David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on skeleton helmet design: ‘Make everybody think I’m a little crazy’

Leave a comment

CONCORD, North Carolina – Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a one helmet kind of guy.

The reason is simple. They’re kind of expensive.

“When people come asking for helmets, it is kind of hard to give them away because that is the only helmet I have from that season,” Earnhardt said Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I like to keep it myself and store it away. So, I don’t have a whole lot of helmets floating around. I know that Tony (Stewart) was really smart wearing a different one each week, I probably should have done something like that. The Stilo’s (brand of helmet) I’ve got are $3-5,000 apiece and I ain’t buying them. So, I just wear the same one all year.”

Since he only has to worry about one helmet, the 14-time most popular driver has made sure it counts. Each helmet has a special skeleton-themed design created by Nick Pastura.

MORE: A look at Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s helmets through the years

So what’s up with the skeletons? Besides being creepy.

“When I started racing in the Xfinity Series in ’98 or ’99, I think, we started getting helmets from Nick Pastura and he used to paint backdrops for rock and roll tours like Guns N’ Roses and so forth, so I figured he could paint a mean skull,” Earnhardt said. “So, I just told him to put something on the back that would make everybody think I’m a little crazy (laughter) and make all those drivers wonder about me. And we just never have changed the theme.

“I don’t know what else I’d put on there anyway. I think it was more about ‘Hey Nick, you just have fun with this and do whatever you want to do.’ I like skulls and pirates and all that good stuff. So, just have fun with it. And he just does something new every time. And he’s done an amazing job.”

But Pastura will get to design one more helmet for Earnhardt before he retires from full-time Cup competition following this season.

Pastura will design the helmet Earnhardt will wear in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Earnhardt’s final start. Earnhardt didn’t provide any details on the helmet, but it will be in addition to driving a paint scheme based on the first Budweiser car Earnhardt drove at the beginning of his Cup career.

Once the race is over, Earnhardt will give his helmet to team owner Rick Hendrick.

“If the car makes it through the race, I’m going to take the car and Rick can have the helmet. That is our deal,” Earnhardt said. “That is the same deal he had with Jeff (Gordon) is that Jeff gave him the helmet and Jeff got the car.  And so, I think that is the same deal I’m going to get with Rick.”

and on Facebook

Christopher Bell wins first career Xfinity Series race at Kansas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Christopher Bell passed teammate Erik Jones with four laps left in the Kansas Lottery 300, withstood contact from behind by Jones and went on to claim his first career Xfinity Series win.

Bell, driving the No. 18 Toyota, earned the win in his fifth career start. It comes in the opening race of the second round of the playoffs.

Jones had dominated the race until the pass by Bell. He led 186 of the race’s 200 laps and swept the first two stages. He finished 15th, one lap down due to damage from running into the back of Bell.

It is the first win for Joe Gibbs Racing since Denny Hamlin won at Darlington Raceway, a five-race stretch. JGR has won 11 Xfinity races this season.

Bell, 22, is a full-time driver in the Camping World Truck Series.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Erik Jones

STAGE 2 WINNER: Erik Jones

Check back for more

Dale Earnhardt Jr. bursting with joy over thoughts of baby girl

Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Leave a comment

KANSAS CITY, Kansas — They laughed.

When the doctor told Dale Earnhardt Jr. and wife Amy that Amy was pregnant, the couple laughed.

It wasn’t the kind of laugh one makes after a joke or a funny story. It was … well, let Dale explain:

“Something just comes out,’’ Earnhardt said Saturday at Kansas Speedway. “You just burst out like joy. It wasn’t funny ha-ha. It was a joyful moment.’’

And then they got to hear the heartbeat.

“Somebody says you’re wife is pregnant, that registers a little bit but, man, when you hear that heartbeat, it’s like yep, it’s real,’’ Earnhardt said. “This is a real thing in there. It’s here. My God, it’s happening. Just all this emotion pops out.’’

The prelude to the excitement was the waiting. It was almost too much for Earnhardt when they first went to the doctor’s office to confirm that Amy was pregnant.

We went to the doctor and I’m still thinking man, I’m not believing crap until this doctor tells me,’’ Earnhardt said. “So, we’re sitting in there for like 20 minutes. And they’re talking woman language and I’m not understanding. They are just talking about things and I’m like well, when is she going to say it? I want to hear it from the doctor’s mouth that she’s pregnant, so we can rejoice.

“It took them a while. I was scared to speak up. Finally, they said something that confirmed it for me and I was like, awesome. And then we had the ultrasound and got to hear the heartbeat and all that right there, and that was great. We go back for another checkup here soon, in a couple of days, and those are awesome. They are so much fun because it’s like the closest you can get to it before they’re born and I’m looking forward to each and every one of them.”

Earnhardt said on his podcast this week that the baby is due May 2.

“I know that Amy has changed my life a lot, and I imagine this baby is going to have the same impact and just can’t wait to meet her,’’ Earnhardt said Saturday. “It’s just taking forever.”

Earnhardt says he understands the excitement friends and family have had with their children.

“I guess the thing that hits me is I’ve watched all my friends, a lot of them, have kids and my sister have kids,’’ he said. “I was happy for those milestones in their lives, but I had no idea what that really meant. And as we found out and were going through these little moments through the pregnancy it’s just hitting home how impactful that child has been in all the lives of my friends and family. And I just really didn’t understand or appreciate, I guess, how incredible that moment must have been for them and how their lives completely changed. I saw it from a completely different point of view when I wasn’t experiencing it myself. 

“I look at my friends completely different. I look at my sister completely different knowing what I know now and what I’m learning as I go. And I know there is more to be exposed to and more enlightening and more eye-opening experiences that will make me not only appreciate what me and Amy, what we have, but what my friends and family and folks that I am very close to have and what they have experienced. 

“Because I thought I knew, childbirth is exciting, it’s awesome to have children and everybody says it changes your life and everybody says it’s the greatest thing ever, but you just don’t know until you really go through it.’’

 and on Facebook

Ryan Blaney fastest in final Cup practice at Kansas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ryan Blaney was fastest in the final NASCAR Cup Series practice at Kansas Speedway.

Blaney, who will start last Sunday after failing post-qualifying inspection, posted a top speed of 182.057 mph.

He was followed by Kyle Busch (181.143), Kevin Harvick (181.720), Danial Suarez (181.665) and Matt Kenseth (181.543).

Pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. was 12th fastest.

Harvick posted the best 10-lap average at 180.120 mph.

Jimmie Johnson, who was 15th fastest, recorded the most laps with 53.

There were no accidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

Tyler Reddick wins pole for Xfinity race at Kansas Speedway

Leave a comment

Tyler Reddick claimed his first career Xfinity Series pole Saturday at Kansas Speedway, winning the top spot with a speed of 181.117 mph.

Rounding out the top five are Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Austin Dillon

William Byron was the highest qualifying playoff driver in sixth, but he will start from the year because of unapproved adjustments.

Reddick’s pole comes in his 17th Xfinity start. It also continues an impressive stretch for Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet. Both Reddick and Alex Bowman earned their first Xfinity wins in the last three races. Reddick won at Kentucky Speedway. Bowman won at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks ago.

“This cooler weather might be helping us,” Reddick told NBCSN. “We were really tight yesterday. I think that’s going to help us in the race.”

The pole also comes the week after one of his grandmothers, Carolyn Joyce Brown, passed away. Her name is on the roof of his car.

“The last two weeks have been rough,” Reddick said. “She was battling health for a long time and just finally lost the battle. She watched every single race and ever lap on track. She was there watching it at the race track or at home. Hopefully we can do something special for her. This will be the first race she hasn’t been here to see.”

Here is where the playoff drivers qualified:

William Byron – sixth

Cole Custer – seventh

Matt Tifft – eighth

Brennan Poole – ninth

Daniel Hemric – 10th

Elliott Sadler – 11th

Justin Allgaier – 13th

Ryan Reed – 15th

Click here for the qualifying results.