Axalta Racing

Dale Earnhardt Jr. returns to Budweiser days with paint scheme for final Cup start


Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s NASCAR Cup series career will come full circle on Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

During a program on QVC, Earnhardt revealed his No. 88 Chevrolet will look just like the No. 8 Budweiser car he drove in five Cup starts in 1999 and then full-time in 2000.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives at Michigan International Speedway in 1999. (Robert Laberge /Allsport)

Designed by famed artist Sam Bass, the Axalta-sponsored car has the exact same color codes of the Budweiser car. Wednesday night was the first time Earnhardt had seen the completed car in person.

“This is incredible to see it first hand,” Earnhardt said. “I’ve been involved in the design process going forward, but I haven’t seen the car. I’ve only seen some sheets of metal and choosing the proper paint codes and all that stuff and seeing it on paper. This brings back a lot of memories.”

Earnhardt made his first start with the paint scheme in the 1999 Coca-Cola 600, starting eighth and finishing 16th. He would earn his first Cup win the following April at Texas Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt would be sponsored by Budweiser and drive the No. 8 until he left Dale Earnhardt Inc. for Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

The driver explained the extra effort that went into making sure the paint scheme was faithful to the original.

“We actually talked to some of the guys on the team to get the proper paint codes so that we knew that we were doing the right thing and doing this from the top to the bottom as good as we possibly could,” Earnhardt said. “It was important to me that the car replicated the actual race cars as close as possible. Sam was incredibly involved in the design back in the late 90s. He was involved in the designs of a lot of our cars and him and my father were great friends. Sam did do a lot of these designs at DEI … He’s designed our Axalta car that we run this year.”

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NASCAR America: Racing the high line has been good to Kyle Larson

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Larson will both race at Richmond this weekend. That gave them the opportunity to discuss racing the high line at Richmond and other tracks.

“I’ve got a one-day show, which I’m kind of excited about,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America.

Earnhardt will compete in Friday’s Xfinity race in one of his cars (7:30 p.m. ET on Friday on NBCSN). Since Cup regulars are excluded from racing in that series during their playoffs, Larson will have to wait until Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday on NBCSN).

Since both will compete this weekend, it gave them a chance to compare racing lines.

“Richmond is a track that I enjoy. Sometimes it gets multiple grooves, not every time, but sometimes. I don’t know what really controls that. What do you think controls that?” Dale Earnhardt Jr. asked Kyle Larson.

“I think it depends on the drivers in the field maybe that get it to widen out some,” Larson answered. “Xfinity racing gets about halfway up … and then creeps back down. The Cup race, it gets all the way up to the wall and works its way back down too. It’s become one of my more favorite tracks to go to the last couple of times.”

Larson won last year’s Federated Auto Parts 400 and finished seventh this spring.

Earnhardt has seven combined wins at Richmond in the Cup (three wins) and Xfinity series (four) – including the most recent of his 24 career Xfinity wins in April 2016.

Larson has a reputation for running the high line and explained why on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America.

Driving close to the wall allows him to use the air bouncing off it to create more side force on his car.

“Early in a race, I take my time getting up there, but once it rubbers up then I’m committed to it,” Larson said. “Like this week, we moved to the top in Vegas and you’re trying to move the rubber up to the wall so you can get to the wall and kind of use the air.”

Simply popping up to the outside groove is not successful, however. Larson says that it is the angle of entry that matters most.

“To me, it all comes down to committing on entry. … You can’t drive up to the wall. You kill a lot of speed once you get to it. The wider you can make your entry the more speed you make through the corner. And you need to get close to the wall to kind of feel the air working.”

That is one of the reasons Larson has been so successful at Homestead.

“(At) Homestead (it’s) super easy to run the wall because you’re already committed on entry … the way the shape of the corner is. You can feel it down the straightaway when you get close to the wall. I just kind of stay within that pocket.”

For more, watch the video above.

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Wednesdale with Kyle Larson

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and features Rutledge Wood, Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt Jr. along with driver Kyle Larson from the Big Oak Table in Charlotte.

On today’s show:

  • Dale Jr., Wood and Jarrett welcome special guest Kyle Larson to the Big Oak Table in Charlotte. Larson will discuss his strong start to the playoffs last week in Las Vegas, his days as a young racer in California and a certain big event in his near-future.
  • Everybody knows it: NASCAR in the 90s was, quite simply, the bomb. And this Friday following the Xfinity Series on NBCSN, you can relive all your 200 mph memories with the premiere of ‘NASCAR Decades: The 1990s.” Tune in for today’s show, and catch a sneak preview!
  • And don’t forget: You can send in your questions for Dale Jr. and Kyle Larson on social media using the hashtag #Wednesdale. Watch and see if they’ll answer yours.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/ If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Penalty report from Las Vegas

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NASCAR announced one penalty from the Las Vegas race weekend.

Matt Tifft‘s No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet was docked 10 driver and 10 owner points.

Tifft’s car failed inspection four times prior to the race. As a result, car chief Cam Strader was ejected from the race.

The point penalty was assessed before the seedings for the playoff were made. Tifft is ninth in the standings. 

Tifft will also be assessed a 30-minute penalty in the first Xfinity practice session at Richmond.




Ross Chastain’s first NASCAR win ‘didn’t seem real’

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CONCORD, N.C. — Ross Chastain had a lot on his mind.

It was the third weekend in March and the 25-year-old driver was hustling from one job to another.

With helmet in hand, Chastain walked from the Xfinity Series garage to the Cup garage at Auto Club Speedway. There he would climb into Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet for practice around the 2-mile oval.

He was “nervous.”

He had just left his Xfinity car and was preparing to go “200 and something MPH,” which he would be reminded of by a large digital screen displaying his speed every time he entered Turn 1.

“This is about to be real,” Chastain thought.

Chastain had no idea the next few minutes would change his life and career six months later.

Chastain wasn’t familiar with the man who called his name and approached.

“Hey, hi. How are you doing, sir?” Chastain told the stranger.

The man replied: “I’m Jeff Carpoff, I want to introduce myself.”

Carpoff is the co-founder and CEO of DC Solar, a primary sponsor of Chip Ganassi Racing in the Xfinity and Cup Series.

While Chastain was just meeting Carpoff, he was no stranger to DC Solar.

In addition to his full-time jobs of racing for JD Motorsports in Xfinity and Premium in Cup, Chastain has had an occasional side hustle over the last couple of years driving DC Solar’s motorhome to tracks, as he did in the spring at Martinsville.

“I was never a client of theirs, but I just wanted to be a part of their group, their family,” Chastain said. “Anytime they need help I’m the guy they call. … Then I can hang out with them, I really am friends with them.”

Carpoff had been keeping tabs on Chastain during his four years at JD Motorsports, a team that runs four cars but Chastain says has “enough people to run two.”

Before departing, Carpoff said, “I want you to know we’re going to try and do something for you. We don’t know what, we don’t know how. Don’t know if it’s going to work out this year, it might be down the road. But we like what you do and we really want you to be part of it. We want you to be part of our family.”

Even though he didn’t hear anything from Carpoff the next few months, the conversation remained with Chastain.

“You don’t forget a conversation like that,” he said. “With somebody like Jeff, you know he’s serious. But it went so long, what are the chances it happens this year?”

Chastain laid in bed Sunday morning having woken up before his alarm could have a say in the matter.

A realization quickly hit him.

“It was probably 20 seconds I would say before I said out loud, ‘We won. Oh my gosh. We won yesterday. That’s insane.’ I had forgot all about it,” Chastain said. “Honestly, I don’t believe that I won. It’s insane.”

The concept of being a NASCAR winner became even more surreal early Monday morning. He arrived home at 3 a.m. after flying back from Las Vegas. He promptly downloaded video of the DC Solar 300, in which he’d driven Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 DC Solar Chevrolet. It was just his second start with the team.

“To watch it back, it didn’t seem real,” Chastain said. “I saw the car. I knew the moves I was making in the car, so to see it on TV, see the onboard (cameras) from other guys of how my car looked. I honestly (had to say), ‘That’s me. That’s me in there.’ It’s crazy.”

He watched himself lead 180 of 200 laps and fend off Justin Allgaier and the field through three restarts in the final 20 laps. The win came in his 215th NASCAR start.

“We kicked their butts,” Chastain said. “That’s really cool to say and I’m proud to say it. I’m proud to say that we went to Las Vegas, where the first time I ever went there … and start-and-parked. In 2012 (in the Camping World Truck Series race). We come back in 2018 and win the fall Xfinity race. That’s insane. That’s not supposed to happen.”

Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric, a fellow playoff driver, was not surprised by Chastain’s success.

“He did exactly what he was supposed to do getting in a race car of that caliber,” Hemric said Tuesday. “He’s prepped and drove stuff that wasn’t nowhere near that level. Him taking those chances to drive stuff that was lesser equipment is what gave him that opportunity. I promise you no one knows that better than he does. It’s rewarding for me, even though I was getting frustrated chasing him all race, it was so cool to see him make the most of that shot. It gives everybody hope, right?”

Chastain has one more race with Chip Ganassi Racing in Friday’s playoff opener at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). After that, it’s back to Chastain’s usual job of racing for JD Motorsports and six races of scrapping and clawing for top-15 and top-10 finishes.

But for one afternoon, thanks to an almost passing conversation with Carpoff, Chastain was the man to beat.

“I’ve had so many (conversations like that),” Chastain said. “People genuinely are always trying to put together a program, whether it’s a third-party company or whatever. Everybody’s trying to hustle. That’s what I love about NASCAR. We all hustle. … I knew it was a chance then, but I never thought it would happen.”