Dale Earnhardt Jr. holds on to win Geico 500 at Talladega

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. held off teammate Jimmie Johnson to win Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

“Wooh, celebrate,” Earnhardt said on his team radio after crossing the start/finish line.

Later, after performing a backward victory lap, Earnhardt was in tears in Victory Lane, talking about the emotion of the win.

It was Earnhardt’s first win at Talladega since 2004 and is his sixth overall at the 2.66-mile track, tying him with Jeff Gordon for most wins by an active driver there.

Earnhardt’s late father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Sr., is the all-time winner at Talladega with 10 victories there.

The younger Earnhardt becomes the eighth driver to win a race in 2015 and all but secures his position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Johnson finished second, followed by Paul Menard, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr.

MORE: First ‘Big One’ of Sunday’s race at Talladega involves at least 15 cars

MORE: For second straight weekend, fire breaks out in an RCR pit during stop

MORE: Jeff Gordon leads Jimmie Johnson at halfway point of Geico 500 at Talladega

How Earnhardt Jr. won: After the final caution, Earnhardt took the lead on Lap 162 and held on for the remaining 27 laps. It was a big gamble for Earnhardt, whose water temperature was in red-line territory due to debris on the front grille. Crew chief Greg Ives told him to go for the win, and that’s exactly what Junior did, earning his first win of the season, as well as the first Sprint Cup victory for Ives.

Who else had a good day: Paul Menard had one of the fastest cars in the field and wound up third. … Arguably the biggest surprise was the fourth-place finish of Ryan Blaney. … Johnson, Martin Truex Jr. (5th) and Kevin Harvick (8th) continued their respective top 10 streaks, with each driver now having nine top-10 showings in the first 10 races of the season. … Having his best finish of the season was Sam Hornish Jr., who finished 6th.

Who had a bad day: Obviously, most of the drivers that were involved in the 15-car wreck on Lap 47, including Joey Logano (32nd), Kasey Kahne (34th), Greg Biffle (37th), David Ragan (38th) and Michael Waltrip (36th). … Carl Edwards was very strong in the race, but was involved in the last-lap wreck and finished a disappointing 32nd.

Notables: Jeff Gordon continued his rough luck in big races this season. For the third time, he was near the front of the race, only to be involved in a last-lap wreck. Gordon finished 31st. … Danica Patrick was involved in the 15-car wreck on Lap 47, but suffered minor damage. She worked her way back up as high as 6th, only to learn she had lost the fourth gear in her transmission. Patrick placed 21st. … Tony Stewart looked to be a potential winner, running as high as third in the closing laps, but fell back and finished 19th.

Quote of the day: “It’s just real emotional. I haven’t won here in a long time, it was my daddy’s birthday a couple days ago. Everything’s just so good for me right now, in my personal life, my racing, the team I’m with. I don’t know why, I don’t feel like I deserve it, but with so much emotion. … God has blessed me. I’m blessed, man. Everything’s going so great.” – Race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., who shed tears in Victory Lane.

What’s next: SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway, Saturday May 9, 7:30 pm ET.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Friday’s NASCAR Cup, Xfinity schedule at Richmond

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The racing weekend at Richmond International Raceway kicks off today.

The NASCAR Cup Series has one practice session and late afternoon qualifying, while the Xfinity Series has two practice sessions at the 0.75-mile track.

Keep an eye on Jimmie Johnson this weekend as he goes for his third consecutive NASCAR Cup win, having taken the checkered flag at Texas three weeks ago and Monday at Bristol.

Here’s how today’s action shapes up:

(All times are Eastern)

9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

10:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.  – Xfinity garage open

11:30 a.m. – 12:55 p.m. – Cup practice (Fox Sports 1, MRN)

1 – 1:55 p.m. – Xfinity practice (FS1)

3 – 3:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

4:45 p.m. – Cup qualifying; three rounds/multi-car (FS1, MRN)

NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: Michigan

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Every NASCAR Cup driver had to come from somewhere, and for Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones, they came from Michigan.

Today’s edition of “50 States in 50 Shows” takes you to the Great Lake State.

The track that gets our attention is Dixie Motor Speedway in Birch Run. A track Jones cut his teeth on and where he set a record in 2010 by becoming the youngest driver to win an ASA Late Model race when he was 14.

Oh, and they also race school buses at the track.

 

NASCAR America: Steve Letarte: Richmond ‘pivotal’ race for Joe Gibbs Racing

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Compared to the winning pace Joe Gibbs Racing kept the previous two seasons, it’s been a long time since the four-car team visited victory lane.

JGR last won 11 races ago in the November race at Texas Motor Speedway with Carl Edwards, who is not racing this year. The last win by a current JGR driver was the fall race at Richmond International Raceway, where Denny Hamlin triumphed.

Now, none of its drivers are in the top 10 in points.

RIR is where NASCAR heads this weekend for a race NASCAR America analyst Steve Letarte believes is “pivotal” for the team that’s won the last three races at the .75-mile track.

“We have to remember this is a new aerodynamic package for this year,” Letarte said. “There’s something about it that hasn’t really suited this JGR Toyotas. I don’t think they have found exactly the right combination, it seems Furniture Row (Racing) has. I look at Richmond, the speeds are a little bit down, aerodynamics won’t be as dominate. Even if they’re not dominate and they don’t win, they have to run better.”

 

NASCAR America: Comparing achievements of The King, The Intimidator and Jimmie Johnson

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Just two days after his retirement announcement, Dale Earnhardt came to the defense of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson on Twitter

After a fan attempted to criticize Johnson’s achievements by comparing them to fellow seven-time champions Dale Earnahrdt Sr., and Richard Petty, Dale Jr. said the system Johnson has competed in is twice as challenging as the eras of his father and Petty.

Watch the video to see Dale Jr. and other drivers discuss the differences between Johnson’s era and those of his predecessors.