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Darrell Waltrip on racing hurt: ‘NASCAR has to save us from ourselves’

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CHARLOTTE — With Dale Earnhardt Jr. set to miss his fifth Sprint Cup Series race this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, the concussion discussion continues around NASCAR.

Three-time champion Darrell Waltrip said he doesn’t know all the particulars around Earnhardt’s injury but noted how far the sport has come with making it easier for a driver to miss races while recovering from an injury.

“You got to remember something, our sport was so different not so terribly long ago,” Waltrip said Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame after helping reveal Matt Kenseth’s throwback paint scheme for the Southern 500. “If you missed a race, you were done. You couldn’t miss a race and win the championship because you’d miss one race and that’s 185 points, and it’s hard to make that up. So we got in those cars. I know I did, I know Dale (Earnhardt) did, Rusty (Wallace), Bill (Elliott), all of us got in those cars when we shouldn’t have been in them, but we had to. We didn’t have any choice.”

Ricky Rudd was one of the most famous drivers who raced injured. In 1984, Rudd was hurt in a wreck during the Busch Clash, but he would run the Daytona 500 with his eyes duct-taped open. Rudd was also in attendance on Tuesday and said, “No, not all,” when asked if there was any hesitation to running the Daytona 500 the way he did.

“It’s good to see they’ve caught up with the other sports now,” Rudd said of NASCAR. “A driver didn’t use to have the luxury or the option of sitting out a race. Your championship season was over if that happened, so the system wasn’t set up for it back in the day.”

The 2014 revamping of the playoffs tied Chase for the Sprint Cup berths to wins, allowing drivers to be granted waivers permitting them to compete for the title despite missing races with injuries in the regular season. Kyle Busch won the 2015 championship despite missing the first 11 races with a broken right leg and fractured left foot, and Tony Stewart will make this year’s playoff after being sidelined for the first eight races with a fractured back.

“The way things are set up today, they’re set up to take care of these guys,” Waltrip said. “NASCAR has to help keep us from hurting ourselves, because we’ll get back in the car no matter what. We’ll get back in the car with a broken leg, broken arm, concussion, whatever, because that’s how we think.

“NASCAR has to save us from ourselves a lot of times. As much as we don’t like it and sometimes you think, ‘Oh that’s not fair, I didn’t have it that way,’ but in all honesty, it’s the best it’s probably ever been.”

Jeff Gordon, Waltrip’s broadcast partner at Fox, has driven the No. 88 for Earnhardt in three of the last four races. He will back behind the wheel on Saturday night in Bristol. There is no telling how long Gordon will stay in the car, and Waltrip knows Earnhardt wants to return to racing when he’s able.

There is a concern, however, about a driver’s long-term health and wellness. Waltrip described Sprint Cup cars as “violent” because their handling relies more heavily on bump stops than the springs more commonly used in his era. That does have an impact on drivers, Waltrip believes.

Regardless, Waltrip said it’s not for anyone to speculate whether Earnhardt Jr. should or shouldn’t get back behind the wheel.

“You have to know everything there is to know to say (Earnhardt Jr.) should or shouldn’t consider driving in the future,” Waltrip said. “I don’t know what his situation is. I do know this, though: I watch those cars, and I know when you have a wreck and you hit the wall, you have an impact from that. But the way those cars are set up these days riding on the bump stops, basically all you have for springs are your tires, and you watch those cars go around the racetrack, any racetrack, even a smooth one, and the driver’s head is always bobbling a little bit. It’s always kind of moving around a little bit.

“You got those headrests right there, and you’re not violently hitting them, but you’re bumping your head back and forth. And if you’ve had concussions, and maybe it doesn’t take much to give you another one, that could be an issue. The cars ride rough … when they sit on those bump stops you’re basically riding on the tires, and all that comes right back to the driver, and he’s constantly being vibrated. It could take its toll.”

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Daytona road course entry lists

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NASCAR’s national series will make their debuts on the Daytona road course this weekend. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck events will be held without any practice or qualifying.

NASCAR is prohibiting drivers from competing in more than one series this weekend on the Daytona road course in an effort to get extra track time. NASCAR states that is to make the event fair for everyone.

Sunday’s Cup race will be broadcast on NBC.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for the races at the Daytona road course 

Cup – Go Bowling 235 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-nine drivers are entered for the race at the Daytona road course.

JJ Yeley is in the No. 27 for Rick Ware Racing.

Joey Gase is in the No. 51 for Petty Ware Racing.

Gray Gaulding is in the No. 53 for Rick Ware Racing.

Brendan Gaughan is in the No. 62 for Beard Motorsports.

Timmy Hill is in the No. 66 for Motorsports Business Management.

Reed Sorenson is in the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports.

Click here for Cup entry list


Xfinity – UNOH 188 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-eight cars are entered.

Andy Lally is back in the No. 02 Our Motorsports car after finishing fifth last week at Road America.

AJ Allmendinger, who finished second last week at Road America, is in the No. 16 for Kaulig Racing.

IMSA driver Earl Bamber will make his Xfinity debut this weekend in the No. 21 for Richard Childress Racing.

Brandon Gdovic will make his second start of the season, driving the No. 26 for Sam Hunt Racing.

Click here for Xfinity entry list


Truck – Sunoco 159 (Noon ET Sunday on FS1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered in the race that will be held before the Cup event on Sunday on the Daytona road course.

Alex Tagliani will drive the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Click here for Truck entry list

Silly Season Scorecard: Christopher Bell moves back to JGR

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No surprise that Christopher Bell moves over to the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing next season with Leavine Family Racing being sold and Erik Jones not remaining with JGR beyond this season. Joe Gibbs Racing made the announcement Monday.

While JGR lets the 24-year-old Jones, who has 133 Cup starts go, it brings in the 25-year-old Bell who has made 22 career Cup starts. Jones said before Sunday’s race he was “blindsided a little bit” by JGR’s move.

It’s part of the building momentum of Silly Season. In the last week, Team Penske signed Brad Keselowski to a reported one-year extension and Bubba Wallace said he has an offer for next year not only from Richard Petty Motorsports but also Chip Ganassi Racing.

Here’s how the Cup Silly Season scorecard looks as of Aug. 10.


No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said in a press conference Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through at least 2021.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.


Available/possibly available rides

No. 10: Aric Almirola is in a contract year at Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon is in a contract year at Germain Racing.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto is in a contract year at Wood Brothers Racing. He said after the Aug. 9 Michigan race: “I haven’t really talked about that stuff for next year yet, but we’ve just been so focused and head down on digging and trying to make the playoffs and run well. We haven’t even really talked about it, so, hopefully, I stay here for a very long time to come and that’s what they had expressed to me when I came over here.”

No. 32: Corey LaJoie is in a contract year at Go Fas Racing.

No. 42: Matt Kenseth told NBC Sports on Aug. 8 in regards to talks with Chip Ganassi Racing for next year: “We really haven’t had any very meaningful discussions really about any of that to be honest with you.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace said Aug. 9 he has an offer from Richard Petty Motorsports and an offer from Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 42 car next season.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Leavine Family Racing announced it was selling its assets earlier this week. The buyer has not been announced. Christopher Bell will move to the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team for 2021.

Christopher Bell to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021


Christopher Bell will drive for the No. 20 next season for Joe Gibbs Racing, the team announced Monday, a decision that was expected with Erik Jones’ contract expiring after this season and it not being renewed. 

“I’m so appreciative of the opportunity I have this year with LFR and I want to finish this season strong for Bob (Leavine) and everyone there,” Bell said in a statement from the team. “At the same time, I’m extremely excited to return to Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 2021. It’s an organization I’m very comfortable with and have had a lot of success with.”

Said car owner Joe Gibbs: “We are excited to bring Christopher into our Cup Series program starting in 2021. He obviously had tremendous success in the Xfinity Series with us and we look forward to his return to JGR.”

Bell drove for JGR in in the Xfinity Series in 2018 and 2019, winning 15 races, before moving to the Cup Series and Leavine Family Racing this season. Leavine Family Racing announced last week that it has been sold.

Entering Sunday’s race at the Daytona International Speedway road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC), Bell is 19th in points. His best finish this season is fourth at the first Pocono race in late June.

Xfinity playoff grid after Road America

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Brandon Brown extended his hold on the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid last weekend at Road America after struggles early in the race.

Brown needed to be pushed back to pit road before the field took the green because of a mechanical issue. He fell a lap down as his crew diagnosed the issue, got his lap back, scored four stage points in the second stage and finished 12th, one spot off his best career finish on a road course.

MORE: Brandon Brown wants to reward father with a special celebration

MORE: Austin Cindric wins at Road America 

Brown’s effort and Jeremy Clements misfortune in being collected in a crash to finish 29th led to Brown extending his lead on Clements for the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid to 53 points. Myatt Snider is 73 points behind Brown. Eight races remain until the Xfinity playoffs begin Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Here is a look at the playoff grid. Drivers shaded in green are locked in the playoffs. Those shaded in yellow are in a playoff spot based on their point total. Drivers shaded in red are outside a spot in the Xfinity playoff grid.