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.”

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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

Hunter-Reay released from hospital; not yet cleared to drive at Pocono

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Ryan Hunter-Reay has been released from a nearby hospital at Pocono Raceway after his accident in qualifying for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) but has not yet been cleared to drive. He’ll be re-evaluated by INDYCAR Sunday morning.

The full release from INDYCAR and Andretti Autosport is below:

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was evaluated at Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Saturday for injuries to his left hip and knee sustained in a crash in qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Hunter-Reay was treated and released but has not been cleared to drive, pending a re-evaluation Sunday morning.

“During qualifying today, out of nowhere, the car stepped out on me,” Hunter-Reay said. “It was a bit of a wiggle, which I caught. The second time it happened, it came with no warning – which is a bit confusing. I hit my hip pretty bad as well as my knee, so the doctors thought it would be best to go in for further evaluation. After a CT scan and MRI, I am able to go and get a good night’s sleep. I’m sure I’ll wake up sore, but will hopefully be able to get back in the DHL machine tomorrow.

“I know the entire Andretti Autosport team worked hard to get the car put back together and with 500 miles, there is still a chance to win from the back of the field. I can’t thank the Holmatro Safety Team enough for their quick response along with the medical staff at INDYCAR, Pocono and Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest. Also, thank you to the fans for reaching out with their support.”

IndyCar Paddock Pass: Pocono (VIDEO)

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NBCSN’s coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series continues this weekend with the series trip to the “Tricky Triangle” for the ABC Supply 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass also continues for another episode from the three-turn oval, Pocono Raceway, in Long Pond, Pa.

NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter and Indy Lights analyst Anders Krohn checks in for the latest edition of the show, which you can see above.

On tap in this week’s episode are interviews with Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power, and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay led first practice; however was involved in a heavy accident in qualifying later Saturday afternoon and transported to a nearby hospital.

His status is unclear for Sunday.

Newgarden leads the championship but had a tough qualifying run – he was only 14th Saturday afternoon – while Power was second among Chevrolets and starts fifth. He is the defending Pocono race winner.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


Chaves, Harding continue to shine at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – In two previous starts in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been shining stars, finishing ninth at the Indianapolis 500 and fifth at the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, avoiding several crashes and incidents in both races to do so, and advancing from 25th and 20th on the grid, respectively.

Returning to the series for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (Sunday 2:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the combination continues its remarkably strong form, qualifying eighth for Sunday’s race, third fastest of the Chevrolet runners.

And with the goal of turning the team into a full-time effort next year, Chaves and the team appear to be picking up right where they left off.

“We’re just here to improve our team, get it ready for next year,” Chaves told NBC Sports. “We’d like to go home with a great result of course, that’s always the aim. But I think the work we did throughout the practice improved the car enough to wear I was pretty comfortable at the end.”

Of course, even though the team is still very new to the world of racing (their first race was this year’s Indianapolis 500), it doesn’t stop Chaves from having lofty expectations.

“You always want to shoot for the win,” he asserted when asked about expectations for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500. “Obviously it’s never easy – with the limited time we have on track, it just makes it even harder on top of it. We’re always trying to keep our expectations high and do the best job we can to accomplish them.”

Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been very impressive out of the box. Photo: IndyCar

And perhaps Chaves is right to have big expectations given the team’s first two races. Ninth at Indianapolis and fifth at Texas are genuinely impressive results for the brand new team. And on the surface, they are a surprise, given the organization itself hadn’t run any races at any level prior to this year. But, Chaves explained that the people involved in the team are more than familiar with the sport and know how to build a successful operation.

“It’s just a matter of having the right people involved,” Chaves said of their early success. “Our team owner, Mike Harding, is very dedicated to making sure that we have the means to go out and hire the best people we can. It’s hard to do when the full-time teams have already got most of those guys, but there’s a few guys left out there who are very quality guys. Then that comes down to our team manager, Larry Curry, who has been able to track down these guys and give them a good offer to come on board with us. We’re just going to get better from here.”

Specifically, team manager Curry has been instrumental in recruiting talent and helping the team get ahead of the game, as Chaves explained.

“When it came down to our Indy deal, we started getting our car ready, and a little bit through his connections, we were able to get our mockup engine a little sooner, our body fit sooner – enough that we had the time to go out and test and do a shakedown run at Texas before Indy. It’s that type of experience and knowledge that Larry brings to the team that helps us out.”

NBCSN’s Robin Miller reported earlier this weekend in a piece for RACER.com that the team is ready for a full season in 2018, with Harding also telling the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network’s Jake Query that “100 percent number” Miller cited is closer to 95 percent.

Chaves stopped short of going that far, but feels confident that a full-season effort will come together.

“Obviously, our plans are still to go out and run the full season. I’d say every day we get closer and closer to that. I’d say it’s looking really good. I know (Robin Miller’s report) mentions 100% – I think we’re close to that. But, it’s not done until it’s done. So I’ll just keep focused on my job here this weekend.”

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

Power tops final practice at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – Team Penske’s Will Power topped final practice for tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway. Power’s best lap of 216.294 mph was turned late in the session and pipped teammate Simon Pagenaud for the top spot, making it a Team Penske 1-2 in final practice. Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan were third and fourth, the best of the Honda teams, while Helio Castroneves rebounded from his earlier qualifying crash to end the session in fifth, putting three Penske cars in the top five.

Of note: pole sitter Takuma Sato was 11th quickest and Ed Carpenter was 16th, Carpenter having missed qualifying as Ed Carpenter Racing made repairs to his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet and missed the lineup time for pre-qualifying inspection by only a few minutes.

Also: Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 DHL Honda, usually piloted by Ryan Hunter-Reay, did not venture onto the track for final practice, with Hunter-Reay currently being evaluated at a local hospital following a qualifying crash.

Times are below. Tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.