Earnhardt aims for top-12 finishes in next eight races after ‘weird’ Kentucky weekend


Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 32 points above the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup and after a “borderline” finish last weekend at Kentucky Speedway will be aiming for top-12 finishes in the last eight races of the regular season.

That stretch begins this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where Earnhardt participated in a tire test earlier this year.

“Hopefully that helps us out and we get a good run this weekend,” Earnhardt said on his “Dale Jr. Download” podcast. “We need to keep up some consistency. I think top 12s is really the mark for the rest of the way to the Chase. I don’t want anything worse than that. This week was really borderline for getting our butts in the Chase, so we can’t do any worse than that.”

Earnhardt has 15 top-10 finishes at Loudon, including four of the last seven starts.

“Hardest thing to get in this sport is speed,” Earnhardt said. “We can fix the things we do ourselves, the errors we make personally, but finding that damn speed is hard and we have good speed. We’ll put together a good race here soon and maybe get our butts in victory lane.”

Earnhardt is in this position due to a rough weekend Kentucky Speedway and that’s not including the surprising bumps in the track’s newly repaved surface.

Earnhardt called the weekend at Kentucky a “weird” one that resulted in a 13th-place finish.

It started with Thursday’s practice devoted to scuffing tires at the suggestion of Goodyear. When rain hit the track on Friday, Earnhardt and his team feared they wouldn’t get enough proper practice time. But the No. 88 team was relieved when NASCAR canceled qualifying in order to give teams more track time on the new track surface.

“I’ll be honest with you, (crew chief) Greg (Ives) and I were talking about it after the race, we didn’t even have a run in practice Friday that we even liked,” Earnhardt said. “We did put up a lap that was fourth (fastest) on the board, but we didn’t like the car very much. The car wasn’t driving well. But when I thought about it, I don’t think anybody’s car was driving great.”

Earnhardt attributes it to the “conservative” tire Goodyear had brought to the track after the test at Kentucky earlier in the season produced blistering.

“It made the track slick and made the cars not drive well,” said Earnhardt. “So when the left side tire’s really hard, the cars tend to push real bad, especially in the throttle through the center and off the exit of the corner in the gas. So we have that at most of the tracks where the surface is relatively new because the tire’s still pretty conservative. So we get in the gas at places like Pocono and drag the left front off the corner. It sucks, you can’t turn and drive underneath anybody. It’s real frustrating.”

Adding to the frustration of Earnhardt and others was the surprising appearance of the infamous frontstretch bumps at Kentucky, which were supposed to be done away with in the repave.

“This is something the track isn’t going to want to hear, but the front straightaway is getting some bumps already,” Earnhardt said. “It’s incredible. I thought our car was just bad, as far as the set up or bumps or springs in the front. But I talked to other drivers and they were talking about how bad the front straightaway got on Friday. In just one day, it started bouncing like hell. I couldn’t believe it. Track’s not going to be happy about that.

“Then in the race with about 30 laps to go, my guts were hurting so bad from bouncing down the front straightaway. Literally, your guts are bouncing around your rib cage. It’s painful. So I could not wait to finish that race and get our of the car.”

After starting 13th, Earnhardt had an average running position of 12.93. With 27 laps left, while his guts were “bouncing around,” Earnhardt had the car in 15th. But the race turned into one based on fuel mileage. As the finish neared, cars in front of him began pitting.

Earnhardt was around seventh when he took the white flag.

“I saw (Tony Stewart) lifting early,” Earnhardt said. “He pretty much saved the entire last run and I didn’t. I started with 25 laps to go. I could have done a better job, should have done a better job. Next time I will. Or I’ll try.”

It resulted in the No. 88 running out of gas on the last lap and losing six spots.

“We were lucky to even finish I suppose; Beggars can’t be choosers,” Earnhardt said.

Portland Xfinity race results, driver points

Portland Xfinity results
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Cole Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when the top three cars made contact and went on to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Portland International Raceway. Custer is the 10th different winner in 13 races this season.

MORE: Portland Xfinity race results

MORE: Driver points after Portland Xfinity race

JR Motorsports took the next three spots: Justin Allgaier placed second, Sam Mayer was third and Josh Berry was fourth. Austin Hill completed the top five.

John Hunter Nemechek remains the points leader after 13 races. He has a 14-point lead on Hill. Nemechek leads Allgaier by 44 points.

Cole Custer wins Xfinity race at Portland in overtime


Cole Custer held off Justin Allgaier at the finish to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race in overtime at Portland International Raceway. It is Custer’s first victory of the season.

JR Motorsports placed second, third and fourth with Allgaier, Sam Mayer and Josh Berry. Austin Hill finished fifth.

MORE: Race results, driver points

Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when Parker Kligerman, who restarted third, attempted to pass Allgaier, who was leading. Sheldon Creed was on the outside of Allgaier. All three cars made contact entering Turn 1, allowing Custer to slip by. Creed finished seventh. Kligerman placed 14th.

Custer won the second stage when John Hunter Nemechek made contact with Creed’s car while racing for the lead on the final lap of the stage. The contact spun Creed and Custer inched by Nemechek at the line.

Early in the final stage, Creed gained revenge with contact that spun Nemechek, who went on to finish 10th. A few laps later, Nemechek and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sammy Smith had issues. Smith spun Nemechek. After getting back around, Nemechek quickly caught Smith and turned into Smith’s car, damaging it.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Despite the contact on the overtime restart, runner-up Justin Allgaier managed to score his fourth consecutive top-three finish. … Sam Mayer’s third-place finish is his best on a road course. … Austin Hill’s fifth-place finish gives him four consecutive top-five results.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Daniel Hemric finished 33rd after a fire in his car. … Riley Herbst placed 32nd after an engine issue. After opening the season with six top 10s in a row, Herbst has gone seven races in a row without a top 10.

NEXT: The series competes June 10 at Sonoma Raceway (8 p.m. ET on FS1).

Truck race results at WWT Raceway: Grant Enfinger wins


Grant Enfinger took the lead when the leaders wrecked in the final laps and held off the field in overtime to win Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

It is Enfinger’s second win in the last five races. He also collected a $50,000 bonus for winning the Triple Truck Challenge.

MORE: Truck race results

MORE: Driver points after WWT Raceway

Christian Eckes finished second and was followed by Stewart Friesen, Carson Hocevar and Chase Purdy.

Ty Majeski and Zane Smith wrecked while racing for the lead with six laps to go. Majeski, running on the inside of Smith, slid up the track and clipped Smith’s truck. Both hit the wall. That put Enfinger in the lead.

Smith finished 20th. Majeski placed 30th.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Grant Enfinger

STAGE 2 WINNER: Stewart Friesen

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Grant Enfinger’s victory is his fourth top 10 in the last five races. … Carson Hocevar’s fourth-place finish is his fourth consecutive top-five result. … Stewart Friesen’s third-place finish moved him into a playoff spot with four races left in the regular season. … Matt DiBenedetto‘s sixth-place finish is his third consecutive top 10. … Jesse Love finished ninth in his series debut.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ty Majeski had a chance to take the points lead with series leader Corey Heim out because of illness, but Majeski’s 30th-place finish after running at the front most of the day, leaves him behind Heim. … Hailie Deegan finished 32nd after contact sent her truck into the wall hard. … After finishing a career-high third last week at Charlotte, Dean Thompson placed 34th Saturday due to an engine issue.

NEXT: The series races June 23 at Nashville Superspeedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1)

Xfinity starting lineup at Portland: Sheldon Creed wins pole


Sheldon Creed scored his first career Xfinity Series pole by taking the top spot for Saturday’s race at Portland International Raceway.

Creed, making his 50th career series start, earned the pole with a lap of 95.694 mph on the 1.97-mile road course.

MORE: Portland Xfinity starting lineup

Cole Custer will start second with a lap of 95.398 mph. He is followed by Josh Berry (94.242 mph), John Hunter Nemechek (95.127) and Charlotte winner Justin Allgaier (94.897). Road racing specialist Jordan Taylor, driving for Kaulig Racing, qualified sixth at 94.772 mph.

The green flag is scheduled to wave 4:46 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1.