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.

Dale Jr. Download: Alex Bowman reveals how he learned of Nationwide’s contract extension

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There were some tense moments for Alex Bowman before he learned his primary sponsor, Nationwide Insurance, had agreed to a two-year extension with Hendrick Motorsports.

That news was announced last week in conjunction with Bowman’s one-year extension.

But for a few minutes, Bowman feared Nationwide might actually be leaving the team.

Bowman shared the story on this week’s Dale Jr. Download.

“I was in the shop with the guys for all our Tuesday meetings,” Bowman said. “I got a text from (PR rep) Kelsey (Tucker), that said, ‘Hey, can you come upstairs (for a meeting)?'” Bowman said. “I said, ‘What’s it about?’ She said, ‘Well, did you hear about Nationwide?’

“I was like, ‘Oh no. What did I do wrong?'”

Bowman called it the “most ominous text message ever.”

“My heart is pounding, right?” Bowman said. “I’m like, ‘Hopefully that’s good news and not bad news.'”

Tucker responded, “Yeah, they signed back up for two years.”

“I was like, ‘Thank you, baby Jesus,'” Bowman said. “That was a pretty frantic two-and-a-half minutes waiting for her to text me back.”

Watch the above video for more.

Dale Jr. Download: Mischief at the track with Brad Means

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Life was different for the children of drivers when Dale Earnhardt Jr. was young. Early on, he forged a friendship with Brad Means – son of Jimmy Means, who competed at NASCAR’s top level from 1976 through 1993 – and the two were inseparable at the track.

On this week’s edition of the Dale Jr. Download on NBCSN, Earnhardt recalled some of the special times shared with his friend.

Earnhardt and Means would sneak into the media center and procure promotional material to add to their collection of race memorabilia. They’d wander into one another’s haulers and generally have the experience of their as-yet brief lives.

“At Talladega, we’d go and wander over to the dirt track at night, watch dirt track races,” Earnhardt recalled. “I don’t know what our dads were doing or where they were.”

In an age before cell phones, trusting the kids to stay out of trouble defined a different era  and it paid to have a buddy.

So long as Earnhardt and Means stayed out of trouble, their fathers allowed them to roam freely. As with most adolescents, however, trouble was occasionally unavoidable.

Earnhardt recalled an incident at Michigan International Speedway on top of the hauler of a rival team. Means was standing by his side.

“We climb up on top of the hauler of the 10 Purolator car and I knocked a frickin’ laptop off the top of the trailer,” Earnhardt recalled – breaking it in the process. “Knowing what I know now, I feel even worse about it. Because then, you could tell the disappointment on their face, but they didn’t say, ‘get the F out of here … you’re in the way’ or anything like that.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. misses driving in the Cup series


Last week during a sponsor appearance, a fan told Dale Earnhardt Jr. that he appeared to be happier now than at any time in his life. Junior agreed and told why on this week’s Dale Jr. Download.

“As a driver, you can never lose that edge,’ Earnhardt said. “You can’t ever get rid of that chip on your shoulder – whatever that chip’s there for.”

Whether that sharp edge is there because of a bad finish the week before, a run-in with another competitor, or the burning desire to be the best, it keeps a driver from being totally relaxed.

“That (chip) was always like 50 percent – it affected your personality so much,” Earnhardt continued. “And it went everywhere you went.”

Retiring from racing removed that chip.

“Once you finally retire or whatever it is that gets you free of that, you finally get out from under it,” Earnhardt said. “I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just the way life is if you’re going to race cars. You got to mentally be in there 100 percent.”

But retiring does not take the desire to race away.

It’s taken more than half of the season, but Earnhardt now says that he misses being behind the wheel.

“I miss driving,” Earnhardt said. “I didn’t really feel that way at the start of the season … I was happy to be out of the car. But the longer the season goes … seeing the guys racing and having fun. I know they’re having fun even though they’re like ‘rahrr’ and just gouging and grinding for every little piece of grip and asphalt they can get. I know they’re enjoying it deep down inside, they’re getting what they want out of it. So there’s moments in the race when I think I miss that right there.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

Dale Jr. Download: New Hampshire was marked by good, aggressive driving

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The Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire International Speedway went to one of the Big 3 for the 15th time this season. Kevin Harvick came on strong at the end of the race, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. reminds the fans that was not clear from the beginning of the race in Thursday’s Dale Jr. Download.

“We had battles all day long,” Earnhardt said. “Didn’t have a clear, dominant car.

“Got to see some aggressive driving at the end. … Any Chance we can get some guys out there swapping a little paint, without really putting each other in the fence.”

Earnhardt showcased the battle between Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. at the end of the Stage 1 along with others who gave the Big 3 a strong challenge in the middle stages of the Foxwoods 301.

Ultimately, it was the battle at the end between Harvick and Kyle Busch and their contact that took center stage. He thinks NASCAR needs more of that.

“We got to see guys pushing a shoving a little bit,” Earnhardt continued. “That is definitely what the sport needs. It’s always been a part of the sport. It’s always been exciting to the fans when guys get in there and put a couple of donuts on the car.”

And all of that happened because NASCAR managed to get the track dry on Sunday.

“We saw a hell of a race,” Earnhardt said. “And who knows? If we’d got rain delayed – you go to a Monday – everybody’s attitudes and feeling about the race? The energy’s not there. I don’t know if we see the same kind of event. Monday races have a little bit of a dull feeling about them.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.