Fan voting for Sprint All-Star Race begins Sunday

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While this will be a very crucial year politically at the ballot box for both Democrats and Republicans, there’s another party that will be courting your vote over the next two months.

Call it the NASCAR Sprint party, as Sunday marks the opening of two months of voting for your favorite driver to compete in the Sprint All-Star Race on May 17 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Balloting for the Sprint Fan Vote opens at 8 a.m. ET Sunday and closes at 7 pm ET on Friday, May 16, one day before the green flag drops on the sport’s biggest non-points paying event.

There’s obviously a lot at stake for the drivers, with a $1 million prize to whoever survives the multiple segments and wins the All-Star event.

But this year there will also be a lot at stake – as well as a great deal of incentive – for fans that will be voting.

For the first time in the history of the Fan Vote, a sweepstakes will be held that will award one lucky voter a trip for two to any 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race of his or her choice, as well as other prizes.

Voting is not a one-and-done proposition. Fans can vote as often as they want to determine the starting lineup for the All-Star race.

Fans can cast their votes in three different ways:

1 Download the NASCAR Mobile application to your cell phone. Votes cast that way will count as double towards a driver’s total.

2 Vote online at NASCAR.com/SprintFanVote.

3 Visit and vote in person at The Sprint Experience, located in the midway of all NASCAR Sprint Cup events.

Danica Patrick won last year’s Sprint Fan Vote with nearly a half-million ballots cast in her favor.

The winning Sprint Fan Vote driver will be revealed after the Sprint Showdown on May 16. The winner must complete the Showdown to be eligible for the next day’s main event, the Sprint All-Star Race.

To be eligible for the Fan Vote, drivers must have attempted to qualify for last month’s Daytona 500 as well as race in the Sprint Showdown.

Drivers who win a Sprint Cup race this season automatically earn a berth in the All-Star race. As a result, Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick and Las Vegas winner Brad Keselowski are already in the All-Star race field.

Check out the video below that features Sprint Cup drivers AJ Allmendinger, rookies Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. campaigning for your vote (and, in a good way, imploring you not to vote for Patrick).

Or, in Allmendinger’s case, he’s begging for your vote.

“If you get tired of voting for Danica, you can cast your Sprint Fan vote for me for the All-Star race,” Allmendinger says in the promotional video below. “I’m charming, I’m funny, handsome. I know Danica’s everybody’s favorite, but I need some votes, too. So vote for me, please. I’m begging you.”

Also providing their endorsements are celebrities Motley Crue lead singer Vince Neil (for Stenhouse), comedian Carrot Top (for Danica) and Swan Racing part-owner and rapper 50 Cent (who else but his driver, Parker Kligerman).

Austin Dillon also promises that if fans vote him in and he wins the All-Star race, he’ll donate the entire $1 million prize to the Armed Forces Foundation.

As they say in Chicago, “Vote early and vote often.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

The 30 drivers (as of March 15) eligible for the Sprint Fan Vote are:

Justin Allgaier

A.J. Allmendinger

Aric Almirola

Marcos Ambrose

Michael Annett

Trevor Bayne

Dave Blaney

Alex Bowman

Clint Bowyer

Landon Cassill

Austin Dillon

David Gilliland

Parker Kligerman

Kyle Larson

Bobby Labonte

Terry Labonte

Eric McClure

Michael McDowell

Casey Mears

Paul Menard

Joe Nemechek

Danica Patrick

Brian Scott

Morgan Shepherd

Reed Sorenson

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Ryan Truex

Michael Waltrip

Cole Whitt

Josh Wise

Plans for Alonso sports car debut in Rolex 24 gathering speed

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Plans for McLaren Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso to appear in next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona are gathering speed as the two-time World Champion angles for a drive at Le Mans in 2018.

Alonso announced on Thursday he had signed a new, multi-year deal to remain with McLaren in F1, but has left the door open to continue his pursuit of the Triple Crown of Motorsport and become just the second driver in history to complete it.

Alonso has won the Monaco Grand Prix twice and made his Indianapolis 500 debut this year, retiring with an engine issue, and has made no secret of his ambition to race at Le Mans one day.

With no date clashes, the possibility exists for Alonso to race at Le Mans in 2018, potentially with Toyota in the LMP1 class following McLaren’s split with Honda.

However, Alonso could make his 24-hour race debut five months earlier, with reports emerging on Thursday that he could be in line to appear in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

First reported by Sportscar365, Alonso could be set to race for McLaren executive director Zak Brown’s team, United Autosports, at Daytona in January, with no clashes existing with his F1 commitments.

Alonso remained coy when asked about the chances of him appearing at Daytona, but admitted additional preparation for a possible Le Mans appearance would be of interest.

“For the Indy 500 it was a nice experience, I felt very competitive but it was a big challenge that I took from zero, from no testing, not any similar race before it,” Alonso said, as quoted by Reuters.

“If I want to prepare Le Mans, maybe there are other possibilities to prepare Le Mans a little bit better than I prepared the Indy 500.”

He added more about his other race program in Thursday’s pre-race Paddock Pass episode, speaking to NBCSN. “To be the best driver in the world you have to win in different series at different times. It’s possible I can compete in different races next year,” he said.

Brown said he would be happy to field Alonso at Daytona, and confirmed their pair had already loosely discussed it.

“If Fernando wants to do Daytona and we have a seat available, we would put his name on it happily,” Brown said.

“We’ve started joking around about it, and we saw where jokes got us last time,” he added, referencing the eventual entry to the Indy 500.

United Autosports will field two JS P217 cars at Daytona in January, and has already confirmed ex-F1 racer Paul di Resta, McLaren junior Lando Norris, American endurance racer Will Owen and Danish youngster Philip Hanson in seats.

McLaren reserve and 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button had been linked with a drive for United Autosports at Daytona, but Brown confirmed to Sportscar365 this was no longer an option.

“Jenson won’t be driving for us. I don’t know what he’s going to be doing,” Brown said.

“I thought he was going to be in the Penske car. Not sure what happened there.”