hosts four Cup races a year at Richmond Raceway and Martinsville Speedway, many drivers and one of the most famous teams in NASCAR history, Wood Brothers Racing, call the state home.

The first NASCAR Cup race was held at Martinsville in 1949 and won by Red Byron.

The state was home to Hall of Famer Wendell Scott, the only African-American driver to win a Cup race, as well Ricky Rudd, and Jeff and Ward Burton.

Watch the above video for the full look at Virginia’s place in NASCAR history.

Tony Stewart may be ‘retired,’ but he’s still racing hard on and off track (video)

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NBCSN’s Rutledge Wood needed a ride to Talladega Superspeedway.

Lo and behold, there was Tony Stewart, who picked up Wood and then updated him on what he’s been doing in “retirement” from NASCAR Cup racing.

Given Stewart is still dirt racing — he competed in races Friday and Saturday before flying back to Talladega — and serving as coach and cheerleader for the four Stewart-Haas Racing drivers, he’s as busy as he’s ever been.

Check out the video above to catch up with what Smoke is doing these days.

NBCSN’s Rutledge Wood to drive pace car for tonight’s race at Richmond

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Rutledge Wood has done a number of cool and neat things in his career, but tonight will be a first: he’ll be honorary pace car driver to lead the field to green in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway.

Rutledge normally does interviews, but today, he was the subject interviewed. We asked him about what he hopes and expects during one of the high points of his career. Check out the videos above.

Also, check out Jeff Burton and the nuances drivers will contend with in tonight’s race in the following video.