Dale Earnhardt Jr. says recovery ‘is going to take a little bit longer’

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he can’t wait to return to racing and his team but cautioned Monday “that this process is going to take a little bit longer.’’

Earnhardt spoke for about nine minutes on the Dale Jr. Download podcast.

Earnhardt has missed the last two Sprint Cup races because of concussion-like symptoms and will not race this weekend at Pocono Raceway. Jeff Gordon, who finished 13th Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will again drive the No. 88 Chevrolet for Earnhardt this week. Hendrick Motorsports stated that a decision on who will drive the car at Watkins Glen is not expected to be made until next week.

Earnhardt said he will have another evaluation “soon” to see “what kind of gains we’ve made and get in front of my doctors … and let them tell me where they think I’m at and that will help us make the decision on what we’re going to do for Watkins Glen.’’

He also said that he’s been doing daily exercises that doctors gave him to help him with his balance. He said on last week’s podcast that he was having balance and nausea issues.

“I’ve been working on the exercises, physical and mental exercises that they gave me,’’ Earnhardt said. “That stuff takes about two hours, two and a half hours. I’ve got to do it every day. There’s worse things to have to do. Some of it is tedious. Some of it is pretty tough. Some of the visual stuff is pretty tough.

“You can race with some ailments. You can race with a bad wrist; we’ve seen Denny (Hamlin) and guys race with bad knees. There’s been some guys that have done some pretty incredible things. I’ve raced with a broken shoulder blade. There’s certain things you can race through, but one of the things you cannot race through is concussion-like symptoms. The balance deal is a critical part of being able to drive a race car.’’

Earnhardt also had a message for fans.

“Make sure you send Jeff Gordon a special thanks,” Earnhardt said. “I’m not sure I would have made the decision he made to leave an awesome vacation with his family. Make sure you guys send special thanks to Jeff, my crew went through all that heat (at Indy) as well. Keep sending them good vibes. When we get back together, it’s going to be on.’’

Earnhardt said Gordon has made an impact already on the team and him.

“Jeff had a lot of great ideas and thoughts about the team,’’ Earnhardt said. “I think another week with those guys at Pocono will be interesting. I can’t wait to keep talking to him and debriefing with him throughout the week on what he thinks about the team, what he thinks I can do better and how the team can get better. It’s awesome having a guy with his experience step in.

“Getting a different driver in there that thinks differently, feels things differently is a great way to get new information. I was excited for (crew chief) Greg (Ives). I think this is really helping our team, as unfortunate as the situation is. We need to try to gain something out of it.

“I’m trying to stay plugged in and in communication as we go so that I’m up to speed and when I get back into the car it’s real seamless.’’

Earnhardt said he plans to have another update on his podcast next Monday.

 

Kyle Busch Motorsports announces 2020 driver, crew chief lineup

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Kyle Busch Motorsports announced its driver-crew chief roster for the 2020 Gander Outdoors Truck Series season on Wednesday. It includes the addition of veteran Danny Stockman.

Stockman will be in charge of the No. 51 Toyota, which will be driven by Kyle Busch, Chandler Smith and more drivers to be announced at a later date.

Stockman was a long-time crew chief at Richard Childress Racing, most recently working with Austin Dillon in the Cup Series this season. He was Dillon’s crew chief when he won his titles in the Truck Series (2011) and Xfinity Series (2013).

Ryan “Rudy” Fugle will be paired with Christian Eckes on the No. 18 Toyota. Fugle worked on the No. 51 this year as it won six races, including all of Busch’s five wins and Greg Biffle‘s victory. Fugle has led KBM teams to five owner titles (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019) and two driver titles (2015 and 2017).

Mike Hillman Jr. will be the crew chief for Raphael Lessard‘s rookie season in the No. 4 Toyota. Hillman has two Truck Series titles, including Toyota’s first in 2006 with Todd Bodine.

 

DGR-Crosley switches from Toyota to Ford beginning in 2020

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Ford Performance is strengthening its driver development program by joining forces with DGR-Crosley, which announced its move from Toyota to Ford Wednesday.

The multi-year agreement will see team co-owner David Gilliland, a former Cup Series driver, lead the team’s driver development program as it field entries in late models, the ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.

“We’re very excited to have DGR-Crosley come to Ford as part of our long-term efforts to develop drivers for NASCAR,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports in a press release. “We have just scratched the surface of what is possible in developing the next generation of Ford drivers with people like Chase Briscoe, and we believe a coordinated effort with a team like DGR-Crosley will help move that process forward successfully.

“David Gilliland was a trusted and valued Ford driver in NASCAR for many years, and we look forward to renewing that relationship with him in this new effort.”

Said Gilliland: “I’m super excited about the partnership with Ford and how things are lining up for 2020. I spent a lot of time racing Fords throughout my career, and it’s really special to now be able to bring them into our race shop. A lot of time and consideration was spent on this decision, and internally we know that this is the move that we needed to make in order to advance our program to the top level. We have a great group of hard-working, talented people at DGR-Crosley, and with Ford coming on board, our future is really bright. We’re excited for all the things ahead.”

DGR-Crosley will announce its driver lineup at a later date.

The team first entered the Truck Series in 2018. Tyler Ankrum won its first race this year at Kentucky Speedway, qualifying for the playoffs in the process.

It fielded a team record five entries in the playoff race at ISM Raceway.

Brennan Poole to compete full-time for Premium Motorsports in Cup Series

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Former Xfinity Series driver Brennan Poole will compete full-time in the Cup Series in 2020 with Premium Motorsports, Poole announced Wednesday on social media.

Poole, 28, will drive the No. 15 Chevrolet and would make his Cup debut in the Daytona 500.

He joins a rookie class that includes Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer.

“I’ve been working towards this moment since I was 5 and feel blessed to have the caliber of people surrounding me that I have in this next chapter of my racing career,” Poole said in a press release. “I look forward to the opportunity to showcase our sponsor partners, both new and existing, who are supporting me at the highest level of NASCAR competition.”

Poole takes over the car that was driven by Ross Chastain in a majority of his Cup starts in 2019.

A native of The Woodlands, Texas, Poole drove for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Xfinity Series from 2016-17. His best finish was second in the 2017 race at Kentucky Speedway.

He made 13 starts in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series in 2019, driving for On Point Motorsports. His best result was second in the May race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I’m very happy to welcome Brennan and his group to the Premium Motorsports family,” team owner Jay Robinson said in the press release. “Brennan is a very talented and dedicated young man, I believe he has a very bright future in the NASCAR Cup Series.”

Bojangles’ ends sponsorship of Southern 500

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The fast food chain Bojangles’ will no longer sponsor the Southern 500.

Bojangles’ has sponsored the event at Darlington Raceway since 2012.

Since 2015, the Southern 500 has been the site of NASCAR’s Throwback Weekend, with Cup and Xfinity Series teams fielding retro paint schemes celebrating the sport’s history.

DarlingtonRaceway.com

“We’ve enjoyed a terrific relationship with Bojangles’ since 2012 and we look forward to their continued involvement in NASCAR for many years to come,” track president Kerry Tharp said in a statement. “Like Darlington, they are truly an authentic Southern brand.”

A logo for the race on Darlington’s website does not include a sponsor.

“Bojangles’ has enjoyed a long and successful partnership with the team at Darlington Raceway,” Bojangles’ said in a statement provided to NBC’s Myrtle Beach-affiliate WMBF. “While we will no longer be the title sponsor for the Southern 500, NASCAR remains an important part of our sports marketing strategy, and we look forward to announcing our plans for 2020 in the near future.”

The 2020 Southern 500 is scheduled for Sept. 6 on NBCSN.