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Darrell Wallace Jr. explains heated discussion with Denny Hamlin after Daytona 500

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Darrell Wallace Jr. said Denny Hamlin was not happy with him for comments Wallace made after Sunday’s Daytona 500 and that they were still texting about the matter Tuesday.

Wallace and Hamlin made contact after the checkered flag and had a brief and heated discussion afterward in the garage area.

In an interview with Fox after the race, Wallace said of Hamlin and their post-race contact: “He might need to take some Adderall for that one.’’

Wallace’s comment was a dig at Hamlin, who said a few days earlier on a podcast that 70 percent of the Cup drivers take Adderall or a similar type of medicine to stay focused.

Hamlin later recanted those comments and said he was joking.

Tuesday, Wallace explained on “The Morning Drive” what happened with Hamlin.

“I was told I cut his tire as I was doing the interview, and I already had my mind made up about what had happened,’’ Wallace told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Just got into the heat of the battle. At the end of the day, we’re racing and that’s what you do, you go down and sidedraft the guy through the short chute and try to suck him all the way down and get the run and pull away from him and just felt like he had turned right. That was my opinion. He had thought otherwise. He said there was more footage from in-car that I haven’t seen yet. I’ve been looking for and haven’t seen yet.

“At the garage, he was upset with me over the comments I made about something he was joking about, which shouldn’t have been joked about. All in all, that’s all right. We’re actually texting each other right now, we’re still not happy. I’m OK, he’s not. We’re racers, and we’ll go to Atlanta and be battling each other.

“I told him we’ll be racing together for a long time so I wanted to step out and reach out and clear the air. We’ll see how long it takes to officially clear the air.

“All in all, it was an exciting week for us. I told him I was just pumped up with the way we finished and just hated that I couldn’t go out and celebrate the finish with my guys. I really wanted to see them. I had Richard Petty running all over pit road and all over Daytona to the infield care center so that was just a bummer. When you have a good finish, the first thing you want to do is get out and hug your guys and give them all the praise that they deserve.’’

Hamlin responded on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.

Wallace was emotional after finishing second in the Daytona 500 and says that’s just who he is.

“You’re always going to get emotion and raw and pureness out of me after every race no matter how we finish,’’ Wallace said. “I watch some of these interviews and I’m like man ‘I wish I could be a little bit more like that and show off my likeness a little bit more,’ but at the end of the day that is going against what I always talk about and how it’s being me. I don’t need to change to be anybody else. I don’t want to change for anybody else. For people to see that and latch on it makes you feel really good.’’

Wallace’s focus turns to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Sunday’s race. It will be his first time in a Cup car at that track.

“We look back on last year and obviously you study the notes on what they went through,’’ Wallace said. “Each and every week on an intermediate track we were a 15th- to 20th-place car and that’s not what we want to do.

“We know how the sport goes, you improve, and it’s not like you improve 20 spots throughout the next year. We want to improve a handful of spots, three or four spots to put us in that top-10, top-15 range. I think that is a success for us, especially with the new alliance (with Richard Childress Racing). Speedway racing, everybody has a chance when they show up there. Atlanta, you go in and start picking your favorites and you have a pretty good shot at winning that.

“For us to not be the favorites, it’s fine. We get it. We know that we have so much stuff that we have unchecked off the list, from switching to Chevrolet, testing out the new Camaro ZL1, the RCR alliance. We’re all kind of in a rebuild mode right now. We do have momentum on our side, a we have a lot of momentum on our side. We’re excited about that and that is going to help us out some what of the way.’’

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NASCAR America: Better equipment, skilled drivers changed road racing

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The Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway is the first of three road course races on the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series calendar and the preparation involved in setting up these cars is much greater today than it has been in the past, according to NASCAR America analysts Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Jarrett.

“I think the same emphasis is put in those two road course races and the cars that will be in those races,” Earnhardt said. “And now the Roval that will be at Charlotte – being a very important race in the playoffs – these road course racers are even more important.”

Man and machine need to be equal to the challenge.

“Not only is the emphasis more on the drivers to prepare and learn how to become road course racers, but there is a lot more emphasis on the cars too,” Earnhardt said. “All the cars are so much more similar and there is a lot more dedication to preparing the cars for these particular races. It’s almost like there is as much effort into putting a good road course car on the track as there is speedway cars – like Daytona and Talladega cars.”

Even the best driver cannot compete in equipment that is not up to the challenge and it took some outside expertise to raise NASCAR to the level of other marquee road racing series mechanically. Car owners like Jack Roush and road ringers like Boris Said contributed to the evolution of the racing discipline.

“The cars are so much better now than when we started,” Dale Jarrett said. “Whenever I got started in the Cup series fulltime in ’87, there were a couple of good road racers – and I think of Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace … but Jack Roush brought something totally new into the sport a little later in the 80s and early 90s. … Their equipment was a little bit better because they understood road racing a little more. Now everybody has all that.”

Jarrett recalled what he believes might be one of the biggest upsets of his career. He won the pole for the 2001 Global Crossing at the Glen because he received a tip from Said, who told him he was not getting deep enough into the corners because his brakes were not good enough.

“You talk about road course ringers: Boris Said and Ron Fellows and some other guys coming in,” Jarrett said. “One of the things that helped them, they were better because they did it all the time, but they also would tell the teams they were going to drive for, ‘hey, there’s a lot better braking and other things out there that you can do.’ They came in and they had better equipment, which made them look even that much better than what we were.”

For more, watch the video above.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jarrett preview upcoming races

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN with Dale Earnhardt Jr. making his weekly appearance on the show.

Krista Voda hosts with Earnhardt and Dale Jarrett from the Big Oak Table in Charlotte.

On today’s show:

· Not long ago, Dale Earnhardt Jr. bragged about his ability to remember who he’s beaten for wins in past races. In this episode, we’ll test his memory in a trivia game called “Who Did Junior Pass For The Win?” We’ll be taking your questions for Junior throughout the show. Just send it on social media with the hashtag #Wednesdale.

· Sonoma begins a critical summer stretch for the Monster Energy Cup Series. With Chicagoland, Daytona, Kentucky and New Hampshire on the horizon, teams will be challenged and playoff hopes will rise and fall. Dale Jr. & Dale Jarrett preview the upcoming races.

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.

Three Cup drivers will reach career start milestones at Sonoma

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Three Cup drivers will reach career start milestones when the series visits Sonoma Raceway this weekend.

Ryan Newman leads the way with his 600th Cup start.

The Richard Childress Racing driver will become the 28th driver to reach the mark. His first start came on Nov. 5, 2000 at ISM Raceway with Team Penske.

Newman is one of four remaining active Cup drivers, including Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Derrike Cope, who competed against Dale Earnhardt in a Cup points race. Only Newman and Busch compete full-time.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin will make his 450th start. He will become the 52nd driver to reach that mark.

Hamlin’s first start came on Oct. 9, 2005 at Kansas Speedway. All of his starts have been with JGR.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will make his 200th career start. He will be the 132nd driver to reach that mark.

Stenhouse’s first start came in the 2011 Coca-Cola 600 with Wood Brothers Racing when he substituted for Trevor Bayne, who was out due to illness. Every other start has been with Roush Fenway Racing.

The last race at Michigan International Speedway saw AJ Allmendinger make his 350th Cup start. 71 drivers have reached that mark.

How much does starting position matter at Sonoma?

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Do you need to qualify on the pole, the front row or the even the top five to better your chances of winning a NASCAR race?

On a typical race weekend one would think that’s the case. Through 15 races this season, the winner has started in the top five eight times. Only four winners started 10th or worse.

But this isn’t a typical race weekend as the Cup Series heads to Sonoma Raceway for its first road course race of the season.

The series has held 29 races at the road course since 1989. In those 29 races, the winner started from the pole five times (17.2 percent).

That makes it the most prolific starting position at the track in terms of wins.

But a winner hasn’t come from the pole since 2004 when Jeff Gordon did it for a track-best third time.

The driver starting second has won three times, the last occurring in 2010 with Jimmie Johnson. Since that race, only one Sonoma winner – Carl Edwards (fourth) in 2014 – has started in the top five.

In the 13 races since Gordon last won from the pole, the race winner started in the top five three times.

The last three races saw the winner start 11th (Kyle Busch), 10th (Tony Stewart) and 12th (Kevin Harvick).

In contrast, the 14 races from 1992-2005 saw every race winner came from inside the top 10 and 11 from the top five.

What’s changed? Road course racing became much more aggressive with the transition to double fire restarts in 2009. The introduction of stage racing last year added another wrinkle to a type of racing that already saw aggressive pit strategy.

But Sonoma isn’t too kind to drivers starting in the back half of the field.

The deepest in the field that a race winner has started is 32nd, when Juan Pablo Montoya won in 2007. Only one other time has the winner come from outside the top 15, when Kyle Busch started 30th and won in 2008.