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NASCAR industry to salute U.S . military with XFINITY Series tribute
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- In a show of appreciation for the United States Armed Forces, NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers will bear the names of active military units and installations on their race car windshields during Friday's Subway Firecracker 250 Powered By Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The 82nd Airborne Division, 1st Marine Raider Battalion and the USS New York (LPD-21) are among the military units and installations from all five branches that will replace the " XFINITY " header on NASCAR XFINITY Series cars. NASCAR: An American Salute ™ ( #NASCARSalutes ) is the industry's collective expression of reverence, respect and gratitude for those who have served and continue to defend the United States today. Last month, NASCAR together with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race teams honored 40 fallen service members with 600 Miles of Remembrance, a similar tribute during Memorial Day Weekend. RELATED: See all cars in 600 Miles of Remembrance "NASCAR's long-standing tradition of honoring the U.S . Armed Forces will never waver -- it is woven into the fabric of our sport," said Brent Dewar, chief operating officer, NASCAR. "We have a unique opportunity with the NASCAR XFINITY Series to pay tribute to the military units and bases integral to preserving our country's freedom." Several NASCAR XFINITY Series teams have personal or direct connections to the units displayed on their race cars. Driver Brendan Gaughan 's windshield will read "23RD STS," representing the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron ( U.S . Air Force) from Hurlburt Field in Fort Walton, Florida. Gaughan is one of a handful of civilians recognized as an Honorary Member of the Combat Control Association. Elliott Sadler 's windshield will be adorned with Fort Campbell to honor JR Motorsports employee Lee Langley, who served for six years at the Army base as an infantry team leader in the 101st Airborne Division. Ty Dillon and Brandon Jones both work with Hope 4 Warriors and will honor 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines and 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, respectively, from Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Justin Allgaier will honor the U.S . Air Force 469th Flight Training Squadron through a personal connection, as Allgaier is friends with Major Robert Harms, one of the pilots serving in that specific unit. The squadron operates out of Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. "I always look forward to getting a chance to pay homage those who serve our country at Daytona each year," Allgaier said. "We're thankful to Comcast for providing the space on all of our cars to support these military heroes and to NASCAR for continuing their NASCAR Salutes program. This year there's a personal tie for me as I get to display the squadron of one of my friends. We love that we're able to support our military, but a sticker or event will never be enough to truly give them all the credit they deserve for what they do." The special windshield tribute is one of several military activities planned for the Independence Day Weekend races at Daytona International Speedway , culminating with Saturday's Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola (7:45 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The race track will again host and recognize three recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award given to military service members, continuing a tradition dating back several years. The Medal of Honor recipients in attendance this weekend will include Staff Sergeant Ty Carter, Command Sergeant Major Gary Littrell and Captain Florent Groberg, each representing the U.S . Army. NASCAR together with Daytona International Speedway and race teams will host hundreds of active military and veterans, and their families, during the race weekend. Among them will be the 65th Infantry Regiment of the U.S . Army, nicknamed "The Bourinqueneers," a Puerto Rican regiment that was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in April. Several active military members present for Saturday's Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola will take part in a special moment of recognition for the U.S . Armed Forces before the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Pre-race activities will also feature a flyover of four F-16s from the 93rd Fighter Squadron from Homestead Air Reserve Base during the national anthem, which will be performed by the U.S . Army Maneuver Center of Excellence Band from Fort Benning, Georgia. The national anthem will be performed as 200 military members unfurl a giant American flag in the infield. Retired U.S . Air Force Sergeant Kelly Miller will be grand marshal for Friday's Subway Firecracker 250 Powered By Coca-Cola. A Subway franchisee, Miller served as an aeromedical service specialist, responsible for the healthcare of Air Force pilots and flight crews. Retired Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Fred Gardner, also a Subway franchisee, will serve as the honorary starter. Gardner operated the Terrier missile first control system during Mediterranean tours. Additional live coverage of the Subway Firecracker 250 Powered By Coca-Cola and Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola can be found on NASCAR.com .
Brick-by -Brick: Gordon preps for Indy
NASCAR.com’s Jonathan Merryman takes a look at the hard work Jeff Gordon has done to get ready for his substitute role in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Chevrolet at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Kraft's Korner: How stars fare the second time around
RELATED: Should you start Gordon in fantasy? When Jeff Gordon gets behind the wheel of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it will mark his first start since the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which at the time was believed to be his final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. However, recent circumstances and events have changed that. With concussion-like symptoms keeping Dale Earnhardt Jr. out of the car, Gordon will return for at least the next two races at Indianapolis (July 24) and Pocono (July 31). Seeing Gordon behind the wheel of the No. 88 -- not the No. 24 he made famous -- will undoubtedly feel a bit like watching Michael Jordan sport the No. 45 jersey instead of his legendary No. 23 jersey when he initially returned to the NBA's Chicago Bulls in 1995. Gordon's final full-time season in 2015 brought about much fanfare, many gifts from tracks and an unforgettable march to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Ultimately, Gordon did not win the title but the journey was incredible -- that Martinsville victory truly something else -- and a heck of a way for the four-time champion to go out at the time. Gordon is far from the first athlete to eventually return after retiring. Here's a look at a few others and how they fared in their returns, including one whose final chapter has yet to be fully written. M ichael Jordan After leading the Bulls to a three-peat, Jordan retired before the start of the 1993-94 season and pursued a baseball career for a brief time. He would return to the Bulls in March of 1995. MJ would lead the Bulls to another three-peat, including the iconic image of nailing a game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. Jordan again retired before returning for two seasons in 2001 with the Washington Wizards and retiring for good in 2003. The stint with the Wizards serving as a forgettable blemish on a magnificent career of a player considered, if not the greatest, one of the greatest of all-time. B rett Favre Favre was an icon with the Green Bay Packers setting numerous franchise records. After retiring in March of 2008, the quarterback began to have doubts about his retirement -- wanting to return to the Packers -- and eventually was dealt to the New York Jets about a month before the 2008 season began. The stint in New York was forgettable and he once again retired in February of 2009. That lasted until August of 2009 when Favre inked a deal with the Minnesota Vikings and helped to lead the team to the NFC Championship Game. He would retire for good after an injury-plagued 2010 season. Roger Clemens Clemens retired after the 2003 season, a season in which the New York Yankees reached the World Series but lost to the Florida Marlins in six games. However, that retirement was really short lived because by January of 2004, Clemens, who lived in Texas, inked a deal with the Houston Astros. He would pitch three seasons with the Astros and was a key piece of the 2005 team that reached the World Series (and was swept by the Chicago White Sox). In '06 with the Astros and '07 with the Yankees, Clemens would join the teams in the middle of the season. Clemens also had a short stint with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League in 2012. Michael Phelps Phelps, who holds the record for most gold medals in a single Olympic Games (2008 at Beijing, eight gold medals) had earned a record 18 gold medals over four Summer Olympic Games as a member of the U.S . Olympic Swim team. After retiring following the London games of 2012, Phelps announced in 2014 he was going back into training. The decorated swimmer could add to his gold medal count some more as he has qualified for three individual events at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio that will be held in August.
Larson bounces back to win at Eldora dirt track
RELATED: Results " Standings " Updated Chase Grid ROSSBURG, Ohio -- Battling back from all kinds of adversity, Kyle Larson sailed away on a late race restart with 16 laps to go to win Wednesday night's fourth annual Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby 150 at Eldora Speedway. "It means a lot, especially losing the way I did the two years I ran," said Larson from Victory Lane. "Thanks to everyone on this GMS Racing team, DC Solar for coming on-board for this, this is very special for them. I knew running a blue No. 24 I had to run hard here at Eldora. Rico (Abreu) does a really good job in a Sprint car with that. I had to put on a show. RELATED: Larson puts on a show "We got the flat tire there early, I knew we would get a lucky dog, I just didn't know if I could get back to the top-three as quick as I did. It just worked out where I got by (Christopher) Bell when he got in the wall and I think Bobby (Pierce) had a gear issue. He was definitely better than I was for sure. The win didn't come easy though. Larson took the lead from last year's runner-up Bobby Pierce following the second caution on Lap 35 and appeared to be in control of the event, but while leading, Larson spun in Turn 4 on Lap 52 to bring out the fourth caution of the night. Adding fuel to his fire, Larson was docked one lap by NASCAR for intentionally causing the yellow after spinning and stopping on the race track. Two cautions later, however, Larson found himself back on the lead lap courtesy of the free pass and his mission to rally from the back to the front began. Chasing down Pierce for the race lead, Larson took advantage of Pierce's transmission being stuck in fourth gear to take the lead with 30 laps to go, Pierce attempted to take the lead back three laps later, but slammed the outside Turn 4 wall, ending his night and bringing out the final caution of the event. RELATED: Pierce discusses late-race woes Despite a late race charge from Bell on the restart, Larson pulled away as the laps dwindled away and earned a 0.767-second advantage to win his second NCWTS race in his 12th start. "I guess I didn't really hold him (Pierce) off, he slid in there and hit the wall and got a flat I think," Larson said. "I hated that I couldn't race with him, but I was happy when he was out. I almost gave it away again after that restart. I went to the middle of three and four in third gear and I missed a shift off Turn 4 and Bell got into my back bumper. Thankfully, he wasn't inside of me, because he would have got the lead there and probably would be standing where I am." Bell, last year's winner, was disappointed with second but knew he gained crucial points towards his championship chase. "Tony (Stewart, Eldora Speedway owner) did an awesome job with the race track tonight," said Bell. "It was really technical, it was really tough to get around and it was really fun, too. Kyle's been trying to win this race for a long time and it was cool for him to win tonight. The guys at KBM ( Kyle Busch Motorsports) worked really hard to put me in this position. I was disappointed we couldn't repeat." Pierce who led a commanding 102 laps finished 25th in likely his final truck race of the season. "The carburetor was flooded and I couldn't get off the corner at all. Larson drove a great race," Pierce said. "When that happened on the restart, I caught him a little bit, he hit the wall and I tried to slide him. I went in there a little too hard, it was super-slick and I got the wall and knocked the right-rear off the rim and that was that." Notes: The event was halted for seven minutes, 29 seconds for a nine truck accident in Turn 3 on Lap 38. ... The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to competition at Pocono Raceway on July 30 for the running of the Pocono Mountains 150 (1 p.m., FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Kyle Busch is the defending champion.
GarageCam keeps its head on a swivel in Indy
GarageCam host Matthew Dillner takes you through the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as drivers gear up for the Lily Diabetes 250 .
Stewart would consider substitute role in '17
RELATED: Pictures of 'Smoke' through the years Tony Stewart said Friday that he's completely content with Jeff Gordon 's return taking away some of the spotlight on his final scheduled start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In fact, he said if the situation arose, he'd be open to a similar substitute role for his Stewart-Haas Racing team after his full-time career ends. Stewart, 45, is set for what should be his last race on the historic 2.5-mile track in Sunday's Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The event dovetails with Gordon emerging from retirement this weekend to substitute for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms. When Stewart was asked whether he and co-owner Gene Haas had discussed a similar contingency plan after his full-time driving days end this season, the three-time NASCAR champion said he was open to the idea. "We never thought of that, but actually it's something that I've thought about since the talk came about Jeff getting back in the car," said Stewart, a two-time Indy winner in NASCAR competition. "We don't have a feeder system , we don't have an XFINITY team, we don't have anybody who's in our system to bring up if that is the case. We'll talk about it, I'm sure, at some point. I'm definitely open to this scenario if it were to happen down the road and we needed somebody. I definitely would be open to what Jeff's doing this weekend." &lt;/p&gt;
Dale Jr. tweets update: 'I sensed improvement'
RELATED: Dale Jr. injury timeline " Views of Gordon behind the No. 88 SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. took to social media Friday morning, updating his fans on his condition as he sits out his second consecutive race since being diagnosed with "concussion-like symptoms." Today is the 1st day in many that I sensed improvement. Seen small gains during my physical therapy as well. Light at the end of the tunnel. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) July 22, 2016 No determination has been made concerning Earnhardt's return to competition. At Indianapolis Motor Speedway, team owner Rick Hendrick said an appearance at the team's headquarters in Concord, North Carolina, earlier this week by his driver was a good sign. "Wednesday he came by the shop, and we got to visit," Hendrick said. "He looks good; he is encouraged. … We're really excited. He is in great spirits." Hendrick, whose HMS organization fields entries for drivers Jimmie Johnson , Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne in addition to Earnhardt Jr., said Earnhardt is eager to get back in the car, but is also following doctors' orders. "He wants to race," Hendrick said, "but he also knows the regime they have him on will get him right for a long time. He's following doctors' orders but I can tell he is getting antsy. But he is going to do what they say." Earnhardt initially visited doctors prior to this month's race at Kentucky for what he thought was a sinus infection. Eventually, however, it was determined his condition was likely the result of an impact (or impacts) in recent races. As a result, he was not cleared to return to competition. Alex Bowman , who has competed for Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports team this season in the XFINITY Series, was tabbed to fill in for the team last weekend at New Hampshire, where he finished 26th. Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon is taking over the driving duties for this weekend's Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard at IMS (3 p.m., NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). He is also scheduled to be in the car next week when the series moves to Pocono Raceway. It is the second time Earnhardt has been sidelined for a concussion or concussion-like symptoms. He sat out two races in 2012 following a hard crash during a test at Kansas Speedway. "I really enjoyed spending time with him Wednesday," Hendrick said. "He misses this. He misses his team. He went to see his team. He saw the guys and it really lifted them. "I think between Jeff agreeing to drive the car and Junior walking in the shop, the team is really excited. Jeff's situation with our company, everybody there knows him; and when some unknown person is going to get in the car, or clearly not anyone of the talent that Jeff has here at Indy, so that excited the team. But more than anything, when (Earnhardt) walked in that building it just lifted everybody up. So, we're really excited. Everybody is there for Junior and his health is number one priority. But we feel good about where we are right now." It was also announced by HMS officials earlier this week that Earnhardt had "underwent further evaluation at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program." Gordon has not competed since stepping away from driving at the conclusion of the 2015 season. He is a five-time winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at IMS, making him the winningest NASCAR wheelman at the track.
Kyle Busch tops the heap in final Indy practice
RELATED: Practice 1 results " Final practice results Kyle Busch closed out final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice atop the leaderboard Friday afternoon, recovering from a spin earlier in the day and landing the fastest speed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Busch, the defending race winner, lapped the track with a best speed of 184.619 mph in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota as teams made mock qualifying runs ahead of Saturday's time trials. It marked an improvement over his 12th-best time during Friday's opening 85-minute session at the 2.5-mile track. During that opening session, Busch's No. 18 Camry slightly touched the car of Patrick Carpentier as they raced side- by -side in Turn 2. Busch, the defending series champion, spun out without making further contact. Former Brickyard winner Kevin Harvick registered the second-fastest lap, pushing the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet to a lap of 184.268 mph. Kyle Larson , Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards completed the top five in the final practice before Sunday's Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Jeff Gordon was 25th-fastest in his second stint of practice ahead of his first Sprint Cup start of the season. The four-time series champion notched a 180.375-mph lap in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet, filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. , who is sidelined for the second straight week by concussion-like symptoms. Tony Stewart , prepping for his final scheduled Sprint Cup start at his home-state track, was 24th-fastest (180.505 mph) in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet. Coors Light Pole Qualifying is set Saturday at 1:45 p.m. ET (NBCSN). Sunday's race will be the 20th of 36 points-paying races this season. Johnson sets pace in opening Indy practice Jimmie Johnson soared to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leaderboard Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an opening practice that featured the return of Jeff Gordon to competition. Johnson pushed the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet to a best lap of 184.185 mph around the 2.5-mile track. He'll seek his fifth Indianapolis win in Sunday's Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Former Indy pole winner Denny Hamlin was second-fastest in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota at 182.563 mph, a sizable .434 seconds off Johnson's pace. Casey Mears (180.346 mph), Kevin Harvick (179.845 mph) and Ryan Newman (179.784 mph) completed the top five in the 85-minute opening session. Gordon clocked the ninth-fastest speed, landing a 179.376 mph lap in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet. He's scheduled to make his first Sprint Cup start of the season Sunday as a replacement for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms. Tony Stewart , scheduled to make his final Brickyard start in what's to be his last full-time season, was eighth-fastest at 179.655 mph in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet. The native Hoosier will be vying for his third Brickyard victory in Sunday's 400-miler. Defending Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch, also the defending race winner, was 12th-fastest but recovered from a spin at the one-hour mark of the session. Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota made a prolonged slide out of Turn 2 after making contact with the Go FAS Racing No. 32 Ford of Patrick Carpentier. Carpentier, 44, walked over to Busch's garage stall later in the session to issue an apology for crowding his pass attempt. Carpentier was 39th-fastest of the 41 drivers entered during first practice. &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
'Slide job' pledge with Stewart drains Logano's wallet
RELATED: Relive Eldora in photos Although he wasn't racing in Wednesday night's Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby, Joey Logano -- and his wallet -- got in on the Eldora Speedway fun by supporting track owner Tony Stewart and the Tony Stewart Foundation. For all @TonyStewart has done 4 our sport, I'm giving $22 to @14TSF every time you hear "Slide Job" during the race @EldoraSpeedway on @FS1 — Joey Logano (@joeylogano) July 20, 2016 And what is a slide job, exactly? Slide job: Commonly used in dirt track racing, when one vehicle takes a low line around a turn and allows their vehicle to drift or slide up in front of another vehicle taking the high line, thus completing the pass and blocking the overtaken vehicle from crossing over to try and make a pass themselves. MORE: Eldora words to know " Key NASCAR terms Drivers, FS1 announcers and more eagerly participated -- all in the name of charity, of course -- and made sure that "slide job" became the trending, most overused phrase of the evening. Thank you @FS1 for the #SlideJob count — Joey Logano (@joeylogano) July 21, 2016 The Team Penske wheelman announced the grand total Thursday afternoon with the final count coming to $4,004 after 182 mentions throughout the Eldora coverage. Time to pay up Logano.
Bobby Pierce making a name for himself at Eldora despite faltering in the end
RELATED: Results " Standings " Updated Chase Grid ROSSBURG, Ohio -- Kyle Larson had never heard of Bobby Pierce until last year's running of this event, when the dirt track standout earned the pole, led 39 laps and finished second. After Wednesday night's Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway, won by Larson, there's a good chance the Sprint Cup Series driver -- and NASCAR fans in general -- won't be forgetting his name any time soon. Pierce, in just his seventh career truck start, stomped the field to a tune of 102 of 150 laps led, sometimes approaching a full 5-second lead on the half-mile short track. But the 19-year-old had his shifter stuck in fourth gear and was unable to get it unstuck before an impending restart with less than 30 laps to go. The issue relegated him to a disappointing 25th-place finish after wrecking and slowly landing against the inside wall. "Kind of what bit me there was I couldn't get it out of fourth gear on the caution, so I was riding around there just beating it, just trying to get it out," Pierce told NASCAR.com after he was cleared and released from the infield care center. "I was restarting in second or third and I'm sure that's what Larson was doing, too, but on the restart I just couldn't get going. "I got to second (place) and I caught him there and just kind of drove it in a little too hard. Kinda hit the baby powder or whatever it was. The baby powder made it a little slick getting in, and that was all she wrote. Hit the wall, knocked the right rear off the rim." Pierce was unable to get his truck moving after hitting the wall and, despite his pleas to get pushed back on the track, was required to exit his vehicle and make a trip to the care center even though he "only hit the wall going about 1 mile per hour." Even if he'd been able to get it going again, it was unlikely that his team could've fixed the shifter, patched up any body damage and gotten him back out on the track in time to compete for the win. That's just how racing goes, sometimes. "Heck, it's always gotta be something. If you're going to win the race, you've gotta have luck and be good at the same time," said Pierce, whose best CWTS finish of the season came at Kansas (23rd). "Larson had a flat there early on and he charged back through there, but unfortunately our deal was later on so we couldn't come in and get it fixed. Even if it did, I don't think they could've gotten the tranny fixed getting it out of fourth because I tried every single trick in the book to get it out and it just would not go." Pierce said he's planning on running the event again next year, and likely has to be the odds-on favorite at this point, whether or not Larson aims to repeat his win. While no more national series events are on his schedule for the season, Pierce isn't ruling them out for the future. "Heck, the two years I've done (Eldora) have been really good so far," Pierce said. "(MB Motorsports team owner) Mike Mittler has treated me really well so far; planning on doing it again next year. As far as asphalt goes, just gotta find sponsorship if I'm going to do it. "(I'm pursuing more races) a little. Our dirt late model year and the previous years have been so good that even if I don't get sponsorship to try it a couple more times or whatever, then I'll be all right. It's good to run these deals. It's good to run pavement, too, because it makes you a better driver, going back to the late model and trying to pick up sponsorship." People noticed. Some of whom are undoubtedly sponsors. Feel free to do a quick Twitter search. Race fans knew Bobby Pierce was there, and race fans know Bobby Pierce is a driver to watch after these thrilling performances. "Well, hey. If I can't win," he said. "At least I put on a good show, I guess."