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

NASCAR America: Pit crew members share their hidden talents

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What does a sky diver and Olympic-caliber swimmer have in common?

They make their living on NASCAR’s pit road, that’s what.

Check out two of this week’s pit crew all-star nominees, as seen on Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America.

NASCAR America: Xfinity drivers react to restrictor plates at Indy (video)

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On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, several of the stars of the NASCAR Xfinity Series tried to explain in three words what to expect with the use of restrictor plates in this Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

See what they said and what they’re thinking about Saturday’s race in the video above.

NASCAR America: Bubba Wallace Jr.’s search for a ride continues (video)

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Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s search for a new ride continues.

Wallace joined NASCAR America in-studio on Thursday and talked about his recent fill-in role at Richard Petty Motorsports during Aric Almirola‘s crash recovery, as well as his hope that a new ride will come around soon.

Wallace also weighed in on Alex Bowman being selected Thursday to replace the retiring Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevrolet and what it means for the young generation of drivers.

Find out what Bubba had to say in the video above.

 

 

NASCAR America: What happens to Brad Keselowski now that 88 ride has been filled? (video)

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Amid all the news about Alex Bowman replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Team Hendrick Chevrolet next season, one thing was kind of overlooked.

Rumors had floated throughout the sport the last several weeks about Brad Keselowski being a possible candidate to replace Earnhardt, as well.

Those rumors were only bolstered more by the fact Keselowski has still not signed a contract extension with Team Penske. His current deal runs out at the end of the current Cup season.

NASCAR Talk’s Nate Ryan appeared on Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America and talked about the various ramifications of the Bowman deal. But Ryan also suggested that with Bowman now in place, will that potentially hasten Keselowski’s re-signing with Team Penske perhaps sooner than later now that the 88 ride is off the table?

“Whether Brad Keselowski was seriously weighing a move to the 88 or whether he was using it as leverage to get a better deal from Team Penske and Ford, this just makes it all the more likely that he will re-sign with Team Penske and stay in the No. 2 Ford next year,” Ryan said.

“It’s very likely that we will hear soon that Brad Keselowski is re-signing with Team Penske. That deal is very close.”

Ryan also discussed whether another driver whose name was mentioned as a potential replacement for Earnhardt, young William Byron, may also score a promotion to the Cup Series with Team Hendrick.

“I think Cup could still be in the cards for next year,” Ryan said of Byron. “Kasey Kahne is under contract in the No. 5 for Hendrick Motorsports for 2018, but he is having a very disappointing season.

“If Hendrick elected to make a change on that ride, it could depend on sponsorship. That ride doesn’t have much sponsorship announced yet for 2018 and William Byron could certainly be an option there.

“He brings some sponsorship from Liberty University, and he also has been sponsored in a few races with Axalta and they really like what he’s done. If he goes to Cup, they really want to be on his car.”