Dale Earnhardt Jr. earns pole for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona


Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved one step closer to his goal of winning one last time at Daytona International Speedway.

Earnhardt qualified No. 1 for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 with a speed of 190.973 mph.

It was Earnhardt’s 14th career Cup pole in 612 starts and his first since September 2013 at Dover, 113 races ago. It also marks his third front row start of the season at restrictor plate tracks (outside pole at Daytona 500 and also Talladega).

“Hopefully our car handles good,” Earnhardt told NBCSN. “At night our car is going to have a lot of grip. We’ll see how that all works out.”

With what is only the second Cup pole of his career at Daytona, Earnhardt becomes eligible for next February’s Clash during Speedweeks. Given that he’s set to retire from NASCAR Cup racing at the end of this season, will Junior now wind up making an encore performance for the Clash?

I’ll talk to the boss and see what he’s got in the shed,” Earnhardt joked.

Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott will sit alongside of Earnhardt on the front row in Saturday’s race, qualifying second with a speed of 190.795 mph and making it a 1-2 HMS and Chevrolet sweep.

Brad Keselowski was third (190.287 mph), followed by another HMS driver, Kasey Kahne (190.050) and Kevin Harvick (190.046).

Sixth through 10th were Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (190.006), Joey Logano (189.921), Jamie McMurray (189.849), Ryan Blaney (189.785) and Danica Patrick (189.633).

The other HMS driver, seven-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, qualified 12th (189.450).

No Toyota driver made the final qualifying session. Matt Kenseth, who will start 13th, was the top Toyota.

Click here for full qualifying results for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400.

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NASCAR community pays tribute to World of Outlaws driver killed in crash

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The NASCAR community paid tribute to World of Outlaws driver Jason Johnson, who died after a sprint car crash Saturday night at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway.

Johnson crashed after a restart racing for the lead. Witnesses said that Johnson’s car flipped and went through billboards outside Turn 3, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Johnson won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals. He finished sixth in the points last year in the World of Outlaws.


Today’s Cup race at Sonoma: Start time, lineup and more

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There has been a different winner in each of the last nine Cup races at Sonoma Raceway, site of today’s Cup race. Those nine winners have been Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick.

Will there be a 10th different winner at the road course?

Here is all the information for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley will give the command to start engines at 3:01 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:13 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 110 laps (218.9 miles) around the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 25. Stage 2 ends on Lap 50.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 10:30 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 1 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:20 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEMBroadway Under The Stars in Sonoma Valley, Transcendence’s Meggie Cansler will perform the anthem at 2:55 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race beginning at 3 p.m. Coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 80 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Kevin Harvick led the final 22 laps to win last year’s race. Clint Bowyer placed second. Brad Keselowski finished third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for full qualification results.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at Sonoma

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at Sonoma Raceway.

Nate Ryan

Martin Truex Jr. He probably had the best car at Sonoma last year; his team closes the deal this season.

Dustin Long

Kevin Harvick. No one can stop him on an oval or a road course.

Daniel McFadin

William Byron pulls off a shocking win in his first Cup race at Sonoma.

Dan Beaver

Jamie McMurray seesaws through the field, but gets track position in the closing laps.

Race results, Truck Series point standings after Gateway

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Justin Haley survived two late-race restarts to win his first career Camping World Truck Series race in the Eaton 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park.

His victory was aided by a push into turn one by rookie Todd Gilliland, who finished second.

Johnny Sauter finished third to score his 10th top-five finish in 10 races.

Myatt Snider and Zane Smith rounded out the top five. Smith was making his first career Truck start.

Click here for complete results.

Johnny Sauter maintained his points lead with a third-place finish, extending the advantage to 73 points over Noah Gragson, who finished 10th.

Brett Moffitt is third in the standings and has two wins to his credit.

Grant Enfinger and Stewart Friesen round out the top five

Hayley climbed from eighth to sixth in the standings with his win, but more importantly that victory gets him a berth into the playoffs.

Click here for the complete points standings.