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(Photo by John Hunter Nemechek)

Wooooo! NASCAR driver honors wrestler Ric Flair on helmet

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John Hunter Nemechek has never met “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, but Nemechek will honor the Hall of Fame wrestler with a neon-colored helmet that features a portrait of Flair on the back. The helmet, designed by Off Axis Paint, will debut this month at Daytona International Speedway.

The 18-year-old NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver learned about Flair from his father, Joe Nemechek, who was a big fan of the wrestler.

“I always heard dad talk about Ric Flair as one of his idols,” John Hunter Nemechek told NASCAR Talk. “A bunch of the guys in the shop … pretty much everyone is a big Ric Flair fan. We’re hoping to get him out to a race at one point.”

When his dad saw the helmet, what was his reaction?

“He just smiled and laughed,” Nemechek said.

Nemechek admits that Flair, a 16-time world heavyweight champion, can provide inspiration for this upcoming season, noting Flair’s success.

“Hopefully, we can be the champs,” said Nemechek, who scored his first Truck win last year at Chicagoland Speedway and finished 12th in the points despite missing five races because he was not old enough to compete on the larger tracks at the time.

To be champion, Nemechek will have to follow one of Flair’s famous sayings: “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.”

 

NASCAR America: Xfinity’s Elliott Sadler surprised by relief from Kentucky win

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Xfinity Series driver Elliott Sadler talks with NASCAR America about the relief the comes with having won the first race in the Chase and actually being unprepared for the amount of relief he felt.

Justin Allgaier sees Dover as only true ‘unknown’ of Xfinity Chase

JOLIET, IL - SEPTEMBER 17:  Justin Allgaier, driver of the #7 LetsTalkFood.com Chevrolet, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Drive for Safety 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 17, 2016 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
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There’s one big rule of thumb for Justin Allgaier when it comes to the concrete high banks at Dover International Speedway.

“What goes up, must come down,” Allgaier says.

Dover, with its 24-degree banking and one of the oldest track surfaces in NASCAR, made Allgaier circle the “Monster Mile” as the biggest unknown of the seven races in the Xfinity Chase. Dover is the second Chase race after the opener at Kentucky Speedway.

“A lot of the racetracks we go to are mile-and-a-half in our series Chase,” Allgaier said while promoting the Chase in Philadelphia. “We know what to expect. Even Phoenix … we understand what to expect. But Dover is the one, it’s a tricky racetrack to begin with, just by yourself.”

Of the seven Chase races, only Dover and Phoenix are shorter than 1.5-miles. Allgaier started from the pole at Dover in May after winning the first heat race and finished fourth.

“The biggest challenge is the banking,” Allgaier said. “As cars slide back down the pavement, as things transpire through the course of the race, it’s really hard to get away from other competitors, especially if they’re in trouble or they’re having crashes.”

In the last five Xfinity Dover races, there have been an average of 3.8 cautions. The most was five in the fall 2014 race.

“Another challenge is just not beating yourself,” Allgaier continued. “It’s one of those places that you can overdrive and blow a tire or overdrive and crash yourself really easily. From my standpoint, you’re going to have to almost back it down a little bit, even though you need the speed to run up front and to be competitive. I think you’re going to back it down just a touch to be there at the end to even have a shot to go for the win.”

Heading into the Drive Sober 200, Allgaier is sixth on the Xfinity Chase grid, which is a small miracle in itself. At Kentucky, Allgaier and his No. 7 Chevrolet were in fourth when they were involved in a Lap 130 crash with Sam Hornish Jr. that damaged Allgaier’s front fender. But by the end of the night, with the help of a late caution that took out Erik Jones and Ty Dillon, Allgaier finished ninth.

But Allgaier is only two points ahead of the cutoff spot in eighth.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Allgaier said of Kentucky. “We really shouldn’t have had the speed that we did to get back up through the field and to be able to get into ninth even. For that, I’m excited. However, because of the points being reset, because of the Chase format, it’s dropped us farther in the series points then I would like. It’s not like there’s a comfortable zone without a win, but at the same time I do feel like the higher up you are on the board, the more comfortable you can be going into each and everyone of these races.”

NASCAR America: Jimmie Johnson: ‘We just need to stay on lead lap at Dover’

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Jimmie Johnson‘s Chase hasn’t gotten off to the start he wanted, but he’s still had plenty of speed through the first two races and has a positive outlook going into the elimination race at Dover. NASCAR America spoke with him Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Paint the Pit Road Pink event for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Tony Stewart ready to shed responsibility of being voice of Sprint Cup garage

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CHARLOTTE — Tony Stewart is done, through and had it. Eight weeks from the end of his acclaimed Sprint Cup driving career, Stewart says he’s looking forward to retiring from the series, ready to leave behind the battles off the track, in the garage and behind closed doors. Soon it will be someone else’s problem.

But who?

The man described by competitors as the sheriff of the garage is not sure.

“I can sit here,’’ Stewart says, grabbing his phone in a conference room with reporters on the eighth floor of the NASCAR Plaza, “and I can pull up stuff on this phone that would make you cringe about the sport that drivers talk about.

“There’s 39 of these guys that 99 out of 100 times won’t say a thing about it to you guys or to NASCAR or anybody else. I’m the one guy that most of the time will go, ‘Man this is a bad thing to talk about, I shouldn’t talk about it,’ but I’ll get pissed off enough about it to talk about it because I believe it’s worth talking about.

“When you’re not getting (NASCAR’s) attention … you’re like ‘OK, now I’ve got to go a different way to get their attention to do something about it and that’s when I normally get slapped on the hand with a fine or this or that.

“That’s part of the reason I’m retiring because I’m tired of being responsible for it. It’s somebody else’s responsibility now. I’ve had my fill of it. I’ve had my fill of fighting the fight. At some point, you say, ‘Why do I keep fighting this fight when I’m not getting anywhere?’ ’’

Stewart’s actions throughout his career have endeared the three-time series champion to fans and enraged others. Same with series officials.

His passion is unquestioned, his honesty unfiltered and his approach unrelenting.

That often gets him in trouble.

Stewart started his final Cup season questioning NASCAR Chairman Brian France’s approach, saying that France needed to be at more races and also attend a Sprint Cup Drivers Council meeting. Stewart also acknowledged that France reprimanded him in August 2015 for speaking his mind too often in public.

NASCAR fined Stewart $35,000 in April, a day after his rant about loose wheels and comments questioning NASCAR’s commitment to safety. NASCAR soon responded by checking the lug nuts on each car after each race and issuing penalties to teams that had any missing. Later that week, France attended his first Sprint Cup Drivers Council meeting.

Despite his complaints, Stewart has praised NASCAR for its work with the drivers in creating the Sprint Cup Drivers Council and the dialogue that occurs in those closed-door meetings.

Still, that doesn’t take away Stewart’s frustration on some matters.

“One thing that I’ve learned in this sport, and I learned it from Mike Helton a long time ago, there are times when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt what I’m complaining about or what I’m feeling is 100 percent right on the money,’’ Stewart said Wednesday. “But I’ve also learned with that, yeah, I’m right but in the big picture there’s still a reason it’s not getting changed or not going the direction it should go because it’s part of a bigger picture that has to be in sync with each other. That’s where you get frustrated and that’s where you get exhausted fighting the fight.

“The deal after Chicago is a perfect example of that,’’ Stewart continued, noting NASCAR’s decision not to penalize the teams of Martin Truex Jr., and Jimmie Johnson after their cars failed the Laser Inspection Station, and the decision to eliminate the P2 and P3 penalties associated with the post-race LIS inspection.

“We all know how screwed up that is. But there’s a reason that they’ve had to do the things that they do. After talking to them about it, it’s like yeah, what they came up with I agree is the best solution. Do I agree with the solution? Not necessarily. But I know that of the options they had that was the best solution at this point. It’s hard.’’

Harder than the challenge he faces at Dover International Speedway this weekend. Stewart is 11 points out of a transfer spot, heading into the race that will eliminate four of the 16 drivers in the Chase.

“We’re fighting a very steep uphill battle,’’ Stewart said. “We’ve just got to go do the best we can this weekend. Whatever happens happens. I can’t make something happen that may or may not happen. You don’t want to wish bad luck on anybody else to begin with because it’s not right. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. You hope when it’s over you did our job.’’

Stewart says he should know once practice begins what he’ll have with his car for Sunday. That’s another frustration for Stewart, who has been in Cup since 1999, and a sign of how things have changed in the sport.

“We’re in an era now in the sport where technology has taken over so much,’’ Stewart said. “I remember when we started in ’99 you could sit there and be terrible on Friday, terrible on Saturday and (Greg Zipadelli, then his crew chief) could sit there with his ouija board inside his wire pyramid overnight with candles burning and a seance going on and actually put something together and win races. You can’t do that nowadays.

“Yeah, you can make it better, but you’ve got what you’ve got. When we come off the truck, we fight the same thing for three days. There’s nothing I can do to fix it. That’s what is so frustrating for me as a driver. That’s part of why I’m ready to do something different because I can’t make a difference anymore.

“I can’t do different things with my feet, do different things with my hands, run a different line and fix the problem. I used to be able to do that. I can’t do that anymore. You get so frustrated that you can’t see straight.’’

Asked if anything from a rules perspective can lessen that, Stewart says: “I’ve been fighting that fight forever bud and it’s not something I’m willing to go into depth on but it’s another reason I’m ready to exit. You can only beat the drum for so long. It can only fall on deaf ears for so long before you finally say, ‘OK the people that need to make it better can’t make it better.’ ’’

Even with all the frustrations Stewart feels, he’s still looking forward to the final eight races of his Cup career.

“I’m not ready for it to be done. Am I excited about what I’m doing next year? Yes,’’ said Stewart, who plans to run at least 40-50 races next year, mainly on dirt tracks. “Am I still excited about the eight weeks that I have? Yeah. I’m still pretty excited about it. I still have got eight more weeks that I get to race with (crew chief Mike Bugarewicz) and I get to race with my guys. I still get to drive a pretty cool race car each week in a pretty cool series. I’m going to enjoy these last eight weeks.

“No matter what happens this weekend, am I going to be upset if I don’t make it to the next round? Yeah, absolutely. That’s natural. That’s what a competitor should be like. If we don’t, it’s not the end of my year. I’ve got seven more weekends after this weekend to do the best I can and try to get another win and finish on a high note.’’