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The day Dale Jr. offered to give up a million dollars

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On Tuesday’s Dale Jr. Download on NBCSN (which airs at 5 p.m. ET on Tuesdays) as well as on Dirty Mo Radio, team owner Rick Hendrick told several stories of his relationship on and off the race track with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Two of the best stories Hendrick related in the nearly two-hour podcast that can be heard on Earnhardt’s Dirty Mo Radio showed sides of Dale Jr. that perhaps few people knew about.

First, there was the time around 2009 where Earnhardt, who had just started driving for Hendrick in 2008, told the boss to give him a pay cut, not a pay raise.

I don’t remember what was going on in the sport but everybody was a little nervous and I called him one time and told him to take a million dollars off my salary if he needed to,” Earnhardt recalled.

The reason was simple: the economy had gotten bad and Earnhardt was concerned that some of the team members and other employees at Hendrick Motorsports might be laid off.

To say Hendrick was stunned at such a noble offer was an understatement: “(Earnhardt’s) the only driver that I’ve ever been associated with in all my years that said, ‘Hey, I want you to take a million dollars off my salary and give it to the guys in the shop. You don’t have to cut anybody’s pay. I’ll give up a million dollars.

I was shocked. That just shows you the character that he has and his relationship with people.”

There was also a great story told by both Earnhardt and Hendrick that talked about, of all things, side skirts on a race car – and why it was so important to Earnhardt for them to look good before he signed his first contract to drive for Hendrick.

When I went to meet with (Hendrick), my heart was to drive for Rick,” Earnhardt said. “HMS for all these years had been this perfect opportunity and best team and they just had won and won and won. … I had been racing for family for all these years and it’s such a security blanket, and I thought I’d have that same security blanket if I drove for Rick.”

Then it came time for Hendrick to pass a contract offer to Earnhardt.

He slid that paper across the table and I said uh-uh, I don’t want to see that,” Earnhardt laughed.

To which Hendrick replied, “So I told him not to look at it. Everybody was really nervous and we really wanted him to drive for us. I had labored over this contract for weeks before I showed it to him. I said, ‘Here, Dale,’ here’s what we can do for you.’ He said, ‘I don’t care about that.’ I said, ‘Okay, give it to me back and don’t look at it.

I thought we were all done when Dale said ‘I have a couple things I want. I’m thinking, oh here we go, this is going to be big, real big.’ He said ‘I want the (side) skirts to be painted the same color as the car.’ I said, ‘What?’ And then he wanted the helicopter to (go to) Martinsville and Darlington.’ He didn’t care about the money.”

Earnhardt interjected, saying, “I told (Hendrick), ‘You and (sister) Kelley sort that out.’ I already had more money than I knew what to do with. Money didn’t motivate me and make me happy. What made me happy was how my car looked. If the side skirts aren’t painted, it ruins the entire car and I drive the car and I want the damn thing to look good.’”

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NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kyle Busch ends the season No. 1

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The 2019 season is over and Kyle Busch is the NASCAR Cup champion. And not surprisingly, the younger Busch brother also ends the season as No. 1 in this week’s Power Rankings.

Busch received 39 of 40 possible points to take the No. 1 spot, followed by the other three Championship 4 contenders: Martin Truex Jr. (35 points), and Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick (tied for third place with 28 points each).

The biggest surprises in this week’s standings were Xfinity Series champ Tyler Reddick in fifth and Gander Outdoors Truck Series champ Matt Crafton in sixth.

Here’s this week’s Power Rankings:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): Finally gets that second title. Last week: Second.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (35 points): Inexcusable pit mistake left him as the championship runner-up for the second year in a row. Last week: Fourth.

(tie) 3. Denny Hamlin (28 points): Came so close to his first championship, only to be fall short yet again. Could this be the closest he’ll get? Last week: First.

(tie) 3. Kevin Harvick (28 points): Needed a bit more help than he got going against the Joe Gibbs Racing juggernaut. Still, a very strong season regardless. Last week: Third.

5. Tyler Reddick (18 points): It’s hard enough to win one championship, but back-to-back championships with two different teams? Last week: Unranked.

6. Matt Crafton (14 points): Wins the championship without even winning a race (in fact, his last win was more than two years ago). Thrived on his underdog status. Last week: Unranked.

7. Ryan Blaney (12 points): Finished 11th or better, including a win at Talladega, in five of the last six playoff races. Last week: Fifth.

(tie) 8. Joey Logano (11 points): Ends year with four consecutive top 10s, but he fell short in making it to the championship round and defending last year’s title. Last week: Eighth.

(tie) 8. Erik Jones (11 points): Ends season with four top 10s in last five races. That bodes well for next season. Last week: Seventh.

10. Christopher Bell (6 points): Missed his chance to add an Xfinity title to his Truck championship. Still, with eight wins, had an outstanding season. Up next: a promotion to the Cup Series. Last week: 10th.

Others receiving votes: Kyle Larson (5 points), Clint Bowyer (5 points), Cole Custer (4 points), Austin Hill (2 points), Brad Keselowski (1 point), Brett Moffitt (1 point).

Zane Smith joins GMS Racing for full-time Truck Series ride

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Zane Smith will compete full-time for GMS Racing in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series next year, the team announced Tuesday.

Smith, 20, joins the team after competing part-time with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series this year, where his best result in 10 races was fifth twice.

He will be GMS Racing’s fourth full-time entry next year, joining Brett Moffitt, Sheldon Creed and Tyler Ankrum. Sam Mayer will compete part-time.

Smith will have veteran Kevin “Bono” Manion as his crew chief.

“When I got the offer from Mike Beam asking me to run a truck full-time for GMS Racing, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” Smith said in a press release. “GMS is a championship-caliber team and to be a part of an organization like theirs is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m looking forward to working with Manion again. He has a lot of experience and I know we will be a great team.”

Manion, who has 24 wins across all three national NASCAR series since 2003, joins GMS Racing after serving as a crew chief for DGR-Crosley in 2019, including working with Rookie of the Year Tyler Ankrum. Manion was crew chief for Smith in 2018 when he made his Truck Series debut at Gateway and finished fifth.

“I am really excited to join GMS Racing and Zane (Smith) for the 2020 season,” Manion said in a press release. “With GMS Racing’s championship caliber equipment and Chevrolet support, we have all the resources to win some races and be in the hunt for the 2020 Championship. I got the opportunity to crew chief Zane (Smith) in his first Gander Trucks start in 2018 at Gateway and we worked really well together. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish next season.”

Sponsorship and an assigned truck number for Smith will be announced at a later date.

Penalty report from Homestead-Miami Speedway

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NASCAR issued four fines and one suspension for lug nut violations during its championship weekend in Miami.

Cup Series

Mike Wheeler, crew crew chief on Matt DiBenedetto‘s No. 95 Toyota, was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut.

Xfinity Series

Mike Shiplett, crew chief on Cole Custer‘s No. 00 Ford, was fined $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut.

Truck Series

Steve Lane, the owner of On Point Motorsports and crew chief on Danny Bohn‘s No. 30 Toyota, was fined $5,000 and suspended one points race for two unsecured lug nuts. The No. 30 truck competed part-time this season and made 16 starts. The team told NBC Sports it will not appeal the penalty.

Trip Bruce III, crew chief on Stewart Friesen‘s No. 52 Chevrolet, was fined $2,500 for one unsecured lug nut.

Other

NASCAR issued an indefinite suspension to Jeffrey Schmidt for violating its substance abuse policy.

Truck Series gets minor name change for 2020

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Four days after the end of the Gander Outdoors Truck Series season, NASCAR announced the series will receive a minor name change for the 2020 season.

The series will be called the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series when the season starts in February at Daytona International Speedway.

This is the second name change for the series in two years.

This season saw the name change from the Camping World Truck Series, which had been the title from 2009-2018.

Gander Outdoors and Camping World are owned by the same company.

Next year will also see a different name for the Cup Series. With the series going to a new sponsorship model, it will simply be called the NASCAR Cup Series.