Elliott Sadler, left, and Bennie Spies embark on their deer hunting escapade from Thursday's "Amazing America" on The Sportsman's Channel. (Photo courtesy of The Sportsman's Channel)

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

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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.

Conor Daly’s IndyCar gets painted

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Conor Daly
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Conor Daly will compete full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year in a ride for Dale Coyne Racing.

Daly will make laps in the No. 18 Honda sponsored by Jonathan Byrd’s. The 24-year-old driver tweeted out a picture today of his race car getting painted for the season, which starts on March 13.

Daly has six IndyCar races under his belt so far.

USF2000 reintroduces National Class for 2016

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The National Class is officially back in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series for 2016.

Yes, when Eric Filgueiras and Spencer Racing announced they’d be in the National Class, that kind of gave it away that the class would be back without it being formally introduced.

Luckily though, the series has released the news today. A formal release is below:

Drivers seeking to make their way onto the Mazda Road to Indy now have an alternate, lower-cost route onto the first rung, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, with today’s confirmation that the National Class will be returning in 2016.

The Mazda Road to Indy is unique in the world of auto racing, offering a scholarship-funded path all the way from karting via USF2000, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

Eligible to drivers at least 20 years of age before or during the 2016 season, the National Class will be open to all Sports Car Club of America-legal FC (Formula Continental) cars, from any chassis manufacturer, dating back to 2000. Any aerodynamic devices approved by the SCCA are permitted, although in the interests of safety all cars must be fitted with a nosebox crash structure, wheel tethers, Staubli devices, approved head surrounds and seats and yellow light system as required by all other current USF2000 cars.

Cars will be permitted to run either the same 2.0-liter Mazda MZR engine per the USF2000 Championship Class regulations or sealed 2.0-liter Ford Zetec motors as prepared by Elite Engines or Quicksilver RacEngines with National Class mapping. Any SCCA-legal 6″ and 8″ wheels may be used, although all cars must run on Cooper tires.

Entry fees will be discounted 50 percent below the Championship Class rate, and each race winner will earn a free entry for an upcoming event in the same season. The second-place finisher will claim a 50 percent reduction in the entry fee for an upcoming race. In addition, race winners equipped with the MZR engine will take home a $1,000 award from Mazda.

As an added benefit and based on a minimum average car count of five entries per race weekend, the 2016 National Class champion will receive an “entry ticket” to the Mazda Road to Indy $200K Scholarship Shootout in the fall of this year where champions of select junior level-open wheel and karting series from around the world will compete for a Mazda scholarship to enter the USF2000 Championship Class in 2017.

The point system will be the same used by the Masters Class (formerly Expert Class) in the Pro Mazda championship.

“We are excited to bring back the National Class and allow drivers to sample the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “RC Enerson began his path on the ladder system in the National Class. It’s a great first step onto the platform for many drivers, and we are excited to offer this year’s champion an entry into the Shootout as well as a full-season entry package to USF2000 in 2017 in either the Championship or National Class.”

The Mazda Road to Indy will head to Barber Motorsport Park for Spring Training on March 5 (Indy Lights) and 6/7 (USF2000/Pro Mazda). The 2016 season will kick off on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 11-13 in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Report: Scott Tucker arrested by FBI in payday lending scheme

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 30:  The #95 Level 5 Motorsports BMW Riley driven by Scott Tucker, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Richard Westbrook and Raphael Matos during The Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 30, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
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For four years from 2010 to 2013, Scott Tucker and Level 5 Motorsports were American Le Mans Series regulars, first in the Prototype Challenge class and then the LMP2 class. They won, a lot, and were a regular championship-contending effort, plus those who worked for the team had nothing but positive things to say about the operation that was run.

That said, the funding of the team was always perpetually questioned, as Tucker was always allegedly involved within the payday lending business, and had reportedly abusive practices towards customers.

This has been something of a bubbling story for five years but per Reuters, on Wednesday, Tucker and one of his lawyers were arrested by the FBI for their alleged exploitation.

Per Reuters, an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court outlined millions that went to Tucker, who then used it for various luxury items. Allegedly, more than $67 million went to the Level 5 Motorsports race team.

Level 5’s last IMSA series start came under the unified TUDOR United SportsCar Championship umbrella in January 2014, when the team won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the GT Daytona class. The team withdrew from the championship following that race.

Social Roundup: IndyCar tests at Sonoma, Fontana

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There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?

The engines of the Verizon IndyCar Series have roared back to life this week, a month before the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

After a test at Phoenix International Raceway two days ago, two more tests are occurring today in California, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana and at Sonoma Raceway.

At Auto Cub Speedway is Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz and James Hinchcliffe.

In Sonoma is the entirety of the Chip Ganassi Racing team and Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud from Team Penske.

Here’s a look at how the day is progressing at each test through social media. We’ll update throughout the day. If you’re attending either test, tweet us pictures at @MotorSportsTalk or @danielmcfadin of how you’re taking in the beginning of the 2016 season.

Sonoma Raceway

Auto Club Speedway