This week the guys debate their favorite racing movies, recap Kyle Busch's historic run and what it will take to capture glory at Pocono Raceway. Other topics include Jeff Gordon, weight loss and balloons.
No. 05 driver dove under Kenny Humpe for lead with three laps to go
Carolina Panthers linebacker named honorary pace car driver for Coke 600 CONCORD, N.C. -- Making friends with a member of the NFL's Carolina Panthers on Tuesday wasn't all that easy for Dale Earnhardt Jr ., a diehard fan of the Washington Redskins. The driver's outward allegiance to a rival team wasn't lost on Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis , who rode along with Earnhardt at rapid speed at Charlotte Motor Speedway , shortly after gaining his certification to be the honorary pace car driver for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM). "It's OK. I mean, we take care of the Redskins, like I said earlier," Davis said, fully aware of his team's three straight victories against Washington. "I'm pretty sure he knows." Davis' crossover into the world of NASCAR was a seamless one, as the 10th-year pro was unfazed as a passenger for Earnhardt's five-lap thrill ride. Part of Davis' nonchalance perhaps stemmed from the similar intensity of his day job, delivering hard hits as part of the Panthers defense. "I ran that thing as hard as it'd go," said Earnhardt, who estimated he approached speeds of nearly 175-180 mph in a Richard Petty Driving Experience machine with his No. 88 colors. "I was watching him over there. He wasn't impressed. He was filming the whole thing with his phone, like he was riding down the interstate." The connection between Earnhardt and Davis reaches further than their common ground as participants in adrenaline-fueled sports. Davis' humanitarian efforts earned him recognition as the 2014 recipient of the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, an accolade sponsored by Nationwide -- an Earnhardt sponsor. Those bonds, as well as their mutual affiliation with the Charlotte community, have helped Earnhardt separate his fandom from his personal interactions with Panthers players. "Actually, it's gotten easier," Earnhardt said. "I've got a lot of friends -- real, real close friends -- that are Panthers fans and they make it real hard to pull for the Panthers the way they act and cheer for their team is just … I don't know. Some of my close buddies, they just don't have any class when it comes to the Panthers, especially when they beat the Redskins. I have to hear about it years and years later, and they beat 'em two years ago and I still hear about that. "But I got to get to know (Panthers tight end Greg) Olsen really good, working together with him on some stuff for our charities and he restored my faith in the football team. I really appreciate what they do for the Charlotte community and the area. Obviously, being a business owner in downtown Charlotte with Whisky River, they have a huge influence on our business and our company and the decisions we make, and they're something that we're very proud of. I'll always pull for the Redskins, number one, but I'm definitely warming up to the Panthers after meeting some of the players. They've got some genuine, quality people on their team, and Thomas is one of them." The two athletes exchanged helmets as gifts before their ride-along, but Earnhardt said he hadn't given much thought to making a sports crossover of his own. The 40-year-old driver said he's attended Redskins training camps in the past, but seemed content to limit his football participation to made-for-TV backyard games in Wrangler commercials. "I'm really nervous and shy, so I don't know if I'd want to put myself out there like that," Earnhardt said, noting that he was always too small to suit up in high school. "But just because I'm a fan of a particular sport doesn't mean I think I'm very talented in it at participating. I enjoy the occasional softball game with my buddies or basketball in the gym with my friends. And I love going to the training camp to see the 'Skins and just get an idea of how the team feels and how their morale is and their energy on the field is when they're training, but I don't need to be out there trying to play." Davis' own training exercise Tuesday was slightly less rigorous, but he still earned a thumbs-up from NASCAR official Wayne Auton to lead the 43-car field to the green flag in Sunday's 600-miler, stock-car racing's longest event. In some ways, Davis said, his pace-car duties are nothing new, drawing yet another parallel to Earnhardt's day job. "I'm always ready to perform on Sunday," Davis said. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR.com’s Jonathan Merryman recaps all the highlights of the Lilly Diabetes 250 as Kyle Busch runs down Ryan Blaney on the final lap to win his second career XFINITY Series race at The Brickyard.
Kyle Busch breaksdown his last lap winning move against Ryan Blaney to earn his second career XFINITY Series win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Ty Dillon makes veteran-like moves to stay out of a big crash late.
Taryn Davis lost her husband in battle and founded the American Widow Project.
In episode two of The Dirty Air Podcast, Chuck Bush, Matthew Dillner and Jonathan Merryman review the racing at Kentucky, pick which songs would make their jukebox trophies and talk a little Loudon as NASCAR heads to New Hampshire.
Comparing Earnhardt Jr.'s eight years with each organization Vote: Who will win at Pocono? Stats advance: Dale Jr. attempts to join Allison, Richmond with three in a row at Pocono Editor's note: Last week, Mike Davis , brand director for Dale Earnhardt Jr ., tweeted that the driver was in his eighth year at Hendrick Motorsports after spending eight years at Dale Earnhardt Inc. Hard to believe, but this season marks @DaleJr 's eighth at Hendrick Motorsports , equaling the number of full-time Cup seasons he had at DEI. — Mike Davis (@MikeDavis88) May 26, 2015 Here's a look at how the eight years with the No. 8 and No. 88 compare through the first 13 races of 2007 and 2015.
Earnhardt looks to join select few, will line up 20th on Sunday LONG POND, Pa. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . is looking to join some rare company in Sunday's Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 at Pocono Raceway (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). Fresh of a 2014 sweep of both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at the Tricky Triangle, Earnhardt is looking to become the third driver to win three in a row at 2.5-mile Pennsylvania track. Bobby Allison and Tim Richmond are the other two to accomplish that with the latter's being the most recent occurrence in 1987. However, the Hendrick Motorsports driver will be starting 20th in his bid to win three straight at Pocono and he explained what led to his worst starting spot since Richmond. "I chopped the entrance to (Turn) 1 on the first lap and that cost us a little bit of time. And then the next run we went into Turn 1 and turned sideways and got loose and just kind of killed the lap. So, we had pretty good speed in practice and just didn't … the driver didn’t do a good job." That qualifying performance led Junior to help his No. 88 team push the car back to the garage. Here @DaleJr helps the @nationwide88 team push the car, saying "It's the least I can do after qualifying 20th." pic.twitter.com/BcFfDohG8X — Mike Davis (@MikeDavis88) June 5, 2015 Earnhardt showed speed in Friday's opening practice, placing fourth in the 85-minute session (176.564 mph). In the second practice, Earnhardt was second on the speed chart (175.596 mph) in the 55-minute session. Still, he understands the difficulty in winning one race at Pocono let alone three straight win. "It's just difficult to win one, you know?" Earnhardt said Friday at Pocono. "It’s difficult to win, period. And there’s so much competition in this series now." Junior will be looking to do something Allison and Richmond did not have to do in their run of three straight victories. He will try and join their club by winning with two different crew chiefs. Greg Ives is on top of the box this season as Steve Letarte, his crew chief for the sweep last year, left to be part of NBC's NASCAR coverage after last season. "Well we won those two races by having some great pit strategy," Earnhardt said on Friday at Pocono. "Steve (Letarte) got real aggressive on his pit calls and I think that is definitely going to be what is going to put you in position to win. You kind of call this race in reverse. "The tire is pretty tough here and durable. There is not a whole lot of fall off. You can call the race sort of like a road course in reverse and put yourself up toward the front like we did last year. It makes it pretty difficult to get around you if you have a good car. I mean we were able to pass some guys that tried to get more aggressive than we were. Everything has kind of got to fall in the right place and allow you to make those choices." The change in crew chiefs hasn't affected Earnhardt's performance this season. Entering Pocono, Earnhardt is fifth in the point standings and scored a win last month at Talladega Superspeedway , his 24th victory in the Sprint Cup Series. He has top-five finishes at all intermediate and restrictor-plate tracks this season (seven in total). Earnhardt is looking to keep the good vibes and good times going with Ives, who worked as a crew chief for two years for Earnhardt's NASCAR XFINITY Series organization, JR Motorsports. "He takes this super, super serious. This is his dream come true to be able to crew chief in the Cup Series, and I want to give him every opportunity to be successful and us as a team, we’re in a good position winning races, running well; we don’t want to take a step back." Hendrick Motorsports has had stretches of dominance at Pocono. The organization's four drivers have won the last five races, Jeff Gordon has the most wins here (six) and Jimmie Johnson swept the 2004 events here. In total, the organization has 17 wins at the Tricky Triangle. Johnson says its hard to win here regularly, making a sweep all that more of an accomplishment. Something only seven drivers, including Junior and Johnson have done. "I kind of put sweeping here in the same box as sweeping at Daytona or Talladega," Johnson said. "There are just so many circumstances out of your control at this track. And those lead to the difficulty in winning often and sweeping, for that matter. "This race, there are always long green-flag runs and varying strategies. The teams that don't have the raw speed to race for the win roll the dice and usually catch cautions and lose track position. Track position is so important. There are a lot of moving targets. It's not just a straight-up downforce-style race. And I think that increases the difficulty to win here regularly." With the success that the four-car stable has had here, Earnhardt's recent run of success here makes him the prohibitive favorite this weekend. In addition to last year's sweep, he posted two top-five finishes in the 2013 races at Pocono and has scored top-10 finishes in seven of his last eight starts there. So what contributes to that dominance for Junior and Hendrick as a whole? "Well, we've got four fast cars," Earnhardt said. "This is a horsepower race track where engines can make a difference. I feel like over the last several years we’ve had one of the best engine programs in the sport. So, I think we’ve just got really good stuff. "Your car really, really shines here; whereas the driver is a little bit of the factor or a lot of the factor, especially on restarts and trying to work that difficult air when you’re behind somebody and make a pass and set it up on a particular part of the race track where it will happen. But the car really shines here and we’ve got some of the best equipment in the garage." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule