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Dale Jr. apologizes for All-Star finish, endorses Bowman to replace him in 88

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You could see it on his face and hear it in his voice: Dale Earnhardt Jr. was not happy with his performance Saturday night in the Monster Energy All-Star Race.

As he does after every race, Earnhardt took to Periscope to interact with his fans.

“It’s hard not to get down,” Earnhardt said after finishing 18th in the 20-driver field. “I’ve been racing a long time and it’s hard not to get down. Right after that, it’s hard to keep your chin up, really hard. I’ll get my chin up again in a couple days.

“I did my best, but damn, that’s no good. That’s not good enough. I don’t want to be running like that.”

Earnhardt finished 16th in the opening stage, 19th in the second stage and 18th in the third stage.

In his closing comments, Earnhardt said his performance was “pretty embarrassing.”

Even with his poor showing, Earnhardt did not agree with one fan who asked him if he felt whether the race was boring.

“Boring race? I really didn’t get to see much of it,” because he was so far behind, Earnhardt added.

Now it’s on to the longest race of the season, next Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, a race Earnhardt has never won in his career.

“The 600 is more important (than the All-Star Race),” he said. “I sure would love to win that race. We’re taking another car different than what we drove tonight. I don’t ever want to see that car again. I just didn’t like it.

“I’m going to race my heart at the 600. Don’t worry about that.”

Even though he was in a dismal mood, Earnhardt thanked his fans for trying to cheer him up.

“I appreciate everybody being so supportive, hanging in there with us,” he said. “It’s nights like this that you don’t feel like you deserve much support.”

Earnhardt also made some interesting revelations during his chat with the fans:

* He’s endorsing Alex Bowman to replace him in the No. 88 after he retires. “Alex Bowman in the 88 car next year, is that what you want? That would be pretty awesome. Alex in the 88. That sounds good to me. He earned it last year. He ran real good.”

* He planned to have a cookout Sunday, but he’s not in the mood, given how he finished. “We’re just going to order a couple pizzas,” he said.

And last but not least:

“Amy is not pregnant, no,” he said of his wife.

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Focus turns to JR Motorsports for Dale Earnhardt Jr. after 2017 season

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — What’s next for Dale Earnhardt Jr. after this season?

Even he’s not quite sure. He knows he’ll drive in at least two NASCAR Xfinity races in 2018, but there are no other specific plans for the 14-time most popular driver who has played a key role in helping the sport behind the scenes.

“I do have ambition to work,’’ Earnhardt said Tuesday at a press conference at Hendrick Motorsports. “I’m not going to quit working. There’s a feeling of being an asset to something. I don’t have to be the guy holding the trophy. Being a part of that success, I really enjoy. I really enjoy making people happy and doing stuff as a team.

“I think I can replicate that in the next chapter of my life. Certainly excited about all the things we’ve had going on with the (car) dealership (in Tallahassee, Florida) and Whisky River. We’re growing the Whisky River business into airport locations.’’

The business side of Earnhardt is not new to his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller.

“He loves finding talent, whether its drivers, whether its crew, office people,’’ she said. “Those things are very satisfying to him, and they’re very satisfying to me. Just over the last 18 to 24 months, he’s been so much more involved on the business front of everything. That’s just a maturity about him. What you see there and that excitement is to be more involved. We have to put his Sunday job first. At the end of this year ,we’ll be able to reprioritize things.’’

Car owner Rick Hendrick sees a key role for Earnhardt after this season.

“I’m excited about this second chapter in his life because we’re going to do a lot of it together,’’ Hendrick said. “But he also is still going to be in and around and visible in the sport, and help tap these young guys on the shoulder and really tutor them. Tell them what they’re doing wrong, what they could do better … because he’s been through all those cycles of life.’’

Earnhardt has had an affinity to help groom young drivers, including Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron, among others.

“I enjoy the race team that we have at JR Motorsports and the fact that we have graduated so many people,’’ Earnhardt said. “That’s something that I look forward to over the next several years is to continue to be a breeding ground for talented men and women that are mechanics and crew chiefs and drivers.’’

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Rick Hendrick: No plans set for future of No. 88 after Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Twenty-seven days after Dale Earnhardt Jr. informed Rick Hendrick he wouldn’t race in the NASCAR Cup Series after 2017, Hendrick said “no” plans have been set for the future of the No. 88 Chevrolet.

“We’ve got a lot of people to consider being partners, like our sponsors,” Hendrick said Tuesday at Earnhardt’s retirement press conference. “We’ve just been talking to them. Priority one is to get everything prepared and get the day over with and we’ll take time to decide what we do then.”

The three-year deal with Nationwide, which will sponsor the car for 20 races this season, expires after this season. Jim McCoy, director of sports marketing for Nationwide, said no decision has been made on what to do.

“It’s still pretty early in all those conversations,” McCoy told NBC Sports. “Today was about Dale. We’re still kind of absorbing everything that took place with that. He’s been a great partner. We’re looking forward to continue that partnership. We’re evaluating our 2018 program, much like we would in any renewal year. Hendrick is a great partner. We’ll continue to look at all of our options for ’18.”

The 14-time most popular driver joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2008 and has driven the No. 88 in 312 starts up to Monday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt is scheduled to make his 631st and final Cup start Nov. 19 in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Three months later, the next driver for the No. 88 will make their debut at Daytona International Speedway.

Not long after the news was announced, NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan broke down a list of potential successors for Earnhardt, which includes Alex Bowman, Xfinity Series driver William Byron and Carl Edwards.

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Who are the candidates to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88? Here’s a short list

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With Tuesday’s news that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is leaving NASCAR after the 2017 season, Hendrick Motorsports would seem to have multiple internal and external candidates to fill the ride.

Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet would be the top-tier opening for 2018. The car is prepared in the same building as the No. 48 of seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson and is a teammate to Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne. Since taking over the No. 88 in 2008, Earnhardt has made the playoffs in six of nine seasons, notched nine victories and finished top 10 in points three times (he might have again in 2012 if he hadn’t been sidelined for two races by a concussion).

Some of the decision assuredly will depend on sponsorship (in a statement, Nationwide said it fully supported Earnhardt’s decision and would continue its relationship with the 14-time most popular driver beyond 2017), but here are a few names to consider — starting with two already in the Hendrick fold:

William Byron: Signed to a developmental deal with the team last August, he unquestionably is the future of Hendrick Motorsports along with Elliott.

Byron, 19, showed prodigious talent as a rookie in the Camping World Truck Series with a circuit-leading seven victories (he was robbed of the championship because of a mechanical failure while dominating Phoenix). He is only seven races into his Xfinity career but is a solid second in points with five top 10s and two top fives.

There will be questions about whether it would be rushing too much to promote him to Cup in his third full season in a NASCAR national series, but if he’s the eventual solution, why wait to promote him? Kyle Larson was moved into Cup after only a full season of Xfinity, and his development into the 2017 points leader has proved the pitfalls that surrounded Joey Logano’s entry into Cup as an inexperienced teenager can be avoided.

Alex Bowman: He filled in admirably for an injured Earnhardt with three top 10s in 10 races last year (qualifying on pole position at Phoenix and leading 194 laps). Bowman, who turned 24 today, also ran full time in Cup from 2014-15, so he has 81 starts in the premier series as well as five top fives in 50 Xfinity starts.

Still under contract to Hendrick, his yeoman work on the driving simulator has drawn praise from the organization and its drivers.

But the Tuscon, Ariz., native still doesn’t have a resume that is eye-catching as Byron’s, and his upside might be a more difficult sell to sponsors.

Carl Edwards: Since stepping away from NASCAR in a stunning announcement three months ago, Edwards steadfastly has maintained he isn’t retired. While visiting Atlanta Motor Speedway to help rookie replacement Daniel Suarez with his former No. 19 Toyota, Edwards brought his helmet and firesuit just in case.

He seems open to driving in Cup again, though he is remaining coy about it. Asked by NBC Sports if the No. 88 was an opportunity he would consider, Edwards jokingly replied, “You may have it mixed up. I’m recruiting Dale to drive a tractor!” (He also added he was happy for Earnhardt, and that it would be a great ride for someone.)

With 28 victories in the Cup series and a megawatt smile and sponsor appeal, Edwards’ name figures to come up whenever there is an opening, even if he seems to be enjoying life on his farm in Columbia, Mo. He also was courted by Hendrick about a decade ago (which Jeff Gordon confirmed in 2011 when Edwards was in the midst of re-upping for the last time with Roush Fenway Racing).

–Any other qualified veteran: Hendrick could decide Byron isn’t ready for the No. 88 yet next season but is the answer for 2019.

Would it make sense to consider putting NBCSN analyst Greg Biffle (who has indicated he still would like to race), another driver with winning credentials (such as David Ragan or Regan Smith, who has Hendrick and JRM ties) or a youthful driver with Cup experience and a win in a national series (hello, Parker Kligerman) in the No. 88 to keep the seat warm for Byron in 2019?

Given that Hendrick waited a year for Kahne to join its ranks, and Stewart-Haas Racing did the same with Clint Bowyer, it isn’t an implausible scenario.

Five teams to take part in Goodyear tire test at Daytona

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Five teams will participate in a Goodyear tire test today and Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway.

Testing will be Joey Logano (Team Penske), Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing), Erik Jones (Furniture Row Racing), Danica Patrick (Stewart-Haas Racing) and Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports).

The test is closed to the public.