Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Larson have a message for the rain: Stay away

Leave a comment

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants rain to miss Bristol Motor Speedway. So does Kyle Larson but for a different reason.

A forecast that calls for rain all day Saturday has both drivers concerned. 

Larson wants more track time so cars can run the top groove and rubber it in to make it faster. He wants to run there instead of on the lower groove that has had VHT added for more grip.

Earnhardt, who starts 22nd, wants more track time to get used to the VHT on the lower groove since he didn’t compete in last August’s race, the first where the substance was used.

“I feel like I’m behind a little bit compared to everyone else out there who has been running on it and knows what to expect,’’ Earnhardt told NBC Sports after he was 24th in Friday’s lone practice session.

“I had no idea what to expect when I first went out there. I hope we get a little more practice (Saturday). I was happy how we ended. I thought the car drove OK, but I’d like a little more practice just to tune on my car, make a couple of more changes.’’

Earnhardt said he could feel the additional grip the VHT-treated portion of the lower groove provided.

“It’s looks like they are learning how to make that stuff where it’s a little more active and a little more long-term,’’ Earnhardt said of the 7-foot wide section in the corners. “I think it wore out a little the last time they used it. I think it will be tough to have it as durable as they want. It adds an alternative and gives a guy the option to run down there if he wants and that’s good. It’s certainly going to make an interesting race if we’re all down there like we used to be.’’

That’s the purpose of the VHT — to make the lower groove the preferred line and force drivers to run there and have to bump others out of the way to pass. Just as it was done years ago.

That’s not what Larson wants, though. He wants to run the top groove. So far it’s too slick. It needs to have more cars run up there. If it rains, that’s less track time and less opportunity for drivers to do so.

That could mean fans could see old Bristol in the Cup race.

That’s something Larson, who will start on the pole, does not know since he never raced in those conditions.

I will probably have to go back and watch like 1980 Bristol or something like that,’’ he joked about preparing for such a race.

“I think you look at myself and Chase (Elliott), who I feel like have been the fastest all year long, who are young and haven’t gotten to race around Bristol when it’s been on the bottom, we were both a little bit off in practice, so it will be interesting. I think you will see some of the veterans, the older guys who did get to run on the old Bristol excel if it does end up being around the bottom. But, Bristol is Bristol and it’s an aggressive track, and I still feel like I should be okay once we get to racing.”

Then again, Larson’s silver lining could be a lot of rain.

“If it rains a lot, it might wash some of the VHT off,’’ Larson said before conceding that “I think with all the rain, it’s going to make it hard for us to go up there and widen the track out.’’

 and on Facebook

Stats, Results for Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway

Getty Images
Leave a comment

John Hunter Nemechek led the final six laps to win the Camping World Truck Series’ M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway.

It’s his second win in two weeks.

Nemechek beat out Johnny Sauter, Brandon Jones, Grant Engfinger and Christopher Bell.

Click here for race results.

Johnny Sauter keeps Truck points lead, John Hunter Nemechek in eighth

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With his Stage 2 win and his second-place finish in the M&M’s 200, Johnny Sauter retains his lead in the Camping World Truck Series standings leaving Iowa Speedway.

Sauter has a 42-point lead over Christopher Bell.

Completing the top five is: Chase Briscoe (-76), Matt Crafton (-95) and Ben Rhodes (-123).

With his second win in two weeks, John Hunter Nemechek moved from ninth to eighth in the standings, 153 points back from Sauter.

Click here for the full points standings.

John Hunter Nemechek wins at Iowa, second Truck victory in a row

Getty Images
Leave a comment

At one point going four-wide on a restart with seven laps to go, John Hunter Nemechek drove from fourth to first to win the M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway.

It is Nemechek’s second Camping World Truck Series win in two weeks after an emotional victory at Gateway Motorsports Park. It is his fifth career win.

Nemechek passed low on Chase Briscoe and Johnny Sauter into Turn 1 and cleared them on the backstretch a lap into the final run. The No. 8 team changed four tires during the final caution. Sauter, who led 72 laps, did not pit.

“All year we felt really good about this whole stretch,” Nemechek told Fox Sports 1. “Gateway, Iowa and Kentucky. Hopefully we can go to Kentucky and make it three in a row.”

Driving the same truck he used to win last week, Nemehcek had to pass Sauter, Briscoe and Noah Gragson on the restart.

The top five was Nemechek, Sauter, Brandon Jones, Grant Enfinger and Christopher Bell.

Stage 1 winner: Christopher Bell

Stage 2 winner: Johnny Sauter

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Brandon Jones’s third-place finish is his season best and first Truck top five since 2015 … Christopher Bell earned his sixth top five through nine races … Grant Enfinger earned his fourth top five, but it came at the expense of teammate Matt Crafton, who he caused to crash to bring out the final caution … Jesse Little finished ninth for his first career top 10 in his 11th start.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Ben Rhodes, Kaz Grala and Austin Wayne Self were in a wreck with three laps left in Stage 2 …. Ryan Truex’s night ended with 33 to go when he brought his truck to pit road for an engine problem. He finished 20th … Matt Crafton backed hard into the outside wall with 15 laps to go after being tagged by his teammate, Grant Enfinger, on his left-rear quarter panel. It is his first DNF of the year. Crafton finished 19th … Harrison Burton and Justin Haley crashed in Turn 4 coming to the checkered flag. Burton placed 11th; Haley 10th.

NOTABLE: The race was red flagged for 12 minutes and 26 seconds to clean up fluid from the three-truck crash at the end of Stage 2.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “That’s me. Four tires. That’s the man right there. Fire Alarm (Services). What do they want? They want a win and we got them one.” – Gere Kennon, crew chief for John Hunter Nemechek after winning the M&M’s 200.

WHAT’S NEXT: Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on July 6 on Fox Sports 1.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s farewell tour begins at Sonoma with service dogs named in his honor

Sonoma Raceway
Leave a comment

To commemorate Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s career and his final start at the track, Sonoma Raceway gave the driver a gift he doesn’t have to take home and will benefit others for year to come.

During his Friday press conference, the track surprised Earnhardt with three Labrador Retriever puppies. Named “Dale,” “Junior” and “Amy” – after his wife – the puppies are being given to the organization Paws as Loving Support (PALS) Assistance Dogs.

Donated by Micons Labradors and Fieldstone Labradors and sponsored by the track, the puppies will be trained to help children with disabilities in the Sonoma community.

“I’d like to thank the track for their investment to make this happen,” Earnhardt said. “It really warms my heart. Amy is going to be excited but sad she is not here. We do love dogs and making a difference in people’s lives. I’m excited to maybe come back and see how the dogs are doing.”

Sonoma is the first track Earnhardt is racing at for the last time since he announced his retirement plans in April.

The puppies will take part in PALS thorough training process, including time with incarcerated youth twice a week, before being matched with a child with a disability and his/her family as a service dog or placed with a professional as a facility dog.

PALS Assistance Dogs trains dogs to help children with disabilities including Autism, Down syndrome and mobility impairments. Some are placed with professionals working with children with special needs as facility dogs. In addition, Courthouse PALS dogs provide emotional support and comfort to victims and witnesses of violent crimes before, during and at the conclusion of a trial.

“Dale has such a huge following among our fans and we wanted to find a way for his legacy to carry forward locally, well beyond his days as a driver,” said Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway president and general manager. “These three puppies – Dale, Junior and Amy – will make a meaningful difference in the lives of young people in the North Bay for years to come.”

On race day, 10,000 “Thanks, Junior” hand-held fans will be given out and the No. 88 will be written in the sky by the Patriots Jet Team.

and on Facebook