Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Dale Earnhardt Jr. in ‘one hell of a hole’ in the points after Martinsville

1 Comment

Dale Earnhardt Jr. thought Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway would be the “turning point” for his NASCAR Cup season.

Instead, Earnhardt said the No. 88 team is continuing to dig “ourselves one hell of a hole with this points situation.”

The Hendrick Motorsports driver shared his thoughts about his 34th place finish on Periscope a few hours after the race.

Earnhardt entered the event looking for his first top 10 of the season and he had the car to do it. Despite an average running spot of 14.5, Earnhardt was in the top 10 multiple times, even running in sixth at the end of the second stage.

But the team’s race unraveled multiple times before evaporating in radiator steam.

“Really disappointed today about how we finished because we definitely had a car that should have run in the top five,” Earnhardt said. “Haven’t been really that disappointed about where we finished before this season because we finished about where we should have. But this one sucks because anytime I finish where I don’t think I should have, I feel we didn’t do the job we should have done.”

The first dent in his day came on Lap 124 when Earnhardt went spinning down the backstretch as a result of contact with Ryan Blaney. Earnhardt’s car wasn’t damaged in the accident and he continued.

“I guess coming off Turn 4 at one point I squeezed (Blaney) into the wall,” Earnhardt said. “And I thought I about wrecked myself, because he about turned me into the fence. So I guess he got pretty pissed off about that. We come up off of Turn 2 and I spun the tires and had the car kind of sideways and he just kind of finished me off. He didn’t do me any favors there.

“Happy we didn’t hit anything when that happen. That would have pissed me off if we had hit something.”

It was the latest dust-up between the two drivers after they got into each other at Phoenix and Blaney cursed out Earnhardt on his scanner, which was highly publicized during the following week.

On Sunday night after the Martinsville affair, Earnhardt didn’t feel like talking to Blaney.

“Before I knew it, we were back in the top 15,” said Earnhardt, who picked up five stage points at the end of Stage 2 on Lap 260. “We had a fast car and it was fun as hell to drive.”

But that would be his high point.

During pit stops on Lap 394, Earnhardt and Aric Almirola were caught speeding on pit road, which sent them to the back of the pack.

“Everything was going decent until I sped on pit road and got ourselves back in the pack,” Earnhardt said. “I guess I can take a little bit of the blame for me getting torn up there at the end because we wouldn’t have been back there if we hadn’t sped.”

The No. 88 was torn up and Earnhardt’s day ended on Lap 418. That’s when a seven-car crash broke out in Turns 3 and 4. As cars ahead of him began getting collected, Earnhardt drove into back of teammate Kasey Kahne. The rear bumper of Kahne’s car broke through Earnhardt’s front end and “cracked” his radiator, causing a geyser of steam and an unrepairable car.

It also relegated Earnhardt to 25th in the points standings. He has 17 stage points heading to the last race before the Easter break, at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I’m glad we’ve got some speed,” Earnhardt said. “It gives me a little more confidence going into the next several weeks. We have dug ourselves one hell of a hole with this points situation with the way we’ve been finishing. We have to get our crap together. It starts this weekend, hopefully we get to Texas and get us a good run, damn.

“A little frustrating for sure. Martinsville’s a track I look forward to … I hate that I’m going to have to wait so long to get back there.”

Darlington celebrates NASCAR’s 70th birthday by revealing 4th throwback weekend details

Getty Images
1 Comment

Darlington Raceway on Thursday celebrated the 70th birthday of NASCAR in a big way, announcing details for the fourth annual NASCAR throwback weekend.

The track revealed the 2018 edition of the throwback weekend will celebrate “Seven Decades of NASCAR,” to be held Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at the legendary 1.366-mile track.

The weekend will include the Cup Series’ Bojangles’ Southern 500 and the Xfinity Series’ Sports Clips Haircuts VFW 200.

NASCAR held its first of several organizational meetings on Dec. 14, 1947, at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida. That ultimately led to the official formation of NASCAR on Feb. 21, 1948.

The throwback weekend will honor and feature highlights of some of the biggest moments in the sport’s history over its first 70 years.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Darlington Raceway and the NASCAR industry to celebrate the sport over a seven decade period during our 2018 throwback weekend,” Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp said in a media release.

“We have been era specific the past three years,” Tharp added, “so we felt it was important to recognize the 70th anniversary of NASCAR with our ‘Seven Decades of NASCAR’ celebration next season and give the teams, sanctioning body and others a wider brush to paint a picture capturing memorable moments we might not have celebrated in year’s past.”

Memorable moments to be celebrated include several that took place at Darlington itself, including Ned Jarrett’s record-setting 14-lap victory in the 1965 Southern 500, Ricky Craven’s record-setting photo finish win over Kurt Busch in 2003, and Jimmie Johnson’s 2012 Southern 500 win, which gave team owner Rick Hendrick his 200th career victory, among others.

Cup winners of the first three throwback weekends have been Carl Edwards (2015), Martin Truex Jr. (2016) and Denny Hamlin (2017).

As has been the case for the first three throwback weekends, the track will once again issue commemorative tickets for the Southern 500.

“We have produced commemorative tickets for our fans every year of the throwback program, which is an important part of our platform,” Tharp said. “We appreciate how much the fans have supported Darlington Raceway and want them to walk away from our weekend with a special keepsake that recognizes our rich history and honors the stars of our sport.”

Front Row Motorsports adds Michael McDowell, expands technical alliance with Roush Fenway

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Front Row Motorsports will field entries for David Ragan and Michael McDowell in 2018 while expanding its technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing, the team announced Thursday.

McDowell joins the Bob Jenkins-owned team after four years of driving the No. 95 Chevrolet for Leavine Family Racing before being replaced by Kasey Kahne.

The native of Phoenix, Arizona, McDowell replaces Landon Cassill as Ragan’s teammate.

McDowell, 32, has 249 Cup starts since 2008, but only two full-time seasons under his belt. He made one start for Front Row at Watkins Glen in 2013.

“Since I first drove for Bob at Watkins Glen, we’ve kept in touch and have felt like there might be an opportunity to work together again, and the timing worked out perfectly,” McDowell said in a press release. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a teammate, so I’m really looking forward to working with David, whom I’ve become pretty good friends with over the years. As a team now, we go into the season knowing we have five or six races that put us in position to get a win and earn a spot in the playoffs.”

Ragan returns to Front Row for his fifth season. Ragan earned the organization its first Cup victory in 2013 at Talladega. Ragan has two wins, 15 top fives and 39 top-10 finishes in his Cup career.

“Bob Jenkins and I have developed a good relationship over the years, both professionally and personally,” Ragan said in a press release. “I believe in this team and am proud to have been part of its growth and its successes. I’m excited that Bob and Ford have agreed to take the program to the next level, and I’m happy I’ll be here to help the team continue to grow.”

Crew chief assignments have not been finalized. FRM will announce sponsor partners and driver car numbers at a later date.

 and on Facebook

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s ‘Last Ride’ diecast is Lionel Racing’s bestselling ever

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has set a new benchmark for Lionel Racing’s most purchased diecast in its 25-year history.

Lionel Racing, NASCAR’s official diecast producer, has announced that the diecast of Earnhardt’s “Last Ride” No. 88 Chevrolet in the Cup season finale last month is now its bestselling diecast in company history.

The “Last Ride” car is based on the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet that Earnhardt drove in his rookie Cup season in 2000.

The previous bestseller was another Earnhardt diecast, for his 2014 Daytona 500 win.

Lionel Racing says that QVC’s “For Race Fans Only” show that featured Earnhardt and unveiled the car helped contribute to sales. But even without QVC, sales of the “Last Ride” diecast outpaced the 2014 Daytona 500 diecast by more than 10,000 units.

“The demand for this car has been simply astounding,” Lionel Racing President Howard Hitchcock said on the company’s website. “The fan response to this diecast is a true measure of how much Earnhardt has meant to both casual NASCAR fans and serious diecast collectors.”

Lionel Racing has also revealed the top-10 selling diecasts for the year, which you can find below. Earnhardt has six cars on the list. Chase Elliott has two and Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney each have one.

Casey Mears likely to split 2018 between NASCAR, Global Rallycross and Stadium Super Trucks

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Casey Mears still plans to compete part-time in NASCAR in 2018, but he’s also looking to expand his racing horizons.

The veteran NASCAR driver told The Checkered Flag recently that he also expects to race in the Red Bull Global Rallycross series, as well as Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks series.

“Right now I’m talking to a few NASCAR programs to do maybe limited stuff,” Mears told The Checkered Flag. “I don’t have anything that would be a full-time ride in a NASCAR series.

“I’ve been speaking with Robby Gordon in the Stadium Super Truck program. I think that’s a really cool up-and-coming-series and I’d definitely like to be involved with the GRC. It looks like a lot of fun.

“I think there’s enough difference between all those that it could leave room for doing a bit of both so we’ll see how it works out.”

Mears did not race in the Cup Series in 2017, having lost his ride at the end of 2016 to Ty Dillon in the No. 13 Geico Chevy. He has amassed 488 starts and one win (2007 Coca-Cola 600) in his Cup career, along with 13 top fives and 51 top 10s.

However, he did compete on a part-time basis in 2017 in the Xfinity Series, making 14 starts, with season-best finishes of ninth place at both Richmond and Road America. He also has 107 Xfinity starts with one win, 16 top fives and 34 top 10s.