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Earnhardt reflects on ninth-place at Loudon, looks forward to Dover RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize Count Dale Earnhardt Jr . as one that appreciates the new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format. "This Chase, I'm telling you, this thing is intense," Earnhardt said on " The Dale Jr. Download " as part of Dirty Mo Radio. He later added, "I think these rounds are harder than I anticipated." A good portion of drivers in the Chase found some sort of trouble in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Junior had some issues but was able to overcome them for a ninth-place finish. A loose wheel brought Junior back to pit road on Lap 123 and left him a lap down. On the download, the three-time 2014 winner took us through a driver's mindset when that happens. "You're going to have loose wheels, you just are. That's going to happen. Those guys are working their guts out," he said. "They have those air wrenches tuned to do the job as fast as they can and try to cut some time off of the overall stop. In talking to my right front changer, I think that also opens the window for those kind of things to happen so there's a balance there between having a gun that can do the job quickly but also being able to get those things tight every time and being consistent on that. I wasn't too worried about it. I've had loose wheels before. You just gotta understand that the wheel's going to come off eventually. So you need to get your butt on pit road as fast as you can because you can't run well or run in the top 10 if you back it in the wall. You just come down pit road, you're going to lose a little time. Steve (Letarte) was smart to put four tires on it because we were going to lose a lap anyways." The No. 88 team battled back and got the beneficiary of the free pass on Lap 189. "We were patient, we got our (free pass) eventually, it was a little bit late in the race when we got it, but we were able to pass a lot of guys on restarts. Not every restart is going to be awesome but we were able to make a lot of ground up on restarts," he said. Earnhardt recorded 29 quality passes, the third-most in the race, according to loop data. A late restart on the inside hindered Junior's chances for a top-five finish, but overall Junior seemed happy to avoid a big issue that affected other Chase drivers. "After everything that happened, after everything we went through, we dodged a big bullet." The attention now shifts to the final race of the Challenger Round, the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. ET, Sunday, ESPN). In 29 starts at the Monster Mile, Earnhardt has one win, six top-five finishes, 11 top-10 finishes and a pole, which he earned last fall. In the past five races at the 1-mile track, he has finished no worse than 11th place. Junior enters Dover in sixth place in the standings with a 28-point cushion to move on to the Contender Round, a fact not lost on the Hendrick Motorsports driver. "We are going in with a little bit of a cushion, 28 points. If we give up 28 points and don't make the next round, with that kind of finish, I don't know that we deserve to go any further. But that's not what we're going to worry about. We got a good cushion and that makes the whole weekend a lot easier. And we'll try to get on through this round. Try to go out there and win the race. We get to move on to some tracks that I think we have a better shot at to be more competitive at and we'll try to continue to improve on consistency. We've had some good speed so we just got to get the results to match with the way the car's been running. "Hopefully we can avoid all the nonsense. We love to win races and we're going out there to try and win races. Trust me, I want to finish as high as I can. We're working every lap trying to pass cars but as long as we're in that last round with a shot, that's all that matters." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Get the on-track times for all the NASCAR action RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota All times ET TV LISTINGS / BUY TICKETS FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE / BUY TICKETS FOR KENTUCKY / WEEKEND TRACK EVENTS This week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway , while the NASCAR Nationwide Series returns to Kentucky Speedway . SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21: RACE-DAY RUNDOWN -- 1:16 p.m.: Official Welcome by Jerry Gappens, executive vice president & general manager of NHMS -- 1:19 p.m.: Intro Honorary Pace Car Driver: Brad Park, retired ice hockey defenseman of the Boston Bruins -- 1:22:30 p.m.: Intro Honorary Starter: Chris Hagestad, VP, Advance Auto Parts -- 1:23 p.m.: Intro Grand Marshal: Jes Hansen, President & CEO, OSRAM Sylvania -- 1:23:30 p.m.: Intro Miss Sprint Cup: Madison Martin -- 1:24 p.m.: Intro Miss zMax: Christina Davidson -- 1:24:30 p.m.: Intro: Milo the Moose -- 1:25 p.m.: NSCS Driver Introductions with NASCAR Special Awards -- 1:45 p.m.: Team Fastrax jumps with large flag -- 1:54:45 p.m.: Intro Canadian National Anthem -- 1:55 p.m.: Canadian National Anthem by: Kirk Young, Music Teacher from Tilton, NH -- 1:57 p.m.: Presentation of Colors by: Combined Services Color Guard -- 1:57:20 p.m.: Invocation by: Graham Siemon, Worship Pastor from Crossway Christian Church -- 1:57:45 p.m.: Intro National Anthem -- 1:58 p.m.: National Anthem by Whitney Doucet, Speedway Star Contest Winner -- 1:59:30 p.m.: Fly-by TOT: B-17 provided by the Collings Foundation -- 2:04:30 p.m.: "Drivers, Start Your Engines" by: Jes Hansen, President & CEO, OSRAM Sylvania -- 2:12 p.m.: Start of the Sylvania 300 (300 laps, 317.4 miles) ON TRACK -- 2 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 (300 laps, 317.4 miles), ESPN ( Follow live ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Follow live ) -- Approx. 5:15 p.m.: Post-NSCS race -------------- FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19: ON TRACK -- 9:30-10:50 a.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice ( Get results ) -- Noon-1:20 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 1:30-2:30 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 3-4:25 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final practice, FOX Sports 2/FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 3:30-4:30 p.m.: NASCAR Nationwide Series practice ( Get results ) -- 4:40 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 6:30-7:30 p.m.: NASCAR Nationwide Series final practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- 11:30 a.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GarageCam -- 2:30 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series GarageCam PRESS CONFERENCES ( Follow live ) -- 10:30 a.m.: Kyle Larson -- 10:45 a.m.: Jimmie Johnson -- 11 a.m.: Aric Almirola -- 11:15 a.m.: Brad Keselowski -- 2 p.m.: Ryan Newman -- 2:15 p.m.: Jeff Gordon -- 2:30 p.m.: Denny Hamlin -- Approx. 6 p.m.: Post-NSCS qualifying SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20: ON TRACK -- 9-9:50 a.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 10:10 a.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 11:30 a.m-12:20 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 1 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 175 (175 laps, 185.15 miles), FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 4:10 p.m.: NASCAR Nationwide Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying ( Get results ) -- 7:30 p.m.: NASCAR Nationwide Series VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 (200 laps, 300 miles), ESPNEWS ( Get results ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Follow live ) -- Approx. 4:15 p.m.: Post-Truck Series race MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: NASCAR Chase Grid games WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Four-time champion has three career wins at 1-mile track Jeff Gordon has led the most laps of any driver to compete in the Sprint Cup Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . In 39 races, the four-time series champion has led 1,371 laps, while winning three races at the 1-mile track. Despite the high laps led count, Gordon has not won at the Loudon, New Hampshire track since 1998.
Alan Cavanna previews the weekend racing schedule with New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosting the Camping World Truck Series and the Sprint Cup Series, and Kentucky Speedway hosting the Nationwide Series
Find out who can clinch and who needs to rebound at New Hampshire
Second-place result at Las Vegas is Bubba's fifth runner-up finish this year LAS VEGAS -- After Darrell Wallace Jr . climbed from the cockpit of his No. 54 Toyota Tundra following Saturday night’s Rhino Linings 350 Camping World Truck Series race, he walked around the tail of his ride and towards the big patch of grass in the infield of Las Vegas Motor Speedway . Dejected, he looked up, shook his head and let out a big sigh. You'd never have known that he just picked up his best finish at the 1.5-mile track -- second. After leading a race-dominating 84 of 146 laps, Wallace stumbled in lapped traffic and begrudgingly ceded the lead to his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Erik Jones , who wound up winning his second race in just nine 2014 starts. "Just got beat; I gave it my all and that was it," said Wallace. "We were OK. We'll rebuild on this. I'm kind of at a loss for words, man. I thought this would be ours. "I was trying my hardest not to let him by. Lapped traffic was big here. We were just a little bit free and this thing would act wicked when you got around other cars and he just got around me, simple as that. I tried to keep it on his door and I just got loose up top. Just got beat." The second-place finish, Wallace's seventh result of either first or second in 17 starts this season, was enough to inch a little bit closer to defending series champion and current points leader Matt Crafton . However, the fellow Toyota driver crossed the start/finish line right behind the 54 for a third-place result, leaving Wallace 33 points behind. "Crafton, still right behind me, for sure, as always," Wallace said, alluding to the fact that the pair finished 2-3 in last week's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Wallace, who said he "ain't worried about (the points race)," doesn't miss the fact that a win for the 18-year-old Jones is good for his organization and did offer his support for his teammate, but that doesn't mean he doesn't wish it was him celebrating Saturday night. "Congrats to Erik and the 51 guys; another KBM dominance for sure," he said. "It was a good race for us. This was a brand new Toyota Tundra and our mile-and-a-half program is turning around; I keep saying that and it's definitely shown. Finally caught some good luck here, just finished one spot short. "It's cool to see a KBM truck win, a Toyota in Victory Lane, but I'm ready to get back in Victory Lane. We're hungry. It's just frustrating." While it's likely little consolation, Crafton knows the feeling. "Darrell and me were talking about it in the elevator, just second and third it's good, don't get me wrong, but it's just aggravating to sit here and finish second," the ThorSport driver said. "I know how he feels. My teammate beat me here about four years ago; passed me right at the end of the race. I know what he's feeling right now. He's probably not going to sleep very well tonight, I can promise you that." Despite the pep talk from his competitor, this one still stings a bit. "It's a bittersweet moment," Wallace said, "but we'll go on to Talladega, go to some (University of Tennessee) games here in the next couple of weeks, relax and get ready for the hell show at Talladega.” MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Nine-time Dover winner: 'Too many variables' to predict 2014 title race RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize DOVER, Del. -- Jimmie Johnson opened the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs with a solid 12th and even-better fifth in search of a record-tying seventh crown in NASCAR's premier series. All the while, the Team Penske stable of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano romped, splitting power-packed victories. The preceding two races, combined with Keselowski's thrashing of the field in the regular-season finale a week before, could have set the tone for a Penske coronation march to the championship round at Homestead. But titles aren't handed out in September, and Johnson has several of his best tracks coming up -- starting with Dover International Speedway this weekend -- with plenty of racing left before the Nov. 16 finale. "There's just so much to be gained by dominating, by winning, by sending a message through your performance on track. Those things are vital," Johnson said Friday morning before opening practice at the Monster Mile. "But the thing I keep looking at is, I think a lot of us are still wired and programmed to think (it's) a 10-race stretch. But it really is transfer, transfer, transfer, best race of your season is what you need." The opening 1-2 punch of largely error-free finishes ranks Johnson fourth in the Chase standings ahead of Sunday's AAA 400 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN), the last race before the postseason field is whittled from 16 drivers to 12 for the Contender Round, the next three-race elimination phase in the debut season for the new playoff format. While Johnson said Friday that he feels relatively safe from an early-round upset, he said that "too many variables" make it too difficult to predict a champion or forecast the effect of early momentum. "I'm not overly stressing about anything, sitting where we are in points right now," Johnson said. "I know the Penske guys are going to be tough, but if they win the first nine races, it doesn't mean that they're going to win at Homestead. It's just a totally different thing now." Far easier to predict has been Johnson's tendency for domination at Dover, where his history of strong showings has resulted in nine victories -- making it his most prolific track of his Sprint Cup career. He's shooting for his third straight win at the Monster Mile, on the heels of leading 243 of 400 laps in last year's race and coming back to lead 272 of 400 here in June. Winning three in a row at Dover would put Johnson in the company of NASCAR Hall of Famers David Pearson, Rusty Wallace and first-ballot cinch Jeff Gordon , but would also automatically punch his ticket to the next round without busying number-crunchers to figure the points. While Johnson doesn't have to win to stay alive in the Chase, he's easily among the favorites. "Jimmie's been the guy that's pretty much had a lock on this place the last several years for as long as I can remember," said Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who ran second to Johnson in this race last year. "I think this was one of the first race tracks where I noticed in his rookie season how good he could be. He's really the guy to beat every time you come here, and he might not really show that throughout the practices -- there'll be some other guys with good speed -- but when the race starts, he separates himself from the field." While Johnson is enjoying some separation in the standings after the first two races, he sympathizes with the bottom half of the title-eligible field that sits squarely on the Chase bubble. The frantic nature of last weekend's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway jumbled the pecking order and shed new light on how the new format ratchets up the premium on mistake-free racing across the board. "Yeah, we're going to learn a lot this weekend on how that pressure is taken," Johnson said. "In the past, we've had the Richmond pressure, which we've all seen and experienced; and then maybe the last three races of the Chase, you can feel that pressure building up. But with all these elimination rounds, there's an opportunity for that pressure to build for four drivers each and every week -- and maybe up to six guys -- above that four in the bump-out zone that are kind of close to being knocked out. So, I think it lets a few people off the hook and you can kind of relax. "Like right now, I'm sure that Joey and Brad are sleeping just fine. But the guys down in 12th to 16th, they're stressing. They've got to show up here and get it done. In some ways I guess to generalize, it just spreads the championship pressure out amongst everybody. Whereas, in the past, it started off with however many dealing with it, and then it just emerged with one or two at the end kind of feeling all the weight of the world. Now, everybody equally gets to share in the pain." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
SHR driver earns seventh pole of the 2014 season MORE: Full starting lineup " Complete standings entering Dover RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize DOVER, Del. -- Kevin Harvick is starting from the optimum position after winning the Coors Light Pole for Sunday's AAA 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). The question is whether the driver known as "The Closer" can finally close the deal from the front row. Harvick covered the one-mile distance in 22.095 seconds (162.933 mph) to edge Kyle Busch (162.404 mph) for the top spot on the grid. Denny Hamlin (162.250 mph) qualified third, followed by series leader Brad Keselowski (162.140 mph), Jamie McMurray (161.936 mph) and Jeff Gordon (161.573 mph). Entering the first elimination race in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Harvick is in little danger of missing the cut, having finished fifth and third in the first two Chase events. But the Coors Light pole award at the Monster Mile is Harvick's seventh of the season, and only once this year, at Darlington in April, has he won a race from the top starting spot. The five-month absence from Victory Lane, however, isn't weighing on Harvick. "Not at all," said Harvick, who won his first pole at Dover and the 13th of his career. "I've been around this deal way too long to complain about top-five finishes. There are a lot of circumstances that go into winning a race at a lot of these places, and you just have to keep knocking on that door. "And then you'll win some that you shouldn't win, and a lot of times you don't win the ones that you think you should have won, and you win the ones that you don't think you should have won. So you just keep finishing in the top five or top three, and everything else will fall into place." Busch is solidly inside the Chase bubble, but Hamlin is 13th after last week's star-crossed 37th-place run at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and in danger of elimination coming to a track where he expects to excel. "I expected to come here and contend for a pole and, really, contend for a win this weekend," Hamlin said. "No matter what happened last weekend, it didn't affect my mind-set as far as what my expectations were when I got to this race track. "There's a little bit more pressure to perform this weekend, so we hope things fall our way." A little more pressure? How about a lot? "This will be the hardest race that I'll definitely ever drive -- 400 miles," Hamlin acknowledged. "I'm just going to be as aggressive as I can, but not put myself in a bad position. This is the most important race of my career, because it's the most significant of my career at this point. "We've got to get the job done, and I'm going to do my part to make sure we're successful." Other Chase drivers on the outside of the bubble qualified as follows: Greg Biffle , 27th; Kurt Busch , 22nd; and Aric Almirola , 21st. Besides Harvick, Busch, Hamlin, Keselowski and Gordon, the remaining top-12 Chase drivers will start from the following positions: Jimmie Johnson , eighth; Kasey Kahne , 12th; Matt Kenseth , 14th; Joey Logano , 16th; Carl Edwards , 18th; Ryan Newman , 20th; and AJ Allmendinger , 28th. Following Sunday's race, 12 Chase drivers will advance for the first time to the Contender Round of NASCAR's revamped 10-race playoffs. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView Where the Chase drivers will start Driver Starting spot Brad Keselowski 4 Joey Logano 16 Kevin Harvick 1 Jimmie Johnson 8 Kyle Busch 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 25 Jeff Gordon 6 Matt Kenseth 14 Carl Edwards 18 AJ Allmendinger 28 Kasey Kahne 12 Ryan Newman 20 Denny Hamlin 3 Greg Biffle 27 Kurt Busch 22 Aric Almirola 21
Catch up quickly before Sunday's Sylvania 300 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN)