Photo courtesy Barry Dodson official Facebook page

Rusty Wallace pays tribute to former crew chief, close friend Barry Dodson

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Rusty Wallace is one of many mourning the passing of veteran NASCAR crew chief Barry Dodson, who died unexpectedly Wednesday morning at the age of 64.

When team owner Raymond Beadle paired Wallace and Dodson together in 1986, it was immediate magic. The duo had a chemistry that made them one of the most powerful forces within NASCAR’s premier series.

During their five-year tenure together, Wallace and Dodson combined for 18 of Rusty’s 55 career Cup wins, as well as the highest point of both of their careers: winning the 1989 Winston Cup championship in the No. 27 Pontiac Blue Max.

MORE: Veteran NASCAR crew chief Barry Dodson, led Rusty Wallace to 1989 Cup championship, dies at 64.

Rusty spoke exclusively with NBC Sports about the passing of his crew chief and longtime friend. Here are some excerpts from that interview.

Q) What was it like when you and Barry first got together for team owner Raymond Beadle?

WALLACE: “When I went to drive for Raymond Beadle and the Blue Max, Barry was just one of the legendary crew chiefs that everybody wanted to work for. He was aggressive, real good with the pit crew, just real good with everything.

“The whole time I was with Blue Max Racing, when we started in 1986, we just had a lot of success under his leadership, winning a couple races right off the bat in 1986, a couple more in ’87, six in ’88 and ’89 and the Coca-Cola 600 (and one other race) in 1990. We just had some real big wins under Barry’s leadership. He was just a real cool guy.”

Q) Barry was one of only a few crew chiefs who, back in the day, not only called a race from the pit box, he also served as a member of the pit crew on race day. Tell me about his doing double duty, so to speak?

WALLACE: “Barry was our crew chief and was also our jack man. He could do almost anything. He was really physically fit, real fast, a real nimble guy. He worked real well with the pit crew, including Jimmy Makar, Todd Parrott and the other guys. They were all real good at what they did.

“He was one of those guys that didn’t just have one title. A lot of teams have one title now, but Barry had multiple titles. He ran the team, he was the crew chief, he was the jackman, he did a lot of things.

“Back then, we didn’t have multiple crew guys. Our mechanic was our right front tire changer and Barry was jack man. I almost wish in different ways it would go back that way. I mean, on Sunday’s, Barry could make it happen. I’m really going to miss the guy.”

Q) Your relationship with Barry wasn’t just driver and crew chief. He also became one of your closest friends. You even hired him to work for you almost 15 years after your last season together in the Cup series.

WALLACE: “I really appreciated and trusted what he did so much, that when I started one of my Xfinity teams (in 2004), he came over and helped us out a lot, helped tutor Stephen (Rusty’s son) a lot and got him winning on short tracks. I really trusted him and he helped me keep going.”

Rusty Wallace, left, and Barry Dodson celebrate one of their 18 wins together. Dodson passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 64.

Q) What do you remember most of the 1989 championship series and Barry?

WALLACE: “The thing that bothered me, I remember we’d win all those (six) races and everyone would be so jubilant and so excited, and we’d go back to the shop the very next morning, be so excited, high-fiving each other, and Barry would be just walking around all stone-faced.

“I’d ask the guys why he was acting like that and one of the guys told me that’s just Barry. He doesn’t want to get so excited that he gets his eye off the ball.

“So he’d come in, say, ‘Ok, we won that, it’s done, it’s over and let’s get back to business, boys.’ That’s just how he was. We might linger and celebrate for two or three days after, but Barry, it was almost as if he was too serious, making us wonder there was something wrong rather than focusing on keeping our mind on the ball.

“Once we got to winning so many races, I knew him, I understood what was going to happen and what we were going to deal with.”

Q) Barry suffered an incomprehensible tragedy in 1994 when his two children were killed in a single-car crash in Darlington, South Carolina. How much do you remember of that tragic event and its impact on Barry?

WALLACE: “When he lost his children in 1994, it really tore Barry up big-time and I don’t think I ever saw him come from back that. He just wasn’t the same as he was when he was with me. The passing of his children really broke his heart and really changed him.”

Q) Any final thoughts about your crew chief and friend, Barry Dodson?

WALLACE: “In my opinion, he was one of the greatest crew chiefs ever in the history of NASCAR. He worked for Raymond Beadle, Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip and myself. One of the reasons I loved Barry so much is that Barry guided me personally to a lot of victories and to a championship. In ’89, it was such a magical year.

“He had a cool attitude which demanded you pay attention and you respect. When he said something, you listened to what he was saying. Just a wonderful crew chief. I miss him bad.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Saturday schedule for Cup at Sonoma, Trucks at Gateway

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Cup cars are only on the track for qualifying today at Sonoma Raceway, and Camping Work Truck teams will qualify and race at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Johnny Sauter has won three of the last five Truck races. Brett Moffitt won last weekend’s Truck race at Iowa.

Here’s today’s schedule at both tracks:

(ALL TIMES ARE EASTERN)

At SONOMA RACEWAY

10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. — Cup garage open

2:45 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-vehicle/two rounds (FS1, Performance Racing Network)

4:30 p.m. — K&N Pro Series West race; 64 laps, 127.36 miles (airs at 6 p.m. ET June 28 on NBCSN)

At GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK

11 a.m. — Truck garage opens

Noon – 1 p.m. — Final Truck practice (No TV)

5:45 p.m. — Truck qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (airs from 7-8 p.m. on FS1)

7 p.m. — Driver/crew chief meeting

8 p.m. — Driver introductions

8:30 p.m. — Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200; 160 laps/200 miles (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Kurt Busch fastest in final Cup practice at Sonoma

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Kurt Busch posted the fastest single lap in the final practice for the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway with a speed of 94.061 mph.

He beat second-place Denny Hamlin (94.012 mph) by .040 seconds.

Martin Truex Jr. (93.718) had the third fastest lap, but the team will have some work to do before Saturday’s qualification. With nine minutes remaining on the clock, he ran into the back of Bubba Wallace in the esses and did significant damage to his nose. Wallace landed 34th on the chart with a speed of 91.641 mph.

Jamie McMurray (93.549) and Kevin Harvick (93.441) rounded out the top five.

Harvick (91.468) had the quickest 10-lap average – leading a sweep of the top three by Stewart Haas Racing. Busch was second quickest at 91.452 mph with Clint Bowyer third quick at 91.443 mph.

William Byron broke an axle seal in final practice, but the team was able to get him back on track with 24 minutes remaining in the session. His speed of 92.279 mph was 25th fastest.

Click here for the full report from final practice.

Friday Truck Series practice report from Gateway

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Second practice

Last week’s winner, Brett Moffitt topped the speed chart in Friday evening’s practice session for the Eaton 200 with a speed of 137.191 mph.

He beat second-place Myatt Snider (136.658 mph) by .128 seconds.

Johnny Sauter (136.608), Riley Herbst (136.355), and Ben Rhodes (136.219) round out the top five.

Herbst is making his Truck Series debut this week.

Also making his Truck debut is Zane Smith, who posted a lap of 136.120 mph to land sixth on the chart.

Christian Eckes (135.906) failed to back up his series-leading speed from the first practice session and was only ninth fastest, but he had the quickest 10-lap average of 135.039 mph.

Click here for complete results from practice 2.

First practice

Rain canceled the practice session at Gateway that was scheduled to run from 3:35 – 4:25 p.m. Eastern time.

When they finally got on track, Eckes posted the fastest single lap in the first practice session with a speed of 134.360 mph. He is making his Truck series debut this week.

Eckes’ speed was .009 seconds faster than Noah Gragon (134.324), who landed second on the speed chart.

Rhodes (134.120), Moffitt (133.817) and Matt Crafton (133.706) rounded out the top five.

Rhodes had the quickest 10-lap average of 133.466 mph.

With the first practice canceled at Gateway, NASCAR added a final practice session scheduled for Noon – 1 p.m.

Click here for complete results from practice one.

Denny Hamlin offers advice on how to deal with critics on social media

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Denny Hamlin, who has been fined by NASCAR for comments on Twitter, and was vocal toward critics after this year’s Daytona 500, says he’s found peace on how to deal with those on social media who don’t agree with him.

“I’ve been very good this year about not replying to mean people, and you all should do the same,’’ Hamlin said Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

“I’m making a (request) right now to every driver, every team owner, every NASCAR executive and every media member, stop replying to people who make nonsense comments. They have 16 followers. Don’t give them your 100,000. Do not give them your 100,000 as their stage. No one will ever see their comment, just brush it by, talk about the positives and I’m not a positive person.”

Asked how does one ignore such divisive comments, Hamlin said: “You just scroll by it. Forget it. That person doesn’t exit. They’re an admirer that has lost their way.’’

Hamlin has been better at doing so since the Daytona 500. He faced negative reaction on social media to the contact he and Bubba Wallace had at the end of the Daytona 500.

They engaged in a brief shouting match in the garage area after Hamlin learned that Wallace had taken a dig at him on national TV about a recent comment about drivers using Adderall.

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