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Dale Jr. shows off latest skeleton-themed helmet for 2017

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A day after revealing his Nationwide paint scheme for 2017, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has shown off the helmet he’ll be wearing next season.

Earnhardt posted a picture of the helmet, designed by artist Nick Pastura, on Twitter.

The dark blue helmet features skeleton figures in cowls. Skeletons are a feature Earnhardt has a fondness for.

While the gloves he wears in races are designed to look like they’re skeleton hands, every year Earnhardt has a different skeleton-themed design on his helmet. Below is the 2017 design, which has a more holographic look than its predecessors. After that, take a look at each helmet design Pastura has created for Earnhardt dating back to 2007.

 

2016

HAMPTON, GA - FEBRUARY 26: A view of the helmet for Dale Earnhardt Jr (not pictured), driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)

2015

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 20: The helmet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, sits on top of his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

2014

LONG POND, PA - JUNE 06: A detailed view of the helmet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 6, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
 (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

2013

RIDGEWAY, VA - APRIL 06: The helmet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, sits on top of his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP Gas Booster 500 on April 6, 2013 at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

2012

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 16: The helmet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, posed during NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

2011

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 10: The helmet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, posed during the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 10, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

2009

JOLIET, IL - JULY 09: A general view of the helmet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on July 9, 2009 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

2008

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 31: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on October 31, 2008 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

2007

MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 31: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet, puts on his helmet prior to practice for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Goody's Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 31, 2007 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Former champions battling to stay alive in Cup playoffs

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Title hopes could end today for more than one series champion.

Former champ Jimmie Johnson holds that final transfer spot to the next round, but he leads former champion Kyle Busch by seven points and former champion Matt Kenseth by eight points.

“This is our first Homestead of this year,’’ Busch said, referring to the season finale that determines the crown. “We’ve got to come through this race. It’s not a must-win, but it is a must-perform.’’

It will be challenging because Busch, Johnson and Kenseth are all strong at this track.

Johnson’s three wins at Kansas are the most among active drivers. Busch has finished in the top five in five consecutive Kansas races. Kenseth has led 269 of the 536 laps (50.2 percent) run in this event the past two years.

That makes Sunday’s elimination race (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) even more intriguing.

Johnson, who is in his first bid to break a tie with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most Cup championships, finds himself in this spot because of a lack of speed. It’s hurt him in qualifying, costing him stage points, and hurt him throughout the race.

“We are a team and a group that thrives on adversity,’’ said Johnson, who noted he was the slowest of the championship cars last year in Miami and still won his record-tying seventh title.

“Whenever we have been backed into a corner we have always stepped up and have delivered. All the members of this No. 48 team love a challenge, and we are not even close to losing that desire and that fight to be out there and compete and race for the win and race for the championship.’’

Mistakes have plagued the team the past two weeks. At Charlotte, Johnson took off before all the lug nuts were secured on the left front tire and had to back up to have that remedied, losing time. Last week, spotter Earl Barban told the team they could begin work on Johnson’s wrecked car before the red flag was withdrawn. NASCAR parked the team for the infraction.

“There are lessons learned in everything,’’ Johnson said. “When I think of the Charlotte pit stop itself and I think of Talladega and the mistake there that Earl made, really all mistakes come from guys trying as hard as they can. 

“I personally have sympathy for that. I mean, the guys are just trying to do the best job they can and everybody makes mistakes. I make plenty of them, and I think Fridays show that on a regular basis. It’s hard for me to jump on somebody over that.  What I ask of myself is to learn from those lessons and try not to repeat them.’’

Kenseth, winless in his last 48 starts, has a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota but his team has seemed to be the weakest of JGR’s playoff teams throughout the postseason.

“If we don’t run good Sunday, then we don’t deserve to be in the next round anyway,’’ Kenseth said Friday.

Kenseth lamented the performance he and his team had at Kansas in May, finishing 12th.

“You’re only as good as your last race,’’ he said. “Our last one here we ran really, really bad.

Kenseth suggests he might have to knock someone else out of a playoff spot if Kyle Busch runs like he’s capable.

“If I’m Kyle (Busch), I’m feeling pretty good,’’ Kenseth said of his teammate. “He’s crashed two weeks in a row and he’s still in (playoff contention). That’s pretty amazing. Plus he’s been running so good, it’s one of his better places now. So I wouldn’t be very concerned if I was Kyle, I guess, because he’s had the performance.

“Now, (Jimmie Johnson) hasn’t run quite as good as he’s accustomed to running. We haven’t run as good as we’re accustomed to running.”

That Busch is so close after a miserable round (29th at Charlotte and 27th at Talladega) is because he has so many more playoff and stage points than Johnson and Kenseth.

Busch has 41 playoff points. Johnson has 17 and Kenseth five.

Busch’s job is simple he says.

“I look at it as out-finishing (Johnson) and (Blaney) by three, four spots each stage, each round, in order to make up enough points to pass them both,’’ he said. “Whether that’s doable or not, we’ll see. We’ll certainly try. We’ll fight hard, hopefully run up front all day long. We’ve done that this year. We did that here in the spring. We just need to back it up and do it again when it’s crunch time.”

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Justin Allgaier leads Xfinity playoff standings after first race of second round

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Justin Allgaier and two of his JR Motorsports teammates lead the Xfinity playoff standings after the first second round race, the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway.

Allgaier holds a two-point lead over William Byron and a 11-point lead over Elliott Sadler after finishing fifth in the race.

The top five is completed by Brennan Poole (-28) and Matt Tifft (-33).

Only four of the remaining eight drivers will advance to the championship race.

Click here for the point standings.

Stats, results for Xfinity race at Kansas Speedway

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Christopher Bell claimed his first Xfinity Series win in the Kansas Lottery 300 after passing his teammate, Erik Jones, with four laps left in the race at Kansas Speedway.

Bell only led the final four laps after Jones led 186.

Completing the top five was Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for results.

 

Christopher Bell wins first career Xfinity Series race at Kansas

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Christopher Bell passed teammate Erik Jones for the lead with four laps left in the Kansas Lottery 300, withstood contact from behind by Jones and claimed his first career Xfinity Series win.

Bell, driving the No. 18 Toyota, won in his fifth career start. It comes in the opening race of the second round of the playoffs.

Bell passed Jones in Turn 3 and drifted up to the wall as they exited Turn 4, where Jones then ran into him.

“I haven’t seen it so I can’t really talk much about it,” Bell told NBC. “But I never want to wreck anyone, especially my teammate. I don’t know. My spotter said clear, I drove it in really deep. I felt like I cleared him (watches replay). I don’t know man, I was clear. It’s my first Xfinity win. I’m sorry that Erik couldn’t finish the race. But I’m just stoked. This thing was awesome.”

Jones dominated the race until the pass by Bell. Jones led 186 of 200 laps and swept the first two stages. He finished 15th, one lap down due to damage from running into the back of Bell.

“It’s not dirt racing, he (wasn’t) clear,” Jones told NBC. “I can’t just stop on the top. I didn’t expect him to drive in on the bottom so far he wouldn’t be able to hold his lane. It’s unfortunate. … I thought we were going to race for the win. Unfortunately there wasn’t much of a race. It was more of a wreck.”

Jones has not finished better than 15th in his last four Xfinity starts.

It is the first win for Joe Gibbs Racing since Denny Hamlin won at Darlington Raceway, a five-race stretch. JGR has won 11 Xfinity races this season.

Bell, 22, is a full-time driver in the Camping World Truck Series. He will race full-time for JGR in the Xfinity Series next year.

The top five was Bell, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Justin Allgaier.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Erik Jones

STAGE 2 WINNER: Erik Jones

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Elliott Sadler finished seventh after bouncing back from a spin in Turn 4 on Lap 77 and a pit penalty … Tyler Reddick gave the No. 42 Chevrolet its fourth top-two finish in the last five races … William Byron finished fourth and Matt Tifft placed eighth after both had to start from the rear for unapproved adjustments.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Daniel Hemric finished 18th, a lap down after receiving a penalty for pitting outside his box … Blake Koch finished 23rd, four laps down after getting into the wall with about 35 laps to go … Cole Custer finished 19th, two laps down after pitting for a bad tire with less than five laps to go.

NOTABLE: The 186 laps led by Erik Jones are his most in 75 career Xfinity starts … The cars of Matt Tifft and Ryan Blaney each had one unsecured lug nut after the race. Any penalties will be announced later in the week.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I just don’t think that’s the way to do it. I get that (Christopher Bell) was clear. He wasn’t clear for the run I was having on the top. I was in the gas. There was no way I could slow up enough to let him. It’s just unfortunate. It took me out of the race. … I just don’t really appreciate that. I don’t think many people will.’’ – Erik Jones

WHAT’S NEXT: O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway at 8:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 4 on NBCSN