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Dale Earnhardt Jr. to add Nationwide as a primary sponsor for next three years

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We have our first answer as to what Nationwide Insurance will be doing after it ends its title sponsorship of the NASCAR Nationwide Series: it will move to being a primary sponsor for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series side.

The deal is a three-year deal, for 12 races as primary sponsor in 2015 and 13 in each of 2016 and 2017. In all three years, Nationwide will be a major associate sponsor as well.

“The Earnhardt family has trusted Nationwide for their insurance needs for more than 35 years, and Dale Jr. has a positive impact on our brand’s reputation and brings pride to Nationwide members and our associates,” Matt Jauchius, chief marketing officer for Nationwide Insurance said in a release. “Expanding that relationship to incorporate the prestigious operations at Hendrick Motorsports and collaborating with Rick Hendrick and his team is a great fit for Nationwide Insurance.”

Added team principal Rick Hendrick, “Nationwide is always top of mind when you think of companies that truly leverage the power of NASCAR. We’re proud to welcome them to the No. 88 team and grow their relationship with Dale Jr. Working together, we’ll build another program that moves the needle for their business. The opportunities are endless.”

Junior himself, on behalf of Nationwide, released this video this morning:

As for what happens to rival company Farmers’ Insurance, which sponsors Kasey Kahne, that is yet to be determined.

A statement attributed to HMS, via Sporting News’ Bob Pockrass, reads as follows: “The announcement regarding the No. 88 team does not impact our ability to continue the (Farmers) partnership beyond 2014. Our team has a terrific relationship with the people at Farmers Insurance, and we’re having positive discussions about the future.”

Which is about all you’d expect them to say at this moment.

Roush Fenway Racing, which has Nationwide on for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for selected Cup races as well, has also not made a statement regarding their partnership.

On an actual JR Motorsports-Nationwide Series note, JR Motorsports has hired 20-year-old late model racer Austin Theriault of Fort Kent, Maine, to race in three Nationwide races later this year, starting with Iowa on May 18.

Bird, Stanaway and Evans receive LMP1 rookie test invites

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 28:  English driver Sam Bird of Virgin Racing during first practice on the second day of the 2015 FIA Formula E Visa London ePrix Championship at Battersea Park Track on June 28, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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Sam Bird, Richie Stanaway and Mitch Evans have been invited to the end-of-season LMP1 rookie test in Bahrain following impressive outings in the FIA World Endurance Championship this season.

As part of the series’ drive to nurture and develop young talent, a single day of testing is scheduled at the Bahrain International Circuit one day after the 2015 WEC season ends, and will be attended by Audi, Toyota and Porsche.

In a statement issued by the WEC, it was confirmed that Bird, Stanaway and Evans had received the invites for this year’s LMP1 rookie test after “having shown the best performance, determination and race skills during 2015.

“Each of the prototype manufacturers will test with at least one LMP1 car, and each of the drivers chosen will be given the opportunity to complete at least 30 laps with one manufacturer. The LMP1 manufacturers may also use the time on track to test additional drivers if they wish.”

Bird has enjoyed a successful 2015 season, winning races in both the WEC with LMP2 team G-Drive and in Formula E with Virgin Racing. The former Mercedes junior driver will test with Toyota in Bahrain.

Stanaway has also been mixing single-seater and endurance duties this year, racing in both GP2 and the WEC with Aston Martin Racing in GTE Pro. He will step up to test with Audi.

Despite only taking part in two WEC rounds this season, Evans has made enough of an impact to grab the attention of the series promoter and earn an invite to the rookie test. The New Zealander has been Mark Webber’s protege for some time, making it somewhat unsurprising that he will now test with Porsche alongside his mentor in Bahrain.

“This first rookie test is a fantastic opportunity for these three up-and-coming endurance drivers to test an LMP1 prototype, the most technologically advanced race cars in the world,” WEC CEO Gerard Neveu said.

“We looked in depth at drivers from within the world of endurance racing before making the selection, and believe that Sam Bird, Mitch Evans and Richie Stanaway fully deserved the opportunity to demonstrate their talent and potential.

“This rookie test will give drivers an added bonus to their season, and forms an important element in the progressive career path available within the endurance family.”

The rookie test takes place on November 22, one day after the end of the WEC season.

Sainz airlifted to hospital following practice crash

xxxx during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 10, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.
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Carlos Sainz Jr. has been airlifted to hospital after a big crash during the final free practice session for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday morning.

Under braking at turn 13, Sainz lost the backend of his Toro Rosso car, causing him to hit the left-hand wall before slamming into the TecPro barrier at the end of the run-off area.

The session was immediately red flagged as medical crews tended to Sainz, taking 20 minutes to extricate him from the Toro Rosso car due to how it had pitched under the barrier.

FIA media delegate Matteo Bonciani told reporters: “The driver is conscious and is still in the process of being extricated. When we know something, we will let you know.”

After being extricated from the car, Sainz was taken away on a stretcher before being placed in an ambulance, giving a thumbs up to let fans know that he was okay. He is also reported to have been talking to doctors in the medical centre after the crash.

Sainz has now been airlifted to hospital for further checks, and is set to miss qualifying later today, with Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost telling BBC Sport: “To sit him in the car immediately seems a bit risky, but we will wait and see.”

Toro Rosso has now issued the following statement:

“Following Carlos Sainz’s accident during FP3 today in Sochi, the driver is perfectly conscious and was able to talk to the extrication team. Once out of the car he was taken to the circuit Medical Centre, where he underwent an initial assessment of his condition.

“He has now been taken by air ambulance to the Sochi Hospital 4. Investigations on the reasons for the accident will take place once the car is back in the team’s garage.

“Further information will be released by the team and the FIA to the media when it is available.”

Sainz sent out a tweet from hospital confirming that he was okay following the shunt, and is now working to get back onto the grid for tomorrow’s race.