Dale Earnhardt

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NASCAR’s greatest driver ever? Chase Elliott’s choice is clear

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MARTINSVILLE, Virginia — Although Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson each sit atop NASCAR’s pedestal with seven Cup championships, the debate often is who is the best driver of all-time in NASCAR?

Is it Richard Petty, who won 200 races along with those titles?

Is it Dale Earnhardt, who won 76 races and is viewed as the sport’s most accomplished restrictor-plate racer of all time?

Is it Jimmie Johnson, who has 83 career victories and won five championships in a row?

Dale Earnhardt at Richmond Raceway in 1997. Photo by Craig Jones /Allsport

Or is it someone else? David Pearson rarely ran full seasons but still won three championships and 105 races. Jeff Gordon won four titles and 93 races.

One can certainly say that Chase Elliott is biased as Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, but Elliott’s vote is for Johnson.

“The guy is still one of, if not the greatest driver ever, to ever come through NASCAR; I would probably say the best ever without question,’’ Elliott said Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.

Asked how he would defend his vote to a fan who viewed Petty, Earnhardt or some other driver as NASCAR’s greatest, Elliott said:

“I think there’s a lot of things that factor in,’’ Elliott said. “One thing I look at is winning five championships in a row is pretty impressive in my opinion. I think it’s just an opinion. I have my opinion on that. I don’t see those other guys in the same situation. I’m not taking anything away from them, all legends in the sport. I just don’t see anybody competing with what he’s done in the short amount of time he’s been here.’’

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Jimmie Johnson optimistic about sponsor search, says ‘I’m not done’


Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson says he wants to be involved in Hendrick Motorsports’ sponsor search for his team and that even though he’s closer to the end of his career than beginning, that shouldn’t hinder a sponsor’s interest.

Hendrick Motorsports announced this week that Lowe’s would not return as sponsor of Johnson and No. 48 team after this season. Lowe’s had been with the team since the beginning of Johnson’s Cup career in 2001.

Johnson has a contract with Hendrick Motorsports through 2020. The 42-year-old was asked Friday at Auto Club Speedway if being closer to the end of his career could make companies leery of sponsoring his team.

“Marketing today has changed quite a bit,’’ said Johnson, who has won a record six Cup races at Auto Club Speedway. “As much as we all want to think corporations look at a 10-, 15-, 20-year run for a marketing plan, they really do look year to year.’’

For those who wonder how much longer Johnson will drive, he said: “I’m not done. Hendrick is home. Retirement hasn’t been on my mind. I want to win an eighth championship.’’

Certainly that could be one of the aspects to entice companies to sponsor Johnson — his pursuit to become the all-time leader in Cup titles by breaking a tie he has with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

Johnson said he is encouraged with the sponsorship possibilities for his team.

“Very optimistic about the future myself and our race team have and the opportunity we haven’t had before — to go out and shop our deal and see what is out there and what we can do from a branding standpoint for a new company,’’ Johnson said. “Now that the announcement is out, we can get to work on that and see what the future holds for our team.’’

Johnson said he plans to be a part of the process of securing sponsorship.

“This is really a unique opportunity, and it’s also a great learning and growing moment for myself,’’ he said. “I want to be involved in this process and learn along the way, and maybe a relationship or two I’ve made through the years will come to fruition and maybe help with the sponsorship, too.’’

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Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman climb up NASCAR record book

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A bit overlooked from last weekend’s race at ISM Raceway was that both Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman moved up a spot for most consecutive Cup starts.

Both started their 580th consecutive Cup race last weekend. That moved them ahead of Ken Schrader (579 career starts) into ninth on the all-time list. Kevin Harvick has 572 consecutive starts. He’s set to pass Schrader at Kansas in May.

Next for Johnson and Newman is Mark Martin, who made 621 career Cup starts.

Jeff Gordon is the record holder with 797 consecutive starts. At this point, both Johnson, who is 42 years old, and Newman, who is 40, would need six years to reach Gordon’s mark.

To put the streak Johnson and Newman have compiled into perspective, rookies William Byron and Darrell Wallace Jr. would each need to not miss a race for 16 years to match them (provided there continues to be 36 points races a year). Both Byron and Wallace will need 22 seasons to match Gordon’s mark.

Most consecutive Cup starts 

797 – Jeff Gordon

788 – Ricky Rudd

704 – Bobby Labonte

697 – Rusty Wallace

655 – Terry Labonte

648 – Dale Earnhardt

628 – Jeff Burton

621 – Mark Martin

580 – Jimmie Johnson

580 – Ryan Newman

579 – Ken Schrader

572 – Kevin Harvick

571 – Matt Kenseth

548 – Jamie McMurray

521 – Tony Stewart

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Mark Martin shares the story of when Dale Earnhardt made him mad

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Mark Martin joined the digital world Monday with the debut of his own podcast, sharing stories about his interest in rap music, his racing carer and his battles with Dale Earnhardt.

Martin won 40 career Cup races (a mark Kevin Harvick tied Sunday with his victory at ISM Raceway) in a career that began in 1981 and ended in 2013. Martin’s success led to his induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2017.

During episode one of the Mark Martin Podcast, the former racer took fan questions. He talked about a variety of topics, noting what he liked about rap music, what valuable lesson crew chief Alan Gustafson taught him and how he doesn’t lament losing the 2007 Daytona 500 by a nose but how another loss ranks as the one that bothers him to this day.

One question to Martin was who made him the maddest at the track.

Dale Earnhardt’s name came up.

Here’s how Martin tells the story:

“I had some issues with Earnhardt,’’ Martin said “The stories on Earnhardt are Dale really respected me before I got to NASCAR, he knew who I was. He treated me with great respect until one day in the mid 90s he wakes up and he just thinks, ‘Boy, I’ll just mess with Mark, see how much he will take.’ He started pushing my buttons just for the fun of it.

“I would go out to practice and try to run by myself and he would come out. He would wait for me. He would come out right beside me and he would get on the outside of me. That’s when the cars were just starting to get aero loose with a car on the outside.

“He would mess with me and mess with me and mess with me. Well, I finally got tired of it at Michigan. He got on my outside and I switched it on him. I got ahead of him and then let him get on the inside of me and when we did, it sucked him around. He spun me around and he wrecked me. I had not wrecked myself or him all this time he had been messing with me and it pissed me off because it wrecked my car. Leave me alone. So I was mad. That was in practice. That wasn’t in a race.

“So, the next weekend on Friday, first thing we rolled out at New Hampshire, I go out and here he is. He does the same thing, and I put the wheel on him in practice. He comes in after practice and he looks at his p.r. guy and he said ‘I think Mark has had enough.’

“That’s all. It was just playing. I wasn’t going to cry to the media, I wasn’t going to complain, I was going to be a man. I wasn’t going to be a baby. Some of the other people, their reactions … Dale didn’t like the way they reacted, he didn’t respect it and he made their life miserable.

“I watched him do it to Geoff Bodine. God, he just irritated Geoff Bodine something terrible, just all the time and he just did it because he didn’t like the way Geoff would act when he would do it to him. He would just do it. Dale was a tough guy, he was a tough customer.’’

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Kevin Harvick joins exclusive category with Las Vegas win


Kevin Harvick became only the fourth driver to score 100 or more victories in NASCAR’s top three national series after winning Sunday’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Richard Petty is the all-time leader with 200 wins (all in Cup), followed by Kyle Busch with 183 (43 in Cup, 91 in Xfinity and 49 in Camping World Trucks).

“It’s been a lot of years accumulated with a lot of great race teams and people and situations,” Harvick said of reaching that milestone. “You’ve won some that you should, you’ve won some that you shouldn’t. I think when you tag that triple‑digit number to it, it really lets you realize that you’ve been fortunate to accomplish a lot of things and do things consistently throughout the years.

“It’s been fun. I think for me the last five years have really been the part that have been the most fun for me, just because of the fact that I’ve been able to come into Stewart‑Haas Racing, and Gene (Haas) and Tony (Stewart) took a chance and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to do this a long time in advance, and Rodney (Childers) was convinced to come over here and be a part of this deal.’

“I’m just fortunate to be riding the wave, and you can call me old, you can call us old, but cars are fast and things are going well.”

The Truck series began competing in 1995. The Xfinity Series began in 1982.

Here is the top 10 in all-time wins in all three national series:

200 – Richard Petty

184 – Kyle Busch

106 – David Pearson

100 – Kevin Harvick

98 – Jeff Gordon

97 – Dale Earnhardt

97 – Darrell Waltrip

96 – Mark Martin

86 – Bobby Allison

84 – Jimmie Johnson

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