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An emotional Bubba Wallace breaks down in tears after runner-up finish

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DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – The emotions of a career-best runner-up finish overcame Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, who wept openly after embracing family members Sunday in a poignant news conference at Daytona International Speedway.

“I’m so proud of you,” said Wallace’s mother, Desiree. “We’ve waited so long. So long.”

“You’re acting like we just won the race!” Wallace protested after becoming the highest-finishing African-American in the 60-year history of the Great American Race.

“We did,” Desiree said. “We did. We did win that race.”

“Dang it, mom,” Wallace said.

There then was another embrace from his older sister, Brittany, whom Wallace joked about having all the good looks.

Then the Richard Petty Motorsports driver broke down crying while attempting to collect his thoughts about finishing second to Austin Dillon in the Daytona 500.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he said. “But I’m just so emotional over where my family has been the last two years, and I don’t talk about it, but it’s just so hard, and so having them here to support me is …

“Pull it together, bud. Pull it together. You just finished second. It’s awesome. I just try so hard to be successful at everything I do, and my family pushes me each and every day, and they might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud. Second is horrible, but it’s still a good day.

“But yeah, I just love my family and having everybody here from my mom, my sister, my uncle, everybody here just means a lot.”

Wallace is the first full-time African-American driver on the circuit in 47 years since Wendell Scott. Before Sunday’s race, he received a call from baseball legend Hank Aaron.

Here’s what else Wallace said after the win:

Q: Walk through the final laps, please.  That was quite a finish.

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, I said, uh‑oh, for the green‑white‑checkered, I didn’t know if we’d end up ‑‑ well, we still ended up in the infield care center, but just wild.  I mean, it’s Daytona.  You’ve just got to be relaxed for it the whole time.  Just like the Duels, I just found myself looking back like a third perspective again, like, just like you’re so calm, you’re doing great, just kind of pumping myself up, but at the same time just trying to stay focused on the task at hand and just not mess up.  We battled through a lot of adversity there, and just being able to run every lap, and I wish I could say bring the car home in one piece, but what a great car, what a great Click ‘n Close Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.  Just fast all day, fast all week, and I think there was a lot of talk in the garage how good our car was at pushing, and I think that gave me a lot of respect out there to be able to do what I can do.

Having everybody from Click ‘n Close here, Richard Petty, that’s another story I’ll get to in a second.  But just a great night.

Q: I just wondered if you could talk about the King and Drew were very complimentary of you.  This wasn’t just an end of the race, he ended up top 5.  You were up front all day.  Could you talk about the effort of the entire race and really earning this position?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, no, thanks to the King and Brian Moffitt, Andrew Murstein for giving me this opportunity and believing in me those four races last year.  I just went out and tried not to be a hero, like the King told me right before climbing in.  I didn’t try to be a hero tonight, and we’re sitting here in second trying to talk to you guys about a great finish for my first Daytona 500.  The chemistry we have with the team, it’s incredible.  Drew and I just hit it off.  Like when I walked into the garage at Pocono it was like, boom, here it is, we have it.  Before we even said anything, we knew it was something there.  So we’re able to build off that, and he’s really good at managing races and calling races, and when I mess up like sliding through the box there, he just repeats it over and over, that we’re fine, just settle in, refocus, and just go out there and do what you do, and don’t do it again, obviously.  But just the team we have behind us right now is so much fun, and knowing that we’re a smaller budget team, we have a lot of poise and a lot of attitude and just a lot of stuff to fight for this year.  I’m really looking forward to Atlanta.  Don’t know what the hell we’ll have there because it’s all new for us.

I know this will carry over to Atlanta and be good.

Q: How taxing has this whole week been on you with all the cameras and all the Facebook deal and all that, and then also, can you talk about getting the call from Hank Aaron before the race?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, Griffin, him and I have almost come to blows over this Facebook deal.  Not really, but we both know how stressful it is and we’re both trying to do our jobs, and it’s been very taxing on that.  Griffin, I’m not doing another interview after this, so this is all you’re getting.  The race went great, we ran 500 miles at Daytona, my first Daytona 500, we finished second.  Put that in there.  We’re done.  His favorite question is what did we do today.

But just an incredible moment.  To be in that position, it takes me back to a week ago when Dale called me ‑‑ as soon as I landed here, he says, hey, the next three or four weeks are going to be busy for you, and I’m like, yeah, no kidding, just come off a stressful night.  And he just had the words to bring that positive light back up that I try to carry with me every day, and he says, I’ll have the opportunity to do things outside of this sport that not really anybody else can.  So take that, run with it, and set yourself up for 10 years from now, look back on it and see how you did.

Q: Darrell, what did the King tell you before the race, and what was your ‑‑ what was it like with him after the race?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Well, he did tell me last night ‑‑ I was his Uber back from dinner, so I brought him back to the bus.  We were just making small talk, no cameras there.  We were talking what it was like.  He’s been here since day one running on the beaches, and ever since this was built, and just hearing all that just was like, wow, first of all, I wasn’t even born yet, wasn’t even a thought yet.  My parents were just born.  Just kind of showing his age there, and just hearing what he had to talk about.

But right when we pulled in the bus lot, he was talking, just park at your bus, I’ll walk over.  I’m like, no, I’ll take you to your bus, we’re not far, and he said, all right, can you do a burnout?  I’m like, yeah, sure.  Then all of a sudden he follows up, if you do a burnout in the race car I’m going to beat the s‑‑‑ out of you, so I’m like, all right, so we got that out of the way.

But I think having him ‑‑ and then after the race, let me get to that, to where my heart is still pumping over that, sitting on the cot in the infield care center, and I’m pissed off about the finish, obviously, and he walks in lived, and I’m like, yes, he’s mad, let’s go do something.  And he walks in, and the first thing he said, what’s the first thing I told you, with a very stern attitude and look, and I’m like ummmm, and he says, “I told you not to wreck the car,” and I was like, I didn’t do it.  So we shared a good laugh, and he come in and gave me a big hug after that.  To see the smile on his face, I think you had to be there to experience that moment.  All the liaisons in there were pretty nervous for me, too, until he cracked the joke.  But just a great day, a great week, seeing him after the Duels, how pumped up he was and just the same amount of emotion, if not more right here after the race.

Q: You said that the King told you not to try and be a hero.  What did you expect for yourself sort of going into the race?  Could you have imagined this?  And when during the race did you realize that you really had a chance to make a push?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  You know, I don’t have the experience, nor does anybody out there.  I got the rookie stripes for a reason, so making some of those moves today I was a little bit delayed and a little bit late and luckily kept out of harm’s way.  But it just all comes with time.  Jumping into the Xfinity Series, I was ‑‑ I have the attitude and just the confidence to win every race that you enter.  We all know that’s not going to happen, so jumping in tonight we had the same attitude, but I knew the circumstances and how this plays out and the moves that you have to make and the defending and blocking that you do.  I’ve never done it at this level.  I was like, if we get put in that position, here we go, hang on.  Unfortunately we never did, but we come to a really close second, and I was able to push our RCR affiliate teammate there out to the win, so congrats to Austin.  That was cool.

Q: You saved your race there at the end with that save in Turns 1 and 2 where you threw sparks.  Could you describe going through that?  And the second thing is in the beginning of the race, you looked really antsy when you were second, like you wanted to lead the race.  What was going through your mind then?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, I think I was just trying to learn stuff there, make those bold moves, see what happens, and try to ‑‑ if we fell back, it wasn’t the end of the world, but just try to fend off the guys behind me.  I think it was myself and Denny that were out front, and wasn’t really trying to get by him, but I just wanted to lead the bottom line, go back to the top line, everything that you’ve watched from Brad doing, Joey doing, Ryan did it all night tonight.  I wanted to experience that for a little bit, and I got to, so my notebook was jotted down for sure.

But then after the pit stops, we were just so hard on the splitter, and it looked like I was just kind of driving around, but I was playing it smart, trying to save my race car.

Q: Talk about the save.

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Oh, the save.  There’s a reason I skipped that.  I don’t want to talk about it.  Ooh‑weee, Daytona.

Q: Darrell, you were asked about Hank earlier; you also got a tweet, I think, from Lewis Hamilton.  What do those types of things mean to you when you see those things?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  That was cool.  My manager Kyle, who’s also my big brother over there, he walks in the bus, guess who just followed you.  I’m like, who.  He said, Lewis Hamilton.  I’m like, what?  Freaking out, fan growing out.  I look up to him.  He does so many great things in the F1 world.  He’s just a genuine badass in what he does, so that was cool, and then he sent out a tweet, and I got weak at the knees.  Luckily I was sitting down when I was replying to him.  I think I was taking a golf cart ride out to an appearance and I replied back.  Really cool and really special for Hank Aaron also to call right there before was really special, and just knowing that people are tuning in and hopefully noticing the new face and the new change that’s coming to NASCAR and they get behind it and support it.  Just exciting.

Q: Bubba, Denny claims that he got a flat tire at the start‑finish line at the checkered flag.  Do you buy that?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I mean, it looked kind of like the same move he pulled on Ryan at Martinsville if I remember correctly last year with that mayhem.  But you know, if I did ‑‑ if that happened, okay, so be it, but it just seems like he got off of me a little bit and then turned back into me.  I know the cars drive crazy and whatnot and they’re a handful, but it just didn’t seem like that right away, but it was tough to see from that angle anyways.  Who knows.  We’re both pissed off at each other.  But we’re racers.  We’re competitive, and we’ll go into Atlanta and be fine.  I might be kicked out of the basketball league, but whatever.  And golf league, too.

Q: I’ve been talking to a lot of drivers, and rookies have a bit of a reputation in general, but the drivers that have been seasoned veterans are speaking with respect of you.  Clint Bowyer said you earned this ride, and you’re earning the respect of the veteran drivers.  How are you able to do that so quickly?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I don’t know.  Thanks, Clint.  I’ve always kind of tested his waters, and it’s like, hey, Clint.  All right.  Thanks, Clint.  I don’t know.  I just be myself and try not to be a jackass out on the track.  Just try to ‑‑ from running trucks and Xfinity, it was always hold the steady line.  That’s how you’re going to gain respect.  I think all throughout practice and the Duels just having the right guys behind me.  I worked with Newman a lot this weekend.  I think he was a big fan.  I don’t know if he’ll ever admit it, but yeah, it’s just trying to run my own race and not cause any havoc out there.  If you run a good clean race, run all the laps, I think you’ll get a lot of respect, and I think our cars, the way my guys built our car, we were a really good push car.  We got behind there a little bit, and I’m like, man, we’re not really going anywhere, but I can just run over these guys and we’re making some ground up a little bit.  That’s just hats off to the guys back in the shop and everybody on this 43 Chevrolet Click ‘n Close Camaro ZL1.  So yeah, that’s it.

Q: Were you at a point there right at the white flag where you thought you might be sniffing a win, or did Austin just have too much of a lead at that point?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  You know, I’ve watched a couple of these races, and it got down to 10 to go, and I said, all right, we’ve still got about two hours left here, I’m all good in here, so I’m not thinking about it, and even on the white flag, we’ve still got two and a half miles to go with Logano breathing down my neck, knowing that he likes to just dart out and everybody is going to go with him, so I’m just trying to keep him in my mirror, so I think I was full of thinking about that and not really thinking about winning the race, knowing that we still had to get through 1 and 2, 3 and 4, and almost got caught up there on the backstretch.  But still, anyways, it’s a good day just to come home second, just to come home with a finish here at Daytona.  A lot of cars wrecked out early, and we were able to capitalize on that.  It really means a lot to be able to just run all the laps, have a good, clean race and earn the respect of your peers.

Q: And how are you feeling?  I know you were kind of a little puny ‑‑

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Puny?

Q: Well, you weren’t feeling well earlier in the week.  Are you feeling better now?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, yeah, I’m feeling good.  I’m all right.  I’m a little emotional right now, but all good.  Thank you.

Q: We’ve seen your colorful personality, but tonight we’ve seen a lot of emotion.  Are you always this emotional, or did you expect to be this emotional after this good finish?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I usually just sprinkle water and sprinkle tears on my face to make it look like I’m that emotional.  But no, no matter what the circumstances are, when you have family here and you run good and it’s been a while since you’ve been somewhat competitive, it pulls on the heartstrings.  I’m competitive.  I love to win.  I hate to finish second.  Obviously that shows for everybody.

But I’m human.  No matter if I race cars for a living and enjoy doing it, at the end of the day we all get emotional about something, so I’m just the same as you guys.

Q: I wanted to ask you because over the course of your career, you had some times that were very uncertain, and you stayed with it and you were positive and you joked on Twitter about this could be the sponsor or that could be the sponsor.  Could you just talk a little bit about how you feel and where you are today versus even two years ago and the power that you felt in terms of sticking this out and staying with your dream?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, no, it’s just all about adversity, and looking at the stuff you’ve gone through, it’s motivation.  Here come the emotions again.  But on the sponsorship side, it’s tough.  We should all be firing a tweet to Domino’s because if we finished second, we should at least get free pizza for the media room, right, so they’re missing out on that ball, but that’s why we have great partners like Click ‘n Close.  They take the big step not knowing anything about NASCAR, right?  And they take the big step and believe in me and give me an opportunity that not a lot of people get, so I had to capitalize.  Never quit.

Q: You referenced a little bit earlier about not sure about what you would have at Atlanta.  From a competitive standpoint, did you feel a little bit more confident about what was possible at Daytona because of that uncertainty, or are you just not sure what you’re going to have next week?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I think the exciting thing about Daytona is unless you’re just coming there just to run at the back of the pack all day and accept a finish, everybody that shows up to Daytona has a shot.  That’s just the ‑‑ that’s what Daytona produces, and Talladega, as well.  It doesn’t matter who you are.  A very low budget team or a top dollar team, everybody has a shot to win.  That’s why we always say when we go to Atlanta, that’s when we really see who’s playing what cards.  Just from everything that’s been going on in the off‑season, switching over to Chevrolet, the alliance with RCR, they were rebuilding their stages there at the end of the year for their program.  We’re heading in there like we’re going to win that race.  But at the same time, we know we also have a lot of things to check off the list.

Q: Every driver thinks they should be in the Cup Series.  If they don’t, they probably shouldn’t be driving a race car.  But at this moment for you, was it when you signed your contract?  Was it when you rolled in here this week, or was it when you took the checkered today that you finally have that belief in yourself that, yes, you are officially a Cup Series driver full‑time?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I think the Vegas test, really.  We get to test again.  That’s nice.  I think there, going there, it’s like, okay, we were able to do all these things, two‑day test here, get familiar with the cars and get to experience these cars and how fast they are.  We’re faster in Vegas than we are here.  It’s incredible.  And just getting to experience that, and just coming down here put the icing on the cake, being on this side of the garage, knowing my hauler is over here and getting to see how the fans react with the windows, which I think is great.  Not just walking through and, hey, what’s up, waving to everybody at the top because I’m going to cheer on ex‑teammates or whatever they are.  It’s my garage stall, my eyes.  It’s our team.  And I think that’s special.

I’m enjoying it all.  Just taking it day by day.

Q: Exactly what did Hank Aaron say to you, and how surprised were you to hear from him?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, he just said, hey, good luck, and just have a good race today, and that was it.  He knew that we were pressed for time, and it was five seconds, and that’s all he said.  That was really cool.  So when Murstein came up to me and said, hey, Hank Aaron is on the line, I’m like, what?  That’s awesome.  So I was pretty excited about that.

NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Sonoma in last three years

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The last nine races at Sonoma have been won by a different driver each time. Only one driver enters the weekend with back-to-back top-fives on this track and three others have consecutive top 10s. Given the importance of strategy and track position, repeating at this track is incredibly difficult.

Those stats should predict a fresh face in Victory Lane, right?

Unfortunately a brief glance at the drivers with the best average finishes over the past three years reveals that the two dominators of 2018 – Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch – head up the list. If a fantasy player thought this was going to be a good week to vary their NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster, it’s time to rethink that position.

There are a couple of surprises among recent top performers, but the cream tends to rise to the top of NASCAR events. Anchor this week’s team with solid marquee drivers and use dark horses as a way to differentiate those selections from the competition.

1. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 3.67)
Harvick won last year’s edition of this race, but it is not the first time he has run well at Sonoma. He finished fourth in 2015 and was sixth the following year. Making those runs even more impressive is the fact that he has started outside the top 10 in each event and had to drive his way through the field.

2. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 4.33)
Along with Harvick, Busch is the only other driver with a current three-race streak of top 10s at Sonoma. He won there in 2015, followed by a seventh and fifth in his last two outings. He may be a better value than Harvick this week, however, because he has an equally impressive record at Watkins Glen International with a second in 2015, a sixth in 2016 and a seventh last year.

3. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 6.33)
It has been three years since Busch scored a top five at Sonoma, but what he lacks in raw power is made up for in consistency. In his last seven attempts on this track, he has finished outside the top 10 only once and that was a 12th in 2014. He won on this track in 2011 and finished second in 2015.

4. Joey Logano (three-year average: 6.67)
It appeared Logano had found the handle on this track. He scored his first top five in 2015 when he crossed under the checkers fifth. That was followed by a third in 2016. Last year was difficult for the driver of the No. 22; he qualified poorly in 18th and managed to climb only to 12th at the checkers.

5. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 8.00)
Sometimes a switch seems to flip for a driver on a given track. That is what happened to Hamlin in 2016 when he was on his way to Victory Lane before contact from Tony Stewart in the final corner. He hung on to finish second – snapping a six-race streak of results outside the top 15 – and backed that up with a fourth last year.

6. Ryan Newman (three-year average: 10.67)
Newman’s consistency has aided in his making the top 10 list a few times this year and the same is true at Sonoma. Without a top five to his credit in the past five years, he has swept the top 15. That makes him a good utilitarian pick. He will probably not score maximum points, but is also unlikely to lose a lot at Sonoma.

6. Jimmie Johnson (three-year average: 10.67)
There are so many different things that can go wrong on a road course and Johnson has had too many disappointments in 2018 to make him a fantasy favorite. Sonoma and Watkins Glen reward skill behind the wheel over raw horsepower and handling, however, so there is still a chance that he could earn a top five if the team is mistake-free.

8. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 12.33)
Keselowski makes the top-10 list despite having a 19th-place finish in his three-year average. That indicates just how difficult it is to sustain momentum on road courses given the various strategies that play out in a given race. The good news for Keselowski fans is that he finally earned his first career top five in eight starts last year with a third.

9. Jamie McMurray (three-year average: 12.67)
McMurray has been consistent recently at Sonoma, but that is a fairly new trait. In his first 12 starts on this track, he had two top fives and no other top 10s. His average finish before 2015 was 16.7 despite finishing fourth in the 2014 race. He was 11th in 2015, 17th in 2016, and 10th last year – so he could be a good value if he practices and qualifies well this weekend.

10. Paul Menard (three-year average: 13.33)
Some of Menard’s earliest racing experience came in the Trans-Am series and that seems to have stuck with him. While he barely makes the top-10 list this week, he is perhaps the most consistent driver in recent years with four results of 11th through 16th in the last five races. Now that Team Penske is supporting his effort with the Wood Brothers, he should easily contend for a top 10.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: This is a good week to go out on a limb where the pole sitter is concerned. McMurray has won two of the last five poles on this track, while his teammate Kyle Larson took the top spot last year. Two JTG-Daugherty Racing drivers also have recent poles with Marcos Ambrose securing one in 2012 and AJ Allmendinger leading the field to green in 2015.

Segment Winners: There is absolutely no way to determine who is going to take the segment wins this week because it will all come down to strategy at the close of each stage. Since Harvick and Kyle Busch have scored the most segment wins, however, you may as well keep riding that momentum.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

Dale Jr. Download debuts today at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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The Dale Jr Download podcast with Dale Earnhardt Jr. comes to TV beginning today. The show debuts at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, following NASCAR America.

“Dale Jr. Download” will air every Thursday the rest of the season after NASCAR America.

The 30-minute show will provide a condensed version of the Dirty Mo Radio podcast that is found online and features Earnhardt, NBC Sports’ newest NASCAR analyst, with Mike Davis and Matthew Dillner.

“Our approach with the TV show will be no different than our approach with the podcast – buddies hanging out, talking racing, sharing life stories, and telling jokes that may or may not be funny only to us,” Earnhardt said. “I’m having a lot of fun with the podcast, and we are excited to be bringing it to TV. If we have a guest join us, it’s only because they’re relevant to whatever has my attention that week. It could be a NASCAR driver, or it could be my plumber – depends on who’s more important to me that week. The Download is as transparent as I can be when it comes to my life and thoughts.”

NASCAR will not use All-Star aero package again this season in Cup

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Despite some car owners calling for NASCAR to use the All-Star aero package at additional Cup races this season, NASCAR announced Thursday it will not do so this year.

“What we want to do is to continue to deliver on that great racing product and to do that we need to spend the proper time talking to the engine builders, the (car manufacturers) and race teams to see what, if anything, we could do this year,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer told NASCAR.com. “We all collectively felt like the best thing to do was to put additional effort into some potential tweaks and focus on 2019 vs. a race or two this season. Everyone is aligned on doing what is best for the fans.”

The package, which includes a restrictor plate, air ducts, a taller spoiler and the 2014 style splitter, was first used in the Xfinity Series last season at Indianapolis and used in that series at Pocono and Michigan. It will be employed again in that series at Indianapolis in September. It is not scheduled to be run in any other Xfinity races this season after that.

The reviews have been mixed for the package in the Xfinity Series. Indianapolis had closer racing, but Pocono saw the field get strung out. Some suggested that the cars were too slow at Pocono with the restrictor plate. The Xfinity cars ran closer at Michigan but passing was more difficult.

The challenge for Cup teams were many. Based on the charter agreement with NASCAR, since this was not a safety change, Cup teams had to approve the move because of the additional costs to them. Also, engine builders were involved in the conversations because they build engines weeks ahead of time and finding the right races proved limiting because the industry didn’t appear interested in running the package in the playoffs.

Michigan and Indianapolis were the two tracks most often mentioned as candidates to run this package again this season, but that raised an issue among some. They wanted to see what it could do on a 1.5-mile track after the All-Star Race, which provided closer racing than previous years but that event was broken into short segments of 30 laps or less.

There were questions about how well the package would be for a full fuel run. With only two 1.5-mile tracks left on the Cup schedule before the playoffs, those choices were limited. Eventually, it became too late for teams and engine builders to prepare for the July 1 race at Chicagoland Speedway. As time passed, it became more challenging for the package to be used at the July 14 event at Kentucky Speedway.

“One of the clear takeaways is that this is not something you would want to implement at every race track,” O’Donnell told NASCAR.com. “There are certain race tracks we want to potentially target. Finding the optimal horsepower-to-downforce ratio will be a key focal point to continue to improve the race package.

Even as NASCAR examined this matter, drivers raised different opinions.

Brad Keselowski was vocal at Michigan, raising concerns about running the package (and the restrictor plate) at more tracks.

“I think that package needs to remain solely at the All-Star race,’’ Keselowski said earlier this month. “A lot of the drivers in this sport are in a position where they chose Cup racing because of the demands the cars take to drive. I think there are a lot of fans that come to our races expecting to see the best drivers.

“I think if you put a package like this out there, like what we had at the Charlotte All-Star race, on a consistent basis that the best drivers in the world would no longer go to NASCAR. They’ll pick a different sport. That won’t happen overnight. That will happen over time. I think that would be a tragedy to this sport because the best race car drivers want to go where they can make the biggest difference to their performance. There’s no doubt that you make less of a difference in that configuration.’’

Denny Hamlin was encouraged by the package after the non-points race in May.

“As a driver, I had fun, I really did,’’ he said. “Didn’t have the fastest car, but at least there were moments where you had to be very strategic in what you had to do. It was a mix between a normal open race and a superspeedway. … I’d like to see it at a few other tracks. if it came this year, It would definitely be OK by me.’’

Even after the All-Star Race, O’Donnell said the focus was on 2019. Asked that night if the package could be used again this season, O’Donnell said: “I would never say never, but our intent is we’ve talked coming into this, was to try this here, then really take a deep dive into how do we make this the best package possible for 2019 if we liked what we saw.”

But as momentum built for the package — car owners Richard Childress and Roger Penske both said they would be for running it again this season.

“Anything that is good for our sport right now, which I think it would be, I’m for it,’’ Childress told NBC Sports in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I’m putting RCR aside and looking at the sport itself. If everybody in this garage will do that … put the sport first and we all go out and put the best show for the fans in the stands, that’s what we’ve got to do.’’

All-Star winner Kevin Harvick cautioned many to temper their excitement about the package after the exhibition race but agreed the event could be significant for NASCAR in years to come.

“I’d like to make sure we don’t jump and say this is the save all, do all package,” he said. “I’d like to see it slowly transformed into points paying races because I think the preparation level will be a little bit different from every team in the garage. I just want to make sure we cycle it in correctly, make sure it fits in well for the teams to be able to afford the things that need to be done to get the cars right.

“There’s a lot of things to balance. Tonight’s race was very aggressive, and this is the perfect spot to try stuff like this. I think as you look at the effort that the teams put in to make all this happen was pretty high. The chance that NASCAR and Marcus (Smith of Speedway Motorsports Inc.) and everybody took to put this into the All‑Star Race is brave, bold. I think when you look at NASCAR racing in five years, I think you’ll look back at tonight and say it looks like this and it all started here.”

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Weekend schedule at Sonoma, Gateway

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After a weekend off, Cup teams are back in action at Sonoma Raceway for the first road course race of the season. While Cup teams turn left and right, Camping World Truck teams will race at Gateway Motorsports Park this weekend. Xfinity teams have the weekend off.

Here are the schedules for Cup and Truck this weekend:

(ALL TIMES ARE EASTERN)

FRIDAY, JUNE 22

At GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK

1 – 9:30 p.m. — Truck garage open

3:35 – 4:25 p.m. — Truck practice (No TV)

5:35 – 6:25 p.m. — Truck practice (No TV)

7:35 – 8:25 p.m. — Final Truck practice (Fox Sports 2)

9 p.m. — ARCA race (FS2)

At SONOMA RACEWAY

11:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. — Cup garage open

2:40 – 3:55 p.m. — Cup practice (Fox Sports 1)

5:40 – 6:55 p.m. — Final Cup practice (FS1)

SATURDAY, JUNE 23

At GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK

1 p.m. — Truck garage opens

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)

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)

SUNDAY, JUNE 23

At SONOMA RACEWAY

11 a.m. — Cup garage opens

1 p.m. — Driver/crew chief meeting

2:20 p.m. — Driver introductions

3 p.m. — Toyota/SaveMart 350; 110 laps, 218.9 miles, 350 kilometers (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)