Young drivers prepare to step up as Dale Jr. readies for goodbye
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond RICHMOND, Va. -- The cyclical churn of talent in the NASCAR garage took another turn this week with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s announcement that 2017 will be his final year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. His impending departure follows those of household names Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards -- all in short order since the end of the 2015 season. In outlining his decision to leave the cockpit, Earnhardt was asked about NASCAR's ability to reload with a new generational thrust in driver star power. He named Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott among the sport's several young aces in waiting, offering assurance that the NASCAR roster remained vibrant and strong. As for those young stars? Asked upon their Friday arrival at Richmond International Raceway about their readiness to assume the mantle, the newest and brightest of those newer drivers might not be waiting much longer. "Although it's sad that we have all our veterans and heroes retiring, I think NASCAR is in a great position with all the young talent that they have in the (Monster Energy) Series currently, and really in every feeder series below them, there's a lot of young guys with great equipment and good backing," said 24-year-old Kyle Larson, the series' current points leader. "So, I think the competition will be good. And, there's a lot of personalities, too, with people getting themselves out there on social media and stuff like that, showing their personalities. So, I feel like we're in a good spot to have some new stars step up." Larson and Elliott -- both 20-somethings -- have already begun to make that push on the track, sitting 1-2 in the series standings. They've been joined by 23-year-old Ryan Blaney, plus rookies Erik Jones, 20, and Daniel Suarez, 25, as just some of the newest faces in the garage. The current transition of the sport's paradigm isn't a new phenomenon. If the genealogy of NASCAR stardom read like the Book of Chronicles, it would include a traditional biblical list of "begats." The career of Lee Petty begat Richard Petty's, Fireball Roberts' and Ned Jarrett's careers begat David Pearson's, which begat Cale Yarborough's, Bobby Allison's and Darrell Waltrip's. Then came Earnhardt and Elliott and Wallace, then Gordon, then Stewart and then Jimmie Johnson -- all with a host of other dynamic personalities in between. Mere mention as a part of that incoming next wave, with the potential to join a list of stars with Hall of Fame clout ranks as heady territory. Being singled out by the series' 14-time Most Popular Driver as one of those candidates is too, something that Blaney -- Earnhardt's neighbor and friend -- accepts with a degree of pride and reverence. "He has a very big impact of what people think, whether it is fans or in the garage area," Blaney said. "Him talking up younger drivers or the sport in general is going to get his fans excited about the future of going forward even though he won't be driving next year. What he says will be very important. I know he has always said great things about the sport and drivers in it and been very positive, which makes him a great person and great ambassador for the sport. It means a lot to hear him say those things. "Like I said, I know he says that about a lot of young drivers and try to set everything up for the future, but it is nice to be a part of that conversation when he speaks." Gracefully making the transition to stardom is a multi-pronged challenge, requiring both on-track performance and a proficiency in engaging with fans new and old. The former requires both raw talent and a full team effort. As for the latter, Suarez said there's no secret code to making that connection. "I think it's very simple -- it's just being yourself," said Suarez, in his first year of replacing Edwards at Joe Gibbs Racing. "I think every single driver out there in the garage has different personalities: Dale has his personality; Kyle has his personality; Jimmie Johnson has his personality; I have my personality; and everyone is different. When every single driver can go out there to be himself, I think that's very cool, and the fans like that. "You know, so far it's what I've been doing and I think it's the right thing to do. But like I said, overall, Dale has been more than a role model for the sport and it's great what he has done." </p>
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;
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Davey Allison
The son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison , Davey Allison won 19 races and 14 poles before his tragic death in a helicopter accident in 1993.
Jimmie Johnson moves closer to NASCAR legends
Jimmie Johnson reeled off back-to-back wins with his Bristol conquest on Monday, and now a much larger goal looms in front of him. Mr. Johnson, meet Mr. Yarborough. Mr. Allison and Mr. Waltrip, you're next. The Hendrick Motorsports driver and seven-time premier series champion continued to climb NASCAR's all-time wins list with his "Colosseum" conquest, and he is homing in on passing a triumvirate of legends with every victory. Now with 82 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins, Johnson is one behind Cale Yarborough (83) for sixth place on the all-time wins list. Beyond Yarborough are Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip at 84. That's just two more wins than Johnson currently has. Yes, it is conceivable -- perhaps even probable -- that Johnson will pass all three on the list in the same season and end 2017 fourth on the all-time wins tally. "It's mind-blowing," Johnson said. "I cannot believe that we're sitting here with 82 wins. That is such a big number. Yeah, and to be 7 or 8 years old, whatever I was, traveling around the country racing dirt bikes and walking into my first Hardee's, and I thought it was a race shop for Cale Yarborough and then I realized it was a hamburger stand. ... To be in this position is quite an honor. But I honestly wouldn't be in this position if it wasn't for (crew chief) Chad Knaus and (team owner) Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon, Lowe's, all the consistent things that I've had through my career. This has really been the environment for me to thrive in." Sit back and enjoy it. History is at hand.
Born: February 25, 1961 Died: July 13, 1993 Hometown: Hueytown, Ala. Premier Series Stats Competed: 1985-93 Starts: 191 Wins: 19 Poles: 14 Years on Ballot: 1 Davey Allison was born with speed. The son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison grew up more interested in football, but could not escape the racing bug, following his father into the family profession. The younger Allison honed his skills at local Alabama tracks, getting his big break in 1987, taking over for legendary driver Cale Yarborough in Ranier-Lundy's Ford Thunderbird. Allison spent no time continuing the family's legacy, compiling two wins, five poles and nine top fives in his full-season debut to capture 1987 premier series rookie of the year. Allison won 19 races and 14 poles, including the 1992 Daytona 500, before his tragic death in a helicopter accident in 1993. Months earlier Allison concluded his best premier series season, running first in the championship standings until his car was collected in an accident during the final race at Atlanta. Despite winning his own Daytona 500, Allison ’s favorite racing moment was finishing second to his father in the 1988 "Great American Race" as the pair became the first and only father-son combo to finish 1-2 in NASCAR's biggest event.
#TBT: Bobby Allison avoids six-car wreck to win at Michigan
It was 1981 when the Gabriel 400 at Michigan International Speedway saw a total of 47 lead changes, ending with Bobby Allison winning -- but there's much more to the story. On Lap 196 out of 200, Allison jumped from seventh to first, stealing the lead from Darrell Waltrip. But this isn't where the race's craziness ended, it's where it began. Behind Allison on Lap 197, a six-car pileup occurred in Turns 1-2, involving Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Buddy Baker, Mike Potter, Cale Yarborough and Lake Speed. Waltrip had led a total of 54 laps, the race's longest leader. Earnhardt had led a total of 37 laps. Since the wreck occurred with just three laps remaining and green-flag-checkered finishes didn't exist in 1981, the event ended under caution, deeming Allison the winner. The Hall of Famer would go on to win at Michigan one more time in his Sprint Cup Series career in 1982, ending with a total of four wins at the 2-mile track. The 1982 victory was a thriller in which Allison outdueled Richard Petty to the stripe.
Cain on Davey Allison's Hall of Fame nomination: 'It's time'
BUY TICKETS: See the races in Las Vegas MORE: Meet the 2018 Hall of Fame nominees "It's time." Social media users did not mince words with Wednesday's announcement that the late and great Davey Allison has been nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It was a similar enthusiasm and fondness bestowed upon Allison from fans every time he climbed into a stock car. The oldest son of NASCAR legend and Hall of Famer Bobby Allison was a bona fide celebrity in the sport's earlier glory days -- before Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook. Before billion-dollar television deals. Before personal chefs and luxury motorhomes were standard issue. Allison , who died in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993 at the age of 32, is a highly-achieved descendent of the "Alabama Gang" -- a group of drivers hailing from Hueytown, Ala., so talented that the very thought they were entered in a race stirred an intense rivalry among competitors. It feels fitting that Allison's addition to the 20-person list of NASCAR Hall of Fame nominees also includes his former team owner Robert Yates and a member of the original Alabama Gang, Red Farmer. PHOTOS: More from NASCAR Hall's five newest nominees Newer NASCAR fans have certainly heard about Allison's talent -- his 1992 Daytona 500 victory, his run at that season's championship -- the "old school" group as they like to be referred to. It was a time of "simpler" days in the sport, though intensely competitive. And Allison , in particular, bridged a gap between the older fans who grew up cheering on his father, Bobby , and a new group ready to root for Allison in a changing of the guard. Allison represented everything competition was supposed to be about -- eager to go door-to-door with greats representing multiple generations such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Harry Gant. And of course, greats like his dad, Bobby , who he finished second to in the 1988 Daytona 500, one of the most memorable race outcomes in NASCAR history. At 50, Bobby Allison became the event's oldest winner. At 26, his son firmly established himself as the next generation of raw talent and Allison can-do. Four years later, Davey Allison was celebrating in Daytona 500 Victory Lane himself. It was a big moment kicking off the best full season of his career, although the title run ultimately ended in a collision in the Atlanta season finale, giving the season trophy to Alan Kulwicki. Allison had led the standings most of the season and into the last race. But he was such a fierce competitor: Losing out on the trophy in November only made the other drivers more fearful in February, certain of the extra motivation that would be steering Yates' fast and famous No. 28 Texaco Ford. Allison won multiple races every full year of competition, the 1987 Rookie of the Year title and 14 pole positions. One of the most amazing statistics is that he won one Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race for every 10 starts he made -- 19 total in 191 races. The numbers are so jaw-dropping both Allison's fans and those fans of his rivals wonder what kind of numbers he would have posted if he had had a full career. No need to wonder, though. His work is being recognized as it should. Allison is rightfully nominated for consideration into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and will be a serious candidate come decision time in May. "OH. MY. WORD!" Allison's widow, Liz, posted on Facebook. "Beyond excited and so very grateful to those who voted for Davey. He would be so honored to have made this list and to be a nominee along with all of the nominees. No words to describe the emotions right now. So darn proud for him!!" As are so many.
Davey Allison , Joe Gibbs, Roger Penske highlight NASCAR Hall of Fame ballot
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman brings you Up to Speed as the NASCAR Hall of Fame announces Davey Allison , Red Farmer, Bobby Labonte, Joe Gibbs and Roger Penske will be on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Tony Stewart to honor Bobby Allison at Darlington
Tony Stewart unveils his throwback paint scheme honoring NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison . Stewart will run the Coca-Cola No. 14 at Darlington Raceway Labor Day weekend.
Judy Allison , wife of Bobby Allison , passes away
Judy Allison , wife of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison , died Friday following complications from surgery, the Allison family announced. She was 74. The Allisons released a statement Friday night: "The Allison Family is sad to announce the passing of Judy A. Allison , age 74, after complications from surgery earlier today at Iredell Memorial Hospital in Statesville. " Bobby Allison , NASCAR Hall of Famer driver, and Judy were married for 55 years. She was surrounded by her family, daughters Bonnie Farr and Carrie Hewitt, grandson Robbie Allison , brother-in-law Donnie Allison and his wife, Pat. "At this time, funeral and memorial arrangements are pending and will be announced when finalized. The family members ask for privacy during this difficult and sad time." NASCAR also issued a statement on Judy Allison's passing. It reads: "NASCAR extends its condolences to the friends and family of Judy Allison , the wife of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison . Judy, the matriarch of a cornerstone NASCAR family, provided the foundation for the careers of a legendary husband and two sons who both lost their lives entirely too soon. Her love extended well beyond her own family, as many in the NASCAR family leaned upon Judy for support and compassion during many difficult times. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of a true friend, and a woman who has given much to our sport." Bobby Allison won 84 premier series races during his NASCAR career. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2011.
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