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Dale Earnhardt Jr. sees signs of greatness for Chase Elliott at Daytona but work remains

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows it will come. It just may take a little more time.

He wasn’t talking about his driving at Daytona International Speedway but that of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott, who become the youngest driver in NASCAR history to win a Daytona 500 qualifying race.

While Earnhardt, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and a few other Daytona 500 champions deftly move from lane to lane with the artistry of a maestro leading an orchestra, the 21-year-old Elliott’s blocking style is less refined.

“I noticed that, too,’’ said Earnhardt, who watched Elliott win the first qualifying race before Earnhardt competed in the second. “That’s just experience. He’s got a great spotter, but it’s the communication between him and the spotter. I think he’ll understand as he goes how much better to interpret what he’s getting from the spotter.

“He’s also going to learn and understand how the energy of the car and the draft works to where he can anticipate these moves. He’s sort of coming late into the move and that’s fine. I was the same way. He’ll get to where he’ll see it and knows to do it and do it more and he won’t have to be so abrupt because he’s ready for it.’’

It helped that even though Kevin Harvick labeled the first qualifying race “as aggressive a duels as I’ve ever been in,’’ cool, calm and collected minds prevailed. Even with points available in this event for the first time in decades, the goal for many was to ensure their Daytona 500 car emerged unscathed from this 150-mile tune-up.

So, no there wasn’t going to be the hard charge Brad Keselowski used on the final lap of Sunday’s Clash. Drivers were going to push but there was a limit to how wild they would get.

That doesn’t mean Elliott got a free pass. Harvick challenged for the lead at times but couldn’t get around the second-year Cup driver.

“I think he did a pretty good job,’’ Harvick said of Elliott’s blocking. “There was definitely some aggressive turns back and forth. That’s what you’ve got to do. That’s part of the game. They knew when they weren’t clear and didn’t pull all the way up. I thought they did a pretty good job.’’

Elliott, who led 25 of 60 laps in the first of two qualifying races Thursday, conceded in victory lane that he learned a lot racing Keselowski and others at the front of the field.

Including last year’s qualifying race, Elliott had led only five laps in Cup at Daytona before Thursday night.

“I got some great experience being able to stay out front in those final laps,’’ Elliott said after his first Cup victory of any kind. “I know it wasn’t for a 500 win, but I feel like those guys were still trying to get some runs. I’m sure that will be amped up Sunday.’’

This also teaches him what to expect.

“I feel like really one of the biggest things I picked up on is who the players were tonight, who is going to be good on Sunday, what cars to look out for,’’ Elliott said.

“I’m eager to get back and see how good these guys do. I know with as good as our motor was running tonight, I feel like Dale is going to be tough.”

And smooth while blocking, something Elliott may need to be more of Sunday if he hopes to win the Daytona 500.

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NASCAR America: Parker Kligerman takes to simulator to show Xfinity changes at Indy (video)

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While Saturday will mark the sixth straight year the NASCAR Xfinity Series will race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there will be significant changes. 

Among the changes: the use of restrictor plates, as well as adding aero ducts to aid cars with the draft.

On Tbursday’s edition of NASCAR America, Parker Kligerman took a spin around the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway — on the NBCSN iRacing Simulator, that is — to show how some of those changes will impact the cars and potentially the race.

Check it out in the video above.

Friday’s NASCAR schedule at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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Friday will be somewhat of an easy, relaxing day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Cars will only take to the track twice in the afternoon — both being Xfinity Series practice sessions, which will be on the NBC Sports App.

IMS will host the NASCAR Cup Fan Fest from 4:30 – 8 p.m. ET, followed by the NASCAR Cup hauler parade that will see transporters enter the Speedway around 9 p.m. ET.

Here’s the rest of Friday’s schedule (all times Eastern):

FRIDAY, JULY 21

9:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

1 – 1:55 p.m. – First Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

3 – 3:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

NASCAR America: Pit crew members share their hidden talents

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What does a sky diver and Olympic-caliber swimmer have in common?

They make their living on NASCAR’s pit road, that’s what.

Check out two of this week’s pit crew all-star nominees, as seen on Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America.

NASCAR America: Xfinity drivers react to restrictor plates at Indy (video)

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On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, several of the stars of the NASCAR Xfinity Series tried to explain in three words what to expect with the use of restrictor plates in this Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

See what they said and what they’re thinking about Saturday’s race in the video above.