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UK fan Waltrip sorry for Cardinal sin

One year after driving a University of Kentucky-themed car to honor the 2012 NCAA basketball national champions, Michael Waltrip will be celebrating the reigning national champions from the University of Louisville in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway.

Michael Waltrip Racing driver Brian Vickers will be behind the wheel of the red-and-white No. 55 car when the green flag drops at 7:30 p.m.

“I’ve always been a Wildcats fan, but I remember when I was a young man watching Denny Crum coach those boys and I was a big Louisville fan, too,” Waltrip said. “Growing up in Kentucky and having a couple of top teams to cheer for was fun.

“There’s going to be a big crowd here Saturday night, and I know when this car goes by there is going to be a lot of love for it. There’s also going to be some hate for it, and I’m OK with that. To be able to come to Kentucky and bring this car and have the Louisville Cardinals all over it is an honor. I’m thankful, and I’m sorry.”

Vickers, who will be making just his seventh Cup start of the season, is a Thomasville, N.C., native who grew up cheering for the North Carolina Tar Heels. But he said he’s thrilled to trade Carolina blue for Cardinal red this weekend.

“Whether it’s basketball or racing, I think watching athletes at their best perform at that level is just a special thing to see,” Vickers said. “To have those guys on the car, a team that competes at the highest level and wins championships, is incredible. I’m very proud to have them on the car and what they represent. Hopefully we can go win the race.”

Sole pole: Ryan Blaney earned the pole for Thursday night’s UNOH 225, the first of his career in the Camping World Truck Series series.

“It’s always pretty cool to get a pole,” the 19-year-old Blaney said. “But we’ve got to perform in the race, too.”

Blaney qualified second twice in 2012 and parlayed those good starting spots into a win at Iowa and a fifth-place showing at Phoenix.

“Track position is so key nowadays,” he said. “We had a great car at both of those race tracks. Hopefully (the pole) will give us the little extra bit we need to run up front and hopefully stay up there.”

Soldier honored: Samuel Deeds, a Marine from Erlanger, Ky., found out Thursday he is the winner of the Crown Royal’s “Your Hero’s Name Here” program, which awards individual naming rights for the July 28 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In 2005, while deployed in Iraq, Deeds came across an improvised explosive device while setting up a checkpoint. When he saw fellow Marines approaching, he exposed himself to the device to save the lives of the others. He was severely injured and underwent more than 30 surgeries.

While still recovering in 2008, Deeds saved three people who were caught in a rip tide off the coast of North Carolina.

Dominant debut: Matt Crafton will make his first career Nationwide Series start tonight in the Feed The Children 300, and his debut got off to a solid start Thursday night when he posted the fastest practice time of 172.750.

Crafton started seventh in Thursday night’s UNOH 225 Camping World Truck Series Race.

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