Dale Jr. Download: Talladega’s wild weekends

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A mostly uneventful race at Talladega last week turned wild in Turn 1 of the white-flag lap. A multi-car crash might have ended the race if not for the fact that NASCAR judged all the drivers in the accident were safe. Some drivers – notably Kurt Busch, who ran out of gas in Turn 4 of that same lap – were not happy.

But NASCAR was in a no-win situation.

“If NASCAR throws the yellow, they’re going to get criticized for not letting it play out; if NASCAR doesn’t throw they yellow, they’re going to get criticized for not throwing the yellow,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on this week’s edition of the Dale Jr. Download.

Earnhardt then recalled some other controversial calls when NASCAR threw the caution to this disapproval of the fans.

In April 2004, Jeff Gordon beat Earnhardt when the field was frozen due to a yellow flag. Afterward, irate fans hurled cans of beer at Gordon’s car.

“Jeff had just gotten up toward the front,” Earnhardt said. “And we’d been doing well all day long – and this would have been five in a row. So down the back straightaway going into [Turn] 3, Jeff side-drafted me and got ahead and I was side drafting him back and was starting to go back by him. And that motion as I’m starting to go back by him … another couple of hundred yards and I’d be back out front. And the 25 car [Brian Vickers] spun in the middle of the corner. NASCAR’s precedent at the time was the field was froze as soon as the car started to spin.”

Earnhardt was frustrated that Gordon, who had led significantly fewer laps in the race, was going to win.

We’re riding around and those beer cans are flying across the racetrack,” Earnhardt continued. “I got up against the wall behind the fence so I’m not getting many beer cans. Jeff goes further and further down toward the apron. … They were like throwing full beer cans. Now you know you’ve got some pissed off Alabama fans when they’re willing to throw a full can of beer.”

For more, watch the video above.

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Dale Jr. Download: Pranks in the NASCAR garage have a long history

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Martin Truex Jr.‘s crew chief, Cole Pearn, told Jimmie Johnson that one way to make up for the accident on the last lap at the Charlotte Roval was to buy the No. 78 crew road bikes. When a crew member saw Johnson returning to Dover on Friday, he jokingly inquired if Johnson was on one of the bikes that the No. 78 would receive.

That got Johnson and his team thinking.

Johnson had his motorhome driver go to Walmart and buy bikes for the No. 78 team – but not the ones they might have expected. He filled the lift gate on the back of Truex’s hauler with kids’ bikes.

That led Dale Earnhardt Jr. to send out a request for memories of special pranks throughout the history of NASCAR, which he shared on this week’s edition of the Dale Jr. Download.

Richard Petty’s legendary crew chief and cousin Dale Inman factored heavily in the memories.

“Chocolate Myers from (Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s) team bungie-corded a port-a-john closed at North Wilkesboro with Dale Inman in it,” Earnhardt said. “Chocolate had to hide from Inman for about a month. And Dale Inman was genuinely upset – like wanted to cause physical harm.”

On another occasion, car owner and Hollywood producer Hal Needham got into the act.

“Hal Needham got a Shakespearian actor-friend to walk around the Charlotte garage dressed as a voodoo doctor placing curses on cars,” Earnhardt said. “Dad thought it was a trip, Dale Inman freaked the hell out. Dale Inman went to NASCAR to have the guy ejected out of the garage.”

For more, watch the video above.

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Dale Jr. Download: Marcus Smith gambled his legacy and won with Roval

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Charlotte Motor Speedway President Marcus Smith gambled his legacy on the creation of a Roval. By most people’s estimation, he won.

“To define this as an act of desperation sort of takes away credit of the (vision) Marcus brought because I don’t know if there are a lot of track owners that would be so dang bold to even make this,” Mike Davis, co-host of the Dale Jr. Download said on Wednesday’s edition of the show. “This is a bold move. This is almost something that you strap your legacy to. … This is going to define you, make you or break you.”

Last week’s Bank of America Roval 400 rejuvenated a race that had grown stale in terms of attendance. More importantly, it provided a platform for some battles that would not be seen on a traditional road course, much less a standard oval.

“When we were watching I think one of the best races of day with the 2 car Keselowski and Kyle Larson – they had a great battle that was just the essence of racing,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “The way they were both driving was completely opposite. One guy would take a high line into the corner to drive off the bottom of the exit. They were just trying two different lines really almost around the whole race track.”

The track was great, but not perfect in Earnhardt’s estimation.

“I’m sure the drivers are texting and talking with Marcus and his team about how to improve that backstraightway chicane.” Earnhardt said. “It’s not a chicane. It’s a bend. It’s 140 miles per hour. … What we need to achieve, basically is the same thing we have on the backstraightaway at Watkins Glen where we have the bus stop. They slow down, brake hard and turn into that corner. Well, that’s a passing zone.”

For more, watch the video above.

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Dale Jr. Download: Dale talks return to racing at Richmond

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make a brief return to NASCAR racing Friday night in the Xfinity Series race at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

On this week’s “Dale Jr. Download,” Earnhardt discussed how he secured the services of his former Cup spotter, T.J. Majors, who is now the spotter for Joey Logano.

Earnhardt went straight to the Captain.

“I emailed Roger Penske myself,” Earnhardt revealed. “Directly to Roger. He goes, ‘Oh yeah, no problem.’ Cause T.J. said, ‘You’re probably going to have to go all the way to the top for this one, for me to be able to come spot for you.’ They don’t want him going to another team and spotting.”

Watch the above video for more.

Dale Jr. Download: Competition deep in the field is as intense as the front

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In today’s NASCAR, the level of competition is just as tight deep in the pack as it is at the front, according to Kasey Kahne. He should know, because his move from Hendrick Motorsports to Leavine Family Racing has forced him to race with a different group of drivers.

“There are so many cars that are competitive and fast,” Kahne said on this week’s edition of the Dale Jr. Download.

“I race the same group pretty much every weekend and it’s basically 18 to 26, but it’s always those same cars. And it’s just as tough there with what we have going on (there) … as it is from 10th to 17th and then from first to 10th.”

The closeness of competition is most noticeable in qualification. Previously, a slight bobble on the short track could mean the difference of several positions, but that is now noticeable on every track.

“Today, you’re seeing it non-stop and it’s been that way for the last couple of years … last three years, for sure,” Kahne said. “It just always gets tougher, and tougher, and tougher.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has noticed an increase in the competition level since moving into the broadcast booth. At Watkins Glen, he covered the race from the bus stop chicane on the backstretch.

“I could not believe how hard y’all are driving,” Earnhardt said. “I’ve been doing this all my life. … Watching it over and over and over, race after race after race it is so damn impressive to see how hard everybody is going.”

For more, watch the video above.

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