Dale Jr. Download: Clint Bowyer and the problems with partying

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Any open-ended conversation with Clint Bowyer will get derailed early and often.

That’s the case this week as the Stewart-Haas Racing driver dropped by for a visit to the “Dale Jr. Download” (airs today at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

For 87 minutes Bowyer holds court with Earnhardt as they share off-the-track stories, including from their partying days.

Bowyer tells a story about one particular party at Earnhardt’s house, which ended with Bowyer waking up in a theater the next morning and unable to leave the house.

“I run out of people to talk to and (Earnhardt) disappeared. You can’t disappear at most people’s houses,” Bowyer said. “When I say disappear, I mean this man is just gone. And I am stuck in this basement, looking around. I don’t have a ride, I rode over there with (Kasey) Kahne. Kahne has disappeared. This house is like Neverland. … This is not like a normal establishment. This is not like being at our house, right? This is being trapped and when I mean trapped, the doors no longer open.”

Bowyer also wasn’t helped by the fact his phone was dead.

“I’m out knocking on the upstairs door, that’s not normal,” Bowyer said. “People don’t have a door to block off the house. It’s like Fort Knox locked me in. So I’m in jail. There’s these big, massive windows in the back that’s really, really cool that open up onto this beautiful pool that you can’t get into because you’re locked in his house.

“Finally, thank God, for the love of God, a landscaper comes walking by and I’m beating on the door, like ‘Hey! Hey!’ on the window. He’s looking at me, ‘What?’ He comes over and opens the door and I’ve been released like I escaped jail.”

Other stories topics Bowyer discusses:

  • Putting Jeff Gordon in a headlock at a yacht party.
  • The generation gap between him and younger drivers when it comes to partying and hanging out.
  • How miserable his 2016 season was before he joined Stewart-Haas Racing
  • Why he owns a dirt late model team
  • The trial and tribulations of coaching his son’s t-ball team, the “Dirt Bags.”

Dale Jr. Download: Richard Childress’ fighting advice: ‘Always take off your watch’

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Richard Childress learned a valuable lesson in the 1970s when it came to getting into a brawl. Take off your watch.

“We used to go out to the bars and have a good time and everything,” Childress recalled on this week’s Dale Jr. Download (airs today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN). “We were up at an old bar at Daytona one night and a big fight broke out. I happened to be in it. I had a Rolex. First Rolex I ever had in my life. I lost it in that fight. Ever since that you always take your watch off.”

That creed is now synonymous with Childress thanks to a 2011 altercation with Kyle Busch.

But the buildup to that confrontation began the previous year in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“We were running for the (Cup) championship,” Childress said. “The 18 (Busch) was kind of holding Kevin (Harvick) up. Kevin wrecked him coming off of (Turn) 4.

“That night, hell, I was good friends with Kyle. We were eating at a place and him and I think his girlfriend at the time, this was before he got married, and a guy from Toyota was there. (Toyota) had won the (Truck) championship.”

Childress went over to congratulate them on the Truck championship.

“You know I’m going to wreck your car?” Busch said, according to Childress.

“What do you mean?” Childress asked.

“Kevin wrecked me today. I’m going to wreck your car,” Busch repeated.

“What you need to do is wreck his Xfinity car, don’t wreck my car,” Childress said.

Kevin Harvick wrecks in the 2011 Southern 500. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

“Nope, I got to do it in Cup,” Busch said, according to Childress.

That didn’t sit well with Childress.

“If you wreck my car I’m going to whip your ass,” he told Busch.

Six months later, Busch and Harvick were in a wreck in the closing laps at Darlington. The fallout spilled onto pit road, where Harvick reached into Busch’s car and Busch sped away, pushing Harvick’s car into the pit wall.

“So they carried us over in the (NASCAR) trailer,” Childress said. “Got on to all four of us. I think Joe (Gibbs) was in there. Kyle and me and Kevin. I just told them what I was going to do and I kept my word.”

Three race weekends later, Busch was upset by how RCR driver Joey Coulter raced him in the closing laps of the Truck Series event at Kansas Speedway. That led to Busch rubbing fenders with him on the cool down lap.

Afterward, a watchless Childress confronted Busch in the garage and put him in a headlock

During Childress’ visit to the Dale Jr. Download, he also recalled a feud from Dale Earnhardt’s heyday.

Childress doesn’t remember how the late 1980s rivalry between Earnhardt and Geoff Bodine started, but he’s sure of one thing.

“It was one of those deals where whatever he gave that guy, Bodine, he deserved,” Childress said. “It was one of them deals we didn’t want to be run over and they started it. In my opinion, he started it. Once it started, we wasn’t going to be the ones to give up. Mr. France helped us give up.”

“Mr. France” was Bill France, Jr., the president of NASCAR at the time who played a hand in diffusing the rivalry that inspired Cole Trickle and Rowdy Burns’ feud in the 1990 film, Days of Thunder.

“A lot of the story part was true,” Childress recalled. “But it didn’t all go down like that. I remember Bill France bringing us in there and telling us, ‘I want to see you guys running and if you have to run on each side of the race track, you’re not going to get together again.’ He said, ‘You’re not going to destroy our sport.'”

There is one detail about the film, which Childress has only seen once, that he took issue with.

“They had some fat guy doing me as the owner (actor Randy Quaid) and I didn’t like that,” Childress said.

Long: How rules package, hard tire played key role in Denny Hamlin’s win

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Any other year, Denny Hamlin likely doesn’t win. But a new rules package, combined with key strategy calls and a tire that didn’t fall off much, allowed Hamlin to rally from two pit road penalties to win Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

No driver had come back from two pit road penalties in the same race to win since Brad Keselowski did it in October 2014 at Talladega. But that was restrictor-plate racing, and Keselowski’s penalties came during the same caution period a third of the way through that race.

Hamlin faced a much different situation at Texas.

The first half of Hamlin’s race was a mess. He missed pit road on Lap 63 and was speeding on pit road when he made it there on Lap 64.

“I was just beating my head against the steering wheel thinking, ‘Man, we’re going to finish bad with a really fast car,’“ Hamlin said.

An uncontrolled tire on Lap 173 of the 334-lap race sent Hamlin to the back.

“It was a very rough day,” crew chief Chris Gabehart said.

Just as Gabehart’s pit calls helped Hamlin win the Daytona 500, Gabehart again guided his driver to victory Sunday.

Gabehart could do so because of the rules and the tire.

The new rules package is intended to keep the field closer together. That creates more opportunities to pass. Previously, the fields at Texas Motor Speedway would spread out, making it harder to gain ground a few laps after a restart.

Denny Hamlin pits for fuel in the final laps at Texas Motor Speedway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Gabehart said that this was not a track position race because how cars could move through the field. Just as important was that the tires did not have a significant drop off in time during the course of a run. Had these been tires that wore, Gabehart would not have been able to call for no-tire stops. He would have had to change four tires each stop and Hamlin would not have been able to leapfrog some cars through strategy.

A no-tire stop put Hamlin in the lead on Lap 156, and he won the second stage, which ended at Lap 170. Hamlin came down pit road during that caution for four tires. He was penalized for the uncontrolled tire during that stop, dropping him outside the top 15.

Gabehart called for a no-tire stop a second time during caution on Lap 256. Hamlin restarted sixth behind three cars that did not pit and two others that also did not take tires. 

“For our scenario each time, it just made the most sense,” Gabehart said of the no-tire calls.

Hamlin took the lead on Lap 303 from teammate Erik Jones when Jones pitted for two tires and fuel. Hamlin relinquished the lead on Lap 319 for enough fuel to make it to the end. When the field cycled through, Hamlin was back in front because of how little time he had spent on pit road.

“This is a complete different style of racing than what I used to do in the past,” Hamlin said. “I have to adapt. Seems like I’m adapting quickly.”

As is Gabehart.


Rarely do you hear NASCAR officials so candid and raw as Steve O’Donnell was Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The topic was group qualifying and the issues that have pervaded the sport the past month.

Cars parked on pit road during qualifying at Texas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Asked if he was angered by the controversy, O’Donnell said: “I think it’s ridiculous, candidly. I know the drivers did not like this qualifying before the season. Part of you says, ‘Are (they) doing this on purpose to get rid of it?’ “

O’Donnell’s comments were part of an offensive that series officials have gone on since Auto Club Speedway last month when all 12 cars failed to complete a lap before time expired in the final round.

Driver complaints about the qualifying have been constant since.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps appeared on “The Dale Jr. Download” (5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET Tuesday on NBCSN) and was vocal about what has happened in qualifying.

“That was unacceptable if I was a race fan and unacceptable if I was at the race track,” Phelps said of this past weekend.

Scott Miller, senior vice president of competition, expressed his displeasure with what happened March 15 at Auto Club Speedway, saying the actions of drivers made “a mockery” of qualifying. Miller also said of the drivers not completing a lap in time: “It surprised me that they weren’t smart enough to go out.”

Last weekend at Texas, Jay Fabian, Cup series director, also raised questions about the drivers’ actions, saying: “Some of it is a little confusing because they say they don’t want to go out first … but (Daniel Suarez) went out by himself and transferred twice by himself. They say you got to follow somebody, but they chose to not follow him. I don’t understand why they didn’t.”

Since Auto Club Speedway, various NASCAR officials have used the term “mockery,” “ridiculous,” and “unacceptable” in discussing qualifying, and O’Donnell even said it makes one wonder if the drivers are doing this on purpose to get rid of the format.

Strong words but the time will come for action. The draft won’t be a factor in qualifying until Kansas next month (Talladega already has single-car qualifying) so NASCAR has some time to address the matter. The question is how strong will NASCAR’s response be?


The driver who might have had the most reason to be upset with NASCAR moving the championship race from Miami to ISM Raceway in 2020 would be Kyle Larson, but he wasn’t.

Miami is one of Larson’s best tracks and had he qualified for the championship race, he likely would have been the favorite regardless of who the other contenders were.

“Even though Homestead has been a track where I can lead a bunch of laps and also challenge for the win, I’ve always felt like it needs to go somewhere else,” Larson said. “I would like to see it go … to a different track every year.


Kyle Busch has one more race left this season in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series. Busch, who has won his first four starts this season, is limited to five races in that series because of his Cup experience.

Busch’s remaining race is next month’s event at Charlotte. It will mark the earliest his Truck season has ended. Part of the reason he races in the Truck series is to help improve his equipment at Kyle Busch Motorsports for his other drivers. With being done so early in the season, how will that impact the organization’s performance the rest of the year?

Kyle Busch has won all four Truck races he’s entered this season. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“For us, we aren’t a Cup team and so we move a lot slower than the Cup teams do,” Busch said. “You all talked about how when everybody got done with the West Coast swing, the first time people would have updates to their cars would be Texas. I don’t think we would see an update to our stuff for two months. It just takes a bit longer to kind of get all that instilled into our stuff.

“If you look at me running the front side of the season and running as much as I do right now, we’ve been building some notes, and we’ve been building some things that we can work on and get better and do a little bit differently, so when we get to say July, August – that’s when you’ll start seeing some stuff coming out.

“That will be the brunt of the season, kind of closing in for the playoffs and then the playoff push. I’d like to run more or maybe I’d like to run a little bit later, but I just don’t know that the races fall, especially with me – like going to Iowa, I’ve never been to Iowa. Gateway, those places, I don’t need to go to those places, so it doesn’t make any sense for me to go to those places.”


Tyler Ankrum was excited after his sixth-place finish in Friday night’s Truck race. It was just the fourth career start in the series for the 18-year-old. That tied his career-high finish. He also placed sixth at ISM Raceway but Friday’s run was special because it was his first race on a 1.5-mile speedway.

“It’s kind of still surreal,” Ankrum said after the race. “I”m racing against (Matt) Crafton, Kyle Busch and (Johnny) Sauter. It’s crazy. I even passed Sauter on the outside! I don’t think you realize how important that is for me. I had a ton of fun and can’t wait to come back.”

He wasn’t the only driver who had a memorable weekend. Saturday’s Xfinity race saw Jeb Burton finish fifth in his first start of the season for JR Motorsports (Burton is back in the car next month in Charlotte).

As Burton talked about his finish to Performance Racing Network, he got emotional.

Other notable finishes from the weekend: William Byron‘s sixth-place finish matched his career-best result in Cup. Ryan Sieg won his first stage in the Xfinity Series on Saturday. Ronnie Bassett Jr. finished 15th in the Xfinity race, the second-career start for the 23-year-old.

Dale Jr. Download: Kirk Shelmerdine on Hall of Fame, Dale Sr.

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There’s been a lot of buzz around Kirk Shelmerdine in the last week, probably more than at any point in the 27 years since he unexpectedly walked away from being Dale Earnhardt’s crew chief.

The reason? Shelmerdine was dropped from the nominee list for the 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame class a year after he first appeared on it. It was a move that NBC Sport’s Nate Ryan wasn’t very fond of.

But Shelmerdine, who won four Cup titles with Earnhardt and 46 races before he turned 35, is taking it in stride.

On this week’s “Dale Jr. Download” (5 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Shelmerdine quoted Clint Eastwood’s character in the film Unforgiven to express his view.

“The way I look at it is, Clint Eastwood says, ‘Deserves got nothing to do with it,'” Shelmerdine said.

“The list of names, if you look in the record book for crew chief stuff, mostly, my name’s in there next to Smokey Yunick and Junior Johnson,” he continued. “All these people that were heroes to me or bigger than life people. Racing was this whole dimension that you never thought a kid from Philadelphia is going to even be involved in let alone do well. …

“The Hall of Fame sort of caps it off. It was really a great feeling being on that list last year. You look at the people who are there. ‘Holy smokes, how can I be not only on the list, but way up the list is some categories?’ That’s a super honor already. Whether someone officially recognizes it or not ever, that’s up to them. I already kind of know what I had to do to get there and how lucky I am to just be on that list. It’ll happy sooner or later.

“They’ll be running out of people before long.”

During his podcast appearance, Shelmerdrine shared stories of how he broke into the sport in the late 70s, teaming up with Richard Childress and Earnhardt and why he decided to step away from his crew chief role after the 1992 season.

Shelmerdine also told of the time Earnhardt served as his spotter in his first start in NASCAR’s Sportsman Division at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1989

“He sat up there in the condo (in Turn 1) on the radio, and I wish I had a way to record that. It was gold,” Shelmerdine said. “I’m seeing the inside of his mind for two hours the whole time. He’s talking and mumbling, ‘Stay in that gas, boy.’ ‘What’s his name, he’s sideways. So what you got to do when you get to him is this.'”

After years of experience, Earnhardt also predicted when his crew chief would start to get uncomfortable in the cockpit.

“About 20 laps into the race he goes, ‘How’s your (expletive) neck right now?'” Shelmerdine said. “It was exactly the lap before I noticed, ‘Holy (expletive), my neck hurts.’ He said it the damn lap I felt it.”

Listen to the full podcast below and watch the TV version today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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Dale Jr. Download: Jeff Gordon recalls 2004 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega

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“Oh, I remember that one.”

It would be hard for Jeff Gordon to forget the 2004 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

It was the race where Gordon celebrated a win under a torrential shower … of Budweiser.

“Well, I don’t remember a whole heck of a lot about the race itself, I do remember the finish,” Gordon recalled on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download.. “That was one of those days were I so glad we didn’t have to race back to the line. That they froze the field.”

Beer-filled cans and cups rained down on Gordon, thrown by angry Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans in the grandstands upset that NASCAR had declared Gordon the winner in a controversial finish.

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Minutes before, Earnhardt had crossed the finish line ahead of Gordon to a happy roar from the fans who thought he was in first.

Earnhardt had passed Gordon on the outside out of Turn 4 as they came to four laps to go in a nine-lap shootout to end the race.

But the shootout effectively ended when Brian Vickers wrecked in Turn 3, the caution came out and the field was frozen by NASCAR.

“I was sitting there going, ‘I think I was ahead, I think I was ahead!’” Gordon said. “When they told me I was, I was like ‘Yeeeees!’

“Then all of sudden I realized, ‘Uh oh, there’s going to be a lot of pissed off people in the grandstands.'”

MORE: The time Dale Jr. got Jeff Gordon out of a speeding ticket

MORE:  Rick Hendrick wants Jeff Gordon “in my place” when he steps away

Four laps later, Gordon took the checkered flag. The beer storm began during Gordon’s cool down lap.

“You (Earnhardt) always had an incredible following, but I look back at those days and where the sport was and the enthusiasm and the trendiness of NASCAR and how it was just blowing up and you were such a huge part of that,” Gordon said. “I played my role in it as well. But to have me and you kind of going head-to-head like that and for it to come down to a controversial finish, it was one of those times where I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to win this race or not.’ I also wanted to get out of here alive.”

What was going through Gordon’s mind as his car was peppered with beer-filled objects?

“This is the greatest day of my life,” Gordon said on the podcast.

The moment reminded Gordon of the early days of his Cup career, when he and Dale Earnhardt Sr. enjoyed their own rivalry in the mid-90s.

“You have to understand, in 1995, people were cheering me at the beginning of the year and booing me by the end of the year,” Gordon said. “Because at the beginning of the year I was just starting to win more races and it was, ‘Ok, who’s this new guy? He’s on the circuit and he’s off to a good start.’

“Then it was me and your dad, right? We’re going for some of those wins and we were both winning a lot of races. But we were winning more. Then we were ahead in points. So once we were ahead in points, it was ‘Uh uh.’ They may have cheered for me the year before or earlier that year. They weren’t cheering for me then.”

The 1995 season saw Gordon win seven races and his first of four Cup titles as Earnhardt Sr. won five times and finished second in the standings.

“I went through a lot of figuring out why fans booed me or cheered against me or whatever,” Gordon said. “At first I didn’t get it or understand, but then I was like, ‘Ok. Their guy is Dale Earnhardt. I’m the opposite of that in competition at the same time.’ So, I got it, I started getting it. Leading into this moment at Talladega, I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m going to win this battle with the fans because they want (Earnhardt Jr.) to win.’ But I was still damn happy that I won the race.

“So when they started throwing stuff at me … I started realizing the boos were like recognition of what I had accomplished. When they started throwing (expletive), I was like, ‘Yes, this is awesome.’ Not that I encourage people to throw things out on the track, but that is the essence of NASCAR in those days. You wish you had moments today, that they cared that much for what is happening.”

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