What do Elliott Sadler, Sarah Palin and a bunch of racing reverends have in common?

Leave a comment

What do Elliott Sadler, Sarah Palin (who’s billed as “The First Lady of the Outdoors”) and a bunch of pastors who race cars against each other all have in common?

If you watched Thursday’s edition of “Amazing America” on The Sportsman’s Channel, you’d have found out.

While Palin hosted the show, she didn’t tag along when Sadler and a bunch of his buddies decided to go deer hunting recently near Sadler’s family’s farm in Emporia, Va.

The hunting party was a bit larger than normal – 40 dogs (“These are my kids,” Sadler said), primarily beagles and Labrador retrievers, and 25 hunters.

Oh, and let’s not forget that each of the dogs and probably at least a few of the hunters were all equipped with GPS collars to keep track of them.

And let’s not forget two-way radios and pickup trucks. “Two trucks for every person,” Sadler joked.

Sadler obviously takes his hunting seriously, telling Amazing America field host Bennie Spies – yes, that’s his real name – “Guns always in hand.”

“(I’ve been hunting) since I’ve been six years old,” Sadler said. “My dad hunted with his dad, I hunted with my dad and one day my son will hunt with me.”

Sadler went chasing after deer in his pickup truck, driving down old muddy dirt roads, kind of like the racetracks he grew up racing on in Virginia and North Carolina. When Spies asked how fast he was flying/driving down the dirt road, Sadler said, “I don’t ever look down.”

Admittedly, if you haven’t watched The Sportsman’s Channel before, it takes a little getting used to. Most of the commercials are about guns or ammunition (like Federal Premium Ammunition), crossbows, trucks, fishing lures (from Rocky Brook Sinkers) and even the National Rifle Association, which is a big supporter of the network.

Much like when Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s vault, Sadler’s day-long deer hunt ultimately proved to be a bust.

With more than two dozen humans and three dozen dogs, they were only able to snuff out one deer.

Who got away, by the way.

Score: Deer 1, Sadler and Co. 0.

“Long day, man, disappointing day,” Sadler told Spies. “You put too much pressure on me. We hunted hard, we tried. We put some miles on today.”

While Sadler’s segment ended at that point, Palin went on to introduce a group of pastors from around Greenbrier, Tenn., about 25 miles north of Nashville.

While these pastors pack a punch in the pulpit on Sundays, they also like to trade paint, with a group of 16 that go racing on a regular basis at Highland Rim Speedway.

The Speedway had fallen into disfavor and disrepair before track owner Roger Cunningham invested time, money and faith to improve the short track.

And to promote family values and bring families together, I might add.

“We went to the churches to get the family atmosphere back to the track,” track owner Roger Cunningham told Amazing America field host Mark Christopher Lawrence. “It’s just been a huge success.”

The racing reverends call themselves the Faster Pastors – and they take their racing as seriously behind the wheel as they do their preaching atop the altar.

When Lawrence asked several of the pastors if they partake in “friendly competition,” the response was an adamant one-word reply: “No.”

At which time, Palin popped back on screen and said (I kid you not): “Praise the Lord and pass the popcorn, it’s time to burn rubber.”

Lawrence watched as the flying friars – most in beat-up Dodge Neons – put the pedal to the metal. All that was missing was a passing of the collection plate.

As he watched the event unfold, Lawrence had a great line: “Pastor in the wall already – two of ’em.”

In the closing laps, one fired up pastor decided to take his aggression out on another one who cut him off by sideswiping his opponent.

“That ain’t very Christian,” Lawrence deadpanned.

After the checkered flag fell, Lawrence told race winner Rev. Jason Pennington, “You had the Lord on your side.”

Amen to that.

Or as Palin said afterward, “That’s Amazing America!”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Click here to check out the “bonus teaser” of the Faster Pastors.

Toro Rosso extends contract for technical director James Key

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Scuderia Toro Rosso technical director James Key will continue with the team for the foreseeable future, following a contract extension announced on Tuesday.

Key joined the team in 2012 and has seen the Faenza-based squad solidify its role in the upper midfield, with occasional surprise finishes that have pushed the team near the top three or four teams on the grid.

“I am delighted to continue with Toro Rosso and remain part of the Red Bull family,” he said. “This is a team which I have great respect for and have thoroughly enjoyed working with for the past 5 years; now I look forwards to continuing our project into the future.

“STR is unique, facing the challenges of being spread over two countries and fulfilling the roles of both a team in its own right and an important part of the Red Bull driver program: they are challenges that the team takes in its stride and, whilst doing so, continues to grow and improve year on year.

“Most importantly, the people I have had the pleasure to work with at STR are second to none: professional, ambitious and focussed, they have all worked incredibly hard to improve the team’s performance and will continue that hard work with the same dedication and optimism in the coming years too. I would like to thank Franz Tost and Red Bull for their continued support and confidence. We have more work to do, and I look forwards to taking the next steps with Toro Rosso towards our goals.”

Team principal Franz Tost added, Formula 1 is a team sport, but one in which an individual can still make a difference. So far, in his time with us, James has proved that he can indeed make that difference, leading the technical side of the operation.

“Not only has he been adept at producing chassis-aero packages that are well regarded throughout the paddock, he has also shown the management skills necessary to get the most out of all the various departments that work together both here in Faenza and in Bicester. I am therefore delighted that James will be with us for the foreseeable future to continue this fruitful process.”

Teams load up on supersoft tires for Italian GP

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There’s almost no variety in team Pirelli tire selections for the Italian Grand Prix, with nearly all teams going with two sets of softs and 10 sets of supersofts for next week’s race. All teams have selected just one set of mediums.

The only variance comes with Mercedes, Force India and Haas going with three sets of softs and nine supersofts. The rest are all the same choice, two softs and 10 supersofts.

Monza comes a week after Spa this week.

Pirelli’s tire breakdown is below.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee to serve as Gateway grand marshal

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to Gateway Motorsports Park for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline will feature quite an excellent grand marshal, in the form of three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

The full release from the track is below.

An Olympic champion has been selected to give the command to start engines for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline comes to Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois on August 26. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time, will serve as the grand marshal for the Verizon IndyCar Series event.

“I am humble,” said Joyner-Kersee, who is a native of East St. Louis, Illinois. “I do not take this honor for granted to be the INDYCAR race’s grand marshal at Gateway Motorsports Park. Very few people are asked to give the command and I am grateful to be one of the few. Thank you!”

Track-and-field star Joyner-Kersee has won three Olympic gold medals, as well as one silver and two bronze. She was the first American to win gold for the long jump and the first woman to earn more than 7,000 points in the seven-event heptathlon, making her the most decorated female athlete in Olympic track and field history.

As a teen, she won the National Junior Pentathlon championships for consecutive years and received widespread honors in high school in various sports, including track, basketball and volleyball. During her junior year, she set the Illinois high school long jump record for women, with a 6.68-meter jump. Joyner-Kersee attended the University of California, Los Angeles on a full scholarship and continued to gain fame on both the court and field. In 1981, at the age of 19, she began to focus on training for the Olympics, specifically for the heptathlon — an Olympic track-and-field competition comprised of seven separate events, including the 200-meter run, 800-meter run and 100-meter hurdles. She graduated from UCLA in 1985.

Joyner-Kersee won a silver medal in the heptathlon at the 1984 Summer Olympics, as well as gold and bronze medals in the long jump in 1988 and 1992, respectively, and is currently the heptathlon world record-holder.
Following her retirement from competition, she founded the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Youth Center Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to instill youth in the a Greater East St. Louis area with the dream, drive and determination necessary to succeed in academics, athletics and leadership. “Winners In Life.”

Chuck Wallis, Vice President of the Bommarito Automotive Group, will serve as honorary starter and will wave the opening green flag.

Kimi Raikkonen confirmed at Ferrari for 2018 F1 season

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Scuderia Ferrari has confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen will remain with the team for the 2018 Formula 1 season after being given a new one-year contract.

Raikkonen, 37, has raced with Ferrari since 2014, and has been on a one-year rolling contract since the end of 2015.

The Finn has been a regular focus for the F1 driver market’s ‘silly season’ given his age and struggle for form compared to teammate Sebastian Vettel, who currently leads the drivers’ championship.

Raikkonen has scored 86 less points than Vettel through the opening 11 races of the 2017 season, but has nevertheless done enough to secure a new contract, confirmed by Ferrari on Tuesday.

“Ferrari announces that Scuderia Ferrari has renewed its technical and racing agreement with Kimi Raikkonen,” a brief statement from Ferrari reads.

“The Finnish driver will therefore race for the Maranello team in the 2018 Formula One World Championship.”

Raikkonen is the first of the big-name free agents to have his plans for 2018 confirmed, with Vettel, ex-Ferrari racer Fernando Alonso and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas yet to announce a drive for next year.

Raikkonen first joined Ferrari in 2007, winning the F1 drivers’ championship in his first season, but left at the end of 2009 to take some time out from the sport.

A return in 2012 with Lotus saw Raikkonen display plenty of his old spark, taking two wins for the financially-hamstrung team before leaving at the end of 2013 over a pay row.

Raikkonen moved back to Ferrari for 2014 alongside Fernando Alonso, with Vettel arriving the following year.

Questions over Raikkonen’s motivation and ability have been rife for some time, but without any outstanding candidates for a seat available as things stand, the news is not overly surprising.

Nevertheless, it does defuse some of the silliness of ‘silly season’, with Vettel’s confirmation at Ferrari seemingly set to follow.