Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to do a little pre-Christmas dirt tracking Saturday in Illinois

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wants a checkered flag for Christmas – well, sort of.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver will get back behind the wheel this Saturday, going back to his short-track, open-wheel roots in DuQuoin, Illinois.

Stenhouse will compete in the fifth annual Great Clips Battle at the Center on the one-sixth Mini-Magic Mile at the Southern Illinois Center, located on the grounds of the DuQuoin State Fair. DuQuoin is about 85 miles southeast of St. Louis, Mo.

The Battle at the Center is a non-points all-star race put on by the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series.

It’ll be Stenhouse’s second bid to win at DuQuoin, having finished second in the inaugural Battle at the Center in 2010. He’ll be driving for Bryan Clauson Racing as a tune-up of sorts for next month’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Okla., from Jan. 12-17.

It’ll be Stenhouse’s third try to win the Chili Bowl, having finished ninth in 2012, but failed to advance out of the B feature last year.

“We’re always trying to get him up here for the Battle at the Center to get him in the car and get him in the car before Tulsa and hit the ground running,” Clauson said. “He needs to get the rust off in a midget. This year, his schedule allowed him to do it.”

Stenhouse, 27, was a very successful sprint car driver before his career took him to NASCAR. NASCAR star Tony Stewart hired Stenhouse to drive for his USAC team in 2007, and the Olive Branch, Miss., native responded with five National Midget wins, and two others in USAC National Sprint Car competition in 2008.

Shortly after that, Stenhouse joined Roush Fenway Racing and went on to win back-to-back Nationwide Series championships in 2011 and 2012. He became the Sprint Cup/Sunoco Rookie of the Year in 2013, but struggled to a 27th-place finish in the final standings in 2014.

Others that will be featured in Saturday’s race action include Clauson, 2014 National Midget Driver of the Year Chris Bell, 2012 POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget champ Andrew Felker, and World of Outlaws driver Joey Saldana.

Tickets are $20, with kids 12-and-under free. Doors open at 3 pm CT, hot laps begin at 5 pm CT, with heats afterward leading up to the 40-lap main event feature.

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IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.