NFL legends join NASCAR stars in NBC Sports’ upcoming “Gridiron Challenge” (VIDEO)

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NBC Sports’ NASCAR Gridiron Challenge presented by Toyota, a one-hour special pairing NASCAR drivers with former NFL greats in a series of stock car races and a football challenge, debuts Friday, January 30, at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN, immediately following the NASCAR America Hall of Fame Special.

A capsule from the Gridiron Challenge will air as part of NBC’s Super Bowl XLIX pre-game show on Sunday, February 1, beginning at Noon ET.

The Gridiron Challenge features six retired NFL greats, including NBC Super Bowl XLIX pre-game analyst Hines Ward, suiting up to compete in races alongside current NASCAR stars at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Ward will be teamed up with Joe Gibbs Racing driver Carl Edwards. The other driver/player combos are: Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Doug Flutie; Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Brian Mitchell; Clint Bowyer (Michael Waltrip Racing) and Christian Okoye; Daniel Suarez (Joe Gibbs Racing – XFINITY Series) and Willie Gault; and Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Rod Smith.

The NFL legends will learn to drive official Toyota race cars at the Richard Petty Driving Experience, while the group of NASCAR drivers will take part in a passing competition where they must throw footballs through a Toyota target.

The series culminates with a 20-lap race, where the former NFL players will sit in the passenger seat alongside NASCAR drivers as they race around the track at speeds up to 180 miles per hour.

“The NASCAR Gridiron Challenge is a fun way to promote NASCAR and our upcoming coverage,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer of NBC Sports and NBCSN, in a NBC Sports Group release. “This event serves as an example of how numerous NBCUniversal platforms are using Super Bowl XLIX weekend to promote new programming.”

“Toyota has had a long-standing relationship with NASCAR as well as a presence in the Super Bowl with TV commercials and our sponsorship of the Toyota Halftime Report,” said Ed Laukes, Vice President of Marketing, Performance and Guest Experience for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc.  “The NASCAR Gridiron Challenge was a natural partnership for us and we think everyone will enjoy seeing these two very different groups of athletes compete in an entirely new, and fun, way on the track and on the field.”

NASCAR on NBC lead announcer Rick Allen will call the action from Charlotte Motor Speedway, alongside NBC Sports Group’s motorsports team of NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers Jeff Burton and Kyle Petty, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s former crew chief Steve Letarte, and NASCAR America reporter Kelli Stavast. In addition, NASCAR team owner and three-time Super Bowl-winning head coach Joe Gibbs will be present to give tutelage, and award the winners with their trophies.

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.