- Did you mean:
Johnson's No. 48 to honor Pearson , Earnhardt at Darlington
RELATED: See all the Darlington throwbacks " BUY TICKETS: Darlington CONCORD, N.C. -- The throwback paint scheme featured on the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson for this year's Bojangles' Southern 500 pays tribute to a pair of former series champions and NASCAR Hall of Fame members. Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports entry will carry a familiar blue and yellow scheme reminiscent of the colors associated with Dale Earnhardt in which he captured rookie of the year honors for NASCAR's premier series in 1979 and the first of his seven series championships a year later. Earnhardt drove for team owner Rod Osterlund at that time. Earnhardt did not compete in the '79 Southern 500, the fourth and final race of the season he was forced to miss due to injuries sustained in a hard crash earlier that season at Pocono Raceway . Subbing for the team in those four events was three-time NASCAR premier series champion and Hall of Fame member David Pearson . Pearson finished second at Talladega, fourth at Michigan and seventh at Bristol before putting the team in victory lane at Darlington Raceway . It was his ninth title at Darlington, long considered the series' most difficult track to master, and his third in the Labor Day classic. "I think it's really cool," Chad Knaus, crew chief for Johnson, said Wednesday during the unveiling of the car. "I can remember the car and scheme from when I was younger, seeing it on television. "Obviously Dale's first championship (in 1980) came in a paint scheme similar to this." Earnhardt's nine Darlington wins are second only to Pearson's 10; he also won three Southern 500 titles. Lowe's Home Improvement, longtime sponsor of Johnson and the No. 48 HMS team, has a tie-in as well, providing funding for the No. 2 entry at Talladega in '79. More than two dozen throwback paint schemes for this year's running of the Bojangles' 500 (Sunday, Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR) have been announced. The program launched last season and is expected to continue for the next several seasons. "The whole Darlington thing is a lot of fun, the environment is full of energy," Knaus, who'll sport a throwback-styled firesuit similar to that of his driver, said. "Maybe I'll get a couple of stopwatches (to time cars), too." Johnson, a six-time series champion, has three Darlington wins, two in the 500. "To get another victory there," Knaus said, "would be fantastic." &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
No. 21 Darlington throwback a tribute to David Pearson
The Wood Brothers unveil their throwback paint scheme for Ryan Blaney at Darlington Raceway, honoring David Pearson's 1976 season where he won the Daytona 500, World 600 and Southern 500 that season.
Logano leaps to Coors Light Pole Award at Michigan
RELATED: Qualifying results " See every car, team rosters BROOKLYN, Mich. – If Joey Logano was looking for a good omen for Sunday, he found it on Friday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway . Touring the two-mile track in 35.697 seconds (201.698 mph) during the final round of knockout qualifying for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Logano edged Jimmie Johnson (201.523 mph) for the top starting spot by .031 seconds. The Coors Light Pole Award was Logano's third at MIS. On the previous two occasions the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford started first on the grid—in August 2013 and June 2016—he won the subsequent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Should Logano win form the pole on Sunday, he would be the third driver to win three or more Michigan races from the top starting spot, joining NASCAR Hall of Famers David Pearson and Bill Elliott . "Any time you put your name with a Hall of Famer of any sort, it would be really special for me," said Logano, who has collected three poles this season and 16 in his career. "That's crazy—that's a really, really neat stat. "We've got to do it though. But, obviously, starting up front here is an advantage, for sure. We talk about track position. We talk about safety on restart, being how crazy it is with the low-downforce package. And the first pit stall—probably the most important thing of all is keeping the track position through the race." And, of course, when Logano is fast in qualifying trim at MIS, he usually races well, too. "I'm excited about it," he said. "I thought our car was really fast in race trim earlier (in practice). ... I didn't think we were going to make it happen today (in qualifying), but (crew chief) Todd (Gordon) made some good adjustments, and he gave me a little pep talk, and I was ready to go. I was going to drive the heck out of that thing." Denny Hamlin (201.406 mph) qualified third, followed by Kevin Harvick (201.382 mph) and Chase Elliott (201.303 mph). Johnson's second-place start led a resurgence by Hendrick Motorsports , which placed all four cars in the top 12 during qualifying for only the second time this season, the first coming in May at Talladega, a restrictor-plate track. "It was just an awesome day for this Lowe's race car and this Lowe's race team," Johnson said. "We keep stacking pennies and making this car better and better. "My hat's off to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and all the hard work they're putting into things. Great practice and great qualifying. We need some more practice sessions (Saturday) and roll them into a good race." Johnson participated in a NASCAR organization test (one car per team) on Tuesday at Chicagoland Speedway and found the session helpful in finding speed. Indeed, the Hendrick cars more than held their own against the four entries from Joe Gibbs Racing , which have been the dominant force in Cup qualifying this season. Hamlin and Carl Edwards (ninth), were the only two JGR drivers to make the top 12, with Matt Kenseth qualifying 13th and Kyle Busch 16th. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Hall of Fame Induction: David Pearson
David Pearson comments on a legendary career that saw 105 victories and three NASCAR championships.
Blaney's Darlington scheme -- and loafers -- an ode to the Silver Fox
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It is perhaps the most memorable paint scheme among many for the organization, but when your team has been around from the beginning, the options are no doubt plentiful. "When I look at that car, I immediately think of David Pearson ," Leonard Wood said Tuesday at the Hall of Fame while standing in front of the iconic No. 21 Ford. Pearson and Wood enjoyed a lengthy tenure, the Silver Fox winning 43 times for the team with Wood calling the shots as crew chief. The paint scheme chosen for this year's Bojangles' Southern 500 throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway is a nod to the 1976 season, a highlight year among many for both Pearson and the WBR organization. The 2016 Ford Fusion that will unload for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Labor Day weekend features the same red and white paint scheme with blue piping down the sides as the Mercury Montego wheeled by Pearson . The Pearson name adorns the driver’s side door below the window just as before; the wheels are silver and the No. 21 lettering has the gold foil look that became so familiar. Driver Ryan Blaney’s uniform mimics that of Pearson's as well, a white outfit with blue across the right shoulder and stripes of red, blue and red again running down off the left shoulder. On Tuesday, Blaney was even outfitted in alligator loafers similar to those worn by Pearson during his driving days. Eddie Wood, who today oversees the operation of the team along with brother Len and sister Kim Wood Hall, said the choice of the 1976 look was "the right thing to do" to celebrate the accomplishments of four decades ago. "This is pretty much as close as you can get to (the look of) that car in '76," he said. The car on display Tuesday even carried five sticks of Wrigley's gum taped to the dash, a staple for Pearson during his tenure with the team. One stick for each 100 miles. Pearson's alligator footwear came from a local business, Price's, in his hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina. "They had thick heels on them," Eddie Pearson , David's son, said. "He'd take them back in about every six or eight months and have them re-soled." Because the team did not run the entire schedule during his tenure, Pearson , a three-time premier series champion and member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, did not win a title with the Wood Brothers. But he won plenty of races. And the '76 season was perhaps the highlight of his stay with the legendary organization. Among his 10 victories that year were the Daytona 500, World (now Coca-Cola) 600 and Southern 500, earning him NASCAR version of the Triple Crown. The Daytona 500 victory featured a last-lap crash with Richard Petty as the two came off the final turn, both sliding to the infield as they fought for the win. "I remember asking him, 'Can you get him?'" Eddie Wood said of the incredible finish. "He was running second (on the white flag lap). He said 'I'm going to try' or something like that. You never knew what he was going to do … how much he had left." With no television monitors in the pits to track the action on the track, the team had no idea what was taking place after the field zoomed past. "When they got to Turn 3, the crowd starts to stand," Wood recalled. "Things are really going nuts. And he said, 'I got him' on the radio. They come off of (Turn) 4 and he says, "Richard's under me. He got under me.' And then he said 'We hit.' "The whole place goes nuts, me included. … We didn't know what was happening, you couldn't see. Then we saw Richard come sliding (across the infield), and here comes David … he's spinning backwards – he actually hit a car that was coming down pit road … and that kind of straightened him up and helped him back out into the infield. But he said 'Where's Richard?'" Told Petty was stopped in the infield grass along the frontstretch, Pearson told Wood, 'Well, I'm coming.' He got going and won the race." It remains one of NASCAR's most incredible, unforgettable finishes. "To understand it all, he's spinning backwards and his (radio) button was on his shoulder harness, it wasn't on the steering wheel like it is now," Wood said. "He knocked the car out of gear, had the awareness to ask where (Richard) was – he almost needed like three hands (to do all that). But there was never, never any emotion, just matter of fact. Like talking on the telephone." Wins also came that year at Atlanta and Ontario, and Pearson swept races at Riverside, Michigan and Darlington. His 10 wins came in only 22 starts in what was then a 30-race season. Blaney, competing for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors this season, was excited to see the new look his car will carry. "It's awesome," Blaney said. "I love the whole throwback concept at Darlington. To be able to do this really cool paint scheme this year – I think we're going to have the best-looking race car out there. "I've always enjoyed the Wood Brothers cars; they're simple, but I think they're the best looking ones."
Blaney balancing on bubble, but not focused on Chase -- yet
RELATED: Chase Grid NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and teams resume the pursuit of a position in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup this weekend as the series heads to Sonoma Raceway and the year's first road-course stop. Ten drivers have all but officially secured berths with one or more victories through the series' first 15 races. If there aren't at least 16 winners following the cutoff race at Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 10, the remainder of the field will be determined based on points positions. Last season, there were 11 winners, leaving five positions to be awarded based on points. Ten drivers have found themselves 16th in the standings at some point this year. Five have advanced; four have fallen by the wayside for now and one, Ryan Blaney , heads to Sonoma situated in the 16th position. Blaney, driver of the Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford, is aware of his situation, but says he pays no mind to his past or current points placement. "I don't care about it," he said during a recent organizational test for teams at Kentucky Speedway . "I really don't look at it." Blaney has been as high as 12th in the standings and as low as 21st. With 11 races remaining before the field is set for the 10-race, championship-determining format gets underway, there's little reason to panic. He enters Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR) with an 11-point cushion on Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne and is 19 points ahead of 18th-place Trevor Bayne ( Roush Fenway Racing ). Richard Childress Racing driver Ryan Newman (15th) is five points ahead of Blaney. Jamie McMurray sits 14th -- the driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet is five up on Newman and 10 on Blaney. "I don't like to look at that stuff," Blaney reiterated. "I think if we go on the race track and perform the way I know we should, and run toward the front of the field like we can do week in and week out, that stuff will take care of itself." Sunday's race will be Blaney's first Sprint Cup start on a road course but he is not alone. Fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates Chris Buescher , Chase Elliott , Brian Scott and Jeffrey Earnhardt will be making their first Sprint Cup road-course starts as well. Both Blaney and Elliott ( Hendrick Motorsports ) have one road-course win apiece in the Camping World Truck Series and both came at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park . Buescher ( Front Row Motorsports ) won at Mid-Ohio in 2014 while competing in the XFINITY Series. The Wood Brothers Racing team is making its first appearance at a road-course since the 2008 season when former driver Marcos Ambrose wheeled the No. 21 from 43rd to a third-place finish at Watkins Glen International . Blaney's father, Dave, also competed in that race. One of roughly a half dozen teams competing without a Charter this season (and thus no guaranteed starting spot in the 40-car fields), Wood Brothers Racing has eight road-course wins to its credit. Marvin Panch scored the first in 1965 at The Glen; Dan Gurney won four times and NASCAR Hall of Fame member David Pearson three at Riverside International Raceway. Blaney and his team, led by crew chief Jeremy Bullins, have one top five and six top-10 finishes this season. Two of the last three starts, however, have resulted in finishes of 20th (at Charlotte) and 17th (at Michigan), sandwiched around a 10th-place run at Pocono. A brush with the wall late in the second half of the Michigan race sent his No. 21 entry to pit road. Although he restarted 29th, Blaney did gain 12 positions in the closing laps of the 400-mile race. "We had a bad day," Blaney said. "It was unfortunate because we had a really good car. We should have run in the top five pretty easily. Just the circumstances we were put in really hurt us." Michigan was the most recent outing for the series. Teams will return to the 2-mile track in August. For now, though, Sonoma is the focus. Two practices are slated for Friday on the 12-turn, 1.99-mile layout. Qualifying for the 40-car field is scheduled for Saturday.
Report: Lorenzen joins Junior with brain pledge
RELATED: See photos of Lorenzen's career Moved by Dale Earnhardt Jr. 's advocacy on the issue of concussions, NASCAR Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen will donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation upon his death, the driver's daughter Amanda told the Associated Press. "As a family, we decided we wanted to support Dale Jr. and all work together toward a healthy future for these drivers," Amanda Lorenzen Gardstrom told the AP in a story published Saturday. Earlier this week Hendrick Motorsports announced that Earnhardt Jr. would miss Sunday's race at New Hampshire due to concussion-like symptoms. The driver thought he had a severe sinus infection, according to the team, and sought treatment from a doctor who delivered that diagnosis. Lorenzen was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2015. He made just 158 premier series starts in his career, but the "Golden Boy" won 26 times from 1961-67, topping both Richard Petty and David Pearson during that span. Now 81, Lorenzen has fought the effects of dementia for years. NASCAR.com previously documented his battle in a 2014 feature. MORE: Dale Jr. pledges to donate brain to science
Chase Bubble: Stewart in; Larson sparks shake-up
RELATED: Provisional Chase Grid Here's a breakdown of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Grid and bubble picture after Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway . NEW WINNER, NEW SHAKE-UP Kyle Larson 's victory in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 altered the complexion of the provisional Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff grid, securing another postseason berth for a first-time winner. The result means one less postseason berth for drivers hoping to qualify for the Chase on points, knocking Ryan Newman out of the provisional field of 16. Jamie McMurray , Larson's Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, currently clings to the final Chase berth with two regular-season events (Darlington, Richmond) remaining. FORMALLY WIN AND IN Tony Stewart wound up 21st in his final Michigan race, two laps off the leader's pace. It was enough to formally clinch a postseason spot, pairing his Sonoma victory in June with a steady hold on 26th in the driver standings. Stewart missed the first eight races of his final championship campaign with a back injury. BUESCHER'S STANDING Chris Buescher limped to a 35th-place finish, slightly weakening his grasp on a postseason slot. Buescher prevailed at Pocono Raceway earlier this month to check one requirement for Chase eligibility; the second is a place among the top 30 in the Sprint Cup driver standings. Buescher remains 30th in the standings, but his margin over 31st-place David Ragan shrank from 13 to seven points. LOCKED IN Drivers who have clinched a spot in the Chase are: Brad Keselowski , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin (all with multiple wins), along with one-win drivers Kurt Busch , Kyle Larson , Joey Logano , Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr . Chris Buescher is currently in the Chase Grid, but has not clinched a spot. After Sunday's 400-miler, just two regular-season races (Darlington, Richmond) remain before the 16-driver postseason field is settled. BUBBLE WATCH With 24 of 26 regular-season races complete, just three at-large spots (at present) for non-winners remain available. Here's how that picture looks post-Michigan. Editor's note: The standings below are the Chase Grid standings, not the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers' standings.
Cain: Johnson deserves to be celebrated after latest milestone
MORE: Can Johnson go back-to-back? " Kelley on Jimmie tying dad LAS VEGAS -- Every era presents a great champion, and Jimmie Johnson is the modern standard. We were reminded once again of Johnson's ability to contribute to the sport a few days ago in Atlanta. In tying the celebrated legend Dale Earnhardt's 76-victory mark last Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway , Johnson formally and numerically put himself -- again -- high atop the esteemed list of NASCAR's most celebrated competitors. The first thing Johnson did after climbing out of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevy and hoisting the big trophy was to humbly acknowledge the late Earnhardt and the milestone. Anytime you equal Earnhardt, it's a big, big day and in his post-race remarks, Johnson again brought up that one of his deepest professional regrets is not getting to actually compete against the "Intimidator." However, he is, now, in another most respectful way. Speaking with or listening to Johnson, it’s always been clear he is simultaneously conscious of and awe-struck by his success -- six Sprint Cup Series titles and 76 wins. And he's genuinely amazed to be mentioned in the same sentences as the sport's legends such as Earnhardt, Petty, Pearson and Allison. And his multi-championship, 76-win collection is absolutely as hard-earned as the men who went before. Johnson may have the more clean-cut image, and he does drive for the greatly successful owner Rick Hendrick, but plenty of nice guys have driven fast cars without amassing the track record Johnson has. And, to be fair, much of Hendrick’s success is a result of Johnson. I have visited the small town of El Cajon, California, where Johnson was raised, seen the small, modest home he grew up in and spoken to the proud people that knew him "back when." His dad told me with a slight laugh about the dirt bikes the family used as night tables by the beds just so there was room to keep the bikes safely inside. RELATED: The evolution of Jimmie Yes, Johnson is good-looking, polished and polite -- a fresh-faced, smile-a-lot Cali boy for sure -- but his path to NASCAR stardom in the modern era was every bit as hard-knock as they come. Just different. Both Earnhardt and Petty were North Carolina-bred and had fathers who were famous in the sport even though they had to earn their way. It was a different situation for Johnson, whose earliest NASCAR preparation came from racing motorcycles in the California desert before moving to stock cars. His path to NASCAR was thousands of miles different than the majority of greats before him. Johnson and his former Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon are surely the most successful "West Coast" racers in the sport's history. But for Johnson in particular, that’s a result of a much less-traveled path. And this recent victory milestone deserves to be celebrated and appreciated. Johnson just celebrated his 40th birthday last fall. He is in the finest shape of any of his competitors thanks to a devoted diet and fitness routine and a cycling hobby that could reasonably become a second athletic career. He needs 29 more Cup wins to tie the great David Pearson's mark of 105. If he doesn't quite make it, triple digits remain a legitimate possibility. There was a long time I thought Gordon would reach triple digits in wins, but an ailing back ultimately proved too heavy a competitive burden, and the four-time champion Hendrick teammate retired at the end of last season. Before the new championship format -- perhaps a result of Johnson's success with the other -- I was absolutely convinced he would earn a seventh title to tie Earnhardt and Petty. I genuinely felt he would become the sport's only eight-time champion. And despite the evolving title format, which has so drastically changed the course of winning, I still believe Johnson will at least win number seven. He's certainly put in a promising start to this season. Because of the new format, it's entirely possible no other modern era driver will even stand a chance to win seven championships. And with the extremely high level of competition across the starting grid, reeling off 70 or 80 career Cup wins is no longer a truly plausible possibility either. Reigning champion Kyle Busch may be most likely to put in a good run with 34 wins already at the age of 30. In the meantime, each milestone Johnson reaches and raises is a reminder that the rest of us have been treated to a rare chance to witness history. POLL: Will anyone ever reach 76 again?
What if Darlington race included throwback drivers?
RELATED: Darlington throwback paint schemes Darlington's throwback theme for Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 already is a hit with racers and fans alike, bringing out the creativity in the industry with special paint schemes and providing opportunities to honor great racers who have gone before. But what if along with those throwback paint schemes, like Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Valvoline No. 88 nod to Cale Yarborough and Clint Bowyer 's No. 15 salute to recently passed Buddy Baker, we could actually bring back the NASCAR legends themselves for this one race. Who would you pick? Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman could fill the whole 43-car field with legendary race car drivers. He won seven premier series championships with Richard Petty and an eighth with Terry Labonte , competing against some of the most storied personalities in the sport. "Damn, I've seen 'em all. I don't know …" Inman said of trying to choose just one driver to place in a throwback ride. "Earnhardt Sr. was good there you know." Bowyer, too, wished Earnhardt Sr. could join the field at the 2015 Southern 500. "Obviously for me it would be Earnhardt for me because we lost him, you know. That's first and foremost. Anyone you ever lost is who you'd want to bring back." But Bowyer said bringing back the man with the most wins (47) and most poles (47) at Darlington, David Pearson , would be the ultimate measuring stick for today's Sprint Cup drivers. " Pearson … man, what a character and just a genuine badass and an aggressive and successful racer. Anytime you have someone who's successful in the sport you make a living in, you want to be able to see what he had, what he's made of and see how you stack up." Eddie Wood, co-owner of Wood Brothers Racing , fondly remembers those days with Pearson driving the No. 21 Purolator Mercury. Pearson drove for the Woods Brothers from 1972-79 and won seven times at "The Lady in Black" during that span with two runner-up finishes. "That was his place," Wood said of Pearson's dominance at the South Carolina track. "The hotter the better for David . He liked it HOT, so we'd have to run in the daytime for him." RELATED: Drivers, officials, fans pumped for throwback weekend Inman attributed some of Pearson's success at the track also called "Too Tough To Tame" to his ability to take care of his equipment. This was extra difficult, as Inman recalled, because the track promoter sometimes would put bear's grease on the track between Saturday's practice and Monday's race. Blue laws prevented NASCAR from running on Sundays in South Carolina then. " Pearson just had a knack for taking care of the car. He always had a good car too," Inman said. "At least most of the time. For Darlington we put bars under the fenders. You knew you were gonna hit the wall, so we just put bars in and just bolted them to the right side. But the guard rail wasn't smooth like it is now. And they'll wear the sides out this time with the low downforce package." Aside from the drivers who racked up at the track, including Richard Petty and Buck Baker, Inman said Parnelli Jones' performance at Darlington had lasting impact on the racing there. "Parnelli Jones came out here in maybe 1956 or 57 was the first one to really use the high bank to what it is now. I remember him just sliding up to the fence. He didn't finish, of course." Jones crashed at Darlington in both 1956 and 1957. He finished 50th in a field of 70 cars in 1956 in the No. 1 Torrance Motors Ford and 34th in the No. 11 Ford owned by Oscar Maples in 1957. In 1958, Jones did finish the Southern 500 running, coming in 18th in a field of 48 cars during his last race there. The list of great performances at Darlington is nothing short of epic. Just the list of winners sends any racing fan on a long ride down memory lane: Curtis Turner, Fireball Roberts, Fred Lorenzen, Bobby Allison, Fonty Flock, Neil Bonnett, Benny Parsons, Harry Gant. How would they stack up against Jeff Gordon , the active driver with the most wins at Darlington (seven)? "Herb Thomas and Buck Baker were both really good," Inman added to the list. "But Herb had it as good as anyone in those old Hudson Hornets that Marshall Teague built, and I think he won in a Chevrolet, too." Now that would be an entirely different kind of throwback idea. Run at Darlington again in restored Chevrolets, Fords, Hornets, Plymouths, Pontiacs and Dodges.