Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks on SIRIUS XM about what to expect from NASCAR’s new rules package that will be implemented at Kentucky Speedway.
Jeff Gordon holds off Dale Earnhardt to earn his first NSCS restrictor plate win at Daytona International Speedway in 1995.
NASCAR.com's Kenny Bruce compares Jimmie Johnson to the 'Intimidator' RELATED: Johnson wins at Dover for 10th time The greatest NASCAR driver of all time is … Jimmie Johnson ? That's the word on the street, or in this case the voice on the radio, and since the bluegrass channel was on a commercial break I decided to stick around long enough to hear how that particular conclusion was reached. Such comparisons are inevitable – it's the sort of thing that arises when one is chasing legends. No different than when Jeff Gordon was piling up victories and championships in pursuit of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt . No different than when Earnhardt was piling up victories and championships in pursuit of Petty. And no different than when Petty began piling up wins and titles on his way to overtaking a host of former champions, including his father, Lee, the first to win three NASCAR premier series championships. What the 39-year-old Johnson has managed to accomplish in little more than 13 full seasons in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series certainly puts him in the same league with Petty and Earnhardt , NASCAR's only seven-time champions. There's no doubt that Johnson, fit and trim and now only two wins away from matching Earnhardt's career win total of 76 victories, is one of the sport's greatest drivers. But is he No. 1? From a numbers standpoint, the Hendrick Motorsports driver will undoubtedly surpass Earnhardt's win total, and it's likely he'll eventually capture a seventh championship. He could, in fact, become the first driver to win more than seven titles. That would make him the most successful driver from a championship standpoint (neither he nor anyone else will come close to Petty's mark of 200 career wins), but will that make him NASCAR's greatest driver? No. That designation, without question, belongs to Earnhardt . Statistics are a great way to gauge success. But it takes more than numbers to measure greatness. Johnson has managed to excel during what some claim is the most competitive era in the history of NASCAR. Yes, there are more winners, on average, today. But there are also more races on the schedule, thus also more opportunities. A larger number of teams run the full schedule today, although that doesn't necessarily mean there are more "better" teams competing. Earnhardt never ran a season consisting of 36 points races; Johnson's never run in fewer than 36. Earnhardt never had the opportunity to compete at Kansas, Chicago or Kentucky; but by the same token, Johnson never raced at North Wilkesboro or Riverside. I have a strong feeling both could have won at those tracks given the chance. I'll argue that the talent pool Earnhardt often faced was just as deep – with lineups including drivers such as Petty and Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, Neil Bonnett, Geoff Bodine and Harry Gant. Eventually Bill Elliott , Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace, Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, Tim Richmond and others took their place. Most were champions; many are already members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Johnson is one of the greatest drivers that today's fans will ever see. What he has done has been nothing short of amazing. If one wants to argue that he would not have won 74 races and six championships had it not been for Hendrick Motorsports and Chad Knaus, the same could be said of Earnhardt , who owed much of his success to Richard Childress Racing and the talented group he worked with there. But what elevates Earnhardt above the rest is more than the fact that he was so successful. He provided fans with some of the sport's most memorable moments during his two-plus decades. Among them: winning the pole at Watkins Glen in '96 (and setting the track qualifying record, to boot) just two weeks after suffering a broken collarbone and sternum in a vicious crash at Talladega; climbing from his damaged car and into the ambulance, only to quickly exit and return to his car once he realized it would still run, at Daytona in '97; his first and only Daytona 500 victory the following season, a win that erased 19 years of heartbreak. There was the "rattle his cage" incident with Terry Labonte en route to victory in the night race at Bristol in '99; the wrongly-termed but aptly promoted "pass in the grass" on his way to winning the 1997 All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway ; and the charge from 18th to first in the final five laps of the 2000 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway . For two decades, greatness drove a Chevrolet and it carried the number 3. They were memorable moments that elevated the sport and defined the man. Johnson can win more races and win more championships, but he can't match that. He needn't worry – no one else can, either. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Hendrick driver upbeat despite not pulling off third straight win at Pocono RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings LONG POND, Pa. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . came to Pocono Raceway looking to join the select company of Bobby Allison and Tim Richmond as the only drivers to win three straight races at the Tricky Triangle. And while that didn't happen for the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet, his reaction on pit road after the Axalta "We Paint Winners" 400 wouldn't have given away an 11th-place finish. "I had so much fun today," Earnhardt said after the race, his first result outside the top 10 at Pocono in his last five starts at the 2.5-mile track. "My car was awesome, we were passing five, 10 cars on restarts, having a blast." Earnhardt started the race 20th and by Lap 20, found himself in the top 10. On Lap 75, he was running in second place and looked to be making his way toward the lead. He would spend a good amount of the next 50 circuits in the top five before restarting sixth on Lap 126. On that restart, Earnhardt made contact with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne , resulting in some left-rear quarter-panel damage on the No. 88 Nationwide Chevy. Junior went from sixth to 12th in a short span before pitting under the next caution on Lap 131. He explained what happened after the race. "I can't visually picture what exactly I saw coming off of Turn 2, but I thought I was up on the quarter-panel of the 2 ( Brad Keselowski )," Earnhardt said. "I knew the 5 (Kahne) was down there, and I thought the 2 yanked off the wall as if he had almost hit the fence or something. He sort of yanked the car to the left, and I saw that and moved and hit the 5. Tore the left side of my car up. I'm sorry whatever it did to Kasey. I'm sure it didn't help him being run into like that." Junior restarted in 28th on Lap 134 and in two green flag laps had moved up to 17th before another caution came out. He was able to do something similar on the next restart on Lap 140, moving up to 11th before the last caution of the day occurred. From there, he couldn't work his way into the top 10 over the final green flag run of 16 laps, despite recording the most green flag passes (83) and second-most quality passes (41) on the day, according to NASCAR loop data. "I'm racing hard. It's so hard to pass here. You got to take every position you can and when you get a position on a guy, when you can get to his quarter-panel and draft, you got to go." Earnhardt also didn't think the team's pit stall did them any favors, a result from their worst starting spot since the April race at Richmond International Raceway . The 88 team had stall No. 12, which was right in the middle of the first block of 24 stalls on pit road at Pocono. "We had a really bad pit stall behind the 4," Earnhardt said. "They had to pick last because of their penalty and ended up forced into the stall behind us. So we had to come around him all day and the 16 come around us all day. So we're terrible getting in our stall, losing several spots because of that. And that cost us a lot." Still, on a day where he could have been disappointed by his showing and seeing Hendrick's five-race winning streak at Pocono end, the sport's most popular driver remained very upbeat. "We had a good enough car to run in the top three. Probably not win the race, but I had a blast." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Future seven-time champ finished 22nd in sport's longest race 40 years ago Dale Earnhardt wasn't a NASCAR legend in 1975. He hadn't earned the nickname "The Intimidator," won a Cup championship or even driven the iconic black No. 3 ride. Forty years ago, the man who would one day hoist seven Cup championship trophies was just a racer from Kannapolis, North Carolina, trying to compete in NASCAR's premier series. • • • Earnhardt strapped into his pale blue and yellow No. 8 Dodge for his first start in NASCAR’s premier series on May 25, 1975 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . The task that lay ahead of the 24-year-old driver was a daunting one, as Earnhardt was getting set to compete in the World 600 -- NASCAR’s longest race. Even for the most experienced wheelmen, the 600-mile event was a grueling mission. Coming from the back, Earnhardt lined up 33rd for the drop of the green flag. Only seven cars stood between Earnhardt and the tail end of the field, but as NASCAR would one day discover, a little thing like qualifying position never stopped "The Intimidator." In a race that spanned more than four hours, Earnhardt fought his way toward the front. He eventually finished a modest 22nd with the legendary Richard Petty taking the checkered that day. Earnhardt also finished one spot above someone who he would come to know very well one day -- his future car owner Richard Childress. • • • A 22nd-place finish wasn't something extraordinary. But for Earnhardt , it was the first spark in a blazing career that would forever change the world of NASCAR. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
No. 88 team changed rear gear Sunday morning RELATED: Need to adjust your Fantasy Live lineup? Dale Earnhardt Jr . will start from the rear in Sunday's FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM) at Dover International Speedway after the team changed a rear gear in his No. 88 Chevrolet on Sunday morning. The No. 88 team changed a rear gear this morning and will start at the rear of the field. This new rule started just prior to the 600. — Laura S. (@Hendrick88Team) May 31, 2015 Earnhardt Jr. had qualified 16th in Friday's session. In a pair of Saturday practice session, the No. 88 came in ninth and 19th. Junior has one win in 30 starts at Dover, and it came in 2001. He's earned a top-10 finish in four of the past six races at the 1-mile concrete oval. Will be a tough hot race today. @MonsterMile can be exasperating. We're starting in the rear due to replacing a broken gear. Time to suit up — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) May 31, 2015
Driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet ready to compete in the Irish Hills MORE: Daytona paint scheme revealed for No. 88 SHOP: Dale Jr. gear, paint schemes CONCORD, N.C. -- The paint schemes on his No. 88 Chevrolet continue to impress Dale Earnhardt Jr. , especially his look for this weekend. At a 7-Eleven just minutes from Charlotte Motor Speedway , Earnhardt showed off the fresh look that his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ride, sponsored by AMP Energy, will have at Michigan International Speedway for the Quicken Loans 400 (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). "This is definitely unique," Earnhardt told NASCAR.com. "I like the idea behind the paint scheme and how it came about. I had a little influence on the paint scheme itself. I think it's pretty cool. I have never ran a car with purple on it, so that's new. "And I enjoy being involved in that part of it. I want to like the car that I'm driving. I want to like the way it looks, and that sort of is a bit of a motivating factor behind driving the race car in the first place, is to be able to design it and paint it yourself." So what influence did Junior have on the look that fans ultimately chose as the winner in a Facebook contest? "Some of the logo placements. The big deal on the door. They had some other things going on, where all that was a lot smaller, and I thought some of that stuff should get really blown up and be obnoxious on the side of the car to sort of give the car a little bit more of a dynamic look and some more energy. "They sort of had these little passion fruit emblems placed sporadically along the car and they were a lot smaller. And I just thought, 'Man this stuff should be coming at you and be really big.' " The Concord, North Carolina 7-Eleven location won the event and appearance from the sport's most popular driver by being the store of the 70-plus 7-Eleven's in the Charlotte area to sell the most AMP Energy drinks from May 18 to June 3. Passion Fruit is one of four new flavors AMP Energy recently introduced to its product line of energy drinks and is the one that will be featured on the No. 88 Chevrolet. Fans came in full force to see the Hendrick Motorsports driver, and the interaction with Junior Nation is something that the driver values tremendously, whether it is in person or through social media. Last month, Earnhardt crossed the one million followers mark on Twitter. "Trying to keep an understanding, I guess, of where they're at mentally with what we're doing, whether they're enjoying the marketing, the partnerships that we're creating. What they think about our racing and obviously our efforts out on the track. The best way to really get an understanding of that is to reach out and have conversation and let 'em rip. They tell you about the cars that they like, the partnerships you've created that they like and give you a good idea of where to focus your energy." RELATED: #TBT recalls Dale Jr.'s two Michigan wins This weekend, Earnhardt will be competing in the Irish Hills at the 2-mile venue at Michigan. He has two wins in 31 starts at the track and both of those wins snapped sizable winless streaks. Last year, Earnhardt finished seventh in the June race and fifth in the August race. The driver, who is fifth in the point standings and won at Talladega Superspeedway last month, feels good heading into the weekend. "I really enjoy racing there. Every time we show up to the racetrack, we go with new ideas because Greg (Ives, who is in his first year as the crew chief of the No. 88 team), he brings a lot more to the table that we didn't have last year. We ran great last year, but anytime you bring in a new guy, with new ideas, it adds to it and you hope that it improves and hope that it allows you to be more competitive. "The cars have been real fast and real fun to drive this year and that's a real, direct connection to Greg and his ideas and his ability to work with our lead engineer, Kevin (Meendering). I'm looking forward to it. We should run well, have fun. We've been enjoying ourselves this year, and it should be another week of that." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Two of Junior's most memorable wins came in the Irish Hills of Michigan Dale Earnhardt Jr . has a knack for ending winless streaks at Michigan International Speedway . While his current drought is only four races thanks to his win in May at Talladega Superspeedway , there was once a time when NASCAR's most popular driver ended a pair of glaring winless streaks at the 2-mile track located in the Irish Hills of Michigan. With the Sprint Cup Series heading to MIS for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM), it's a good time to look back at 2008 and 2012, when the Hendrick Motorsports driver quieted the critics and brought roars from the stands. When Junior entered Victory Lane on June 15, 2008 after he took the LifeLock 400 checkered flag, it brought plenty of relief to Junior Nation, knowing that Earnhardt's decision to leave Dale Earnhardt Incorporated for Hendrick Motorsports could pay off. By picking up his first win since 2006 -- in just his 15th race with his new organization – it allowed his fan base to exhale a bit and focus on all the wins to come in the years ahead (more on that later). In the video above, you may have noticed the final lap lacked much drama, as Junior won the race after Patrick Carpentier spun on the white flag to bring out the yellow -- meaning all Earnhardt had to do was maintain speed as he came to the finish. It worked out because the No. 88 was running low on gas -- Junior didn't even have enough to do a victory burnout and needed to be pushed to Victory Lane -- so if the final lap had been run at full speed, it's possible he'd have run out. Besides, the slow lap just gave fans a chance to cheer louder and longer. Now, as for all of those "wins to come in the years ahead" -- they didn't. Following his landmark win in 2008, Junior then found himself mired in a 143-race winless streak, equating to just under four full seasons. Gas or no gas, after a streak like that, Earnhardt made sure he celebrated with one of the best burnouts we've seen in recent years after he took the Quicken Loans 400 checkered flag in 2012. Worth the wait. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Johnson: Earnhardt 'did a fantastic job of intimidating me' RELATED: Which one was the better driver? LONG POND, Pa. -- Jimmie Johnson 's quest to match NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt's Hall of Fame statistics reached another level last weekend. In both cases, the lofty numbers are worthy of stock-car racing elite. The 39-year-old driver's bid to equal Earnhardt and NASCAR's King, Richard Petty, with a seventh premier series championship has been in full swing ever since Johnson claimed title No. 6 in 2013. But after scoring his fourth victory of the season last weekend at Dover International Speedway , Johnson inched closer to Earnhardt on NASCAR's all-time win list. Earnhardt recorded 76 victories in his legendary premier-series career, placing him eighth on NASCAR's registry of winners. Johnson enters Sunday's Axalta "We Paint Winners" 400 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM) at Pocono Raceway sitting on No. 74. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon is the only active driver with more wins -- 92. While Johnson didn't want to get too far ahead of himself in reaching Earnhardt's mark, he's clearly given some thought to what it means to be considered in the same company. "It's still two away from us, and we certainly hope to have the opportunity to tie him, and then the competitor in me would like to pass that and chase down the next guy," Johnson said Friday at Pocono. "I remember and had the great fortune, like everybody here, to watch Jeff Gordon tie that monumental record. I know how much it meant to Jeff." Gordon's ascendance to NASCAR royalty in the 1990s came during a time when Earnhardt reigned, creating a rivalry that grew from playful tweaking and intense competition to mutual admiration and respect. Gordon passed Earnhardt with his 77th Sprint Cup victory in 2007 at Talladega Superspeedway , and fans from the longtime stronghold for "The Intimidator" responded by throwing beer cans on the track. Gordon said Friday that the milestone still means a great deal to him, especially as he enters a period of transition in his last full season as a driver. But he said that Johnson is also cognizant of what the accomplishment might mean as he creeps up the all-time win list. "Having the opportunity to race with Dale and know his greatness, what he meant to the sport, how tough he was as a competitor and how many races he won, it overwhelmed me that I ever got to that mark because to me, when I started in the sport, it just seemed like he was winning everything and had done it for a long, long time," Gordon said. "Jimmie, it's just a matter of time really for him. This'll be just one of the many records he continues to break and surpass and putting his name in the record books as one of the all-time greats. Doesn't seem like that's going to slow down any time soon, and it's hard to put it in perspective maybe when you didn't get much of an opportunity to race against somebody like Dale . I know how much it meant to me to know him as a friend and a competitor, but you know, Jimmie's got a great sense of the sport and what he's doing and I know how much it means to him, so I know that something like that will mean a lot to him as well. And I hope he gets the proper respect when that day happens." Johnson didn't enter NASCAR's top series full-time until the 2002 season, one year after Earnhardt's death in a crash at Daytona International Speedway . Though he never got to test himself against Earnhardt's hard-nosed racing style, Johnson said he had enough intimidation to go around in his brief interactions with Earnhardt early in his career. "I unfortunately never had a chance to race against Dale . Definitely there's a void there in my mind in my career that I didn't have that opportunity," Johnson said. "I did meet him a couple times and he did a fantastic job of intimidating me and scaring the you-know-what out of me in both of those instances. If it does happen, we'll of course want to handle it the right way, pay tribute to Dale and what he's done for our sport -- the true badass he was in our sport -- and when and if that does happen, it'll be an honor to be there in that status with him." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks with his father's former barber about using Suave Men.