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NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 92: Matt DiBenedetto on making a name for himself

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Go Fas Racing driver Matt DiBenedetto was a recent guest of the NASCAR on NBC podcast, offering why he believes he can become a fan favorite like friend Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“I think I’ve had to go about my whole racing career on such a difficult path and the old school way, it makes me appreciate it way more,” DiBenedetto said on the podcast. “The fans have been a big part of me getting here and getting sponsors and embracing my story. I do appreciate them way more.

“It’s not that hard to just have fun with them. Not knocking anybody, but I look up to someone like Dale Jr. because he’s just genuine, he’s himself. That’s all you really need to do, you don’t need to act like someone different. Just be your normal old self. They’re just people. You don’t need to act like a huge celebrity and just fly by them. All I do is have fun with them, be different, take videos with them. They love that stuff.”

The Grass Valley, California, native is among the more creative and proactive drivers on social media across multiple platforms, including Earnhardt in some of his Snaps.

DiBenedetto believes his savvy will set him apart with more success.

“That’s why I have that vision that I know I can be a fan favorite,” he said. “I’m not going to fill Dale Jr.’s shoes. But I feel like if I’m in a position to win races, and we have that kind of media attention, I feel like I can darn near take over the world because it’s all about being different, and I’m different than other people.”

Earnhardt often jokes with DiBenedetto about the pronunciation of his last name (and had fun with it on his team radio last year, leading to a SiriusXM Satellite Radio clip that DiBenedetto reacts to during the podcast). But the Hendrick Motorsports driver also has been an asset, promoting DiBenedetto as among NASCAR’s most underrated drivers.

“I’ll mess with (Earnhardt), ‘Hey since you think so much of me, go ahead and put me in the 88,’” DiBenedetto joked. “Tony Stewart also has helped me and given me advice. It’s cool to have all these people on your side, so if you need to lean on them for advice or favors or help, that’s not going to hurt in the long run in my career.”

In the podcast, DiBenedetto also discusses:

–His underfunded team’s top 10s in the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400;

–The gamble by his family to relocate to Hickory, North Carolina, to give him a shot at a racing career;

–What life is like on the road for one of the only full-time Cup drivers without a motorhome.

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.

It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

The free subscriptions will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone.

Kyle Larson wins Stage 1 at Miami, Brad Keselowski leads Championship 4 drivers

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Kyle Larson won Stage 1 of Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, dominating by leading 67 of the stage’s 80 laps, holding a nine-second edge when he took the checkered flag.

Meanwhile, here’s how the four Championship 4 drivers finished after the first 80 laps of the scheduled 267-lap event: Brad Keselowski is second, Kyle Busch is third, Kevin Harvick is fourth and Martin Truex Jr. in fifth.

Truex, with six of his seven wins this season coming on 1.5-mile tracks like Homestead-Miami, wasted little time to take the lead away from pole-sitter Denny Hamlin.

The first caution of the race came out on Lap 6 when Joey Gase appeared to blow a tire and hit the Turn 1 wall hard.

During the subsequent pit stop, the only Championship 4 driver to hit pit road for four new tires was Keselowski, putting him off-sequence of the other contenders.

The move worked, though, as Keselowski quickly climbed from ninth on the restart on Lap 9 to third by Lap 12 and second by Lap 14.

Larson, who also pitted with Keselowski, took the lead away from Truex on Lap 13 and held on for the remaining 67 laps of the stage.

On Lap 38, Jimmie Johnson blew a right rear tire and came to pit road for four new tires. Even though there was no caution, all four championship contenders pitted over the following two laps.

On Lap 58, Harvick passed Truex and into third place for the first time in the race, zeroing on Keselowski in second.

Johnson got into the wall again on Lap 60, even though there was no caution, and sustained moderate damage, pitting for four tires and fuel.

Sixth through 10th were Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer.

Watch: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fans on what the driver means to them

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The fan base of Dale Earnhardt Jr. is large and devoted.

Those fans, affectionately called “Junior Nation,” has voted Earnhardt as NASCAR’s most popular driver 14 years in a row.

Justin Hartley of NBC’s “This is Us” is a member of Earnhardt’s fan base. The actor narrates the above essay on the close relationship between the driver and his fans.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks to Bob Costas about his career, legacy before final Cup start

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Sunday marks Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s last start as a full-time Cup driver in NASCAR.

NBC Sports’ Bob Costas sat down with the 14-time most popular driver before the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to get Earnhardt’s thoughts before he climbed in the No. 88 Chevrolet for the last time.

Earnhardt addressed what he hopes his legacy will be after 20 years in the sport as a driver, including his impact on attitudes towards concussions in sports in general.

Earnhardt, who will join NBC Sports in 2018, also talked about what life has in store for him in the near future.

Earnhardt also made sure to credit his devoted fan base for making his career possible.

“I understand the driving force behind my success and opportunity in this sport, whether it be inside the car or outside the car, is all because of Jr. Nation,” Earnhardt said. “This year we’ve tried our best to show appreciation to them.”

Watch the above video for the full interview.

 

Furniture Row Racing going for Cup title after year of success, tragedy

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It’s been a historic year for Furniture Row Racing, the Cup team that has its base of operations in an old water bed factory in Denver, Colorado.

With Martin Truex Jr. piloting the No. 78 Toyota, they won a team record seven races and a series record six races on 1.5-mile tracks. Combined with a dominating performance under the new stage racing format, Truex has put the team in its second Championship 4 in three years.

But it’s also been a season of perseverance and tragedy.

NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan narrates the above video essay on the story of Furniture Row Racing’s 2017 season.