Dale Earnhardt Jr. likes aero package changes, but not for this year’s Chase

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JOLIET, Il. – While he’s in favor of NASCAR implementing more track-specific aero packages in 2016, Dale Earnhardt Jr. wouldn’t like to see changes made to tracks in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“NASCAR said they don’t want to do that,” Earnhardt said during an open test Wednesday at Chicagoland Speedway. “The drivers, there’s some guys that don’t want it and there’s some guys that do want it. Carl Edwards is going to tell you to run that low downforce package everywhere. I think Kyle (Busch) is a big fan of it, as well.

“I like it, too, but I’m not sure if you want to throw that kind of curve ball in the Chase. I think we need to learn more, we need to understand where we’re going with the tires, how to match the tires up a little better, and we just don’t want asterisks next to this program and this season.

“And we also have to go through Darlington, Michigan and Indy (all races that will have special aero packages like at Kentucky last weekend) and see what happens there and learn from all those things. I’m sure the picture will be a little bit clearer about what we should do and could do after those races.

“But again, today, I wouldn’t make any changes in the Chase, but you never know, get them three races in and we all may have opinions about doing different things in the Chase as far as aero goes.”

Now, 2016 is a whole different story. When asked if he would advocate having different aero packages specifically designed for individual tracks, Earnhardt concurred.

“Absolutely, I think it makes the racing more interesting,” he said. “It makes it more interesting for the fans to go through that cycle of learning about these packages and what they do and what type of racing they create.

“I think it would really be a feather in the caps of the (TV) networks, to give them so much information and ammo to broadcast and put on a good show. Plus, I think it’s a good way to adjust and tweak the racing and make better racing at that track.

“Some drivers like more downforce, other drivers like less downforce. Different packages are going to lend themselves to different drivers, and that’s the same way with race tracks. The same thing that makes for a great race at Kentucky might not make for such a great race at Indy or Michigan.”

While he wouldn’t like to see changes to this year’s Chase races, Earnhardt likes what he’s gone through the last three days at Chicagoland. Monday and Tuesday were closed tire tests for Goodyear, which included numerous tire and aero packages that included high drag, low downforce and the current package.

Teams that took part in Wednesday’s test had the option to try whatever package they wanted. But Monday and Tuesday were rather structured, with some surprising results.

“We ran the low downforce package some yesterday, we ran the high downforce package,” Earnhardt said. “We went through three or four sets of tires for each package, just for Goodyear to get an idea about wear and how those tires work with each package.”

Earnhardt initially believed that, particularly on Tuesday, the tire test may be setting up for a now aero package for the first race of this year’s Chase, which begins once again at Chicagoland. But Wednesday, he wasn’t so sure a new tire could be constructed in time to match the results of the aero tests.

“I don’t think they’ll run here,” he said. “We may run here soon down the road. Coming here for a three-day test, we went through tires for Goodyear. They mandated that all the cars put that little spoiler on the second day. That told me they were thinking about running that low downforce here.

“And then we saw the tires tearing up, we tore up some right front tires. Martin (Truex Jr.) tore up one, I tore up one, the 9 (Sam Hornish Jr.) tore up one, and when Goodyear sees that, the red flag comes out and you have to slow down and there’s just not enough time to really prepare for the right tire and get it on the car and get it ready for the Chase. I think we’ll run the 2015 current package that we’ve run all year here and who knows if we’ll have it next year.”

When asked about NASCAR chairman Brian France’s comments earlier in the week that he’d like to see more drafting and pack racing like at Kentucky, Earnhardt was a bit taken aback.

“Yeah, I was surprised by some of his comments about drafting, in particular,” he said. “I mean, you’re not going to see drafting at Kentucky, I don’t care what you do. I don’t know how in the heck we’re going to try and accomplish that, if that’s what they’re looking for.

“I thought the racing was good, the fans like it and I think we had more passing. … You’re not going to draft there. That place is wore out, it’s rough as hell down the straightaways, you ain’t going to draft. You’re going to pass in the corners, you’re going to chase guys around in the corners and get out of shape and beat around each other in the corner and race hard like we did the other night.”

NASCAR has at least three upcoming races with track-specific aero packages for each: next week at Indianapolis, next month at Michigan and the Labor Day weekend at Darlington. Earnhardt said fans will like – and may even be surprised – at how the changes will affect those races.

“Michigan should be real interesting,” he said. “They’re going to take some gear out of the car plus put the big spoiler on to slow it way down. They’re expecting to see like a 6 mph draft closing distance between the lead car and following car, which should be pretty wild.

“This is really a big deal, to change the whole thing for everybody at this track and then try something so extreme at another track. What they’re trying at Michigan and Indy is really extreme and really should alter the racing and what it looks like there. What it’ll look like, I don’t know, but it’s not going to be the same. Fans are going to tune in to see that, whatever it is, what happens, that’s great.”

All in all, Earnhardt liked the three days of testing at Chicagoland and what the future holds.

“This has been a three-day test and normally I hate tests, but this has been fun, to try and learn and understand,” he said. “I’m excited just to see what happens, whether this stuff works or fails or whatever. But it’s fun to go through, kind of like rearrange the furniture in the living room, so to speak, to do something different. It’s been kind of the same old, same old for so long, so this is kind of neat and exciting and unprecedented, really.”

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NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series results: Justin Allgaier wins at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier finally broke through for his first win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season Monday night.

Allgaier stretched his last fuel load over the final laps to finish in front of John Hunter Nemechek. Cole Custer was third, Austin Hill fourth and Ty Gibbs fifth. Gibbs ran both races Monday, completing 900 miles.

The win also was the first of the season for JR Motorsports.

Charlotte Xfinity results

Xfinity points after Charlotte

Justin Allgaier wins NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won a fuel-mileage gamble to win Monday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Allgaier stretched his fuel to outlast second-place John Hunter Nemechek. Following in the top five were Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Ty Gibbs.

The victory was Allgaier’s first of the year and the first of the season for JR Motorsports. He has 20 career wins.

MORE: Charlotte Xfinity results

After a long day at CMS, the race ended at 11:25 p.m. The race started Monday morning but was stopped twice because of weather before it was halted with 48 of 200 laps completed so that the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race could be run.

When the race was stopped, Gibbs, Nemechek and Allgaier were in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first two stages.

Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs

Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs

Who had a good race: Justin Allgaier has had good cars in previous races but finally cashed in with a win Monday. He led 83 laps. … John Hunter Nemechek, in second, scored his fifth top-two run of the season. … Cole Custer scored his sixth straight top-10 finish. … Ty Gibbs lasted 900 miles for the day and led 52 laps in the Xfinity race.

Who had a bad race: Sam Mayer was running 10th when he spun off Turn 2. He finished 35th. … Sheldon Creed finished three laps down in 28th.

Next: The series moves on to Portland International Raceway in Oregon for a 4:30 p.m. ET race June 3.