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Shotgun! Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer share a beer over Twitter

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Before Clint Bowyer dropped by to raise a little hell on this week’s episode of “The Dale Jr. Download,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a modest proposal for the podcast episode.

Alas, while there was plenty of talk about beer, beer signs and partying, no beers were consumed, let alone shotgunned.

But Bowyer didn’t forget!

He called out Earnhardt on Twitter Thursday afternoon, shotgunning a Miller Lite in the process.

A Budweiser in hand, Earnhardt answered the call within 40 minutes.

On a quiet week with NASCAR off for Easter, plenty of NASCAR drivers chimed in to judge Earnhardt’s shotgun technique and the beer used.

NBC Sports Power Rankings rate Cup organizations

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With NASCAR off this weekend for Easter, we’re altering our weekly Power Rankings to focus on the best performing organizations in Cup through the first nine races of the season.

Here’s our picks:

1. Joe Gibbs Racing (40 points): Has won six of the first nine races, including the Daytona 500. Plus, they have the series-leading driver (Kyle Busch, three wins). If JGR continues to have the same success in the next nine races, it could make for a very, very long season for many other organizations.

2. Team Penske (36 points): The only other Cup organization to win a race (two by Brad Keselowski and one by Joey Logano). Organization has been competitive in almost every other race it hasn’t won. The only driver lacking is Ryan Blaney, who has yet to reach victory lane, but whose performance has also picked up in recent races.

3. Stewart-Haas Racing (32 points): Team that is best of the rest behind JGR and Penske. All four drivers have had strong performances at times, but inconsistency and pit road incidents have kept SHR from breaking through with its first win of the season. Could that winless streak finally end at Talladega?

4. Chip Ganassi Racing (26 points): The top Chevrolet team but still well behind the top organizations. If it wasn’t for Kurt Busch and his strong performance (three top fives and six top 10s) in his first season at CGR, this organization would be ranked significantly lower. And what has happened to Kyle Larson? He’s off to one of the worst starts of his career.

5. Hendrick Motorsports (23 points): What’s happened to the once titans of NASCAR? It almost seems like the same struggle virus that has infected Jimmie Johnson has spread to his teammates. Has shown signs of progress but plenty of work still remains.

6. Roush Fenway Racing (22 points): Ryan Newman is starting to hit his stride with his new team, including a pair of season-best ninth-place finishes at Bristol and Richmond, plus four other top-15 showings. But what about teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr.? He’s shown promise at times, but with just one top 10, how does the second quarter of the season bode for him?

7. Richard Childress Racing (17 points): Has shown speed at times but results haven’t always followed. Austin Dillon has the team’s only two top-10 finishes. Daniel Hemric has struggled in his rookie season, with a best finish so far of 18th.

8. JTG Daugherty Racing (9 points): Has shown improvement from last year. Chris Buescher has made some positive gains and Ryan Preece has looked good at times in his first season with the organization. But inconsistency continues to be a problem. What’s the answer?

(tie) 9. Wood Brothers Racing (6 points): Things are starting to come into their own for the single-car team (with an affiliation with Team Penske). Paul Menard has back-to-back top 10 finishes in his two most recent races (Bristol and Richmond) and is up to 16th in the Cup standings. If playoffs started today, Menard would be in.

(tie) 9. Germain Racing (6 points): Ty Dillon has had some solid performances for this one-car team, including a sixth-place finish at Daytona and three other top-15 finishes. But like JTG Daugherty, inconsistency remains an issue that needs to be addressed.

Other organizations receiving votes: Front Row Motorsports (5 points), Richard Petty Motorsports (2 points), Leavine Family Racing (1 point).

The other Kyle – Larson – hopes break turns ‘crappy’ season around

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While Kyle Busch has been the best driver and gotten the most headlines this season in Cup, the other Kyle – Kyle Larson – has become virtually a forgotten man whose year has been one of forgettable finishes for the most part.

Larson finished last in Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway, the victim of a crash on Lap 125 of the 400-lap event.

It extended Larson’s rough and frustrating season.

The California native has plummeted in the last five races, both in finishes and in the standings.

Since his best finish of the season (sixth at Phoenix), Larson has had last-place showings at Texas (39th) and Richmond (37th), both due to crashes. He also was 12th at Fontana, 18th at Martinsville and 19th at Bristol.

The expression on Larson’s face tells the tale of how frustrating the season has been for him. Getty Images.

Also since Phoenix, Larson has fallen from sixth in the Cup standings to 19th.

When asked his thoughts about how the first quarter of the 2019 season has been for him, Larson didn’t try to sugarcoat things.

It’s been a pretty crappy start to the year,” he said bluntly. “I hate the start to the season I’ve had.”

More specifically about Richmond, it was more of the same bad luck for Larson.

We didn’t have great speed tonight, but on the weeks that we have speed, we still run into issues,” Larson admitted. “On that restart (the start of Stage 2), I got stuck in the middle.

I probably squeezed whoever was underneath me (Daniel Hemric) and caused some tire damage and we had to pit to fix that. But they didn’t do a good job of pulling the fenders out and then I got a flat and was back in the wall.”

Larson is hopeful that with having next weekend off for Easter, the break will give him a break, as well and that his luck will turn around once the series resumes April 28 at Talladega.

In 10 career starts at NASCAR’s largest oval, Larson has two top-10 finishes. He crashed and finished last in last spring’s race but rebounded for an 11th-place finish in the fall playoff race there.

Hopefully, this (Easter) break is a good time and we can re-group,” he said.

And just maybe, people will start talking about the other Kyle in a positive fashion once again.

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Is the secret to Kyle Busch’s success … the beard?

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RICHMOND, Va. — Are drivers superstitious? Well, since you asked.

One driver is not messing with his good run, while another driver is seeking to break free from his rough luck.

Kyle Busch, who has won three of the first eight Cup races this season, has sported a beard lately. So is that the secret to finishing in the top 10 in every Cup race to start the season? His wife says he needs to keep the beard just in case.

“She said, ‘You just have to keep it going, you’re on the top-10 streak so maybe that’s what it is and keep it rolling,’ ” Busch said. “I don’t know, I guess when I finish outside the top 10, it will be gone so we’ll see.”

Daniel Hemric, on the other hand, has had a rough start of the season. The Cup rookie has not finished better than 18th this season. He has not placed better than 27th in the last four races.

It’s been so rough that he asked fans on Twitter to send him and the team good luck charms.

Fans responded with what Hemric said were “interesting gifts/lucky charms for us.

“One of the fans sent us eight different rabbits’ feet. We’ve given one out to the crew chief and engineer, myself, the truck driver. Just distributed them in a way that we felt that anybody who had a hand on the car they have one to carry with them.”

Just don’t expect Hemric to have any such good luck charms in the car.

“I’ll keep stuff on me personally inside my locker, inside the hauler,” he said. “In the race car, I’ve always been a little weird about putting something in the car.”

We’ll see if his luck changes Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

Richard Childress Racing announces throwback schemes for Southern 500

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And we’re off!

Richard Childress Racing is first team to reveal its throwback paint schemes for the Sept. 1 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

While the theme of NASCAR’s fifth throwback weekend this year is focused around 1990-94, RCR will be going farther back than that.

Austin Dillon‘s No. 3 Chevrolet will be based on a No. 3 car that Childress raced himself in the late 1970s.

 

Daniel Hemric‘s No. 8 Chevrolet goes back about 70 years for its inspiration.

Instead of a tribute to an old race car, RCR will recognize the history of sponsor Caterpillar with its scheme. Hemric’s car, with battleship gray and orange colors, is inspired by the design of CAT equipment and the logo used on them from its launch in 1925 until 1931.

Hemric will make his first Cup start at Darlington after making two starts there in the Xfinity Series. His best result was 11th last year.