Dale Jr. ‘felt super comfortable’ in the NBCSN booth

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For the first time since 1999, a Sprint Cup restrictor-plate race did not feature Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the field.

Instead, still recovering from the effects of a season-ending concussion, the 10-time restrictor-plate winner was a guest in the NBCSN booth for a portion of Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

It was Earnhardt’s first time in the NBCSN booth after previously having been a guest for a Fox Sports 1 broadcast of a Xfinity Series race earlier this year.

“That was so much fun,” Earnhardt said on his Dale Jr. Download podcast. “I felt super comfortable up there, being great friends with (former crew chief) Steve (Letarte) and knowing Jeff Burton very well. Rick Allen, those guys are pros. I got a new respect for those guys, Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon and all them. There’s a lot going on up there in that booth, and those guys are on top of it. It was really impressive. It’s fun to be a witness to that.”

Earnhardt doesn’t plan to retire from racing in the near future, but the Hendrick Motorsports driver is unsure if his post-racing career path will be similar to Gordon’s and lead into TV.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever have a future in broadcasting, but it’s a personal experience for me to be able to get up in there and look at it,” Earnhardt said.

Earnhardt joined the broadcast about halfway through the race and discussed how difficult it is to advance through the field and how he chooses who’ll he’ll team up with during plate races.

“To get an opportunity to go to all these different avenues and see all kinds of angles and perspectives of what goes into a Sunday at the race track is pretty neat,” Earnhardt said. “I felt very lucky.”

Earnhardt’s day overlooking Talladega didn’t end with the NBCSN booth. He also “took the opportunity” to visit the MRN booth for a time.

“Same thing there, never really had that chance to do that and put it on myself to go check that out and experience it,” said Earnhardt, who was part of the ceremony that renamed Talladega’s MRN booth after the late Barney Hall in September. “Doing the radio vs. TV, two completely different things. The radio guys, they really describe the action as they’re seeing it on the racetrack and they’re tossing this invisible baton to each other around the racetrack as they describe the action.

“The guys on TV don’t really cover the action as much as they talk about why you’re seeing what’s happening, describing drafting and explaining how that stuff works. You’re actually seeing the racing action, so they don’t really talk about what’s happening as much as they’re describing how the sport works.

Earnhardt said he doesn’t “know which one I enjoyed better. They’re both pretty unique and fun.

“I hope the fans at home enjoyed the insight I was able to give. I’m not a professional broadcaster, but I hope that I was easy to understand and did a good job explaining myself. The draft is a real technical thing. I like to try to explain what’s going on to folks.”

Fans will be able to get Earnhardt’s perspective again Sunday. Earnhardt will rejoin the NBCSN booth for a portion of the broadcast of the Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway, which will begin at 1:30 p.m. ET.

My Home Tracks: New Mexico’s the Land of Enchantment and home of Cardinal Speedway

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The state of New Mexico is known more for IndyCar racing, with the Unser family being the state’s favorite sons.

Al Unser won four Indianapolis 500s, brother Bobby three and Al’s son Al Jr. a two-time winner (this weekend’s 500 marks the 25th anniversary of Little Al’s second 500 triumph).

But there’s a strong grassroots racing scene in the Land of Enchantment, particularly in the far southeast corner of the state at Cardinal Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in the little town of Eunice.

NASCAR America continues its My Home Track series of 50 states in 50 shows.

Wednesday, we visit New York state.

2018 NASCAR schedule changes: EVP Steve O’Donnell breaks it down (video)

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On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell joined us to discuss the NASCAR Cup schedule changes in 2018, including running a road race at Charlotte and having Indianapolis be the final race before the playoffs.

“I’m real excited about these changes,” said O’Donnell, who cited unprecedented cooperation between NASCAR, its teams, drivers and sponsors to reach agreement on the schedule changes.

Among the key changes: Las Vegas will kick off the 10-race playoffs in 2018 (Chicagoland Speedway, which will have hosted the last seven playoff openers, will return to its more traditional race date in early July/late June and serve as a run-up to the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona.

Several other changes include:

  • The fall playoff race at Charlotte will move up a couple weeks in the schedule and also incorporate competition on both the infield road course and part of the speedway itself.
  • After 14 years as the deciding race to qualify for the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Richmond International Raceway will now become the second race of the playoffs.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see it’s Brickyard 400 go from late July to become the final qualifying race for the playoffs in early September. While still in the rumor stage, there’s a lot of talk that IMS may change the race to something akin to its Verizon IndyCar Series Indy Grand Prix race in mid-May, where half the race is run on the infield road course and the other half on the traditional racetrack surface.

Catch up on all the changes in the above video.

Tony Stewart pulled over by state trooper, but it’s not for speeding

Photo courtesy Damein Cunningham Twitter account
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Retired NASCAR Cup driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart was stopped by an Illinois State Trooper over the weekend near DeKalb, Ill., about 90 minutes west of Chicago.

But before you think Stewart was stopped for speeding by Trooper Damein Cunningham, he wasn’t.

Rather, Cunningham pulled Stewart over for improper lane usage, although exactly what the infraction was is unclear.

After getting a verbal warning, Stewart gladly posed with Cunningham for a selfie, which the trooper promptly tweeted out.

“Just pulled over NASCAR LEGEND Tony Stewart on I-88 in DeKalb, IL, what you think I got him for? #NASCAR #ISP”

But according to the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham’s bosses apparently didn’t have a sense of humor about the incident or realize the good PR it meant for the Illinois State Police.

That, or they’re not Stewart or NASCAR fans. They ordered Cunningham to delete the tweet, which he did.

It’s unclear what Stewart, who was stopped on his 46th birthday, was doing in the Land of Lincoln.

But his luck went from bad to worse a few hours later. According to USA Today, Stewart and others were stuck in an elevator in a Madison, Wisconsin hotel for about 20 minutes before being rescued by firefighters.

We can just imagine what the elevator riders talked about while trapped.

How much do you want to bet Stewart said, “Man, do I have a story about a cop that I have to tell you.”

Cunningham then posted another tweet on Sunday after attending church services.

 

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All-Star Race will remain at Charlotte in 2018

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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NASCAR confirmed that the All-Star Race will be held again at Charlotte Motor Speedway despite more of a push from competitors and others to move the event.

Criticism was raised after last weekend’s 70-lap event featured only three lead changes. Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart to begin the final 10-lap stage and went on to win. It marked the fourth time in the last five years the All-Star winner led every lap in the final stage. In 12 All-Star Races at Charlotte since the track was repaved, there have been two lead changes in the final five laps.

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, was clear in a call with reporters Tuesday that the All-Star Race is set for Charlotte.

“We’ve finished our discussions for ’18,” he said. ” We’ll begin looking at ’19 and beyond in the near future.”

The All-Star Race debuted at Charlotte in 1985, moved to Atlanta in 1986 and returned to Charlotte the following year. It has been held at Charlotte ever since.

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