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Ryan Blaney has experienced the ‘positive and negative’ of being endorsed by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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During his retirement press conference on Tuesday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked who the NASCAR world should be excited about as it ventures into a future without him on the track full-time.

The 14-time most popular driver’s response was lengthy, but he went out of his way to name four drivers.

First there was Kyle Larson (“cool as a cucumber”) and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott (“so easy and approachable”).

Then Earnhardt listed off Wood Brothers Racing’s Ryan Blaney and Roush Fenway Racing’s Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., who competes in the Xfinity Series.

“You see the stuff that Blaney and Bubba do, and they’re not afraid to really show their personalities,” Earnhardt said. “That’s completely different than any of us older guys. We’ve never been like that. So this is a new batch of guys that are going to do things in a new way. They’re going to bring a lot of color and excitement and energy to the sport. We’ve just got to get them in front of the fans, let the fans get to know them, and I think the rest will take care of itself. But I’m thrilled. We definitely have tons of talent. There is no question. But I love the people they are.”

Blaney, the son of former Cup driver Dave Blaney, has an unique relationship with Earnhardt that’s been in the spotlight this year. Blaney is neighbor of Earnhardt’s and lives on property he owns.

Their friendship was slightly strained after incidents at Phoenix and Martinsville.

On Friday at Richmond International Raceway, Blaney  addressed the “positive and negative” to being endorsed or even talked about by the biggest figure in the sport.

“I have seen both sides of that this year to be honest,” Blaney said. “From the Phoenix and Martinsville deal to him saying that stuff. He has a very big impact of what people think, whether it is fans or in the garage area. Him talking up younger drivers or the sport in general is going to get his fans excited about the future of going forward even though he won’t be driving next year.

“What he says will be very important. I know he has always said great things about the sport and drivers in it and been very positive which makes him a great person and great ambassador for the sport. It means a lot to hear him say those things. Like I said, I know he says that about a lot of young drivers and try to set everything up for the future, but it is nice to be a part of that conversation when he speaks.”

Larson, who is in his fourth full Cup season with Chip Ganassi Racing, said it is ” pretty cool to be in that category” created by Earnhardt.

“Hopefully we all have a lot of Junior’s fans kind of dispersed to cheer for us and don’t just leave the sport totally,” Larson said. “It’s going to be interesting to see, with him retiring, how it changes the sport, popularity-wise. It could be good. It could be bad. Who knows? I think all of us young guys are ready to kind of fill in his shoes a little bit.”

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 79: Jason Weigandt on Supercross, Monster and Jimmie Johnson

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Motocross journalist and broadcaster Jason Weigandt joined the NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss the Supercross finale and the start of Outdoor season.

Weigandt, the editor of Racer X online magazine, also discussed how Monster Energy’s new title sponsorship of NASCAR has been perceived in Supercross, which the company has backed since 2008, and why he believes Jimmie Johnson isn’t NASCAR’s most popular driver despite his success.

Weigandt is the play-by-play announcer for the 2017 motocross season, which will be shown on NBCSN as well as on the NBC Sports Gold package (which will offer all motos, qualifiers and practices for the 12-round season as well as on-demand access to the past two seasons).

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone.

It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.


NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: North Dakota

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Today’s edition of “50 States in 50 Shows” profiles Nodak Speedway in Minot, North Dakota.

The 3/8-mile dirt track is located 110 miles north of Bismarck and is located on the grounds of the North Dakota State Fair.

Watch the video for the full look Nodak Speedway.


NASCAR America: Austin Dillon: Feels good to beat Jimmie Johnson in ‘chess match’

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Following the first win of his NASCAR Cup Series career, Austin Dillon said he was proud of his team for coming out on top in a “chess match” against Jimmie Johnson.

“We’re chasing down what I consider ‘The GOAT’ (Greatest of All Time),” Dillon told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns. “Jimmie’s tied with the best of the best. To beat him in a little chess match there at the end, it feels real good. At a track I’ve seen him win multiple races sitting in the stands.”

Dillon was able to make his last tank of gas stretch 70 laps, two more than Johnson, on his way to winning the Coca-Cola 600.

The win comes at a track Dillon has competed on since the early days of his career.

“I grew up racing in the 1/5-mile here, Bandeleros and Legends cars, to get my first win here, there’s nothing better,” Dillon said.

Watch the video for the full interview and to hear Richard Childress’ thoughts on the win.

Something finally goes right for Erik Jones in first Coca-Cola 600

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CONCORD, N.C. — For the first time since March, fortune finally bounced in Erik Jones‘ favor.

That was after a piece of debris bounced through his grille.

On Lap 20 of the Coca-Cola 600, debris from a wreck between Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski littered the frontstretch of Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Jones, running in the top 10, managed to avoid the wreck itself. But the rookie couldn’t avoid whatever caused a football-sized hole in the nose of his No. 77 Toyota.

“You start the day off like that and you’re like, ‘Man, it’s not going to be easy,'” said Jones, who finished a career best seventh. “That kind of hurt us all day, I think. Not a ton. Obviously we had still had a fast car, but it was definitely slowing us down some.”

Competing in the longest race of his career to date, the episode looked like the latest in a series of misfortunes that have plagued the driver, who turns 21 on Tuesday.

Jones entered the race with two DNFs in the last three points races and three DNFs if you counted the previous weekend’s All-Star Race.

Before the All-Star Race, Jones caused three cautions at Kansas Speedway for spins before finishing 22nd. He wrecked out at Talladega in a big crash and the week before that was eliminated at Richmond when the race was five laps old.

Entering the longest race of the year, Jones had just one top-10 finish, eighth at Phoenix.

Following the accident Sunday, Jones restarted 27th. The rest of the night was “smooth” on the way to his best finish in 15 Cup starts.

“I think we had a top-five car,” Jones said. “Kind of missed on a couple of adjustments at the end, got behind on the racecar a little bit. Just kind of fell back at the end.”

By the halfway point at Lap 200 and after a 1 hour and 39 minute rain delay, he was in eighth. During the 400-lap race, his average running spot was 11.8.

“We didn’t have any troubles in the pits,” Jones said. “We didn’t have any troubles on the track (after the Lap 20 accident), we had a pretty good car all night. So it was just nice to have a solid night. I feel like we’re plenty capable of running in the top 10 every week, we just got to keep having days and night like this.”

Jones is now 18th in the points standings and 10 points ahead of fellow rookie Daniel Suarez.

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