Hockey and NASCAR are a match made in heaven.
Race teams need sponsors to pay for tires, fuel and entry fees, among other things. Minor pro hockey teams, taking time off for most of the NASCAR season, need to drum up season-ticket sales prior to the start of pre-season. During race action at Pensylvania's Pocono Raceway over the weekend, not one, but two NASCAR entries were sponsored by hockey teams.
Just days after announcing a new affiliation with the Arizona Coyotes, the ECHL's Rapid City Rush's colors and logos donned the No.77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, driven by rookie Quin Houff. Houff finished 31st out of 38 entries for one of the best finishes of his career. Spire Motorsports is a new team themselves, but they became one of the biggest surprise winners in NASCAR history when Justin Haley took home the victory at Daytona back in July after a rainstorm forced the race to be called early.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, also sponsored two cars over the weekend. On Saturday, Josh Reaume drove a truck sporting the team's signature black and orange colors with the team name on the hood and sides of his No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado. On Sunday's main event, the Gander RV 400, Reed Sorenson drove the No. 27 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro to a 31st-place finish, one of his best runs of the season for the underfunded organization. That wasn't the first time the Phantoms have been involved with a NASCAR team at Pocono, the home race for the Pennsylvania-based hockey team. In 2017, the team sponsored the car of BK Racing driver Corey LaJoie and donned the hoods of Rheaume's truck in 2018 and Timmy Hill's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team that same weekend.
Besides both being fast sports, hockey and NASCAR have very little in common, but it's not unusual to see players try to get involved in motorsports. Former NHL defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron has two NASCAR Pinty's Series' championships as an owner of L. P. Dumoulin's No. 47 entry, while 1993 Stanley Cup champion Patrice Brisebois has ventured into NASCAR and Ferrari Challenge. Current players Craig Anderson and Mike McKenna are also fans of various levels of motorsports.
It's great to see two sports mesh together, especially if you're a fan of both of them. Here are five notable cases of hockey teams appearing on racecars in recent history:
Brian Keselowski – Detroit Red Wings
The older brother of 2012 champion Brad Keselowski, Brian has driven a few Red Wings' themed cars during his career. He drove the one pictured below – designed to match Detroit's red and white uniforms with "Go Wings" on the side – at the 2009 Carquest Auto Parts 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, just days before the Red Wings opened the Stanley Cup final against Pittsburgh. Detroit lost the Cup that year, but Keselowski was able to attend one playoff game and deserved considerable attention for the car despite a 30th place finish for his small team.
D.J. Kennington – Humboldt Broncos
A few days after tragedy struck the SJHL's Humboldt Broncos – the bus taking the junior team to a playoff game collided with a transport truck on a highway in 2018, killing 16 people – NASCAR Pinty's Series champion D.J. Kennington put the Broncos logo on his car for one of the most popular races of the season, the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kennington finished 27th out of 39 cars, but that wasn't the important story. Kennington auctioned off the hood of the car, with Castrol Wakefield (Castrol is Kennington's long-time sponsor) purchasing it for $15,000 and donating it to the Broncos organization.
Jason White – Humboldt Broncos
When the NASCAR Pinty's Series went on it's annual western Canada trip in 2018, the series did something special by having each car in the field run a Broncos sticker and the name of someone lost in the accident earlier that year. Edmonton's Jason White took it one step further by running a Broncos-themed racecar for the doubleheader in Saskatchewan. It was a touching day for all involved, with a special ceremony taking place prior to the race with survivors and families in attendance. Funny enough, Kennington owned the car that White raced.
Joey McColm – Toronto Maple Leafs
McColm, a NASCAR Pinty's Series owner/driver with Canada's Best Racing Team, gained media attention for his Toronto Maple Leafs car he raced during the 2014 season, with his best finish in his three-race run with the car being a sixth-place finish at Barrie Speedway. "We were sponsored by Partsource, and they are owned by Canadian Tire which sponsors the Leafs (and was the title sponsor of NASCAR's Canadian division at the time)," McColm said. "So Partsource wanted to activate their Leafs partnership and this was a way for us to leverage both sponsorships."
Ryan Ellis – Washington Capitals
No, this isn't the Nashville Predators defenseman (but they have met in person before), and, no, this is not a car. But it's cool regardless to see Ellis' helmet he wore for the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Road America last August after his beloved NHL team won the Stanley Cup two months prior. It wasn't the only time Ellis showed his love for the Washington Capitals: in 2016, he drove a car backed by the blog Russian Machine Never Breaks. Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway after fans helped raise money to help fund Ellis' ride for the weekend.
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