After the snow-delayed STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took a moment to congratulate the “rookie” Alex Bowman on a successful debut at the treacherous short track. He was right about one thing: Bowman finished seventh in the race.
But he overlooked one little fact: this was not Bowman’s first Martinsville race.
As it turned out, confusing Bowman’s first attempt for his fifth was not Earnhardt’s only mistake at Martinsville. He made plenty of them in his inaugural trip to the bullring.
In his first Martinsville race, Earnhardt hit everything that moved and at least one thing that didn’t, he recalled on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America.
“I hit everything,” Earnhardt said. “I ran into a truck – a truck – behind pit wall in my first race. And then I proceeded to wreck again on the race track.”
Junior’s exploits did not go unnoticed. Dale Earnhardt Sr. kept a close eye on his son during the race and had a few choice words for him afterward.
“I remember I was starting a lap down on the inside back when the lapped cars would line up on the inside,” Earnhardt said. “A hundred laps into the race, I was a lap down already. The green flag comes out and I jump out to a straightaway lead over the leaders. That was the best thing that happened to me all day. Then I wrecked about three or four times.
“Finally, we get in the helicopter to go home and Dad and Michael Waltrip are in the helicopter,” Earnhardt continued. “And Dad is really PO’d because he finally come over the radio after the last wreck and said ‘Will you just tell him to park it?’ and they said ‘I think he’s done for the day because the steering wheel’s bent.’ So, Dad was chewing my butt for like 15 minutes. I said, ‘Did you see me straightaway the leaders?’ ‘Cause that was really cool, I thought. He didn’t care about that.”
For more about Earnhardt’s first race to Martinsville, watch the video above.
Austin Theriault announced Thursday morning he has not been medically cleared by NASCAR to compete in this weekend’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway after his involvement in a wreck in Monday’s race at Talladega.
Theriault, 25, competes for Rick Ware Racing and was set to drive its No. 52 Chevrolet this weekend. Theriault said Garrett Smithley will take his place.
A NASCAR spokesperson said its policy is to not discuss a competitor’s medical information.
A spokesperson for Rick Ware Racing told NBC Sports all info on Theriault would be released by the driver on social media or by NASCAR. The team said “we expect to have Austin back in the car very soon.”
The native of Fort Kent, Maine, has missed races due to medical issues before.
In 2015, while racing part-time for Brad Keselowski Racing in the Truck Series, he suffered a 10% compression fracture in his back in a wreck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after his HANS device broke.
Theriault missed several races before returning in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Since 2015 he has made five Cup starts, three Xfinity starts and four Truck Series starts.
The NASCAR playoffs continue this weekend with the second visit of the year to Kansas Speedway.
The Cup Series holds its second elimination race as the playoff field will be cut to eight drivers.
After a week off, the Xfinity Series will open its second playoff round.
Here are the preliminary entry lists for both races.
Cup – Hollywood Casino 400 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)
There are 40 cars entered.
Parker Kligerman is entered in Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota.
Reed Sorenson is listed for Premium Motorsports’ No. 27 Chevrolet.
Austin Theriault was originally entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 car. Theriault announced Thursday morning he had not been cleared by NASCAR to compete Saturday following his wreck in Monday’s Cup race at Talladega and that Garrett Smithley would take his place.
Chase Elliott won this race last year over Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson. Brad Keselowski won the May race over Alex Bowman and Erik Jones.
Click here for the updated entry list.
Xfinity – Kansas Lottery 300 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)
There are 39 entries.
Ryan Truex is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.
Ross Chastain is entered in Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 Chevrolet. It’ll be his fifth start with the team this season.
Harrison Burton is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota for the seventh time this season.
Bobby Earnhardt, the oldest son of Kerry Earnhardt, is entered in MBM Motorsports’ No. 66 Toyota. It will be his fifth career start and first since the Texas playoff race last year.
Joe Nemechek is now entered in Mike Harmon Racing’s No. 74 Chevrolet
Dillon Bassett is now entered in DGM Racing’s No. 92 Chevrolet
John Hunter Nemechek won this race last year over Daniel Hemric and Elliott Sadler.
Click here for the entry list.
Harrison Burton will drive Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Xfinity car full-time in 2020, the team announced Thursday morning.
Burton, the son of NBC Sports analysts Jeff Burton, will succeed Christopher Bell in the No. 20.
Burton competes full-time in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He is set to make his seventh start in JGR’s No. 18 Xfinity car this Saturday at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).
“Next year is going to be a really cool opportunity for me because I grew up watching my dad race in the Xfinity Series, Burton said in a press release. “Making my first start at Bristol this year was really surreal. I remember being a little kid and watching (Jeff Burton) race there and now, I will have the opportunity to compete for the Xfinity Series championship next year.
“On top of that I’ve got Dex Imaging continuing their support of me for a majority of races next season. That’s really cool because I’ve had them as a sponsor since I was 13 and to bring them from pro-late models all the way to the Xfinity Series is pretty wild. I want to finish this season strong, but I’m excited to get 2020 started. My time with JGR this season will really help me because I’ve already gotten to know so many people there and it’s such a great team and organization. They have a long history of helping to develop drivers and this is big for the next step in my career.”
In his six Xfinity starts, Burton has three top 10s and a best finish of fourth at Iowa Speedway.
In 35 Truck Series starts since 2016, Burton has 11 top fives and 17 top-10 finishes. This year he has seven top fives and 10 top 10s. He and teammate Todd Gilliland both failed to make the playoffs.
“As Harrison (Burton) moves up to the next level of his career, we’re happy to have him join JGR fulltime and go behind the wheel of the No. 20 Supra,” said Steve DeSouza, Executive Vice President of Xfinity Series and Development for Joe Gibbs Racing in a press release. “Harrison has continued to show progress this season in his limited starts and I know that will only continue to develop with more seat time while contending for the Xfinity Series championship.”
The crew chief for the No. 20 will be announced at a later time.
JTG Daugherty Racing announced on social media Thursday morning that the hauler for Ryan Preece‘s No. 47 Chevrolet experienced a fire on its way to Kansas Speedway for this weekend’s Cup race.
In a statement, team owner Tad Geschickter said both its hauler drivers were “okay.”
He said the team is “assessing the damage to our trailer and race cars and will have more information as it becomes available.”
More: Kaulig Racing hauler involved in accident on way to Kansas