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Dale Earnhardt Jr. to compete in Xfinity race at Darlington Raceway

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be back behind the wheel at one of NASCAR’s most iconic racetracks.

Although he retired from NASCAR Cup competition full time after 2017, the NASCAR on NBC analyst announced Friday on Twitter that he will compete in the Aug. 31 Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

MORE: NASCAR releases 2019 Xfinity, Gandere Outdoors Trucks race time schedules

In response to a fan’s question on Twitter about where he may race again, Earnhardt revealed his plans:

The Darlington Xfinity race will be televised by NBC.

It will be the second Xfinity race Earnhardt has driven since retiring from Cup. He raced at Richmond Raceway last season, qualifying second and finishing fourth in the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

“(I’m) running it because of the throwback campaign they started there,” Earnhardt told NBC Sports of his Darlington Xfinity race plans. “I want to be part of it. I think it’s important.”

Earnhardt also said he has a “cool throwback” planned for that race, but those details will come later.

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South Carolina governor gives NASCAR, Darlington shout out in inauguration speech

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South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster is admittedly a big NASCAR fan. He’s attended numerous races at one of the sport’s oldest and most revered racetracks, Darlington Raceway, a major draw in The Palmetto State, pulling in an estimated $50-plus million in tourist dollars each year.

So it’s not surprising that the Republican state leader took time during his inauguration speech Wednesday to pay tribute to NASCAR (click here to see the video excerpt, courtesy WLTX TV), saying, “NASCAR racing in Darlington, if you haven’t been, you ought to go.”

While he stopped short of telling constituents how they can buy tickets for the Sept. 2 Bojangles Southern 500 throwback weekend (this year’s race will feature the 1990-1994 era), he fondly singled out the 2003 race that featured the closest finish in NASCAR history between race winner Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch.

“It is excellence in engineering, perfection, high speed, raw courage, brute force,” McMaster said. “It is something to see. In 2003, after 400 miles with average speeds topping 125 miles per hour, including yellow flags and pit stops, Ricky Craven in a No. 32 Pontiac beat Kurt Busch in a No. 97 Ford by two one-thousandths of a second.

“In distance, that would be the thickness of the paint on the front bumper. If one of Mr. Craven’s tires had been even a little bit flat, he would have lost, he would have lost the race, he would have lost the competition.”

McMaster also used the sport as an example when it came to promoting education in the state.

“Similarly, our state will never excel and succeed to its fullest potential if parts of our state are ‘flat’ – or not performing (education-wise),” he said. “If we are bold and we prepare for the race in front of us, South Carolina will beat the competition every time.”

McMaster was elected in November. He previously had served as South Carolina’s lieutenant governor and then ascended to governor in 2016 when then-governor Nikki Haley resigned to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for President Donald Trump.

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Darlington Raceway to celebrate 1990-94 during Southern 500 weekend

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The 70th running of the Southern 500 in 2019 will mark the fifth “Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR” at Darlington Raceway and will celebrate the sport’s history from 1990-94.

The weekend will be held Aug. 30-Sept. 1 with Darlington hosting the Southern 500 and the Xfinity Series’ Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200.

Darlington will honor moments and icons of the 1990-94 era of, including the conclusion of 2010 NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty’s career and the beginning of 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Gordon’s career.

The track will also pay tribute to David Pearson, the 105-time Cup winner who died in November at 83. 

A native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, Pearson holds the record for most Cup wins at Darlington with 10.

The track will have a commemorative ticket design honoring Pearson.

“Even though we are highlighting the 1990-94 era, we felt it was important to pay tribute to David Pearson on our tickets because he truly was an icon in South Carolina who left a tremendous impact on Darlington and on NASCAR,” said Darlington president Kerry Tharp in a press release.

Darlington has started the ticket renewal process with fans receiving an e-mail communication to renew their tickets and campsites early.

Renewal benefits include:

  • The track’s best value of the season for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 and Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200
  • Convenient four-part payment plan
  • One free admission to the Darlington Raceway Museum ($7.50 value)
  • One free Lionel RCCA (Racing Collectables Club of America) Membership ($19.95 value)
  • Complete set of 2018 commemorative “7 Decades of NASCAR” tickets
  • All renewal accounts are entered into a random drawing for a chance to attend the fifth annual Bojangles’ Legends Breakfast on Sunday, September 1, 2019
  • Special renewal pricing for Darlington Stripe Zone Hospitality ($30 savings)
  • Special renewal pricing for all-inclusive driver intros, pre-race concert and pre-race pit road access ($15 savings)
  • Special renewal pricing for an exclusive VIP “Untamed Access” Bojangles’ Southern 500® race day experience
  • Fans can create custom “Weekend Ticket Packages” (Practice, NXS & MENCS) that can save up to $60 per person
  • Guests may renew their tickets and campsites by calling 866-459-RACE (7223) or visiting www.DarlingtonRaceway.com/renewals. The renewal deadline is Friday, February 8, 2019

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NASCAR Cup Series race start times announced for 2019

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NASCAR has announced its race start times for the 2019 Cup Series season, with a notable change in start time for the playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After a start time of 3 p.m. ET this year, next season’s race will begin at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on NBCSN.

“Moving the start time for the September race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is fitting because it will deliver a better experience for our fans attending the race, and kick off the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in primetime,” said Steve Herbst, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Broadcasting and Production in a press release. “Each race weekend, including Las Vegas, is unique, and we work collaboratively with broadcast partners, teams and tracks to ensure the ideal timing is selected for our events.”

Other notable start times:

  • The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 17 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
  • The March 31 race at Texas Motor Speedway will start one hour later, moving from a 2 p.m. ET start to 3 p.m. ET. The race also moves to FOX.
  • The start time for New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s July 22 starts one hour later, moving from 2 p.m. ET to 3 p.m. ET.
  • Martinsville Speedway’s Oct. 28 playoff shifts a half-hour later to a 3 p.m. ET start.

Here’s the full schedule with start times and TV and radio networks:

DATE

RACE

NETWORK

RACE START (ET)

RADIO

Sun, Feb 10, 2019

Daytona 500 Qualifying

FOX

12:00 PM

MRN

Sun, Feb 10, 2019

The Clash

FS1

3:00 PM

MRN

Thu, Feb 14, 2019

Duel at Daytona

FS1

7:00 PM

MRN

Sun, Feb 17, 2019

Daytona 500

FOX

2:30 PM

MRN

Sun, Feb 24, 2019

Atlanta

FOX

2:00 PM

PRN

Sun, Mar 03, 2019

Las Vegas

FOX

3:30 PM

PRN

Sun, Mar 10, 2019

ISM Raceway

FOX

3:30 PM

MRN

Sun, Mar 17, 2019

Auto Club Speedway

FOX

3:30 PM

MRN

Sun, Mar 24, 2019

Martinsville

FS1

2:00 PM

MRN

Sun, Mar 31, 2019

Texas

FOX

3:00 PM

PRN

Sun, Apr 07, 2019

Bristol

FS1

2:00 PM

PRN

Sat, Apr 13, 2019

Richmond

FOX

7:30 PM

MRN

Sun, Apr 28, 2019

Talladega

FOX

2:00 PM

MRN

Sun, May 05, 2019

Dover

FS1

2:00 PM

MRN

Sat, May 11, 2019

Kansas

FS1

7:30 PM

MRN

Sat, May 18, 2019

All-Star Open

FS1

6:00 PM

MRN

Sat, May 18, 2019

All-Star Race

FS1

8:00 PM

MRN

Sun, May 26, 2019

Charlotte

FOX

6:00 PM

PRN

Sun, Jun 02, 2019

Pocono

FS1

2:00 PM

MRN

Sun, Jun 09, 2019

Michigan

FS1

2:00 PM

MRN

Sun, Jun 23, 2019

Sonoma

FS1

3:00 PM

PRN

Sun, Jun 30, 2019

Chicagoland

NBCSN

3:00 PM

MRN

Sat, Jul 06, 2019

Daytona

NBC

7:30 PM

MRN

Sat, Jul 13, 2019

Kentucky

NBCSN

7:30 PM

PRN

Sun, Jul 21, 2019

New Hampshire

NBCSN

3:00 PM

PRN

Sun, Jul 28, 2019

Pocono

NBCSN

3:00 PM

MRN

Sun, Aug 04, 2019

Watkins Glen

NBCSN

3:00 PM

MRN

Sun, Aug 11, 2019

Michigan

NBCSN

3:00 PM

MRN

Sat, Aug 17, 2019

Bristol

NBCSN

7:30 PM

PRN

Sun, Sep 01, 2019

Darlington

NBCSN

6:00 PM

MRN

Sun, Sep 08, 2019

Indianapolis

NBC

2:00 PM

IMS

Sun, Sep 15, 2019

Las Vegas

NBCSN

7:00 PM

PRN

Sat, Sep 21, 2019

Richmond

NBCSN

7:30 PM

MRN

Sun, Sep 29, 2019

Charlotte

NBC

2:30 PM

PRN

Sun, Oct 06, 2019

Dover

NBCSN

2:30 PM

MRN

Sun, Oct 13, 2019

Talladega

NBC

2:00 PM

MRN

Sun, Oct 20, 2019

Kansas

NBC

2:30 PM

MRN

Sun, Oct 27, 2019

Martinsville

NBCSN

3:00 PM

MRN

Sun, Nov 03, 2019

Texas

NBCSN

3:00 PM

PRN

Sun, Nov 10, 2019

ISM Raceway

NBC

2:30 PM

MRN

Sun, Nov 17, 2019

Homestead-Miami

NBC

3:00 PM

MRN

 and on Facebook

NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson dies at 83

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David Pearson, described by Richard Petty as the “greatest race car driver that I raced against,” died Monday. He was 83.

The Wood Brothers confirmed Pearson’s death, tweeting: “Unbelievably sad day today after hearing of the passing of (one of) THE ABSOLUTE GREATEST #nascar drivers. We wouldn’t be here today without him and we’re thinking of the entire David Pearson family tonight.”

The news led to numerous tributes from those in the industry, including current drivers.

MORE: Racing community reacts to David Pearson passing

Pearson, who drove for the Wood Brothers from 1972-79, was a three-time Cup champion who won 105 Cup races, which was second only to Petty’s 200. Pearson, who won 18.29 percent of his races, was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011.

Leonard Wood of the Wood Brothers introduced Pearson at the 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame ceremony by saying: “It is my great pleasure to introduce to you the greatest driver in the history of NASCAR, Mr. David Pearson.

Pearson, known as the Silver Fox, won 27 races and had 30-runner-up finishes in the 1968-69 seasons.

“I grew up with Bobby and Donnie (Allison) and all those guys but when it came to Steve McQueen cool that was Pearson, he was the coolest of them,” NBC Sports analyst Kyle Petty said of Pearson. “The way he walked, the way he carried himself. Forget what he did on the race track, he was just cool. That’s the word beside him in the dictionary.”

Pearson rarely ran a full season in NASCAR’s premier series but when he did was tough to beat.

“When you talk about the number of races people win, he didn’t run nearly as many races as most of the others, his winning percentage was unbelievable,” NBC Sports analyst Dale Jarrett said. “I know he gets credit, but you talk to people who raced in his era and watched, they considered him if not the best one of the top two or three that ever did this.”

That’s what Kyle Petty remembers about Pearson.

Petty said during a stop on the Kyle Petty Charity Ride in Lake Charles, La., years ago, Pearson was on the ride with them.

“My dad just told a story about Harry (Gant) and my next question is who is the best driver you ever raced against,” Kyle Petty said. “My dad said I would have to say my dad, I would have to say Lee Petty but I’m going to have to say David Pearson. David Pearson is probably the greatest race car driver that I raced against and I admired what he did.

“And so I said, David, what’s your answer. (He said) I’d just about have to agree with Richard.”

During his 2011 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony speech, Pearson thanked Richard Petty. “I want to thank Richard Petty, too. He’s probably the one that made me win as many as I did. I’d run hard because he’d make me run hard. … I’ve had more fun running with him than anybody I’ve ever run with.”

Richard Petty and Pearson engaged in one of the sport’s greatest finishes in the 1976 Daytona 500 when they crashed coming to the checkered flag. Pearson prevailed for his only Daytona 500 triumph.

Richard Petty issued a statement Monday night:

“I have always been asked who my toughest competitor in my career was. The answer has always been David Pearson. David and I raced together throughout our careers and battled each other for wins – most of the time finishing first or second to each other.

“It wasn’t a rivalry, but more mutual respect. David is a Hall of Fame driver who made me better. He pushed me just as much as I pushed him on the track. We both became better for it.

“We have always been close to the Pearson family because they were in the racing business, just like us. We stayed close, and I enjoyed visits to see David when going through South Carolina. We will miss those trips.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Pearson family and friends.”

Darlington Raceway also issued a statement Monday night. The track was the site of many special moments for Pearson. He won there a track-record 10 times.

“Darlington Raceway expresses its deepest condolences and sympathies to the family and friends of David Pearson. His record 10 wins at Darlington Raceway put him in a league of his own. His fierce competitiveness and passion for the sport endeared him to the NASCAR faithful. His Hall of Fame career will go down as one of the most prolific in the history of the sport. A native South Carolinian, he was a wonderful ambassador for our sport and for the Palmetto State. He will be missed and will always be remembered.”

Jim France, interim NASCAR Chairman and CEO, issued a statement on Pearson’s passing:

“David Pearson’s 105 NASCAR premier series victories and his classic rivalry in the 1960s and ’70s with Richard Petty helped set the stage for NASCAR’s transformation into a mainstream sport with national appeal. When he retired, he had three championships – and millions of fans. Petty called him the greatest driver he ever raced against. We were lucky to be able to call him one of our champions.

“The man they called the ‘Silver Fox’ was the gold standard for NASCAR excellence.

“On behalf of the France Family and everyone at NASCAR, I want to offer sincere condolences to the family and friends of David Pearson, a true giant of our sport.”