Dale Jr. brings Goody’s on board as sponsor for JR Motorsports

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He may no longer be involved in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains as big a draw as ever for the sport’s sponsors.

Today, pain/headache relief company Goody’s (title sponsor of today’s Eliminator Round opener) announced a three-year sponsorship deal (2015-2017) with Earnhardt that involves being a primary backer for one race annually in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

For 2015, Goody’s will be on Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports XFINITY Series car at Texas Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt’s been a Goody’s spokesman for several years, but this will be the first time he’s ever driven a Goody’s-sponsored car.

“It’s great when you can bring in a partner that starts off as a personal service agreement, they get an understanding of how our company works and get a good experience from that and want to grow that into sponsorship of a race car — it helps us a ton,” Earnhardt said this morning at Martinsville per NASCAR.com.

“Anytime we can get a sponsor grown from a personal service agreement to where they’re on the quarter panel of a car is a success for us. We’re in the business of racing cars and trying to fund a race team, so them becoming a part of that process is really important for us.”

Goody’s has had a longtime presence in NASCAR as seven-time Winston (now Sprint) Cup champion Richard Petty has been a spokesman for the brand since the late 1970s. Earnhardt took up a similar role for Goody’s alongside “The King” in 2013.

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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