Dale Earnhardt Jr. disappointed after ‘real bad decision’ costs him shot at Daytona 500


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – One false move cost Dale Earnhardt Jr. a shot at consecutive victories in the Daytona 500.

On a restart with 19 laps remaining, NASCAR’s 12-time most popular driver moved up the track and plummeted through the field. Earnhardt dropped from third to 20th over the next 10 laps.

He clawed up to sixth for a green-white-checkered finish and finished third behind race winner Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick, but it was of little consolation after leading 32 laps.

“I made a real bad decision on that restart,” Earnhardt said. “You can’t afford to do that. I got shuffled back and lost a ton of spots. I had one of the best cars out there, which gave me a lot of confidence to keep digging.

“It’s real disappointing because the Nationwide team gave me the best car and should have won the race. Just real disappointed I didn’t do everything I needed to do.”

Earnhardt said he made the move because he was trying to back up and tuck in behind Jimmie Johnson (who was leading in the outside lane), but he misjudged the distance and found his No. 88 Chevrolet stranded without drafting help.

“I should have stayed on the bottom, been a little more patient,” Earnhardt said. “I thought I had a good opportunity, and it just didn’t work out.”

The 2014 Daytona 500 winner was trying to become the first back-to-back winner of the season opener since Sterling Marlin in 1994-95. He was able to look at the bright side afterward, peppering his postrace interviews with well-wishes for Kyle Busch (who remained hospitalized in nearby Halifax-Health Medical Center after suffering a compound fracture of his right leg in a Saturday crash).

“Definitely glad we came home safe,” he said. “Definitely thinking about Kyle over there and … hoping he’s well. We’ve been tough competitors, not always got along, but you hate seeing any of your comrades go through that. Hope he’s doing OK.”

It was a solid Speedweeks debut, too, for crew chief Greg Ives, who guided Earnhardt to a win in one of last Thursday’s qualifying races. Ives takes over for former crew chief Steve Letarte, who took Earnhardt to the Chase for the Sprint Cup in four straight seasons before leaving for an analyst job with NBC Sports.

“I’ve got a great team and feel like Greg’s going to be awesome and we’ll have more opportunities this year,” Earnhardt said.

COTA Xfinity starting lineup: AJ Allmendinger takes pole


AJ Allmendinger, who won this race a year ago, will start on the pole for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas.

Allmendinger earned the pole with a lap of 92.173 mph Friday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Xfinity starting lineup

He will be joined on the front row Sammy Smith (91.827 mph).
Ty Gibbs (91.665) will start third. Sheldon Creed (91.652) qualified fourth. Parker Kligerman (91.195) will start fifth.

Cup driver William Byron will start ninth. Byron’s time was disallowed for cutting the esses. Cole Custer, who will start 10th, didn’t make a lap in the final round of qualifying.

Cup driver Aric Almirola (91.269) qualified 13th. Truck Series racer Carson Hocevar (90.669) will start 17th. Alex Labbe (90.476) will start 23rd. He’s filling in for Josh Williams, who is serving a one-race suspension for parking his car at the start/finish line of last weekend’s race at Atlanta.

COTA Truck starting lineup: Ross Chastain wins pole


Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.

Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).

More: COTA Truck starting lineup

Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.

Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.

Tyler Reddick leads Cup practice at COTA


Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.

Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Cup practice results

Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).

Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.

Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.

Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.


Saturday COTA Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


Austin Hill, the dominant driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series through the early weeks of the season, will be looking for his first Xfinity road course win Saturday.

Hill has won three of the season’s first five races, scoring victories at Daytona, Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Hill has been close in previous road course runs. He has a second at COTA, a third at Portland, a fourth at Road America and a ninth at Indianapolis.

MORE: Dr. Diandra takes a look at top Cup road course drivers

Kyle Busch and AJ Allmendinger own wins in the previous Xfinity races at COTA.

Allmendinger and three other Cup Series regulars — Aric Almirola, William Byron and Ty Gibbs — are scheduled to race in the Xfinity event.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 5:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled at 5:19 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 2 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Jordan Thiessen of Pit Boss Grills at 5 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by recording artist Payton Keller at 5:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 46 laps (156 miles) on the 3.41-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 14. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 5 p.m. … NASCAR RaceDay airs at 4 p.m. on FS1. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and can be heard at goprn.com. …SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. Temperature of 82 at race time. No chance of rain.

LAST TIME: AJ Allmendinger won last March’s Xfinity race at COTA. Austin Hill was two seconds behind in second place. Cole Custer finished third.