Skinner hit by a Gale force wind
Contact sends Cale Gale into Mike Skinner , destroying both trucks just past the halfway point of the race.
Matt Tifft earns 21 Means 21 Pole Award at 'Dega
RELATED: Full lineup Matt Tifft topped the leaderboard during Saturday's single-car qualifying session to earn the 21 Means 21 Pole Award at Talladega Superspeedway . Tifft, in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, posted a fastest lap of 181.168 mph. Tifft's teammate Daniel Suarez will join him on the front row for the Sparks Energy 300 after posting the second-fastest lap during the two-round single-car qualifying event (180.846 mph). Rounding out the top three was the No. 2 of Austin Dillon , soaring around the 2.66-mile track at 180.506 mph. The third JGR entry Erik Jones was fourth-quickest, logging a fast lap of 180.366 mph. Next was the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Ty Dillon (180.217 mph), rounding out the top five. Defending race winner Joey Logano will start on the fourth row in eighth (178.817 mph). Josh Reaume , Derrike Cope and Mike Harmon failed to qualify for the 40-car event. The 300-mile event is set for 3 p.m. ET (FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Ty Dillon ready to relieve Tony Stewart at Talladega
MORE: How qualifying works at 'Dega TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Double duty continues this weekend for Ty Dillon as the Richard Childress Racing driver competes in Saturday's XFINITY Series race and is expected to take over the No. 14 of Tony Stewart at some point in Sunday's Sprint Cup Series event. There's still a bit of newness to the 2016 season but Dillon, 24, has already made 13 starts between the two series. In addition to his full-time role with RCR, he's made three starts in place of Stewart as well as two for Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . "I was hoping to maybe be full-time this year in the Sprint Cup Series about this time last year," Dillon said Friday morning at Talladega Superspeedway , site of Sunday's GEICO 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "That is where I kind of had my goals set, my eyes set, but the opportunity didn't come along. "I can't thank Stewart-Haas (Racing) … enough for giving me the opportunity to fill in this year with Tony being out. Not only has it helped me with my career and getting better as a race car driver, but it's helped me show people that I can get the job done in other equipment too." Stewart, a three-time premier series champion, missed the first eight races after suffering a back injury in the offseason. He made his first start last weekend at Richmond International Raceway . RELATED: Stewart: Full coverage of injury, comeback Dillon split time with fellow driver Brian Vickers in the car during Stewart's absence. With the potential for multi-car accidents much higher at Talladega, Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing officials made the call to have Stewart start this week's race and then turn the ride over to Dillon. Dillon is also scheduled to qualify the car on Saturday. Because of his extensive time in the car, the interior will be fitted to address his needs. RELATED: Ty to qualify for Tony at Talladega "I haven’t talked to Tony yet, but I talked with Mike (Bugarewicz, crew chief) and the guys," Dillon said of the interior work. "They said it's just a quarter-inch difference and the belt set is all that we are playing with. So, we've got adjustable belts to make up for that really quickly. "We have had to make a couple of changes to kind of compensate for a little bit of both, but mostly everything in there is built for me and for my comfort, because I will be in it for the longer part of the race." By starting the race, Stewart will be awarded the points earned as a result of Dillon's finishing position. In addition, NASCAR officials said that should Dillon win Sunday's race, it would be counted as a win toward Stewart's Chase eligibility. Stewart would also have to be among the top 30 in points. He currently trails Matt DiBenedetto , in 30th, by 101 points. RELATED: How Stewart will be scored at 'Dega "First of all it would mean I won a Sprint Cup race and I would be pretty excited," Dillon said. "On top of that, to be able to get Tony a step closer to being locked into the Chase would be really cool. … "I haven't started a race without the goal of winning my entire career. That is what my focus is. As soon as I get strapped into that race car I'm planning on going to the front and hopefully winning the race. If it all comes together and we do win the race, I'm sure it will be a heck of a party and everybody is going to be happy." Stewart, who will retire from Sprint Cup competition at season's end, said he was appreciative of the opportunity to contend for a spot in the 10-race Chase, but said he "wouldn’t feel good about" earning a berth based on a win by another driver. "I think for me to make the Chase it needs to be because I ran the whole race and won the race, not started it and somebody else won it for me."
Keselowski and Hendrick: What might have been
On April 18, 2009, Mark Martin won the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway . It was the 36th NASCAR premier series win for the 50-year-old driver and his first with team owner Rick Hendrick. A week and a day later, Brad Keselowski won the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway . It was the first career win for the 25-year-old, and the first premier series victory for independent car owner James Finch. Two distinctly different races won by two distinctly different drivers. Martin's NASCAR career was beginning to wind down; Keselowski's, on the other hand, appeared to have only just begun. But there was one string that tied the two together -- Hendrick Motorsports . HMS was home to Martin, Jimmie Johnson , Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr . And it was expected by many to be the future home of the up-and-coming kid from Rochester Hills, Michigan. But a collection of factors that came together throughout the course of that season altered the racing landscape as well as the career path of Keselowski. It would be nearly three years before the next driver change at HMS. By then Keselowski had not only found a new home, but he was also on his way to winning the Sprint Cup championship. 'I WAS NOT GOING TO LOSE' The sun was out and the grandstands were packed when the 2009 Aaron's 499, the season's ninth Sprint Cup race, went green for the final time. As race leader Ryan Newman tried to keep Earnhardt Jr., the crowd favorite, in check, Keselowski darted to the inside behind Carl Edwards on the track's massive backstretch. It was a move that didn’t seem to mean much at the time. But at the start-finish line with two laps remaining, Edwards and Keselowski shot to the outside entering Turn 1. "Here they come; look at the 99 and ..." NASCAR on FOX analyst Darrell Waltrip began. " Brad Keselowski ," lead announcer Mike Joy and co-analyst Larry McReynolds chimed in. When the white flag appeared, Edwards and Keselowski had caught and were beginning to pull away from Newman and Earnhardt Jr. Racing back through the tri-oval, Keselowski turned his No. 09 Chevrolet to the outside, and then quickly dropped to the bottom as Edwards moved up to block. Realizing the bottom lane was now open, Edwards reacted quickly -- but not quickly enough. Contact sent the No. 99 Ford spinning. Edwards' car came off the track briefly and was beginning to settle back onto the track it was struck by Newman's Chevrolet. The impact sent Edwards roof-first into the frontstretch catch fence. Meanwhile, Keselowski kept his foot in the gas, racing across the finish line for the win just ahead of Earnhardt Jr. "I was not going to lose," Keselowski said in his post-race winner's interview. "I was not going to lift and (I was going to) hold my ground and consequences be damned." A full-time competitor at the time for JR Motorsports (which, coincidentally, counts Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick among its ownership group) in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Keselowski said he didn't know what the future held after his first premier series win. "I know I don't have anything locked in," he said. "That's really all I can say ... I don't have a job secured for next year, and everything to this point has been wait-and-see. I know this certainly can't hurt." But behind the scenes, moves were already underway. Finch's Phoenix Racing, which purchased it engines from HMS, had put Keselowski in the car at the suggestion of Hendrick. And the JRM/Hendrick pipeline, which grooms talent in the lower series to help restock the Sprint Cup program, was taking root. Keselowski had made two starts for Hendrick the previous year, and would make seven all together in '09, in addition to five races with Finch. Perhaps his future wasn't as cloudy as it appeared. "Rick had come out and told me, actually had made it a point to say to the media that he thought I was a future driver at Hendrick," Keselowski told NASCAR.com recently. There was only one problem. SWAN SONG? On July 4, 2008, HMS officials announced that Martin had signed a two-year agreement to drive the organization's No. 5 Chevrolet. According to the news release, Martin, who would run a full schedule in 2009, would "run a partial Sprint Cup schedule ... in 2010, sharing the No. 5 Chevy with a to-be-determined second driver.” By most accounts, that driver was expected to be Keselowski. But in May of '09, less than three weeks after Martin's Phoenix victory, HMS officials announced a revision to the '08 agreement. The veteran driver would return in 2010 to once again run the entire season. With Keselowski waiting in the wings and Martin winning and agreeing to return the following year, "Rick was kind of half pregnant," Keselowski said. "He (was) stuck. "My feeling was, after I had won Talladega, I'm going to get this 5 car ride partially next year, pair it with something else, let's go. I didn't know what it was going to be. We'll figure it out; let's go." A phone call and subsequent meeting with Hendrick, however, changed all that. "I was kind of expecting more of a 'Hey, we're going to expedite the process of clearing out the rest of this,' " Keselowski said of the meeting, "And instead I got a 'Hey, I don't have a ride for you. You need to figure something else out. I'll try to help.' "That was late April, early May of that year. My intent ... was to give him that time to kind of make right on it somehow, find a ride because he had made me the promise that I would have that car. It didn't sit all that well, but I understood the circumstances and so forth." Months passed and Keselowski busied himself with his full-time XFINITY Series effort at JRM while making a handful of Sprint Cup starts for Hendrick and Finch. Hendrick, in the meantime, was exploring the various avenues that might keep Keselowski in the HMS camp. Possible scenarios included Stewart-Haas Racing , at the time a two-team effort, and Red Bull Racing. Consideration was even given to fielding a Sprint Cup entry out of the JR Motorsports shop, according to the owner. But the pieces didn't fit and as the summer wore on, Keselowski's future remained uncertain. "I wanted him to wait a year," Hendrick told NASCAR.com. "... I don't remember all the details, but I do remember that Mark had done so well, and I had tried to talk (Mark) into staying. "I've told all our guys, the first time I sat down with Brad he impressed me because he was so intense about the whole car and wanted to be involved in everything. He was just so committed. I told our guys he's got the right attitude about racing and driving. I just needed him to wait." Waiting, though, wasn't part of Keselowski's plan. "My perception is a driver is a lot like a perishable fruit," Keselowski said. "You've got so much time, then he spoils and goes bad. There are a lot of variables, much like anything." PENSKE COMES CALLING The Keselowski family has always been involved in racing. Brad's father Bob was an ARCA Series standout and a former winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Ron Keselowski, an uncle, scored two top-five finishes in 68 premier series starts while older brother Brian Keselowski has one or more starts in all three of NASCAR's national series. "We knew the Keselowski name from being here in Detroit," Walt Czarnecki, an executive vice president at Penske Corp., said. "His dad, his uncle, all that. They would run out at MIS ( Michigan International Speedway ) when (Penske) owned the track." But it was a business associate, lawyer/agent John Caponigro, who brought up the young driver's name during a conversation in 2009. "We thought he was committed to Hendrick," Czarnecki said. "He'd been on loan to James Finch to run several races. But some things were changing." Conversations with Keselowski ensued, in Michigan as well as Mooresville, North Carolina, where Team Penske is headquartered. "All this time," Czarnecki said, "Still having this somewhat uncertain situation with Mr. Hendrick." Team Penske had grown from a two-team to a three-team organization in '08, fielding cars for drivers Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr . In '09 Newman departed to join owner/driver Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing and 32-year-old David Stremme was brought on board to fill the open seat. But the Keselowski opportunity was intriguing, according to Czarnecki. "We've tried to sign on what we consider to be the best available young drivers with a great deal of potential that we could mold and have them grow in our organization," he said. "And I think that Brad certainly fit that description. "But above and beyond that, he had a bigger vision as to what role he wanted to play in terms of the development of the team. ... Just how he saw different things coming together ... "Some of it may have been a little unrealistic; some of it was certainly the enthusiasm of a young man who had a goal in mind. ... But he had this great enthusiasm and he had this great desire and this great commitment. And that appealed to us." With the Hendrick effort seemingly stalled, Keselowski went back to Penske with a request -- to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series. In addition to its Sprint Cup effort, Team Penske was fielding one full-time XFINITY Series team with driver Justin Allgaier . Expanding that program to two teams running all the races was problematic, given the economy at the time. Told such a scenario was unlikely, Keselowski was left to consider his few available options. But Penske officials continued to work until enough of the appropriate pieces were in place. "Sure enough, Roger called me one night and said 'Alright, I've got it put together,' " Keselowski said. "It kind of caught me off guard. I was sold. That's it; he made it happen." "I couldn't sit around and wait. ... Roger had gone above and beyond to put something together that I felt like was the opportunity I needed. ... The economy was on its way down fast; Roger (through his various businesses) had a lot of immunities to the economy. Rick made it very clear to me that he was not going to invest himself without having a sponsor, and the economy was not in a spot where he could facilitate that." Hendrick had been aware of the Penske interest from the beginning, having had conversations with his fellow team owner about Keselowski's status. "Roger called me and asked me could he talk to him," Hendrick said. "I didn't want to stand in his way. Brad's a hell of a talent. It was a timing issue. "It's worked out for him. At his age it would have been nice if we could have kept him. ... If I got a call from Roger and I was in his spot I would have done exactly what he did." POSTSCRIPT On Sept. 1, 2009, Team Penske officials announced that the organization had signed Keselowski to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series beginning the following season. Since then, Keselowski has won 17 Sprint Cup races, 28 XFINITY Series races and championships in both series. "I don't want to sound mercenary but he brought us our first Sprint Cup championship (in 2012)," Czarnecki said. "Because that vision that he outlined, we tried to work with him and bring people along, bring people into the organization, have him work with people like (crew chief) Paul Wolfe, it was really the realization of that vision. That's what it (has) meant. "And his intensity hasn't changed." Former teammates Busch and Hornish have departed, and fellow driver AJ Allmendinger has come and gone. Keselowski, now 32, is the veteran of a Penske group that now includes 25-year-old teammate Joey Logano . "I wasn’t looking to switch," Keselowski said. "If things would have gone the way they were supposed to go before Mark won that race at Phoenix, I would still be there."
New Hampshire marks 500th Truck Series race
RELATED: Cup drivers in the Truck Series " Timeline of the Truck Series Born to modest beginnings in the American Southwest, NASCAR's launching pad, otherwise known as the Camping World Truck Series, will celebrate a major milestone on Saturday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . There, shortly after 1 p.m. ET (on FS1), the green flag will signal the start of the 500th race in a series that has provided indispensable impetus to the careers of some of NASCAR's top stars. Carl Edwards , for one, recognizes the debt he owes to the series and to longtime owners such as Mike Mittler, who gave Edwards his start in trucks. "The Truck Series means a lot to me, and it means a lot to my career, for the fact that Mike Mittler has owned a truck since the beginning of the Truck Series," Edwards said. "If it weren't for that opportunity from Mike Mittler, and Jack Roush hiring me to drive his trucks, I would not be here today. "So I'm really grateful for the Truck Series, and I had a lot of fun driving those trucks." Edwards won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title in the Truck Series in 2003 before graduating to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Austin Dillon and Ryan Blaney are other former Truck Series Rookie of the Year winners currently racing at NASCAR's highest level. The Truck Series has changed markedly since its debut on the national stage in 1995 at Phoenix International Raceway , where Mike Skinner , already 38 years old at the time, won the Skoal Bandit Copper World Classic by .09 seconds over Terry Labonte . In its formative years, the Truck Series was a repository for veteran drivers. Skinner won the first series championship. Ron Hornaday Jr ., perhaps the most identifiable name in series history, claimed the title in 1996, the first of his record four championships. Veterans Hornaday and Jack Sprague were kings of the series from 1996 through 1999 before Biffle won the title in 2000 to advance another rung up the ladder that would take him to the Cup series in short order. The periodic appearances of Kyle Busch notwithstanding, it's fair to say that older, more experienced drivers dominated the Truck Series until 2011. Hornaday won his third championship in 2007 and his fourth in 2009, amassing a series-record 51 victories along the way. Todd Bodine won the second of his two titles in 2010, at age 46, before Dillon and James Buescher notched back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012 at ages 21 and 22, respectively. Dillon and Buescher are emblematic of the changing face of the Truck Series, which now features more teenagers and 20-somethings than drivers in their 30s and 40s. For one thing, team owners like Kyle Busch , Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr ., have embraced the Truck Series as an affordable way to give back to the sport by launching the careers of young drivers. Erik Jones , 19, who drives for Kyle Busch Motorsports, is the current series leader. Tyler Reddick , also 19 and a Brad Keselowski Racing protégé, is second. "I think the Truck Series is a great division," Busch said. "It's certainly a lot of fun. I enjoy it. It's a level at which I can be competitive owning a race team. ... "This level ... I feel it gives us a great chance to bring up the (young) talent to the upper level of NASCAR racing." Owning his own team also gives Busch a chance to compete in the occasional race. With 44 victories in the series, he is second only to Hornaday, and he'll have a chance to move one win closer this weekend at New Hampshire. "Having its 500th race and being in that race is going to be special for me," Busch said. Keselowski is part of the Truck Series' present and future, but his love for the trucks is rooted in the past. His father, Bob Keselowski, raced in the series debut at Phoenix. Bob Keselowski took his only checkered flag in the series in 1997, and he and Brad remain the only father/son combination to win races in the trucks. "The Truck Series for me has been a huge part of my career and a huge part of my family from the get-go," Keselowski said. "My dad ran in the first-ever truck race at Phoenix, and I still remember that day. "I still remember watching that race, and I remember how big a deal the Truck Series was when it started and how big a deal it is now to young drivers and the future of our sport." Two-time defending Truck Series champion Matt Crafton once would have been typical of the series. Now, at 39, he's a throwback to an earlier era. But Crafton is content to race for wins and titles in the Truck Series, as opposed to driving less competitive equipment at a higher level. "If I stay here for the rest of my driving career, I'll definitely be happy with that," Crafton said. "I know each and every week I can go win races. I have no desire to go somewhere where I'm going to run 15th to 25th and be happy with that." A nine-time winner in the Truck Series, Crafton is seeking his first New Hampshire victory this weekend, as he tries to stave off the growing youth movement in the Camping World Truck Series for yet another season.
Part 2: The Intimidator's Day at Talladega
MORE: READ PART 1 HERE The Build-up "That's what we've been wanting is being able to draft up and race these guys. I think the things they've done and changes they've made will make a difference. I think you'll see a better race, a closer race." -- Dale Earnhardt, NASCAR teleconference, Oct. 11, 2000. Bobby Labonte was steaming toward his first premier series championship, heading into Talladega with a commanding 252-point lead -- more than any driver could earn in one race under the former Latford points system -- over Jeff Burton. Dale Earnhardt ranked third, 258 points off the top with Dale Jarrett further back in fourth, 388 points in arrears. Dunlap: I think he saw those upcoming races as a real chance for him to make a run. ... Earnhardt was so focused on getting that eighth championship and, I think, at that moment that late in the season he had kind of felt it slipping away. Bobby Labonte: At the time where we were in points, it was risk over reward and if you were the chaser, it was easier to make those risks. If you're being chased, this is one of those places where you bide your time and you wait toward the end of it more. Dale Jarrett (driver, Robert Yates Racing No. 88 Ford): It was such an unknown. I won't say that I dreaded the race because I looked forward to racing there. We had been very successful at Talladega, but with the unknown and being in the midst of a championship battle was something that we were a little bit leery of in making the right choices and the right calls, so, as always, you're on edge racing at Talladega. In addition to the ratcheted-up championship pressure, teams and drivers also faced polarizing new aerodynamics rules that altered the looks of the cars and the type of racing they produced. McReynolds: The aero package was interesting. NASCAR had been searching all throughout the early part of 2000. ... In the summer of that year they took about 10 or 12 of us down to Daytona to do a test, and it was really an open sheet of paper. We went down there and they told us to bring all types of spoiler material and aluminum. I don't know that they really knew what they wanted to try and we just started trying things. Helton: We'd kind of eased up to it, but back in those days, we would kind of settle in on what we would use at the Daytona 500 by the Talladega race and use it there so that everybody would get used to it or we'd find any hidden ghosts and goblins in it before we unveiled it at the Daytona 500 . Bobby Labonte: I think we were there for the test and it was like some people liked it and some people didn't. If I went from 18th to first on the last lap, I loved it. I didn't like it quite as good at the end of the day. Childress: As good as I can remember back, we had the package with the wicker on the spoiler and the wicker across the roof. It was a whole new package and the cars really drafted, really raced. Nemechek: We called that the old taxi cab strip and they put a lot of drag in the car and turbulated a lot of air. … Once the air hit that thing on the roof, there were some very unique things going on with that, and I think between our two teams we were able to understand that quicker than most. Kenny Wallace (driver, Andy Petree Racing No. 55 Chevrolet): Andy Petree was by far, in my opinion, the best at getting the most out of his race cars on the superspeedways at Daytona and Talladega. He was the king of aerodynamics and getting the car low to the ground. Petree: I loved it. In my opinion, it was one of the best packages that we ever had for restrictor-plate racing because it kept the cars obviously in a big pack, but it made a big, huge hole in the air and it took a lot more power to push that aero package, so the car had more power, more response and I thought it was one of the best packages they ever had. Bobby Labonte: Back then, we didn't run a pack of 43 cars in a full pack like you do today. I don't think we circled it as much as these guys do, say in the last five or 10 years, but it was somewhere you knew that just whatever happened, you could be running in the top five one lap and then 18th the next lap. Hailey: There was a tremendous amount of unknown with the new wicker bill across the top of the car. We had no idea what we were in for. A new aero package had drivers and crew chiefs wondering how their respective cars would react in traffic. This No. 3 Chevrolet Monte Carlo had no problem adjusting. The vehicle that carried Dale Earnhardt to his final NASCAR victory still resides in the team museum. Though the aerodynamic devices were intended to slow and bunch up the cars, the speeds shown in early practices were deemed too fast. That led to NASCAR officials making a change to the size of the restrictor-plate openings -- from 1 inch to 15/16ths -- just before final practice in an effort to further slow the cars. The modification added an extra layer of intrigue to what was already shaping up to be a true wild-card race. Petree: They had a restrictor-plate size, if I recall correctly, it was a one-inch plate that we started with, which made quite a bit of power. So we sat on the pole with the 33 car (Nemechek) and that one-inch plate changed everything as far as restrictor-plate motors. Helton: I don't think it would be called unprecedented, but it wasn't something we did every superspeedway race, but we also watched very closely the top speeds, and so if I recall correctly, it seems to me like this package during practice produced some speeds that had crept up and the aero package around the car was still such that the lift-off speed was critical to us. We shrunk the plate in the middle of that event to get the speeds in a better position for the event. Skinner : The aero platform, the whole rules thing with the engine package that they brought, for some reason everything was perfect on our car that weekend and we were extremely fast. And then NASCAR decided to put a smaller plate on, and I went up into the NASCAR truck and raised hell. It didn't take Mike Helton long to come out of his chair and explain to me that NASCAR had been there long before I was and it will be there long after I'm not. His job is to make sure that we don't put cars in the grandstands and keep our fans safe, and he basically just shut me right up and they did what they wanted to do anyway. Hailey: At that time, I was actually the dyno operator in the shop, so it was my job to run the engines on the dyno. We did a lot of testing before each race because we always had the idea, 'They may go a little smaller restrictor plate or they may go a little larger.' So we had a little background. We knew kind of what to do if they changed restrictor plates as far as the engine, as far as the tuning and everything, so it wasn't a big surprise that we had to change it. We were ready.
#TBT: Broken collarbone can't keep Dale Earnhardt down
Dale Earnhardt earned his Intimidator nickname by handing out some lickings on the racetrack, but he could take one, too, as he proved in 1996 at Watkins Glen. He couldn't breathe and he couldn't raise his right arm as NASCAR's premier series headed to the road course in New York. Earnhardt had been in a hard wreck at Talladega two weeks earlier, suffering a disclocated sternum and broken collarbone. But he wanted to both qualify and race at The Glen after running just six laps at Indianapolis the week after Talladega before handing over the No. 3 to relief driver Mike Skinner . Dr. Jerry Punch recalled in 2014 for NASCAR.com how he was called to the motorhome with Dale and Teresa Earnhardt and Richard Childress as the debate went on about whether Dale would pilot the Goodwrench Chevrolet that weekend. "In spite of us telling him how dangerous it was, and how painful it was, he wanted to be in that car," Punch said. "Richard and Teresa were getting me to help convince him to not get in the car, for his own safety. He looked right at Richard and said, 'If you tell me, Richard, I'm going to hurt this race team by being in your race car, I won't get in it.' Richard said, 'Are you kidding me? You're Dale Earnhardt. I can't tell you you're going to hurt my race team by being in my car.' And Dale said, 'All right, it's done.' " A loose sternum was very disconcerting at the road course, as any impact could send bone fragments into nearby vital organs -- the heart and lungs. But those around Earnhardt were more worried about his body, and he was concentrating hard on the racing. All that shifting and steering didn't stop the tough-as-nails driver, who reportedly used his knees to help steer on his way to winning the pole for The Bud at The Glen. Earnhardt stayed in the car for the whole race on Aug. 11, 1996, as well, despite Jeff Green standing by in case he needed or wanted relief. The No. 3 finished sixth. After finishing the 220.5-mile race, Earnhardt said, "It hurts. But it's a good hurt." That season he wound up fourth in the points standings.
Jimmie Johnson signs extension with Hendrick
RELATED: See who is in the Chase Officials with Hendrick Motorsports have announced two-year contract extensions for six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and primary team sponsor Lowe's. The extensions, which were announced today via press release, run through the 2017 season. Johnson, 39, is the No. 1 seed in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , which gets underway with Sunday's myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). A four-time winner this season, Johnson is attempting to become only the third driver in series history to win seven premier series titles, joining Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt. He is a 74-time race winner in the series and is only two victories short of tying Earnhardt for seventh on the all-time win list. Johnson is the only driver to capture five consecutive Sprint Cup championships (2006-10). He and crew chief Chad Knaus have been paired together at Hendrick since the 2002 season. "My relationship with Lowe's and Hendrick Motorsports means so much," Johnson said in a team release. "To me, this just reinforces how committed Lowe's is to our sport and to our partnership. It says a lot to have one sponsor and one team for this amount of time. I couldn't be prouder to represent everyone at Lowe's and Hendrick Motorsports . This is my home, and I'm looking forward to many more victories together as a team." Knaus, whose latest contract extension runs through 2018, won championships as a crewman with teammate Jeff Gordon in '95 and '97 prior to being named crew chief for Johnson. "The contributions Jimmie and Chad have made to Hendrick Motorsports can't be overstated," team owner Rick Hendrick said. "When Lowe's took a chance by sponsoring the No. 48 team back in 2001, we never could've envisioned the results. It's a championship combination and genuine partnership that we're proud to continue and committed to develop even further." RELATED: Johnson discusses his outlook heading into the Chase Lowe's, the North Carolina-based home improvement chain, has been the No. 48 team's primary sponsor since 2002. It also backed the team for three races in 2001. The company funded the efforts of drivers Brett Bodine ('95-96) and Mike Skinner ('97-01) before aligning with Hendrick. "Their dedication … not only to Hendrick Motorsports but to the NASCAR community and our fans, has been absolutely incredible," Hendrick said. "We're fortunate to work with a company that's truly passionate about our sport and shares many of our organization's core values." Hendrick teams have won 11 premier series titles and 237 races since debuting in NASCAR in 1984 as a single-car entity with driver Geoff Bodine. RELATED: Where will Johnson be for Chase Across North America? In addition to Johnson, HMS also fields NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entries for drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Kasey Kahne . Gordon, a four-time series champion, will retire from driving at the end of 2015. He will be replaced by defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott . Earnhardt Jr. is signed through the 2017 season while Kahne's contract was renewed late last year and will keep the Enumclaw, Washington, native on board through 2018. Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. will join Johnson in this year's 16-team Chase field.
France: Truck Series connects NASCAR's past, future
RELATED: NASCAR stars who got their start in Truck Series MORE: Key moments in series history LOUDON, N.H. -- What blossomed from an out-of-the-box idea conceived in the American desert in the mid-1990s is now marking an important NASCAR milestone. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will celebrate its 500th race with Saturday's UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , and the series' staying power is a testament to simultaneously embracing new ideas and old-style racing. Today's Truck Series is both a throwback concept and a racing vision that has evolved mightily in the past three decades. It started off as a chance to seize on the popularity of pick-up trucks and take an exciting form of racing from "off road" to "on track," where it has become one of the most popular forms of racing in America. Racing stars have been born, NASCAR got to show its wares in new, often smaller markets and truck manufacturers still benefited with a slightly varied version of an old NASCAR promise: "What wins on Friday night, sells on Monday mornings." The series is unique in that it is both retro and futuristic, providing an old-style, hard-knocks brand of close competition while also serving as a training ground for young drivers and a platform for NASCAR to try out new rules and formats. And many people might not be aware of NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France's early involvement in helping the series through humble beginnings to the thriving national competition it is today. "From the very beginning, for a lot of reasons, we got a lot of good competition out of it and obviously that is the heart and soul of a national race division,'' France told NASCAR.com. "We were fortunate to get up-and-coming drivers in combination with some venues that would put on an exciting event. From the early days, our competition guys designed good, smart rules packages that increased competition and made it an exciting series. Most of those attributes remain today.'' The idea of racing pick-up trucks was the brainchild of a group of off-road racers competing in the Southwest. They had the idea but recognized having NASCAR's marketing, promotional and sanctioning arms behind the series would make all the difference. And it didn't take much to convince France of the potential. He was living out West at the time, holding an assortment of titles while learning the "family business'' and he helped push the idea of racing trucks along to his father, NASCAR Chairman Bill France Jr. Both men recognized it as a real niche and big opportunity. "We were able to look at and work with the original founders of the concept,'' Brian France said. "The car manufacturers were really focused on trucks at the time. Our fan base related to trucks and we thought we could design a rules package and series around all of that. We thought we could market it and extend NASCAR in some areas. "Most of that worked out just nicely.'' After a lot of behind-the-scenes blood, sweat and tears -- including fast and furious work from a handful of truck builders -- the France family proudly announced the launch of NASCAR's newest national series in May of 1994. A series of exhibition races in the West were held that summer piquing interest from competitor and spectator. The first official green flag was dropped on Feb. 5, 1995, at Phoenix International Raceway in a race won by eventual champion, California-native Mike Skinner . The seasons since have launched the careers of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' stars such as Carl Edwards , Greg Biffle and included stops by reigning Cup champion Kevin Harvick and 2012 Cup champion Brad Keselowski . The Truck Series' unique pairing with IMSA sports car races and IndyCar events has brought NASCAR racing to a non-traditional audience and allowed the sanctioning body to test out new pit road rules and formats, including the green-white-checkered flag concept used now in all three national series. Today's Camping World Truck Series remains a popular, must-see TV for fans and continues to be a thriving development opportunity for young drivers such as current points leader Erik Jones , Ryan Blaney , Darrell Wallace Jr ., Ty Dillon and last week's newest first-time winner, 18-year old second-generation NASCAR racer John Hunter Nemechek . They all get regular chances to gauge their racing progress competing against the likes of successful Cup drivers such as Kyle Busch and Keselowski, who also own truck teams. "It's gone through a lot of different generations for positioning,'' France said. "And where it's ended up is the best place. It's basically a throwback to how racing used to be. It gives us our best look back at that style of racing, shorter events, more contact typically and smaller venues that we can get into because of the cost structure. "It allows us to hold onto a page of NASCAR's history that is very definitive for us. That's a good thing and allows us to take it to venues and do things we might not take risks on with other national divisions. It gives us good flexibility. "It remains a great entry point for up-and-coming drivers to run on some venues that other national divisions run on and some new ones. It allows them a place to break out and that's always a good thing for us to develop talent. "It serves a lot of other purposes, but most notably our core fan base in NASCAR often believes that's the best racing in NASCAR."
Jimmie Johnson's Darlington scheme revealed
See the throwback look for the HMS No. 48 for Labor Day weekend RELATED: Buy tickets for Darlington " SHOP: No. 48 gear Jimmie Johnson is the latest to reveal a throwback paint scheme for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 6 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). The driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet will sport a Lowe's Home Improvement logo that was used throughout the 1940s and 50s, shortly after the company's founding in 1946 and during the time when Darlington Raceway opened (1950). RELATED: See another Darlington scheme Johnson has won at Darlington three times, with the most recent victory coming in 2012. He has 12 top-10 finishes in 16 starts at the track. Other drivers to carry the Lowe's colors include Brett Bodine and Mike Skinner before the logo found its home with Johnson's No. 48. MORE: Get your gear for Darlington https://t.co/td17FscWk0 — Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) August 15, 2015 FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule