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Nod to history as The Clash comes back to Daytona
RELATED: Official news release NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway jointly announced Wednesday that the annual exhibition race to kick off 2017 Speedweeks will have a familiar format, a smaller field and a nostalgic name -- The Clash. The season-opening non-points event -- scheduled Saturday, Feb. 18 (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) -- will take a page from its earliest roots, when it began as the Busch Clash in 1979. The race, which has frequently served as an invitational for the previous season's pole winners, has also been known as the Bud Shootout and Sprint Unlimited in its history at the 2.5-mile track. "We're bringing back The Clash at Daytona ," Daytona International Speedway president Chip Wile said in the news release. "The Clash was a race name that has always been popular among both the competitors and race fans. We're looking forward to bringing it back and building on the rich history of this thrilling and always unpredictable event that kicks off the NASCAR season." NASCAR and the speedway indicated that the race format would remain unchanged from last year -- 75 laps with a competition caution period scheduled for Lap 25. The method for assembling eligible drivers, however, carries some slight tweaks from 2016's edition. Drivers invited include last year's Coors Light Pole Award winners in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition (14 total), former Clash winners (2), former Daytona 500 pole winners who raced full-time last year (1) and drivers not otherwise eligible who qualified for the Chase postseason (3). Last season, the field reached its 25-car limit by inviting the remaining highest-finishing drivers in the previous year's standings to fill the starting grid. That criteria has been dropped for 2017, leaving 20 drivers eligible to compete. One of those positions is held by three-time champion Tony Stewart , who announced that he would end his full-time driving career last season. Stewart indicated in an appearance Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he is far from retired, planning to compete in sprint cars and even entertaining an offer to drive sports cars at Le Mans. Another starting berth is also held by Greg Biffle , who parted ways with his longtime team at Roush Fenway Racing last week and has no announced plans in place for 2017. Biffle won the Coors Light Pole at Daytona in July to secure a starting spot. The list of eligible drivers: 2016 Coors Light Pole Awards winners: Greg Biffle , Alex Bowman , Kurt Busch , Kyle Busch , Austin Dillon , Carl Edwards , Chase Elliott , Denny Hamlin , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Matt Kenseth , Brad Keselowski , Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr . Former Clash Race Winners: Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Tony Stewart Former Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole Award winners: Danica Patrick Remaining 2016 Chase drivers: Chris Buescher , Kyle Larson , Jamie McMurray The race's length and field size have grown steadily from its first running in 1979, which was exclusively reserved for the previous year's pole winners. In an era with far less parity, it meant a nine-car field vying for a $50,000 payday in a 20-lap (50-mile) shootout. Buddy Baker was the inaugural winner, leading 18 of the 20 laps in Harry Ranier's "Gray Ghost" No. 28 Oldsmobile. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who helped bring the "Gray Ghost" scheme back to life, threw his support behind The Clash. This is a great move to restore the identity of a historic event. Pole award winners and @NASCAR fans can rejoice! #TheClashIsBack https://t.co/hb5mYiU8Gj — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) November 30, 2016
Field, format set for 'The Clash' at Daytona
RELATED: Buy Tickets DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Recently crowned seven-time NASCAR premier series champion Jimmie Johnson will join a star-studded elite field as NASCAR kicks off its 2017 season with The Clash at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. The annual season-opening event will be broadcast live on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The 75-lap race again will be split into two segments with a competition caution at Lap 25 separating the segments. "What better way to kick off the 2017 season than the sport's brightest stars under the lights at Daytona International Speedway ," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "Coming off a thrilling season finale at Homestead-Miami, we're looking forward to continuing that momentum into Daytona . With bragging rights and no points on the line, The Clash will set the tone for what should be a season full of great racing and tough competition." "We're bringing back The Clash at Daytona ," said Chip Wile, Daytona International Speedway president. "The Clash was a race name that has always been popular among both the competitors and race fans. We're looking forward to bringing it back and building on the rich history of this thrilling and always unpredictable event that kicks off the NASCAR season." The eligible drivers include 2016 Coors Light Pole Award winners, former Clash race winners and former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2016. All 16 drivers from the 2016 Chase are also eligible. Eligible drivers are: 2016 Coors Light Pole Awards winners (14) · Greg Biffle , Alex Bowman , Kurt Busch , Kyle Busch , Austin Dillon , Carl Edwards , Chase Elliott , Denny Hamlin , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Matt Kenseth , Brad Keselowski , Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr . Former Clash Race Winners (2) · Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Tony Stewart Former DAYTONA 500 Coors Light Pole Award winners (1) · Danica Patrick 2016 Chase drivers (3) · Chris Buescher , Kyle Larson , Jamie McMurray Tickets for The Clash at Daytona are available online at DaytonaInternationalSpeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
'The Clash' returns to Daytona in 2017
NASCAR announced that the kickoff race in 2017 at Daytona International Speedway will once again be named 'The Clash' and will have new guidelines for eligibility.
Rick Hendrick: Dale Jr. 'on track' for Daytona 500
MORE: Buy tickets for Homestead-Miami Championship Weekend HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Team owner Rick Hendrick shed light Friday on Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s timetable to return to NASCAR competition, saying he anticipated his driver to be on pace to compete in time for the 2017 Daytona 500 . Earnhardt Jr., 42, has been sidelined from the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet since July after two severe crashes left him with concussion-like symptoms. He was ruled out for the remainder of the Sprint Cup season in September. "I think sometime in December the doctor's going to give him the final clearance and then we'll get him in a car," Hendrick said Friday after a news conference with the Sprint Cup Championship 4 car owners at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "He feels great. Everything's on track. I mean, every step that we supposedly need to go through, we've gone through, and I don't see anything holding us back." Earnhardt, who has been working on rehabilitation of his neurological conditions since this summer, reiterated that intention last month at Martinsville Speedway , saying in a pre-race interview that "we're booking things as normal" ahead of the 2017 season. That included sponsorship plans, photo shoots and other logistical agreements in preparation for next year. But Earnhardt Jr. also indicated he was eager to return to NASCAR's premier series, something Hendrick reaffirmed Friday. "He sent me a text the other day that he was excited and waiting for Daytona ," Hendrick said. "I think we've just got a couple more hurdles to clear." Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman have split time in Earnhardt's No. 88 this season, with Gordon filling in for eight races and Bowman set to make his 10th start of the year in Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Gordon has indicated that he's likely to resume his retirement from racing next season unless called upon by Hendrick. As for Bowman, the 23-year-old racer who competes part-time in the XFINITY Series has said he's still uncertain what his driving responsibilities -- beyond simulator work for Hendrick's team -- will be in 2017. Friday, Hendrick was uncertain as well. "Alex is a good guy. He's helped us in a lot of ways," Hendrick said. "We're just kind of taking that one a day at a time. He's done testing for us, he's done simulation for us and he's really done a good job. We're just kind of taking it a day at a time. We don't really have any certain plan." &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
NASCAR digital and social media numbers continue to grow in 2016
During his State of the Sport press conference prior to the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier this month, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France relayed an anecdote about watching a scaled-down, highlight-driven Duke college basketball game on his laptop. The story painted a broad picture of the shift in fan consumption habits. And for NASCAR, that has meant a shift in strategy to serve fans who want an immersive experience, whether attending live in-person, watching on TV, or engaging with sports at home or on the go. By all metrics, NASCAR’s digital and social media numbers have shown strong growth over the 2016 season, validating a strategic choice to reach race fans in the multifaceted ways they opt to consume NASCAR content. Consider these numbers: Overall, NASCAR drew 256 million social engagements across all its digital platforms, an 87 percent increase year-over-year, and a massive increase of video content views. NASCAR saw a 14 percent growth in followers across its social and digital platforms. Of particular note was a spike in the growth of Snapchat followers after NASCAR announced its partnership with that platform in February. NASCAR competitors and fans provided live content from four races, starting with the Daytona 500 , under the aegis of "Snapchat Live Story." The Daytona 500 itself saw a 63-percent increase in race day impressions, while engagement with NASCAR content tripled. "It’s been fantastic," said Jill Gregory, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer. "I think that what it has done is validated our strategy that we set out at the very beginning of this season, when we talked about leading with digital and social and really trying to talk to our fans where they were and going to reach them at all the places they consume NASCAR. "We started that with our 'Ready.Set.Race' campaign and the Hashtag 500 around the Daytona 500 , and it’s really just continued to build throughout the whole season." The Hashtag 500 , the race to win Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s firesuit, generated 13,000 NASCAR-related mentions in a single minute, a high-water mark for NASCAR content since the advent of the sanctioning body’s Fan and Media Engagement Center. Central to the success of the 2016 digital and social media campaign was heavy promotion of #TheChase across all platforms, leveraging Twitter, Vine, Periscope, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to engage fans throughout the 10-week playoff. Capturing the drama of the Chase, which concluded with Jimmie Johnson claiming his record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, was the digital film series "Ready.Set.Chase." All told, the five-film series garnered more than 13 million views. "I think we’re seeing it at NASCAR, and obviously we see it happening across the sports and entertainment landscape, that fans want to customize their experience regardless of what they’re watching or looking at," Gregory said. "If we want to talk to those fans, we have to go places that are convenient for them. "If they’re watching on their mobile app, if they’re watching via NASCAR.com, if they’re watching on television, it’s our job as the league to provide all of that great content in all of those places and then make sure that we deliver the right experience for each of those platforms."
Liberty National to sponsor Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway in 2017
Roush Fenway Racing announced Wednesday that Liberty National Life Insurance Company will sponsor the No. 6 Ford driven by Trevor Bayne next season in NASCAR's premier series. Liberty National will be a primary sponsor on Bayne's No. 6 in the second race of the year, the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 scheduled March 5. Roush Fenway indicated that the McKinney, Texas-based insurance provider will also be a "major associate sponsor" in multiple races in 2017. "We are excited to have Liberty National on board next season," Bayne said in a release provided by the team. "They are an extremely well respected brand that has been providing valuable services since 1900. It's the kind of brand that we are proud to have an association with and I can’t wait to see the No. 6 Liberty National Ford on track. Our goal is to put our car up front and compete for race wins." Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, returns for his third full season with Roush Fenway Racing in 2017. AdvoCare also returns to the RFR No. 6 operation as a primary sponsor this season. Bayne finished 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with two top-five finishes (fifth at Bristol in April, third at Daytona in July) last season. He also raced his way into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race by winning a segment of the preliminary Sprint Showdown by .005 seconds over Chase Elliott .
Myers Brothers Awards recognize NASCAR's best, remember Betty Jane France
RELATED: NASCAR, Monster Energy announce entitlement deal LAS VEGAS -- On what turned into a remarkable day on all accords, NASCAR introduced Monster Energy as the new premier series entitlement sponsor, celebrated Jimmie Johnson 's historic seventh championship and honored the late Betty Jane France with the prestigious NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Award for her decades of philanthropic work Thursday afternoon. Approximately 500 people attended the traditional Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon at the Wynn Las Vegas resort -- an afternoon later capped off with the big entitlement announcement before the industry's drivers, teams and corporate stalwarts. Fittingly one of NASCAR's ascending stars, Chase Elliott started the day off accepting the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award. The Hendrick Motorsports driver, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Monday, thanked his parents -- including father NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott -- his team and many people important in his high-accelerating career and life. He also made a point to recognize Jeff Gordon ’s six-year old son Leo for an important high-five just before the season-opening Daytona 500 -- a race Elliott started from the pole position. "That was a neat moment and it put everything in perspective," Elliott said, smiling. "I can say I truthfully feel at home now, and I think that says a lot."
Jimmy John's re-ups with Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick
RELATED: Drivers on the move in 2017 Stewart-Haas Racing announced Thursday that Jimmy John's has renewed its partnership with its No. 4 Chevrolet team and driver Kevin Harvick in a multiyear agreement. With the extension, Jimmy John's will be the primary sponsor of the No. 4 Chevy in 16 races, including the season-opening Daytona 500 . The Illinois-based sandwich chain will serve as a major associate sponsor in the remaining 22 events. Jimmy John's has been associated with Harvick as a primary sponsor in NASCAR's top division since 2011. Jimmy John's followed Harvick from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas in 2014, expanding its backing of his racing efforts. "We are fortunate to partner with Kevin for many years in a very meaningful way," restaurant founder Jimmy John Liautaud said in a release provided by the team. "On and off the track, Kevin and (wife) DeLana Harvick are winners in all they do, and Stewart-Haas Racing has proven to be an excellent home for them and for Jimmy John's." Said Harvick: "I've known Jimmy since 2009 and I've personally seen how driven he is and how his work ethic is embraced by Jimmy John's franchise owners. He wants to be the best, period. And he'll out-work everyone to be the best. That's the same mindset we have in racing. I'm proud to continue this partnership with Jimmy John's at Stewart-Haas Racing ." Jimmy John's also sponsored Harvick's efforts as an owner/driver from 2009-10 in what is now known as the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Dale Jr. confirms wedding date, gives health update
LAS VEGAS -- Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s offseason plans include a test to confirm the Hendrick Motorsports driver is fit and ready to return to competition. Wedding bells will be a part of the brief break as well. The sport's most popular driver confirmed Friday night that he and fiancée Amy Reimann will be married on New Year's Eve. MORE: Junior wins 2016's Sprint Most Popular Driver Award "It's only a few weeks away," Earnhardt said after accepting his 14th-consecutive National Motorsports Press Association Sprint Most Popular Driver award during ceremonies at the Wynn Las Vegas. "Amy spilled the beans tonight that we're getting married on New Year's Eve. I'm really excited and have enjoyed going through the process. I've never been married before and I'm excited to be marrying Amy." Earnhardt, 42, and Reimann became engaged last year during a trip to Germany. He said he is looking forward to being involved in all the planning for the upcoming event. "I told her that when we were starting to plan that I wanted to be at every function and (a part of) every decision; I want to be involved in all the planning because I don't want to get married and then go 'yeah man, picking the flowers or whatever, what was that like? What did I miss?' I don't want to miss anything," he said. "I'm so excited, so thrilled to be a part of it and I look forward to our future." The winner of 26 NASCAR premier series races, including a pair of Daytona 500 titles, Earnhardt was sidelined for the final 18 races of the 2016 season after suffering concussion-like symptoms following crashes in two races this past summer. He has worked diligently with doctors to return to competition, and is expected to be cleared to compete when the 2017 season gets underway in February at Daytona . MORE: Relive all of Junior's wins " Dale Jr. on offseason: We're going testing "I'll be happy to tell you guys what we've got planned when the time is right," he said of an effort to test before returning to competition. "We do have a good plan and NASCAR has been very easy to work with. They made a new rule for situations for drivers like this to allow a driver to get back on the track in a bit of an open test without any data acquisition or anything like that on the car. We'll get out there and spend half a day somewhere running some long runs and getting a good idea of whether I'm ready to go. "I feel 100 percent; I don't think we're going to have any issues. If all that goes as planned, we'll go to the Phoenix test which is a NASCAR test in January and will be plugged back in to work just right where we were when we started last year." Earnhardt is the son of seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt. In addition to competing for Hendrick Motorsports in NASCAR's premier series, he co-owns JR Motorsports, an XFINITY Series organization which will field four full-time teams in that series in 2017. JRM also fielded an entry in the Camping World Truck Series in 2016 for driver Cole Custer . &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Junior celebrates 'Jeansboro Day,' says he expects to race '17 Daytona
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . may not be competing in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series as the 2016 season begins to wind down, but the series' most popular driver still has plenty to keep him busy. "Going to the races, doing all my (sponsor) appearances, doing everything I was doing before, just not driving," Earnhardt said Wednesday during a stop at the corporate headquarters of Wrangler. "Take the driving part out of it and everything else I'm still doing." Earnhardt was joined by team owner Richard Childress to help kick off the second annual "Jeansboro Day" celebration and reminisce about the long relationship Wranger has enjoyed with Childress and Earnhardt. Earnhardt has been sidelined since midseason after suffering concussion-like symptoms following a pair of crashes. In his absence, drivers Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman have handled the driving duties in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet. MORE: See: Bowman in the No. 88 car After missing two races in 2012, this marks the second time in his premier series career that Earnhardt has missed races due to a concussion or concussion-like symptoms. Although he won't be back behind the wheel this season, Earnhardt told the crowd that he plans to be back in the car when the 2017 season gets underway at Daytona International Speedway . "It's coming along pretty good," Earnhardt said when asked about his recovery. "We got dinged up, had a lot of wrecks this year, got dinged up pretty good. … "(I'm) starting to feel real good, starting to be able to get out and do things, enjoy myself. "I miss being in the car but we have every expectation of being in the car come February for the Daytona 500 ." The Sprint Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for Sunday's Hellmann's 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). It is the final race of the Round of 12 in this year's Chase, with only the top eight advancing to the next round. Earnhardt, who has six career victories on the 2.66-mile track, said he plans to be at Talladega "all three days." But just watching. Not driving, yet. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;