After being eliminated by a crash last weekend at Daytona, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has nine races left to make the playoffs or he won’t have a chance to win the Monster Energy Cup title in his last full season driving in the series.
NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte says that Pocono, Michigan and Indianapolis provide the best chance for Earnhardt to win and make the playoffs before the they begin in September.
“That’s the type of tracks that over the last three or four years that Dale Jr has seemed to find a way to succeed at,” Letarte said. “Last year, unfortunately, with him being out with a concussion, he didn’t get to run Indianapolis, but his car showed some speed with Jeff Gordon behind the wheel.
“Overall, I think that Hendrick Motorsports is a huge company that has great success where horsepower and aerodynamics makes the biggest difference. When you go to these bigger tracks, that’s what these teams lean back on.”
With more drivers likely to win and qualify for the playoffs – leaving fewer spots via points – Letarte says the plan is easy for Earnhardt and crew chief Greg Ives.
“I think this team now needs to think that win is the only option to make the playoffs,” Letarte said. “For that, they can gamble, whether it is a fuel strategy or limited tires, I would consistently try to put Dale Jr. up front on the offensive and give him a chance to showcase his talent in his final season.”
For more on what Letarte and Kyle Petty say, watch the video above.
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Rookie Erik Jones was fastest in the final Cup Series practice session for the Brickyard 400 with a top speed of 185.845 mph.
Jones’ top speed came on his third of nine laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Completing the top five were Kevin Harvick (185.824), Ryan Blaney (185.816), Jimmie Johnson (185.487) and Jamie McMurray (185.460).
Matt Kenseth, 20th fastest, recorded the most laps in the session with 34.
Johnson had the best 10-lap average at 180.951 mph. Kyle Busch followed him at 180.864 mph.
Click here for the full practice report.
During the practice session the spotter for Harvick, Tim Fedewa, told the driver over radio that he had his hard card taken by NASCAR after the sandwich he was eating fell from his perch on the Pagoda. NASCAR confirmed it returned his hard card after practice.
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Toyotas took the top three spots and four of the top six spots in the opening Cup practice session Saturday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Denny Hamlin, driving a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, led the way with a lap of 187.414 mph. He was followed by Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., whose Toyota went 185.559 mph. JGR driver Matt Kenseth was next at 185.200 in his Toyota.
Kasey Kahne was fourth for Hendrick Motorsports, leading his Chevrolet to a lap of 185.151 mph. Kyle Larson was next at 185.002 mph in his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. The top Ford was Ryan Blaney. He was eight in his Wood Brothers Racing ride at 184.453 mph.
There were no incidents in the 55-minute session.
Final Cup practice is scheduled to go from 11 – 11:55 a.m. ET on CNBC.
Click here for full practice report
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NASCAR announced that the teams of Jimmie Johnson and Corey LaJoie will miss 15 minutes of practice in Saturday’s first session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for being late to inspection before last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The teams of Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon will each miss 15 minutes in Saturday’s final practice session for multiple inspection failures before last weekend’s race at New Hampshire.
Points leader Elliott Sadler continues his quest for his first Xfinity Series championship in today’s Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Sadler has made five previous Xfinity starts at the historic Brickyard. His two best finishes there have come in the last two races – fifth in 2015 and sixth last year.
Sadler holds a 45-point edge over JR Motorsports teammate William Byron and a 90-point lead on teammate Justin Allgaier.
Here are the particulars for tonight’s Xfinity race:
(All times are Eastern)
START: The command to start engines will be given at 3:37 p.m. Green flag is set for 3:49 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 100 laps (250 miles) around the 2.5-mile speedway.
COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 15
STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 30. Stage 2 ends on Lap 60.
PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Xfinity garage opens at 9 a.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is at 2:15 p.m. Driver introductions are at 3 p.m.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Corey Cox will perform the Anthem at 3:31 p.m.
TV/RADIO: NBCSN will broadcast the race. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. with Countdown to Green. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network will broadcast on radio and the Performance Racing Network at 3 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the IMSRN/PRN broadcast.
FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 90 degrees at race time with a 23 percent chance of rain at the start of the race.
LAST YEAR: Kyle Busch started from the pole and led 62 of the race’s 63 total laps. Kevin Harvick finished second, while Paul Menard was third. Busch also won the 2015 race.
STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 12:45 p.m.