NASCAR Notes: Danica to backup after crash at Martinsville - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

NASCAR Notes: Danica to backup after crash at Martinsville

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Danica goes to backup after crash at Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) -
It was a rough opening practice at Martinsville Speedway for NASCAR's most prolific rookies.

Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who are battling for Sprint Cup Series rookie of the year on the track and involved romantically off of the track, both ruined their primary cars.

Patrick, who drives for Stewart-Haas Racing, hit the wall on the 0.526-mile oval about 30 minutes into practice on Friday. A short while later, Stenhouse also hit the wall.

Patrick's backup car is one that has had success on the series' smallest track. It made its debut here in March 2009, and Tony Stewart piloted it to a third-place finish, the best at the time for the team. It hasn't raced since June 2011 in a "seat swap" event at Watkins Glen, N.Y.

Hamlin glad he rushed back despite struggles
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) -
Denny Hamlin thinks that he might have come back too soon, but he's glad he did.

The driver for Joe Gibbs Racing missed only four races after a compression fracture of a vertebra in his lower back in a last-lap accident at California on March 24.

The perennial series championship contender rushed back hoping to defy the odds, qualify for the NASCAR's 10-race playoffs and make a run at the championship that has eluded him in his career.

After a hope-fueling return that included second- and fourth-place finishes in his second and third starts, Hamlin's luck essentially ran out. He didn't make the Chase, and arrived at Martinsville Speedway 24th in points.

He says the difficulties will make him appreciate being healthy again.

National Guard renews sponsorship of Earnhardt
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -
The Army National Guard has extended its sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr. through the 2014 season with Hendrick Motorsports.

The Guard will be the primary sponsor of the No. 88 Chevrolet for 20 Sprint Cup races, including the Daytona 500. Hendrick Motorsports said Friday the Guard will also have prominent brand placement during all non-primary events.

The National Guard has been partnered with NASCAR's most popular driver since he joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

PepsiCo is committed to the No. 88 team with sponsorship of five primary races annually through the 2015 Sprint Cup season. Hendrick Motorsports said additional sponsorship will be announced at a later date.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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