Dustin Long

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports extend contract through 2022 (video)

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Hendrick Motorsports announced Tuesday that it has extended Chase Elliott‘s contract through the 2022 season.

“It means the world to me to be a part of this organization, and I couldn’t be happier,” Elliott said in a statement about the extension. “I wouldn’t want to drive for anybody else but Hendrick Motorsports. I am very proud to be where I am, and I definitely take it upon myself to work hard and make sure I do my part for the company as we move forward.”

Elliott’s previous contract ran through the 2018 season.

Elliott, who signed with Hendrick in February 2011 at the age of 15, is sixth in the Cup standings heading into Saturday night’s race at Daytona International Speedway on NBC.

The son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott was selected as the Cup rookie of the year last season after posting 10 top-five finishes and 17 top 10s. He also won two poles, including for the Daytona 500.

Elliott’s best finish this season is second at Michigan. He’s placed third at Las Vegas and Martinsville.

His extension is the second such deal that has taken a driver through the 2022 season. Team Penske announced in February that Joey Logano had signed a contact extension that goes beyond the 2022.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. kicks off JR Nation Appreci88ion campaign

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images
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Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s JR Nation Apreci88ion tour begins this weekend as he makes what is scheduled to be his final Cup start at Daytona International Speedway.

Earnhardt, the 14-time most popular driver who is retiring from full-time Cup driving after this season, will pay thanks to fans in the final 20 races of the season.

The JR Nation Apreci88ion Tour will have a heavy presence on social media with the #Apreci88ion hashtag. Earnhardt will release weekly videos recollecting memories and milestones achieved at each of the tracks. JR Nation Appreci88ion merchandise will be available at his souvenir trailers at the track and at ShopJrNation.com.

“My expectations were very low when I started racing – I just wanted to pay my bills,” Earnhardt said in a statement. “If I could pay bills and make a living by racing, that was a win.

“Now some 18 years later, I look at what became of it, and I just feel grateful. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of so many people, especially fans. So as I visit tracks for the last time in this role, that is my motivation. I’m going to drive as hard as I can for the people who made an 18-year Cup career possible.”

Watch Earnhardt’s final Cup ride at Daytona at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC.

Also, catch a replay of his 2004 Daytona 500 win from 7-9 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and join the conversation on Twitter by using #NASCARThrowback.

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Ernie Irvan’s son to run K&N East race with throwback scheme his dad drove

Photo: Martin-McClure Racing
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Jared Irvan, the 19-year-old son of former Cup driver Ernie Irvan, will drive a throwback K&N East Pro Series car that honors his father July 8 at Thompson Speedway for Martin-McClure Racing, the team announced Tuesday.

The K&N East Pro Series is returning to the Connecticut track for the first time since 2009 to run the NASCAR Busch North Throwback 100.

Jared Irvan will be making his second career series start. His previous start came in 2015. Ernie Irvan drove for Morgan-McClure Racing from 1990-93, winning seven races, including the 1991 Daytona 500.

Jared Irvan’s car will be a bright yellow No. 4, mirroring the Kodak car Ernie Irvan drove for Morgan-McClure Racing.

“This is an exciting day,” Ernie Irvan said at the Martin-McClure Racing shop, which is in the former home of Morgan-McClure Racing in Abingdon, Virginia. “It’s kind of like being at a family reunion, knowing the history of Morgan-McClure Racing.”

Said Jared Irvan: “It’s really cool to be able to drive a car that has this much history behind it. I’m just happy to be here and be able to drive it. Hopefully will be able to put it in victory lane.”


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NASCAR to review Kasey Kahne crash into concrete barrier

Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Kasey Kahne’s last-lap crash into a concrete barrier at Sonoma Raceway raised questions about why there wasn’t an energy-absorbing SAFER barrier in that location.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, discussed the matter Monday on “The Morning Drive.’’

“In terms of NASCAR racing, I think a lot of times fans think that NASCAR is the only racing that occurs on a specific track,’’ O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “When you look at a track like when we’re at Sonoma, every day there is something different going on at that facility. What we’ve got to do is think about all those factors, and then when we race how does it impact, obviously, our product and the track be as safe as possible.

“We have what we believe to be the safest conditions going into that facility. Any time you see a hit like that, obviously, you’re going to learn and react and see what we can do. In this case, that’s something we’ll take a quick look at for sure, looking at the angle. One of the things on road courses you’ve got to keep in mind is the trajectory of the hit, when a car bounces off the wall does it come right back into the racing surface and that’s a tight area potentially at Sonoma.

“I think you’ll see us react quickly  with the safety and make sure that if a SAFER barrier needs to be in there, we’ll make that happens for sure.’’

Kahne crashed at the end of the frontstretch after an incident with Kevin O’Connell.

Kahne was uninjured in the accident but the car suffered significant damage.

After the race, Kahne described what happened.

“It was a hard hit. No. 15 (O’Connell), no clue who he is, I saw him a lot today lapping him, but he went low down the front stretch and then just, I was going to his outside and he just turned right and just hit me, put me straight in the wall getting the white flag there. No clue what he was thinking.”

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Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. praise NASCAR for restraint on debris cautions

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A week after Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were critical of NASCAR for debris cautions late in races, both applauded the sanctioning body for allowing the final half of Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma to run caution-free until an accident on the final lap.

“There was a lot of opportunity that you could have got that debris caution or whatever during the race, but it was nice to see that the race actually got to play out,’’ Stewart said after Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick won at Sonoma.

A week ago, Stewart tweeted his frustration with a debris caution on Lap 181 of the 200-lap race at Michigan International Speedway. Two cautions for accidents followed, including one for Stewart’s driver, Clint Bowyer. Stewart later tweeted how “so many drivers and teams day was ruined by the result of another “debris” caution towards the end of the race.’’

Earnhardt joined in his displeasure, saying on Periscope after the Michigan race that “with the stages, I don’t know why they’ve got to throw so many damn debris caution yellows.’’

Monday morning on Periscope, Earnhardt was appreciative of NASCAR allowing the Sonoma race to run without a caution for so long.

“We talked about NASCAR throwing a lot of debris yellows at Michigan and in the weeks prior to that, there were a lot of questionable cautions in the Cup races,’’ Earnhardt said. “This particular weekend, I think they were trying to make a statement to not throw any unnecessary yellows. Guys were spinning off the race track and crashing. A lot of things going on late in that race in Sonoma and they let it play out.

“I saw some of Tony Stewart’s comments postrace about how he was proud of NASCAR for letting the race play out naturally. I thought that was a great way to put it.’’

The next-to-last caution period was from Lap 52-54. There wasn’t another caution until Lap 110, the final lap, when Kasey Kahne crashed.

Of the six caution flags in Sunday’s race, one was for debris.

Since 2010, the Cup race at Sonoma has averaged 0.75 debris cautions per race. There were no debris cautions at Sonoma in 2010, ’12 and ’13. Last year’s race had two debris cautions, the most since 2010.

A study by NBC Sports revealed that debris cautions this season have been among their lowest total in years. Entering the Sonoma race, the 12 debris yellows this season were the fewest in 14 years at that point.

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