Dale Earnhardt Jr. back at Daytona but enjoying life not in the car

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DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start the engines and then watch the Daytona 500 field drive off without him today for the first time since 1999.

No longer a Cup driver, Earnhardt will give the command as grand marshal to begin the season’s biggest race. Earnhardt admits this week has felt different, even liberating in a sense.

“It’s actually been really nice to not have to worry about performance or living up to expectations or your own or someone else’s,’’ Earnhardt said. “It’s been great to get all that off my shoulders.’’

That made Saturday’s 1-2 finish in the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports (Tyler Reddick nipping Elliott Sadler) even more enjoyable for Earnhardt, who has said at this point he’s scheduled to run one Xfinity race this season. 

“This is the first race we’ve won on a Saturday I have not had to worry about Sunday,’’ Earnhardt said after the Xfinity race. “I walked around every day of my life with a thousand pounds on my shoulders — what was going to happen, how was I going to run — and I think every driver does that. Now that that’s off my shoulders and I don’t have to worry about that anymore, everything in my life is so much more enjoyable.

“Racing, I loved driving cars on Sunday, but it made everything else sit in the backseat, and it made — everything else was nowhere near as enjoyable as it could have been or should have been maybe because of the pressure I put on myself for Sunday.  But all that out of the way, man, life is — I’m living, I’m loving, I’m having a good time.’’

Earnhardt is keeping busy. He’s about finished filming a renovation of a home in Key West for a show later this year. He’ll leave Monday for South Korea to be a part of NBC Sports’ Olympic broadcast. He has his Xfinity teams and a baby on the way in the spring. And he’ll be a part of NBC Sports’ NASCAR coverage.

Earnhardt says he doesn’t know what he’ll be doing for the Olympic broadcast but he’s looking forward to whatever it is.

“I’m a little nervous,’’ Earnhardt said. “But I know that they won’t set me up to fail. They want to have good TV and they’re not going to put me in a position where I won’t be able to somehow help deliver that.

“We’re going to have some fun, and whatever that is, I’ll find out in the very last minute, and the rest of it should be great. I’m going to have a chance to see some of the best athletes in the world do what they do best, and that’ll be an experience that I’ll never forget. So I’m looking forward to that.’’

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Kyle Larson scores second Ohio Sprint Speedweek win in three nights

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Kyle Larson scored his second win in the opening three nights of the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions Ohio Sprint Speedweek. Larson won at Wayne County Speedway on Monday. Andrew Palker was second.

The victory is Larson’s eighth in the All Star Circuit of Champions.

Xfinity driver Christopher Bell was fifth Monday. Kasey Kahne placed 17th. Tony Stewart finished 24th in the 26-car field.

Larson won at Eldora Speedway on Saturday night.

Ohio Speedweek continues Tuesday at Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio.

 

NASCAR America: Sport needs more races like Iowa Speedway

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With the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series taking Father’s Day weekend off, the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series took center stage at Iowa Speedway and put on a pair of shows that had drivers and NASCAR America analysts asking for more.

Late-race battles for the lead with Noah Gragson‘s unsuccessful last-lap pass on Brett Moffitt and Christopher Bell’s near miss at closing the distance on Justin Allgaier is something that has been missing from the Cup series for much of the season, and the action had a lot to do with the configuration of the speedway.

“That’s why this racetrack has become so popular,” Parker Kligerman said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “Because it’s allowing this multi-groove racing like we’ve seen. And it’s got everyone discussing – kind of like Brad Keselowski was saying – why don’t we bring the Cup cars there? It would be awesome.”

Iowa Speedway was built with inspiration from Richmond Raceway and both tracks have characteristics of a short track and a speedway. It is something that Jeff Burton believes the sports needs to embrace.

“There is no doubt that this style of racetrack is what we need more of,” Burton said. “The sport needs more of it. And all this effort we’ve been talking about with the All-Star package. All that is an effort to try and create races like we saw on Saturday and on Sunday.”

For more, watch the video above.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Iowa recap, Scan All featuring Parker Kligerman

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and recaps the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races at Iowa Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut. Jeff Burton joins them from Burton’s Garage.

 On today’s show:

  • The Xfinity & Camping World Truck Series took the spotlight this weekend at Iowa Speedway. We’ll have highlights from both races and also dive into why some of the sport’s biggest names are pushing for Iowa to be on the Cup Series schedule.
  • Dale Jarrett and his father, Ned Jarrett, are champion drivers and NASCAR Hall of Famers. But one member of the family – Dale’s son, Zach Jarrett – didn’t follow in their footsteps. As we come off Father’s Day, we’ll introduce you to Zach and his passion for another great sport.
  • Scan All is usually a Tuesday tradition, but today, we’re changing it up a bit. Listen in as our colleague, Parker Kligerman, hits the track in Scan All Parker!
If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. 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.

Kyle Larson wants to compete in World of Outlaws full-time ‘before I’m 40’

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Late last year Kyle Larson said his main career goal was to compete full-time in the World of Outlaws and that “NASCAR’s just the step to get there.”

Now the 25-year-old Cup driver has told the Internet that he hopes to compete full-time in World of Outlaws “Before I’m 40.”

In a lengthy Q&A session, Larson answered a fan’s question about the topic.

It was on the official World of Outlaws podcast in December where Larson expressed his desire to eventually transition to World of Outlaws.

“NASCAR is where I wanted to make it, but I would have been perfectly fine if I didn’t make it either,” Larson said. “I’d probably be on the Outlaw (sprint car) tour probably right now, racing and loving life … I would say racing on the World of Outlaws tour full-time is my main goal.”

A lot can change between now and 2033 – which would put Larson at 18 full-time Cup seasons after 2032 – so better stock up on those Larson race win diecasts while you can over the next 15 or so years.

Here’s other tidbits from Larson’s Q&A session:

Larson declared his stance on last year’s peaceful protests by NFL players regarding police brutality and unequal treatment of African-Americans that took place during the National Anthem.

Last September, President Donald Trump praised NASCAR in general and its “supporters and fans,” saying “They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag!”

That was after team owner Richard Childress and Richard Petty said they would fire any employees who kneeled during the anthem in protest.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. later tweeted in support of the protests and Jimmie Johnson also said he supported peaceful protests.

Larson’s response was noted by other NASCAR drivers.

If you’ve noticed Larson isn’t running against the wall as much this season, there’s a reason.

Larson believes the Cup Series needs more short tracks to garner more excitement and that the cars are not the problem.

Larson also expressed a desire for there to be mid-week races on the schedule.

Larson is not planning on competing in the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway, which he won in 2016.

Larson thinks a Truck race at Knoxville Raceway, the dirt track that hosts the Knoxville Nationals, would be worthwhile.

Larson also announced where he’ll be competing in some sprint races later this year.