Hemric has major issues after spinning out
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Boldly sassy and extraordinarily cute, the story of Mr. Tickles the cat
The thermostat read around 100 degrees, as a small, tan and white kitten weighing 0.8 pounds hid under a dumpster on an August afternoon in a North Carolina neighborhood. Two days later, with a rested body and full belly, that same cat boarded a private plane to Watkins Glen International for the Sprint Cup Series race weekend. Talk about a rags to riches story for the feline -- now dubbed Mr. Tickles -- who is the pampered pet of Sprint Cup driver AJ Allmendinger and girlfriend Tara Meador. "I think I was actually doing 'Race Hub' that day and during the show, I was getting text messages from Tara that they had found a cat under a dumpster," Allmendinger recalled on Aug. 19 at Bristol Motor Speedway . "So, (they're) trying to get this cat out. ... They had got him to eat a little bit, but every time they'd try to grab him, he'd run right back in the middle of it (and) you couldn't get him. I sat there probably for an hour trying to drag him out, figure out something -- cat was pretty smart, he didn't want to be caught. "I try not to have that much of a heart most of the time," Allmendinger continued with a smile, "But you know I had to have one. I was like, 'It's 105 degrees outside right now, you can tell that this cat is tiny -- he may not be there tomorrow or he might be there, but not the way we want to see him.' " The group eventually scraped the kitten from under the dumpster and took him back to Allmendinger and Meador's house, while he was "screaming and swatting." But it didn't take long for the tiny animal to feel at home in the comforts of blankets and a full belly -- then cross-country trips to race tracks. Thus began the adventures of Mr. Tickles the traveling cat. "It's been fun, you know, because with the airlines that we fly on as a team, it's not like you can bring your own dog on the plane or anything like that," Allmendinger said. "So we've got a little cat backpack and he gets in it and gets under the chair and goes to sleep and it's good entertainment throughout the course of a weekend when I'm stressing myself out. "He's definitely ... the airplane cat because people that are big cat people are like, 'Is Tickles on here?' We've passed him around before ... he's got a funny personality on him. He talks a lot, he can be a pain in the butt sometimes -- I guess he's a lot like me," Allmendinger joked. Wait ... he talks? Yep, and does tricks, Allmendinger says. "He'll shake with his right paw; left paw, he'll fist pound you," Allmendinger said. "So if you say, 'Fist pound or jab,' because Tara's gotten into boxing ... and he knows which paw is which. ... He'll definitely speak at you; if you tell him to speak, he'll meow at you." Mr. Tickles' talents are depicted on his three social media pages -- Facebook , Twitter and Instagram , and he tallies more than 1,500 followers on Twitter alone. His Twitter bio says, "It's not easy being the kitten, but someone has to do it." "Cat's got more followers than me," No. 47 crew chief Randall Burnett chimed in as he entered the hauler. "He's way nicer and he's way more fun to be around and he's way cuter," Allmendinger joked back. "That's not true, I'm pretty charming to be around," Burnett said. Don't underestimate the power of big kitty-cat eyes, Randall. They've definitely captured the attention of fans. "My Twitter page is filled up with people sending me their cat pictures," Allmendinger said. "That's what I get. Like, 'Oh look it, look at Mr. Butters!' "A few weeks ago, (after) one of the Saturday races, (on) Sunday Tara and I are just having a fun day and we happen to be kind of in this shopping center area down in Charlotte and went into this store. They had some birthday cards of cats and I'm like, 'Oh look it, it's Mr. Tickles right here.' The lady working there ... said, 'Mr. Tickles? I love that cat, I follow him.' ... I was like, 'Are you serious?' She's like, 'I thought it was you, AJ.' "There are people that come out of the woodwork or big cat people that love Mr. Tickles." Allmendinger says he wasn't always a cat person -- "I'm a bigger dog person," he admits -- but the cuteness that is Mr. Tickles enraptured him from the beginning. And it's been made clear that the Allmedinger-Meador house is now governed by Mr. Tickles -- no other animal is allowed. "He hates everybody," Allmendinger said. "He hates every type of animal. We've always wanted to get a dog as well at the right time -- I don't think that's going to happen because he may kill the dog. I guess, like one of his owners, he's an only child and shows it. "Now he runs the show at the house. It's his house -- he doesn't need anyone messing around, any other animals coming in to take over his house. He doesn't play well with others." With his following, Mr. Tickles may not ever have to adjust his attitude. Just have him give a little furry fist pound and all 'tude is forgiven. Just make sure you provide a treat afterward.
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Stewart unveils special Coca-Cola look for Darlington
RELATED: See all the Darlington throwbacks BUY TICKETS: Darlington CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tony Stewart joked that "I can't remember what I had for lunch most days" but the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion said he can recall the first time he saw Bobby Allison race. "It was at Scottsburg, Indiana," Stewart said Wednesday during an appearance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "They ran Late Models, Street Stocks and Bombers or something like that that night. "It was him in a Coke-sponsored car. He was running around the bottom the whole time; I was yelling 'Run the top!' I wanted to see him run the top once. But he was set up for the bottom I'm sure and I remember he ran eighth. "That was probably 30-35 years ago but I can remember it." Stewart will pay tribute to the NASCAR Hall of Fame driver during this year's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway with a throwback paint scheme similar to that run by Allison between 1970-73. The car was unveiled for the first time at the Hall Wednesday. Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet will bear the Coca-Cola logos and feature the same red and gold paint scheme that adorned Allison's familiar No. 12 entry. "I knew Bobby because he was a NASCAR driver. My family, we barely could afford to race the go-karts we were racing let alone go do something else. ... So I went with a buddy of mine; I didn't know Bobby was going to be there that day. But out front of the race track on the marquee it said Bobby Allison was racing and the date and I thought 'Wow, that's going to be cool.' Some two dozen throwback schemes for this year's race, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 4, have been announced. Track officials say they expect the entire field to feature a nod to the past in some form or fashion. Allison won 84 times in NASCAR's premier series and won the championship in 1983. He won the Southern 500 at Darlington four times, twice (1971-72) while running the red-and-gold scheme. But what helped make the Hueytown, Alabama-based driver a fan favorite was his willingness to go race anywhere, at any time. Race fans that were not able to travel to Daytona or Darlington, Bristol or Riverside could see Allison compete at the tiny half-mile tracks across the Midwest and Northeast. Stewart, Allison said, is cut from the same cloth." I appreciate his enthusiasm for the sport, his ability, his willingness to go anywhere anytime and run different kinds of tracks, different kinds of equipment," Allison, now 78, said. "I ran different kinds but I never really got into the dirt Super Mods or anything. I did run them just a little … never dug into that, which he has. And he's won. I won in quite a few, but not all of them. I look at that and really appreciate him." Allison spent his entire driving career darting between weekly short-track events while competing in NASCAR's premier series."I felt like any lap was just more experience, more training for me," he said. "Also any differences helped me adjust when the track changed, the weather changed. So much of that would throw the drivers; it helped me adjust to whatever went on anywhere I was racing." Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing , will retire from Sprint Cup competition at season's end. It's a fitting way, he said, to honor Allison in what will be his final Southern 500 start. "He was fierce in a race car," Stewart said. "You knew that if he was out there … you were going to have to be on your game to beat him that day. "(Darlington) is one of two Cup tracks that we run that I've not won a Cup race at … this is my last chance to cross another one, and a big one, off the list. And it's going to be in a really cool car too." &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;gt;
Race Rewind: Darlington in 15
Relive NASCAR's throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway as Martin Truex Jr. battles 2014 winner, Kevin Harvick, for a win in the Bojangles' Southern 500.
Member of the Month: April
Name: Sadie Hometown: Chevy Chase, Maryland Current City: Brooklyn, New York Member since: 2009 Getting to know Sadie Q. Why did you join the Official NASCAR Fan Council? "Because I absolutely love NASCAR and want to do everything I can to support the sport. I also feel I have a unique voice from many other NASCAR fans, living in New York City and not even owning a car." Q. How did you first become interested in NASCAR? "The first race I watched was the 2003 Daytona 500 and I instantly fell in love. Even though it was rain shortened, I loved the way the commentators described the strategy and the technical aspects of the sport. As I learned more about the drivers and picked favorites, I was hooked forever." Q. What makes NASCAR special for you? "I love introducing new people to NASCAR and explaining the strategies as well as the different driver personalities and associated rivalries. Many people think it's just about turning left, but when I convince them to watch (or attend) a race with me, they get the reason I'm so obsessed. I've also met so many incredible people across the country attending NASCAR races. I make friends at every event." Q: Do you have any favorite NASCAR memories or traditions? "My favorite memory of all time was winning a pass to Victory Lane in '08 at Watkins Glen when my favorite driver ( Kyle Busch ) won the race. I was so excited, jumping up and down, that one of the crewmembers brought over the huge champagne bottle so I could celebrate with the team! Incredible!" Q: Do you have a favorite in any of the following categories? Driver: " Kyle Busch " Track: "Richmond" Memorabilia: "I don't have much space in my tiny Brooklyn apartment, but I do keep out a collection of signed diecast cars. One of the coolest diecasts I have is the throwback Wrangler #3 that Dale Jr. won the Daytona Nationwide race with, signed by him." Sponsor: "Wrangler (such a good looking car)" Q: If you could go to any NASCAR race/track, where would you go? "Talladega" Q: What do you like to do in your free time? "I love to knit. I get a lot of knitting done while watching NASCAR." Q: Tell us about your family. Do you have children and/or pets? "I have a wonderful husband of 12 years who knows more about racing than he ever wished." Q: What's your dream car? "If it's a dream, let's go Maserati." FROM ALL OF US AT NASCAR, WE THANK SADIE FOR HER CONTINUED SUPPORT AND LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING FROM HER IN 2016.
Wood Bros. return to full time opens up new doors
RELATED: Complete driver roster for 2016 The folks at Wood Brothers Racing are busy getting ready for this month's Daytona 500 , the season-opening race for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. That is not unusual. The legendary team has prepared for the series' biggest, most well known race ever since there was a Daytona 500 . This year is No. 58 for the event billed as the "Great American Race." Actually, the family-owned organization's Daytona history runs a bit deeper -- team founder and patriarch Glen Wood competed on the beach and road course before the 2.5-mile superspeedway rose up a few miles inland. What's unusual is what will follow. Because after Daytona will be Atlanta. And Las Vegas. And Phoenix and Auto Club. Martinsville and Texas and Bristol. And on and on and on. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule whips across the country, and this year, for the first time since 2008, the Wood Brothers and their familiar red-and-white No. 21 Ford will be there every step of the way. "I'm looking forward to going back to some of the tracks we haven't been to for a while like Atlanta, Martinsville -- I really love road courses and things like that, places that present an opportunity that's a little different, even like a Pocono," Len Wood, who along with brother Eddie oversee the operation of the team today. "Anything can happen at a Pocono or a road course, so that's what I'm looking for." The team has 98 victories, but only one since cutting back to a limited schedule. Granted, it was a big one -- the 2011 Daytona 500 with driver Trevor Bayne . Last year, Ryan Blaney made 16 starts for team, finishing with top 10s at Talladega in the spring (fourth) and Kansas in the fall (seventh). He scored a pair of XFINITY Series wins (Iowa-2, Kentucky-2) while driving for Team Penske and a Camping World Truck Series victory (at Bristol) for owner/driver Brad Keselowski . MORE: Blaney clarifies height conspiracy His Sprint Cup schedule may have been limited, but the knowledge gained was not. "It's good to get experience, it's good to work with the whole team on these Cup cars and be able to race around the competition," Blaney, 22, said. "Just racing around your other competitors is one of the biggest battles -- knowing how they race and just learning from them. "That's something I've been able to do in the Truck Series and the XFINITY Series. But the Cup side is way different. The cars are way different, they handle way different, there are different things you can do. "It was definitely a learning year, a good year to get us prepared for this full-time season." RELATED: Who is the favorite for Sunoco Rookie honors? Blaney, along with Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports), Chris Buescher (Front Row Motorsports), Brian Scott (Richard Petty Motorsports) and Jeffrey Earnhardt (Go FAS Racing) make up this year's Sunoco Rookie of the Year class. All have multiple Sprint Cup Series starts, from Earnhardt's two to Blaney's 18. The Wood Brothers team will continue its technical alliance with Team Penske, likewise a Ford organization and one that fields Sprint Cup teams for Keselowski, the 2012 series champion, and teammate Joey Logano . Crew chief Jeremy Bullins is a former Penske crew chief, having helped lead all three drivers to Victory Lane in the XFINITY Series. Bullins also has ties to the Wood Brothers -- he began his career working with the group when the team shop was still based in tiny Stuart, Virginia. "For me personally, it's a big deal to be on this car, for this car to be successful," Bullins said. How successful the team can be as it transitions back to full-time status, Bullins said, "is up to us." "When you look at Ryan and his ability, the equipment that we have and the resources we have, really it's up to us and how far we take it," he said. "Obviously the goal, the reason we are here, is to try to win races and try to win championships eventually. "When you start your first year in the Cup series, you don't anticipate that but it's up to us how far we take it. The potential is there, for sure."