Matt Crafton to sub for new dad Paul Menard in Friday’s Cup practice, qualifying

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Three days after the birth of his and wife Jennifer’s first child, Remi Barbara Christine Menard, Paul Menard will miss Friday’s Sprint Cup practice and qualifying at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Menard, shown in the accompanying  photo that he tweeted out after his daughter’s birth, will remain in North Carolina to be with his wife and child and then fly to California

According to SportingNews.com, reigning Camping World Trucks Series driver Matt Crafton, who had been on standby for Menard the last few races, will drive the No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet during Friday’s on-track activities.

The team also tweeted that on Menard’s Twitter account Friday.

Menard, who is 17th in the Sprint Cup standings entering this weekend, is expected to be at the track for Saturday’s practice sessions and Sunday’s 400-mile race.

No matter where Crafton qualifies Friday, Menard will still have to start at the back of Sunday’s 43-car race field, per NASCAR rules.

The sanctioning body has revised rules this season that for a driver to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, he/she must either qualify or race for every one of the first 26 regular season races.

Even though he’ll miss qualifying, Menard will still be Chase-eligible, provided he competes in all of the first 26 races.

NASCAR does not grant injury waivers to drivers for the birth of a child.

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Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).