NASCAR America: Chase Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr. baffled by their popularity

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NASCAR’s most popular driver from 2003 through 2017 sat down with Chase Elliott – the driver most believe will pick up the mantle in 2018 – before the Brickyard 400 to discuss the unlikeliness of their popularity.

“I don’t think I fully understand it, but I certainly appreciate it,” Elliott told Earnhardt. “For me, I’ve always tried to do my own thing and stay in my little circle, so I think sometimes that keeps you from understanding what the outside public thinks. That’s my choice, and that’s how I like things.”

“I never understood my celebrity or my popularity,” Earnhardt replied. “None of it ever made any sense to me – and it might not ever make any sense to you.”

Popularity is something both drivers know well. Chase’s father Bill Elliott had a stranglehold on the honor from 1984 through 2002 – stepping aside only three times when Darrell Waltrip won in 1989 / 1990 and when Elliott removed his name from the ballot in 2001 to make way for Dale Earnhardt Sr. to win posthumously.

Being named most popular driver “would be a great honor to have,” Elliott said. “It’s not one of those things that I like to go and promote myself for. I don’t like to go out there and say, ‘hey vote for me.’ I want that to be a natural and genuine thing for somebody to go and vote.”

Fans can cast a vote for a single driver once a day at www.nascar.com/mostpopulardriver or on the NASCAR Mobile app. If fans share their vote on Facebook or Twitter, it will count double.

For more, watch the video above.

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Scooter Gennett pays tribute to Dale Earnhardt Sr.

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Dale Earnhardt Sr. is gone, but certainly not forgotten.

His legacy lives on – not only in NASCAR, but in Major League Baseball as well.

Cincinnati Red second baseman Scooter Gennett will carry a tribute to the NASCAR Hall of Fame driver in the MLB Players Weekend with a jersey emblazoned with Dal3 on the back and Goodwrench-inspired shoes.

Dale Jr. Download: Terry Labonte tried to join Dale Earnhardt in 1999 Bristol victory lane

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Some of the best finishes at Bristol in the 1990s involved Terry Labonte and Dale Earnhardt, Sr.

Each driver came out ahead in two of the most famous of these.

In the 1995 night race, Earnhardt caught Labonte in heavy traffic on the final lap. He gave Labonte a shot in the back exiting Turn 4. Labonte nosed into the wall on the frontstretch but had enough momentum to carry his car across the finish line.

Labonte won; Earnhardt finished second.

“I wasn’t too mad about that one,” Labonte told Dale Earnhardt Jr. on this week’s edition of the Dale Jr. Download.

Labonte’s mood would be substantially different four years later.

In 1999, Earnhardt demonstrated he learned his lesson from the earlier exploit.

Labonte tapped Earnhardt coming to the white flag lap and got around him. He didn’t get far enough ahead, however, and Earnhardt spun Labonte on the backstretch.

Earnhardt won; Labonte finished eighth – the first driver one lap down.

“I was sitting there wrecked on the back straightaway and my car was nosed in the wall … so I put it in reverse,” Labonte said. “I had it running and I seen him coming down the back straightaway here and I thought, ‘That No. 3 is going to victory lane, but this No. 5 is going to be stuck in the side of it’. “

Labonte’s plan to piggy back was foiled, however.

“I had it timed perfect,” Labonte continued. “And I sat there, and I popped the clutch and that car moved about a half inch and tore reverse gear out.

“It kind of let all the wind out of my sails, so I just got out and walked to my transporter.”

MORE: Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s greatest Bristol wins

For more, watch the video above.

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s greatest Bristol wins

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Bristol Motor Speedway has been on the NASCAR schedule since 1961 and for the first 18 years, no one managed to record their first NASCAR Cup win there. Until Dale Earnhardt Sr. came along.

On April 1, Earnhardt started ninth and drove through the field to take the lead for the first time on lap 139. He would lead the pack twice more, including the final 27 laps en route to victory.

Before his career was over, Earnhardt would win nine times on this bullring and forever etch his name in the track’s history.

“Bristol is a driver’s track,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America. “If I had to pick where dad would win his first race, it would be a short track.”

“I was there,” Kyle Petty said. “And I remember this, because this was a big moment. … I had started racing when Ricky Rudd came along, when your dad came along, when these younger drivers came along … This was a new breed of driver.”

Earnhardt’s ninth and final win came in 1999 and it’s one that will forever be part of Bristol’s highlight reel.

Terry Labonte took the lead from Earnhardt on the white flag lap, but was not able to get away from the No. 3. Coming off Turn 2, Earnhardt bumped Labonte and spun him out, saying later that he didn’t intend to wreck him, but only “rattle his cage.”

“That was a weird deal, because dad never got booed,” Earnhardt said. “But that night, he got booed. He got out of the car and the fans were really split down the middle. They were either cheering or booing. There was nobody sitting there silent. … And I could tell, in his eyes, that it made him a little uncomfortable. He wasn’t quite comfortable with being booed and what he did to Terry.”

Labonte joins Earnhardt on the Dale Jr. Download today on NBCSN at 5:30 p.m. ET to discuss the 1999 race.

Rusty Wallace (1986), Ernie Irvan (1990), Elliott Sadler (2001) and Kurt Busch (2002) would join Earnhardt in getting their first Cup win at Bristol.

For more, watch the video above.

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Dale Jr. Download: Old friend surprises Dale with his father’s Rookie of the Year shirt

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On July 11, Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted a picture of a vintage shirt celebrating his father’s Rookie of the Year campaign in the Cup Series in 1979.

Earnhardt already owns two copies of the shirt, but they don’t fit. He said in the tweet he searches daily for an XL sized version of the shirt on eBay.

Earlier this week on the “Dale Jr. Download,” an old family friend and fan named Connie Goodman surprised Earnhardt with multiple old racing shirts, including the rare Rookie of the Year shirt.

The shirt was still in the packaging it had been wrapped in almost 40 years ago.

“We followed your dad’s career and once he got the Rookie (of the Year award), we bought the souvenirs,” Goodman said. “I thought, I’m going to buy one, that we wore … and I thought, ‘I’m going to keep one, because he’s going to be very famous one day.’ Just knew it.”