AVONDALE, AZ - JANUARY 31:  Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives his car during NASCAR testing at Phoenix International Raceway on January 31, 2017 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was ‘freaking pumped’ for Phoenix test

4 Comments

Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s feelings toward this week’s two-day test at Phoenix Raceway were different from past NASCAR tests.

While traveling to the track in Avondale, Arizona, from the NASCAR-themed cruise that stopped in Key West, Florida, Earnhardt couldn’t contain his excitement in texts to friends and team members.

“I don’t know why, but I’m just freaking pumped up for this,” Earnhardt said Tuesday, recalling the general theme of those text messages during a press conference. “When you’re racing every single week for 20 years and you’re testing here and there it gets kind of boring, no lie.”

For the second time since a concussion forced him out of the car last July, Earnhardt climbed back into his No. 88 Chevrolet to prepare for the 2017 season. He last drove a car in December at Darlington Raceway in order to receive clearance to drive again.

“My guys were excited this morning when we walked into the hauler,” Earnhardt said. “You miss the camaraderie and the friendships I have on my road crew. I think they missed me. That makes you feel good. They seem excited that we’re working together and back together.”

MORE: Dale Jr. looks at 2017 and beyond with return to racing

Earnhardt, driving a No. 88 car with sponsor logos but no paint, was the first driver out on the 1-mile track. He would return to the garage for an extended period of time to fix a “little hiccup” when his brakes caught fire.

“We got underway and got to trying some stuff that we had on our list,” Earnhardt said. “We’ve got a really long list. (Crew chief) Greg (Ives) and those guys are motoring right through it. We’ve seen that the car has really good speed.

“I like the way the car feels. It’s been a fun day. Didn’t really take any time to get acclimated or adjusted to anything. There’s a couple of small new things with the cockpit or the dash, little things like that. It’s funny how things continue to change, technology on the car continues to change. As far as driving the car I felt comfortable out there.”

It was the first time Earnhardt has been on a track with other cars since he finished 13th at Kentucky Speedway on July 9. His recovery from a concussion forced him to miss the final 18 races of the year.

Earnhardt has three wins at Phoenix, including his last Cup Series victory in November 2015. The 14-time most popular driver shared his thoughts on the renovation project Phoenix announced Monday. The $178 million project will include moving the start-finish to the dogleg on the backstretch.

“I think it will be really interesting to have the restart while we’re in the turns,” Earnhardt said. “Imagine if you’re 20th and middle of a pack and trying to get a good restart while you’re in a corner. It’s going to be interesting to throttle up out of the turn for a restart. It’s going to be guys all over the place going through the dogleg because on restarts you’re going to have guys that accelerate better than others, guys in the right lane, wrong lane. It’s going to be chaos going through the dogleg. It will be some action.”

Earnhardt and the rest of the drivers testing will be back at the track on Wednesday. Every Cup Series team will return to Phoenix for the March 19 Camping World 500.

 and on Facebook

NASCAR America: Recapping Kurt Busch’s ‘patient’ Daytona 500 win

Leave a comment

A day after his Daytona 500 win, the NASCAR America crew breaks down everything Busch had to do to win. Busch drove the final 30 laps without a rear-view mirror while worrying about how much gas he had left.

Tony Stewart, who owns the No. 41, called the win the most “patient” race of Busch’s career.

Check out the logo for the 60th Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 22:  Fans crowd the infield prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sure, it’s been roughly 24 hours since Kurt Busch won the 59th Daytona 500.

But it’s not too early to start ramping up to the next entry of the “Great American Race.”

Daytona International Speedway has already unveiled the logo for the 60th Daytona 500, which is scheduled to be run on Feb. 18, 2018.

Check out it out below.

Denny Hamlin, girlfriend Jordan Fish expecting second child

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Can-Am Duel 2
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Denny Hamlin didn’t make it back-to-back wins in the Daytona 500 on Sunday, but he still had a good day.

Hamlin’s longtime girlfriend, Jordan Fish, tweeted just before the “Great American Race” that their first child, 4-year-old daughter Taylor, will soon have a brother or sister.

Fish tweeted a photo of Taylor wearing a “Big Sister In Training” shirt that told the whole story.

Congratulations to the couple and the soon-t0-be addition to their family.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Matt DiBenedetto delivers Go Fas Racing best Cup Series result in team history

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 24:  Matt DiBenedetto, driver of the #32 EJ Wade Construction Ford, practices for the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

It took 99 starts, a revolving door of drivers and the crash fest that was the 59th Daytona 500.

That’s all it took before Matt DiBenedetto was able to give his new NASCAR Cup Series team, Go Fas Racing, its best result in team history, finishing ninth in Sunday’s “Great American Race.”

DiBenedetto, driving the No. 32 Ford owned by Archie St. Hilaire, simply survived.

Despite being in the 17-car wreck on Lap 128, DiBenedetto’s car stayed in one piece and, after a last pit stop, had enough gas to take advantage of the misfortune of others. The result is his second top 10 in two seasons.

“That’s a heck of a way to start the year,” DiBenedetto said after the race. “Holy cow. We survived. We got in that one crash and we hit pretty hard. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s gonna be a long day,’ but the guys did a great job patching it up. It still ran fine. I had good speed. The motor ran great all day, so it was cool.”

Starting his third full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series, DiBenedetto rolled off 25th in his second Daytona 500 start. The native of Grass Valley, California, had an average running spot of 21.35.

As the laps wound down, teams ahead of DiBenedetto began dropping off as their fuel tanks dried up. The 25-year-old driver had no idea what position he was in as he took the checkered flag.

“No, I didn’t honestly,” DiBenedetto said. “The whole race we were pitting multiple times just trying to make sure it was fixed properly and taking our time and we just kept picking them off one at a time and it turned out to be a great day.”

It was DiBenedetto’s best day since he earned an emotional sixth-place finish in last year’s spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Then, DiBenedetto was with BK Racing, which he decided to leave following the season.

“It was definitely different,” DiBenedetto said. “This one was a little bit more survival. … I would say they’re different feelings, but being in the Daytona 500 in the first place is unbelievable. So I’m gonna say this one does feel really good just because it’s the Daytona 500 and it’s been my dream since I was five to even be in it. So to get a top 10 in it, I’m just checking off all these dreams come true.”

Go Fas Racing made its Cup Series debut in 2012 at Texas Motor Speedway with Scott Speed driving its No. 95 Ford.

DiBenedetto is the 23rd driver to take the reigns of a Go Fas Racing car, but the first to drive full-time.

“We’ve taken the team and brought in some really good people,” DiBenedetto said. “I’m so lucky to have my crew chief, Gene Nead, who came in and assembled some of the best guys we could possibly get, so we have some real quality people, some of the folks that were at BK with me. It’s amazing to have that tight of a group, where they are so dedicated to follow me and Gene wherever we go.

“That’s special. You don’t find that often, so we have such a great relationship and I think that’s where we’re gonna turn a lot of heads this year and surprise everybody. You’re only as good as the people around you and we have really good people. I’m fortunate to have them. We’re gonna turn some heads. We have 15 employees total versus some people who have 400-500, but we have 15 good, quality people and our goal is to over-achieve all year.”

It’s doesn’t hurt to start in the Daytona 500.

 and on Facebook