Dale Jr . sidelined for next two Sprint Cup races
RELATED: Latest updates, timeline on Dale Jr .'s recovery Dale Earnhardt Jr . will not be behind the wheel of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, including this weekend's event at Michigan International Speedway , according to a Wednesday news release from Hendrick Motorsports . Earnhardt did not receive medical clearance to return to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, according to the team. He will be replaced this weekend in the No. 88 driver's seat by Alex Bowman , who drives part time for the Earnhardt-owned JR Motorsports team in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, and next weekend at Darlington Raceway by four-time series champ Jeff Gordon . "We know how hard Dale is working to get back," team owner Rick Hendrick said in a press release. "He's following what the doctors are saying, to the letter, and doing exactly what he needs to do. Everyone wants to see him in a race car, but his health is first and foremost. We're behind him." Earnhardt has been sidelined by concussion-related symptoms for the last five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. The two-time Daytona 500 winner has been keeping fans updated on his progress in recent weeks via social media and "The Dale Jr . Download" on Dirty Mo Radio. The Sprint Cup Series makes its second visit of the season to Michigan International Speedway this weekend, which culminates with Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Earnhardt said that the effects of a crash June 12 in the most recent Michigan race played a factor in his current concussion-related ailment. Gordon, interim driver of the No. 88 for the last four races, indicated last weekend that should an Earnhardt replacement be needed this weekend, a previous engagement would keep him out of the driver's seat. Bowman, 23, subbed in at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last month for the first race of Earnhardt's absence, finishing 26th after a late-race crash knocked him from the fringes of the top 10. Gordon is a seven-time winner at Darlington and will pilot the retro No. 88 Chevrolet, which honors the "Gray Ghost" paint scheme of Buddy Baker. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Earnhardt Jr . injury timeline
Dale Earnhardt Jr . will miss NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway and Darlington Raceway as he continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms. Dale Jr . had previously missed races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , Indianapolis Motor Speedway , Pocono Raceway , Watkins Glen International and Bristol Motor Speedway . Alex Bowman (New Hampshire and Michigan) and four-time champion Jeff Gordon (Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen, Bristol and Darlington) are filling in for him in the No. 88 Chevrolet. Stay up-to-date on Dale Jr .'s injury and recovery through the timeline of events below.
Earnhardt Jr . out through Darlington
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman brings you Up To Speed on the news that Alex Bowman and Jeff Gordon will fill in for Dale Earnhardt Jr . at MIS and Darlington.
Bobby Pierce earns first career pole at Eldora
The 18-year-old will be making his first Truck start in tonight's event RELATED: Qualifying race lineups " Qualifying results After recording top-five speeds in both practices today, newcomer Bobby Pierce earned his first career 21 Means 21 Pole Award on Wednesday, using a high speed of 86.889 mph to bring his No. 63 MB Motorsports Chevrolet owned by Mike Mittler to the top of the leaderboard. It also was Mittler's first pole. Pierce, an 18-year-old dirt Late Model driver, will be making his first Camping World Truck Series start in tonight's 1-800-CarCash Mud Summer Classic (9 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). His qualifying effort tonight made him the fifth driver in Truck Series history to win the pole in his first start. He joins former series champions Ron Hornaday Jr . (Phoenix, 1995) and Bobby Hamilton (Martinsville, 1996) as well as Kerry Earnhardt (Daytona, 2005) and Alex Tagliani (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, 2014). After sustaining damage in the second practice, Johnny Sauter rebounded, posting the second-fastest speed (84.818 mph) on the leaderboard in his No. 98 ride. Ray Black Jr . was third on the leaderboard, his No. 07 Truck recording a high speed of 84.567 mph. Cameron Hayley (84.380 mph) and John Wes Townley (84.309 mph) rounded out the top five. The top five from this evening's single truck qualifying willl start on the pole for each of the five qualifying races, which will determine the rest of the field for tonight's 1-800-CarCash Mud Summer Classic (9 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). Beyond the pole, the random draw will decide the order of the qualifying races. RELATED: Learn more about Eldora race format Sprint Cup Series Brad Keselowski will be making his dirt track debut in tonight's Mud Summer Classic. After a brush with the wall, Keselowski's No. 29 BK Racing Truck picked up the 21st-fastest spot on the leaderboard. Former Sprint Cup Series driver Ken Schrader -- who was the first pole winner for the annual Eldora race -- ranked 18th on the leaderboard in his own No. 52 Toyota. Wednesday's opening qualifying session provided the drivers with plenty of challenges associated with dirt track racing. JR Motorsports' Cole Custer took a hard hit to the wall in his first qualifying run, damaging his No. 00 Chevrolet and giving him a flat tire. The incident left him with a 34th qualifying spot. Ty Dillon 's No. 33 GMS Racing truck made contact with the wall on his first qualiyfing run, giving him a 20th qualifying position for tonight's five-race event. Madeline Crane's No. 80 truck -- which took on damage in the second practice -- also hit the wall in Turn 1 early in the qualifying session, which qualified her 33rd. Matt Tifft -- who qualified 27th -- spun out in his second lap, but didn't make contact. The Camping World Truck Series is back on track for the first qualiyfing race at 7 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 2). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Hendrick: Move to ink Byron about future, not Dale Jr .
RELATED: Byron checks off boxes one milestone at a time BRISTOL, Tenn. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Rick Hendrick said this week's signing of Camping World Truck Series phenom William Byron has nothing to do with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s recent battle with concussion-like symptoms, and he expects his driver to return to competition as soon as doctors will allow. "Dale looks great," Hendrick said Saturday night prior to the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway . "I had lunch with him and his road crew Wednesday. … We are taking extra effort with the doctors making sure he's going to be 100 percent. He's got a doctor's appointment next week. He's coming along great and he wants to get back in the car. "William has nothing to do with Dale at all. William has all to do with our future down the road, what's going to happen in 3-5 years from now? Nobody knows." Earnhardt has been sidelined since early July after being diagnosed with concussion like symptoms following the Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway . In his absence, drivers Alex Bowman and four-time series champion Jeff Gordon have piloted the team's No. 88 Chevrolet. RELATED: Bowman to drive at Michigan -- not Gordon -- if Dale Jr . can't go Byron has won five times this season in the Truck Series while driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He will compete full-time for JR Motorsports, which is co-owned by Hendrick, Earnhardt Jr . and Kelley Earnhardt Miller, in the XFINITY Series beginning in 2017. Hendrick fields Sprint Cup entries for Earnhardt, six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Chase Elliott , son of former series champion Bill Elliott . Johnson and primary sponsor Lowe’s signed two-year contract extensions with Hendrick in September of 2015, meaning next season is his last under the current contract. "Jimmie plans to retire there; we plan for him to retire there," Hendrick said of Johnson, who has 77 career victories. "Beyond that, we're excited about (William) just like we were Chase. "If you don't get someone in the pipeline, when it's time for someone to retire then you don't have them. I'd rather bring someone like William along so that we know that we've got someone for the future in our company."
Hornish Jr . to fill in for McDowell at Michigan
CONCORD, N.C. (August 23, 2016) – Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing (CSLFR) has announced that Sam Hornish Jr . will fill in for Michael McDowell on Friday and Saturday during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekend at Michigan International Speedway . McDowell is scheduled to race in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Road America for Richard Childress Racing on Friday and Saturday. He will then travel to Michigan International Speedway and drive the No. 95 Thrivent Financial Chevrolet on Sunday in the Pure Michigan 400 for Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing .
Wallace Jr . reflects on top-ten finish at Bristol
Darrell Wallace Jr . talks about his night at Bristol after finishing 7th in the Food City 300.
Engine issue hinders Bowman, No. 88 early
RELATED: Michigan results The Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet team encountered early trouble Sunday at Michigan International Speedway , going to the garage with engine issues that would ruin any chance at victory. Alex Bowman , subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr . this weekend as he recovers from concussion-related symptoms, radioed his crew just short of the 50-lap mark of the Pure Michigan 400 to report a sour engine. Bowman -- who started sixth in the 40-car field -- steadily lost ground, eventually falling off the lead lap on the 54th of 200 laps. Bowman made the hard turn toward the garage for repairs, returning to the race five laps down. Crew chief Greg Ives told Bowman that the malady was "just a wire," and the car returned to a competitive pace despite the deficit. Bowman finished 30th, five laps down. Bowman -- a NASCAR XFINITY Series regular for JR Motorsports -- made his second fill-in start for Earnhardt, who has missed the last six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Jeff Gordon , an Earnhardt substitute for four races this season, will return to the wheel of the No. 88 for this weekend's Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM) at Darlington Raceway . Gordon, a four-time premier series champ who emerged from retirement to fill in, is a seven-time winner at the historic 1.366-mile track. The Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 will carry a "Gray Ghost" throwback paint scheme at Darlington in a tribute to NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Buddy Baker.
Hamlin tops chart, spins in final Michigan practice
RELATED: Full practice results " Top 10 consecutive lap averages Denny Hamlin set the pace in final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice Saturday at Michigan International Speedway , but damaged his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota in a spin midway through the session. Hamlin, who qualified third in Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying, clocked a lap of 197.878 mph in Saturday's final practice. The session, originally scheduled for 50 minutes, was halted with approximately 27 minutes left because of lightning in the area of the 2-mile track. Hamlin told NBCSN that the car got loose "out of the blue" as he navigated Turn 4. He avoided contact with the wall, but did slight damage when the nose of his car dug into the grass bordering the frontstretch. Hamlin indicated the team did not expect to deploy the reserve car. RELATED: All the cars at Michigan as they'll line up Rookie Chase Elliott was second-fastest at 197.786 mph in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. He was followed by two Hendrick teammates on the leaderboard -- third-fastest Jimmie Johnson (197.694 mph) and fourth-best Kasey Kahne (197.455 mph). Michigan native Brad Keselowski completed the top five in the final prep for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). Team Penske teammate Joey Logano , who secured the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday qualifying, was seventh-fastest. Alex Bowman , subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr . in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet, was 10th-fastest at 196.969 mph. Stewart atop Saturday's early practice Tony Stewart topped the speed chart in Saturday's morning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session at Michigan International Speedway ahead of Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Stewart circled the 2-mile track in his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet with a fast time of 202.122 mph to pace the 55-minute practice session. "Smoke" has one win in the Irish Hills in 33 starts there. Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford, 201.427 mph) and Chase Elliott (No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, 201.196 mph) came in second and third, respectively. Both drivers are in search of their first win in the sport's top series. Kurt Busch (No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, 201.089 mph) and Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet, 200.932 mph) completed the top five. Alex Bowman , who will pilot the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr . this weekend, placed eighth in practice. All told, 12 drivers crossed the 200 mph mark on their laps Saturday morning. Polesitter Joey Logano placed 16th in the session. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
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.