NASCAR notes: Kligerman’s new sponsor; Blaney’s team withdraws

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Two of the drivers involved in Wednesday’s massive seven-car pileup in NASCAR practice for the Daytona 500 are headed in different directions on Thursday.

  • Swan Racing’s Parker Kligerman, whose car bore the worst brunt of the accident after careening into the catch fencing and then flipped onto its roof, is now in the team’s lone backup car. It was originally designated for teammate Cole Whitt, involved in another accident earlier in the session, before NASCAR provided updated information that the Swan team would fix Whitt’s primary car and provide Kligerman the backup.
  • So, about that new car for Kligerman? It’s got a new sponsor, too. LendingTree comes on board to support the team’s efforts as Kligerman seeks to make his first Daytona 500 start.
  • Not as fortunate is Dave Blaney, who nearly won the 2012 Daytona 500 when the race was red-flagged after Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a jet drier under caution. Blaney’s underfunded Randy Humphrey-led team did not have a backup car, and withdrew from the race on Thursday, per Sporting News’ Bob Pockrass. Blaney’s team will still get credited for a qualifying attempt.

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994