Olympic odds, ends & trends: The U.S. bobsled driver who wants to take Dale Earnhardt Jr. for a ride

In today’s Summit Daily Olympic odds, ends and trends, an American Olympic bobsled driver attempts to convince Dale Earnhardt Jr. to give bobsled a try, and an American Olympian double-dips in big-time events:

Summit Stat: 6

The number of years French freestyle skier Marie Martinod quit skiing to run a nighclub. The 33-year-old Martinod, the 2014 Sochi silver medalist in this event, enters Sunday’s women’s freestyle ski halfpipe competition as one of the favorites for gold. Her Olympic appearance comes in the wake of her halfpipe win at the Copper Mountain U.S. Grand Prix and her second-place finish at Dew Tour at Breckenridge Ski Resort in December.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. the (bobsled) driver?

When NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. made it known on social media last summer that bobsled is one thing he’d like to try after he retired from stock car racing at the end of last season, U.S. Olympic bobsled pilot Nick Cunningham realized this was the opportunity of a lifetime.

The son of a Valvoline motor oil company salesman from Monterey, California, the 32-year-old Cunningham grew up a massive NASCAR fan idolizing Mark Martin, who drove a Valvoline Ford Taurus through the prime of his career. An admirer of Earnhardt Jr. as well, and just months removed from his first stab at stock car racing at Meridian Speedway in Idaho, Cunningham messaged Eanrhardt directly.

“While everyone else is kind of retweeting his podcast,” Cunningham said in Lake Placid in August, “I went right to the source. And I was going to ask him, ‘Hey I’d love to give you an 85-mile-per-hour trip down the Lake Placid track.’ And he said ‘yes.’

“He has to finish his career,” Cunningham continued, “and I have to get through the (2018 Pyeonchang) Olympic Games, but we can see if we can get him here for a World Cup, get him in the back of a sled and kind of show him how we do things.”

“I think it’d just be fun to get Junior, put him in the front seat; I’ll ride brakes,” Cunningham added. “It’d be a two-man sled, I’d push him off and try to coach him up for the lower start, and let him kind of feel what it’s like to have no traction and to have to do stuff and see what he says. Because someone of his caliber coming up here and testing our sport, even though he’s never been a part of it, I still think we can learn something from him, and all of his knowledge.”

Cunningham has competed at the last two Winter Olympic Games for the United States while also spending time as a sergeant in the New York Army National Guard. And early on Sunday and Monday mornings (MST) he will drive a U.S. bobsled down the Pyeongchang track, even if Earnhardt Jr. won’t be inside with him.

This Olympic year preparation hasn’t stopped Cunningham from getting behind the wheel of a stock car, though, as he’s driven for Patriot Motorsports Group, which operates a NASCAR driver development program based in Eagle, Idaho.

“Just to see how far that can go,” Cunningham said. “Starting at 32 and trying to make a NASCAR career, that’s not realistic. But just to go out and get some races under my belt, and say that I was able to go out and race stock cars is not something many people can say they can do.”

Halfpipe AND slopestyle

Devin Logan was the birthday girl on the Phoenix Snow Park slopestyle course on Saturday, though the newly minted 25-year-old wasn’t able to win a birthday medal. Four years after she won silver at the debut slopestyle event at the 2014 Sochi Games, though, the skier will get a second chance at a medal. That’s because Logan will become the first American skier in Olympic history to compete in both slopestyle and halfpipe events. Leading up to the games, Logan’s U.S. coach Skogen Sprang was adamant she could medal in either event. But Logan has fared better recently on the halfpipe, as she finished in third at the Mammoth Mountain, California, Olympic qualifier last month — the final U.S. Olympic qualifier before the Pyeongchang Games.

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