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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)

Chase Elliott, AJ Allmendinger unveil Darlington throwback schemes

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Both Chase Elliott and AJ Allmendinger have revealed the paint schemes they’ll drive in the Sept. 3 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Elliott will use his No. 24 Chevrolet to pay tribute to the car his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, drove in his first Cup start.

The light blue look was on his No. 9 car when he started in the Feb. 29, 1976 race at Rockingham Speedway.

The car was revealed on Facebook in the below video.

AJ Allmendinger will pay tribute to two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte with his No. 47 Chevrolet.

The car will resemble the No. 44 Piedmont Airlines Oldsmobile that Labonte drove in during the 198 Cup season when he competed for owner Billy Hagan.

NASCAR America: Felix Sabates: ‘I’m lucky to be here’ after near-death experience from illness last year

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For nearly a month last year Felix Sabates was at death’s door.

The fears were so great that Sabates might not wake up from a coma he spent 29 days in, Chip Ganassi bought a blue suit for the possibility he might have to attend his co-owner’s funeral.

But the 71-year-old made a full recovery through a rehab process that included learning to walk again.

NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty and Sabates have a special relationship. Petty drove the No. 42 car for Sabates’ SABCO Racing for eight years in the 1980s and 1990s, winning six of his eight Cup races for the millionaire owner from Cuba.

Sabates sat down with Petty to discuss the ordeal, which began in January 2016 when Sabates began feeling ill during the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I came home and woke up the next morning and I (couldn’t) breath,” said Sabates, who drove himself to the hospital. “The minute they saw me I was in intensive care.”

Sabates was in the hospital for two and half weeks before he was released, but Sabates “should’ve know I wasn’t cured.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner returned to his usual grind until it caught up to him in August.

“My blood pressure was through the roof, my oxygen level was 55, which you should be dead then,” recalled Sabates, who has no memory of a three-month stretch. “They thought was I was brain-dead. They were pretty much going to disconnect me. So 4 o’clock in the morning, they took my tubes out.”

That’s when Sabates began the process of waking up.

“I’m lucky to be here,” said Sabates, who aside from being back at the track is also back to playing golf.

“I used to worry about little things,’ Sabates said. “Now I don’t even worry about big things.”

The full feature will air Sunday on Countdown to Green, which begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN before the Cup race at Pocono.

NASCAR America: Ryan Blaney glad Team Penske news is finally out in the open

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On Wednesday it was finally announced that Ryan Blaney would move from Wood Brothers Racing to Team Penske full-time next year in the Cup Series in the No. 12 Ford while Paul Menard will take over the No. 21 Ford.

NASCAR America’s Dave Burns caught up with Blaney on Thursday. Blaney was happy that his 2018 plans were finally public knowledge.

Blaney also acknowledged how a technical alliance between the two teams helped Wood Brothers Racing return to a competition level that allowed Blaney to get his first Cup win this season earlier this year.

“That was a big deal,” Blaney said. “That was getting us to where we could run a full-time season. That was really helpful not only to me but to (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins, will be coming with me to the 12 car.”

Blaney has been driving for Team Penske part-time in the Xfinity Series since 2012.

“It’s been nice to get the news and tell everybody finally about what we’re doing,” Blaney said. “But mainly we’re trying to finish this year out strong with the Wood Brothers, getting their 100th win, that’s really big. That’s on my bucket list for this year and getting as far as we can in the playoffs.”

The No. 21 team returns to Pocono Raceway this weekend, the site of Blaney’s first Cup win last month.

Watch the video for the full interview.

Numbers add up for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Pocono

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Just six races remain for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to make the playoffs in his final NASCAR Cup season.

Earnhardt is ranked 22nd in the NASCAR Cup standings and there are only four open positions — that could shrink further with additional first-time winners in 2017 in the next six races — left for winless drivers to qualify for the 16-driver playoffs strictly on points.

As a result, Earnhardt and his fans know that with each passing race where the No. 88 remains winless, the urgency to win even just one race to make the 10-race playoffs increases exponentially.

Junior’s fans may be heartened to hear some positive tidbits about his chances this weekend at Pocono Raceway, courtesy of RacingInsights.com.

  • Did you know that during Junior’s nine-plus year tenure with Hendrick Motorsports, he’s earned the most top-fives at Daytona (seven in 20 starts) and … this may come as a surprise … at Pocono (seven in 18 starts).
  • Earnhardt also has six top fives both at Martinsville and Michigan (18 starts each), and five top fives at Phoenix and Talladega (also 18 starts each).
  • Of Hendrick Motorsports’ last 10 wins, Jimmie Johnson has won eight, Kasey Kahne won last Sunday’s Brickyard 400 and Earnhardt’s most recent Cup win came on Nov. 15, 2015 at Phoenix Raceway.
  • Earnhardt has gone 39 races since his last win.
  • Earnhardt won both races at Pocono in 2014. In the four races he’s been in since then, he’s finished fourth (mid-summer 2015) second (early 2016 race) — meaning he’s had four top-five finishes in his last six starts at the 2.5-mile tri-oval.
  • He also was 11th in the early 2015 race there. His only finish lower than 11th came last month at Pocono when he completed just 58 of the scheduled 160 laps before his motor expired.
  • In 34 career Cup starts at the Tricky Triangle, Earnhardt has two wins, 11 top fives, 15 top 10s and one pole.
  • Earnhardt is ranked sixth for most laps led by winless drivers this season, with 24 laps led. By comparison, Kyle Busch has led 1,040 laps, the most of all winless drivers in 2017.

Add all those elements together and could Junior’s best chance up to now to win and lock in a playoff berth come this Sunday?

We’ll soon find out.

Follow @JerryBonkowski