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Johnson, Earnhardt among teams to lose pit stall selection
RELATED: Sunday's full lineup CONCORD, N.C. -- Three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams picked up their fourth warnings for inspection issues Friday, meaning they will be the last three to select pit stalls Saturday for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Cited for inspection issues were the teams of six-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson ( Hendrick Motorsports ), teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola . Johnson qualified seventh Friday, while Almirola was 20th and Earnhardt was 25th. The loss of pit stall selection does not affect the three drivers' starting position in the 40-car lineup for Sunday's 400-lap event. NASCAR may issue warnings for minor infractions that occur during the pre-qualifying and pre-race inspection process. Once a team receives a fourth warning, the loss of pit stall selection is put into play. If the fourth warning is received prior to the pit selection process, it is enforced at that event. If the fourth warning comes after the pit stalls have been chosen, it will be enforced at the next scheduled race (or race in which that team participates). Johnson's team received its fourth warning after failing template inspection twice, thus requiring a third pass through that inspection station. Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 team also required three trips through template inspection resulting in a fourth warning. Almirola's team was tagged for requiring more than the allotted number of trips through the template and the laser inspection station. Once a team receives its fourth warning, its total is reset to zero. Warnings cannot be appealed.
Problematic practice for Dale Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has problems during practice for the Coca-Cola 600 as the No. 88 starts smoking due to power steering issues.
Stewart: Relationship with Harvick similar to Earnhardt , Childress
In a sit down with Kenny Wallace for FS1, Tony Stewart comments on Kevin Harvick’s extension with Stewart-Haas Racing and how their relationship compares to the one Richard Childress and Dale Earnhardt had.
1987 Winston: Elliott will 'never forget' Earnhardt's all-star move
Editor's note: This week we're looking back at the 1987 Winston All-Star Race, one of the most historic races in NASCAR history. RELATED: The 1987 Winston: Where Are They Now? Nearly 30 years later NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott still says he has never been more frustrated in a race car than he was with the ending of the 1987 running of The Winston All-Star Race. He led a dominating 121 of the 135 laps but came out on the wrong end of a hard-nosed door-to-door battle for the win with the "Intimidator" Dale Earnhardt in the final 10-lap segment. The close-quarter, late-lap racing in The Winston between the season's top two championship contenders famously resulted in Earnhardt's "pass in the grass" -- even though in reality it was much closer to a maintain-in-the-terrain, but it still became racing lore. The race itself is a legitimately legendary story starring Elliott and Earnhardt with perhaps the most famous NASCAR driver lineups of all-time essentially playing supporting roles. Hall of Famers such as Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip raced that day, joining many of the sport's all-time most popular racers such as Neil Bonnett, Geoffrey Bodine and Tim Richmond. As NASCAR prepares for the modern-day version of this event, the Sprint All-Star Race this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway , it's a good stock-car history lesson to relive the 1987 event. Many consider this the most famous All-Star running -- a hard-nosed, win-at-all-costs race that raised the sport's profile and its expectations. In particular, the late-lap duel between Elliott and Earnhardt is considered required folklore for NASCAR fans, as it was the first instance of the All-Star Race having a 10-lap shootout to the finish. Even today Elliott is still miffed about his missed opportunity, he told NASCAR.com "That was probably the maddest I've ever been, but you just have to deal with it and go on,’’ said Elliott, who after being passed by Earnhardt had to pit in the waning laps to change out a flat tire, ultimately finishing 14th.
Dale Jr.'s Coca-Cola 600 paint scheme salutes hero
RELATED: 600 Miles of Remembrance: Drivers honor fallen military members Dale Earnhardt Jr .’s special patriotic scheme for his No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports was revealed after an overwhelming response on social media. The patriotic look for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) honors Lance Corporal Aaron Reed. Reed was killed in Iraq in 2005 while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. Originally, the scheme was to be revealed at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, but the social media response of more than 2,600 retweets led to the company revealing the paint scheme at 2 p.m. ET on Monday. Earnhardt is winless in 32 points-paying starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway with 12 top 10s at his home track.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. reveals No. 88 paint scheme for Kansas
RELATED: See Junior's Darlington paint scheme " BUY TICKETS: Kansas SHOP: No. 88 gear Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s No. 88 Axalta/Carstar Chevrolet has a fresh look for GoBowling 400 on May 7 at Kansas Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Hendrick Motorsports team revealed the paint scheme Thursday, a day after pulling the cover back on Junior's thowback paint scheme honoring the "Gray Ghost" for Labor Day weekend's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). That is one sweet ride, @DaleJr ! pic.twitter.com/RIPKb5A2qY — NASCAR (@NASCAR) April 14, 2016 In addition to the Kansas reveal, Dale Jr. took a lap around Uptown Charlotte in the car. MORE: See all the Darlington looks
Dale Jr.: 'We got a lot of work to do'
In what could seemingly be called the State of the Union for the No. 88 team at the near-midway point of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season, Dale Earnhardt Jr . proclaimed that the team has "got a lot of work to do" on Dirty Mo Radio's "The Dale Jr. Download." Those words and more below came after Earnhardt's involvement in an 18-car wreck on Lap 355 in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway left him with a 32nd-place finish, the fourth straight finish outside the top 10 for the Hendrick Motorsports driver. That stretch has also seen the sport's most popular driver drop from sixth to 11th in the driver point standings. "Last week, it was 'yeah, we finished 15th (at Kansas). We'll get it figured out.' This week, it's more we got a problem, Houston," Earnhardt said. "It's time to start understanding how severe this situation is and get to owning it. Try to figure something out. We got a long season, lot of racing left. "Not quite halfway to the Chase deadline (at Richmond) and I'm looking at this teams in the Chase and the teams that are not in the Chase and I know we're better than them. It ain't good enough to be just good enough to make it. In years past, we've won races, been locked in. We were up in the top five in points throughout the year. We definitely aren't the team we were the past few years. We’ve got to figure out what's going on. How we're getting beat." A 26-time winner in the sport's top series, Earnhardt is coming off seven wins in the past two seasons. In both of those seasons, Earnhardt had already registered a win by this point in the season (The Daytona 500 in 2014 and Talladega in May of 2015), which pretty much sewed up his postseason spot in the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . This week's Sprint All-Star Race (Saturday, May 21, approx. 9 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) provides a bit of a real-time laboratory for the team to find some answers. "This All-Star Race weekend coming up ain't going to be the answer to all our problems, but it's an opportunity to work on some of them. I’ll be honest with you, I'd rather win that (Coca-Cola) 600 a 1,000 times more than I'd rather win the All-Star Race. Running good and running better the rest of the year is much more important to me than stumbling into a million bucks on this all-star weekend. "If we come out of the All-Star Race winners, but don't understand how to go into the (Coca-Cola) 600 and be competitive, it does us no good. I put us learning something, us understanding how to get better and us getting better as a team above anything else going forward." The team doing most of the winning in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series of late is the Joe Gibbs Racing stable of Kyle Busch (the defending series champion), Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth . Those four drivers have combined for seven wins through the first 12 races of the 2016 season. Last season, the foursome combined to win 14 races, including 11 of the final 21 races. This season, Hendrick Motorsports has recorded two wins through the first 12 races of the season, both by Jimmie Johnson , among its four-driver lineup of Earnhardt , Johnson, Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne . "As a company, I think everybody agrees that we can be faster. I think with us all working toward that goal, sooner or later the company itself is going to find that extra gear and it's going to affect all four cars all at once. You see all the Gibbs guys, all quick — practice, qualifying, race. They are all together. That's because their smart, they figured it out, they got something going that's working for them and their sharing information. "Our team's do the same thing. Once we figure out what's going on, once we figure out what we need, I think the whole company will step up. I feel positive that will happen before the Chase. ... We got to go to work."
H2H: Would 600 win mean more to Junior or Busch?
RELATED: Full 600 coverage A winner's trophy for the marathon, reputation-making Coca-Cola 600 is certainly one of the most prized possessions in all of NASCAR. The longest race (600 miles) on the NASCAR circuit is about so much more than just distance, too. There's the history of having such a contest at the 1.5-mile track just north of the Charlotte, North Carolina, NASCAR hub, not to mention this is the only race with three unique sets of elements: A race that starts under the sun, traverses to dusk and ends at night under the lights makes for three time frames with three unique sets of circumstances. Yes, it is truly a battle of man vs. machine. That's what makes it so difficult to win the Coca-Cola 600 , which both Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr . have never done. In fact, neither has won a points-paying event at Charlotte Motor Speedway . So which driver would benefit most from a win Sunday? Brad Norman and George Winkler set out to answer the question. PHOTOS: All of Busch's victories " See Junior's patriotic scheme NORMAN: So sorry, Junior Nation, but Sunday's race is more important to Kyle Busch . "Rowdy" has been on an incredible hot streak since returning from a broken leg last season -- eight wins in 37 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Four of those victories were his first at the tracks in Indianapolis, Homestead, Martinsville and Kansas, respectively. There are only two tracks remaining on the circuit where Busch has not won a Cup race -- Charlotte and Pocono. The career-sweep is a mind-boggling feat, making Sunday's event a massive deal for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. WINKLER: Sure, it would be impressive for Kyle Busch to add to his resume with a victory at Charlotte, but it would be an all-out celebration for Junior to win the Coca-Cola 600 . From downtown Kannapolis, North Carolina, (where Junior grew up) to Charlotte Motor Speedway is just a 25-minute drive, so one can only imagine the type of attention a victory like this would get. Plus, Junior has said repeatedly that winning the Coca-Cola 600 is a top priority of his and one of the gaps he'd most like to fill on his resume. NORMAN: Yeah, it's a big 'un for Junior on a personal level. History is at stake for Busch, though. Not just personal history, either -- team history. Check out some of the most historic races on the NASCAR circuit and their results over the past year -- 2015 Coca-Cola 600 ( Carl Edwards wins); 2015 Brickyard 400 ( Kyle Busch wins); 2015 Southern 500 ( Carl Edwards wins); Homestead finale ( Kyle Busch wins, and wins 2015 championship); 2016 Daytona 500 ( Denny Hamlin wins). JGR has a ridiculous streak at stake in these types of races, too. There's simply way more on the line for both "Rowdy" and the organization at large. WINKLER: See, I think the reverse is true. Because JGR has been so dominant this season, I think it's more important for Hendrick Motorsports , and particularly Junior, to re-establish their mojo. Earnhardt Jr. has wrecked in two of his last three points-paying races, has had some races where he qualified poorly but came through the field and others where he overcame in-race issues and the odds to post top fives. Considering how Junior has battled this season, I think he's tested and ready to fight for the whole 600 miles and be in a good position to win.
Polesitter Truex Jr. leads final practice at Charlotte
PRACTICE 3: Results Martin Truex Jr . topped the leaderboard in Saturday's final Sprint Cup Series practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway at 186.387 mph in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. Truex holds the pole for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). Kurt Busch , who led the practice session earlier in the day, was right behind him in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet at 185.733 mph. Rounding out the top five in the 50-minute session were Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (185.401 mph), Joey Logano in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford (185.109 mph) and Greg Biffle in the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford (184.938 mph). PRACTICE 2: Results Earlier in the day, Busch led the pack at 191.002 mph. Busch, who holds the record for the fastest lap around the 1.5-mile North Carolina oval, will roll off the grid 13th Sunday. In that same session, seven-time Charlotte winner Johnson was second-fastest, propelling his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at 190.617 mph. Sunday's pole-sitter Truex Jr . recorded the third-fastest lap (190.061 mph) in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota, while Joe Gibbs Racing 's Carl Edwards (189.887 mph) and Roush Fenway Racing 's Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (189.414 mph) rounded out the top five. Series points leader Kevin Harvick ranked seventh on the speed charts (189.301 mph) in morning session and 24th in the final session (183.150 mph). The red flag flew late in the first 55-minute session, after smoke began blowing for the left front of Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s No. 88 ride. The track returned to green shortly after Earnhardt's Chevrolet -- which was later determined to be an issue with the seal on the power steering box -- made it to the garage.
Custer earns top-five result in second XFINITY start
RELATED: Full results " Relive the day in photos CONCORD, N.C. -- After a career-best fourth-place finish in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 4K TV 300 , Cole Custer emerged from his No. 88 Chevrolet beet-red but satisfied with his result at Charlotte Motor Speedway . The 18-year-old earned a fist bump and congratulations from JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier , among others. "Really happy with where we ended up there," Custer said. "Good call there at the end taking two tires and catching a little more track position. We were just able to make some things happen there on that last restart. "Day didn't start out that great. We got some damage on pit road but we were able to work our way back up there and ended up pretty well." Custer spent much of the latter half of the race running in the top 10, even leading a lap (his first in the series) and spent some time in the top five before starting to fade back to seventh. A late caution from an accident involving Erik Jones on Lap 198 opened the door for some pit strategy to get back some track position. Crew chief Dave Elenz told NASCAR.com there was no doubt what call he had to make. "We were doing two," Elenz said on pit road after the race. "We were set on that. We had to get ahead of the 18 (eventual race winner Denny Hamlin , who restarted sixth on four fresh tires), so that was the only way we were going to do that. We actually were going to stay out if we could have gotten the front row, but that didn’t happen." Custer restarted in fifth on the third row with Hamlin, and the California native was able to gain one spot in the overtime finish. The result builds off a sixth-place showing Custer had last month at Richmond International Raceway in his series debut. Custer has three more starts slated to come for JRM at Kentucky Speedway in the No. 88 (July 8), before returning to the No. 5 at Charlotte (Oct. 7) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19). JR Motorsports teammate Allgaier has noticed what a quick study Custer is, and Custer admitted that he has picked the brain of veteran teammate Elliott Sadler a little bit. Allgaier said he enjoys having a rotating cast of drivers in the No. 88 Chevrolet that already has included Chase Elliott , Kevin Harvick , Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Alex Bowman . "I told Cole as soon as the race was over, he did a great job today," said Allgaier, who finished fifth. "He was on it, no question, and those guys did a great job. "I think as a company, when you get into that grind of going every week and pushing each other each and every week, it can be sometimes hard to race every week and to not get stale or stagnate. Having those guys come in and push us and we learn from them, I think it definitely helps the whole organization." And with two strong results on the board in the XFINITY Series, Custer is optimistic that the results and speed will carry over to his run at a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship. The two-time winner in the series is in the midst of his first full-time season in the sport and sits 15th in the standings. "We've definitely struggled some in the truck and we thought we were having more speed," Custer said. "I think we are going to have some speed here coming up. I think we are working real hard on it with Joe (Shear Jr., crew chief of the No. 00 Chevrolet) and everybody, so I think we will definitely have some speed, but it definitely means a lot to know that I can still do it."