Report: National Guard’s NASCAR program barely nets any new recruits

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The National Guard’s racing sponsorships were in the news earlier this year, mainly in the Verizon IndyCar Series ranks where it transferred from Panther Racing to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

But on the NASCAR side, where more dollars are spent annually and the sponsorship is higher profile with Dale Earnhardt Jr., it hasn’t necessarily generated the best return.

In a USA Today report released Wednesday, the 2012 season saw the Guard spend $26.5 million but did not sign a single new recruit. The same report said a total of $88 million has been spent over the last three years from 2011 to 2013, but couldn’t determine a number of prospects or recruits.

While the exposure remains – the report said 90 percent who enlisted or re-enlisted from 2007 to 2013 indicated that they had been exposed to information about the service through NASCAR-related recruiting and retention materials, per a National Guard spokesman – the deliverables of new signups appear to be lacking.

It’s an interesting situation, and one too where Hendrick Motorsports is working hard to cover its bases in terms of putting together other sponsorships. Nationwide Insurance was announced last week as a new primary sponsor for at least 12 Sprint Cup races for Dale Jr. starting in 2015; Mtn Dew, Kelley Blue Book and others also enjoy a prominent role with the 88 car.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.