Déjà vu: Lucky penny once again rides with the No. 3 to Daytona 500 victory

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Twenty years ago, Dale Earnhardt Sr. won his only Daytona 500 with a lucky charm on-board his No. 3 Chevrolet.

Glued to his dashboard was a penny given to him by then 6-year-old Wessa Miller the day before the race.

On Sunday, Richard Childress Racing’s No. 3 returned to Daytona’s victory lane in a Cup Series race for the first time since Earnhardt’s historic day.

Austin Dillon, the grandson of team owner Richard Childress, took the checkered flag after contact between him and race leader Aric Almirola on the last lap resulted in Almirola wrecking.

Glued on the left side of dashboard in Dillon’s Chevrolet was his own lucky penny, also given to him by a young fan.

“We did an autograph session before the Clash (on Sunday), and a lot of fans were there, and some kids that I don’t think they knew a whole lot about racing, but they were enjoying themselves,” Dillon said Sunday night.

One of the fans was a seven or eight-year-old boy wearing a white Ford hat.

“I said, ‘Man, you’ve got to take that off,'” Dillon recalled. “I signed my hat, gave it to him, and said, ‘Now, look, I’ve got to be your favorite driver, right?’  And he’s like, ‘All right, cool, I’ve got you now.'”

The next day, Dillon encountered the boy standing at the fence of the Cup garage. He wore the hat Dillon had signed.

“He yelled at me, and I turned, I seen he had my hat on.  So I was like, sweet.  He’s like, ‘Hey, I got this for you.’  It was a lucky penny.  Put it in the car, and it’s sitting on the dash right now, and it’s pretty special.  I think that’s really cool.  I’ve never been that superstitious in my life, but my grandfather is very superstitious, so I listened to him in the race, I ran the bottom more, I found a lucky penny, and it just worked out tonight, I guess.”

The penny that was given to Earnhardt is still in the car that won in 1998. It sits in the Richard Childress Racing Museum in Welcome, North Carolina.

Dillon’s penny will also remain where it was glued as the car is displayed in Daytona’s museum for the next 12 months.

“I think that penny deserves to stay with its owner, the car, so it’s going to stick right there,” Dillon said. “You guys can go check it out. I’d like to find that kid, though.  Maybe I can ‑‑ if somebody knows (him), if you could get him to the track tomorrow, that would be really cool.”

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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