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MORE UPDATES: NASCAR, sports world reacts to Dale Earnhardt Jr. retirement announcement

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Tuesday morning’s news that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will retire from NASCAR at the end of the 2017 season has sent earthquake-like shock waves throughout the sports world, as well as the social media universe.

Earnhardt will formally announce his retirement at a press conference later this afternoon, which will be covered thoroughly by us at NASCAR Talk.

Here’s some of the top posts from social media on Junior’s bombshell announcement (we’ll be updating throughout the day, so please check back):

Statements:

Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles:ย โ€œDale Earnhardt Jr. is a NASCAR legend, and everyone at IMS offers him best wishes after his retirement as a full-time driver. His legacy is secure as a champion, a winner, a great ambassador for motorsports and a class act. Dale always has given so much of himself to everyone, especially the fans. Weโ€™re looking forward to seeing him race one more time at IMS during the Brickyard 400 weekend on July 21-23. And, as a promoter, Iโ€™m usually neutral and support the field, but frankly I hope Dale wins the 2017 Brickyard 400!โ€

Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage:ย “Dang it! Dale Jr., put my kids through college and I was hoping he would stick around long enough to send my grandkids to college. You have to be happy and support him when he makes a choice like this and, certainly, I do. Now I’ve got to go pony shopping…”

 

 

 

Jimmie Johnson: ‘I honestly welcome the challenge’ of playoff format

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No matter the playoff format that’s been thrown at Jimmie Johnson, his No. 48 team has bested them, earning seven Cup championships.

This is the first year that the elimination format has included the stage format in races and Johnson said on NBCSN’s “Countdown to Green” that “I honestly welcome the challenge” of it.

The challenge for Johnson Sunday at Kansas Speedway is to stay on the positive side of the cutoff line. He sits in the final transfer spot, seven points above Kyle Busch. Four drivers will be eliminated from contention following the race (3 p.m. ET on NBCN).

“I’m in a position where I have to win, I think, going forward,” Johnson said. “I’m going to regret not being at the front at the start of races to collect those first stage points or the second stage as often as we should have. I honestly welcome the challenge.”

Added Johnson: “This might not be our best year with this format, but give us a little time and we’ll sort it out.”

Watch the above video for the full interview.

 

Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in must-win scenario at Kansas

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Going into Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway, Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are likely to be among the four drivers eliminated from playoff contention.

Stenhouse is 22 points back from the final transfer spot and McMurray is 29 points back.

Both drivers talked with NASCAR America before the race (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) about being in a must-win scenario to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Watch the above video for the interviews.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Kevin Harvick. His first oval win since Kansas Speedway a year ago validates the team’s 1.5-mile speed in the playoffs.

Dustin Long

Kyle Busch. Mark it down, he wins and advances to the next round to continue his quest for a second title.

Daniel McFadin

Martin Truex Jr. keeps his foot on the throat of the competition and gets his sixth win of the year at a 1.5-mile track.

Jerry Bonkowski

Kyle Larson is starting 13th but expect him to get to the top five within the first 20-30 laps. He needs a strong run to give him momentum heading into the Round of 8 and he gets it Sunday.

Furniture Row Racing crew member dies of heart attack

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – James “Jim” Watson, a fabricator for Furniture Row Racing, died Saturday night after suffering a heart attack, the team stated Sunday morning. Watson was 55.

A native of Greenfield, Wisconsin, Watson had been a member of Furniture Row Racing since February. He worked for Roush Fenway Racing from 2006-15 and spent last season with HScott Motorsports. He was a long-time racer, competing in dirt late models and asphalt super late models throughout Southeast Wisconsin.

Watson was with the team this weekend at Kansas Speedway.

He is survived by wife Laurie and daughter Brittany.

โ€œOn behalf of Furniture Row Racing we extend our deepest sympathies to Jimโ€™s family,โ€ said Joe Garone, president of Furniture Row Racing.ย โ€œHe was an outstanding and talented member of our racing family, whose life was dedicated to racing since his early days as a race-car driver in Wisconsin. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jimโ€™s wife Laurie, daughter Brittany and to hisย entire family and friends.ย Our No. 77 and 78 teams will be racing with heavy hearts today.”