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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;
Zalenski survives Phoenix melee for first NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series win
RELATED: See the complete iRacing schedule Rookie NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series driver Bobby Zalenski scored his first victory at Phoenix International Raceway Tuesday night, holding off Ray Alfalla and Ryan Luza on two late-race restarts. Zalenski took the lead on a restart with ten laps to go when leader Andrew Fayash missed a shift. Logan Clampitt, who was restarting second, also moved alongside Fayash as the three raced door-to-door into Turn 1. Zalenski had such a sharp angle into the corner he could not keep his car on the bottom which led him to hit Clampitt, spinning the erstwhile series leader out of contention. Zalenski escaped with minimal damage and had the race lead, but he would need to execute on one more restart with the two strongest drivers in 2017 thus far right behind him. The green flew with five laps left but before Alfalla and Luza could challenge for the win, Michael Conti spun Fayash entering Turn One leading to a race-ending caution. Alfalla finished runner-up, right in front of Luza as both rebounded from their problems at Texas. Dylan Duval finished fourth and Zack Novak was fifth, the first time either driver has finished in the top five this season. Matt Bussa started on pole and led the race to the green flag, building a comfortable lead on Luza during the opening laps. Bussa led the entirety of the first run, only relinquishing the lead to pit for tires and fuel on Lap 53. However, Bussa would not return to the front after the stops as several sim racers short-pitted including Michael Conti, who assumed the lead. A caution on Lap 59 brought nearly all the lead lap cars back into the pits for tires with Conti leading the pack off pit road. Conti would restart third but only took one lap to pass Adam Gilliland and Marcus Richardson to retake the lead. Unlike the first run when Luza kept in touch with Bussa, nobody came close to matching Conti's speed on the long run as the No. 5 drove off and left the field. Like Bussa, Conti led until pitting for routine service on Lap 106 and just like the first round of stops, a caution interrupted the pit cycle before it was complete, costing Conti and other frontrunners some track position. The final 40 laps were quite the wreckfest as drivers tried to gain positions after restarts. Chris Overland held the lead briefly but Fayash got by shortly after the restart. Despite not showing speed early in the race, Fayash looked quite strong out front and led until his unfortunate missed shift and subsequent crash one restart later. Luza is back on top of the standings thanks to his third-place effort and Clampitt's troubles. He leads Zalenski by five points while Clampitt slips to third, seven points adrift. Alfalla sits fourth, but is within striking distance as he is only 13 points out of the lead. Darik Bourdeau rounds out the top five, 32 points back. Next up is a date with Richmond International Raceway, the second-consecutive short track on the schedule. Look for many of the same faces to be up front as Luza, Alfalla, Clampitt and Zalenski look to break away from the field. With 2017 looking like one of the most competitive NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series seasons ever, can anyone break away and become the favorite for the sim racing title? Find out in two weeks on iRacingLive!
No. 78 crew chief fined for lug nut issue post-Bristol
NASCAR issued penalties to two national series teams following the races at Bristol Motor Speedway: The No. 78 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team of Furniture Row Racing and the No. 22 NASCAR XFINITY Series team of Team Penske. Martin Truex Jr. drove the No. 78 Toyota to an eighth-place finish at Bristol, but NASCAR officials found one of the car's 20 lug nuts was improperly installed in a post-race check. Crew chief Cole Pearn was fined $10,000 for the violation. Pearn is in his third season atop the box at Furniture Row Racing, having guided Truex to six wins during that span and the third position in the 2017 driver standings. The penalty is the lightest for post-race lug-nut violations, under the updated deterrence system that NASCAR competition officials released Feb. 16. The penalty for two improperly fastened lug nuts rises to a $20,000 fine and one-race crew chief suspension. Three or more unsecured lug nuts results in a L1-grade penalty with a three-race ban for the crew chief, a $65,000 fine and the loss of 35 championship points in both the drivers' and team owners' standings. In the XFINITY Series, the No. 22 team of Team Penske was found to have failed post-race technical inspection for measuring too low in the left front. Ryan Blaney drove the No. 22 Ford to a second-place finish but that result is encumbered. Any potential playoff benefits relating to owner standings (since Blaney is eligible for XFINITY Series driver points) from that position would essentially cease to exist as well. No. 22 crew chief Greg Erwin has been fined $10,000 and suspended from the next XFINITY Series points race. The team was also assessed with the loss of 10 XFINITY Series car owner points.
Dale Jr. signs for fans after retirement press conference
Shortly after Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his retirement, he walked out of the doors at Hendrick Motorsports to sign autographs for fans waiting outside.
Clear skies, sailing for Johnson in Bristol victory
RELATED: Race results " Stage results " Full schedule for Richmond SHOP: Winner gear! MORE: Detailed race breakdown Jimmie Johnson surged to victory in the rain-delayed Food City 500 on Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway. Johnson powered the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet to his second straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season, leading 81 of the 500 laps. His 82nd win of his career was his second on the .533-mile Tennessee track. The victory moved Johnson another step up NASCAR's all-time win list, putting him one triumph behind NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough and two back from fellow inductees Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip. "That's just mind-blowing," said Johnson, who sits seventh on the all-time list. "I wouldn’t be here without Mr. Hendrick's support. Thanks to him and to Jeff Gordon for believing in me. For Hendrick Motorsports to make this job kind of a family environment for all of us to thrive in has been a perfect environment for me and (crew chief) Chad Knaus, and for the consistent group of guys behind me through all these years has led to the environment to win 82 races, or whatever it is, which is just insane. I'm truly humbled." Clint Bowyer took second place in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Ford, 1.199 seconds behind the race winner in his best finish since running second at Richmond on April 27, 2013. His late-race boost secured his second top-five finish of the season, but wasn't enough to unseat Johnson from the top spot. "It is frustrating, you could see him out there," Bowyer said, "but dammit, you'd think he'd get tired of winning all these races." Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano completed the top five. Pole-starter Kyle Larson seemed poised for a top-five finish after leading the opening 202 laps and snagging a Stage 1 win, but a pit-road speeding penalty on Lap 423 knocked him back to 17th in the running order. He rallied to a sixth-place finish and maintained his lead in the season-long standings. "Yeah, disappointed in myself," said Larson, who emerged with a 27-point lead over Chase Elliott in the standings. "I think I speed on pit road every single time I come to Bristol. So, got to clean that up." Martin Truex Jr., the Stage 2 winner and leader of 116 laps, was also bitten by a speeding penalty on pit road with 34 laps remaining. The infraction shuffled him to 15th place for the final run to the finish. He wound up eighth. "I thought I was exactly where I was the time before, so the time before must have been close," Truex said of his pit road timing. "Typically we don't get many speeding penalties for this team, but today we were just pushing the issue trying to get a win and sometimes they'll get you." RELATED: Photo gallery of at-track sights at Bristol Several other big names finished well off the pace after a variety of pitfalls. Kyle Busch, a five-time Bristol winner, rallied from a brush with the wall into the top 10, but a second hit sidelined him after 383 laps. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran just 218 laps before his day was done, a Turn 1 wall crunch and a broken oil cooler ending his race. Brad Keselowski, a two-time winner this year, and Ryan Blaney also spent extended time behind the wall with steering issues. The event was delayed one day because of persistent rain Sunday. The series' next race is the Toyota Owners 400 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM) at Richmond International Raceway. Contributing: NASCAR Wire Service &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Truex on pit road penalty: 'We were going for it'
RELATED: Johnson jumps at Bristol victory " Race results No one at Bristol could run the bottom of the track better than Martin Truex Jr., who led 116 laps in Monday's rain-delayed Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Truex lost some of his advantage when the potency of the VHT track sealer, which added grip to the bottom lane, began to fade as the race progressed. But the real whammy for Truex was a penalty for speeding on pit road incurred under the final caution on Lap 465. Truex had been battling race winner Jimmie Johnson for the lead before the infraction, but the No. 78 Toyota lost any chance for the victory after being sent to the back of the field for a restart on Lap 468. "We were going for it, you know?" Truex said. "Wish we could have had a shot there just to see if we could have won. This is the best run we've had here in a long time. It's bittersweet. I wish we could have seen if we could have beat the 48 (Johnson). We were close there before that last caution, but it is what it is, and you try to get what you can get, and sometimes you cross the line, and today we crossed the line. "All in all, it was an awesome day and a lot of fun. Had the VHT not worn out quite as bad, then we would have really killed them. The top lane came in, and some guys could run that better than I could, but overall it was a good day and a lot of fun all day." &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;gt;
Monster Energy Series Bristol race set for Monday
RELATED: Full starting lineup " Live weather radar BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Sunday's Food City 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway has been postponed due to rain. The race, No. 8 on the 36-race schedule for 2017, has been rescheduled for a 1 p.m. ET start Monday. FOX will provide live television coverage; radio coverage is on the Performance Racing Network (PRN) and SiriusXM NASCAR. "We are close to home so it will be fine," points leader Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing) said Sunday morning. "Our car was good in practice and I don't think the track will be too different." Larson will start from the pole position in his No. 42 Chevrolet, the result of rain canceling Friday's qualifying and the field being set per the rulebook (owner points). With one victory (at Auto Club Speedway) and four runner-up finishes, Larson leads second-place Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports) by 17 points. " See the full lineup Rain also interrupted Saturday's NASCAR XFINITY Series race, creating a delay of more than 90 minutes. But when the rain moved out of the area, officials were able to quickly dry the .533-mile track, and that race was run to its scheduled distance with Erik Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing) flagged the winner. The rain continued throughout the night and through the morning, eventually forcing officials to postpone. It is the first race to be pushed to the following day due to inclement weather since last fall's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Both races at Pocono Raceway last year also were delayed from Sunday to Monday. Last year's Bristol Night Race, the most recent Monster Energy Series event at the track, was postponed from Saturday to Sunday due to wet weather as well. Because the rain will wash all the rubber build-up off the racing surface, drivers will face a "green" track on Monday when the event gets underway. NASCAR officials have already announced a Lap 60 competition caution to allow teams to check tire wear. Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford) said the rain "is somewhat of a blessing in disguise." " Because (track officials were) talking about laying down more VHT and they can't do it while it's wet," this year's Daytona 500 winner said. "The VHT is like a grip applicator and you have to heat it up to make it work, so in the drag racing world the guys do a burnout through it and you have that stripe that you just heat it up and that's what has to happen for us oval guys. We have to have more cars out there to heat it up, so it's going to be like ice when we first start off and then the grip will come back once we do heat it up after this rain delay." Track officials applied an adhesive compound (VHT) to the lower lanes in the turns prior to this weekend's race at the request of drivers. A similar substance was used in 2016. Matt Puccia, crew chief of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford with driver Trevor Bayne, said the rain will likely wash what remains of the compound off the racing surface and, as a result, "I think that you're going to see the top groove move up and you'll see more of the two- and three-lane racing that we've traditionally seen here." "I think there might still be a little bit of an advantage on the bottom," Puccia said, "but I definitely think the top groove will come in, which, for us, makes it a little bit more challenging because we haven't had any opportunity to run up on the top yet." Some other key story lines to consider with the rain wrecking Sunday's schedule: • Beating the Busches will be tough for competitors; and what about that pesky JGR slow start? " Read more • An updated racing groove has the track extra sticky " Read more • Two XFINITY Series drivers had an altercation that included a connected punch , and a trip to the NASCAR hauler " Read more • Kyle Busch was fast Saturday, but there were multiple spins , including one from Larson that sent his car into the wall " Read more • Larson looks like a championship contender so far, and he and teammate Jamie McMurray have Chip Ganassi Racing surging " Read more &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;gt
What's next for Dale and the No. 88
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman recaps Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s press conference and talks about NASCAR's bright future with the newest crop of young drivers.
Full schedule for Richmond
RELATED: Buy tickets for Richmond NASCAR heads to Richmond International Raceway for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series events. Check out the full weekend schedule below. Note: All times are ET FRIDAY, APRIL 28: ON TRACK -- 11:30 a.m.-12:55 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 1-1:55 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series practice, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 3-3:55 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series final practice, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 4:45 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FS1 ( Follow live ) PRESS PASS ( Watch live ) -- 10 a.m.: Daniel Suarez -- 10:15 a.m.: Ryan Blaney -- 10:30 a.m. Kyle Larson -- 10:45 a.m.: Martin Truex Jr. -- 11 a.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash (Elliott Sadler, William Byron, Matt Tifft, Daniel Hemric) -- 1:30 p.m.: Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- 1:45 p.m.: Denny Hamlin -- 2 p.m.: Gray Gaulding -- 4 p.m.: Kasey Kahne -- 5:45 p.m.: Post-Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- 11 a.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series -- 2:30 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series SATURDAY, APRIL 29: ON TRACK -- 9-9:55 a.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 10:05 a.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 11:30 a.m.-12:20 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series final practice, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 1 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series ToyotaCare 250 (250 laps, 187.5 miles), FS1 ( Follow live ) PRESS PASS ( Watch live ) -- 9:55 a.m.: Comcast availability: Matt Lederer (Comcast executive director of sports marketing), Samantha Busch and Ray Wright (2016 Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award finalists) -- 3:30 p.m. (approx.): Post-NASCAR XFINITY Series race SUNDAY, APRIL 30: ON TRACK -- 2 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 (400 laps, 300 miles), FOX ( Follow live ) PRESS PASS ( Watch live ) -- 5 p.m. (approx.): Post-Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race
Junior: With heaps of young talent, sky's the limit for NASCAR
Dale Earnhardt Jr. may be retiring from full-time driving after 2017, but he thinks the sport is in good hands with drivers such as Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott.