Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus meet The Great Gonzo (PHOTO)

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As we wrote earlier this week, the Muppets’ resident daredevil – The Great Gonzo – is at Auto Club Speedway to take on Grand Marshal duties for today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

We figure that’s the best explanation behind the track claiming its first NASCAR sellout since the 2003 season. Okay, there is the matter of the track reducing its grandstand capacity to 68,000 but that’s not nearly as fun of an explanation.

In any case, America’s favorite “Whatever” is already making the rounds at Fontana before today’s fifth race of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship.

In fact, he’s already spent time with the defending Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson, and his Hendrick Motorsports crew chief, Chad Knaus – who couldn’t resist giving Gonzo the ol’ “rabbit ears” in a photo.

Knaus is known as one of the most intense personalities in the Cup garage, so it’s good to see him cutting up a bit. With Gonzo around, it’s hard for anyone not to be at least a little goofy.

As Jerry Bonkowski wrote yesterday, Gonzo is set to make his entrance today at Fontana by getting shot out of a cannon and will then give the command to start engines.

Supercross: Haiden Deegan debuts in 250s at Houston, Justin Cooper graduates to 450 class for Star Yamaha

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Rising star Haiden Deegan will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut in Houston, Texas with Yamaha Star Racing while the 2021 250 West champion Justin Cooper graduates to 450s.

Deegan, the son of motocross and off-road legend Brian Deegan and brother of NASCAR Truck Series driver Hailie Deegan, made two starts in the Pro Motocross outdoors season last year. He finished 31st overall at the Ironman Nationals in Crawfordsville, Indiana and was 13th at Fox Raceway in the season-ender at Fox Raceway in Pala, California, but the overall results did not necessarily reflect how well he ran. In both events, he challenged for top-10s during portions of the week and actually finished 10th in one of the Pala motos.

Last week, Haiden finished fifth in the Supercross 250 Futures in Anaheim 2.

“We’re really excited to get the season on the East Coast started,” said Monster Energy Team Manager Jensen Hendler in a press release. “It’s also exciting to have Haiden move up to join our pro program this season and to have Justin make his debut on the 450. The guys have been working hard and are looking forward to seeing what they can do this weekend in Houston.”

After scoring a 250SX Futures podium, Talon Hawkins gets 250 East ride.

Deegan will join Nate Thrasher and Jordon Smith in the 250 East division this week.

Cooper moves into the 450 class this weekend. According to Supercross rules, after winning the 2021 championship, he had one season to defend his title and then would be required to move up a class. Cooper missed all of last year to injury.

Cooper was healthy when the outdoor season started and he earned five podiums and nine top-fives in 12 rounds. Three of these races ended in runners-up finishes, at Hangtown, in Rancho Cordova, California, Washougal, Washington and Unadilla, New York.

Cooper joins Eli Tomac and Dylan Ferrandis in the 450 class and will race select events.

Justin Cooper learned to temper aggression with speed

Cooper’s Houston attempt will be the first of an undisclosed number of races he will compete in during the 2023 season.

“It’s been about two years since I’ve lined up for a supercross, and now it’s in a new class with the best guys, so I’m excited to just get out there,” Cooper said. “I’m looking to get back under the lights and learn what I can. Overall, I’m just really excited to be in the position to be out there, so I’m going to make the most of it and enjoy it!”

Deegan and Cooper will be part of a seven-rider Supercross lineup for Yamaha Star Racing. Nick Romano will debut in the 250 East division later this year.