Super Bowl

Martin Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr. celebrates calling his shot in the Super Bowl

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Martin Truex Jr. is on a championship roll.

Two months after winning the 2017 NASCAR Cup championship, the Furniture Row Racing driver celebrated Sunday night after his Philadelphia Eagles’ 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

Truex already had been slated to attend his first Super Bowl as the reigning NASCAR champion, and the Minneapolis junket became an opportunity to cheer on his favorite team.

Raised about 60 miles from Philadelphia in Mayetta, N.J., Truex, 37, grew up as a long-suffering Eagles fan (which he discussed on a recent episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast).

During an NBC Sports interview in May, he predicted Philadelphia would beat New England in the Super Bowl — four months before the NFL season began.

Attending his first Super Bowl as the reigning Cup champion, Truex stuck with the prediction during a pregame feature with Rutledge Wood, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Blaney.

While taking a social media victory lap, Truex couldn’t resist rubbing it in with New England natives Joey Logano and Steve Letarte (who also attended the game).

Drivers make their Super Bowl picks

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The Super Bowl is almost here and nearly everyone is making a prediction on Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles (6 p.m. ET on NBC with pre-game show beginning at 1 pm ET on NBC).

NASCAR drivers are no different and many have made their picks. See who they’re taking and the challenge a driver made to one team’s fans.

Chase Elliott 

“I will pull for the Patriots. I can’t say that I’m a diehard of either one of them (Elliott is an Atlanta Falcons fan), but I do think that just the Brady-Belichick era is one that we often take for granted how good that whole situation is up there, that we’re watching probably the greatest quarterback ever to play the game. I don’t think there’s a whole lot arguing that in my opinion. The guy is really good and the coaching staff he has around him has put good people in place. I would love to see their legacy continue because they’re worthy of it.

“Definitely it sucks what happened last year (New England rallying to beat Atlanta in the Super Bowl). I think that what (the Patriots) have done, I have a lot of respect how they do their jobs, how they deal with the media and how they’re leaders. I think they’re worthy of the success they have.’’

David Ragan

“If it were for money I would have to pick the Patriots just because they’re that good. I don’t like the Patriots because they win too much and I’m jealous of all the New England sports fans because I’m an Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons fan from Georgia and we don’t have many championships. I hope it’s a 0-0 tie and no one wins.’’

Brad Keselowski

“I’ve got the Eagles. They’ve got a better defense. Defense wins Super Bowls.’’

Elliott Sadler

“The Pats baby. Go Pats go. I’m a huge Patriots fan. My Super Bowl pick will be Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.’’

Ty Dillon

“Logically the Patriots. I don’t really care about either team. Definitely can’t stand the Eagles. I’m a Panthers fan through and through, born in North Carolina. It’s the only (NFL) team I care about honestly, but I’m a big sports fan. Patriots are going to win. They’re going to beat them pretty bad. I don’t really see Nick Foles coming back with another performance like he did. Unfortunately Eagles fans, I know that you’re going to hate me for this but I don’t really care for you either. I was at the Monday Night Football game that the Panthers played in Philadelphia and every single one of you fans treated me like trash so I have no love for your fan base … and I hope you lose the Super Bowl.’’

Martin Truex Jr.

“Definitely Eagles are going to win it. I said 28-17, but I don’t know. It might be higher score than that. I’m thinking 34-24.’’

Matt DiBenedetto

“My heart wants the Eagles to win just because I empathize with Nick Foles and I like the route he’s had to go and had kind of a tough journey the last few years. He had a lot of success and almost got forgotten about for a period of a few years. I empathize with that. I’ve had to go a crazy, crazy hard journey to get where I’m at in my career. So my heart lies with hoping that the Eagles win because it would be cool and it would be different. Now my brain tells me there’s no way you can bet against Tom Brady and the Patriots. That whole team has so much experience. Bill Belichick and those folks are so used to winning the Super Bowl. They’re like the Jimmie Johnsons of the NFL.’’

Denny Hamlin

“I know what the spread is but I think that the spread should be 3.5. I think the Eagles will keep it close for a very long time. I don’t know that they’ll be in the lead. I don’t know that the Patriots are going to make a last-second comeback. I think the Eagles offense is underrated. I think Nick Foles is underrated. I think their team is championship caliber. He’s good enough to run that team to be a close competitor of the Patriots even though they fall short.’’

AJ Allmendinger

“Fly Eagles Fly, 27-24 Eagles. The story of the underdog, Nick Foles, benched, backup, reborn. That’s what I love.’’

Trevor Bayne

“If I’ve got to pick one, you go with the odds, you got to go with the Patriots, right?’’

Kasey Kahne

“My pick is the Patriots, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick. They’re just so tough this time of the year. I think the Eagles will have a real good shot.’’

Paul Menard

“I’ve got to go with the Eagles. From the first time I watched this year, probably week two or three, I was impressed with their defense. Defense is what wins championships and they have a good one.’’

Clint Bowyer

“I’m pissed off at the Patriots. I’m over the Patriots. Even Jimmie Johnson gave us a breather. Give us some time to get over it and then we might root for you again. But the dude (Tom Brady) is so good. I’m not excited about the Super Bowl because he’ll win.’’

Kyle Busch

“I’ve got to go with the Eagles. They’re putting up points, man. I’m a Patriots fan, second to my No. 1 (Denver) Broncos. But if I had to choose one, I think the Eagles are pretty tough right now.’’

Cole Custer

I’m going to go with the Eagles. I don’t really have a reason. I like their helmets, I think that’s kind of cool with the wings on them.”

Austin Dillon

“Tom Brady is pretty tough to beat. The guy just keeps coming back and getting more. He’s like Jimmie Johnson. I’m racing with one of those guys that just has this desire to compete every year and to win a championship. What Tom Brady is doing is special. Tom Brady wins 21-14 over the Eagles. The Eagles have probably the best team but the Patriots have the best coach in the history of football and probably the best player in Tom Brady. Clutch moments, there’s no one who has seen more of them than Brady. It’s hard to beat him. I just think it’s Brady time again. This time of year.’’

Daniel Suarez

“I wish I could say (Carolina) Panthers, but I guess it’s going to be Patriots.”

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Denny Hamlin has extra reasons to cheer for Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl

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As Charlotte — and many in the NASCAR community — rejoiced in the Carolina Panthers beating the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday to advance to the Super Bowl, Denny Hamlin had extra reason to celebrate.

He bet on the Panthers to win the Super Bowl, getting 35-to-one odds before the season.

“I am a huge Panthers fan right now,” Hamlin said last week during the NASCAR Media Tour. “I’m all about Panthers.”

Asked how much he put on the Panthers, Hamlin said “enough.”

Carolina opened as a 3.5-point favorite to beat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

 

Danica Patrick moves in a new direction with sponsors

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – The probing questions about her personal life were being hurled with the alacrity of a gossip-hungry paparazzi but the innocence of a cub reporter for People.

What’s your favorite ice cream, topping and tropical fruit? Who are your friends? What do you like doing the most?

Danica Patrick didn’t mind.

Many of the everyday details of auto racing’s most famous female driver are being promoted and provided by design these days.

And such inquisitions are much easier when being conducted by a group of a few dozen grade-school children, who comprise the Rookie Racers Club at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

“These events are always great when it’s just the kids, because they don’t really want anything other than to ask what your favorite color is,” Patrick told NASCAR Talk with a laugh last Saturday. “Those are not the most common questions that I get, so as simple as the questions are …. I just feel like they’re real pure.”

Simple and pure is part of the direction that Patrick is hoping to go this year with her appealing and popular brand, which benefited from the exposure of a record 13 Super Bowl commercials with Go Daddy, her primary sponsor in IndyCar and NASCAR for several years.

While the advertising elevated Patrick’s profile, it was commissioned through the prism of an Internet domain provider that made pushing the envelope into an art form. As a spokeswoman, Patrick was the (oft-unwitting) featured hook in campaigns that reveled in the risqué and controversial. The last Super Bowl commercial scheduled with Patrick was scrubbed after drawing the ire of animal rights activists for a storyline involving a puppy sold on the Internet and shipped away.

It’s a discernible contrast with a new approach (and new primary sponsor) in 2016 for Patrick, whose dogs frequently are the stars of her social media postings.

The public’s exposure to the Stewart-Haas Racing driver will be driven less by corporate marketing and more by just Danica basking in the unglamorous glory of everyday existence – which Patrick sees as the natural endgame to star-driven advertising in the 21st century.

“With the amount of media and social media, people are learning to read through and see what’s real and not real,” she said. “We post things on social media. We’re on TV a lot. They can film us anywhere we go with their phones. They know what we’re really like and really doing in our activities and what we consume and enjoy.

“Everything we do is going to be a collaboration to highlight that and bring out the best in me to authenticate the relationship.”

It’s evident in the redesign of her website that launched last week in the blue and white colors of Nature’s Bakery, whose fig bar brand will adorn Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet in 28 of 36 races this season.

The DanicaPatrick.com home page features several lifestyle photos of Patrick that range from hiking a mountain to cooking with a professional chef to attending a Chicago Blackhawks game. Her racing career seems ancillary, echoing the message of her Twitter bio: “If you want to get to know me away from the track, you’re in the right place.”

That seems to be the overall mission statement for Patrick’s brand – and even if the tradeoff is the exposure of a Super Bowl spot, she appreciates the more personalized focus that her sponsors are offering.

“It fits really well,” she said. “I feel like my partners are doing a great job of seeing what I’m into (and) using me in ways that are really authentic.

“It always resonates really well when people know that those are all things that are just what I’m like, and the things that I do.”

The most recent example was a commercial by sponsor TaxAct (a primary sponsor for four races this year) that features Patrick doing yoga and playing with her dogs, Dallas and Ella.

After making a successful debut during the New Year’s Day bowl games, TaxAct (which is pushing a Race to Your Refund Sweepstakes geared toward the April 15 filing deadline) purchased three more slots during the Seahawks-Vikings NFL playoff game last Sunday.

Patrick realized the commercial was gaining traction while on the deck of a boat in the Bahamas on vacation. A friend emerged from inside to ask, ‘Was that your commercial on TV just now?’

“I was really excited to hear they were running it during bowl games,” she said. “That’s awesome. I love when a partner jumps in with both feet like that. Last year was more of a tester and they were just involved on a very small level, but it worked so well they did more last year than they were going to do, and obviously they were committed for this year and had big plans.”

Patrick has grand aspirations, too. A former winner on Chopped, she recently met with the Food Network about becoming a regular guest on the channel.

“I told them I want to go dip my toe into a bunch of different ways and different shows,” she said. “I’d love to have a show some day, but I want to make sure I do it really well.”

Danica Patrick on her Super Bowl ad being pulled: “People have opinions on everything”

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Danica Patrick wasn’t surprised when her streak of Super Bowl commercials was snapped at 13 when Sprint Cup sponsor GoDaddy pulled a spot after blowback from animal rights groups.

“We thought it was a really funny, slightly left-side joke, but it really was unintentional,” Patrick said Thursday morning at Daytona 500 Media Day. “I don’t think anything in this culture surprises me anymore. People have opinions about everything, especially when you get into that world of animal rights, tree rights or whatever rights. They all have an opinion. I think (GoDaddy CEO) Blake (Irving) handled it as great as he could have. He said, ‘Fine, we’re not here to rock the boat or make people angry. We’ll pull the commercial and run something else. We were here to be funny, and enough people didn’t think it was funny.’”

The commercial centered around the story of Buddy, a lost golden retriever puppy who reaches home only to learn he’s been sold via a website (Patrick had a short cameo as a van driver). Online petitions protesting the ad gathered several thousand signatures, and GoDaddy took the brunt of criticism on social media that suggested it supported puppy mills.

In a blog post explaining the company’s decision to pull the ad, Irving said Buddy had been placed with an executive for GoDaddy, which has sponsored Patrick in NASCAR and IndyCar for several years.

The concept isn’t unfamiliar to Patrick, who adopted a Siberian Husky named Dallas a year ago after finding her online.

“I love my dog and take great care of her, and I was up at 1:45 in the morning taking her out last night in the dark because she had to go out,” she said. “She found a good home. How bad can it really be? I think that the Internet is a source for information. It was really hard to find a miniature Siberian Husky, but we found one.”

Patrick dismissed suggestions it was a publicity stunt by GoDaddy, which is known for occasionally racy and edgy campaigns.

“GoDaddy had every intention to run that commercial,” she said. “I feel like I heard from a lot of people that it was choreographed or planned. I think that’s so funny.”

Questions about her contract with Stewart-Haas Racing were less amusing for Patrick, whose deal to drive the No. 10 Chevrolet expires after the 2015 season (along with GoDaddy’s primary sponsorship).

“I believe y’all  are making that story,” she said. “I feel like every year is a pivotal year. When I first got into IndyCar, I felt … I really need to do a good job so I can stick around. Every year is a pivotal year.

“I care the same every year to do well. The most important thing for me is that my sponsor is happy and that GoDaddy is getting what they need for their relationship, and there’s (a return on investment) for them, and then on the other side that my team feels my desire, and knows how determined I am and sees improvement and wants me to be part of the team.”

Patrick said she and SHR “talk about that stuff all the time” but bristled when pressed if they were close on an extension.

“It’s friggin’ February, buddy,” she said. “It’s a matter of cart and horse, sponsor and team. Both are happy, so it’s a matter of getting GoDaddy in a place they’re happy and committing to something. From my understanding, the team wants that, too. It’s just a matter of time.”

Other topics she addressed Thursday:

  • On whether she’d spoken with seven-time champion Richard Petty since he’d made some dismissive comments about her ability a year ago. “I haven’t looked him in the eyes, I know that … because he wears sunglasses,” she said with a laugh. “Maybe he’s looked me in the eyes, I’m not sure. I fully believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It’s not something I’ve pursued (talking with him).”
  • On whether she was involved with hiring new crew chief Daniel Knost: “Not necessarily. I trust the team that they’ll make good decisions for me and do the best thing for me and the team overall. They know I work with Daniel back in 2012 when I did 10 races with (interim crew chief Greg) Zipadelli, he was the engineer, they knew I got along with him and liked him.”
  • On the Daytona 500 qualifying format: “I am worried. It didn’t go well at Talladega. I don’t see how it’s going to go any different here at Daytona … other than maybe people will be more encouraged to actually work together to stick with the plan. Other than that, luck of the draw.”