Christmas came early for local auto racing fans this month. NASCAR officials said they are bringing a K&N Pro Series East event to the Mobile International Speedway.

The Mobile 150, presented by the Mobile Sports Authority, is set for Saturday, March 12, in Irvington. It will be part of a special weekend package that will include local racing on that Friday night.

“Our schedule for 2016 is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory, and adding Mobile International Speedway definitely makes it better,” Chris Wright, series director of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, said at a recent news conference. “We’re excited to return NASCAR racing to our fans on the Gulf Coast, and really appreciate the commitment from everyone at Mobile International Speedway to have that iconic racetrack ready for NASCAR’s up-and-coming stars.”

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series, which is divided into East and West divisions, is the top rung in NASCAR’s developmental ladder before a driver can progress to the larger three national series. Some of the previous participants include 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne, 2015 Daytona 500 champion Joey Logano and 2014 NASCAR Xfinity champion Chase Elliott.

Hoping to join that impressive list is Sarah Cornett-Ching. Following a successful season driving on the ARCA Racing Series, she announced at the news conference she is switching full time to NASCAR in 2016.

“It’s really exciting to be coming back to Mobile. This was my first short-track race in an ARCA car, and the track has lots of speed and you can really race hard from the drop of the green flag,” said Cornett-Ching, who took 14th place in the MIS competition. A certified welder back in Canada, she finished seventh in the ARCA drivers’ point standings in 2015.

The Mobile Sports Authority worked with city, county and state officials to help bring this NASCAR event to Irvington. Victor Gaston, speaker pro tempore of the Alabama House of Representatives and a longtime supporter of racing on the Gulf Coast, and Mobile County Commissioner Connie Hudson took part in the NASCAR announcement.

“Our area is carving out its own star on the racing map,” Gaston, who represents House District 100, said. “We’ve hosted the premiere short-track event on the ARCA Tour for four years, Fairhope’s Grant Enfinger is the first ARCA champion from Alabama in 61 years and now NASCAR is coming to Mobile. Our area is truly coming into its own.”

“The job of the Mobile Sports Authority is to bring quality sporting events to the Mobile County area. We’re proud that we’ve had a good deal of success in recent years, but it’s really due to a team effort with support from both Mobile County and the city of Mobile,” Danny Corte, executive director of the Mobile Sports Authority, said. “This event as well as the Southern Super Series have become two of the crown jewels of our efforts. So after all these years, we are fired up to welcome NASCAR back to the Mobile area.”

For ticket information on the Mobile 150, call 251-343-2929.

Runners heading to Mobile
The 15th annual First Light Marathon returns to downtown Mobile on Sunday, Jan. 10. On the schedule are a full marathon course, a half-marathon race and a 1.2-mile fun run. The event once again is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.

For those unwilling to try the 26.2-mile course on their own, there is a division for five-person running/walking teams. The divisions are Open, Masters, Grand Masters, Senior Grand Masters, Race Walker, Organizational, High School and Grade School.

The marathon, half-marathon and relay divisions will start at 7:30 a.m. The fun run will begin at 2 p.m. A post-race meal and entertainment will be free to all marathon, half-marathon and relay team members at Bienville Square from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Walk-in race registration will be held Saturday, Jan. 9, from noon to 9 p.m. at the Mobile Government Plaza Atrium and continue there on Sunday from 6-7:15 a.m.

Servis1st Bank, the main sponsor, is also a partner with LifeSouth Community Blood Centers for the Five Points of Life Kid’s Marathon. Participants from kindergarten through eighth grade will complete 25 miles during the months prior to the marathon and run the last 1.2 miles at 2 p.m. that Sunday. Schools designated on the race application will receive $1 for each participant.

Proceeds from the race will benefit L’Arche Mobile, a Christian community where people with and without intellectual disabilities share their lives together. All race medals are handmade by members of L’Arche Mobile.

For more information, visit FirstLightMarathon.com or call 251-438-2094.

Old running shoes wanted
The Baldwin Bone & Joint group will sponsor the Many More Miles Campaign for the 13th consecutive year. The project collects used shoes for two homeless outreach programs, Wings of Life and Discovery Ministries.

In 2003, the event collected 200 pairs of running shoes. In the most recent drive, more than 2,700 pairs were donated.

The campaign starts in January and will continue through the 2016 Azalea Trail Run.

The campaign will once again give elementary schools in Mobile and Baldwin counties the opportunity to raise money for their physical education programs. Baldwin Bone & Joint will award cash prizes to the three schools that collect the most pairs of shoes.

Donation sites are Baldwin Bone & Joint at 1505 Daphne Ave. in Daphne; YMCA facilities in Mobile and Daphne; Dr. Glenn Glass, 1303 Main St. in Daphne; McCoy Outdoor Company at 3498 Springhill Ave. in Mobile; University of South Alabama’s Student Recreation Center; and the Azalea Trail Run Expo at the Mobile Civic Center on March 19.

The Port City Pacers are also helping with the campaign. For more information, call 251-621-5387.