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Dale Earnhardt Jr.: ‘These last four or five weeks have been really miserable’

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. offered a frank assessment of his season and team on his weekly podcast, noting that recent performances show that “we’ve got a problem, Houston. It’s time to understand how severe this situation is and really get to owning it, try to figure something out.’’

Earnhardt is 11th in points with no wins and just five top-10 finishes in 12 races. This is the worst he’s been in the points at this time of the season since 2010 when he was 16th and went on to finish 21st, failing to make the Chase.

“If we get into this Chase, we can’t run running like this,’’ Earnhardt said on The Dale Jr. Download. “That ain’t going to work. Clearly disappointed. All the guys on the team are in the same boat. All the guys on the team also are very positive. You have to be for us to be able to get better. We’ve all got to work together.

“We know we can do it. I believe in all my guys. I believe in (crew chief) Greg (Ives). They believe in me, and we’ll figure it out. We’ve been down before, but it’s time to own it. It’s time to get after it.

“We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and really get to it here, figure out what’s going on and what we need to be doing, start really trying to find some speed and some answers.’’

Since back-to-back runner-up finishes in April at Texas and Bristol, Earnhardt has finished no better than 13th the last four races. He has struggled in qualifying most of the season. He has three top-five starts, with two at restrictor-plate tracks and one last weekend at Dover, when qualifying was rained out and the lineup was set by speed in practice.

Earnhardt cited his Kansas run earlier this month as unsettling.

“It was disappointing to run 15th at Kansas,’’ Earnhardt said on his podcast. “I know our fans are really disappointed, and they see the Gibbs guys doing well. It’s obvious to us who’s doing good and who’s not.

“We understand that we have lost a little bit of something. These last four or five weeks have been really miserable. We haven’t had a fast car at any of the races. Even at Talladega where we thought we were going to be great, we went in there and goofed it up. We’ve got a lot of work to do.’’

Earnhardt said isn’t not just one area that is hindering the team.

“We definitely aren’t the team we were the last few years,’’ he said on his podcast. “We’ve got to figure out what’s going on and how we’re getting beat. I see a few things on our cars and on other cars that are out of our control. There is only so much my guys can do in the garage and before we go through the tech line. It’s a battle every weekend to try to figure out how much work you can do to your car.’’

Earnhardt’s team received its third warning last weekend at Dover after failing the Laser Inspection Station twice before the race. His team will lose pit stall selection for a race with the next warning.

With 14 points races left before the Chase begins, Earnhardt knows there’s time to improve.

“This All-Star weekend coming up ain’t going to be the answer to all of our problems, but it’s an opportunity to work on some of them,’’ said Earnhardt, who won the 2000 All-Star Race but has never won the Coca-Cola 600. “I’ll be honest with you, I’d rather win (next week’s) 600 a thousand times more than the All-Star race. Running good and running better throughout the rest of the year is much more important to me than stumbling into a million bucks on this All-Star weekend. If we come out of the All-Star race winners but don’t understand how to go into the 600 and be competitive, it does us no good.’’

Earnhardt had more to say about his season and detailed his frustrations with last weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway. To hear all that he said, go to his podcast at Dirty Mo Radio.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s totals after 12 races in recent seasons

2016

0 wins, 4 top fives, 5 top 10s and 11th in points

2015

1 win, 7 top fives, 8 top 10s and fourth in points

2014

1 win, 6 top fives, 7 top 10s and fifth in points

2013

0 wins, 3 top fives, 7 top 10s and sixth in points

2012

0 wins, 4 top fives, 9 top 10s and fourth in points

2011

0 wins, 2 top fives, 6 top 10s and fourth in points

2010

0 wins, 1 top five, 3 top 10s and 16th in points

Watch NASCAR Cup Awards Show at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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Get settled into your favorite easy chair, make sure you have plenty of snacks and beverages on hand and get ready for the last big event of 2019 on the NASCAR schedule: tonight’s NASCAR Awards Show.

The show will be broadcast on NBCSN from 8-10:30 p.m. ET from Nashville, Tennessee, for the first time. And if you miss some of the show, don’t worry, there’ll be a replay immediately afterward, also on NBCSN.

Kyle Busch will be the main attraction for tonight’s show, being celebrated for winning his second NASCAR Cup championship this past season.

Also, the 2019 NASCAR Cup Most Popular Driver award winner will be revealed. Will it be defending winner Chase Elliott, reigning champion Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Matt DiBenedetto … or someone else? You definitely need to tune in to find out.

And to get you in the mood, we’ll replay Wednesday’s Burnouts on Broadway at 7 p.m. ET, also on NBCSN.

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Will Daniel Suarez race for Richard Childress Racing in 2020?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The president of Richard Childress Racing said it is a “longshot” that Daniel Suarez will drive a third Cup entry for the organization in 2020 but said RCR would like to have Suarez drive its No. 2 Xfinity car next year.

Suarez has not decided where he’ll race in 2020 after losing his ride with Stewart-Haas Racing this year.

Suarez has been linked with RCR. A third Cup entry would require RCR to acquire another charter for that car. It also could mean that the organization would need to hire additional people if they expanded to three full-time cars.

“I think that would be a long shot in a Cup program,” Torrey Galida told NBC Sports about Suarez in a third RCR Cup entry. “We’ve talked to him about an Xfinity program. We’d love to have him in an Xfinity car, and we think we could win another championship next year with Daniel. He’s a very talented young man.”

Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Xfinity car will run the full season with multiple drivers in 2020. Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo have been announced to drive that car. Galida said the team is looking at Kaz Grala, Austin Dillon and possibly two-time series champ Tyler Reddick driving that car in select races.

RCR ran the No. 21 car in nine of 33 Xfinity races this past season. It ran the No. 2 car in every race.

If Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity champion, drove for RCR in the Xfinity Series next year, it would be with the organization’s No. 2 car.

“We could still do that and we would do that,” Galida said of a full-time Xfinity effort for Suarez. “That’s the kind of opportunity we would be interested in.”

Galida said it just is a matter of hearing what Suarez decides.

“I think he knows what we’ve got to offer, and I think he’s just weighing his alternatives and trying to determine what is best for him,” Galida told NBC Sports. “I’m sure that going back to the Xfinity Series is not his first choice. I think in the right equipment it could be a really good move for him.”

Galida said they could go into January before hearing from Suarez but noted that “the sooner the better. People are your biggest issue. You want to put the right people around him.”

Next April’s Xfinity race at Bristol to have new sponsor

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Bristol Motor Speedway announced Thursday that partner Alsco, along with Darden Restaurants and its Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen brand, will sponsor next April’s Xfinity Series race there.

The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco will take place on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Alsco is a global leader in uniform and linen rental services. In addition to its entitlement at Bristol Motor Speedway, Alsco will take part in Xfinity Series entitlements at three other Speedway Motorsports Inc. racetracks: Kentucky Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Alsco’s initial entitlement at BMS came this past April with the Alsco 300 Xfinity Series race, won by Christopher Bell, who earned a $100,000 bonus through Xfinity’s Dash 4 Cash program.

Alsco is also a sponsor for Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and JR Motorsports.

“Bristol is the place for historic finishes and close, hard-knock racing action,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Alsco and our new friends at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen understand the reputation of racing at The Last Great Colosseum and we’re ready to show them an incredible experience. The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco is a must-see event on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule.”

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Cup champion’s celebration painful to those who didn’t win title

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A year after being feted for his first NASCAR Cup title, Joey Logano returned to Champion’s Week with a different feeling.

“These banquets aren’t really the same after you’ve won it and you know what it’s like to see your car plastered everywhere and your team and everyone is having fun together,” Logano said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’re in Nashville, there’s a lot of really cool things, but it really stinks for the competitor to come to the banquet because it’s just like another reminder that you got beat. That’s not much fun. I don’t really like that part.

“When you leave the banquet that night, you really wish you could race the next day because that’s about the most motivating thing you could do is go to a banquet that you didn’t win because all you want to do is change that. And you want to do it as quickly as possible but you’ve got to wait until Daytona to get going again.”

The sport celebrates Kyle Busch’s championship at 8 p.m. ET today on NBCSN. This marks the first year the NASCAR Awards Show has been in Nashville. Busch was a part of the WWE event in the city on Monday, was honored by the Nashville Predators before Tuesday’s NHL game and took part in the Burnouts on Broadway on Wednesday with many other playoff drivers.

While Busch basks in the celebration, teammate Martin Truex Jr. deals with the pain of finishing second in the championship for a second consecutive year. Logano passed Truex late to win last year’s championship. Truex’s title run this season was derailed, in part, by his crew putting the wrong tires on the wrong side of the car in last month’s championship race in Miami.

Had things gone a little differently, Truex could have won three consecutive championships, matching Cale Yarborough’s accomplishment from 1976-78.

“I’ll tell you when I get over it,” Truex said of the pain of finishing second again for the title. “It’s a  big deal. Work all year long to put yourself in that position. When it doesn’t turn out the way you hope, it’s tough.

“A lot of people put a lot of effort into it. It’s not something that goes away. It takes time. Honestly, I’m still sour about finishing second last year, too. Two years in a row finishing second hurts. you have to learn from it and move on, but you never forget it.”