Dale Earnhardt Jr.: By the numbers
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond RELATED: Dale Jr. announces retirement " Amy's message to Dale A statistical look at the NASCAR career of Dale Earnhardt Jr., with numbers as of April 25, the day he announced his retirement from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at the end of the 2017 season. For a deeper statistical dive, visit Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s page at racing-reference.info . 0 -- The number of laps completed in Earnhardt Jr.'s shortest race, the result of a first-lap crash in the 2001 Dura Lube 400 at Rockingham. The event was the first for NASCAR after the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500. 1 -- The number of NASCAR All-Star Race victories in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s career. He became the invitational event's first rookie winner in 2000. 2 -- The number of Daytona 500 victories recorded by Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3 -- The car number made famous by his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt. Also, Earnhardt Jr.'s highest-ranking finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, in 2003. 6 -- The number of wins recorded by Earnhardt Jr. at Talladega Superspeedway, the most among active drivers. Also, the number of victories Earnhardt achieved in his winningest season (2004). RELATED: All of Junior's wins " Dale Jr. through the years 8 -- Earnhardt Jr.'s first car number in NASCAR premier-series competition. Also, his starting spot in his premier series debut in the 1999 Coca-Cola 600. 10 -- The number of seasons that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has driven for Hendrick Motorsports, which fields his No. 88 Chevrolet. 11.3 -- The best average finish in a single full season in Earnhardt Jr.'s career, recorded in his three-win campaign of 2015. 12 -- The number of tracks where Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in his premier-series career -- Talladega (6), Daytona (4), Phoenix (3), Richmond (3), Pocono (2), Michigan (2), and one each at Atlanta, Martinsville, Bristol, Chicagoland, Texas and Dover. RELATED: Best paint schemes " Junior plans to run two XFINITY races in '18 13 -- The number of Coors Light Pole Awards that Earnhardt has collected in his career in NASCAR's top division. 20 -- Over two seasons (2012 and 2016), the number of races that Earnhardt missed due to concussions. 21 -- The age at which Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his debut in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series. He finished 14th on June 22, 1996 at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway. 22 -- The number of top-10 finishes Earnhardt Jr. posted in both of his NASCAR XFINITY Series championship seasons. 24 -- The age at which Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his debut in NASCAR's premier series. 42 -- The age at which Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his decision to retire from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. RELATED: Dale Jr. explains his decision -- best quotes from the No. 88 driver and Rick Hendrick 50 -- The number of NASCAR national series victories for Dale Earnhardt Jr., with 26 in premier-series competition and 24 in what is now known as the XFINITY Series. 88 -- The car number the Dale Earnhardt Jr. has campaigned since moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. 100 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. reached this milestone number of premier-series starts on Sept. 1, 2002 in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He finished 16th. 143 -- The number of races in the longest losing skid of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s career, spanning 2008-12. Both wins that bookended the dry spell were recorded at Michigan International Speedway. 149 -- The number of top-five finishes that Earnhardt Jr has registered in his career at NASCAR's top level. 291 -- The number of starts that Earnhardt Jr. made for Dale Earnhardt Inc., the team founded by his father that gave him his start in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. 312 -- The number of starts -- as of April 25, 2017 -- made by Dale Earnhardt Jr. for Hendrick Motorsports. 426 -- The number of laps led by Earnhardt in his first full season (2000) in NASCAR's top division. 540 -- The number of times that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was scored as running at the finish in his career, an 89.6 percent rate. 595.5 -- The number of miles Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed in his big-league debut May 30, 1999 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Earnhardt placed 16th, three laps down in the Coca-Cola 600. 600 -- The milestone number of premier-series starts Earnhardt achieved in March 2017 at Auto Club Speedway. 1,131 -- The number of laps led in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s most prolific season (2004) in that category. 8,195 -- The number of laps led in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s career to date. </p>
Junior endears himself to fans by being the real deal
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond RELATED: Reactions " Relive every Dale Jr. win " Top quotes from day How appropriate that after an emotional, heartfelt press conference to formally share his decision to retire at the end of the 2017 NASCAR season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. walked outside into the Hendrick Motorsports parking lot to find a large crowd waiting for him. Some were there to ask him for his autograph, but many more had come to give Earnhardt their support and appreciation as he competes in his final season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The adoration is something Earnhardt, 42, receives in bulk every time he goes anywhere in public. The fan love and positive feedback have translated to more than 2 million followers on Twitter. Sure, two Daytona 500 trophies, the amazing run of restrictor-plate victories and the racing lineage have helped earn him these loyal fans. But perhaps it's the real triumphs and real struggles of Earnhardt's career -- the high highs and low lows -- that the masses of people relate to and appreciate most. "One thing that's made this career the incredible ride that it's been, is Junior Nation," Earnhardt acknowledged. "The fan support that I received straight out of the gate, was in large part because of my famous last name. "But throughout the ups and downs it occurred to me that the fans that stuck it out and the new ones that joined us, they were there because of the person I was and not who they wanted me to be." While Tuesday's news may have caught some off-guard, the sport's reigning 14-time Most Popular Driver seems genuinely content about the decision. And that should give his fans some peace. MORE: Junior: A kid, a son, a racer and fan favorite Earnhardt openly shared the process behind his decision and then answered questions from the media. Often there were long pauses between question and answer and that's because Earnhardt actually thinks about his responses instead of replying with clichés and soundbites. He is honest and heartfelt -- even in the moments after he's just climbed out of his race car. He is genuine. And that -- not just his ability to win big races or even his racing lineage -- is what fans seem to appreciate most about Earnhardt. His time behind the wheel has evolved -- much as the sport's fan base has as well. There was the "Junior" I first met in the mid-1990s -- young, worry-free and sporting bleach-blond highlights. He was learning about the sport, winning Busch Grand National races and hoisting championship trophies under the watchful eye of his dad, seven-time premier-series champion Dale Earnhardt. It was fun to watch their interaction and see the pride on the elder Earnhardt’s face. I remember vividly the way Earnhardt shut down an interview in the Daytona press box one afternoon during Speedweeks just so he could watch his son run practice laps on the speedway down below. Fans were intrigued by the young Earnhardt then -- those that cheered for his father and those that cheered against him. He was a "typical" 20-something making his way up the ranks, having fun and winning. After his legendary father passed away on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, Junior's world naturally shifted. Almost immediately he received new fans. So many felt for this young man who had suddenly lost his beloved dad. Many others had already taken him in as "their guy." And Junior never disappointed. Whether he won or not. His career highlight reel includes winning the summer Daytona Monster Energy Series race five months after losing his father and a streak of four consecutive Talladega victories from 2001-03. He has collected 26 trophies in all -- huge triumphs at Daytona and Talladega and workmanlike wins at Phoenix and Pocono. He has challenged for season championships -- finishing a career-best third in 2003. TAKE A DEEPER LOOK: Complete Junior stats It's the success he's collected without trophies that will be remembered most -- the way he has shown how to persevere after tragedy, overcome doubt and recover from injury. Perhaps Earnhardt's announcement this week wasn't honestly a total surprise to his fans and friends. He is 42 years old, just got married on New Year's Eve and maybe there's a "Dale III" in the future. MORE: Dale, Amy's wedding album " Dale and Amy through the years As Junior stressed on Tuesday, his decision to retire after an incredible career came of his own free will. It was not dictated by injury or loss of ability, team orders or even a sponsor decision. It is what Junior wants to do. It is best for him. And what more could you ask. He deserves that. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
American Ethanol , Enogen named sponsors for June Iowa XFINITY race
RELATED: Buy tickets NEWTON, Iowa (May 3, 2016) -- Iowa Speedway today announced American Ethanol will serve as the entitlement sponsor and Enogen as the presenting sponsor for the NASCAR XFINITY Series race during Wide Opening Weekend on June 18-19. The NASCAR XFINITY Series American Ethanol E15 250 presented by Enogen on Sunday, June 19, represents the fifth consecutive year of the American Ethanol partnership and the fourth consecutive year with Enogen at Iowa Speedway . While the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series idles for a week, the green flag will wave at Iowa Speedway for a first-of-its-kind doubleheader weekend in central Iowa. For the first time ever, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR XFINITY Series are paired together during Wide Opening Weekend on June 18-19. “ American Ethanol and Enogen stepping up to sponsor our NASCAR XFINITY Series race is another great indicator of the important platform Iowa Speedway and NASCAR provide to brands,” said Iowa Speedway President Jimmy Small. “The adoption of biofuels grown and made in the USA, creating much needed green jobs in Iowa and across the Heartland is one of the tenets of NASCAR Green. American Ethanol has proven to be a tremendous partner not only for Iowa Speedway , but for NASCAR’s teams, fans and the industry as a whole.” American Ethanol and Enogen were the former title and presenting sponsors of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway . American Ethanol , along with Enogen, join the Iowa Corn Growers Association in renewing their long standing relationships with the speedway in 2016. “As NASCAR approaches 10 million flawless miles running on Sunoco Green E15, we’re excited for yet another opportunity to showcase the power and the high-quality performance ethanol brings to the race track,” said Jeff Broin, co-chair of Growth Energy. “It’s no secret biofuels create jobs in our country and work great in our engines. American Ethanol is proud to partner with Iowa Speedway and the NASCAR XFINITY series to show that an ethanol -based bio-fuel is the future.” Representing a wide array of ethanol supporters, from farmers to bio-engineering firms, American Ethanol was established by Growth Energy in partnership with the National Corn Growers Association to increase awareness of the value of American -made ethanol . Ethanol represents the most commercially-viable alternative to 100% petroleum-based fuel that America currently holds, and corn ethanol reduces emissions by 59 percent. “ Ethanol is helping America reduce its dependence on foreign oil, lowering prices at the pump, improving the environment with lower emissions, and growing the economy with jobs that can’t be outsourced,” said Jack Bernens, head of Enogen at Syngenta. “ Ethanol is an important success story and the American Ethanol E15 250 is an excellent opportunity to engage consumers and help increase awareness for the benefits of earth-friendly American ethanol . Syngenta is pleased to once again be working with Iowa Speedway and Growth Energy to support the ethanol industry through our sponsorship of this event to tell ethanol ’s story.” In 2011, NASCAR launched its long-term biofuels program to reduce emissions of the fuel used in all its racing series. As part of the partnership, NASCAR’s three national touring series began using Sunoco Green E15; a 15% ethanol blend bio-fuel, made from American -grown corn. By utilizing Sunoco Green E15 race fuel, NASCAR has demonstrated that ethanol -blended fuel performs when held to the highest standards. Iowa Speedway season tickets, which are currently on sale, include eight high-powered races over three weekends. Wide Opening Weekend will feature both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR XFINITY Series American Ethanol E15 250 presented by Enogen during Father’s Day Weekend on June 18-19. The second weekend of racing will showcase the ARCA Racing Series 150 presented by Casey’s General Stores, the INDYCAR Series Iowa Corn 300, Indy Lights and Pro Mazda Championship on July 9-10. The 2016 race season will close on July 29-30 with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series Casey’s General Stores 150 and NASCAR XFINITY Series U.S. Cellular 250.
American Ethanol E15 names Chicagoland Truck race
Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup kickoff weekend fueled by sponsor BUY: Chicagoland race tickets Chicagoland Speedway announced Tuesday that its NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Sept. 18 will be known as the American Ethanol E15 225 (Sept. 18, 8:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). With support from Growth Energy, an official NASCAR Green partner, and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, American Ethanol will serve as the sponsor for the race leading into the first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup event as the 10-race playoff for NASCAR's premier series opens at the Joliet, Illinois facility for the fifth consecutive year. "As we kick off our Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend, we are thrilled to welcome a partner as involved in the sport as American Ethanol ," Scott Paddock, president of Chicagoland Speedway, said in a track release. "Their commitment to reducing emissions through the cleaner burning ethanol fuel has been a vital part of NASCAR's Green Clean Air initiative. American Ethanol has proven to be a tremendous partner not only for Chicagoland Speedway, but for NASCAR's teams, fans and the industry as a whole." The event will be the 16th of the 23-race Camping World Truck Series schedule, and it will be the third event sponsored by American Ethanol , which served as a presenting sponsor for the June 13 American Ethanol Presents the Drivin' for Linemen 200 Brought to You by Ameren at Gateway Motorsports Park and as the title sponsor of the American Ethanol 200 on June 19 at Iowa Speedway. "Growth Energy is thrilled to sponsor the American Ethanol 225 and work in conjunction with Chicagoland Speedway and Illinois family corn growers to promote a homegrown, American fuel," Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, said in the track release. "The drivers at Chicagoland Speedway and across the nation rely on E15 for superior horsepower and performance, and as they will tell you, it delivers." Kyle Busch won last year's event for his fourth career Camping World Truck Series victory at Chicagoland. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR Silver Bullet Bash takes center stage in Charlotte
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- For the first time, the NASCAR Silver Bullet Bash presented by Coors Light will take center stage in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday, May 18. Celebrating the first half of the NASCAR season, the Silver Bullet Bash will lead off the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race weekend festivities with live music, special guests and unique experiences. As part of this year's event, Maren Morris, who recently won New Female Vocalist of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards, will rock the crowd with a headline performance at the legendary Fillmore Charlotte. The Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter will take the stage for a special performance playing hit songs like "My Church" and "80s Mercedes" along with others from her new album HERO. The NASCAR Silver Bullet Bash Presented by Coors Light has traditionally taken place during Champion's Week in Las Vegas as a private invite-only event. This year's bash marks the first time that NASCAR and Coors Light will open the doors to fans. Beginning today, a limited number of fans 21-and-older can receive passes to this exclusive event by attending participating Charlotte area bars and restaurants that serve Coors Light, the Official Beer of NASCAR. "The NASCAR Silver Bullet Bash was specifically designed for Coors Light to connect and engage with our fans at participating bars and restaurants in the weeks leading up to the event," said Lou Garate, vice president, partnership marketing, NASCAR. "This year's event will build excitement and set the stage for the Monster Energy All-Star weekend festivities taking place in Charlotte." Two of NASCAR's young, up-and-coming drivers, Ryan Blaney and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., will attend the NASCAR Silver Bullet Bash and engage with some lucky fans. Both drivers will be actively promoting the event and encouraging fans to visit participating venues for a chance to attend the event. Fans are encouraged to visit the following venues for a chance to claim one of the limited number of passes available to attend the event: • Sports Page Food & Spirits : 8400 Bellhaven Blvd # H, Charlotte, NC 28216 • Bourbon N Burgers : 2200 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28203 • Leo’s 49 Sports Bar : 7801 University Center Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28277 • Fitzgerald's Irish Pub : 201 E 5th St, Charlotte, NC 28202 The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season will continue with the Toyota Owners 400 on Sunday, Apr. 30 at 2:00 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Fifth annual NASCAR Race To Green celebrates industry-wide effort
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- To commemorate the holistic effort being made to help protect and preserve the environment, NASCAR® announced its fifth annual NASCAR Race to Green ™ initiative. Beginning today and culminating with Sunday's TOYOTA OWNERS 400 at Richmond International Raceway, the initiative will build awareness around the programs NASCAR, the industry and multiple partners have developed to help reduce its carbon footprint. A key pillar of NASCAR Race to Green is a call-to-action for fans and the industry to donate trees that will be planted across the country as well as in areas recently devastated by natural disasters. Fans can visit NASCAR.com/green to donate trees -- $1 per tree for a 2-3 foot sapling -- to be planted in those areas with the support of the Arbor Day Foundation. Fans are encouraged to share their own efforts around being green by using the hashtag #NASCARGreen. "The Race To Green initiative allows us to highlight the foundational partners that help reduce our impact on the environment all year long," said Brent Dewar, NASCAR Chief Operating Officer. "As an example of the wide range of initiatives taking place across the industry, American Ethanol has helped us eclipse 10 million miles on Sunoco Green E15, Safety-Kleen recycles all oil and lubricants at more than 200 race events a year, and collectively as an industry more than 400,000 trees have been planted to date. We are proud to continue those efforts under the Race to Green umbrella." As part of this year's initiative, NASCAR fans visiting NASCAR.com/green will be treated to a newly designed digital destination, complete with easy-to-access information, news, an interactive carbon calculator and more. NASCAR Green will debut a new TV spot today as well, featuring a newly created NASCAR Green logo. NASCAR Race To Green will highlight the sustainability efforts of its teams, tracks and NASCAR Official Partners, who work closely with NASCAR, year-round. While NASCAR Green initiatives span the entire year, the following additional activities will take place throughout this week-long effort: • In partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, NASCAR Official Partners have committed to donate trees to Tennessee residents affected by the Chimney Tops 2 Fire in November 2016. NASCAR will match the donations made by its Official Partners. • As part of the 16th annual Comcast Cares Day, NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers will join Comcast volunteers for a Habitat for Humanity build in Johnson City, Tenn. NASCAR will donate trees for the newly built homes. • Pocono Raceway will release a Sustainability Report that details the initiatives it has in place to be environmentally responsible, including its recycling program, solar farm and more. • In partnership with Talladega Superspeedway, NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Elliot Sadler will visit Oak Mountain Elementary School in Birmingham, Ala. to donate 750 tree saplings provided by NASCAR and the Arbor Day Foundation. • Today, Danica Patrick will help Mobil 1 spotlight its Mobil 1TM Annual Protection, allowing drivers to go one full year -- or 20,000 miles -- between oil changes, with a ceremonial pour at Bristol Motor Speedway. NASCAR Green was launched because it was the right thing to do for the country, climate and fans. Since 2008, NASCAR has taken a holistic approach across its wide-ranging effort to reduce our impact on the environment, including: • NASCAR and the industry have planted enough trees to completely offset carbon emissions for all three national series racing for the past six years, plus the next 40 years. • NASCAR eclipsed more than 10 million competition miles on Sunoco Green E15, demonstrating that the ethanol blended biofuel stands up to high performance racing while significantly reducing emissions. • Safety-Kleen delivers its oil recycling and re-refining services to the track each weekend, ensuring all cleaning solvents, oil, fluids and lubricants are recaptured and incorporated into useable products. • NASCAR also features many teams and tracks using solar power as a renewable energy source, including: Daytona International Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, Pocono Raceway, Sonoma Raceway, Roush Fenway Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports. For more information about NASCAR Race to Green , visit NASCAR.com/Green . The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season will continue wit h the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 23 at 2 p.m. ET on FOX, P RN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Post-Race Reactions: American Ethanol 200
Hear from all the top finishers from Saturday's American Ethanol 200 from Iowa Speedway.
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 22 320 0 0 0 3 3 7 2 Joe Gibbs 20 277 -43 -43 2 2 12 7 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1 260 -60 -17 0 2 2 7 4 Chip Ganassi 42 252 -68 -8 1 1 6 7 5 Rick Hendrick 9 244 -76 -8 0 1 1 7 6 J D Gibbs 18 231 -89 -13 1 3 3 7 7 Richard Childress 2 205 -115 -26 0 0 0 7 8 Richard Childress 3 201 -119 -4 0 0 0 7 9 Kelley Earnhardt-Miller 7 200 -120 -1 1 0 5 7 10 Jack Roush 16 184 -136 -16 1 0 5 7 11 Richard Childress 21 180 -140 -4 0 1 1 7 12 Jack Roush 6 180 -140 0 0 0 0 7 13 Matt Kaulig 11 164 -156 -16 0 0 0 7 14 Chip Ganassi 48 163 -157 -1 0 0 0 7 15 Joe Gibbs 19 160 -160 -3 0 0 0 7 16 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5 157 -163 -3 0 0 0 7 17 James Whitener 28 139 -181 -18 0 0 0 7 18 Gene Haas 00 130 -190 -9 0 0 0 7 19 Richard Childress 33 128 -192 -2 0 0 0 7 20 Maria Gonzalez Hernandez 24 125 -195 -3 0 0 0 7 21 Mark Smith 14 111 -209 -14 0 0 0 7 22 Richard Childress 62 108 -212 -3 0 0 0 7 23 Rod Sieg 39 108 -212 0 0 0 0 7 24 Maurice Gallagher Jr. 23 103 -217 -5 0 0 0 7 25 Michelle Gosselin 90 88 -232 -15 0 0 0 7 26 Tony Stewart 41 86 -234 -2 0 1 1 2 27 Johnny Davis 01 86 -234 0 0 0 0 7 28 Tony Clements 51 83 -237 -3 0 0 0 7 29 Gary Cogswell 0 81 -239 -2 0 0 0 7 30 Gary Keller 4 81 -239 0 0 0 0 7 31 Fred Biagi 98 76 -244 -5 0 0 0 5 32 Jimmy Means 52 74 -246 -2 0 0 0 7 33 Roger Penske 12 64 -256 -10 1 0 0 2 34 Bobby Dotter 07 64 -256 0 0 0 0 7 35 Danielle Long 40 63 -257 -1 0 0 0 7 36 Rick Hendrick 88 49 -271 -14 0 0 0 1 37 Bj McLeod 78 48 -272 -1 0 0 0 7 38 Jessica Smith-Mcleod 99 47 -273 -1 0 0 0 7 39 Jessica Smith-Mcleod 8 41 -279 -6 0 0 0 7 40 Rick Gdovic 46 37 -283 -4 0 0 0 2 41 Danielle Long 13 20 -300 -17 0 0 0 7 42 Mike Harmon 74 16 -304 -4 0 0 0 7 43 Lynn Cockrum 25 12 -308 -4 0 0 0 2 44 Mark Smith 44 10 -310 -2 0 0 0 1 45 Pamela Sieg 93 6 -314 -4 0 0 0 6 46 Victor Obaika 97 4 -316 -2 0 0 0 6 47 Cindy Shepherd 89 2 -318 -2 0 0 0 5 48 Victor Obaika 177 0 -320 -2 0 0 0 1
The endearing -- and enduring -- allure of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
RELATED: Junior announces retirement " Reaction " Analysis I have had the good fortune to observe many of the greatest athletes of the modern era. Thanks to a friend in the catering business, I worked the 1988 NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago when Michael Jordan put on quite the hometown show for the fans. On assignment for InStyle Magazine, I glued myself to Barry Bonds as he prepared for his wedding by pontificating the entire time to his groomsmen. John McEnroe once berated me for falling asleep during an exhibition match, and then winked and smiled as he walked away to make it clear he literally has his eyes on everything and everyone around him. In 2011, I was hired by NASCAR, and though I had followed the sport closely as a child when my father wrote, among other motorsports books, "Showdown at Daytona," I didn't fully comprehend the endearing -- and enduring -- allure of Dale Earnhardt Jr. until I had the chance to watch him up close and personal. There truly is no one, even among the GOATs in sport, who inspires more passion from his fans than this authentic, one-of-a-kind driver. That's a tall order when you spend your entire life living and working in the long shadow of your late, great father. Think about it: How does one become such an original when you're a "Junior" doing exactly what your old man did for a living? My first "encounter" with the Junior Earnhardt could have cost me my right leg. He nearly clipped me with his Chevrolet in the Bristol Motor Speedway pits as he prepared to enter the track during a practice. When I later asked someone who knows him well about the close encounter, he laughed and explained that Dale was warning me to keep my head up when walking through the garage. In other words: Welcome to NASCAR, rookie. The next day was even more terrifying. As I turned the corner in the same tight Bristol garage, a surge of fans barreled toward me, literally a tsunami of humanity sporting bright-colored shirts, jackets and hats. I'm not kidding: It was frightening. They had just spotted Earnhardt, and were rushing to him to pose for photographs and secure an autograph and do whatever they do when they spot their hero. Nothing -- and certainly no one -- was going to get in their way. Earnhardt Jr. was behind me, so he wasn't able to watch my back (or front) this time. I survived the car wash-like battering, and I since have learned how best to avoid them. Not the man himself, though. While he certainly knows crafty ways to avoid crowds, more often than not he factors fan interaction into nearly every path he takes. Fans literally grab him -- touch his face, wrap their arms around him, stumble into him as they drop everything to take a photo with him. Yet nothing fazes the guy. It's uncanny. I've never seen him get ruffled.
Zalenski survives Phoenix melee for first NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series win
RELATED: See the complete iRacing schedule Rookie NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series driver Bobby Zalenski scored his first victory at Phoenix International Raceway Tuesday night, holding off Ray Alfalla and Ryan Luza on two late-race restarts. Zalenski took the lead on a restart with ten laps to go when leader Andrew Fayash missed a shift. Logan Clampitt, who was restarting second, also moved alongside Fayash as the three raced door-to-door into Turn 1. Zalenski had such a sharp angle into the corner he could not keep his car on the bottom which led him to hit Clampitt, spinning the erstwhile series leader out of contention. Zalenski escaped with minimal damage and had the race lead, but he would need to execute on one more restart with the two strongest drivers in 2017 thus far right behind him. The green flew with five laps left but before Alfalla and Luza could challenge for the win, Michael Conti spun Fayash entering Turn One leading to a race-ending caution. Alfalla finished runner-up, right in front of Luza as both rebounded from their problems at Texas. Dylan Duval finished fourth and Zack Novak was fifth, the first time either driver has finished in the top five this season. Matt Bussa started on pole and led the race to the green flag, building a comfortable lead on Luza during the opening laps. Bussa led the entirety of the first run, only relinquishing the lead to pit for tires and fuel on Lap 53. However, Bussa would not return to the front after the stops as several sim racers short-pitted including Michael Conti, who assumed the lead. A caution on Lap 59 brought nearly all the lead lap cars back into the pits for tires with Conti leading the pack off pit road. Conti would restart third but only took one lap to pass Adam Gilliland and Marcus Richardson to retake the lead. Unlike the first run when Luza kept in touch with Bussa, nobody came close to matching Conti's speed on the long run as the No. 5 drove off and left the field. Like Bussa, Conti led until pitting for routine service on Lap 106 and just like the first round of stops, a caution interrupted the pit cycle before it was complete, costing Conti and other frontrunners some track position. The final 40 laps were quite the wreckfest as drivers tried to gain positions after restarts. Chris Overland held the lead briefly but Fayash got by shortly after the restart. Despite not showing speed early in the race, Fayash looked quite strong out front and led until his unfortunate missed shift and subsequent crash one restart later. Luza is back on top of the standings thanks to his third-place effort and Clampitt's troubles. He leads Zalenski by five points while Clampitt slips to third, seven points adrift. Alfalla sits fourth, but is within striking distance as he is only 13 points out of the lead. Darik Bourdeau rounds out the top five, 32 points back. Next up is a date with Richmond International Raceway, the second-consecutive short track on the schedule. Look for many of the same faces to be up front as Luza, Alfalla, Clampitt and Zalenski look to break away from the field. With 2017 looking like one of the most competitive NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series seasons ever, can anyone break away and become the favorite for the sim racing title? Find out in two weeks on iRacingLive!
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