Keselowski and Hendrick: What might have been
On April 18, 2009, Mark Martin won the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway . It was the 36th NASCAR premier series win for the 50-year-old driver and his first with team owner Rick Hendrick. A week and a day later, Brad Keselowski won the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway . It was the first career win for the 25-year-old, and the first premier series victory for independent car owner James Finch. Two distinctly different races won by two distinctly different drivers. Martin's NASCAR career was beginning to wind down; Keselowski's, on the other hand, appeared to have only just begun. But there was one string that tied the two together -- Hendrick Motorsports . HMS was home to Martin, Jimmie Johnson , Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr . And it was expected by many to be the future home of the up-and-coming kid from Rochester Hills, Michigan . But a collection of factors that came together throughout the course of that season altered the racing landscape as well as the career path of Keselowski. It would be nearly three years before the next driver change at HMS. By then Keselowski had not only found a new home, but he was also on his way to winning the Sprint Cup championship. 'I WAS NOT GOING TO LOSE' The sun was out and the grandstands were packed when the 2009 Aaron's 499, the season's ninth Sprint Cup race, went green for the final time. As race leader Ryan Newman tried to keep Earnhardt Jr., the crowd favorite, in check, Keselowski darted to the inside behind Carl Edwards on the track's massive backstretch. It was a move that didn’t seem to mean much at the time. But at the start-finish line with two laps remaining, Edwards and Keselowski shot to the outside entering Turn 1. "Here they come; look at the 99 and ..." NASCAR on FOX analyst Darrell Waltrip began. " Brad Keselowski ," lead announcer Mike Joy and co-analyst Larry McReynolds chimed in. When the white flag appeared, Edwards and Keselowski had caught and were beginning to pull away from Newman and Earnhardt Jr. Racing back through the tri-oval, Keselowski turned his No. 09 Chevrolet to the outside, and then quickly dropped to the bottom as Edwards moved up to block. Realizing the bottom lane was now open, Edwards reacted quickly -- but not quickly enough. Contact sent the No. 99 Ford spinning. Edwards' car came off the track briefly and was beginning to settle back onto the track it was struck by Newman's Chevrolet. The impact sent Edwards roof-first into the frontstretch catch fence. Meanwhile, Keselowski kept his foot in the gas, racing across the finish line for the win just ahead of Earnhardt Jr. "I was not going to lose," Keselowski said in his post-race winner's interview. "I was not going to lift and (I was going to) hold my ground and consequences be damned." A full-time competitor at the time for JR Motorsports (which, coincidentally, counts Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick among its ownership group) in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Keselowski said he didn't know what the future held after his first premier series win. "I know I don't have anything locked in," he said. "That's really all I can say ... I don't have a job secured for next year, and everything to this point has been wait-and-see. I know this certainly can't hurt." But behind the scenes, moves were already underway. Finch's Phoenix Racing, which purchased it engines from HMS, had put Keselowski in the car at the suggestion of Hendrick. And the JRM/Hendrick pipeline, which grooms talent in the lower series to help restock the Sprint Cup program, was taking root. Keselowski had made two starts for Hendrick the previous year, and would make seven all together in '09, in addition to five races with Finch. Perhaps his future wasn't as cloudy as it appeared. "Rick had come out and told me, actually had made it a point to say to the media that he thought I was a future driver at Hendrick," Keselowski told NASCAR.com recently. There was only one problem. SWAN SONG? On July 4, 2008, HMS officials announced that Martin had signed a two-year agreement to drive the organization's No. 5 Chevrolet. According to the news release, Martin, who would run a full schedule in 2009, would "run a partial Sprint Cup schedule ... in 2010, sharing the No. 5 Chevy with a to-be-determined second driver.” By most accounts, that driver was expected to be Keselowski. But in May of '09, less than three weeks after Martin's Phoenix victory, HMS officials announced a revision to the '08 agreement. The veteran driver would return in 2010 to once again run the entire season. With Keselowski waiting in the wings and Martin winning and agreeing to return the following year, "Rick was kind of half pregnant," Keselowski said. "He (was) stuck. "My feeling was, after I had won Talladega, I'm going to get this 5 car ride partially next year, pair it with something else, let's go. I didn't know what it was going to be. We'll figure it out; let's go." A phone call and subsequent meeting with Hendrick, however, changed all that. "I was kind of expecting more of a 'Hey, we're going to expedite the process of clearing out the rest of this,' " Keselowski said of the meeting, "And instead I got a 'Hey, I don't have a ride for you. You need to figure something else out. I'll try to help.' "That was late April, early May of that year. My intent ... was to give him that time to kind of make right on it somehow, find a ride because he had made me the promise that I would have that car. It didn't sit all that well, but I understood the circumstances and so forth." Months passed and Keselowski busied himself with his full-time XFINITY Series effort at JRM while making a handful of Sprint Cup starts for Hendrick and Finch. Hendrick, in the meantime, was exploring the various avenues that might keep Keselowski in the HMS camp. Possible scenarios included Stewart-Haas Racing , at the time a two-team effort, and Red Bull Racing. Consideration was even given to fielding a Sprint Cup entry out of the JR Motorsports shop, according to the owner. But the pieces didn't fit and as the summer wore on, Keselowski's future remained uncertain. "I wanted him to wait a year," Hendrick told NASCAR.com. "... I don't remember all the details, but I do remember that Mark had done so well, and I had tried to talk (Mark) into staying. "I've told all our guys, the first time I sat down with Brad he impressed me because he was so intense about the whole car and wanted to be involved in everything. He was just so committed. I told our guys he's got the right attitude about racing and driving. I just needed him to wait." Waiting, though, wasn't part of Keselowski's plan. "My perception is a driver is a lot like a perishable fruit," Keselowski said. "You've got so much time, then he spoils and goes bad. There are a lot of variables, much like anything." PENSKE COMES CALLING The Keselowski family has always been involved in racing. Brad's father Bob was an ARCA Series standout and a former winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Ron Keselowski, an uncle, scored two top-five finishes in 68 premier series starts while older brother Brian Keselowski has one or more starts in all three of NASCAR's national series. "We knew the Keselowski name from being here in Detroit," Walt Czarnecki, an executive vice president at Penske Corp., said. "His dad, his uncle, all that. They would run out at MIS ( Michigan International Speedway ) when (Penske) owned the track." But it was a business associate, lawyer/agent John Caponigro, who brought up the young driver's name during a conversation in 2009. "We thought he was committed to Hendrick," Czarnecki said. "He'd been on loan to James Finch to run several races. But some things were changing." Conversations with Keselowski ensued, in Michigan as well as Mooresville, North Carolina, where Team Penske is headquartered. "All this time," Czarnecki said, "Still having this somewhat uncertain situation with Mr. Hendrick." Team Penske had grown from a two-team to a three-team organization in '08, fielding cars for drivers Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr . In '09 Newman departed to join owner/driver Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing and 32-year-old David Stremme was brought on board to fill the open seat. But the Keselowski opportunity was intriguing, according to Czarnecki. "We've tried to sign on what we consider to be the best available young drivers with a great deal of potential that we could mold and have them grow in our organization," he said. "And I think that Brad certainly fit that description. "But above and beyond that, he had a bigger vision as to what role he wanted to play in terms of the development of the team. ... Just how he saw different things coming together ... "Some of it may have been a little unrealistic; some of it was certainly the enthusiasm of a young man who had a goal in mind. ... But he had this great enthusiasm and he had this great desire and this great commitment. And that appealed to us." With the Hendrick effort seemingly stalled, Keselowski went back to Penske with a request -- to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series. In addition to its Sprint Cup effort, Team Penske was fielding one full-time XFINITY Series team with driver Justin Allgaier . Expanding that program to two teams running all the races was problematic, given the economy at the time. Told such a scenario was unlikely, Keselowski was left to consider his few available options. But Penske officials continued to work until enough of the appropriate pieces were in place. "Sure enough, Roger called me one night and said 'Alright, I've got it put together,' " Keselowski said. "It kind of caught me off guard . I was sold. That's it; he made it happen." "I couldn't sit around and wait. ... Roger had gone above and beyond to put something together that I felt like was the opportunity I needed. ... The economy was on its way down fast; Roger (through his various businesses) had a lot of immunities to the economy. Rick made it very clear to me that he was not going to invest himself without having a sponsor, and the economy was not in a spot where he could facilitate that." Hendrick had been aware of the Penske interest from the beginning, having had conversations with his fellow team owner about Keselowski's status. "Roger called me and asked me could he talk to him," Hendrick said. "I didn't want to stand in his way. Brad's a hell of a talent. It was a timing issue. "It's worked out for him. At his age it would have been nice if we could have kept him. ... If I got a call from Roger and I was in his spot I would have done exactly what he did." POSTSCRIPT On Sept. 1, 2009, Team Penske officials announced that the organization had signed Keselowski to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series beginning the following season. Since then, Keselowski has won 17 Sprint Cup races, 28 XFINITY Series races and championships in both series. "I don't want to sound mercenary but he brought us our first Sprint Cup championship (in 2012)," Czarnecki said. "Because that vision that he outlined, we tried to work with him and bring people along, bring people into the organization, have him work with people like (crew chief) Paul Wolfe, it was really the realization of that vision. That's what it (has) meant. "And his intensity hasn't changed." Former teammates Busch and Hornish have departed, and fellow driver AJ Allmendinger has come and gone. Keselowski, now 32, is the veteran of a Penske group that now includes 25-year-old teammate Joey Logano . "I wasn’t looking to switch," Keselowski said. "If things would have gone the way they were supposed to go before Mark won that race at Phoenix, I would still be there."
Buescher celebrates NCWTS win in Victory Lane
James Buescher celebrates with his son, Steston, for the first time after his Michigan National Guard 200 victory.
Buescher: Win puts team back on track
James Buescher breaks down his Michigan National Guard 200 win and how the victory will turn the team's season around.
Busch, Logano discuss NCWTS finishes
Kyle Busch was frustrated by his second place finish, while Joey Logano was upbeat in commenting on his fourth place finish in the Michigan National Guard 200 .
Aspen Dental to sponsor annual dirt track race at Eldora
Eldora Speedway announced Friday that Aspen Dental will sponsor the Ohio dirt track's annual race for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The fourth annual 150-lap race, the only NASCAR national series event on a dirt speedway, is scheduled July 20 (9 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The track discontinued the Mudsummer Classic name in the offseason because of a conflict with Major League Baseball's "Midsummer Classic" name for its annual All-Star Game. NASCAR returned to dirt-track racing with the inaugural truck event at Eldora in 2013, marking the first national series race on dirt since 1970. Friday's announcement coincided with a media event at Talladega Superspeedway featuring Danica Patrick -- who drives the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Chevrolet with Aspen Dental sponsorship -- and Tony Stewart , who purchased the Eldora track in 2004. Aspen Dental is in the midst of a five-year partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing . The East Syracuse, New York-based business increased its backing of Patrick's efforts this season, doubling its role as primary sponsor to four NASCAR Sprint Cup races in 2016.
Pursuing NASCAR's triple crown intrigues Bobby Labonte
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Bobby Labonte quietly bowed out of full-time Sprint Cup Series competition at the tail end of the 2013 season. No retirement tour, no gifts. Certainly no ponies. The 2000 premier series champion has selectively dabbled in the sport since, however, with a handful of unremarkable starts at Indianapolis and the restrictor-plate tracks, knowing the pack racing may be his last remaining shot at picking up his first -- and likely final -- Cup victory in more than a decade. Labonte will run in Sunday's GEICO 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Talladega Superspeedway , his second of a scheduled four-race slate in 2016. While not sure if this same type of deal will continue to be available to him in future years, the brother of NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte hinted at an interestingly hush-hush opportunity that could be coming down the pipeline later on this season. "I do have a couple other possibilities I am excited about that might come to fruition later on in the year that I didn't see coming around the corner but they are opportunities that might lead to something that I have been more excited about than anything I have done in my career," Labonte said Friday at Talladega. "Racing is still a big passion of mine and I know I am not going to go do a lot of things I used to do but there are still some opportunities out there that are still up on my radar that I would like to do." But what does he have left to prove? What racing goals remain? "That is a great question, too. Winning any race. It might be a bicycle race. Racing at the Sprint Cup level has gotten so intense that if you can't do it every weekend … (Talladega) is different as we all know. Last weekend and next weekend is different than here," Labonte said. "It is one of those things that I guess I kind of want to race more in a way but I don't want to race more in some ways. I don't want to do it every weekend but I know there are different series you can do that aren’t quite as strenuous as this. "My brother told me one time after about two years of retirement, 'You know, you will have a lot more friends later that you didn't know you had.' And that is true. I am enjoying that. As far as racing goes I am enjoying it and my opportunity is only four times right now through a little bit of what I want to do and a little bit from other people." One remaining goal is obvious: becoming NASCAR's first Triple Crown winner by notching a championship at each of its three national series levels. Labonte has the two arguably tougher feats down, winning the XFINITY Series (then Busch Grand National ) title by 74 points over Kenny Wallace in 1991, then taking his first and only Sprint Cup Series (then Winston Cup) title by a wide, 265-point margin over Dale Earnhardt in 2000. It's a long shot, and Labonte admits that "everything has to line up right," but he's at least considered the prospect of running for a Camping World Truck Series title. He has 10 career starts in the series, with one win (2005 at Martinsville). "It is absolutely something that we have talked about and met with some people about," Labonte said. "I couldn't just make it happen by snapping my fingers and we couldn’t quite get it all lined up. I definitely had it in my mind that it was something I really wanted to do. I would still entertain that but there is also a point where if you can chase the championship that is one thing, and you can do it in a lot of ways. "When I started racing when I was little, the passion was to race and win and that is what you want to do. You want the chance to do that. We did it back then and I think the Truck Series is very appealing to me. I loved it when I did a few of them for a couple of guys and won a race and finished in the top five quite a bit. It is definitely a different level and the garage area is a lot calmer there than it is in the Sprint Cup Series and it kind of, at this point in time, is very appealing."
Poole wins fans as he loses in Talladega review
RELATED: Full results " Standings post-Talladega " See the finish in photos TALLADEGA, Ala. – Brennan Poole won Saturday's XFINITY Series race at Talladega Superspeedway . And then he didn't. After a chaotic finish was ruled final under caution, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender was initially named the Sparks Energy 300 victor before Elliott Sadler was told to bring his No. 1 Chevrolet to Victory Lane, several minutes after the checkered flag flew. Before NASCAR came to that conclusion, however, the pair of drivers each patiently sat on opposite sides of the start/finish line at the 2.66-mile Alabama track, about to swap emotions. "As I was waiting there, one, I was thinking hopefully the caution didn't come out as early as I think it came out and I'm hoping we race to the line but at the same time I'm thinking 'I hope NASCAR gets it right,' " Poole said in his post-race press conference. "I want the guy who deserves to win the race be the winner and go by the rules. And according to the rules, Elliott was the winner. I can't get mad about it. It just is what it is." The finish was certainly among NASCAR's wildest -- both with the wreck that saw Joey Logano get airborne to spark the caution and with the period of time it took to make the final call. The minutes must have felt like an eternity to Poole and Sadler as the running order was sorted out. RELATED: See the finish from the point of view of the No. 48 NASCAR is certain it got it right. "Took us a little time up in the tower. We feel 100 percent that we got it exactly right," said Wayne Auton, XFINITY Series managing director. "We used film, we used eyes. ... We took our time in the tower. "I think all of you saw the 1 and the 48 come and sit at the start/finish line, which was pretty cool, to just have both drivers sit there really calm. ... We used every bit of film that we had; slow down, speed up -- we arrived at the finish we did and that's by using every piece of technology that we had to our availability." RELATED: Auton explains video review process Poole was lauded on social media and by the press for how he handled the situation, being told that he'd picked up his first career NASCAR win at any national level -- on a day which his sponsor, DC Solar, brought droves of people to the track -- only to have it swept out from under him. He had to settle for a third-place finish. It was still a career-best showing for the promising 25-year-old, but moreso it was his post-race demeanor that people will come away remembering. "I was just glad that they were able to take the time to get it right. Happy that the rightful winner has taken the trophy home tonight. I wish it was us, but we were close," said Poole, who now sits eighth in the points standings. "So, Elliott's the winner and it is what it is. It's racing. "Any time you come up a little bit short, it kind of sucks. We've been fast for several weeks this year, we just haven't been able to close a whole race out and that's been tough. "It's been an exciting last couple weeks and certainly this afternoon is one of the most exciting times in my racing career." MORE: See the wild finish
Speeds top 200 mph in first Cup practice
Kasey Kahne tops leaderboard at Michigan , nears track record
Full schedule for Talladega
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series will head to Talladega Superspeedway this week while the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is off. Check out the full weekend schedule below. Editor's note: All times are ET; Sunday's green flag time was move up approximately 15 minutes to 1:02 p.m. ET. SUNDAY, MAY 1: RUN-OF-SHOW --12:05:00: NSCS Drivers Introductions with NASCAR Special Awards --12:42:30 : Intro Presentation of Colors by: Alabama National Guard --12:42:40: Invocation by: Mark Stokes, Alabama Raceway Ministries --12:43:50: National Anthem: 313th United States Army Band, Signed by Xavius Demontae, Senior from Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind --12:44:45: FlyBy: Maxwell AFB 908th Airlift Wing C-130 (Turn 4 to Turn 1) (Semi Truck flying American flag passes by S/F line) --12:50:00: "Driver's, Start Your Engines" by: MSgt. Larry Nix, Air University/23rd Training Squadron, Maxwell AFB. GEICO Air University SNCO of the Year 2015 --1:02:00: Green Flag -- GEICO 500 (188 Laps, 500 Miles) ON TRACK -- 1 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 (188 laps, 500.08 miles), FOX ( Follow live ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 11:20 a.m.: Casey Mears with USS Montgomery crew -- 5 p.m. (approx.): Post-NSCS race FRIDAY, APRIL 29: ON TRACK -- 11:30 a.m.-12:25 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series practice, FS1 ( Results ) -- 1:30-2:25 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series final practice, FS1 ( Results ) -- 2:30-3:25 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1 ( Results ) -- 4:30-5:25 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS1 ( Results ) GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- 11 a.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series -- 2 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 10:45 a.m.: Ty Dillon -- 11 a.m.: Darrell Wallace Jr . -- 1:10 p.m.: Talladega Superspeedway announcement with Tony Stewart -- 1:30 p.m.: Martin Truex Jr . -- 2 p.m.: Carl Edwards -- 3:45 p.m.: Bobby Labonte -- 4 p.m.: Dale Earnhardt Jr . DAILY ROUNDUP -- Keselowski and Hendrick: What might have been -- Edwards: 'Kyle and I haven't talked' since Richmond -- Tifft, Wallace top NXS practices at Talladega -- Dillon ready to relieve Stewart at Talladega -- McMurray, Logano top Cup practices SATURDAY, APRIL 30: ON TRACK -- 10:30 a.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FS1 ( Results ) -- 12:30 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FOX ( Results ) -- 3 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series Sparks Energy 300 (113 laps, 300.58 miles), FOX ( Results ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 2:30 p.m. (approx.): Post-NSCS qualifying -- 5:30 p.m. (approx.): Post-NXS race DAILY ROUNDUP -- Sadler wins 'Dega race after chaotic overtime finish -- NASCAR explains review of Talladega finish -- Poole wins over fans as review doesn't go his way -- Chase earns 21 Means 21 Pole Award -- Frame-by-frame of finish from NXS finish -- Junior talks restrictor plate success that others seek
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland
RELATED: Buy tickets for Chicagoland Photo credit: Stewart-Haas Racing 's Twitter account, @StewartHaasRcng NEW YORK – April 26, 2016 – Nickelodeon today announced that it is the entitlement sponsor of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, Sept. 18, dubbed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway . Danica Patrick has signed on to drive a special car for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400, which will be broadcast on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET, and will feature a weekend of action, activities and fun for the entire family with the iconic Heroes in a Half Shell. NASCAR star Danica Patrick , a Roscoe, Illinois native, helped kick off the partnership in true Turtles style. She unveiled her No. 10 April O’Neil/Nature's Bakery Chevrolet SS at an event at Wrigley Square in Millennium Park with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, then took her car for a spin down Michigan Ave. She will join a number of other drivers with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles paint schemes for the Sept. 18 race. Photo courtesy of Chicagoland Speedway 's Twitter account, @ChicagoIndSpdwy This Sept. 15-18 marks the sixth consecutive year that Chicagoland Speedway will kick off the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The Nickelodeon partnership will include sponsorship of the 2017 kickoff race, as well. "We are excited to partner with Chicagoland Speedway to continue sponsoring and participating in marquee racing events that resonate with motorsports fans across the country," said Anthony DiCosmo, Senior Vice President, Sports Marketing and Development, Nickelodeon. "Just as we did with last season's SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway , the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 will continue to expand our relationship with NASCAR, while working with another best-in-class ISC track to give fans a unique and engaging race experience that the whole family can enjoy." "We are thrilled to partner with a world class brand like Nickelodeon for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 on Sept. 18," said Scott Paddock, Chicagoland Speedway President. "This is an exciting opportunity for us to partner with one of the preeminent youth focused brands on the planet to deliver an unprecedented level of family entertainment while engaging Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans of all ages." "It's great to be back in my home state of Illinois to be a part of this exciting announcement for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400," said Patrick. "The Nickelodeon-sponsored races are really cool because they truly are fun for the entire family. Nature's Bakery and Nickelodeon have put together an awesome paint scheme and I can't wait to have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and April O'Neil riding along with me in September." Patrick's unique car was designed by Chicago artist Hebru Brantley, who will also design the race trophy, additional Turtles-branded paint schemes and other visual elements. Brantley breaks down the walls of cultural boundaries through his art and inspired by his 1980s Chicago upbringing, Brantley's work touches on tough subjects in a way that may be easily digestible to the viewer, by telling his stories through youthful characters and their adventures. Brantley’s work can be described as pop infused contemporary art inspired by Japanese anime and the bold aesthetics of street art pioneers Jean Michel Basquiat, KAWS and Keith Haring. During the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 race weekend, attendees will be able to enjoy fun family activities in the Nickelodeon Kids Zone, located in Champion’s Park. The area will feature appearances from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costumed characters, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles photo station and more. Nickelodeon has a long-standing relationship with NASCAR, teaming up with the motorsports giant on several programming and racing events. On the track, the network has sponsored the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway in 2015; brought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 2014; participated in the Bank of America 500 week in 2012; and the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC in 2004. NASCAR has also contributed talent and content to Nickelodeon programming such as the Kids’ Choice Awards ( Danica Patrick , 2012 and 2013), Kids' Choice Sports Awards ( Danica Patrick , 2014, Ben Kennedy , 2015), Team Umizoomi ( Jeff Gordon , 2012), Hammer Down (2014), which aired on Nicktoon’s NickSports block, and an upcoming Bubble Guppies episode ( Jimmie Johnson , 2015). Currently in its fourth season, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is seen in over 170 countries and territories and translated in 50+ languages. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles follows four mutant turtles—Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo—trained in the art of ninjutsu by their mutant rat sensei, Master Splinter, who teaches the turtles to battle evil from the New York City sewers. Executive produced by Ciro Nieli and Brandon Auman, the series is created at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif. Additionally, this summer the Turtles will once again defend the streets of New York City in Paramount Pictures' highly anticipated theatrical movie, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, which arrives in theaters June 3."