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Mother’s Day show on NBCSN to feature Kelley Earnhardt Miller

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NBCSN will air “On Her Turf: Inspiring Greatness” to celebrate Mother’s Day at 8 p.m. ET today.
The special looks back on great female sports performances while also weaving in a little bit of a Mother’s Day theme and recognizing first responders. From game changers to championship moms, ones to watch to breathtaking moments, “On Her Turf: Inspiring Greatness” spans numerous sports and athletes.
The special, hosted by Kathryn Tappen and Rebecca Lowe, features a multitude of guests, including skier Lindsey Vonn, swimmer Dara Torres, NASCAR driver Hailie Deegan and hockey players Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando. They’ll discuss their careers and how they’ve handled life during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Kelley Earnhardt Miller also is on the show and talks with her brother, Dale Earnhardt Jr, about her years in racing and managing a NASCAR team.

Spotlighted moments include Simone Biles with her 2016 all-around gold medal floor routine, Serena and Venus Williams together in the 1999 French Open doubles title and against each other in the 2002 French Open title, Tatyana McFadden with inspiring marathons in the 2016 Paralympic Games and 2018 in Boston, Michelle Wie with a 2014 win at the Lotte Championship and many more.

Catch the show at 8 p.m. ET today on NBCSN or watch the show online here.

Also, be sure to follow “On Her Turf” on Instagram

 

May 10 in NASCAR: Dale Jr. announces departure from Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Dale Jr.
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In a press conference at JR Motorsports on May 10, 2007, Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced the end of an era.

Earnhardt revealed the final 26 Cup races of the season would be his last as a driver for Dale Earnhardt Inc., the team founded by his father, Dale Earnhardt.

“It’s time for us to move on and seek other opportunities,” Earnhardt said while sitting next to his sister, Kelley.

Earnhardt was in his seventh full-time season driving the No. 8 Chevrolet for DEI. Up to then he had won 17 races, including the 2004 Daytona 500. He had also been voted NASCAR’s most popular driver four times.

But he’d only won one race each in the last two seasons. In 2007, he’d go winless for the first time.

“It is time for me to compete on a consistent basis and compete for championships now,” Earnhardt said.

The NASCAR world waited a little over a month to find out Earnhardt’s destination. On June 13, it was announced he was signing with Hendrick Motorsports. He’d spend the rest of his Cup career with the powerhouse before retiring after the 2017 season.

Also on this date:

1956: Buck Baker won a Grand National race at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway after running all 200 laps without a pit stop. The result was protested by the Schwam Motor Company team, which owned the car driven by second-place finisher Curtis Turner, who finished one lap down. The team believed Baker’s fuel tank was illegal. NASCAR ruled it was legal.

1969: LeeRoy Yarbrough came back from being a lap down with 30 laps to go, survived a three-car incident with Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough to win at Darlington.

1975: In his 50th Cup Series start, Darrell Waltrip claimed his first career win in a race at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville. Waltrip triumphed after Cale Yarborough blew an engine on Lap 321 of 420. Waltrip beat Benny Parsons by two laps.

1997: In a caution-free race at Talladega, Mark Martin led 47 of 188 laps and beat Dale Earnhardt for his second and final Cup points win on a superspeedway.

2014: Ryan Blaney made his Cup Series debut at Kansas Speedway. In a race won by Jeff Gordon, Blaney started 21st and finished 27th.

Virtual racing or real, sponsorships matter, Dale Jr. says

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Bubba Wallace’s sudden departure from Sunday’s Pro Invitational Series race and his sponsor’s reaction provides a reminder that even though virtual racing — “a video game” as Wallace called it in a tweet — doesn’t seem to have consequences, it can.

It’s something Dale Earnhardt Jr. acknowledged on a NBC Sports teleconference with reporters promoting this week’s Racing Week in America and the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge on NBCSN.

Wallace was upset after an incident with Clint Bowyer early in Sunday’s race at a virtual Bristol Motor Speedway and quit the event, which was broadcast on Fox and FS1.

Viewership totals weren’t available Monday for the virtual Bristol race but the previous week’s race at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway drew 1.3 million viewers, a record for an eSports event on TV).

After the incident with Bowyer in the virtual Bristol race, Wallace said on his Twitch stream: “You all have a good one. That’s it. That’s why I don’t take this (expletive) serious. Peace out.”

Blue-Emu, which sponsored Wallace’s car in the virtual race, expressed its disappointment with Wallace’s decision, tweeting: “(Good to know) where you stand. Bye bye Bubba. We’re interested in drivers, not quitters.”

Ben Blessing, executive vice president of Blue-Emu, told The Action Network: “We aren’t sponsoring Bubba anymore. Can you imagine if he did that in real life on a track?”

Earnhardt was asked on Monday’s call with reporters about the the balance between fun and business with virtual racing in light of Wallace’s situation.

“All of the race teams are trying everything they can to keep their sponsors and keep their employees,” Earnhardt said. “Keeping their sponsors allows them to keep their employees. I think as a racer, I think of someone who is participating, competing in these events online, it’s an opportunity for you to get engagement for the fans. Obviously, they’re going to enjoy the content and the race, but it’s also an opportunity for you to get your sponsors and partners, who are getting nothing right now, on TV, which lends to social engagement, either promoting the race or after the race talking about it. It’s not as good as the real thing, there is not the at-track engagement or activation, but it’s really the only thing we’ve got going.”

Such engagement was noted by car owner Rick Ware in an interview Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Ware anticipated his team would lose $600,000 – $800,000 in sponsorship with no races taking place.

“There are two things that are happening,” Ware told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Some of our sponsorship revolves around just the social media, the amount of TV time, the way sponsors leverage it. Some of it is they are regional or franchise companies, so they bring in a handful of people and use it as an opportunity to do some light hospitality, meet and greets, promote sales, etc.”

Rick Ware Racing, seeking to leverage Garrett Smithley‘s iRacing success, announced last week that GunBroker.com would sponsor Smithley in the next five eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series events, starting with last weekend’s race at a virtual Bristol Motor Speedway, and be offered the primary sponsorship for the July 5 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt also is using his virtual car in the Pro Invitational Series for JR Motorsports sponsors until racing returns.

“When I go and get on there, for example for (virtual) Texas we ran the Hellmann’s car and when we run the Sunday race at Richmond, I’m going to run another JRM initiative. It’s basically kind of appease and make those partners feel some value, which in turn helps our employees, helps us keep our employees.

“I told (sister) Kelley (Earnhardt Miller), when we don’t have an initiative that we can do or use at JRM, I’m just going to run that FilterTime car, but if we can, or if there is any opportunity for us to run anything else to help Hellmann’s or any of our other partners, I want to be doing that. I want to do anything I can to help us maintain our employees.

“I think as a driver that’s how you have to approach it. You’re going to be on (iRacing). You’re going to be doing it. Your team wants you to be there. Your partners want you to be there. Enjoy it. Have fun with it. Obviously don’t let it get under your skin if you get wrecked. Video games have a real good way of doing that.

“I’ve seen a lot of friendships get lost either playing Madden or racing online. If you’re going there and doing that, have fun and enjoy it. But also remember that you also have to maintain some professionalism because there are some other things bigger than what’s happening in that room on that sim rig. There are implications beyond what you are doing on sim racing.”

Neil Bonnett’s grandson can’t wait to race again, month after fiery wreck

Photo courtesy Justin Bonnett Racing official Facebook page
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Less than a month after being seriously injured in a crash, Justin Bonnett can’t wait to get back in a race car.

The grandson of late NASCAR star Neil Bonnett, Justin suffered a broken left leg, three fractures of his left foot and burns on his neck, arm and leg after being caught in a fiery wreck on Dec. 7 during the Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

“I’m pretty good now that I’ve been able to get home and get everything situated,” the 26-year-old Bonnett told NBC Sports in an exclusive interview Thursday. “It’s a long road to recovery but things are looking up.”

Driving the No. 12 car, the same number his grandfather drove for much of his NASCAR career, the younger Bonnett was running 26th on Lap 54 in the prelude to the next day’s Snowball Derby when he was unable to avoid the spinning car of Jarrett Parker.

The impact tore the fuel cell from Parker’s car, igniting a fireball that engulfed Bonnett’s car.

“I remember pretty much everything (about the wreck),” Bonnett told NBC Sports. “It didn’t knock me out. I remember trying to get the fire off me. I know I was on fire heavily and was trying to get it off me, but I couldn’t get it off me.

“I really was in an unsure state, trying to figure out what was going on, because everything happened so quick. Normally, when a car spins out, they don’t come shooting back up the racetrack. I was still wide-open, naturally, when that happened, I hadn’t lifted yet.”

Russell Brooks, brother of Five Flags Speedway technical director Ricky Brooks, hopped off a rescue truck, was the first to reach the burning inferno and helped Bonnett to safety.

“I couldn’t get my belts undone,” Bonnett said. “Russell Brooks reached in there and pulled my belts loose. I fought my steering wheel, trying to get it off, finally got it off, pulled out (of the car) and about halfway up my back when I realized something was wrong, I couldn’t get out. Russell Brooks reached in and pulled me out and then I saw my foot was broke.

“It’s really a blessing Russell (who was uninjured by the fire) was there because it would have taken longer for someone to get me out. He was the first to get to me and get me out and get me away from the fire.”

But he added, “Hey, it happens, it’s part of racing and you move on.”

Bonnett has undergone three surgeries on his left leg and left foot, as well as several treatments for mild-to-harsh second-degree burns on his neck, entire left arm and left knee and thigh.

It’s an ongoing process, but the racing community has also reached out in a big way to show its support. He points to help from Kelley Earnhardt Miller and NASCAR team owner Richard Childress as being key factors, particularly Childress, who put Bonnett in touch with a noted North Carolina burns specialist for treatment.

Bonnett’s friends also started a GoFundMe page that has already raised over $12,000 to help with Bonnett’s medical expenses.

“The racing community has came together and it has truly blown me away,” Bonnett said. “Yes, it’s hard, because Taylor, my girlfriend and we have an 11-month-old, it kind of makes it tough on her because she has to do everything.

“I’m like a baby now because I can’t walk, I’m on a walker, yes, it’s impacted the around the house part and made it more difficult, but it’s something we can get through. It tests at times, but it helps you in the long run.”

One of the biggest keys to Bonnett’s recovery is the attitude he has.

“You have to try and stay positive on the outlook and the way things go,” Bonnett said. “That’s the way I am, that’s me.

“When something like this happens, it’s very easy to get down. But I’m trying to stay as positive as I can and have a positive outlook on everything as much as I can to keep things going and hopefully, sooner than later, get back in the seat and keep going.”

He then adds with a laugh, “It’s getting lonely sitting in this house, though.”

Doctors have told Bonnett it will take at least six months to make a full recovery. He says with another laugh that he has a faster and more optimistic recovery timeline than his doctors: he’s targeting March 7 and the 56th annual Alabama 200 — one of the largest late model races of the year — at Montgomery (Alabama) Speedway as his first race back.

“I don’t know if I’ll make it,” Bonnett said of his ambitious timeline. “It’s before three months (since his crash, but I’m doing everything on my end and if I get cleared I’ll go back, but it’s all going to depend on the doctors.

“I have thought about getting back. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. It’s probably going to be different at first, it’s going to be a learning curve for me because of everything that has gone on. But I feel once I get back in there and put it all behind me, I feel like we’ll be okay.”

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Shawna Robinson reflects on her and son being cancer free, post-racing career

Photo by Daniel McFadin
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CONCORD, N.C. — Fourteen years after her racing career ended, Shawna Robinson got to experience a first at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

On a hot September day, the former NASCAR driver arrived on the track’s pit road as one drop in a sea of pink.

Robinson, 54, wore a pink shirt identical to those worn by numerous other women who covered pit road, signifying their status as survivors of breast cancer. They were all there to help paint the track’s pit wall pink ahead of NASCAR’s Roval race weekend.

For Robinson, the first woman to win a NASCAR sanctioned race (Charlotte/Daytona Dash Series’ AC Delco 100 at New Asheville Speedway on June 10, 1988), it was the first time she’d attended the “Paint Pit Wall Pink” event to promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Robinson, who once suffered from Stage 3 breast cancer, has been in remission since 2015.

“It’s just an honor to be a part of this,” Robinson told NBC Sports. “You just see the courage of all these survivors and you know the process you go through once you’re diagnosed, it’s a journey.”

October is significant for Robinson not just because of her experience with cancer. In January 2014, two months before her diagnosis, her father-in-law Dale Clark passed way after a short battle with prostate cancer.

“We had just lost (Dale) and the next thing you know, I have the same oncologist and I’m doing chemo in the room that he did, and my mother-in-law’s there with me,” Robinson recalled. “Things just come full circle. It’s been really, really tough on everybody losing Dale and then for me to get through the process and then for (son) Tanner.”

Six months after her last radiation treatment in September 2015, Tanner was diagnosed with testicular cancer just before his 20th birthday. He’s now cancer free and pursuing a career as a professional gamer.

“We were able to catch it early,” Robinson said. “Him going to chemo was probably harder. I went through chemo for three years, he went through it for six months because it was such a different type of treatment.

“Just to see him go through that and the frailness was really, really tough. But he’s cancer free. When I lost my hair, he shaved his head (to give moral support). Little did he know a few years down the road he’d be losing his hair due to chemo.”

Robinson shared a lesson that came to mind seeing her fellow survivors gather at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“Life never will be the same again, but you’re fortunate,” she said. “It changes the person who you are and I feel that it makes you a better person. It makes the life that you’ve lived even that more grateful to have another day to live it.”

After not having raced since she failed to qualify for the April 2005 Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, Robinson is still finding ways to live within the racing community. And that’s not including being a member of the National Motorsports Appeals panel.

Robinson is the founder of the interior and event design company Happy Chair, which has been responsible for design projects for Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman and other NASCAR drivers.

“I kind of went from the driver’s seat to the inside of the driver’s home,” Robinson said.

Robinson’s interest in both racing and design originated while growing up in a racing family in Iowa, where she got her competitive start by racing diesel trucks.

“I think I got part of it from my mother, who was very much into decor, and I grew up as a little girl going to flea markets and antique stores and my dad was the racer,” Robinson said. “Every weekend was at a race track.”

Robinson “dabbled” in design when she took a two-year hiatus from racing in the 90s to have her two children, Tanner and Samantha.

Shawna Robinson in 2002 before qualifying for the Daytona 500. She was the second woman to compete in the race. (Craig Jones/Getty Images)

“Really just word of mouth, it just really picked up with, ‘Would you help me do this, would you help me do that?'” Robinson said. “Then I went back into racing in ’99 and then basically got out of it in 2005. (Going back to design work) seemed like the next step to go to.”

Robinson describes her style as “very eclectic,” as she likes to “take old patterns and mix them up. I’m a little mixed up, so I guess that works well for me.”

Anyone with familiar with JR Motorsports’ headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina, might have seen her work.

“Still to this day if you see any kind of interviews with the crew or the team it’s on the blocked wall in the back with all those colors,” Robinson said. “I was literally on a scaffolding painting those squares. It’s pretty cool to still see that. I worked very closely with Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and Kelley (Earnhardt Miller). Everybody kind of did their race shops in red, black, silver. He wanted to go a totally different route and we used a lot of earth tones and odd colors. It’s a very homey feel to that shop and it’s a very family feel with JR Motorsports. …

“I created that atmosphere and to see it 10, 15 years later and it’s still standing. A lot of times when you go to a job you did in the beginning or early on and you go back to it and you think ‘Oooh, I could have done this different.’ I don’t feel that way, I feel like it’s really held its beautiful look that it has.”

Here’s an example of Robinson’s design work.

For Robinson to focus on her new endeavors, she believed she had to “pull the door down on that world” of racing, which saw her make 72 starts in national NASCAR races, become the first woman to win a pole in the Xfinity Series (Atlanta 1994) and be the second woman to compete in the Daytona 500.

And Robinson is clear “You can’t do racing halfway.”

“Any career you want to succeed at, you can’t do it halfway,” she said. “So I really had to dive into (interior design) and just think I had the support and the clientele because of being in the racing world and people have a trust with you. Giving you the key to their house or giving you the opportunity to go in and work with their things.”

Shawna Robinson during the 2001 Brickyard 400 race weekend. (Jonathan Ferrey /Allsport

The club of woman who have competed in NASCAR is small, but Robinson has high hopes for the latest woman to grab the sport’s spotlight, Hailie Deegan.

Thirty years after Robinson, Deegan became the second woman to win a NASCAR sanctioned race last year when she won at Meridian (Idaho) Speedway in the K&N Pro Series West. She’s added two more wins this season.

“She seems like such a confident girl,” Robinson said. “There’s no question she’s a hard driver that’s not afraid to put her nose (in a tight spot) to get to the next spot. I think she’s got a ton of potential. The fact that she’s running with Toyota support and she’s running different K&N races, she can pretty much get into anything and drive it. I think that’s going to be her saving grace.”

Robinson has never met Deegan. If she does, what would she like to talk to her about?

“I hope she knows who I am would be one thing,” Robinson said with a slight laugh, “or who I was.”

Even if Deegan doesn’t know who she is, plenty of people still remember her career.

Robinson said she gets autograph cards in the mail “every day and get people that want things signed or just want to know how I’m doing. I’m happy about all that. They’re still very, very supportive.”