CONCORD, N.C. – On the night the number synonymous with his legendary father returned to victory lane, Dale Earnhardt Jr. found some consolation in his final Coca-Cola 600.
Earnhardt placed 10th in the circuit’s longest race, his best showing since a fifth in the April 9 race at Texas Motor Speedway. He improved a spot to 23rd in the points standings after a dismal showing by his No. 88 Chevrolet in last week’s All-Star Race.
“The car got better last couple of runs,” Earnhardt said. “We made a lot of changes, and some of them (were) working pretty good. We would have liked to have run a little bit better than that for sure. We think we should be running in the top five every week as a team, so that is still not really good enough, but compared to last week it’s a huge improvement.”
Earnhardt credited some of the improvement to teammate Jimmie Johnson, who finished 17th after his No. 48 Chevy ran out of fuel while leading with two laps remaining.
“He was communicating with me all week, calling me, talking on the phone,” Earnhardt said. “He would come across the garage and get in my window even during practice. Get out of his car and come talk to me. What a great teammate. I hated to see him run out of gas.”
But he was happy to see the win by Austin Dillon in the No. 3 Chevrolet that was driven by his father. Richard Childress Racing sidelined the number from February 2001-14 after the seven-time champion’s death on the final lap of the Daytona 500.
“Congratulations to Austin, man, that is awesome for RCR and Richard,” Earnhardt said. “Anytime they can win, it’s pretty cool.”
Earnhardt will get one more shot to win at Charlotte. In 34 starts at the 1.5-mile oval, he has a career-best third in the 2015 Coca-Cola 600.
NASCAR America: Elliott Sadler having fun mentoring William Byron
If there’s anyone in the Xfinity Series William Byron should turn to for advice during his rookie season in the series, it’s Elliott Sadler.
A veteran of more than 800 NASCAR races across all three of its national series, Sadler has taken the lead in advising the 19-year-old driver this season. During his appearance on NASCAR America, Sadler praised the driver and the time he’s spent with him.
“That kid is special,” Sadler said. “I want to be that guy (that helps), because I had that guy. I had Jeff Green when I started, I had Dale Jarrett, people I could lean on all the time that could help the learning curve.”
Sadler leads the points standings with four races left in the regular season, but he is winless so far. Byron has earned three wins and is second in points behind Sadler.
“He’s a student of the game,” Sadler said. “I’ve been in meetings with young kids that come along, we’ve been in the meeting and kids are still playing on their phones. I’m in a meeting with William … and he’s still learning and taking notes. He’s got great questions. We’re usually sitting beside each other on the airplanes and we’re talking about things for that particular weekend. I can’t help him drive the car faster. But I can help him maybe with restarts and getting on pit road. Maybe things to think about on Friday to maybe make your car better for Saturday.”
Roush Fenway Racing and artist Sam Bass have worked together to create Ryan Reed‘s throwback paint scheme for the Sept. 2 Xfinity race at Darlington Raceway on NBCSN.
Reed’s No. 16 Lilly Diabetes Ford will resemble the No. 7 Zerex Ford driven by Alan Kulwicki in 1989.
Kulwicki was sponsored by Zerex from 1987-90, earning two of his five Cup wins in that time.
“My dad was huge fan of Alan and had a lot of respect for him, so it’s awesome to get to run this throwback scheme in Darlington,” Reed said in a press release. “My Dad ran his own race team and drove for himself throughout the 90s, just like Alan. Alan overcame a lot of challenges to become a champion and I can’t help but have a lot of respect for him.”
Bass, who lives with type 1 diabetes like Reed, worked with Kulwicki during his career and helped design Reed’s car. In a Facebook Live video, Bass said he took extra care to make the one in Reed’s No. 16 resemble Kulwicki’s No. 7.
Bass’ name will also be on the passenger-side nameplate on the roof of Reed’s car.
Reed’s car won’t be the only one at Darlington that will pay tribute to the 1992 Cup champion.