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Kilgerman lands Daytona 500 sponsor; more NASCAR notes

Photo: Alex Menendez/AP

It was a rough start to the year for Parker Kligerman (30), whose primary Daytona 500 car was ruined.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- One day after flipping his car for the first time in his career, rookie Parker Kligerman landed a sponsor for the Daytona 500.

LendingTree will be on the No. 30 Toyota for Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500.

Kligerman's primary car was destroyed in the first Daytona 500 practice Wednesday. The Toyota went airborne and ripped out a chunk of the grandstand fence. It then slid on its roof halfway down the front stretch at Daytona International Speedway.

"It's the first time I ever flipped over," the 23-year-old said. "I have never done that before in a racecar. I assumed it would be rougher. But it was actually really soft. I remember everything. I saw the whole thing go down. I was up in the fence kind of floating along. . Then it just flipped over softly and I slid on the roof."

The accident put Swan Racing into a deep hole because teammate Cole Whitt had wrecked his car earlier in the session. With Kligerman needing a backup, the team set out to repair Whitt's car.

The funding from LendingTree, an online loan marketplace based in Charlotte, N.C., gives Swan Racing some breathing room for the rest of the week.

"LendingTree's primary focus is to empower individuals, whether that's empowering borrowers against big banks or empowering up-and-coming drivers against more established race teams," said Doug Lebda, LendingTree's founder and CEO.

Daytona pace car wire fire

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Chevrolet believes a pinched wire caused a pace car fire during last week's Sprint Unlimited exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway.

Jeff Chow, marketing manager for Chevrolet Racing, says preliminary reports indicate the pinched wire started the fire in the trunk of the Chevrolet SS pace car. Chow says "it appears we had a pinched wire in one of the strobe systems."

Chow was on hand Thursday as the auto manufacturer unveiled three new pace cars to be used this weekend at Daytona: a Silverado 1500 for the Truck Series opener Friday, a Camaro SS for the Nationwide opener Saturday and a Chevrolet SS for the Daytona 500 on Sunday. All three have LED lighting systems that don't use the same kind of wires that seemingly caused the fire.

Darlington signs sponsor for Nationwide race

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Darlington Raceway has partnered with Sport Clips Haircuts to sponsor the track's NASCAR Nationwide Series race through 2016.

Track President Chip Wile announced the agreement Thursday. The VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 will be run Friday night, April 11, the night before Sprint Cup teams compete in the Southern 500. The agreement means the track "Too Tough To Tame" has backers for both its NASCAR races for the next three seasons.

"We've seen a lot of support from fans and leaders in the sport," Wile told The Associated Press by phone. "We know there's always going to be a place for track like Darlington."

Darlington's upcoming race weekend marks the first races since track had its dates moved up from Mother's Day weekend, where it carved out a niche from 2005-2013 when NASCAR had previously stayed away from racing on that weekend.

Wile, in Daytona, Fla., for NASCAR's Speed Weeks, said he's gotten strong feedback from track owners, International Speedway Corp., about the track's future in NASCAR and its new dates.

"Hey, it gets hot in May," Wile said, citing the cooler April temperatures as a reason for moving Darlington's races up a month.

Most longtime ticket holders he's spoken with have understood the move. Any letters or emails Wile got asking for an explanation for the change, got one personally from the track president.

"I think there was only one person who didn't like it after we talked," he said.

Wile said the track's ticket sales are on pace for a big crowd come race day. He expects interest to ramp up more now that the Sprint Cup season is starting.

He said he's grateful for Sport Clips' support and said the track embraces the opportunity to help raise awareness about the Veterans of Foreign Wars' mission to support active-duty military, veterans and their families.

The track will donate $2 of each ticket sold between Feb. 25 and March 3 for its two races to Sport Clips' Help A Hero campaign.

Wile said the Nationwide sponsorship deal means he and his staff can focus on longer-term ways to keep the track viable when NASCAR isn't in town.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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