If you’ll be in Charlotte for Sprint All-Star Race or Coke 600, hang out with some of NASCAR’s biggest stars

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One of the best parts of having the Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 on back-to-back weekends in the Charlotte area are the numerous opportunities for interaction between NASCAR drivers and their fans.

If you’re going to be in the area during that time, you owe it to yourself to check out some of the appearances, many of which are free to attend.

Courtesy of our good friends at Jayski.com, here’s a partial list of which drivers will be doing what and where they’ll be doing it (all times Eastern):

May 15, 3 to 6 pm: Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson, LiftMaster Community Day at Chip Ganassi Racing, 8500 Westmoreland Drive, Concord, N.C.

May 16, 2 pm: Marvin Panch at Scott’s Collectibles, 934 Cloverleaf Plaza, Kannapolis, N.C.

May 16, 4 pm: Autograph session, featuring Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, David Ragan, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr. and Brian Vickers. Located at Sprint Experience at Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS). Fans must acquire a wristband by participating in an activity at The Sprint Experience between noon and 3:00 PM on May 16. Wristbands will be limited to 100 per driver pairing.

May 17, Sprint Experience at CMS: Renowned NASCAR artist Sam Bass (1 pm), Jamie McMurray (3:45), David Ragan (4:15), Kyle Busch (4:45).

May 17, 3:40 pm: Ryan Newman at RCR merchandise hauler at CMS.

May 17, time TBA: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kevin Harvick to appear at Hunt Brothers Pizza Party at CMS. To attend, fans must purchase a Hunt Brothers Pizza Party Pass. For more information, see charlottemotorspeedway.com/huntbrothers/.

May 18, all day: Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker, Rex White, Ned Jarrett, Marvin Panch, Neil Castles, Geoff Bodine to appear at Memory Lane Museum, 769 River Hwy Mooresville NC. Admission (includes access to museum) $10.00 for adults, $6.00 for kids 6-12 years old.

May 19, time TBA: Alex Bowman, Ryan Truex, Matt Crafton, Darrell Wallace, Jr., Tyler Young, Ryan Preece, Corey Lajoie, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Daniel Suarez and Mackena Bell will appear at GoPro Motorplex, 130 Motorplex Drive, Mooresville, N.C., as part of the First Annual Veteran Kart Challenge to Benefit Service Disabled Veterans. For more info, visit gopromotorplex.com

May 20, time TBA: Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Michael McDowell, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Truex, Ross Chastain, Ryan Blaney, Darrell Wallace, Jr., Drew Herring, Timmy Hill, Scott Speed, Landon Cassill, Blake Koch, Kevin Swindell, Dylan Kwasniewski, Johanna Long, Joey Coulter, Shane Stewart will appear at GoPro Motorplex, 130 Motorplex Drive, Mooresville, N.C. The Little 600 is a FREE fan event with a $10 parking fee. The event night will also feature the Lady 600, a 10-lap rental kart race among some of the most well-known females in the racing industry, including NASCAR driver’s wives and girlfriends. For more info, visit gopromotorplex.com

May 21, 11 am to 3 pm, Michael Waltrip Racing Fan Fest, featuring Michael Waltrip, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer. Live SiriusXM radio broadcast from site. Autograph schedule: Burton 11:00 to noon, Bowyer noon to 1:00, Waltrip 1:00 to 2:00. MWR is at 20310 Chartwell Center Drive off exit 28 on I-77 in Cornelius, N.C.

May 21, 6 pm: Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon, and Richard Childress at Bass Pro Shops, 8181 Concord Mills Blvd., Concord, N.C.

May 21, time TBA: J.J. Yeley, Jimmy Elledge and Tyler Reddick at Millbridge Speedway 6670 Mooresville Road Salisbury, N.C. More info: minioutlawseries.com

May 22, 10 am: Richard Petty Motorsports Fan Appreciation Day, 7065 Zephyr Place NW, Concord, N.C. Slated to appear: Richard Petty, Dale Inman, Marcos Ambrose, Aric Almirola, Dakoda Armstrong and Corey LaJoie. Note: wristbands for autographs to be handed out at 8 a.m.

May 22, 8 am to 5 pm: Roush Fenway Racing Fan Appreciation Day, 4600 Roush Place, Concord, N.C. Appearing: Trevor Bayne, Ryan Reed, Chris Buescher, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, and Jack Roush. Autograph session tickets first-come, first-served basis, beginning at 8:00 AM with distribution lines opening at 5:00 AM. Autograph session schedule: 10 am – Roush, Bayne, Buescher and Reed.  11 am – Biffle and Stenhouse. Noon – Edwards.

May 22, 10 a.m.: Kasey Kahne Racing Fan Appreciation Day, 265 Cayuga Drive, Mooresville, N.C. Kahne will be signing autographs with his team’s open wheel drivers, Daryn Pittman, Brad Sweet and Cody Darrah. Autographs begin at 10 am, followed by a Q&A. Must obtain wristband at store between May 19-21, from 9:30 am to 5 pm. More info: kaseykahneracing.com.

May 22, 1 pm: Brendan Gaughan, Scott’s Collectibles, 934 Cloverleaf Plaza, Kannapolis, N.C.

May 22, 1 pm: Patrick Staropoli and Tyler Young at the Creative Loafing display on Speed Street in downtown Charlotte for an autograph session. More info: 600festival.com.

May 22, 7 pm: Donnie Allison, Justin Allison, Ross Chastain, Jeremy Clements, Jamie Dick, Brennan Newberry, Taylor Stricklin, Robert Yates, Grant Enfinger at the Creative Loafing display on Speed Street in downtown Charlotte for an autograph session. More info: 600festival.com.

May 23, Noon: Michael Annett at Team Chevy display on Speed Street in downtown Charlotte. More info: 600festival.com.

May 23, all day: J.R. Motorsports Fan Days. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Regan Smith and Chase Elliott will sign autographs from 1 to 2 pm. Kelley Earnhardt Miller, Karsyn Elledge and JRM Late Model drivers Josh Berry and William Byron will sign autographs from 11:45 to 12:45 PM. Fans must have a wristband to receive an autograph. There will be no photos taken with drivers. To enter for your chance to win a wristband, visit JRMRacing.com. JRM is at 349 Cayuga Drive, Mooresville, N.C.

May 23, all day: Hendrick Motorsports Fan Appreciation Day. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Chad Knaus, Kenny Francis, Alan Gustafason, Steve Letarte, and Rick Hendrick to appear in fan Q&A sessions throughout the day. No autographs will take place during the event. Sessions are as follows: 3:05-3:30 — Francis (No. 5 crew chief), Gustafson (No. 24 crew chief). 3:35-4:00 — Knaus (No. 48 crew chief), Letarte (No. 88 crew chief). 4:05-4:30 – Gordon. 4:35-5:00 – Kahne. 5:05-5:30 – Earnhardt. 5:35-6:00 Johnson. 6:05-6:30 — Rick Hendrick. More info: hendrickmotorsports.com.

May 23, 6:45 pm: Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, Coca-Cola stage on Speed Street in downtown Charlotte. More info: 600festival.com.

May 23, 7 pm: Ross Chastain, Jamie Dick, Ernie Irvan, Jared Irvan, Blake Koch, Brennan Newberry, Jimmy Weller at Creative Loafing display on Speed Street in downtown Charlotte. More info: 600festival.com.

May 24, 6:45 pm: Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle at Coca-Cola stage on Speed Street in downtown Charlotte. More info: 600festival.com.

May 25, time TBA: Ryan Newman at Sprint Experience at CMS.

May 25, time TBA: Danica Patrick, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart at Coca-Cola pre-race party at CMS. To attend, fans must purchase a Coke Party Pass. More info: charlottemotorspeedway.com/cokepartypass/.

May 25, time TBA: Carl Edwards, Eric Almirola, Jimmy Fennig at Ford Racing Hospitality at CMS. To attend, fans must purchase Ford Racing VIP Hospitality Pass. More info: charlottemotorspeedway.com/fordracing/.

For more appearances or changes, click here to visit Jayski.com’s Driver Appearances page.

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Alexander Rossi hopes to dodge oncoming traffic in second Baja 1000

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Honda Photo
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One of the great viral videos of last year’s offseason was the sight of Alexander Rossi’s Honda Ridgeline off-road vehicle and its near head-on collision with a passenger SUV coming in the wrong direction of last year’s Baja 1000.

The video of the incident overshadowed an outstanding debut for Rossi in the SCORE OFF Road Desert race.

Rossi (pictured above on the right along with fellow driver Jeff Proctor) told NBCSports.com that driving down the same roads still used by passenger traffic is one of the unique challenges of the Baja 1000.

“The most demanding form of racing is IndyCar racing,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com. “But the big thing for me in the Baja 1000 is mentally being able to understand the terrain that is coming at you at 120 miles an hour in the dust and pedestrians and other cars, people and cattle that come along with this race.”

Rossi is becoming a modern-day Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. He wants to race anything on wheels and win.

Since the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season concluded with the Sept. 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Rossi competed in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Rossi drove for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

This weekend, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship will compete in the Baja 1000 for the second straight year.

Rossi will be driving for the Honda Ridgeline Racing team and is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000.

Other Indy 500 winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.

NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.

Rossi has a better understanding of what to expect in this year’s Baja 1000 after last year’s rookie experience.

How valuable was last years’ experience?

“It’s hugely valuable,” Rossi said. “The course changes each year. There will be some elements that are the same, but it’s a new route from start to finish this year. That is why we go down a week early. We do pre-running in a similar type of vehicle and take course notes and analyze each individual section of the course, find the danger areas and what you need to do come race day.

“Ultimately, the biggest thing is having the knowledge of how to prepare for the race and what to expect once you roll off the starting line. That is something I will have going for me this year that I didn’t have last year.”

As an off-road rookie, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“I don’t know that I can pinpoint any highlights other than just the whole experience,” Rossi said of last years’ experience. “The whole week and a half I had down there in 2018 was phenomenal. The team made me feel part of the family from Day One. I just love driving a desert truck through Baja California. It’s an experience unlike any other.

“The entire event was a highlight more than one specific moment.”

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Driving an off-road Honda Ridgeline through the desert of Baja California in Mexico is vastly different than Rossi’s regular ride in the No. 27 NAPA Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series. But Rossi believes there are many similarities, also.

“It’s very different, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, a race car is a race car,” Rossi said. “It has four wheels, and you are trying to get it from Point A to Point B quicker than other people. The general underlying techniques of getting a car through the corner efficiently is all the same; it’s just a different style.

“Everyone here is very talented at what they do and very good so in order to win this race, you have to be at the top of your game.”

The Baja 1000, like most forms of off-road racing, is more against the clock than a wheel-to-wheel competition such as IndyCar. Rossi believes it is a different form of endurance racing, similar to IMSA in many ways.

“You have to compare it like an endurance race,” Rossi said. “It’s a race where the first part of it, you are trying to get through and not take chances and stay in touch with the people you are trying to stay in touch with.

“When you get down to the final 20 to 30 percent, that is when you try to either close the lead of extend the lead of whatever position you are in. That is similar to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It comes down to the last three or four hours, and we take a mentality closer to that.

“The only difference is if you get it wrong at Daytona, you spin in the grass. Here, it can be more dramatic than that.”

As an off-road rookie in 2018, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“The Honda off-road guys and my co-driver/navigator Evan Weller make it so easy for me to just jump right in and go to work,” Rossi said. “I can’t wait to share the seat with Jeff [Proctor] and Pat [Dailey] once again, and hopefully, bring home a win.”

The Honda Off-Road Racing Team has had an outstanding 2019 season, including class wins for the Baja Ridgeline Race Truck at the Parker 425, the Mint 400 and the Baja 500; where the team successfully debuted the second-generation “TSCO” chassis; and a second-place Class 7 finish at the Vegas-to-Reno event.

Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline, finished second in class in 2017 and 2018; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016, 2018 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.

“We are stoked to have Alexander back racing with us in Mexico for his sophomore attempt at this iconic off-road race,” Proctor said. “This year’s 52nd annual Baja 1000 course covers ALL of the toughest terrain and areas in Baja Norte….as always, it will be tough.

“Alex is one of the brightest motorsports minds I’ve worked with, and he is a great asset to our team.”

The Baja 1000 begins Friday and runs through the weekend along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500