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.

Butterball, Andretti Autosport extension is all gravy

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Ryan Hunter-Reay, driver of the #28 Andretti Autosport Honda Dallara, practices during Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Andretti Autosport and Butterball, a U.S.-based provider of turkey and poultry products, announced a new expansion of their partnership. The newly revamped agreement will see Butterball branding on all four Andretti Autosport entries in 2017.

“Butterball has been a great partner since 2014 and I’m really excited to have them on board again this year,” said Ryan Hunter-Reay. “They were with me when I won the Indianapolis 500 which was a really special moment for everyone involved. Hopefully we can bring them back into victory lane this year, not only at Indy, but throughout the season as well.”

The machines of Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi, and Takuma Sato will feature branding just below the front suspension components. Per the announcement, the placement has created a new nickname for the assembly: “the Butterball Wishbone.”

“Butterball is extremely excited about our sponsorship with Andretti Autosport in 2017,” said Butterball CEO and President Kerry Doughty. “With the addition of the new Butterball Wishbone Sponsorship on all Andretti Autosport Indy cars for the 2017 season, we are expanding the tremendously successful relationship that began with Michael and Ryan in 2014 when we won the Indianapolis 500 in our first season.”

Butterball’s tenure with Andretti Autosport dates back to May 2014, shortly before Ryan Hunter-Reay claimed victory at the Indianapolis 500. Branding has been featured on Hunter-Reay No. 28 entry ever since.

Newgarden completes busy day in Detroit

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Josef Newgarden’s media prowess and charisma was again in full display on Thursday during a series promotional efforts for June’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.

Specifically, Newgarden was in town for Detroit Grand Prix night at that night’s Pistons-Hornets NBA game.

The day began with Newgarden visiting a handful of Detroit news media outlets, where his most notable venture involved duking it out with Pistons mascot Hooper.

The day continued with Newgarden exploring more of the city, and getting in touch with its rock ‘n roll history.

That, Newgarden ventured to The Palace of Auburn Hills to the big promotional event of day, Detroit Grand Prix night. There, Newgarden was greeted with his own Detroit Pistons jersey and even tried a couple of half-court shots at halftime. However, he did not make any, making it less likely he’ll pursue a basketball career when he decides to hang up his helmet.

For an additional recap Detroit Grand Prix night, visit The Chevrolet’s Detroit Grand Prix twitter @detroitgp.

Entry lists revealed for MRTI Spring Training in Miami

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Kyle Kaiser in Miami, 2015. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The first real good, if not final, looks at the season to come in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires come with next week’s Spring Training, which sees four total days of action at the Homestead-Miami Speedway for all three rungs of the ladder.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will run February 27 on Homestead-Miami’s 1.5-mile oval and March 2 on the 2.21-mile road course. Meanwhile the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series will run solely on the road course over two back-to-back days, February 28 and March 1.

Indy Lights’ field seems closest to being finalized from this group, while Pro Mazda and USF2000 still have some gaps to fill.

In one other bit, Mazda will announce the teams of competition for its Soul Red-liveried drivers this year, all of whom won Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarships for their next step up this year. That’s why Aaron Telitz (Indy Lights), Anthony Martin (Pro Mazda) and Oliver Askew (USF2000) teams are listed as TBAs.

Anyway, quick notes:

Indy Lights (14 cars

All drivers on the Indy Lights entry list have been officially announced, and as noted, Telitz’s team is the only significant TBA of note. Car numbers are revealed for Zachary Claman De Melo and Matheus Leist at Carlin of 13 and 26 respectively, with the known in advance.

In terms of team breakdown, it’s four each at Carlin and Andretti Autosport (with Colton Herta’s No. 98 car an Andretti Steinbrenner Racing entry), Juncos Racing and Belardi Auto Racing each with two official cars and Team Pelfrey the lone one-car entry.

Of the 14 drivers, the field is split exactly in half between seven veterans and seven rookies.

Questions from here are whether one or two more cars not at this test will join the grid at St. Petersburg and push the number back up. Since the debut of the Dallara IL-15 Mazda in 2015, the St. Pete weekend has had 13 cars in 2015 and 16 cars last year, with this one falling in the middle.

Pro Mazda (6 cars)

In what’s very much a survive-and-advance season for Pro Mazda in the final year with its existing car, a small batch of cars come from Team Pelfrey, World Speed Motorsports and the team TBA for Anthony Martin for this test.

Within a 20-to-30-plus, multiple-class series of racing, six cars for one class wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. But six on their own for an independent series is certainly an issue. The number simply has to grow by St. Petersburg to at least eight at a bare minimum, the low-water mark last year, with 10 a significant step forward at this rate (the series had 12 cars at St. Petersburg last year).

USF2000 (22 cars)

Quite by contrast, the new Tatuus USF-17 premieres in USF2000 with 22 cars at this test and the potential of more cars by St. Petersburg (the series had 26 starters last year with two additional withdrawals).

Six returning drivers join 12 rookies and four TBAs on this list, all split among 10 teams. Dutch driver Rinus VeeKay, initially announced as driving for Benik in 2017, is listed in a third Newman Wachs Racing entry for this test.

Juan Pablo Montoya samples Risi Ferrari in Sebring IMSA test

during practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 10, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.
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One of the best drivers of his generation, Juan Pablo Montoya’s recent run of sampling a diverse amount of machinery continues with his testing debut in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE at this week’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship test at Sebring International Raceway.

Initially reported by Sportscar365, Montoya received the guest drive opportunity from an old colleague of his when he raced F3000. Team manager Dave “Beaky” Sims planned to put Montoya in for a few laps this afternoon to give him his first proper running in a GTE-spec car.

Montoya, a race winner in Formula 1, IndyCar and NASCAR, two-time Indianapolis 500 champion and past CART and F3000 champion prior to that, got into the low 2:00 range in his handful of laps before turning the car back to Toni Vilander, who will share the car for the March 18 race with Giancarlo Fisichella and James Calado. Times are unofficial because this is a series test.

Montoya’s race plans this year are thus far limited to the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in a fifth Team Penske IndyCar. He won the individual portion of the Race of Champions in Miami last month. He’s been linked to the rumored (by RACER.com and others), if not yet official, Penske Daytona Prototype international (DPi) effort.

A couple social posts from the Colombian’s run are below, including from Vilander, IMSA Radio pit reporter Shea Adam and IMSA timing & scoring provider Al Kamel Systems. More info from this week’s test will follow soon.

@Regrann from @imsa_racing – Juan Pablo Montoya turns a few laps in @risicomp's 488. – #regrann

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