HHP/Harold Hinson

Special delivery: Dale Earnhardt-themed helmet one of many unique designs for Tony Stewart

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Tony Stewart didn’t know what his helmet for tonight’s Coke Zero 400 would look like before it arrived.

All he knew was that it would be “cool.’’

When he saw the Dale Earnhardt-themed helmet, cool wasn’t the word that came to mind.

“It was … badass,’’ Stewart told NBC Sports.

Stewart is celebrating his final season driving in the Sprint Cup Series with a different helmet for nearly every race. The only instruction he gave artist Nick Pastura, who has designed Stewart’s helmet the past seven years, is “do what you want to do.’’

It’s led to a variety of helmets from Speed Racer-themed, to one inspired by AC/DC, to the Earnhardt helmet. Stewart never sees the design until the helmet arrives.

“I’m looking forward to each of them each week because they’ve all been pretty cool this year,’’ Stewart said.

Unlike other helmet designs honoring Earnhardt that featured a No. 3 or his car, Pastura wanted to focus solely on Earnhardt.

“I sort of wanted to do something that was really laid back, you sort of had to take a second look at it to see, and I sort of wanted it embedded into the helmet,’’ Pastura told NBC Sports.

Earnhardt’s face adorns both sides of Stewart’s helmet. Earnhardt wears sunglasses with the checkered flag reflected in one of the lenses. It captures the essence of the seven-time champion and what made him a fan favorite.

July 1, 2016: Tony Stewart during practice at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fl. (HHP/Harold Hinson)
Tony Stewart helmet at Daytona International Speedway. (HHP/Harold Hinson)

On the helmet’s back, Pastura put a quote by Dale Earnhardt Jr. about his father: “No fire could burn his character. No stone could break it.’’

Pastura heard the quote years ago and recalled it as he thought of what to do with Stewart’s helmet for this race.

After tonight’s race, though, the helmet won’t belong to Stewart. An avid racing helmet collector, Stewart is trading it to Dale Earnhardt Jr. for one of his helmets.

“It’s neat that he wants to trade them off with other drivers,’’ Pastura said.

Although Stewart did not race in the Daytona 500 because of an offseason sand dunes accident, this helmet was not intended for that race.

Pastura had something more special.

The Daytona 500 helmet featured gold leaf painting on it with the Daytona 500 on it and the date. It sits unfinished in Pastura’s shop but he plans to finish it.

Each helmet takes 20-40 hours to complete and that doesn’t include the time to create the theme for each. Some are easier than others because of Stewart’s history at a track or something else that ties to Stewart.

TonyStewart Rolling Thunder
Helmet Tony Stewart wore when he won at Sonoma. (Photo: Nick Pastura)

Pastura designed the Rolling Thunder helmet for Stewart to use last weekend at Sonoma. That idea came from the AC/DC song.

“He’s a Kid Rock freak and an AC/DC guy,’’ Pastura said. “I listened to AC/DC here in the shop. Rolling Thunder was a cool song from AC/DC, so I named it Rolling Thunder. That one was neat.’’

Other helmets, though, carry more weight, such as the helmet Stewart will adorn for his final race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a track Stewart reveres.

That helmet will need to be special. So what does Pastura have planned for that one?

“The Indy helmet is super top secret,’’ Pastura said.

All he’ll say is that “it could be an emotional helmet for Tony.’’

NASCAR Pinty’s Series to compete on dirt for first time in 2020

NASCAR Pinty's Series
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NASCAR’s continued embrace of dirt racing will continue in 2020 with the Canada-based Pinty’s Series.

The series announced on Friday a multi-year deal that will see it compete on a dirt track for the first time next season at Ohsweken Speedway in Ontario.

The event on the 3/8-mile track will consist of practice, time trials, qualifying heats, and a 100-lap feature event to be run at 9 p.m. ET on Aug. 18.

The series follows in the steps of the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and its yearly visit to Eldora Speedway, which began in 2013. It also joins the ARCA Menards Series West, which has held a race on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track the last two seasons.

“Next year is the 25th anniversary of Ohsweken Speedway,” said track owner Glenn Styres in a press release. “It will be amazing to see NASCAR stock cars racing around this place. This is a great chance to show the world what a first class facility we have here in Ohsweken.”

“Pinty’s has a long history in motorsports and whether it’s our NASCAR Pinty’s Series venues, Short Track Nationals at both Jukasa in Canada and Bristol in the USA or our investment in Pinty’s All North Racing on MavTV, we know our target audience lives for authentic experiences.” said Anthony Spiteri of series sponsor Pinty’s Delicious Foods in a press release.. “Taking the Pinty’s Series to the ever popular Ohsweken Speedway combines the best of the best in teams, drivers and venues. I suspect a few surprises for our fans as well!  August can’t come quick enough.”

Joey Logano set to test Next Gen car today, Tuesday at ISM Raceway

AP Photo/Mike McCarn
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Joey Logano will become the second Cup driver to test the Next Gen car when he hits the track today and Tuesday at ISM Raceway.

This test of the car, which is scheduled to debut in 2021, follows the session that took place Oct. 8-9 at Richmond Raceway by Austin Dillon. Logano will drive the same car that Dillon did. That car was prepared by Richard Childress Racing.

Logano explained what he was looking forward to with the new car:

“Just understanding, for one, just some durability stuff but also understanding what works and what doesn’t. I’d like to, once we get to some point, I’d like to make some longer runs just to kind of see where things go. There are so many differences with the car that we need to understand.

“I think it’s still very much in the beginning of the process. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to getting back in a race car.

Logano said he was “curious” how the car would drive with the independent rear suspension.

“I think that will be interesting to say the least,” he said.

The next text for the car is scheduled in January at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That will mark the car’s first test on a 1.5-mile track.

Rain washes out Snowball Derby, rescheduled to Monday

Five Flags Speedway
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Rain has postponed the 52nd Snowball Derby Super Late Model race from Sunday to Monday at 5 p.m. ET/4 p.m. CT at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

Track officials tried several times to dry the track, only to be met with recurrences of rain.

Even with the rain issue, one bit of significant news was announced: the track is granting a special provisional exception and expanded the race day field from its normal 36-driver field to 37 drivers. The reason: veteran racer David Rogers was presented with the Derby Dedication Award for his 32 previous starts in the Snowball Derby.

Monday will make Roger’s 33rd career start in the annual pre-winter event, breaking a tie with legendary driver Red Farmer for most starts in the race.

Rogers has had a challenging year, having battled and then overcoming lymphoma. Monday’s rescheduled race will be the Florida resident’s first start behind the wheel since he was officially declared cancer-free.

“David’s Snowball Derby dedication has been unmatched in the history of this race,” Five Flags Speedway owner Tim Bryant said in a statement.  “We felt like being in this race served as real motivation for David in his battle with cancer this year, and we wish him the best of luck in today’s race.”

Also, driver Justin Bonnett, grandson of late NASCAR star Neil Bonnett, is recovering in a Mobile, Alabama hospital after undergoing surgery to repair a broken leg and treat burns to his face, hands and body. Bonnett was involved in a crash and subsequent fireball created by a fuel cell that broke away from a fellow competitor’s race car during Saturday night’s Snowflake 100 race at Five Flags Speedway.

 

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UPDATED: Neil Bonnett’s grandson seriously injured in fiery crash

Photo courtesy Justin Bonnett Racing official Facebook page
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The grandson of late NASCAR Cup star Neil Bonnett was seriously injured in a crash during Saturday night’s Snowflake 100 late model race at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

Justin Bonnett suffered a compound fracture of the fibula and tibula and burns to his hands, face and neck in a fiery wreck that prompted him to be transferred to a hospital in Mobile, Alabama, according to a post on his team’s Facebook page.

According to various media reports, Bonnett was running 26th on Lap 54 when he was unable to avoid and made contact with the spinning car of Jarrett Parker.

Driving the No. 12, the same number his late grandfather carried for much of his Cup career, the younger Bonnett’s car was engulfed in flames after the fuel tank on Parker’s car became dislodged and caught fire, spilling fuel and flames across the racetrack. Here is a video of the incident, courtesy of Joshua Nelms, who shot the video, and Sidedrafting Productions, which posted it.

Bonnett’s car came to a stop on the apron between turns three and four, where he was quickly pulled from his car by safety crews, who also extinguished the fire. The race was red-flagged for a lengthy period of time afterward.

According to media reports, the 26-year-old Bonnett was taken by ambulance to a local Pensacola hospital, where he was briefly treated before he was airlifted to a hospital in Mobile.

It was upon arrival at the Mobile hospital that it was determined Bonnett would undergo late night surgery, according to several posts on his Facebook page, written by his aunt and Neil’s daughter, Kristen Bonnett Ray.

Later Sunday morning, Bonnett’s aunt posted this update on his condition:

Justin Bonnett still lives in Hueytown, Ala., home of the famous “Alabama Gang,” of which his grandfather was part of, as well as Bobby and Donnie Allison, Red Farmer, Jimmy Means, the late Davey Allison, Hut Stricklin and David Bonnett, Justin’s father.

The Snowflake 100 was a preliminary race for Sunday’s main event, the 52nd annual Snowball Derby. The 300-lap race starts at 2 p.m. ET.

Here are several additional posts on Bonnett’s wreck from social media:

 

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