With four races left in his Cup career, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is coming off the best four races of his season yet.
Earnhardt enters Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) following earning three top 10s in the last four events. He finished seventh at Dover, Talladega and Kansas.
That brings his season total for top 10s to … seven. That tops his total of six from last season when he missed the last 18 races due to a concussion.
With a 12th-place finish at Charlotte, his average finish for those four races was a season-best 8.25.
The uptick in Earnhardt’s performance as his full-time career comes to a close is after the No. 88 Chevrolet only finished in the top 10 in consecutive races once previously, at Michigan and Sonoma.
Earnhardt didn’t finish in the top 15 until he placed fifth at Texas, the seventh race of the year. In the first 22 races, Earnhardt failed to finish seven times.
In the 10 races since an engine problem ended his day at Watkins Glen after 22 laps, Earnhardt has finished worse than 30th once (New Hampshire, 34th).
Now the 14-time most popular drive will try to extend his season-best streak – and possible earn his last Cup win – at one of his best tracks.
Earnhardt earned his only Martinsville win in 34 starts in the fall 2014 race. But he has 18 top 10s and 13 top fives. Though one would think Earnhardt has led his most laps at Daytona or Talladega, Martinsville is the track he’s been out front the most at, leading 972 laps.
The biggest disappointment of Justin Allgaier‘s NASCAR career has turned into “the best thing that’s ever happened” to it.
It only took “about a week” for the 31-year-old driver to accept that.
The JR Motorsports’ driver is one of the four competing for the Xfinity Series title in today’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
It was in this race a year ago that Allgaier was within arm’s reach of a possible championship, his first in NASCAR.
But it was snatched away on the final restart.
With three laps to go, Allgaier restarted in the third row on the outside. In front of him was fellow championship driver Erik Jones. In front of Jones was Cole Whitt in a car normally found toward the back of the pack. Whitt had not pit under the caution because his team had used up its tire allotment.
At the green flag, Whitt spun his tires and backed-up the outside lane. That allowed Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez to get separation from Allgaier and Jones and race each other for the win and championship, which Suarez claimed.
Before Allgaier could come to terms with anything positive from the experience, he spent the following week just wanting to be left alone.
“If I could have locked myself in a dark room and not talk(ed) to anyone, I’d have been perfectly okay with that,” Allgaier said Thursday during the NASCAR championship media day in Miami Beach, Florida.
Allgaier got back in touch with those year-old feelings this week when he watched a replay of the race while flying to Florida.
“It still bugs me that we didn’t have a shot because of somebody else’s decision,” Allgaier said.
But Allgaier views the end of the 2016 race through a wiser lens. One where he accepts there’s only so much he can do in a 200-lap race against 39 other drivers.
“What if I had broken a transmission or run into the wall a little bit too hard on one of those times that I got (into) the wall like 37 times in the race last year and cut a tire?” Allgaier said. “What if a meteor fell out of the sky? … There’s so many things that, when you have 40 competitors on the racetrack every week, there’s so many things that can happen that are out of your control.”
His attitude has been helped by the best year of his career. Allgaier enters the championship race with a career-best two wins – including at his home track Chicagoland Speedway.
Allgaier also leads all Xfinity regulars with 497 laps led.
“I look at 2017 as we have done everything we can do up to this point,” Allgaier said. “We’ve had the best race cars I’ve ever had. We’ve had great pit stops. We’ve got guys that work together on the race team that are incredible. I feel like for me personally I’m in the best shape of my life, on and off the track. I’m in the best place mentally.
“And at the end of the day, no matter what happens on Saturday night, I know that we have the best product on the racetrack and we’re in the best position we can be. And if it doesn’t work, it’s not because we weren’t in the right spot or because we didn’t do things right. It’s because circumstances are out of our control. And that’s taken so much pressure off of me this year.”
HOMESTEAD, Florida — NASCAR announced Saturday a multi-year renewal with Goodyear for the company to be the series’ sole tire supplier. The deal goes through the 2022 season.
The move wasn’t in doubt with NASCAR and Goodyear having previously done tests for the 2018 season. Goodyear has been the exclusive tire supplier for all three of NASCAR’s top series since 1997. Goodyear has been a race tire supplier for NASCAR since 1954.
“We proudly join Goodyear in celebrating our renewed and longstanding partnership,” said Brent Dewar, NASCAR president, in a statement. “For more than half a century, NASCAR and our teams have trusted Goodyear tires. Our partners’ commitment to innovation and excellence plays a key role in our unyielding pursuit to deliver the best racing product in the world.”
Goodyear’s current five-year deal was set to expire after this season.
Below is all the vital info you need prior to the race.
(All times are Eastern)
START: Wild Bill Wichrowski from Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” will give the command to start engines at 3:37 p.m. Green flag is scheduled for 3:45 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile oval.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 45. Stage 2 ends at Lap 90.
PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 7:30 a.m.Qualifying is slated for 11:15 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is 12:45 p.m. Driver introductions are at 3:05 p.m.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Jacqie Rivers wil perform the anthem at 3:31 p.m.
TV/RADIO: Countdown to Green begins at 3 p.m. on NBCSN. NBCSN will air the race at 3:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at mrn.com, starting with its pre-race show at 3 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.
FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts a temperature of 79 degrees and a four percent chance of rain at race time.
LAST TIME: Daniel Suarez won the race and clinched the series title, beating Ty Dillon and Elliott Sadler. Suarez led 133 laps from the pole to become the first foreign-born driver to win a national NASCAR title.
STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying is scheduled for 11:15 a.m.