Young drivers prepare to step up as Dale Jr. readies for goodbye
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond RICHMOND, Va. -- The cyclical churn of talent in the NASCAR garage took another turn this week with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s announcement that 2017 will be his final year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. His impending departure follows those of household names Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards -- all in short order since the end of the 2015 season. In outlining his decision to leave the cockpit, Earnhardt was asked about NASCAR's ability to reload with a new generational thrust in driver star power. He named Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott among the sport's several young aces in waiting, offering assurance that the NASCAR roster remained vibrant and strong. As for those young stars? Asked upon their Friday arrival at Richmond International Raceway about their readiness to assume the mantle, the newest and brightest of those newer drivers might not be waiting much longer. "Although it's sad that we have all our veterans and heroes retiring, I think NASCAR is in a great position with all the young talent that they have in the (Monster Energy) Series currently, and really in every feeder series below them, there's a lot of young guys with great equipment and good backing," said 24-year-old Kyle Larson, the series' current points leader. "So, I think the competition will be good. And, there's a lot of personalities, too, with people getting themselves out there on social media and stuff like that, showing their personalities. So, I feel like we're in a good spot to have some new stars step up." Larson and Elliott -- both 20-somethings -- have already begun to make that push on the track, sitting 1-2 in the series standings. They've been joined by 23-year-old Ryan Blaney, plus rookies Erik Jones, 20, and Daniel Suarez, 25, as just some of the newest faces in the garage. The current transition of the sport's paradigm isn't a new phenomenon. If the genealogy of NASCAR stardom read like the Book of Chronicles, it would include a traditional biblical list of "begats." The career of Lee Petty begat Richard Petty's, Fireball Roberts' and Ned Jarrett's careers begat David Pearson's, which begat Cale Yarborough's, Bobby Allison's and Darrell Waltrip's. Then came Earnhardt and Elliott and Wallace, then Gordon , then Stewart and then Jimmie Johnson -- all with a host of other dynamic personalities in between. Mere mention as a part of that incoming next wave, with the potential to join a list of stars with Hall of Fame clout ranks as heady territory. Being singled out by the series' 14-time Most Popular Driver as one of those candidates is too, something that Blaney -- Earnhardt's neighbor and friend -- accepts with a degree of pride and reverence. "He has a very big impact of what people think, whether it is fans or in the garage area," Blaney said. "Him talking up younger drivers or the sport in general is going to get his fans excited about the future of going forward even though he won't be driving next year. What he says will be very important. I know he has always said great things about the sport and drivers in it and been very positive, which makes him a great person and great ambassador for the sport. It means a lot to hear him say those things. "Like I said, I know he says that about a lot of young drivers and try to set everything up for the future, but it is nice to be a part of that conversation when he speaks." Gracefully making the transition to stardom is a multi-pronged challenge, requiring both on-track performance and a proficiency in engaging with fans new and old. The former requires both raw talent and a full team effort. As for the latter, Suarez said there's no secret code to making that connection. "I think it's very simple -- it's just being yourself," said Suarez, in his first year of replacing Edwards at Joe Gibbs Racing. "I think every single driver out there in the garage has different personalities: Dale has his personality; Kyle has his personality; Jimmie Johnson has his personality; I have my personality; and everyone is different. When every single driver can go out there to be himself, I think that's very cool, and the fans like that. "You know, so far it's what I've been doing and I think it's the right thing to do. But like I said, overall, Dale has been more than a role model for the sport and it's great what he has done." </p>
Harvick: 'Kyle Larson is the best driver to come along since Jeff Gordon'
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Martinsville With three runner-ups and a win on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, Kyle Larson's strong start to the season has gotten the attention of many in the racing industry. That includes 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, who made quite the bold statement on the current points leader during Tuesday's premiere of his radio show "Happy Hours" on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "Kyle Larson is the best driver to come along since Jeff Gordon in my opinion," Harvick said definitively. RELATED: Take 5 from Auto Club " Larson wins Auto Club 400 He went on to talk about Larson's talent, how he wins in everything he drives and how "everyone in the garage wants a Kyle Larson." "I think Chase Elliott is going to be great too, but Kyle Larson has something special," Harvick said. By the looks of it, Harvick's son Keelan is a fan of Larson's as well. I mean what the heck @KyleLarsonRacin pic.twitter.com/h5C14IV3Xh — Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) March 28, 2017
From The Vault: Jeff Gordon wins first race at Fontana
Relive the first race at Auto Club Speedway that saw Jeff Gordon be the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver to go to Victory Lane at the track in 1997.
Earnhardt: With young talent, 'sky's the limit for NASCAR'
RELATED: Blaney on Dale Jr.'s influence on him CONCORD, N.C. -- High-profile departures have been a recent trend in NASCAR's top division, a development that began with transcendent four-time champion Jeff Gordon's retirement at the end of the 2015 season. Popular three-time champ Tony Stewart followed after 2016, then fellow star Carl Edwards stepped away just before this season. That list will include the most popular of all -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- at the end of 2017, a move he signaled in a Tuesday announcement at the Hendrick Motorsports compound. But instead of sounding an alarm about a possible void, Earnhardt issued a strong vote of confidence for the sport's future with positive remarks about the stock-car racing's recent influx of spellbinding talent, a group of young stars that have the potential to dazzle fans for future generations. RELATED: Larson, Elliott top point standings "We definitely have tons of talent. There is no question, but I love the people they are," Earnhardt said, naming 21-year-old teammate Chase Elliott and current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader Kyle Larson, 24, as two brilliant examples. Being marketable, approachable and having a level of savvy with social media certainly hasn't hurt. "These guys are effortless at it," he added. "So once they start to pick it up and understand the power of what they have at their fingertips, the sky's the limit for NASCAR. I'm super excited about the future." MORE: Dale Jr. announces retirement " Vote: Favorite Junior win Earnhardt has done plenty himself to help cultivate the next crop of stock-car prodigies, fielding JR Motorsports' four-car effort in the NASCAR XFINITY Series as a developmental program for next-gen stars. Among those is 19-year-old William Byron, a product of the NASCAR Next youth initiative and a top prospect for success at the sport's highest level. It's why team owner Rick Hendrick was quick to echo Earnhardt's sentiment. "I've never seen so much young talent," the 67-year-old team owner said. "I can remember when the question was all of our drivers are in their 40s or they're going to be, what are we going to do when they retire? I think we've got the answer. They're here, they're young, they're aggressive, they're fun." RELATED: Hendrick: Dale Jr. is 'like a son' to me The current group of 20-somethings -- or younger -- includes a diverse group of Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates in the Monster Energy Series. Erik Jones, 20, was the first to throw his hat into the rookie race with a full-time jump hitched to a newly expanded Furniture Row Racing operation. Ty Dillon and Daniel Suarez, both 25, followed with their offseason announcements. Their task now: To become better acquainted with fans who have long-running associations of support for Gordon , Stewart, Edwards and Earnhardt. Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, said that transition and exposure to a broader stage will come in time. "It's something that evolves," O'Donnell said. "That's you getting to know them more, them being in Victory Lane more. People like winners. … As they win and compete for top fives and are exposed more, we have no doubt that people will see their personalities and then it'll be up to them as well to take those personalities outside the sport also." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Jimmie Johnson moves closer to NASCAR legends
Jimmie Johnson reeled off back-to-back wins with his Bristol conquest on Monday, and now a much larger goal looms in front of him. Mr. Johnson, meet Mr. Yarborough. Mr. Allison and Mr. Waltrip, you're next. The Hendrick Motorsports driver and seven-time premier series champion continued to climb NASCAR's all-time wins list with his "Colosseum" conquest, and he is homing in on passing a triumvirate of legends with every victory. Now with 82 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins, Johnson is one behind Cale Yarborough (83) for sixth place on the all-time wins list. Beyond Yarborough are Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip at 84. That's just two more wins than Johnson currently has. Yes, it is conceivable -- perhaps even probable -- that Johnson will pass all three on the list in the same season and end 2017 fourth on the all-time wins tally. "It's mind-blowing," Johnson said. "I cannot believe that we're sitting here with 82 wins. That is such a big number. Yeah, and to be 7 or 8 years old, whatever I was, traveling around the country racing dirt bikes and walking into my first Hardee's, and I thought it was a race shop for Cale Yarborough and then I realized it was a hamburger stand. ... To be in this position is quite an honor. But I honestly wouldn't be in this position if it wasn't for (crew chief) Chad Knaus and (team owner) Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon , Lowe's, all the consistent things that I've had through my career. This has really been the environment for me to thrive in." Sit back and enjoy it. History is at hand.
NASCAR reacts to Dale Jr.'s retirement announcement
READ MORE: Dale Jr. announces retirement after 2017 season Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick Motorsports announced Tuesday that 2017 would be Junior's final full-time season. Here's how the NASCAR community paid its respects. This story will be updated throughout the day. Proud of all @DaleJr has accomplished & what he's meant to @NASCAR . But more proud of who he is as a person. — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) April 25, 2017 You're a hell of a friend and teammate @DaleJr , I'm really happy for you and @AmyEarnhardt . — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) April 25, 2017 I'm proud of my great friend @DaleJr for everything he's done for this sport. I'm even more proud of who he is as a man. Love you friend — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) April 25, 2017 Happy for ya @DaleJr , nothing but respect. Let's end it on a good note this year — Chase Elliott (@chaseelliott) April 25, 2017 Now we know why... You've helped make this a better sport for so many of us, we wish you all the best in your retirement. https://t.co/9Ze6JZgZ70 — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) April 25, 2017 Don't think @DaleJr could've been any classier delivering one of the hardest things he's ever had to do. Glad my career has had him in it. — Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) April 25, 2017 I'm really excited for the next chapter in @DaleJr and @AmyEarnhardt lives. JR has made #NASCAR so much better and will continue to do so. — Mark Martin (@markmartin) April 25, 2017 pic.twitter.com/GaAPFJKx8V — Amy Earnhardt (@AmyEarnhardt) April 25, 2017 I'm kind of new in the sport but what a great guy @DaleJr is in and out of the race track. Wish you the best my friend! — Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) April 25, 2017 Great memories racing @DaleJr for the last 9 years. Thanks for all you have done & will continue to do for our awesome sport! #NASCAR — Joey Logano (@joeylogano) April 25, 2017 Congrats on a great career @DaleJr , finish strong! Thx 4 all u have given this sport. All the best to u n Amy w the next chapter n ur lives — Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) April 25, 2017 If you weren't a @DaleJr fan before I'd guess you are now. #honesty #sincerity #heart — Michael Waltrip (@MW55) April 25, 2017 Thank you, @DaleJr . Ready for one final season. #FinishStrong pic.twitter.com/5bV0icYAOy — Team Chevy (@TeamChevy) April 25, 2017 Excited to see what the future holds for @DaleJr , think he will be just as captivating and influential off track as he was while on track. — Alex Bowman (@AlexBRacing) April 25, 2017 In sports-athletes like @DaleJr come along once in a lifetime-talented-popular-humble-honest-real-you don't get that combo often-well done! — Steve O'Donnell (@odsteve) April 25, 2017 @DaleJr has made the sport of @NASCAR better for fans and competitors. True racer 1st ballet HOF 4 sure! Enjoy the rest of the season! — David Ragan (@DavidRagan) April 25, 2017 Congrats to @DaleJr on one helluva run. I didn't think they would announce Carl's return till end of year though? Hmm! — Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) April 25, 2017 Great memories racing @DaleJr I am pretty sure when you google "cool". Your picture shows up — Bobby Labonte (@Bobby_Labonte) April 25, 2017 Ive always enjoyed watching @DaleJr wheel it around the track. He is and will always be an icon in this sport. All the best to him and Amy! — Ben Kennedy (@BenKennedy33) April 25, 2017 My favorite post race celebration. Thanks @DaleJr and congrats on a great career. Proud to call you my friend. pic.twitter.com/y3zZSm7JOl — Michael Waltrip (@MW55) April 25, 2017 Woke up to the news about @DaleJr great career son. Wanna come race a Funny Car? @TeamChevy pic.twitter.com/VlS6Qijzmt — John Force (@JohnForce_FC) April 25, 2017 Gonna be different not watching my boss but also one of my closes friends in the sport retire but so proud of him and what he represents!! https://t.co/elXxIW6TD9 — Elliott Sadler (@Elliott_Sadler) April 25, 2017 Wishing all the best to our friends @DaleJr and @AmyEarnhardt on the next chapter! Still gonna text you for style advice Amy ❤️ — Paige (@PaigeKeselowski) April 25, 2017 Excited 4 new chapters professionally w/ @DaleJr & our team of great people. And for he & @AmyEarnhardt & family time for us all! — Kelley Earnhardt (@EarnhardtKelley) April 25, 2017 Best of luck to @DaleJr , congrats on a great #NASCAR career and thanks for all of the memories! pic.twitter.com/FE345PClsx — RCR (@RCRracing) April 25, 2017 Happy for @DaleJr and wish him nothing but the best.. He has made all of us better through his career in many different ways.. pic.twitter.com/NUOZKo4jVa — Rodney Childers (@RodneyChilders4) April 25, 2017 Amazing what @DaleJr has done for the sport and the impact he's had on all of us. It'll be cool to watch him finish out this year strong — William Byron (@WilliamByron) April 25, 2017 I'll miss watching you on the track, @DaleJr . You've made fans out of all of us. #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/BNaizTQzRy — Michael Annett (@MichaelAnnett) April 25, 2017 Been trying to think what to say, but my mind keeps stoping at Incredible...That's exactly what you've been for our sport! Thank You @DaleJr — Daniel Hemric (@DanielHemric) April 25, 2017 Wish nothing but the best for @DaleJr . He has had a great career! — Jeb Burton (@JebBurtonRacing) April 25, 2017 Wishing you nothing but the absolute best, @DaleJr . pic.twitter.com/nF8EWcpCXW — Richmond Raceway (@RIRInsider) April 25, 2017 We'll miss you @DaleJr ! https://t.co/3ntl1lOXZi — MISpeedway (@MISpeedway) April 25, 2017 We love you, @DaleJr ! — TalladegaSuperspdwy (@TalladegaSuperS) April 25, 2017 Good reason to be up early, congrats my friend on an amazing career, enjoy the heck out of the next 6 months #futurehalloffamer https://t.co/lBVcGkgeX3 — Regan Smith (@ReganSmith) April 25, 2017 Really bummed to see a career come to an end, but crazy excited to see where it goes from here. #Bossman #Hero @DaleJr https://t.co/0WsWVb10Dz — Justin Allgaier (@J_Allgaier) April 25, 2017 Thanks for all you've done and will continue to do for NASCAR, @DaleJr . Kick butt the rest of 2017. See you here in September pic.twitter.com/bA2v00FE1f — Chicagoland Speedway (@ChicagolndSpdwy) April 25, 2017 Thankful for everything @DaleJr has done and will continue to do for our sport! He is such a genuine guy and I'm lucky to call him a friend — Matthew DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) April 25, 2017 &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Jeff Gordon's good luck ... tooth?
RELATED: Marquee wins of Gordon's career " NASCAR family cheers on Gordon Jeff Gordon may have had a little extra luck in his pocket during Sunday's Rolex 24 victory with Wayne Taylor Racing. No, not a rabbit's foot. Not a four-leaf clover. Not a heads-up penny. Something a little ... toothier from his daughter Ella. Sweet story! Ella lost her tooth ( as you can see!) the morning of the race, Papa had it in his pocket when he was doing his stints pic.twitter.com/qFbo1vy8N4 — Ingrid Vandebosch (@ivandebosch) January 30, 2017 One thing's for sure: Gordon (and Ella) certainly gave a toothy grin after that mega win. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Jeff Gordon to drive Camaro pace car at Daytona 500
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Three-time Daytona 500 winner and four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon will lead the field to the start of Sunday's Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) behind the wheel of the new 2017 Camaro ZL1 pace car. "Chevrolet and I have a great history at the Daytona 500 and it's an honor to drive the 650-horsepower Camaro ZL1 pace car for the largest, most historic race of the season," Gordon said. Chevrolet will also pace the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Nextera Energy Resources 250 with a 2017 Silverado on Friday evening. A 2017 Camaro SS -- featuring a new Krypton Green exterior color -- will pace the NASCAR XFINITY Series Powershares QQQ 300 on Saturday. "Chevrolet is proud to pace the 'Great American Race' on the high banks of the iconic Daytona International Speedway ," said Steve Majoros, director of marketing, Chevrolet Cars and Crossovers. "The Camaro ZL1 delivers unprecedented levels of technology, refinement and track capability." Gordon has plenty of experience leading the field at Daytona. In addition to winning the Daytona 500 in 1997, 1999 and 2005, he shared the overall win last month at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. All three Chevrolet pace vehicles share graphic theme highlights in silver and black, along with selected accessories and personalization features. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Preview: 'Refuse to Lose' on Jeff Gordon's 1997 Daytona 500
A rare behind-the-scenes look at Jeff Gordon ’s first win in the "Great American Race" with an original film entitled "Refuse to Lose," airing Feb. 23 immediately following the Duel at Daytona on FS1.
15 years later: Jimmie Johnson's first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win
Relive the 2002 NAPA Auto Parts 500 at Auto Club Speedway that saw Jimmie Johnson win his first ever Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
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