Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his contract, future in an exclusive NASCAR America interview tonight


A subpar start to 2017 in Cup won’t have an impact on whether Dale Earnhardt Jr. races in NASCAR’s premier series beyond this season.

In an exclusive interview with NBCSN reporter Marty Snider that will air on NASCAR America today (6-7 p.m.), Earnhardt said his decision “won’t be performance-based” as he weighs a contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports.

“I would never let performance make that decision,” the 14-time most popular driver, who has indicated he wanted to wait a couple of months into the season before mulling his future, told Snider in the interview.  “If you don’t run well, it’s almost ‘I’m just not going to go (leave).’ You want to come back and get it right.

“I went through some struggles in a few years, and man, am I glad that I stuck around. I’m glad I fought to get some success. It was so rewarding. I feel good health-wise, and me and (team owner) Rick (Hendrick) are in conversation talking about what we want to do in the future.”

Earnhardt hasn’t finished higher than 14th in his first six races since returning from a concussion that sidelined him for the second half last season. He is ranked 25th in the points standings.

He was running well Sunday at Martinsville Speedway before his No. 88 Chevrolet was caught in a multicar crash with 82 laps remaining

“Looking at the finishes, I’m disappointed,” said Earnhardt, who also crashed out of the Daytona 500 after leading eight laps. “I felt we’ve always started really strong. We’ve had a hard time maintaining that. … We’ve come out flat and haven’t had great finishes. We’ve lacked a little speed. We saw some promise in the car at Martinsville, which made me feel good and made me excited about whether we’re getting back on track.  But we have to get the results when we have an opportunity like we did at Martinsville to get a top-five finish.  We can’t make mistakes and have the poor runs we had at the start of the season and not capitalize when we have those chances.

“If we continue to have that result, we’re not going to make the playoffs. So I’m not really panicking just yet. But we can’t be giving away points like that on a weekend when we need to finish in the top 10.”

Earnhardt told reporters during Speedweeks that the first few months of 2017 were critical to determining his long-term future and establishing confidence in his health.

He told Snider in Tuesday’s interview at the governor’s mansion in Columbia, South Carolina, that his No. 88 Chevrolet team had been a source of strength.

“I believe in our team,” he told Snider. “They believe in me. We’re a great combination. We’re a great group of guys and this is a great opportunity for me, so yeah, we’re struggling and have had challenges and aren’t getting the results, but I don’t expect that to last too long.

During the interview, Earnhardt also discussed the importance of the Southern 500 throwback weekend to NASCAR tradition and his recent dust ups with Ryan Blaney (a good friend and neighbor of Earnhardt’s).

Watch NASCAR America at 6 p.m. on NBCSN for Earnhardt’s full interview with Snider.

Erik Jones gets belated Truck Series championship gift

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When Erik Jones won his 2015 Camping World Truck Series championship, he was still two years shy of the legal drinking age.

As a result, there was one piece missing from his championship celebration – the champagne.

Jones turned 21 last May and he can now enjoy all the benefits that go with it.

On Tuesday, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver tweeted that he’d finally received a commemorative bottle of champagne for his title run win Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Good things do come to those who wait.

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NBC Sports to be exclusive home to IndyCar, Indy 500 in 2019

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NBC Sports Group and IndyCar announced a multi-year agreement Wednesday for NBC Sports to be the exclusive home for IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 beginning in 2019.

The Indianapolis 500 and seven additional Verizon IndyCar Series races will be broadcast annually on NBC. The remaining races will be televised on NBCSN. All races will be live streamed to authenticated subscribers on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. With the agreement, NBC Sports also will present all IndyCar qualifying, practices and Indy Lights races across its platforms beginning in 2019. Details of NBC Sports’ 2019 IndyCar schedule will be announced at a later date.

“We’re excited to have NBC Sports serve as the exclusive home of IndyCar, which represents the most competitive open-wheel racing in the world,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports and NBCSN. “We’re honored to bring the Indianapolis 500, one of the most prestigious events in all of sports, to NBC, further enhancing NBC Sports’ Championship Season. We’ve seen consistent growth for IndyCar on NBCSN in the past decade, and we hope to continue that growth throughout the series by leveraging the television, digital, production and marketing assets that make NBC Sports a powerful media partner.”

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“This arrangement brings all of IndyCar to one home, increases our exposure and includes our first direct-to-consumer offer for our fans,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “We couldn’t be happier to have start-to-finish coverage of IndyCar season with the NBC Sports Group.”

The 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, set for Sunday, May 26, 2019, will be the first ever on NBC. The Indy 500 will also be included every year in NBC Sports’ Championship Season marketing campaign, which touts numerous high-profile championship events that are presented across NBC Sports platforms from May to July, including the Triple Crown, The PLAYERS, Premier League Championship Sunday, French Open, Stanley Cup Final, Tour de France, and The Open Championship.

The entire Verizon IndyCar Series will receive unprecedented marketing and promotional support from NBC Sports, which will utilize not only its own assets, but many NBCUniversal assets as well. With the Indy 500 and seven additional races on NBC, IndyCar will have the second-most races on broadcast television in all of motorsports.

NBC Sports Gold – NBC Sports Group’s direct-to-consumer product – will offer a package to IndyCar fans that features all qualifying and practices not televised live, all Indy Lights races, and full-event replays. Additional details, including the cost of the Gold offering, will be announced at a later date.


NASCAR America: Comparing today’s drivers to drivers of yesteryear

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With Kevin Harvick‘s recent run of three consecutive wins, NASCAR America analysts Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte used the opportunity debate which NASCAR legends they compare Harvick and other current drivers to.

Burton compared Harvick to three-time Cup champion Cale Yarborough.

“I think they remind me a lot of each other because they’re both very aggressive, they both got after it, good at every kind of race track,” Burton said.

Earnhardt sees some of 1983 Cup champion Bobby Allison in Harvick.

“Won a championship, won a lot of races, but wasn’t afraid to put his finger in another driver’s chest,” Earnhardt said.

When it comes to Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon, Earnhardt compared him and Denny Hamlin to the late Tim Richmond.

“Mainly in style,” Earnhardt said. “They’re the kind of guys that are a little flashy, a lot of flair outside the car. … Tim was that way. He wasn’t scared to flaunt it a little bit and he enjoyed life outside the race car as much as he did inside the race car.”

Watch the above video for more old school driver comparisons.


NASCAR America: Importance of keeping NASCAR connected to grassroots racing

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The importance of grassroots racing to the future of NASCAR is a constant subject these days thanks to the likes of Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson.

Now NASCAR America’s Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton get their chance to sound off on the subject.

On Tuesday’s episode, the panel of analysts discussed why keeping NASCAR connected to the short tracks and lower series across the country is vital to the sport’s future.

“We don’t have that national series running old short tracks that draws people to the race track but also draws them to the TV on Saturday and Sunday,” Burton said.

Earnhardt brought up an attempt by Bristol Motor Speedway to purchase the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee, last year.  The attempted failed.

“My heart was broken because I thought we had a real opportunity to bring one of the touring series, either the Truck or Xfinity, back to Fairgrounds,” Earnhardt said. “That’s where I think we’re broken or disconnected. The late model guys and the guys that are running on these local tracks don’t have the connection to the Truck Series or Xfinity Series. They need to take those series, Truck or Xfinity, back to the short tracks and bridge that link.”

The three analysts went on to discuss the short tracks and races that were part of their formative racing years.

Watch the above video for more.