Focus turns to JR Motorsports for Dale Earnhardt Jr. after 2017 season

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — What’s next for Dale Earnhardt Jr. after this season?

Even he’s not quite sure. He knows he’ll drive in at least two NASCAR Xfinity races in 2018, but there are no other specific plans for the 14-time most popular driver who has played a key role in helping the sport behind the scenes.

“I do have ambition to work,’’ Earnhardt said Tuesday at a press conference at Hendrick Motorsports. “I’m not going to quit working. There’s a feeling of being an asset to something. I don’t have to be the guy holding the trophy. Being a part of that success, I really enjoy. I really enjoy making people happy and doing stuff as a team.

“I think I can replicate that in the next chapter of my life. Certainly excited about all the things we’ve had going on with the (car) dealership (in Tallahassee, Florida) and Whisky River. We’re growing the Whisky River business into airport locations.’’

The business side of Earnhardt is not new to his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller.

“He loves finding talent, whether its drivers, whether its crew, office people,’’ she said. “Those things are very satisfying to him, and they’re very satisfying to me. Just over the last 18 to 24 months, he’s been so much more involved on the business front of everything. That’s just a maturity about him. What you see there and that excitement is to be more involved. We have to put his Sunday job first. At the end of this year ,we’ll be able to reprioritize things.’’

Car owner Rick Hendrick sees a key role for Earnhardt after this season.

“I’m excited about this second chapter in his life because we’re going to do a lot of it together,’’ Hendrick said. “But he also is still going to be in and around and visible in the sport, and help tap these young guys on the shoulder and really tutor them. Tell them what they’re doing wrong, what they could do better … because he’s been through all those cycles of life.’’

Earnhardt has had an affinity to help groom young drivers, including Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron, among others.

“I enjoy the race team that we have at JR Motorsports and the fact that we have graduated so many people,’’ Earnhardt said. “That’s something that I look forward to over the next several years is to continue to be a breeding ground for talented men and women that are mechanics and crew chiefs and drivers.’’

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Matt Kenseth: Brickyard 400 restarts ‘kind of ridiculous’

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Matt Kenseth came close to winning Sunday’s Brickyard 400, but ultimately finished fifth.

Kenseth called the race “kind of ridiculous” down the stretch because of the several restarts that brought about further havoc and wrecks.

Kenseth competed in his final Brickyard 400 for Joe Gibbs Racing. With his future uncertain and whether he’ll be able to continue racing in 2018, could Sunday have been the final Brickyard 400 of his career, much like good friend Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is retiring after this season?

Check out the video above for Kenseth’s comments on the race.

Rick Hendrick on Kasey Kahne’s future: ‘Our plans are not set for the No. 5 car’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Brickyard 400 winner Kasey Kahne has a contract for 2018 at Hendrick Motorsports but possibly doesn’t have a job next season.

Team owner Rick Hendrick confirmed Sunday night that “our plans are not set for the No. 5 car” after Kahne ended a 102-race winless streak in the Cup Series.

“There’s nothing concrete or done, and that hasn’t changed,” Hendrick said. “We’ll see how things shake out the rest of the year.  There’s a lot of things involved, sponsors and a lot of things we look at.  We’re going to try hard.  But there’s no decisions made at this time.”

Kahne felt the 18th victory of his career helped him make a case for staying in the No. 5 Chevrolet.

“I think this shows I still want to win races,” he said. “It shows I gave it all that I can to get a win and shows that I’m passionate about driving stock cars, and that I can still win races, too.

“I have a deal through 2018 with Hendrick Motorsports. I hear a lot of things, but it’s tough to say exactly what’s going to happen. I don’t know at this point and time. I know me and Mr. H will figure it out. I think this shows that I want to be and still have the drive and passion to do it, so I’m going to keep trying hard I know that.”

During a Sunday morning pre-race news conference to formally introduce Alex Bowman as the replacement next season for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick said he planned to run four cars next season but deflected a question about Kahne’s status (“that’s for another day”).

Xfinity Series rookie William Byron, who is under contract to Hendrick, would be an option for the No. 5 Chevrolet, but Hendrick said “we’re not ready to cross that bridge yet” when asked about Byron’s Cup future.

Kahne is ranked 22nd in the points standings with only four top 10s in 20 races this season.

“When you’ve had a rough road, your confidence gets down,” Hendrick said. “He said, ‘I know I can do it. The harder I try, the more it seems like I have this rough bad luck.’

“Something like this (win) can be really good for any guy to have, the whole team, to have confidence.  … All I can say about Kasey is he shows up, he shows up on time, and he shows up on time with his game face on, and he puts in the effort. Sometimes it just takes a break.  But he’s done everything.  I know in his heart he wants to do it.  He’s trying, so … ”

Ryan Newman on Brickyard 400: ‘That’s not racing, just craziness’

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Ryan Newman was in the right place at the right time in Sunday’s Brickyard 400, finishing third.

It was Newman’s second-best finish of 2017 after his win earlier this year at Phoenix.

But Newman, who is never afraid to speak his mind, did just that after Sunday’s race. Even with his strong finish, he echoed the comments of several other drivers that the racing action — particularly restarts — by saying, “That’s not racing, just craziness.”

Check out what Newman had to say in the video above.

Joey Logano’s fourth-place finish is bittersweet as playoff chances dip

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Joey Logano had a bittersweet day in Sunday’s Brickyard 400.

He finished a strong fourth in the incident-filled 24th edition of the Brickyard 400. It was just Logano’s second top-five finish and third top-10 showing in the last 11 races.

But there was also bad news, too.

Kasey Kahne‘s win knocked Logano further back in his bid to rejoin the top-16 drivers eligible for the upcoming NASCAR playoffs. With Clint Bowyer dropping out of the top-16 and Kahne moving into playoff contention, Logano has slipped back to 18th place in the playoff-eligible standings.

As a result, Logano all but has to win one of the next six races to qualify for the playoffs — unless he can point his way in with continued strong top-five finishes.

Logano talked about the situation he faces with NBC Sports after Sunday’s race. Click on the above video to see what he had to say.