Dale Earnhardt Jr. scores best finish in 10 months, ponders the speed of Team Penske

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team found speed in the No. 88 Chevrolet during Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

But after Earnhardt (fifth) scored his first top five in 10 months, he couldn’t help but wonder how to find the little extra that his rivals seemed to have – particularly the Team Penske Fords.

“I mean, I felt like we were pretty good and we ran with the cars that have been really fast,” Earnhardt said. “I think (Brad Keselowski) and (Joey Logano) have been really the class of the field.

“I saw those guys weaving after the race and downshifting hard to reset their housing, so we have to figure out what they are doing and see if we can’t make it better.”

Earnhardt still was in the game after starting 37th because he didn’t take a qualifying lap on the repaved 1.5-mile oval.

He was outside the top 10 after the first stage but was ninth after the second stage and took advantage of a well-timed pit stop with five laps remaining before the closing segment of the race.

The 14-time most popular driver also battled a malfunctioning cooling system that wasn’t directing enough air into his helmet (winning teammate Jimmie Johnson battled the same problem and needed fluids after the race).

Earnhardt said he ran the 500-mile race with his visor up to help with circulation, blaming the lack of air conditioning partly on a windy day at Texas.

“I think it makes it hard to get into the inlet that lets air in the helmet,” Earnhardt said on a postrace Periscope. “It was like a vacuum. I saw Jimmie in victory lane, and he about passed out when he got out of the car. It was super, super hot.”

Earnhardt said Hendrick would evaluate the cooling systems on the Nos. 48 and 88 Chevrolets.

“We have all our stuff routed the same,” he said. “Maybe we need to look at what we’re doing and improve the interior.

“I’m not going to complain too much because Adam (Jordan), my interior guy, one of the greatest guys on earth, is getting married on Easter weekend. One of my very good friends, I’ll talk to him about how to fix the interior or work on the air conditioning when he gets back from his honeymoon.”

Earnhardt scored his best finish since a second on June 6, 2016 at Pocono Raceway. A week later at Michigan International Speedway, he was involved in the crash that caused the concussion-like symptoms that forced him out of the car for the final 18 races of the 2016 season.

“Good run, finally got a great finish,” Earnhardt said on Periscope. “We should have finished better. Maybe even won the race. Our car was good enough for that. I don’t know. I didn’t do everything just right on restarts and stuff. I think we had a fast enough car for sure.

“Always fun to have a good run when you have an off-weekend coming up. I like finishing good before an off-weekend so we can have fun and not think about racing a bit.”

NASCAR America: Erik Jones’ racing roots in Byron, Michigan

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After a feature looking at his upbringing in Byron, Michigan, Furniture Row Racing driver Erik Jones spoke with NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte, Dale Jarrett and Marty Snider about the early years of his racing career.

The journey to his NASCAR career began with a yard cart that his late father, Dave Jones, brought home one day when he was 3.

“I rode that all day long around the yard,” Jones said. “Winter time would and we had like a gravel circle driveway in front of our house. When it would snow over I would get the kart out and ride it around in the snow because I could slide and I thought that was pretty cool. I would get it stuck about every five minutes out in the snow.”

Jones would then get out of the kart and find his dad in their barn to come out get him out.

Now 21, Jones also discussed how much his dad was involved in his career until his death in June 2016 after a battle with cancer.

He also explains how he’s never stayed in any series for more than one year in his career.

Watch the video above for the full discussion.

NASCAR America: Scan All from Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland

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“I sure as (expletive) hope that’s all out of our system.”

That’s what Kyle Busch had to say over his radio after he finished 15th, a lap down in the Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Busch’s day went south after the first stage thanks to two pit miscues the sent him two laps down.

Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. dominate the field to win his fifth race of the year and advance to the second round of the playoffs.

In the latest “Scan All,” True and crew chief Cole Pearn recap their day, which saw them bounce back from their own pit road mistakes.

Here are other highlights from this week’s “Scan All.”

  • “Can’t drive in a straight line. Something’s not right with the front end.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. just before he made contact with the outside wall. A commitment line violation resulted in Stenhouse finish multiple laps off the lead.
  • “Tell the 1 (Jamie McMurray) I don’t know what happened there but we both got the short end of the stick.” – Ryan Newman after contact between him and McMurray sent McMurray spinning on a restart.
  • (Expletive), that 24 (Chase Elliott) can be so much (expletive) faster than us.” – Kasey Kahne after being told he was two laps down.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Erik Jones recounts rookie Cup season, being taught by Kyle Busch

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Erik Jones, the rookie driver for Furniture Row Racing in the No. 77 Toyota, joined NASCAR America Wednesday for a special show from the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The 21-year-old driver won the 2015 Camping World Truck Series title and is teammates with Martin Truex Jr.

With Marty Snider, Dale Jarrett and Steve Letarte, Jones discussed the challenges and lessons he’s faced in his first full-time season in the Cup Series.

“The biggest (milestones) for me were trying to win a race and making the playoffs,” Jones said. “Obviously, making the playoffs didn’t happen. … I look back at the last few seasons and rookies that have been in the sport and it’s so hard to win races now. You just don’t see rookies do it a lot.”

Jones also discussed finishing second to Kyle Busch in the Bristol night race and his relationship with the driver who brought him into NASCAR beginning with the Truck Series.

“A lot of times when I was racing in Trucks and Xfinity and Kyle would come to race I’d always run second to him,” Jones said. “I’m like, ‘you know what the problem is? This is the guy who taught me how to race these cars. So I’m good at all the same tracks he’s good at. Except he’s been doing about 10 more years than I have.”

Watch the video for more.

 

PJ1 adhesive to be applied again to track for this weekend’s races at Loudon

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With the successful use of the PJ1 compound in July’s NASCAR Cup race there, New Hampshire Motor Speedway officials announced Wednesday they will apply the compound again to the track for this weekend’s racing.

The 1.058-mile flat track will play host to the Cup and Camping World Truck Series playoff races, as well as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the American Canadian Tour race series.

“There’s no question that the track bite compound we laid down in July allowed for some awesome racing around the entire racetrack,” NHMS executive VP and GM David McGrath said in a statement. “We received some very positive feedback from the drivers, teams and, most importantly, the fans. The support to do it again in September was overwhelming.”

McGrath said the PJ1 adhesive compound will be added to the first and third grooves in all four turns on Thursday evening. It will be reapplied again on Saturday night to be fresh for Sunday afternoon’s Cup race.

Several drivers gave their endorsement for the move:

Kyle Larson: “I think it’s awesome. I was surprised at how well it worked. I liked the element of it changing quickly and wearing out and then wearing out in different spots and stuff. It just adds an element to us that we have to adapt to. In the past … you kind of just run the same line all race long, but (in July) everybody I got around was running somewhat of a different line, and I thought that was a really cool thing.”

Joey Logano: “The question got put out to a lot of different drivers … from the (NASCAR Cup Drivers Council). We kind of got on our group chat and were talking back and forth about what we thought was best. (In the past) after 10 or 15 laps, everyone is kind of where they are at and passes don’t happen often. The wider we can make the racetrack, the more passes that can be made.”

Kyle Busch: “We always run that one lane here, which I call the middle lane. They were just trying to widen the racetrack a little bit and give a little bit more opportunity for us to be able to run side by side and not feel like we’re crashing here all the time or running into each other on restarts.”

Kevin Harvick: “I like the prospects of us trying different things. As the (summer Cup) race wore on, things changed. You had to move around. The PJ1 is one of those things that can definitely make the race better if you can add more lanes of racing.”

Austin Dillon: “I thought (the PJ1) held on good throughout the race in July; I’m a fan of it. July’s race was a blast and everyone is excited about it this time around. We’re going to be aggressive and just go after it this weekend.”