Jeffrey Earnhardt is tired of being “bullied” on the track and says he’s “not going to take shit” from other competitors.
Earnhardt, who has had an indirect role in key moments in recent races, made his comments Wednesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Dialed In” show.
“You don’t want to feel used, and I feel like we have been used here lately,” Earnhardt told host Claire B. Lang. “We’re tired of being the victims. Whether we start making the other people the victims, whatever it takes, but we don’t want to keep feeling like we’re being bullied and we feel like we are right now.”
Earnhardt’s latest frustration is with Daniel Hemric. They raced together into the final chicane of last weekend’s race at the Charlotte Roval. Earnhardt’s car spun after contact from Hemric’s car.
Earnhardt’s car stalled less than 100 yards from the finish line. That allowed Kyle Larson’s wrecked car to pass him and gain the one position he needed to advance to the second round, which begins this weekend at Dover International Speedway.
“I like to think that I race clean and give people room and then they do shit like that, it gets under your skin,” Earnhardt said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about the contact from Hemric.
This marked the third time in the last four races that Earnhardt has had an impact on a race.
At Indianapolis, he and Landon Cassill wrecked, setting up the final caution that changed the race’s outcome.
Of that incident, Earnhardt said: “We went into the corner and his story and my story are two different things.”
That caution eliminated Denny Hamlin’s lead and allowed Brad Keselowski to pass Hamlin coming to the white flag and win.
A frustrated Hamlin said afterward: “Just those meaningless cautions at the end by drivers multiple laps down. What they’re doing crashing with three laps to go, I have no idea. It cost us the race.”
Earnhardt did not appreciate Hamlin’s comments.
“The meaningless driver comment was just not smart,” Earnhardt told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It shows a lack of respect for me or anyone else that are back there that are fighting to make a career out of this.”
At Richmond, Earnhardt caused the only caution of the race — other than the two stage breaks — after contact from Matt Kenseth. NASCAR penalized Kenseth for a commitment line violation and speeding entering the pits on Lap 321. His contact with Earnhardt led to a caution at Lap 327.
On the radio after the incident, Kenseth said: “Tell him, my bad. I drug up the splitter and hit. My bad. Tell him I’m sorry about that.”
Earnhardt was frustrated about that incident as well.
“He can say he was on the splitter if he wants … I don’t agree with what he says,” Earnhardt said.
“It does suck. These guys that feel they can pick on us and use us as a crutch to make their day better. Who knows. There have been several races we didn’t fire off that great, I was wishing for a caution. Maybe I’ll start doing the same. Maybe I’ll use them to get a caution so we can come in and work on our car and make it better.”
2. Manufacturer support
Throughout NASCAR’s explanation this week for deciding on a 2019 rules package that includes a tapered spacer to limit engines to 550 horsepower at many big tracks and 750 horsepower at other tracks was how that could help entice more manufacturers to enter the sport.
It’s no secret that NASCAR would like at least another manufacturer at the Cup level.
“It’s not just today,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said about the impact of the new rules package. “It kind of falls into where we want to go with the next Gen car.
“A lot of that is going to be based on new technology in the car and a lot of that is going to be based on efficiencies, potentially for the team owners, (manufacturers), putting an engine in place from a horsepower level that could be more relevant in the future that could attract new (manufacturers), which is key and make the owners that we have in this sport healthier and also attract new owners.”
A new manufacturer or manufacturers could be critical to the sport. Even with the charter system, teams must still rely heavily on sponsorship to fund teams. Additional manufacturers could provide greater financial support for charter teams and potentially balance the competition.
Toyota, which backs five teams, has won 12 of 29 races this season. Ford, which backs more than twice as many teams as Toyota, has won 15 of 29 races. Chevrolet has two wins this season (Austin Dillon in the Daytona 500 and Chase Elliott at Watkins Glen).
O’Donnell said that NASCAR is hearing from manufacturers investigating the series.
“Lot more of our calls are being answered, a lot more meetings are taking place with potential new (manufacturers),” he said. “I think where we landed on 2019 sets us up well for the immediate future but long-term as well.”
We’ll find out.
3. Step forward
Chase Briscoe’s victory in last weekend’s Xfinity race at the Charlotte Roval was another key moment for Ford and its driver development program.
Briscoe was the first driver signed to the multi-tiered program Ford announced in January 2017.
Briscoe and Austin Cindric joined Brad Keselowski Racing’s Camping World Truck Series team in 2017. Each won a race.
Cindric is in the Xfinity playoffs this season. Briscoe isn’t because he’s not running the full schedule. Other Ford development drivers are Cole Custer, who also is in the Xfinity playoffs and has one career series win, and Ty Majeski.
“It won’t pay dividends until they actually get to the Cup level because that’s ultimately the goal of what we want to do,” said Mark Rushbrook, Global Director, Ford Performance, of the driver development program. “But we are happy with the start that we’ve had to our development program over the last two years and look forward to continuing to expand that,”
4. Betting at the track
With sports betting legal in Delaware, fans will be able to bet for the first time at a NASCAR track this weekend.
Dover International Speedway will have two kiosks accepting sports bets.
Sunday’s race will have extra gambling options, including bets on driver vs. driver, number of cautions and if the winning car number is an even number or odd number, among other prop bets.
Betting won’t be limited to Saturday’s Xfinity and Sunday’s Cup race. Fans can bet on pro football, baseball, college football, MMA and other sports at the kiosks.
5. Say what?
Consider this: Jimmie Johnson has more wins at Dover (11) than 28 other Cup drivers entered this weekend have in their Cup career.
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