Dale Earnhardt Jr. attempting feat last accomplished by father 25 years ago

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There’s been a lot of attention paid this week to the 15th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s dramatic final Sprint Cup win in the Oct. 15, 2000 race at Talladega Superspeedway.

But this year marks another anniversary in “The Intimidator’s” storied career and in the history of restrictor-plate racing. It was 25 years ago that a flat tire in the last two turns of the Daytona 500 ensured that Dale Sr. would have to wait eight more years for his one and only win in the race.

However, after having to watch Derrike Cope celebrate, Earnhardt made sure no one else would have success in plate races during that 1990 season. Earnhardt won all three remaining races that year at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega.

Since then, no driver has won more than two plate races in a season.

Not Jeff Gordon. Not Jimmie Johnson. Not Tony Stewart.

And surprisingly, not Dale Earnhardt Jr.

But that could change Sunday in the CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega. Earnhardt Jr., who won the May 3 race at Talladega and the Coke Zero 400 in July, could be the first driver in 25 years to win three.

The numbers are in Earnhardt Jr.’s favor. Start with the fact that the No. 88 Chevrolet has won three restrictor-plate points races in the last two years and one Daytona 500 qualifying race.

Then look at Earnhardt Jr.’s average finish at the plate tracks through three races in 2015. With his third-place finish in the Daytona 500, Earnhardt Jr.’s current average is 1.67. Barring an unfortunate turn of events Sunday, Earnhardt Jr. could tie the best single-season performance at Daytona and Talladega.

The four best all-time average finishes in a single season across the four annual races held at those tracks are Earnhardt Sr. (1999) and Bobby Allison (1988) at 1.50, and Earnhardt Jr. (2004) and Richard Petty (1974) at 1.75.

But there’s a more at stake for Earnhardt Jr. in Sunday’s race than an average finish. Earnhardt all but needs a win to advance to the third round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

A win also would provide a much-needed boost to Hendrick Motorsports, which hasn’t visited victory lane or finished in the top two since Earnhardt Jr.’s Coke Zero 400 win, which was 14 races ago. The average finish of all four cars in the 14 races since is 17.09.

This is the longest a Rick Hendrick-owned car has not won since 16 races came and went between the 2011-2012 seasons. But going in the team’s favor this year is restrictor-plate tracks. Hendrick cars have finished 1-2 in the last two plate races.

They have led 84 percent of the laps run in the three races. Jeff Gordon, who hasn’t won on a plate track in his last 31 attempts, has led more laps in the three restrictor-plate races this season (134) than he has in the other races combined (75).

Earnhardt is the only Hendrick driver to win a plate race since Johnson won the Coke Zero 400 in 2013.

NASCAR America: Erik Jones’ racing roots in Byron, Michigan

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After a feature looking at his upbringing in Byron, Michigan, Furniture Row Racing driver Erik Jones spoke with NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte, Dale Jarrett and Marty Snider about the early years of his racing career.

The journey to his NASCAR career began with a yard cart that his late father, Dave Jones, brought home one day when he was 3.

“I rode that all day long around the yard,” Jones said. “Winter time would and we had like a gravel circle driveway in front of our house. When it would snow over I would get the kart out and ride it around in the snow because I could slide and I thought that was pretty cool. I would get it stuck about every five minutes out in the snow.”

Jones would then get out of the kart and find his dad in their barn to come out get him out.

Now 21, Jones also discussed how much his dad was involved in his career until his death in June 2016 after a battle with cancer.

He also explains how he’s never stayed in any series for more than one year in his career.

Watch the video above for the full discussion.

NASCAR America: Scan All from Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland

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“I sure as (expletive) hope that’s all out of our system.”

That’s what Kyle Busch had to say over his radio after he finished 15th, a lap down in the Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Busch’s day went south after the first stage thanks to two pit miscues the sent him two laps down.

Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. dominate the field to win his fifth race of the year and advance to the second round of the playoffs.

In the latest “Scan All,” True and crew chief Cole Pearn recap their day, which saw them bounce back from their own pit road mistakes.

Here are other highlights from this week’s “Scan All.”

  • “Can’t drive in a straight line. Something’s not right with the front end.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. just before he made contact with the outside wall. A commitment line violation resulted in Stenhouse finish multiple laps off the lead.
  • “Tell the 1 (Jamie McMurray) I don’t know what happened there but we both got the short end of the stick.” – Ryan Newman after contact between him and McMurray sent McMurray spinning on a restart.
  • (Expletive), that 24 (Chase Elliott) can be so much (expletive) faster than us.” – Kasey Kahne after being told he was two laps down.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Erik Jones recounts rookie Cup season, being taught by Kyle Busch

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Erik Jones, the rookie driver for Furniture Row Racing in the No. 77 Toyota, joined NASCAR America Wednesday for a special show from the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The 21-year-old driver won the 2015 Camping World Truck Series title and is teammates with Martin Truex Jr.

With Marty Snider, Dale Jarrett and Steve Letarte, Jones discussed the challenges and lessons he’s faced in his first full-time season in the Cup Series.

“The biggest (milestones) for me were trying to win a race and making the playoffs,” Jones said. “Obviously, making the playoffs didn’t happen. … I look back at the last few seasons and rookies that have been in the sport and it’s so hard to win races now. You just don’t see rookies do it a lot.”

Jones also discussed finishing second to Kyle Busch in the Bristol night race and his relationship with the driver who brought him into NASCAR beginning with the Truck Series.

“A lot of times when I was racing in Trucks and Xfinity and Kyle would come to race I’d always run second to him,” Jones said. “I’m like, ‘you know what the problem is? This is the guy who taught me how to race these cars. So I’m good at all the same tracks he’s good at. Except he’s been doing about 10 more years than I have.”

Watch the video for more.

 

PJ1 adhesive to be applied again to track for this weekend’s races at Loudon

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With the successful use of the PJ1 compound in July’s NASCAR Cup race there, New Hampshire Motor Speedway officials announced Wednesday they will apply the compound again to the track for this weekend’s racing.

The 1.058-mile flat track will play host to the Cup and Camping World Truck Series playoff races, as well as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the American Canadian Tour race series.

“There’s no question that the track bite compound we laid down in July allowed for some awesome racing around the entire racetrack,” NHMS executive VP and GM David McGrath said in a statement. “We received some very positive feedback from the drivers, teams and, most importantly, the fans. The support to do it again in September was overwhelming.”

McGrath said the PJ1 adhesive compound will be added to the first and third grooves in all four turns on Thursday evening. It will be reapplied again on Saturday night to be fresh for Sunday afternoon’s Cup race.

Several drivers gave their endorsement for the move:

Kyle Larson: “I think it’s awesome. I was surprised at how well it worked. I liked the element of it changing quickly and wearing out and then wearing out in different spots and stuff. It just adds an element to us that we have to adapt to. In the past … you kind of just run the same line all race long, but (in July) everybody I got around was running somewhat of a different line, and I thought that was a really cool thing.”

Joey Logano: “The question got put out to a lot of different drivers … from the (NASCAR Cup Drivers Council). We kind of got on our group chat and were talking back and forth about what we thought was best. (In the past) after 10 or 15 laps, everyone is kind of where they are at and passes don’t happen often. The wider we can make the racetrack, the more passes that can be made.”

Kyle Busch: “We always run that one lane here, which I call the middle lane. They were just trying to widen the racetrack a little bit and give a little bit more opportunity for us to be able to run side by side and not feel like we’re crashing here all the time or running into each other on restarts.”

Kevin Harvick: “I like the prospects of us trying different things. As the (summer Cup) race wore on, things changed. You had to move around. The PJ1 is one of those things that can definitely make the race better if you can add more lanes of racing.”

Austin Dillon: “I thought (the PJ1) held on good throughout the race in July; I’m a fan of it. July’s race was a blast and everyone is excited about it this time around. We’re going to be aggressive and just go after it this weekend.”