Sonoma Raceway to honor memory of late PR chief John Cardinale

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Sonoma Raceway will honor its late public relations director, John Cardinale, during this weekend’s 25th Toyota/SaveMart 350 activities.

Cardinale passed away in March after a two-year fight with stage IV gastric cancer. He had worked at the track since 1998 and was promoted to Vice President of Media and Community Relations in 2003, a post he held until his death. He also held the dual role of Vice President of Marketing from 2007 through 2012, as well.

Cardinale will be inducted into the track’s Wall of Fame and the media center will be renamed as the “John Cardinale Media Center” in his honor this Friday. His wife Andrea and daughters Emma and Lauren will accept the honors on his behalf.

Cardinale was one of the most popular and respected PR directors in NASCAR. Among the many honors the Bay Area native received during his career included NASCAR Track PR Representative of the Year in 2009 and posthumously received the National Motorsports Press Association “Spirit Award” last month. He also was an award-winning sportswriter for 10 years before joining the track’s administrative staff.

“John was not only our dear friend and colleague, he was a major contributor to the growth and success of this organization,” Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway, said in a statement. “Although he is not with us physically, his spirit surrounds us and carries forward in everything we do. These two tributes will ensure John has a permanent presence at the raceway and provide us a daily reminder of how fortunate we were to have him in our lives.”

Among the more popular media events and promotions that were Cardinale’s brainchild was to have drivers like NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Rusty Wallace ride along with officers from the California Highway Patrol and “ticket” drivers who were obeying all traffic laws behind the wheel. Only in this case, drivers pulled over received free tickets to the race from Wallace rather than an actual citation.

Cardinale also held a number of media events that included NASCAR drivers piloting their race cars — at the posted speed limit, in case you wondered — across the world famous Golden Gate Bridge.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.