Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne make contact sending Earnhardt through the grass and into the wall.
Sam Bass has built a career capturing racing history in his art. A large part of his artwork was the career of driver and friend Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Earnhardt describes how hot it was at Loudon en route to fifth-place finish RELATED: Junior reacts to his finish right after the race " Scanner Sounds: Junior heated The hot weather at New Hampshire Motor Speedway had an affect on several drivers in the 5-hour ENERGY 301 with a few drivers needing to go to the infield care center after the race for heat-related issues. On "The Dale Jr. Download on Dirty Mo Radio, Dale Earnhardt Jr . said he was feeling the effects of the heat later that night. "It was a real hot race," Earnhardt said. "Seen a lot of drivers wore out. I was hot, my face was hot. Rest of me was fine, just my face. It was kind of weird. Even later at night trying to go to bed, my face felt like it was sunburnt." Earnhardt scored a fifth-place finish in the 5-hour ENERGY 301 for his 10th top-10 finish of 2015 and his fourth straight top-10 showing at the Magic Mile. But to get that top five wasn't easy. "We had a bad gauge. Oil pressure gauge was showing 120 pounds and that's not good." And then there was some contact with Kurt Busch around the two-thirds mark of the race took Earnhardt outside the top five and down to 24th when he pitted under caution before a Lap 204 restart. "We got on the outside of the 41, racing with Kurt a lot during the day. I don't think he knew I was out there. We got on the outside of him in 1 and 2 and coming off of Turn 2, he just came up like his spotter didn't tell him I was there and I torn his bumper up. His bumper got stuck in my bumper. It was causing us a lot of problems so we ended up having to come down pit road and pull his bumper out of my bumper and patch a hole. Fix this and fix that. I didn't know if we were going to be as competitive with all that trouble but we ended up driving back up through there. Had a pretty good car, that helps us out in a situation like that." However, Earnhardt was able to work his way up through the field and was racing Matt Kenseth late for fifth-place. The two drivers competed for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2000 and have come through the Sprint Cup ranks together, dating back to when Kenseth finished second in the then Busch Grand National Series (now the XFINITY Series) to Earnhardt in 1998. "Right at the end I got to race pretty good with my buddy Matt Kenseth . Me and him have raced each other all our careers. It's always fun to sort of work together on the race track and race each other. He wanted that top-five finish and so did I. He was struggling pretty bad and I was having a hard time getting around him. I ended up finally getting around him so that was pretty cool." Now, the series shifts to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, IMS Radio, SiriusXM) where a new high-drag package will be run at the 2.5-mile track. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet has just one top-five finish in 15 starts at the Brickyard and is looking forward to running this new rules package for Indianapolis. The same type of package will also be run at Michigan International Speedway in August. "Got new rules, big spoilers, lot of drag. There's not more downforce. From what I am told there is a piece that they put on the bottom of the rear bumper that actually makes this package have less downforce in the back then what we have ran all year. I don't know how true that is. That's what Jeff Gordon 's been telling me. So can't really call this the high downforce package, it's just a high drag. We'll see how the racing is and looking forward to it. Should be an interesting weekend for everybody." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
After having brake issues all night Dale Earnhardt Jr. collides with Danica Patrick sending her car for a spin at Kentucky Speedway.
Earnhardt : 'Dad loved this place; I'm still at peace with this place' RELATED: #TBT to NBC's first broadcast, Dale Jr.'s first Daytona win On NBC's pre-race show, Steve Letarte visited Dale Earnhardt Jr . to watch his emotional Daytona win in July of 2001, which marked the first time that he returned to the track since his father's tragic death five months prior. Dale Earnhardt Jr . on returning to Daytona after the crash that killed his father: "I could tell my buddies were like, 'Man, what's going on? How is it going to be? What's the deal?' So, as soon as we got there, we drove around to Turns 3 and 4, right where dad hit the wall and lost his life. And, we stopped, and everybody got out and I just walked around a little bit by myself. I just spent some time there seeing how I would feel. I didn't want to fall apart in front of all of my guys and everybody in the race and the garage. It was good. I was like, 'Man, dad loved this place and I'm still at peace with this place. I still love being here and looking forward to racing here many more years." Steve Letarte: "Have you ever gone back and relived or re-watched that race in July [that you won]?" Earnhardt Jr.: "Oh yeah, tons of times." Earnhardt Jr. on his Daytona win: "I was wide open the whole time. Panicking. How many laps are left? Are we going to have enough laps left? Just full-throttle panicking." Earnhardt Jr.: "I think that win right there made the whole company feel like they could move on and that things were going to be alright. We could be a strong team… you just don't see victory celebrations like this every week. It was special." Earnhardt Jr. while watching his first interview after his win: "[Laughs] I sound like an idiot. Once you drive in there and you get out of the car, and you're in Victory Lane, I think the emotion and everything sort of sucks me in." Earnhardt Jr.: "I know that a lot of people took pleasure in how that worked out. And if they couldn't have won the race, I heard that 100 times in the garage the next day. 'If I couldn't have won that race, man, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Student of the sport visits Daytona facility, calls video archive the 'Holy Grail' It's the room in back, hidden behind the large steel door where humidity and temperature are constantly monitored. Walk down the hallway, past the trophies and timing equipment, beyond the library and the filing cabinets overflowing with photographs. Just beyond the autographed pace car and the workbench that held who knows how many toolboxes through the years. Step inside and be greeted by history. From floor to ceiling, on the left and right, footage of races and television shows, reel after reel after reel containing a video timeline of sorts of NASCAR is stored here. For a history buff such as Dale Earnhardt Jr ., the room is as significant as the 2.5-mile track located barely a mile away. "There's a lot of neat stuff in here," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said while visiting the ISC Archives and Research Center, located near Daytona International Speedway, earlier this month. "I think the photos are important; the film is overwhelming to me because I love to watch old races and sort of get an idea of what it was like back then and that's really the best way to do it. It's awesome to see this stuff being taken care of. "As a collector of old races and old film, that's sort of the Holy Grail back there." Points races, special events (Busch Clash, Budweiser Duel, Sprint All-Star Race) and even movies can be found here. It's what might or might not be here, though, that interests Earnhardt Jr. His father, seven-time NASCAR premier series champion Dale Earnhardt , scored his first win at Bristol Motor Speedway in 1979. NASCAR races weren't carried live on network television at the time and only select events, such as the Daytona 500 , received abbreviated coverage. The '79 Daytona was the first to be carried live from start to finish by CBS. "That (Bristol) race wasn't televised, wasn't broadcast. So there isn't even a partial digital copy being traded among those … groups out there that are in those inner circles. That's who I deal with … they are trading races that were broadcast. Someone had the opportunity to record them off television. A lot of this stuff here is just raw footage that the public doesn't have access to. So now I know where to go." Earnhardt said he has seen footage of his father's '79 BMS win "in highlights … so I know it exists." Outside of that particular race, he said "any footage that’s unobtainable from '79, '80," interests him. "Dad's first two years. Besides that, I'm a big '70s guy I guess. Any of the races from the '70s, because a lot of stuff in the '80s was broadcast … you can obtain it through trades and whatnot working with guys that are in those collector groups. So a lot of things in the '70s is unique because it’s one of a kind." The photo library turned up, among other things, pictures of driver Jimmy Means, a childhood hero. Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Means, Jimmy's son, often spent race days together in the garage. Herb Branham, senior manager for the Archives & Research Center, presented Earnhardt Jr. with another special memento – a framed set of photos of Earnhardt's grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt . "That's going up on the wall," Earnhardt said proudly. A final stop before heading back to the track put Earnhardt behind the desk of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. One of the latest additions to the archives, the room is a re-creation of the office used by France during much of his tenure as the head of the sanctioning body. The desk, furniture and fixtures came from France's original office. "This is one place I never thought I'd be, in Big Bill’s office sitting at his desk in his chair," Earnhardt said. "What a special place. "Not only is this where you can find a lot of history, but somebody's here taking care of it. I appreciate NASCAR, everything they do to hold onto that history and keep it in good shape." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Earnhardt Jr. among the drivers who tested at Chicagoland this week RELATED: New qualifying for Indianapolis, Michigan NASCAR isn't likely to introduce any new aerodynamic packages for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , but moving forward, track-specific packages are expected to become the norm for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. And Dale Earnhardt Jr . says he's just fine with such a move. "Absolutely. I think that makes the racing more interesting," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said during a break in Wednesday's open test session at Chicagoland Speedway. "I think it's more interesting for the fans to go through that cycle of learning about these packages and what they do and what type of racing they create. I think it would be really a feather in the cap for the networks. It would give them so much information and ammo to broadcast and put on a good show. Plus I think ... it's a good way to sort of tweak and adjust the racing to make better racing at that track." Earnhardt was one of four drivers who spent three days testing at the 1.5-mile track. On Monday and Tuesday, Earnhardt joined Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ), Sam Hornish Jr . ( Richard Petty Motorsports ) and JJ Yeley ( BK Racing ) for a two-day Goodyear tire test. Kyle Larson ( Chip Ganassi Racing ), Greg Biffle ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ), Austin Dillon ( Richard Childress Racing ), Kurt Busch ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Clint Bowyer ( Michael Waltrip Racing ) and Brad Keselowski ( Team Penske ) joined the group on Wednesday for the open portion of the test. It is, Earnhardt said, "a great time to be involved in the sport." "For me, it's exciting to go through these (changes)," he said. "You know, this is a three-day test and normally I hate testing, but it's been fun trying to learn and understand, so I'm excited just to see what happens – whether this stuff works, fails, whatever – but it's fun to go through it. Good to rearrange the furniture in the living room, so to speak, to something different. "It was same-old, same-old for so long, so this is kind of neat and exciting – unprecedented really. They used to cut the spoilers and trim them for makes and models throughout the year and adjust to try to level the playing field, but this is a big deal, really, to change the whole thing for everybody at this track and then try something so extreme at another track." Likewise, he said, aero package changes for Indianapolis and Michigan – where a taller spoiler will produce high drag, "is really extreme and should really alter the racing and what it looks like there. What it'll look like, I don't know. But it's not going to be the same. Fans are going tune in to see that, whatever it is that happens. That's great." At Chicago, Goodyear officials wanted to confirm their tire selection for the upcoming kickoff to the Chase. It's a similar tire to the one run at Texas and Homestead. RELATED: Learn more about Chicagoland Speedway Teams wanted to gather as much information as possible before returning here Sept. 18-20 for the start of the 10-race Chase. On Monday, Greg Stucker, director of race tire sales for Goodyear, told SiriusXM NASCAR that the Chicago test would also include the lower downforce package used this past weekend at Kentucky Speedway. "Not saying that it's an option for September but we're on the race track, let's get a look at it and see if it shows us the same results that it did earlier in the year at Charlotte and when we tested it at Darlington just a couple of weeks ago," Stucker said. Teams will also run a lower downforce aero package at Darlington in September. According to Earnhardt , there were issues with the current tires using the lower downforce package at Chicago, however. "We saw the tires tearing up," he said. "We tore up from right-front tires. (Martin) tore up one, I tore up one, (Hornish) tore up one, and when Goodyear sees that, man, the red flag comes out and you've got to slow down and there's just not enough time to really prepare for the right tire and get the right tire on the car to get it ready for this race in the Chase. "So I think we run the 2015 current package that we ran all year here, and who knows what'll happen next year, though." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Junior explains events that led up to incident at Kentucky RELATED: Danica rips, bumps Junior " Listen: Patrick vs. Earnhardt on the radio Dale Earnhardt Jr . had a bad night at Kentucky. You've heard about his run-in (run-into?) with Danica Patrick . On "The Dale Jr. Download" on Diry Mo Radio, Earnhardt detailed how the night unfolded with crippling brake problems. "Admittedly, Kentucky's not one of my best tracks, and the rain didn't help things," Earnhardt said. He learned a lot in the XFINITY race and hoped to carry some of that knowledge from his eighth-place run Friday night into Saturday night's Cup race. But the trouble started when he forgot to flip some switches. "I forgot to turn on switches that cool the brakes and keep the tire temps down. We took off running there in the first run and the brakes started fading a little bit. Luckily, the caution came out and I was able to get the switches on. "Come down pit road, pull the tape off the brakes and that should fix it. Everything should go back to normal and the pedal should come back, and that's not what happened. It continued to get worse and worse each run." The No. 88 car was pretty good, definitely top 10, Earnhardt said, but things kept getting worse from there. "We ended up having a lot of brake problems. It got so bad at one point that if I didn't pump the brakes all the way down the straightaway, it would go to the floor in the corner. So we're sitting there pumping the brakes, pumping the brakes, pumping the brakes lap after lap after lap. Just staying out there tyring not to get passed til we fixed it. "Caution would come out, we'd bleed the right front. Run out of time. Bleed the brakes on the left front. … But it would eventually get hot on the long run. "…Anyhow, I started taking it easy, sort of running along pumping the brakes a lot. I had just let Danica go by and down the back straightaway I'm pumping the brakes and they're not … I can't pump 'em all the way to the floor on the straightaway cause you don't want to slow the car down while you're trying to accelerate. You're just trying to get the fluid up, get the pedal up, but when we got to the corner, I mash the brake and it went all the way to the floor. I let off the brakes and mashed it again. At this point I'm gonna hit her. I let off the brakes and mashed it again and it goes to the floor and I ran into the back of her. There's wasn't nothing I could do about it." Junior said the fact that he hit Patrick saved him from going into the wall, so that was the "silver lining" of the incident. MORE: Highlights from Patrick's 100 Cup races "She flew off the handle, got pissed off. Our spotters communicated and told her about the brakes. She still ran into us on pit road for whatever damn reason." Junior doesn't really blame Patrick for being mad, admitting he's been in that position before, too, and has lost his cool at times. But he's not happy about what transpired after their wreck, either. "That just brings a lot of unwanted attention to both of us for the wrong reasons." After that, a full replacement of brake fluid helped, and the No. 88 came home 21st. All said, Junior was happy with a car that was still able to pass amid pumping the brakes. And the team learned a lot heading into Darlington Raceway, which is the next race to use a similar low downforce package on Sept. 6. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Catch up quickly before the Brickyard 400, 3:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN/Live Extra) RELATED: See the paint schemes for all 43 cars What : Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard Where : Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2.5-mile oval in Speedway, Ind. When : Sunday, July 26; 3:30 pm ET. TV/Radio : NBCSN, IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Distance : 400 miles, 160 laps. Pit road speed : 55 mph Caution car speed : 70 mph Fuel window : 33 laps On the front row " See full starting lineup The Indianapolis front row should look very familiar to NASCAR fans as pole-winner Carl Edwards and outside polesitter Joey Logano started in the same positions last week at New Hampshire. Edwards' pole-winning speed of 183.464 mph in the No. 19 Toyota earned the Joe Gibbs Racing driver his first front row start at the iconic Indy track and it is the first NASCAR pole position for Toyota at Indy. Logano's second place qualifying effort will mean his eighth front row start in 19 races. He has four poles. Fastest in practice First practice: Denny Hamlin , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota (182.208 mph) " Full practice results Second practice: Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet (181.466 mph) " Full practice results Final practice: Kurt Busch , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet (181.987 mph) " Full practice results Last year's winner : The event's inaugural winner Jeff Gordon won his record fifth Brickyard 400 last July, tying him with Formula One's Michael Schumacher for the most victories at the famous speedway. After passing Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne on a late restart Gordon pulled away to a hefty 2.3-second win over JGR teammates Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth . It marked Gordon's 90th career Cup win. On the line : Seven races remain to set the 16-car Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field, and you have to go back six races to Truex's June 7 win at Pocono to find the last driver to automatically punch his winning ticket into the Chase. Kyle Busch has won three of the last four races, but still sits 58 points out of 30th place -- the cutoff points position to qualify for the Chase. The recent schedule has been dominated by repeat winners while preseason favorites such as Clint Bowyer , three-time Cup champ Tony Stewart , Ganassi Racing teammates Jamie McMuray and Kyle Larson and Hendrick drivers Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne are among the A-list names still looking for a victory. Home cooking : Just listening to the cheers from the crowd, there's no doubt that Indianapolis loves its homegrown drivers. That was apparent with every qualifying attempt on Saturday and will be evident in Sunday's race. Of course it's easy to cheer for your own when that includes four-time Cup champion Gordon, of Pittsboro, Indiana, three-time champion Tony Stewart from nearby, Columbus, Indiana, and former Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 winner Ryan Newman , of South Bend, Indiana. And the three account for eight Brickyard 400 wins (Gordon, 5; Stewart 2, Newman 1). "That's huge, when you come home, that's what you want,'' Stewart said of the reception he received after posting the fastest lap in the first round of Saturday's qualifying. Gordon was equally appreciative. "It's amazing and I love that,'' said the retiring Gordon, whose hometown Pittsboro honored him with a parade Thursday afternoon on a day the governor declared " Jeff Gordon Day." "When I'm in the car I'm focused on doing my job, but when I'm out of it, I feel the support here and not just this weekend, it's over the years." New package : The loudest buzz in the garage centered on NASCAR's new aerodynamic package being used Sunday at Indianapolis (and again at Michigan next month). Cars have been outfitted with a 9-inch spoiler that sits three inches higher than used at the 1.5-mile tracks and 6-inches taller than used at the 1-mile New Hampshire oval last week. The hope is the higher drag created by the spoiler will increase passing on the 2.5-mile speedway. A different variation to the cars -- a lower downforce package -- used at Kentucky two weeks ago produced a track record 22 green-flag passes for the lead. After three practice sessions Friday, the verdict was still unclear on what to expect Sunday. "I'm extremely happy with NASCAR’s ability to make some changes and really experiment and try new things,'' said Gordon, who qualified 19th for his final Brickyard start. "But, it's going to be really crazy out there. So, I don’t know for sure. For the little bit of time I spent behind other cars, it was a handful through the corners. So, restarts are going to be wild and crazy; so everybody needs to stay tuned-in." RELATED: See what the new spoiler looks like Nuts and Bolts Kyle Busch has eight top-10 finishes at Indianapolis -- including runner-up finishes two of the last three years -- despite having only one top-10 start at the track. ... Toyota has won its first pole for the Brickyard 400 but Chevrolet holds a 12-year winning streak in the race -- the longest current streak for a manufacturer. ... Amazingly 17 of 21 Brickyard 400 races have been won by Sprint Cup Series champions including, Gordon, Dale Earnhardt , Bill Elliott , Dale Jarrett, Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick , Bobby Labonte and Stewart. They said it "Well, I mean it could go and be a natural disaster tomorrow. It could all be for nothing. It's the way you want to start the weekend for sure is to have two good runs in qualifying and have a decent starting spot. That is definitely what we were looking for today." -- Tony Stewart , driver of No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevy after his fourth-place qualifying effort. "Regardless of how this race turns out, as a group we've been working really good together and I'm hoping it continues to build. Kyle Busch coming back, although it is making us look a little bad the last few weeks, I think it's been really good. He's hauling the mail, going really fast and doing a good job. We're going to keep building on that. It's neat to be competitive within your own group in a productive way." -- Carl Edwards , driver of the No. 19 Stanley Tools Toyota, after earning himself and the car manufacturer its first NASCAR pole position at Indianapolis. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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