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UNOH, Daytona announce multi-year partnership
Daytona International Speedway announced today a multi-year partnership with University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH) for the school to secure the naming rights of the Fanzone, the 211,636-square foot entertainment hub located in the infield of the "World Center of Racing." UNOH, located in Lima, Ohio, invented the first high-performance motorsports degree program in the country, and in 2006, opened the largest U.S. facility dedicated to learning the science of high-performance vehicles – a seven-acre, 70,000-square foot high performance motorsports complex. The UNOH Fanzone, which first opened in 2005 at the "World Center of Racing," is located between the NASCAR premier series garages and NASCAR XFINITY Series garages and puts fans in the middle of the event action with fan forums, historic displays, autograph sessions, entertainment and merchandise as well as access to pre-race activities. Other amenities include the Fan Deck on top of the NASCAR premier series garages and garage viewing windows with autograph slots. "We're excited to continue to grow our relationship with the University of Northwestern Ohio," Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said. "UNOH is widely recognized throughout the country for their motorsports degree program. We look forward to them engaging with our fans in the UNOH Fanzone, which delivers the most fan-friendly, hands-on experience in all of motorsports." "We are thrilled to expand our partnership with Daytona International Speedway and have another venue to share with motorsports fans the unique educational opportunity students can get at the University of Northwestern Ohio," UNOH president, Dr. Jeffrey A. Jarvis said. "Students from all 50 states and 49 countries have attended the University and we have UNOH graduates working in all facets of motorsports from dirt-track teams all the way up through NASCAR to NHRA and beyond. The UNOH Fanzone experience will bring to life what our students experience in the classroom and shop every day." UNOH will also continue to serve as the Official Education Partner of Daytona International Speedway and have an on-site marketing presence at the facility including event signage, display space, tickets and hospitality. Financial terms were not disclosed. In 1992, UNOH invented the first high-performance motorsports degree program in the country and has since been training students with the latest technology available in the industry. Students receive first-hand motorsports mechanical training from instructors who’ve spent years in the field. Tickets for the 59th annual DAYTONA 500 and other Speedweeks events can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter , Facebook , Instagram , Pinterest , YouTube and Snapchat (username: DISupdates), and by downloading Daytona International Speedway 's mobile app, for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.
Dale Jr. medically cleared, will run 2017 Daytona 500
Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that Dale Earnhardt Jr., two-time Daytona 500 winner, has been medically cleared to return to NASCAR competition in the 2017 Daytona 500 .
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;
Dale Jr.: Bowman 'deserves' to run The Clash
RELATED: Dale Jr. set for Daytona return in 2017 " Format set for The Clash Dale Earnhardt Jr . is set to resume his NASCAR career at Daytona International Speedway in February, but one week later than he potentially could. It's a move borne of deference and appreciation for the driver who admirably filled in last season during his recovery from a neurological ailment. Both Earnhardt and substitute driver Alex Bowman meet eligibility requirements for The Clash, a non-points exhibition race scheduled Feb. 18 (8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the 2.5-mile Florida track. But Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that Bowman would drive the team's No. 88 Chevrolet in the invitational, a week before the season-opening Daytona 500 . Earnhardt had heard rumblings about rules for the Clash format and field as last season drew to a close. His hunch that 2016 pole winners would make up the majority of the starting lineup was correct. The Clash rules were still up in the air when Bowman -- who ran 10 of the 18 races Earnhardt missed in the second half of last season -- claimed the first Coors Light Pole Award of his career in November at Phoenix International Raceway . After watching the qualifying results play out on pit road, Earnhardt's first words to Hendrick general manager Doug Duchardt were that Bowman should keep the driver's seat for the Daytona preliminary.
Next up for Hendrick, Junior: Contract discussion
RELATED: Junior: 'Stronger than before' " Earnhardt medically cleared Rick Hendrick considers it a wonderful early Christmas present. Having Dale Earnhardt Jr . medically cleared to resume driving Hendrick's No. 88 Chevrolet has been six months in the making. And the whole storied, championship organization couldn't be happier with Thursday's official word that NASCAR's reigning Most Popular Driver will be behind the wheel for the 2017 season after missing the final 18 races of the 2016 season recovering from a concussion. "We're as big a fan of Dale's as the rest of the community and when you have the most popular driver in the sport and then lose him. ... He's a big spark plug to this place," Hendrick said. "Having him out of the car kinda deflates the place and you know, when that test finished and he came through with such flying colors, the text I got and conversation I had, you could feel it in the place even today with the rest of the teams. "It elevated the whole place." So much so that Hendrick and Earnhardt are already prepared to resume contract extension talks, Earnhardt revealed Friday in his first teleconference with the national media since getting the go-ahead to return to competition. "We're probably going to revisit that before the season starts," said Earnhardt, 42, whose current contract runs through 2017. "Before I got sick, Rick and I sat down and talked about my future and the extensions. That stuff was starting to come together and we'll revisit that shortly." It should only be a matter of ironing out details because these two NASCAR A-listers shared that they both feel re-energized by Earnhardt's recovery and return to competition. Hendrick said he was very optimistic about Earnhardt re-joining the team and resuming racing, but conceded that he realized early on in the process, that might take an extended amount of time. And he was OK with that. "You might worry about that but I think after talking to [Earnhardt's doctor] Dr. Collins, he didn't see any reason he couldn't come back if we did it the right way," Hendrick said. "A lot of credit goes to Dale for just working hard outside of the car to get himself better, stronger. "You could just see him getting stronger every week and participating here with the team and other drivers. "I just kind of refused to accept he wasn't going to be in the car." It was a good method of coping. "First of all, we care about him as a friend and a person," Hendrick said. "That's first -- and just seeing him healthy and himself, rather than trying to rush him back into the car ... "His health is priority one. We don't want him back in the car until he's OK. And we're OK. Everyone was OK with him sitting out. Once we realized he wasn't going to be in the Chase we were OK, we wanted him for the long term. "It's a tough decision to pull the plug on the year. You didn't know that maybe he would be healed up enough to come back with a few races left. But we were very fortunate with our sponsors. They put his health first. That was never a question." Now Earnhardt is OK. Listening to him speak Friday morning, he is more than OK. The two-time Daytona 500 winner is excited about his New Year's Eve wedding, the honeymoon and the promise of more competition that awaits him in February. Junior's back. "I think with Dale back in the car and Jimmie's championship, it's going to be a nice Christmas for all of us," Hendrick said. &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;gt;
Earnhardt Jr.: I feel stronger than before
RELATED: See Junior's 2017 car " Wedding plans " Contract talks coming soon Wednesday's test at Darlington Raceway confirmed what Dale Earnhardt Jr . already suspected -- that he has recovered from a concussion suffered at midseason of 2016, and that he is fit and healthy enough to resume competing in NASCAR's premier series. While this year's incident, which caused Earnhardt to miss the final 18 races, was the second time he had been sidelined due to a concussion, Earnhardt made no bones about his eagerness to climb back in the No. 88 Chevrolet when the 2017 season gets underway. Saying he feels he has "a lot left in the tank," Earnhardt spoke about his recovery, his return and what lies ahead during a national teleconference Friday. "I wouldn't be coming back to the seat and wanting to drive and be excited about driving cars if there was any risk other than the typical risk that every driver faces on Sunday," the 42-year-old Earnhardt said. "I feel very confident in what I've seen in myself in my improvement and what my doctors are telling me about my future and the risk that I'm taking, and my ability to be able to withstand the normal wear and tear of not only driving a race, but getting in that unfortunate accident from time to time. "We all feel pretty confident that not only am I as healthy as I was before the symptoms came last year but I'm actually stronger. Having gone through this before also gives me additional confidence. This isn't uncharted territory for me. I know what I need to feel personally to know that I'm as strong as I need to be and healthy. I'm certainly feeling that way. But I'm also hearing the affirmation from my doctors that I can go back and drive race cars." Earnhardt worked with Dr. Micky Collins of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh throughout his recovery. Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty was on hand at Darlington to monitor Earnhardt's progress. After a brief pre-test evaluation by Dr. Petty to determine a baseline, Earnhardt said he spent the afternoon running multiple laps around the rugged 1.366-mile track. During frequent breaks he was re-evaluated by Dr. Petty. While Earnhardt said he hoped to see the results of his responses to the stimuli of being back in a race car remain constant, they actually improved throughout the course of the day. "You sort of get acclimated and up to speed with what it takes to drive a race car," Earnhardt said. "Those systems strengthen through that process. Rather than see them sort of flat line and stay the same, which was what I was hoping for, they actually got stronger. "I felt like throughout the day I got more and more comfortable in the car ... it felt like an old shoe by the end of the day." Once the session ended, he said, "We felt really, really confident that healthwise I was 100 percent and ready to get back in the car." Although the 2017 season won't officially get underway until Feb. 26 with the running of the Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Earnhardt said he will also participate in an organizational test scheduled for Jan. 31/Feb. 1 at Phoenix International Raceway . The focus of that test won't be to monitor his health, but to simply give him more time behind the wheel and help the team prepare as the new season approaches. "Testing is kind of boring but I'm ready to get more and more laps in the car," he said. "I feel real, real confident and my self-confidence is real (crucial) for me to perform well. The more I can do to help build my confidence before we go to Daytona the better so I'm excited." Team owner Rick Hendrick said having NASCAR's most popular driver cleared to return to competition was "a great Christmas present for our company and our fans." "By Dale going to the right person and working his butt off, it has made him stronger," Hendrick said. While he has been cleared to return to competition, Earnhardt said he will continue with some of the exercises and programs used during the recovery process. According to Dr. Collins, continued participation would only further strengthen those systems affected. "I'm all for that," Earnhardt said. "I want to be as sharp ... hell, maybe this is something I should have been doing all along. There is a lot of ... stuff on computers that athletes do that don't even have concussions that I have at my fingertips today. ... There is a lot of stuff that I can continue to do that will keep me sharp and keep me ready to go." He doesn't expect to be monitored by NASCAR officials any differently than any other driver going forward, and there are no safety changes being made by the team as a result of his latest incident. As confident as he was before Wednesday's test, Earnhardt admitted he was "anxious" to get behind the wheel. He said he even had trouble sleeping the night before. Any lingering concerns were erased as soon as he hit the track. "Darlington is a tough track, but the nerves were gone after about four laps and then it was ‘Let's just run, let's run some more, put some tires on and go some more,'" he said. &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;gt;
Stewart starts on front row at Daytona , in rookie season
Tony Stewart qualified his No. 20 on the front row for his first Daytona 500 in 1999 at Daytona International Speedway.