Age merely a number to Dale Earnhardt Jr., not an indicator of when to retire

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. turned 42 Monday and with each birthday past the 40th, the question to any driver becomes how much longer they will race.

Earnhardt’s situation is a bit different than most athletes as he recovers from a concussion that has kept him out of the car since after the July 9 race at Kentucky Speedway. Earnhardt plans to be back for the start of next season at Daytona International Speedway, but how many more years does he have left as a driver?

“I don’t know,’’ Earnhardt said Wednesday at Martinsville Speedway for the track’s announcement that it will install lights after this season. “Some guys, Jeff (Gordon) was really good and strong (when) he was 43, he probably could have went a couple of more years. (Greg) Biffle has had some good years and he’s 46 now. I don’t know if age is really a factor, it’s really about the passion you have for it, if you get can get out of bed and get up on the wheel and want to do it.’’

Gordon retired last season at age 44, competing for the championship in the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway before returning this year to fill in as a substitute for Earnhardt. Tony Stewart, who made the Chase this year, will retire from the Sprint Cup Series after this season at age 45.

Others, like Earnhardt, are closer to the end of their careers. Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson turned 41 last month. Former champion Matt Kenseth is 44. Former champion Kevin Harvick is 40.

Age, though, shouldn’t be viewed as a key factor for deciding when to retire, Earnhardt said. He says something else is more important.

“When you get up and don’t want it as much as the next guy, you’ve got to start thinking whether you belong there, whether the team deserves that kind of commitment,’’ said the two-time Daytona 500 winner. “The team is going to go in there and work their guts out. They need a driver with the same attitude. Anytime you feel like that maybe you don’t have that attitude, you need to start thinking about letting somebody else get in there and giving the team the opportunity. That’s what I think about.

“I don’t know why some guys’ careers fade. I think it’s different reasons, different circumstances, the cars, the team, the organization maybe, but also the passion to do it because it takes a ton to really want to get up on the wheel and race as hard as you’ve got to race every weekend. It came real easy when you’re young, but the older you get it’s a little bit harder. Them young guys, man, they’re coming into the sport wide open and it’s getting harder and harder to be able to keep up with them.’’

So how does Earnhardt feel in being able to keep up with the younger drivers?

“I feel good,’’ he said. “I feel young. I feel younger than my years. As long as you have the passion and the commitment to do what have you have to do, not just on Sunday and Friday and Saturday but during the week, there’s a lot of commitments not only with sponsors, but you got meetings and you’ve got to be at the shop and you’ve got to make yourself available and accountable with the team and there’re just so much to it that goes to being successful.

“If you don’t have the passion for that, then you probably don’t need to be wasting anybody’s time. I think that’s probably what happens, you sort of lose that want to be able to get up and go do it.’’

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch questions Xfinity rules package at Indy

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Kyle Busch isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and he certainly did so after Saturday’s  Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NASCAR implemented a number of changes to make the racing closer, tighter and more exciting — including restrictor plates, a larger rear spoiler, aero ducts, and a smaller splitter — and achieved all that on many fronts.

But not for the younger Busch brother, who wasn’t pleased with the rules package. Was it actually designed to specifically slow him down rather than to even out things for the entire field?

Or was he just simply upset because he didn’t win a third Xfinity race in a row at IMS?

Check out how our NASCAR America analysts gauged the Xfinity changes in the above video.

 

TriStar Motorsports team owner Mark Smith passes away

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Mark Smith, owner of TriStar Motorsports, died Saturday at his home, after a long battle with cancer, the team announced Monday. He was 63.

He began his racing career building engines for his brother Jack’s drag car in the 1970s. He moved his family from the West Coast in the early 1990s to pursue a career in NASCAR. He was the owner of TriStar Motorsports and Pro Motor Engines.

TriStar Motorsports fields the No. 14 in the Xfinty Series with JJ Yeley and the No. 72 in the Cup Series with Cole Whitt. The team stated the team will continue operations under the management of Bryan Smith, son of Mark Smith.

“It was dad’s dream to own and operate a NASCAR team,” Bryan Smith said. “He devoted his life to that dream and his family plans to honor his wishes by continuing our efforts in his memory.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Victory Junction Gang victoryjunction.org or NOVA (National Organization for Vehicle Access, part of the BraunAbility) novafunding.org.

The family will receive friends from 5-8 p.m. ET, Aug. 1 at Cavin-Cook Funeral Home, Mooresville, North Carolina. They have created a Facebook page where you are encouraged to leave a story for the family to enjoy. (facebook.com/Remembering-Mark-Smith-301261653675224)

NASCAR America: Analysts break down Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. wreck (video)

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Given how wild the Brickyard 400 played out, the big wreck between race leaders Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. wasn’t exactly surprising.

Rather, with the way the race transpired from the opening lap, was the Busch/Truex wreck almost inevitable?

Truex got loose and washed up into the left rear of Busch’s car, sending both drivers and their respective cars into the outside retaining walls, hitting hard and ending their respective days.

Check out what our NASCAR America analysts had to say about the wreck from Monday’s show in the above video.

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr. recaps wild Brickyard 400 (video)

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, Dale Earnhardt Jr. — who will become part of our NBC Sports Group in 2018 — looked back on a wild and intense Brickyard 400.

Earnhardt was one of several drivers whose day came to an early ending — in Junior’s case when he ran into the back of Trevor Bayne‘s car, destroying his radiator in the process.

All the mayhem and mishaps could be linked to over-aggressive driving, Earnhardt said, saying that every driver was in “attack mode,” especially on restarts.

Check out Junior in the video above.