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Dale Jr. smacks the wall at Bristol
While running 20th, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Chevrolet hits the wall during the restart at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt Jr. on Blaney: 'We'll sort it out'
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Texas COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. admits he's "having fun with it," but suggests that he and Ryan Blaney will chat about recent on-track incidents involving the two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers. While he said he doesn’t think it's crucial, Earnhardt said Tuesday that "I think it would be good for us to have a couple of conversations." Earnhardt met with members of the media during an appearance at the South Carolina Governor's Mansion in support of this year's Bojangles' Southern 500, scheduled for Sept. 3 at Darlington Raceway. Blaney, the 23-year-old driver of the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing, took issue with Earnhardt's driving last month during the Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway, calling the series' 14-time most popular driver a derogatory term over his team's radio and incurring the wrath of Earnhardt Nation. RELATED: Blaney clears air about Dale Jr. comment This past weekend at Martinsville Speedway, contact between the two eventually led to a spin by Earnhardt . "He did call and leave a message -- 'Just bad timing, it wasn’t intentional' and all that stuff," Earnhardt said, "and I don't think it was. But you remember those things just to make sure down the road if it happens again you're kind of like 'what the heck?' "But we'll sort it out. I usually don't have a problem figuring out a way to work things out. We either do it off the track or on the track." RELATED: Junior declines Blaney's call It's noteworthy that Blaney, in just his second full season in the Monster Energy Series, lives in a house located next to Earnhardt's home. "We can't seem to stay away from each other," Earnhardt said. "I raced him a little too hard I guess, in his opinion, at Phoenix and he called me a dirty name. We've had a little fun about that. And then this weekend (at Martinsville), I kind of ran him into the fence on the front straightaway and then coming off the turn I got loose and he spun me out. "It was frustrating. I was glad I didn't hit anything. We rebounded really quickly so I wasn't too upset with it. I'm having a lot fun with it; kind of messing with him a little bit about it. "We've talked some. We haven't talked since the Martinsville race but we will eventually and we'll get an opportunity to smooth it out."
Earnhardt Jr. addresses recent conflicts with Ryan Blaney
Listen as Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks about the contact he had with Ryan Blaney in the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg takes spin with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
RELATED: See Zuckerberg's day at the shop and with Dale Jr. at the track CHARLOTTE, NC -- Mark Zuckerberg sits in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Chevrolet with a huge grin on his face Tuesday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Facebook co-founder and CEO just finished a 175-plus-mph ride around the 1.5-mile track with Earnhardt Jr. as his driver. And he's impressed. "OK, if this is all we get to do in Charlotte, that will be enough," Zuckerberg says via Facebook Live. "What an amazing experience. … I think there were probably millions of people who would die to do what I just did." He certainly looks the part, dressed in a white helmet and blue NASCAR Racing Experience fire suit, the coloring similar to Earnhardt Jr.'s own ensemble. Zuckerberg has a relaxed, easy demeanor about him as he chats with cameramen, crew members and speedway employees. MORE: Learn about the NASCAR Racing experience But those initial laps with Junior behind the wheel were anything but a Sunday morning jaunt. "Holy s---t!" he says, as Junior veers the No. 88 machine around Turn 2 and up the banking. "All right we're a little close to the wall." "I wanted him to get a sense of the speed and the grip and the G-Forces," Earnhardt says on the ride-along. " … I'm sure it was exhilarating. I couldn't imagine getting into a car with a race car driver having never driven before myself." Zuckerberg's foray into NASCAR began with his desire to learn more about the racing community. He has been traveling around the country throughout the year, visiting different states in hopes of learning about the diverse groups of people that make up America. The NASCAR community is one that intrigued him. "NASCAR and driving and sports in general form the basis of a lot of communities," Zuckerberg says. "You think about not only the community of drivers and the families around them, but NASCAR's probably, I think, the biggest sport in the country that people go to and attend live. "… I have this big belief with Facebook and what we're doing to help people try to build community that we all need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and certainly all the fans -- I think you have three million fans on Facebook who follow Dale Jr. For them, NASCAR's a huge part of their identity and a lot of people pin their hopes on you going out and winning." "They're very supportive," Earnhardt Jr. says of his fans later. But Zuckerberg is privy to Junior Nation: "Well, you have good fans, though," he says with a chuckle. • • • Zuckerberg's quest to learn more about the NASCAR community began earlier that day in a sub-community of racing: The Hendrick Motorsports race shop in Charlotte, North Carolina. He arrived at the Nos. 48/88 shop -- that builds and prepares race cars for Earnahrdt Jr. and reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson -- dressed in a gray hoodie, jeans and Nikes, with an appetite for racing knowledge apparent. Who better to give it to him than No. 48 crew chief Chad Knaus? "The crew captain!" Zuckerberg exclaims as he walks into the shop and shakes Knaus' hand. Knaus is giving Zuckerberg a private tour today. The two walk into the shop, and almost immediately Zuckerberg begins asking questions. His brow furrows and there's a "Wow!" often dancing around his mouth. Knaus leads the group from the shop and into a side room where the 7-post machine is testing one of the unpainted cars. Zuckerberg's face lights up when the car starts to rattle and shake. "Super nice guy, shockingly normal," Knaus tells NASCAR.com after the tour. "Very inquisitive. He was definitely curious about what it is that we do and he had a ton of questions. They were actually very good questions. I was happy to hear that. "... He was asking about what we do, how the cars are built, where we take them, the differences between a short track car and a high speed track car," Knaus continues. "He was asking about the tire stagger, how we choreograph our pit stops." Hendrick Motorsports presents Zuckerberg with a personalized team jersey and signed helmet upon the conclusion of the tour. "Now don't wear that when you're driving your car, that's for display purposes only," Knaus jokes. No matter: In a few minutes, he'll get his own racing-ready helmet anyway. • • • After a few laps with Junior, it's time for Zuckerberg to wheel a race car on his own. He had a few practice laps earlier that day, with Dale Jr. coaching him via in-car radio. "You're going to come down the apron, down pit road," Earnhardt said earlier. "Where's that?" Zuckerberg asked. "Where you came from," Junior said with a smile. "Oh, that's a wall, there's nothing good over there," Zuckerberg said cheerfully, piloting the race car around Turn 4 and down pit road. Now, he's relatively prepared, as he climbs into the car for another run. "I kind of showed you the line," Junior coaches. "Down the front straightaway, nice and broad, good smooth arc down the front straightaway. And then on the back straightaway, you get out against that fence, as close as you're comfortable with." "I think probably a little further away than you were," Zuckerberg says. "You got pretty close there." "I know, I was doing that on purpose, we probably wouldn't race that close," Junior says with a grin. Zuckerberg gets going, hitting 5,000 RPMs soon into his run. He hugs the white line, moving toward the high line later. He seems to grow more comfortable as his run continues. "We're just down here hanging out," he says with a smile. "After driving with you, I don't feel that we're pushing it that hard here." "Get a little more aggressive!" Junior urges, as Zuckerberg hits the rev limiter on the car. "I don't think it wants me going faster than 5,000 RPMs," Zuckerberg says. He takes a couple more laps and then comes down pit road, the grin still plastered on his face. And he's worked up an appetite. He asks about a promised dinner of fried chicken, then invites Junior to join him for a post-race meal. • • • Zuckerberg and Earnhardt engage in a conversation after their ride, a plate of fried chicken and a biscuit sitting by Zuckerburg. They talk for a while quietly, away from the cameras and lights from today. It has been a day of immersion for Zuckerberg, whose knowledge about racing has significantly increased since he arrived in North Carolina. But it was just as beneficial for NASCAR, too, as the worlds of racing and ever-growing social media industry merged on a different front. "When you have someone that has that many touch points, that many people that he influences, having him come and experience what NASCAR was all about is a tremendous opportunity for our sport," Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief global sales and marketing officer, told NASCAR.com. "Watching him ride along with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the expression on his face and truly to get to experience what it's like to be in car and how fast it is, how loud it is, how much the vibration of the car is. "I think he has a newfound respect and we're trying to get new fans, one fan at a time. Having someone like Mark out here is certainly an opportunity for us to get more than one fan at a time."
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins
BUY TICKETS: Celebrate Auto Club's 20th anniversary See all of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories.
Off weekend workouts: Dale did, Jimmie didn't
Take a listen to a clip from the Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Dale Jr. Download podcast when he talks about outworking Jimmie Johnson on their Hendrick Motorsports workout plan.
Dale Jr., Ryan Blaney patch things up at Texas
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Bristol The chatter of a potential rivalry between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Blaney can simmer down now. Because the two have made up, Earnhardt says. The duo made amends this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. mentioned on his weekly Dirty Mo Radio podcast "The Dale Jr. Download" on Tuesday. "Me and Blaney patched things up in the bus lot this weekend," Junior said. "We talked about trying to run races without running into each other so we can get back to drinking beer together.” "The important things," his wife Amy, who was this week's guest on the podcast, said with a laugh. @nascarcasm: Blaney's guide to apologizing to Dale Jr. The first of two on-track incidents came on March 19 at Phoenix Raceway, when on-track action caused Blaney to call Earnhardt Jr. a derogatory term via in-car radio. It continued two weeks later at Martinsville Speedway when the two made initial contact and then again when Blaney's No. 21 Ford caused Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevrolet to spin out. Earnhardt initially denied the 23-year-old's post-race phone call to patch things up, but told NASCAR.com last week that while he was frustrated, he was "having a lot of fun with it; kind of messing with him a little bit about it." RELATED: Dale Jr. denies Blaney's call " Junior on Blaney: We'll sort it out Junior also spoke to Blaney's recent success, as the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford won Stages 1 and 2 at Texas and led a race-high 148 laps. He's currently ranked sixth in the standings. "It's not surprising for me to see him run good, but I do have to remind myself that he's in a Wood Brothers car 'cause that's pretty incredible for that team, that car to be relevant again in the sport," Earnhardt said. "It's great for NASCAR." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Jr. after Texas top five: 'We needed this bad'
RELATED: Texas race results FORT WORTH, Texas -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. was hot and happy when he climbed out of his No. 88 Axalta Chevy on Texas Motor Speedway's pit road Sunday afternoon. Wiping his brow and his neck with a cool towel, Earnhardt smiled and leaned against his car, ready to talk about a hard-fought, fifth-place finish in Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500. It was his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series top five since a runner-up effort last June at Pocono Raceway. "We needed this bad," a smiling Earnhardt said. Temperatures were in the mid-80s outside the car and much hotter inside during the course of the 334-lap race. Even Earnhardt's Hendrick Motorsports teammate -- race winner Jimmie Johnson -- needed fluids after his Victory Lane celebration. RELATED: Johnson goes to care center "It was kind of like a vacuum, pulling air out of helmet going down one side of the track so I just ran with the visor up all day,'' Earnhardt said. "I was glad to see that late caution so I could get some Gatorade and cool off a little bit. It was hot." Earnhardt talked about being a little more prepared for the weather conditions, thanks to a new physical fitness program he's been enjoying with the encouragement of his teammate Johnson. Earnhardt said he rode his bike 20 miles on both Friday and Saturday. "Jimmie rode like 100 miles, though," he added quickly with a grin. And while Earnhardt didn't hoist any hardware this week, he still felt encouraged, back on course. The fifth-place showing was a marked uptick in performance. He hadn't had a top-10 finish since returning to competition full time this year after missing the second half of 2016 recovering from concussion symptoms. RELATED: Junior confident amid slow start His previous best finish this season was 14th at Phoenix. He also has three finishes of 30th or worse. The Texas result actually vaulted him five positions in the standings to 20th place. "I figured we'd get one sooner or later, but it's nice,'' Earnhardt said. "I know our fans are pulling for us. Could have finished a little better, but we'll take a top five." The longtime reigning Most Popular Driver in the series readily conceded the result was a perfect send-off for NASCAR's Easter off-week. Having been out of the car for half of the last season and still struggling for a top 10 coming into April, Earnhardt was visibly encouraged with the Texas showing. "Confidence is probably half the battle for me," he allowed. "I need all I can get to have a shot. If I don't believe in it and have confidence in it, it's hard for me to go for it and drive with confidence. Me and (crew chief) Greg (Ives) have been talking about that all offseason and yesterday. We talked about getting the confidence on restarts and I think we had it today. He was great at giving me some input to get the car working good.'' Earnhardt said he was certain the showing not only capped a good weekend but perhaps launched a return to form. "We haven't had a top-five finish since like four races before we stopped racing last year," Earnhardt said. "This is great for us and the guys are excited. It was big for us. "I will say this about our team: We spend a lot of time communicating during the week. With what we've been through last year and this year especially, it would have been easy for a lot of those guys to give up and not really keep pulling their work. But we've motivated each other. "We need to be ready when the car is there, and we were today." &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series Owner Standings
MORE: Monster Energy Series owner standings " Camping World owner standings Pos. Owner Car No. Points Ldr Nxt Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Attempts 1 Roger Penske 22 330 0 0 0 3 3 7 2 Joe Gibbs 20 277 -53 -53 2 2 12 7 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1 260 -70 -17 0 2 2 7 4 Chip Ganassi 42 252 -78 -8 1 1 6 7 5 Rick Hendrick 9 244 -86 -8 0 1 1 7 6 J D Gibbs 18 231 -99 -13 1 3 3 7 7 Richard Childress 2 205 -125 -26 0 0 0 7 8 Richard Childress 3 201 -129 -4 0 0 0 7 9 Kelley Earnhardt -Miller 7 200 -130 -1 1 0 5 7 10 Jack Roush 16 184 -146 -16 1 0 5 7 11 Richard Childress 21 180 -150 -4 0 1 1 7 12 Jack Roush 6 180 -150 0 0 0 0 7 13 Matt Kaulig 11 164 -166 -16 0 0 0 7 14 Chip Ganassi 48 163 -167 -1 0 0 0 7 15 Joe Gibbs 19 160 -170 -3 0 0 0 7 16 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5 157 -173 -3 0 0 0 7 17 James Whitener 28 139 -191 -18 0 0 0 7 18 Gene Haas 00 130 -200 -9 0 0 0 7 19 Richard Childress 33 128 -202 -2 0 0 0 7 20 Maria Gonzalez Hernandez 24 125 -205 -3 0 0 0 7 21 Mark Smith 14 111 -219 -14 0 0 0 7 22 Richard Childress 62 108 -222 -3 0 0 0 7 23 Rod Sieg 39 108 -222 0 0 0 0 7 24 Maurice Gallagher Jr. 23 103 -227 -5 0 0 0 7 25 Michelle Gosselin 90 88 -242 -15 0 0 0 7 26 Tony Stewart 41 86 -244 -2 0 1 1 2 27 Johnny Davis 01 86 -244 0 0 0 0 7 28 Tony Clements 51 83 -247 -3 0 0 0 7 29 Gary Cogswell 0 81 -249 -2 0 0 0 7 30 Gary Keller 4 81 -249 0 0 0 0 7 31 Fred Biagi 98 76 -254 -5 0 0 0 5 32 Jimmy Means 52 74 -256 -2 0 0 0 7 33 Roger Penske 12 64 -266 -10 1 0 0 2 34 Bobby Dotter 07 64 -266 0 0 0 0 7 35 Danielle Long 40 63 -267 -1 0 0 0 7 36 Rick Hendrick 88 49 -281 -14 0 0 0 1 37 Bj McLeod 78 48 -282 -1 0 0 0 7 38 Jessica Smith-Mcleod 99 47 -283 -1 0 0 0 7 39 Jessica Smith-Mcleod 8 41 -289 -6 0 0 0 7 40 Rick Gdovic 46 37 -293 -4 0 0 0 2 41 Danielle Long 13 20 -310 -17 0 0 0 7 42 Mike Harmon 74 16 -314 -4 0 0 0 7 43 Lynn Cockrum 25 12 -318 -4 0 0 0 2 44 Mark Smith 44 10 -320 -2 0 0 0 1 45 Pamela Sieg 93 6 -324 -4 0 0 0 6 46 Victor Obaika 97 4 -326 -2 0 0 0 6 47 Cindy Shepherd 89 2 -328 -2 0 0 0 5 48 Victor Obaika 177 0 -330 -2 0 0 0 1
Clear skies, sailing for Johnson in Bristol victory
RELATED: Race results " Stage results " Full schedule for Richmond SHOP: Winner gear! MORE: Detailed race breakdown Jimmie Johnson surged to victory in the rain-delayed Food City 500 on Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway. Johnson powered the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet to his second straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season, leading 81 of the 500 laps. His 82nd win of his career was his second on the .533-mile Tennessee track. The victory moved Johnson another step up NASCAR's all-time win list, putting him one triumph behind NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough and two back from fellow inductees Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip. "That's just mind-blowing," said Johnson, who sits seventh on the all-time list. "I wouldn’t be here without Mr. Hendrick's support. Thanks to him and to Jeff Gordon for believing in me. For Hendrick Motorsports to make this job kind of a family environment for all of us to thrive in has been a perfect environment for me and (crew chief) Chad Knaus, and for the consistent group of guys behind me through all these years has led to the environment to win 82 races, or whatever it is, which is just insane. I'm truly humbled." Clint Bowyer took second place in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Ford, 1.199 seconds behind the race winner in his best finish since running second at Richmond on April 27, 2013. His late-race boost secured his second top-five finish of the season, but wasn't enough to unseat Johnson from the top spot. "It is frustrating, you could see him out there," Bowyer said, "but dammit, you'd think he'd get tired of winning all these races." Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano completed the top five. Pole-starter Kyle Larson seemed poised for a top-five finish after leading the opening 202 laps and snagging a Stage 1 win, but a pit-road speeding penalty on Lap 423 knocked him back to 17th in the running order. He rallied to a sixth-place finish and maintained his lead in the season-long standings. "Yeah, disappointed in myself," said Larson, who emerged with a 27-point lead over Chase Elliott in the standings. "I think I speed on pit road every single time I come to Bristol. So, got to clean that up." Martin Truex Jr., the Stage 2 winner and leader of 116 laps, was also bitten by a speeding penalty on pit road with 34 laps remaining. The infraction shuffled him to 15th place for the final run to the finish. He wound up eighth. "I thought I was exactly where I was the time before, so the time before must have been close," Truex said of his pit road timing. "Typically we don't get many speeding penalties for this team, but today we were just pushing the issue trying to get a win and sometimes they'll get you." RELATED: Photo gallery of at-track sights at Bristol Several other big names finished well off the pace after a variety of pitfalls. Kyle Busch, a five-time Bristol winner, rallied from a brush with the wall into the top 10, but a second hit sidelined him after 383 laps. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran just 218 laps before his day was done, a Turn 1 wall crunch and a broken oil cooler ending his race. Brad Keselowski, a two-time winner this year, and Ryan Blaney also spent extended time behind the wall with steering issues. The event was delayed one day because of persistent rain Sunday. The series' next race is the Toyota Owners 400 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM) at Richmond International Raceway. Contributing: NASCAR Wire Service &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;