Lucas Oil 150 gets new start time at Phoenix
RELATED: Buy tickets for Phoenix " Truck Series Chase Grid Phoenix Raceway announced today that the Lucas Oil 150 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series semi-final race on Friday, Nov. 11 will begin at 8 p.m. MT(10 p.m. ET) , with gates now set to open at 9:30 a.m. MT (11:30 a.m. ET). NASCAR veteran Matt Crafton and 2015 Lucas Oil 150 winner Timothy Peters will take on series wins- leader William Byron and the rest of the Chase contenders to compete for the final four spots in the championship race. Kicking off the weekend at PIR, the race will take place under the lights and will be the first semi-final race for the series championship, as NASCAR recently expanded the Chase format to the Camping World Truck Series for the 2016 season. Friday will be full of racing action as all three NASCAR premier series will be on track, including NASCAR XFINITY Series practice followed by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying. Also, fans in attendance for the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway will have the opportunity to meet the stars of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series during a free autograph session. The event will be held on the Fan Midway following NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final practice and will be open to anyone with a grandstand ticket. The first 125 fans in line at the designated location between Gate 4 and Corporate Village will receive a wristband to participate. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150 will air on FS1 at 8 p.m. MT (10 p.m. ET). Tickets for the upcoming NASCAR race weekend start at just $35. Individual tickets and season tickets are available online at PhoenixRaceway.com, by phone at 1-866-408-RACE (7223) or in person at the PIR ticket office.
Post-Race Reactions: Lucas Oil Raceway
Carl Edwards promises not to speed on pitroad, plus other drivers comment on the G-W-C finish.
John Wes Townley sitting out Eldora race with possible concussion
Concord, N.C. (July 18, 2016) – John Wes Townley remains under treatment for a possible concussion and will not compete in Wednesday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway. ARCA competitor Brady Boswell will drive the No. 05 Zaxby's/Jive Communications Chevrolet at Eldora for Townley. The 19-year-old Boswell, like Townley, is a resident of Watkinsville, Georgia. Both drivers are graduates of North Oconee High School in Bogart, Georgia. Veteran driver and NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kligerman will substitute for Townley in Friday night's ARCA Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 presented by Jive at Lucas Oil Raceway . Townley is scheduled to be re-evaluated by his physician July 25, when he anticipates gaining medical clearance to return to competition in ARCA and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for events next week at Pocono Raceway .
Hemric finds perfect home at Brad Keselowski Racing
RELATED: Standings post-Atlanta STATESVILLE, N.C. -- "It's kind of a funny story how it all works out, I guess." At which point Daniel Hemric starts the tale of how he came to be in this place, the palatial new shop for Brad Keselowski Racing. Not only is he here standing on the gleaming epoxy floors, he's the team namesake's newest driver, handpicked from a promising crop of young hotshoes. As far as chance meetings go, his anecdote from the summer of 2012 makes for a tough story to top. Hemric, then a 21-year-old up-and-comer on the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour, had just converted a pass with five laps to go at Auto City Speedway in Clio, Michigan to secure his seventh win in 11 races that season, paving the way toward the series championship. The race he won was called the BRAD 100, and home-state grand marshal Keselowski -- who was making his own march to a title in NASCAR's premier series that year -- was there to greet him in Victory Lane. "He's like, 'Man, that was really cool to watch,' " Hemric recalls his current boss saying, "and that was really our first time shaking hands and meeting. Fast forward to ( Lucas Oil Raceway in Indiana) a couple months later in that year, same thing: We went on to win the race in more of a dominant fashion, but it was cool to start seeing the face and building somewhat of a relationship. "From that point on, I think we both had the understanding -- at least from my end -- that if there was ever an opportunity to put stuff together to make it work, we wanted to figure out some way, some how to race together." Those conversations kept going during their occasional encounters at the track through the years, and the timing never quite clicked for a partnership to develop until late last season. The plans for a full run this year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finally aligned for all parties concerned -- driver, owner, team (the No. 19 Ford) and sponsors (a full fleet including California Clean Power, Draw-Tite and Reese Brands). Hemric's early laurels are encouraging, with two top-10 efforts in the first two races of 2016 and the ever-closer reality of achieving a breakthrough win. For Hemric, a NASCAR national series victory would be the next rotation in a series of full-circle moments. The building blocks Hemric's hometown listing is a familiar one in the NASCAR community -- Kannapolis, North Carolina, a place synonymous with Earnhardt. The 25-year-old driver grew up just down the road from Dale Earnhardt Inc., his childhood overlapping with that organization's heyday. "You didn't have to go very far to see what the pinnacle was," Hemric said of his boyhood proximity to multiple racing facilities. "With the DEI shop being really close to my hometown and where I grew up and knowing that if you do all the right things and put yourself with the right people, this could be a possibility. That was at 5 or 6 years old, so now to be 25 and to be in a situation where that dream is definitely within grasp and you can really see it being a possible situation, something that you've been able to build and put yourself in, that's really cool." His own glory years started early, with go-kart victories in nearby Concord around the time he graduated from kindergarten. Though he grew up in the cradle of NASCAR's industry hub, the formative stages of Hemric's career took him everywhere -- racing Super Late Models in the Midwest, Whelen Modifieds in the Northeast, and Legends Cars in the South. Uncannily, Hemric learned from each region and each type of car, taking bits from every experience to place in his memory banks. The puzzle pieces have helped him become not only a better driver but also a better communicator, something that Chad Kendrick -- his crew chief -- detected early on. From their earliest conversations, Hemric's feedback from his first laps with the No. 19 team made its own impact. "It would overlay with the data, which was really impressive because a lot of drivers can't do that -- they can just say it was a little tight or it was a little free," said Kendrick, who has worked with current Sprint Cup Series regulars Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney . "He's very descriptive on exactly where it gets tight, why it got tight, what he's feeling in the left-rear, right-rear, wherever it's at. So very impressed with that. "It's only two races in -- and really it's only one race in because Daytona is its own deal -- but after Atlanta, I was very impressed. And he's got mounds of talent, which is what you have to have." Setting for success Hemric has found a new home, but the team has also -- moving from its cozy former headquarters in nearby Mooresville into a lavish, 72,000-square-foot building on a country road that parallels Statesville's small regional airport. Keselowski, who documented his organization's transition in his most recent essay on his personal blog, has invested plenty of time and effort into making BKR's facility a showpiece. The move has provide the team exponentially more space, allowing them to handle hanging bodies on their fleet of Ford F-150 trucks. There's a paint shop in the back of the building, numerous toolbox bays and workstations, plus the assortment of trophies in the lobby -- including a Crosley jukebox from one of Keselowski's multiple victories at Kentucky Speedway . "A lot of thought went into it, and I think it was just off the many shops that Brad has experienced throughout his career," Hemric said, noting Roger Penske -- Keselowski's Sprint Cup team owner -- and his strong influence. "Being a huge part in the Penske building over there and seeing how Roger operated, I think that was a big role in how this place was assembled. If you're going to structure yourself off anybody, Roger's probably not a bad guy. To see all that's gone into this point, it's really, really interesting to see how many resources these guys have." Those resources are a luxury for Kendrick's charges, who now have room to work on multiple trucks at once. The veteran crew chief also has an asset in Keselowski's leadership, which he says is hands-on without veering into micromanagement. The mood Monday morning at the shop was a vibrant one, with a slight spring in the step potentially provided by the boss man's Sprint Cup victory the previous day at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . Kendrick, however, said that the buoyance comes naturally -- and daily -- working in such a pristine environment. "Just having a nice facility like this at this level has encouraged the guys to be just better," Kendrick said. "I mean, when you walk into this place and work here day in and day out, it just boosts morale. Guys want to be better, look better, want to perform better. It just raises it to the next level. ... It'll be many years to come before somebody tops this." Great expectations The proverbial next level is something Hemric is striving for on-track as well. He made strides with NTS Motorsports in his rookie season last year, logging top-10 finishes in the majority of the 23 races and claiming seventh place in the final driver standings. The results, however, were uneven, with each modest string of pleasantness disrupted by a setback -- either mechanical or racing-related. "Everybody said it was character-building and we had a lot of that," Hemric says now. "We definitely experienced some pretty good highs and some pretty low lows. I felt like at the end of the day, the biggest thing that I was taught last year was how to excel in those opportunities where you don't have the best truck that day and how to make the most out of a rough situation. "I found myself a couple of times thinking, 'Man, is this ever going to turn around?' You keep your head on your shoulders, position yourself on the restarts and next thing you know, you wind up with a good finish. I think all that stuff is really going to play a role as we get further into the season, we get closer to that Chase format and it's all going to matter." Last year's feeling of exasperation is one that Kendrick hopes Hemric can cleanse, helping lift his confidence in the season's early going. Putting winning trucks into his hands is a major step. It's the reason why Hemric wasn't delighted two weekends ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway , where he matched his career-best effort in the truck series with a fourth-place finish. The reaction came in part because he knew that his first trip to Victory Lane in a national-series event was well within reach. The attitude change, Kendrick said, should add fuel to Hemric's competitive drive. Now it's just a matter of scratching the win column. "We talked about that when we knew Daniel was coming here," Kendrick said of his initial conversations with Keselowski and other BKR managers. "I really think he could be the guy that when he gets his first win, I really feel like he's going to be the guy that'll roll off three out of five, or roll off three or four in a row. I really feel like he could be that kind of guy, but you've just got to get that first one. The first one is always the hardest." That first victory might be the hardest, but it also might be the most meaningful, providing Hemric another opportunity to have Keselowski greet him in Victory Lane under much different circumstances. "It's definitely a dream come true how it all comes full circle," Hemric said. "Now it's just a matter of making the most of it."
Earnhardt Jr.: I feel stronger than before
RELATED: See Junior's 2017 car " Wedding plans " Contract talks coming soon Wednesday's test at Darlington Raceway confirmed what Dale Earnhardt Jr . already suspected -- that he has recovered from a concussion suffered at midseason of 2016, and that he is fit and healthy enough to resume competing in NASCAR's premier series. While this year's incident, which caused Earnhardt to miss the final 18 races, was the second time he had been sidelined due to a concussion, Earnhardt made no bones about his eagerness to climb back in the No. 88 Chevrolet when the 2017 season gets underway. Saying he feels he has "a lot left in the tank," Earnhardt spoke about his recovery, his return and what lies ahead during a national teleconference Friday. "I wouldn't be coming back to the seat and wanting to drive and be excited about driving cars if there was any risk other than the typical risk that every driver faces on Sunday," the 42-year-old Earnhardt said. "I feel very confident in what I've seen in myself in my improvement and what my doctors are telling me about my future and the risk that I'm taking, and my ability to be able to withstand the normal wear and tear of not only driving a race, but getting in that unfortunate accident from time to time. "We all feel pretty confident that not only am I as healthy as I was before the symptoms came last year but I'm actually stronger. Having gone through this before also gives me additional confidence. This isn't uncharted territory for me. I know what I need to feel personally to know that I'm as strong as I need to be and healthy. I'm certainly feeling that way. But I'm also hearing the affirmation from my doctors that I can go back and drive race cars." Earnhardt worked with Dr. Micky Collins of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh throughout his recovery. Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty was on hand at Darlington to monitor Earnhardt's progress. After a brief pre-test evaluation by Dr. Petty to determine a baseline, Earnhardt said he spent the afternoon running multiple laps around the rugged 1.366-mile track. During frequent breaks he was re-evaluated by Dr. Petty. While Earnhardt said he hoped to see the results of his responses to the stimuli of being back in a race car remain constant, they actually improved throughout the course of the day. "You sort of get acclimated and up to speed with what it takes to drive a race car," Earnhardt said. "Those systems strengthen through that process. Rather than see them sort of flat line and stay the same, which was what I was hoping for, they actually got stronger. "I felt like throughout the day I got more and more comfortable in the car ... it felt like an old shoe by the end of the day." Once the session ended, he said, "We felt really, really confident that healthwise I was 100 percent and ready to get back in the car." Although the 2017 season won't officially get underway until Feb. 26 with the running of the Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Earnhardt said he will also participate in an organizational test scheduled for Jan. 31/Feb. 1 at Phoenix International Raceway . The focus of that test won't be to monitor his health, but to simply give him more time behind the wheel and help the team prepare as the new season approaches. "Testing is kind of boring but I'm ready to get more and more laps in the car," he said. "I feel real, real confident and my self-confidence is real (crucial) for me to perform well. The more I can do to help build my confidence before we go to Daytona the better so I'm excited." Team owner Rick Hendrick said having NASCAR's most popular driver cleared to return to competition was "a great Christmas present for our company and our fans." "By Dale going to the right person and working his butt off, it has made him stronger," Hendrick said. While he has been cleared to return to competition, Earnhardt said he will continue with some of the exercises and programs used during the recovery process. According to Dr. Collins, continued participation would only further strengthen those systems affected. "I'm all for that," Earnhardt said. "I want to be as sharp ... hell, maybe this is something I should have been doing all along. There is a lot of ... stuff on computers that athletes do that don't even have concussions that I have at my fingertips today. ... There is a lot of stuff that I can continue to do that will keep me sharp and keep me ready to go." He doesn't expect to be monitored by NASCAR officials any differently than any other driver going forward, and there are no safety changes being made by the team as a result of his latest incident. As confident as he was before Wednesday's test, Earnhardt admitted he was "anxious" to get behind the wheel. He said he even had trouble sleeping the night before. Any lingering concerns were erased as soon as he hit the track. "Darlington is a tough track, but the nerves were gone after about four laps and then it was ‘Let's just run, let's run some more, put some tires on and go some more,'" he said. &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;
Buescher prepares for move to JTG Daugherty Racing
RELATED: Drivers on the move for '17 " Final standing s NASCAR premier series driver Chris Buescher says he remains under contract with Roush Fenway Racing , but for the second consecutive season the Prosper, Texas native will drive for a team other than RFR when 2017 arrives. The end of November brought with it confirmation that the 24-year-old will compete full-time in a new, second entry to be fielded by JTG Daugherty Racing for the upcoming year. JTG Daugherty had one full-time team with driver AJ Allmendinger in the No. 47 Chevrolet in 2016. Buescher, the 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion, spent '16 driving the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports where he earned his first premier series win in the weather-shortened Pocono event and made the 16-team Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Heady stuff for a rookie. RELATED: Buescher wins at Pocono "It was pretty incredible," Buescher said of his season with Front Row and crew chief Bob Osborne. "I'm just so proud of Front Row Motorsports and the No. 34 team for what we were able to accomplish … to get that first win and have a lot of good runs along the way, be competitive at different types of tracks was a blast. "Unfortunately we didn't perform as well in the Chase as we would have liked … (but) I learned a lot along the way." Buescher's victory came at Pocono Raceway in August. It was his 27th career start. Having his 2017 plans in place eases much concern but Buescher, 16th in points for 2016, said there are "still a lot of moving pieces floating around." Some are comparable to what he faced heading into this past season when he transitioned from the XFINITY Series; others are entirely different. "It's actually really similar to this year with Front Row," Buescher said of the situation with JTG Daugherty. "This year with Front Row was a loan as well. It was a little bit easier with the (technical) alliance that Front Row and Roush have with the manufacturer (Ford) being the same." However, JTG Daugherty Racing fields Chevrolet entries and enjoys a technical alliance with the three-team Richard Childress Racing organization. RCR provides engines through Earnhardt-Childress Racing as well as engineering support. "There are some unknowns to work through," Buescher said. "But I'm still under contract with Roush Fenway." Team personnel and other aspects of the new entity have yet to be announced. Cars won't be on the track for competition until February. Until then, Buescher said he will be looking over notes from the previous season in an attempt to better understand what worked, what didn't, and why. "That's pretty much the bulk of what we can do (for) next season … as we kind of wait out the calm before the storm," he said. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Five drivers strive to join Sauter in Truck Series Championship 4
RELATED: Truck Series Chase Grid " Driver standings With two races left in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, only Johnny Sauter has a sure-fire berth in the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . The rest of the title-hopeful roster is a five-driver pour into a three-driver funnel. The Championship 4 field for the series' inaugural Chase finale will get clarity after Friday night's Lucas Oil 150 (10 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM) at Phoenix International Raceway . William Byron, Christopher Bell , Matt Crafton , Timothy Peters and Ben Kennedy will aim to join Sauter in the Championship 4, but two drivers will be eliminated in Friday's Round of 6 finale. Sauter clinched his spot with a victory at Martinsville Speedway two weeks ago, then blocked anyone else from an automatic berth with a back-to-back win at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend. He's the only driver who can afford to be conservative at Phoenix. "We're peaking at the right time but we need to peak in a few weeks when it really counts at Homestead," Sauter said. Byron and Bell, two Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates with limited experience on the Arizona oval, may be in the best position to join him. Byron is the top points-earner among the five remaining drivers hoping to transfer, with Bell just one point behind him. Their KBM organization also has solid footing at Phoenix. The Kyle Busch -owned group won four straight races at the 1-mile track from 2011-14. Plus, the 18-year-old Byron has some level of confidence by competing in a race-winning chassis -- the same one that he drove to a triumph in the Chase opener at New Hampshire and that Erik Jones powered to Victory Lane at Phoenix in 2014. "It's a little bit of pressure for everyone who is not locked in," Byron said. "Hopefully we can capitalize on that and have the finish we need in order to get to Homestead. I think we're going to have a really good shot at a win, so if we can do that, it would be the easiest way to ensure we are in the Championship 4 next weekend." Bell, 21, will also be at the controls of proven equipment, driving the same KBM truck that spurred him to victory at Gateway Motorsports Park . He also finished second to Byron using the same chassis in the Chase opener at New Hampshire. "I expect that we'll be really fast again this week," Bell said. "I feel we are in a good enough position points-wise that if we just go out and have a solid day and not make any mistakes then we should advance." Not much distance separates the three drivers behind the Kyle Busch Motorsports duo in the standings. Two-time series champ Crafton sits three points behind Bell, with Peters -- the defending race winner - another point back. Kennedy, smarting from a pair of mid-pack finishes in the round's other events, is just 13 points behind Crafton's grasp on the provisional final transfer spot. Of the six, only Peters is seeking his first win of the season. A repeat of his late-race surge to victory in Phoenix's 150-miler last year would be well-timed. "I'd say we have momentum on our side, we've been strong through the Chase and at short tracks this season," Peters said. "I think we have a good Toyota Tundra this weekend and this team has the heart to come back and go for the win."
Suarez wins at Phoenix as Byron misses Championship 4
RELATED: Race results " Updated Chase Grid AVONDALE, Ariz. -- William Byron's bitter disappointment proved a boon for two of his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates in Friday night's Lucas Oil 150 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Phoenix International Raceway . When the engine in Byron's No. 9 Toyota expired on Lap 141 of 150 -- ending the championship run for the series' most prolific winner this year -- Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Daniel Suarez took over the race lead and went on to score the first NCWTS victory of his career. Byron's elimination from the inaugural Camping World Truck Series Chase also helped teammate Christopher Bell , who claimed one of the last berths in the Championship 4 with a seventh-place finish. Bell joins second-place finisher Johnny Sauter , third-place Matt Crafton and fifth-place Timothy Peters with a chance to win the title next Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1). Suarez pulled ahead of Sauter after a restart with four laps left and led by .510 seconds when he crossed the finish line for the final time. "He was running a perfect race and things like this happen," Suarez said of the demise of his teammate, who had led 112 of the first 137 laps before his engine began to fail. "The first victory in any series is always the most difficult to get. "I'm just very proud of this team for their effort. They've done a really good job all year. I'm very happy that we were able to get the win for KBM and Toyota." Byron's engine issue was sudden and unexpected. "We had been running hot a little bit the last run -- kind of all night," Byron said. "It stayed within 10 (degree) range, but it started to vibrate, maybe the lap before… but it didn't seem like a big deal, then it sputtered and flames came out from underneath the truck." And now Bell will race for the championship instead of the 18-year-old Byron, who has posted a series-best six victories in his rookie season. Seeking a sweep of the Round of 6 after victories at Martinsville and Texas, Sauter couldn't catch Suarez in the four-lap run to the finish. "We had a great truck, especially on the long runs," said Sauter, whose No. 21 Silverado is the only Chevrolet in the Championship 4. "Unfortunately, I just could not get going in the short run. I was just extremely loose… "I knew at the end there I needed to get a really, really good restart, and I didn't get the restart I needed. I've got nobody to blame but myself for that. But I'm just proud of everybody's effort. We just needed to keep pushing. Even though everybody says there's no pressure, there's always pressure -- this is racing." Crafton and Peters were one point apart entering the race and battled in close quarters for most of the race. Until Byron's engine blew, they were contesting the final position at Homestead until Bell fell back on a late restart. "There wasn't a lap that wasn't tense," Crafton said. "We just raced hard from the beginning to the end." Note: Toyota clinched its ninth manufacturer's championship in 13 seasons since entering the Truck Series in 2004. </p>
Dale Earnhardt Jr. cleared to resume NASCAR competition
RELATED: Dale through the years " Recovery timeline CAIN: Dale Jr.'s strong stand makes him, sport better NASCAR premier series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . has received medical clearance to resume his racing career, Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday. Earnhardt, 42, was sidelined for the final 18 races of the 2016 season after suffering a concussion. On Wednesday, he participated in an on-track testing session at Darlington Raceway under the supervision of Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty. Earnhardt was cleared by Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh. Collins, who consulted with Dr. Petty following Wednesday's on-track activity, has overseen Earnhardt's rehabilitation program and also treated him for a similar injury in 2012. "I expected things to go really well yesterday, and that’s exactly what happened," Earnhardt said of an afternoon spent behind the wheel at the 1.366-mile South Carolina track. "Actually getting in a race car was an important final step, and it gives me a ton of confidence going into 2017." Earnhardt completed 185 laps in his No. 88 Chevrolet during the course of the nearly five-hour session. Crew chief Greg Ives was on hand to oversee his driver’s efforts as well. Earnhardt, recently voted the series most popular driver for the 14th consecutive season, said he expects to do more testing in January "to help knock the rust off." RELATED: Junior wins NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award "When it's time to go to Daytona, I' ll be ready," the winner of 26 premier series races said. The 2017 racing season officially gets underway with the 59th running of the Daytona 500 , scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Earnhardt will not compete in the annual non-points, season-opening race, The Clash at Daytona International Speedway (Feb. 18, 8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Instead, HMS officials said Alex Bowman , who filled in for Earnhardt in 10 of the final 18 races of 2016, will drive the team's No. 88 entry. Bowman won the pole at Phoenix in November, his first in the series. "Everyone agreed that he more than earned (the opportunity)," Earnhardt said, "and (sponsor) Nationwide was 100 percent on board." RELATED: NASCAR community reacts to Junior's return It's possible Earnhardt could participate in up to two additional tests – Hendrick Motorsports is one of four teams expected to take part in a Goodyear tire test scheduled for Jan. 10-11 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway , and the season's first organizational test is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 31/Feb. 1 at Phoenix International Raceway . Collins called Earnhardt "one of the hardest-working patients I've ever encountered." "He's done everything we've asked, and we believe he is ready to compete at a professional level again and can withstand the normal forces of a race car driver," Collins said. "Dale has been very open with us, and we've had plenty of time for his treatment, so we feel very good about his long-term prospects and how this has been managed by everyone involved." Team owner Rick Hendrick said he's proud of Earnhardt "for listening to his body and standing up to take responsibility for his health. "He's worked extremely hard and set a terrific example for others," Hendrick said. "It's great news as we go into the offseason, and we can't wait to see him back on the race track at Daytona." In addition to Bowman, four-time series champion Jeff Gordon also drove for the team in eight starts during Earnhardt's absence. Earnhardt was 13th in points with six top-five finishes before being sidelined prior to the July race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and wound up 32nd in the final standings. The 2012 injury forced him to miss two races; he finished 12th in points that season. &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;gt;
Dale Jr.: Bowman 'deserves' to run The Clash
RELATED: Dale Jr. set for Daytona return in 2017 " Format set for The Clash Dale Earnhardt Jr . is set to resume his NASCAR career at Daytona International Speedway in February, but one week later than he potentially could. It's a move borne of deference and appreciation for the driver who admirably filled in last season during his recovery from a neurological ailment. Both Earnhardt and substitute driver Alex Bowman meet eligibility requirements for The Clash, a non-points exhibition race scheduled Feb. 18 (8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the 2.5-mile Florida track. But Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that Bowman would drive the team's No. 88 Chevrolet in the invitational, a week before the season-opening Daytona 500 . Earnhardt had heard rumblings about rules for the Clash format and field as last season drew to a close. His hunch that 2016 pole winners would make up the majority of the starting lineup was correct. The Clash rules were still up in the air when Bowman -- who ran 10 of the 18 races Earnhardt missed in the second half of last season -- claimed the first Coors Light Pole Award of his career in November at Phoenix International Raceway . After watching the qualifying results play out on pit road, Earnhardt's first words to Hendrick general manager Doug Duchardt were that Bowman should keep the driver's seat for the Daytona preliminary.