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.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

NASCAR America Scan All: ‘That’s right Rowdy Nation: all for you, baby’

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Mood shifts highlighted the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway

Kyle Busch was forced to start at the back of the pack after making an unapproved adjustment to the fenders of his Toyota that he flattened in qualifying.

Track position is critical to how the car behaves and the driver’s level of confidence.

“The separation of three and four is just absolutely horrendous. That’s where we’re going to get beat tonight,” Kyle Busch said during the opening segment.

“Haven’t even got a chance to adjust on it yet, buddy,” crew chief Adam Stevens replied. “Thought you’d be a little more positive than that.”

It took about three hours, but Busch finally found his positivity when he flashed under the checkers ahead of the field.

“Hell yeah, Richmond sweep boys. That’s the way you do it there,” Busch said.

He also had a few choice words for his fans: “Being able to start dead last. Come up through the field and win this thing. That’s right Rowdy Nation: all for you, baby.”

Here are some of this week’s highlights:

  • “We got a penalty. We got a stop-and-go here, gotta come to pit road.” – Erik Jones’s spotter
  • “For what?” – Jones asked
  • “I believe something was on the deck lid.” – Jones’ spotter replied
  • “Inexcusable; absolutely inexcusable.” – Jones
  • “It’s so loose. Literally plowing the center. The worst we’ve been since the beginning.” – Denny Hamlin
  • “Now boys, that’s what I’m talking about. Way to step up.” – Austin Dillon
  • “He did that [expletive] on purpose too. He did it on purpose. He had a black flag at the line, just so you know.” – Jeffrey Earnhardt’s spotter after the No. 96 was spun by Matt Kenseth
  • “The 6 just wrecked him so he didn’t have to pit under green.” – Ryan Blaney
  • “We didn’t need that.“ – Jeremy Bullins, Blaney’s crew chief
  • “My bad, drug up the splitter and hit him. I’m sorry about that.” – Matt Kenseth
  • “Good job guys; solid night.” – Kevin Harvick after finishing second
  • “I don’t know if we could’ve run with them if we had track position, but good adjustments.” Martin Truex Jr. after finishing third
  • “Hands down we could’ve. Clearly we had the best car.” Cole Pearn, Truex’s crew chief

For more, watch the video above.

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Daniel Suarez trying to find his place in Silly Season

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RICHMOND, Va. — Daniel Suarez, expected to lose his ride at Joe Gibbs Racing after this season, says he has options but isn’t willing to reveal them.

Suarez is looking for a ride because reigning Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn are expected to move to the No. 19 team with Furniture Row Racing closing operations after this season.

That leaves Suarez on the outside at JGR.

“I don’t really have anything good to say,” Suarez said after qualifying fifth Friday. “When you don’t have anything good to say, it is better not to say anything.”

Suarez removed a reference Joe Gibbs Racing from his Twitter profile this week. Asked about that Friday, Suarez laughed and said: “I’m a driver. I like my family. I like classic cars. That’s what I put in there.”

As for where he might race next year, Suarez said: “We’re talking to a lot of people. I’m sure good things will come our way.”

Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas said last week at Las Vegas that his team has talked to Suarez’s group about the No. 41 car. Kurt Busch’s contract expires after this season with the team, which creates the opening in the No. 41 car. 

Reports have stated Kurt Busch could be headed to the No. 1 team at Chip Ganassi Racing and replace Jamie McMurray.

Another option for Suarez could be Leavine Family Racing. Kasey Kahne won’t return to the No. 95 after this season and car owner Bob Leavine has expressed an interest in aligning with Toyota.

One place that doesn’t appear to be an option is Roush Fenway Racing, which is expected to announce Saturday that Ryan Newman will join the team to drive the No. 6 car next year. Newman’s departure would create a vacancy with the No. 31 car at Richard Childress Racing after this season.

Suarez was encouraged by his run Friday at Richmond Raceway and optimistic about Saturday night’s Cup race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“Definitely the best car I’ve ever had here at Richmond,” he said. “So hopefully I can take advantage of it (Saturday).”

If he can, he could score his first career Cup victory.

We know we can do it,” Suarez said. “Not making the playoffs wasn’t good for us. We had way, way higher expectations than the job that we have done. We have had a lot of different issues though the year. Sometimes things don’t work out.”

NASCAR America: Does Martin Truex Jr.’s Vegas finish change anything?

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Martin Truex Jr.’s team is disbanding at the end of the 2018 season, which has led to speculation that the No. 78 could become distracted before the end of the year.

Truex made a statement that would not be the case in the opening playoff race at Las Vegas. He won Stage 1 of the South Point 400 and was contending for the win with the checkers in sight. He finished third and took the points lead.

But does that change how the No. 78 should be viewed when assessing their playoff potential?

“They’ve proven to have the speed, but can they continue to have the speed throughout the playoffs? There’s nothing to point in any direction to say that they cannot,” Steve Letarte said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “All I will say is the distraction of the team closure will become louder and more noisy as they get to the end of the year.”

More: Don’t look for an immediate falloff from Martin Truex Jr. 

“What about the other 60 plus employees back in Denver? Those people are going to be looking for jobs,” Kyle Petty said. “Those people are going to want to get out of Denver sometime in November and be moving east if they are going to go to work for a Joe Gibbs or a Richard Childress or a Roger Penske or a Rick Hendrick.

“If they are going to find other jobs, if they’re closing down, that’s where the team will begin to disintegrate a little bit – begin to have cracks in it. Not what goes on at the racetrack, but the product they get to the racetrack with.”

And yet, as if winning a second straight championship was not difficult enough, Cole Pearn and Truex are now engaged in a delicate balancing act akin to jogging on a tightrope.

“Cole Pearn and Martin are doing a wonderful job managing the respect for the team and what they have next year and allowing their people to do whatever they need and somehow bringing that eye of the tiger approach” Letarte said.

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Late cautions keep Martin Truex Jr. from Las Vegas victory

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LAS VEGAS — Martin Truex Jr. avoided the carnage Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but he still suffered the consequences.

With arguably the fastest car on a long run, Truex was undone by four cautions in the last 23 laps that helped Brad Keselowski score his third consecutive win. Truex finished third.

“Brad clearly found a horseshoe,” Truex said. “Three races in a row he’s won and he has not had the best car. I mean, if you want to really talk about the sport being what it is, you’ve got to look at that. I mean, obviously he hasn’t led the most laps in any of those races, and he showed up at the end with good pit stops and good short run speed. 

“I think clearly it’s pretty obvious how it worked out. He’s hot right now. He’s on a streak. That’s the way it goes.”

Truex leaves Las Vegas with the points lead after an afternoon that saw six of the 16 playoff drivers involved in accidents or spins and a few others who finished with crinkled and creased cars.

Truex leads Kyle Busch, who spun during the race, by two points heading into Saturday’s race at Richmond Raceway.

All the incidents toward the end were too much to overcome for Truex.

“Man, all those restarts at the end, they were wicked, they were crazy,” Truex said on pit road with a wet towel around his neck after a 3-hour, 28-minute race in temperatures that hovered around 100 degrees outside the car and much hotter inside it.

“Everybody was going for it. Unfortunately for us, it took a little bit too long to get rolling. Too many cautions at the end. It really, really took our chance away from winning.”

The issue for Truex was that he and crew chief Cole Pearn set the car up for long runs.

“Hindsight 20/20 we would have worked more on being a little better on the short run,” Truex said. “For most of day it was pretty clear who had the dominant car.

“I think we had the best handling car on the long run. You don’t know how these things are going to play out. We felt it was going to be a long-run kind of race just because the track is slick and there are so many multiple grooves. Typically, these are the ones that go green for a long time. We were kind of banking on that and for a while it was working for us. Obviously, at the end it was caution after caution. That really took any chance we had away.”

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