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
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
No. 88 Chevrolet goes patriotic for Coke Zero 400 BUY: Earnhardt's Daytona paint scheme Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s paint scheme for the Coke Zero 400 was just released and the No. 88 Chevrolet wiil be appropriately themed for the event as it goes for a patriotic look. “ @nationwide88 : BREAKING NEWS: Check out #DaleJr 's patriotic paint scheme for @DISupdates on July 5th! #NW88JR pic.twitter.com/lfTcxZeMLt ” — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) June 10, 2015 The Coke Zero 400 is at 7:45 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 5 at Daytona International Speedway (NBC). It will be the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race televised on NBC this season. For more Sprint Cup coverage stay tuned to this weekend's Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday (FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM).
Junior: 'It's only a 50-lap race so it would be over and done before I even do it' Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live As an owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr . ran his first Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday at Martinsville Speedway with Cole Custer finishing 16th. When will he make his debut as a driver in the series? He may have given a hint during the FOX Sports 1 "Setup" pre-race show when feature reporter Ray Dunlap mentioned that Pocono Raceway hosts the series on August 1 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). "That would be an opportunity for me to get in there and get my feet wet," Earnhardt said. "It's only a 50-lap race so it would be over and done before I even do it. "I do have interest in driving a truck. I've always had interest in driving a truck, just never really found that opportunity or was focused more on the Cup side at that point in time. But this does open the door a little wide for me. If we don't do it this year, we're going to continue to keep the truck around and work with this program and continue to try to grow it." Serving as an analyst, two-time Camping World Truck Series champion Todd Bodine said Pocono "absolutely" would be a good place for Earnhardt to get behind the wheel. "He's not going to own a race car or race truck that he doesn't get to drive, and you heard him say that he's wanted to drive a truck so it's a perfect opportunity if you own it," Bodine said. Earnhardt recalled his father's Dale Earnhardt Inc. Truck Series team that won two of the first four championships in series history with Ron Hornaday Jr . "I have a lot of great memories of that team," Earnhardt said. "We actually worked in the same shop together, and it had two bays in the back. They were in one bay, and I was across from them in another bay building my Late Model cars that I'd run at Myrtle Beach. I was in there every day, watching them and sort of mimicking them as they built their first truck. I did everything they were doing to my Late Model that they would do to that truck. "I formed a great relationship and friendship with Ron Hornaday so that was pretty cool to be able to forge that relationship early with him." As Earnhardt builds his own Truck team for 17-year-old Custer, he's helping the NASCAR Next driver and sponsor Haas Automation achieve their objectives while JRM is meeting its own milestones. "Their goals are to get Cole into the XFINITY Series at some point so this was an opportunity to begin a relationship with us," Earnhardt said. "It made sense to get into the Truck Series. "For me, it's actually exciting because it's a 10-race deal. You're just kind of getting your feet wet. It's a great way to ease into it so we had the room. We had the interest. They had the program already together, the relationship with Chevrolet. We made it work." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Dale Earnhardt Jr . talks with his father's former barber about using Suave Men.
Junior: 'We're gonna win this race' RELATED: 40 pictures of Dale Jr . on his 40th birthday CONCORD, N.C. -- Feeling good on his 40th birthday, Dale Earnhardt Jr . called his shot in a televised interview after Friday's first practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway . "We're gonna win this race. I've got a really good feeling about it," Earnhardt Jr . said. Earnhardt Jr . was 11th in the practice session at 188.633 mph and will line up ninth in Saturday night's Bank of America 500 (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC). Despite being winless at Charlotte in 29 points starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Earnhardt Jr . has been optimistic about his chances to win the race throughout the week. "I'm really excited, actually," Earnhardt Jr . told the media on Thursday. "I was thrilled with how we ran last weekend. Super-fast car, this place is a bit similar. "We obviously know what the situation is with the points and how important it is for us to come in here and win the race. I have been winless at Charlotte in a points-paying race since I started my career, so it's bound to happen sooner or later. I always win at the weirdest times, in the oddest circumstances. So I feel like everything is lining up and feel real good about this weekend." On the season, Earnhardt Jr . has three wins, 11 top-fives and 17 top-10s. He finished 19th here in the spring in the Coca-Cola 600 and has not recorded a top-five finish at the track since 2008. Earnhardt Jr . led 45 laps at Kansas and was running the best he had in the Chase before a cut tire derailed his day and led to a 39th-place finish. With two races remaining in the Contender Round, Earnhardt Jr . is 11th in the standings and 25 points back of the final transfer spot to the Eliminator Round. A Chase driver must be in the top eight in points or have a win to advance to that round. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
No. 88 driver focused on earning first career Coca-Cola 600 win RELATED: Junior goes from 'big trouble' to top 5 " Johnson gambles, wins Although the Kansas race made Dale Earnhardt Jr . panic at one point late Saturday night, the No. 88 Hendrick Chevrolet’s fast finish to third in the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 has him excited about coming to Charlotte. Junior said in this weeks " Dale Jr . Dowload" on Dirty Mo radio that the No. 88 team was confident coming off the truck at Kansas and started the soggy Cup race well, then things fell apart. "Everybody was real loose. It was a bit of a shock, I think, for everyone how loose the track was. So everybody was skating around, having trouble. We were, too, but not as bad as most guys. "Then the next run it got worse. The next it got worse. We’re working on the car, and it’s getting worse. So I was freaking out. I’m panicking because we’re trying to fix the car, doing some pretty big stuff, and it’s getting worse." A rain delay of 2 hours and 16 minutes wound up being a saving grace for Junior and the No. 88 crew. Junior said he climbed up on the pit box during the rain delay and let his emotion fly with crew chief Greg Ives. "I’m about to go nuts, what are we gonna do, Greg?" Junior recalls saying at the start of the rain delay. "Greg said it was good I pushed him, but I think I aggravated him more than anything. "He made some great changes. Him and Kevin and the guys put their heads together and did some good things." Junior said the car was more like he expected after the race restarted, with good handling and great speed. "So we took off haulin’ ass there, everything’s going good, passing cars," Junior said on Tuesday's radio show, which took a few times to record because Gus Earnhardt was barking a lot as his master fired up the grill. "Fun restarts on the outside, especially following Kyle Larson around the top. Me and him must have passed 10 cars on that one restart. The kid’s got some talent." Larson wound up finishing 15th in the SpongeBob SquarePants 400, moving the Chip Ganassi Racing driver up two spots in the points standings to 22nd place. Earnhardt Jr . remains in fifth place, trailing leader Kevin Harvick by 77 points and Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson by 29 points. Junior said he thought he might have been able to steal the win from Johnson had he started on the outside rather than behind Johnson on the inside on Saturday’s final restart. But now his attention turns to the races at Charlotte, where he believes his strong finish last weekend bodes well. "It’s got me excited for Charlotte. We’re going to another track for the first time with Greg Ives. We got a lot of stuff that we feel like worked there in the past. Bring on his new ideas and see what happens." RELATED: Sprint All-Star Race format " Who's eligible Junior says he feels no pressure in running the Sprint All-Star Race, because it’s all or nothing with the $1 million on the line for the winner. He’s much more intense about the Coca-Cola 600 . "What I’m really wanting to focus on is the 600. I want to win that 600. I’d rather win the 600 than the All-Star Race. I just would. It's just a much more important race for me." Junior finished 19th in the Coca-Cola 600 last year. He never has won the 600, his best finish of fourth coming in 2000. He won the All-Star event as a rookie in 2000. VOTE: Show your support for your favorite driver in the Sprint Fan Vote FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
After four wins in 2014, can Junior do even more with new crew chief? RELATED: Complete schedule for driver previews Team: Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet Rank in final 2014 standings: Eighth Wins: 4 ( Daytona International Speedway in February; Pocono Raceway in June and August; Martinsville Speedway in October) Year in photos: Recap Earnhardt Jr .'s 2014 season Strides: Earnhardt's eighth-place points finish was his third top-10 result in the past four seasons and his four wins was the most since 2004. He won for the first time in his career at Pocono, where he swept both events, and at Martinsville. The two Pocono victories marked his first sweep at a track since Talladega in '02. The Martinsville win upped his career win total to 23 and was especially gratifying. "This is so special," Earnhardt Jr . said of the Martinsville win. "I try not to get too caught up in the emotion of it because it's a team deal, but this is very personal and very special to me to be able to win here." Earnhardt Jr . qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the seventh time. In addition to the breakthrough wins at Pocono and Martinsville, he managed personal bests at Darlington where he was runner-up, and Sonoma where a third-place run was his first career top-10 on the California road course. He equaled his best finish at Las Vegas (second) for the third time in his career. Setbacks: Earnhardt Jr .'s struggles in the Contender Round saw his title hopes end early as he had finishes of 20th or worse at Kansas, Charlotte and Talladega. Needing a victory to keep his championship hopes alive in the Contender Round finale at Talladega, where he has five career wins, Earnhardt Jr . was involved in a late-race accident that relegated him to a 31st-place finish. The 2014 season was also the first since 2009 that Earnhardt Jr . failed to win at least one Coors Light Pole Award. Quoteworthy: "I expect the cars to have more speed eventually; it may take us a couple of races or a couple of months to get there but I think our cars will be faster and give us an opportunity to run better (in 2015)." What's next: Besides a few changes among those going over the wall on race day, Earnhardt Jr . will have a new crew chief in Greg Ives and a new car chief in Travis Mack. Ives, who guided Chase Elliott to the 2014 XFINITY (formerly Nationwide ) Series title, steps in for Steve Letarte while Mack (Elliott's car chief) replaces Jason Burdett. The return of engineer Kevin Meendering to the No. 88 team is expected to help smooth the transitions. "That's going to help a ton," Earnhardt Jr . said, "because Kevin has all this information on what's worked with me. All drivers like things a little different. So Kevin's going to be real influential in getting Greg up to speed." While he won't rule out the possibility of a few rough spots as the team comes together, Earnhardt Jr . said he isn't worried. "I don't know that we will struggle," he said. "I expect us to come out and be competitive. By midseason I expect us to be a better race team than we were last year. "I think Greg is a talented crew chief. He has many advantages that will make us a better team. Steve was the strategist, one of the best guys on the box when it came to strategies, fuel mileage and stuff like that. It's too soon to tell exactly where we are there. Greg's been running in the Nationwide Series for a couple of years and their strategies are kind of mapped out already because of the tire rule and so forth. You can't really pull a lot of little levers and get things done, get crazy. … "But I know the engineering side is getting stronger because of Greg's history as an engineer." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule