NASCAR America: The top five Bristol moments from spring races

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NASCAR America’s countdown of the top-five Bristol moments from the spring race is highlighted by a feud that developed between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano as well as two incidents involving Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon.

In 2013, Hamlin got into the back of Logano which sent the driver spinning out of the race. The confrontation that spilled over into the garage area is still shown in highlight reels five years later.

Gordon holds down the No. 2 and No. 1 slots.

In 1997, Gordon was racing for his third consecutive spring win and was not going to allow Rusty Wallace to get in his way. He employed the bump-and-run to get to Victory Lane.

“The bump’s not the hard part, it’s the run,” said Steve Letarte, who was the tire specialist for the team in that race. “And if you’re going to do the bump, you’ve got to do the run and get away from that competitor.”

Gordon did not fare as well in the No. 1 moment from 2006, so watch the above video to see how that race was resolved.

NASCAR America: Dale Jarrett says it’s time to consider Kyle Busch among greats

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Last week, Kyle Busch won the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway and it is time to start thinking about the records he may one day hold, according to Dale Jarrett in Monday’s edition of NASCAR America.

“We need to start talking about Kyle Busch being one of the best of all time, in my opinion,” Jarrett said. “He’s such an outstanding race driver.”

Busch’s Texas victory was his 44th in the Cup series, which ties him with Bill Elliott for 16th on the all-time list and puts him within two wins of 15th-place Buck Baker.

“Let’s look at how he’s climbing up the ladder in the Cup series with each of these (wins),” Jarrett said. “You think about 10 more years, winning four or five races a year, where that’s going to elevate him to. Talking about getting past Dale Earnhardt (76 wins) and Darrell Waltrip (84) and Cale Yarborough (83) and people like this. And challenging Jimmie Johnson (83) and Jeff Gordon (93) as far as the number of wins.

Jarrett goes on to reference Busch’s Camping World Truck Series victories (50, second on the winners list, one behind Ron Hornaday Jr.) and Xfinity wins (91, leading the winners list) while making his case for Busch’s remarkable place in NASCAR’s history.

For more on what Dale Jarrett had to say, watch the video above.

Kevin Harvick on why Danica Patrick didn’t go from superstar to ‘megastar’

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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FORT WORTH, Texas – Winning is still everything to Kevin Harvick.

Not just on the track for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver but also in terms of building a star athlete into a transcendent brand whose boundless popularity can carry a sport.

After qualifying second Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, Harvick was asked who could be the next driver to “move the needle” like a Tiger Woods in golf.

He said there was one active driver who could, and one former driver who had the chance but didn’t.

“The guy that has the most potential is Chase Elliott with the traditional NASCAR fans,” Harvick said. “There’s a difference between a superstar and an megastar. In the past, a superstar wasn’t a megastar because of the fact that he didn’t win enough. Chase Elliott is the next guy that can be a megastar, but you have to win.

“When you have a guy like Tiger Woods, he’s won and won and won and won and won and won. Danica (Patrick) had a personality. She didn’t perform well. She could have been a megastar as well. Danica didn’t perform well. In the end, performance trumped superstar to megastar. And if you want to be a megastar you have to perform and win. That’s the effect that a guy like Tiger Woods has.”

Patrick was Harvick’s SHR teammate for the past four seasons before retiring after this year’s Daytona 500.

It isn’t the first time Harvick has spoken out about the need for popularity to be linked to winning. Last year, he said Dale Earnhardt Jr. had “stunted” NASCAR’s growth because he lacked a championship (Earnhardt recently said the comment still stung).

Harvick clarified some of his position Friday, explaining that neither he nor seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson could become megastars because they lacked the necessary pedigree.

“It’s something that when you look at a guy like Jimmie Johnson — and Jimmie and I have had this conversation — we don’t have that capability from that traditional, roots family standpoint that you can be that guy,” he said. “There’s only a few people that come through the sport that can be that guy. Jeff Gordon came through, but he won a lot in the beginning. He was that young guy that kept winning and won championships and had that immediate impact as far as catching everyone’s attention.

“After you get in here for a few years and don’t catch everyone’s attention you just kind of wind up being one of the guys unless you end up winning a lot.”

Harvick said it would help if there were a few more natural rivalries among the younger set.

“I think when you look at the dynamic between Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, that’s the dynamic that we have the potential to have right now with the group of young racers that have come in,” he said. “But somebody has to step up and be that winner. Who’s the young winner? Who’s going to be the guy that’s going to go against (Martin) Truex (Jr.) and challenge him for the championship that he’s defending and win races?

“I’m happy with where I’m at. We’re winning races and gaining momentum and doing all the things we need to do. If we keep winning you’ll keep gaining that same momentum with the fans and hopefully we can keep doing that. … I love to talk about it because it’s very interesting.”

He also can be very honest in his self-analysis.

“The fact of the matter is that I’m never going to be Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Chase Elliott,” Harvick said. “You’re not going to have that connection the hardcore roots with the fans. Tony (Stewart) was popular but he was never going to be an Earnhardt. As you look at it right now, Chase has that potential. I’m fortunate to have a solid fan base. It seems like we keep gaining momentum from a fan side of things and hopefully that continues.”

Podcast: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Letarte go deep on hot-button topics

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In the debut of a new post-“Wednesdays with Dale” podcast, NASCAR America analysts Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Letarte had extended discussions about topics on Wednesday’s show.

You can hear the podcast by clicking on the audio embed below, but here are some snippets from what the former crew chief-driver tandem said during the freewheeling conversation:


On the postrace dash to the airport that began with Earnhardt’s late father and others from that generation …

Earnhardt on the trend’s origins: “There was a bit of a hurry just to be home quicker, but there also was a huge element at play with their egos, with Rusty (Wallace) and Dad particularly. Dad and Rusty competed on everything. They literally were like racing home in their planes the same way they ran the race all day. It was always who could get in the air first.”

Letarte: “My man Jeff Burton can get out of a sportcoat like Superman. In the phone booth, out of the phone booth, he’s gone.”

Earnhardt: “I remember going to races with (his father) before I started driving and seeing him start to drive home in his driver’s suit. It’s like that first 15 miles within the circumference of the racetrack, if you can break out of that traffic bubble sooner than anyone else … once you’re beyond that bubble, you’re good to go.”

Letarte: “If you’re first out of the bubble, you’re first to the airport, and once you’re the leader, you’re the leader all day.”


On an Xfinity race they ran together at Texas Motor Speedway (probably in 2014) in which they started off horrendously slow …

Earnhardt on Letarte being his crew chief in two series the same weekend: “That says a lot about me as a driver that you were not so tired of me on the Cup side that you were like, ‘You know what? I don’t think I’ll do that. I’m really getting enough of you on the Cup side.’ You said, ‘Yes! Yes, Dale! More racing with Dale? Of course!’”

Letarte: “We were getting our teeth kicked in in practice.”

Earnhardt: “We realized it quickly in the first 15 minutes. I’m like, ‘Hey, driving OK! Feels pretty good!’ He’s like, ‘Well I got some bad news. You’re half a second slow! Not a little bit! We’re in trouble!’  … We were starting to panic. I made this uncharacteristically low entry into Turn 3, and it chopped a half-second off the lap.”

Letarte: “And instantly, I was like, ‘Hey, that’s way better.’ And the response was, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re pretty good, I’ve been driving it all wrong.’ We went from throwing up slow to one good lap to let’s go back to the Cup garage, we’ll be fine.”


On Brad Keselowski’s comments about the need for drivers to be outspoken

Letarte on whether a crew chief would prefer a driver toe the line: “I’ve only had two (drivers). I had Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. Both spoke their mind, both were very transparent, they endorsed products that endorsed them and matched their brands and personalities. It all worked. I enjoyed it because both also would have a conversation where it’s more than just the fans. I guess the short answer is yes. I enjoy a driver who is speaking their mind because if you’re always you, all the time, even though it’s sometimes rockier, you’re going to get in less major issues because you are who you are. People don’t think you’re two-faced or saying something behind your back. I will qualify that by saying both drivers I worked with who were that way, I could call on the phone and say hey, I know you think this, but I just want to paint the picture of what could be perceived of internally in our family while we try to go race, and both of them would say oh man, I never thought of that. They were both very supportive.”

Earnhardt on whether sponsorship can hinder drivers speaking freely compared with other sports: “NBA players do have to consider the partnerships that they have, but when you’re LeBron James, you have so much strength. Your brand is so freaking strong, it doesn’t affect him as much.

“I think that with drivers, I think they’re a little more concerned not so much with how the fans may react, but they probably do think more about, ‘Oh man, my sponsor may not like this, how much job security do I have? Am I willing to risk my career on making a statement?’

“Brad doesn’t seem to care. I might be wrong. This might not be true every driver. But I think if you adopt that approach, a lot of people buy in, a lot of people buy in to who Brad is, that’s Brad. Nobody’s shocked. His sponsors aren’t going to wake up and say, ‘Wait a minute!’ They know who they’re getting. That’s who Brad is. Him being that way has gotten to become what we expect from Brad, so it’s not so shocking to see his owner or corporate partners see him get into those situations.”

Click on the embed above to hear the podcast.

It also is available on Apple Podcasts.

 

Jeff Gordon honored with Monster Monument

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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Jeff Gordon’s Dover career will be honored with a marquee plaque on the Monster Monument at Victory Plaza on Saturday, May 5.

Gordon becomes part a select group of drivers honored with a marquee plaque, joining Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and David Pearson.

With five Dover wins, the last of which came in September 2014, Gordon is tied with Pearson for four on the all-time winners list on the 1-mile concrete oval. Jimmie Johnson tops the list with 11 wins. Petty and Allison have seven wins apiece.

“Jeff provided millions of NASCAR fans, both at Dover and across the country, with plenty of thrills and excitement during his incredible career,” Dover Motorsports President Mike Tatoian said in a press release. “Only the best drivers in the sport have their names on the Monster Monument, and only the best of the best receive the honor of a marquee plaque. Jeff has certainly earned his place among that accomplished group.”

The unveiling of the plaque is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. on May 5. Fans are welcome to attend.