Gordon disqualified from Dakar Rally in Stage 4
CALAMA, Chile -- Robby Gordon will be leaving Chile and the Dakar Rally much earlier than expected. Trying to recover from mechanical issues after Stage 2, Gordon's Hummer was hit with more problems during Wednesday's Stage 4 and he was disqualified, according to speedenergy.com. Speed Energy was Gordon's sponsor for the Dakar Rally. Gordon began the day 17th but had right-front wheel bearing issues before the start of the timed special, costing him about five hours. He completed the stage, but because he was late to the special, he was disqualified from the rally. Gordon was one of six cars to withdraw Wednesday. "Disappointed doesn't even begin to describe the way I'm feeling right now, not only for me but for everyone involved," Gordon said. "Knowing all the hard work and dedication that was put into this program is what makes our untimely exit from the Dakar Rally a hard pill to swallow. "While it may not appear like it due to our performance thus far, countless hours went into this effort. To have a wheel bearing fail is just sickening ... a huge, huge disappointment. We run this same wheel bearing on the trophy truck and have put thousands of kilometers on HUMMERs, and we have never had this part fail." STAGE 3 SAN SALVADOR DE JUJUY, Argentina -- Attempting to overcome a poor finish in Stage 2 due to mechanical issues, the No. 303 HUMMER was back on unfamiliar terrain. In the 2010 edition of the Dakar Rally, Stage 3 took the competitors from La Rioja to Fiambala, however, this year the route has moved further east as they make their way to Chile. Beginning the day in San Miguel de Tucuman, this special stage was been split into two parts, totaling 165 miles. Starting the day in 21st position overall, Robby Gordon and navigator, Kellon Walch finished the stage in 15th, putting the team 17th overall, 1 hour 32 minutes behind leader Carlos Sainz. Even as Gordon improved his position in the rally, he was not pleased with the performance of the HUMMER. "We keep putting ourselves behind the eight ball. We passed a bunch of cars early in the special, but then realized we had lost a transmission pump", Gordon said. "[Tuesday's] special would have been good for the HUMMER had we not had a mechanical issue. The route had some very technical, rough stuff in the beginning, and it would have been good for us." STAGE 2 SAN MIGUEL DE TUCUMAN, Argentina -- Robby Gordon struggled in the second stage of the Dakar Rally on Monday, finishing 46th after an accident and dropping to 21st overall in the standings. Carlos Sainz, the defending champion, won his second stage in as many days in his Volkswagen. His lead is 3:05 ahead of Stephane Peterhansel's BMW and 1:06:55 in front of Gordon in his Hummer. Gordon's accident occurred after a solid start and cost him an hour's worth of repairs. "We were actually pretty good through the first few check points," Gordon said. "One corner snuck up on me; I didn't see it and just drove off the road, hitting a large rock. This is very unfortunate for our team. Now that we are an hour behind heading into Chile versus only a few minutes, we definitely got our work cut out for us. I think we will be OK though; there is still plenty of racing left. "The Hummer sustained some damage on today's stage as when we smashed the front of the race vehicle into the rock, and the transmission doesn't have reverse because it broke when I tried to reverse out of my mistake. I would say that we were broke down for maybe an hour today...a very costly hour." Dakar is being held for the third consecutive year in Argentina and Chile. This year's route covers 5,903 miles, reaching the Atacama desert in northern Chile -- one of the driest places on earth -- before heading back for the Jan. 16 finish in Buenos Aires. The race heads north on Tuesday to San Salvador de Jujuy in Argentina and crosses into Chile on Wednesday, heading for the Atacama desert. STAGE 1 CORDOBA, Argentina -- Robby Gordon and Team Hummer completed the first stage of the Dakar Rally on Sunday in eighth place, covering the 138-mile course in 2 hours, 29 minutes, 36 seconds. Gordon and navigator Kellon Walch trail defending champion Carlos Sainz by 11:04. Sainz's Volkswagen was 1:31 ahead of second-place Stephane Peterhansel in a BMW and 2:16 in front of Volkswagen teammate Nasser Al Attiyah. American driver Mark Miller was fourth, 4:17 behind in another Volkswagen. Gordon started fourth but dropped to ninth by the first marker as heavy rain created a slippery disadvantage as participants suffered from skidding and sliding. "We knew that the Hummer team would not be as strong as we would like in the Argentina portion of this race, but we struggled a little bit more [Sunday] than I would have liked due to the weather conditions and technical rally-style section," said Gordon , who offered a reason for the discrepancy in time in correlation to the leaders. "Sainz and Peterhansel ... started the race before the weather began and were virtually unaffected by it. That's why you see the gap in time from the rest of the competitors. "We started out the special good, but we had a couple of challenges along the way. Kellon and I had to change helmets during the middle of the stage because his microphone quit working. I ran off the road at one point. We also ran out of windshield wiper fluid due to the mud. These mistakes probably cost us about 1 minute of total speed. I expected to give up 5 minutes in [Sunday's] stage, not 11 minutes, which disappoints me. "It is still early in the race, but we have some ground to make up [Monday]. Some of the guys are already starting to have issues this early. Hopefully, we will recover quickly from [Sunday's] issues before we enter Chile because it is our best opportunity to make up time. By this point, I want to be less than 10 minutes behind." Sunday's first stage from Victoria to Corboda in northern Argentina followed the ceremonial ride from Buenos Aires to Victoria a day earler. Officials said 407 contestants started the race Sunday, down from the 430 who were enrolled Saturday. Dakar is being held for the third consecutive year in Argentina and Chile. This year's route covers 5,903 miles, reaching the Atacama desert in northern Chile -- one of the driest places on earth -- before heading back for the Jan. 16 finish in Buenos Aires. Monday's second stage from Cordoba to San Miguel de Tucuman is a 201-mile race through the mountains. "[Monday's] stage is supposed to go through the mountains, which are not good for us for two reasons. First, the Hummers are not turbo-charged, then the course is a little narrow. They did say that we should encounter some bumps, which could be good for us," Gordon said. Gordon's second team, with Chilean driver Eliseo Salazar and navigator Steve La Roza, is in 28th place after the opening stage, 34:25 off the pace. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Hendrick employees receive Gordon commemorative rings
Photos courtesy of Jeff Gordon 's Twitter account, @JeffGordonWeb RELATED: Photos of Gordon through the years Christmas arrived in April at Hendrick Motorsports on Tuesday, and it was worth the wait. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon was on hand with team owner Rick Hendrick to distribute some pretty slick hardware. Celebrating Gordon's career in style, Hendrick and the NASCAR on FOX broadcaster gave out more than 600 rings commemorating the driver of the No. 24's legendary career. Gordon tweeted about the special gathering. Handing out career commemorating rings to everyone @TeamHendrick . Thankful to be part of this organization. #TeamJG pic.twitter.com/VkFJG3UhiX — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) April 26, 2016
Jeff Gordon's career coming to a glorious close
MORE: Sunday's full lineup RELATED: Gordon's top 24 NASCAR moments " Full Gordon coverage HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Busy week, surrounded by a lot of friends and family, a legendary figure making the final start of his career with a shot at going out as a five-time champion. Racer. Philanthropist. Father. What's there to say about Jeff Gordon that hasn't been said? What's there to write that hasn't been written? Do a Google search for " Jeff Gordon " and the search engine generates approximately 79 million results. Tom Brady? 83.1 million. Kobe Bryant? 34.6 million. Derek Jeter? 14 million. Gordon , 44, is one of those rare athletes who have transcended their individual sport. A champion on the track? Without question. Off the track? Certainly. Television and tabloids flock to him. He purchased a second residence in New York City in part to escape the spotlight and to navigate life in between races unimpeded by the fame that followed him elsewhere. Maybe he would not carry the same clout or create the same buzz had he chosen another profession. Then again, perhaps his impact would have been even greater elsewhere. A precocious, driven youngster whose family packed up moved east from California in order to continue his development as a racer. A NASCAR premier series champion at 24. And 26. And 27. And 30. Now, at 44, is there one more title in the tank? What's there to say that hasn't been said, write that hasn't been written? WATCH: Gordon's first Homestead win The Alpha and Omega NASCAR didn't begin with Gordon , and it certainly won't end when the Hendrick Motorsports driver climbs from his No. 24 Chevrolet for the final time on Sunday evening. "Everybody's career comes to an end," Richard Petty said. "He's going out strong. I admire him for that part of it. "I wouldn't mind seeing him win the championship because he's meant so much to NASCAR over the years. They're going to miss him a whole lot from that standpoint." There is no one in the sport more qualified to speak on such matters than the man known simply as "The King." Now 78, Petty set the standard for champions on the track as well as how to conduct oneself outside the car. Icon, inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame member, winner of 200 races and seven championships, Petty is NASCAR. The Petty family is NASCAR. Petty's father, Lee, won three titles, 54 races and was in the very first sanctioned race. He, too, is a member of the Hall of Fame. The careers of Richard Petty and Gordon are inextricably linked by a single date – Nov. 15, 1992. Petty made his 1,184th and final start in NASCAR's premier series. Gordon made his very first in the same event. Petty met privately with Gordon this weekend at Homestead to present him with one of his signature Charlie 1 Horse cowboy hats. It was a gesture of appreciation and acknowledgement of everything Gordon has accomplished. But Petty understands better than most that the sport will move forward, just as it did when he stepped out of the car that sunny day in Atlanta. "No matter who you are, you're not strong enough to carry the whole load," Petty said. "He's been a strong leader all these years, but over a period of time, the next crowd comes along and kind of fades them all out. Over a period of time, you go away whether you want to or not." RELATED: Best No. 24 paint schemes Auspicious beginning Gordon won the series' Rookie of the Year title in 1993, competing for the honor against Bobby Labonte , Kenny Wallace and P.J. Jones. Two years later, he won his first championship. It was the era of Dale Earnhardt, the six-time champion chasing Petty's mark of seven titles while blazing new trails. He was "The Intimidator." He was NASCAR. Petty, Earnhardt and then there was Gordon . No one else was as dominant -- between 1995 and '99, Gordon won 47 races. He won Daytona. He won Indy. He won the Winston Million. Had he not come along? "Someone else would have taken that spot," Mike Helton, NASCAR Vice Chairman, said. "I don't know that anybody could have filled it, though. "There's a difference. It's like if the Atlantic Ocean went dry, somebody could figure out how to get water in it, but could they fill that whole ocean? "I think we were very fortunate for Jeff to appear when he did and do what he did along the way to keep our momentum going. It certainly added to the momentum that we had going in that era. We needed a Jeff Gordon and he arose. He came into the sport ... he could have chosen open-wheel racing ... and he would have been massively successful." Why was it Gordon ? Why not someone else who stepped up and helped carry the sport forward, who resonated with fans and sponsors? Helton doesn't know. "I know growing up there was a reason I became a big fan of John Wayne. And there were a lot of cowboys on television," he said. "I just think that speaks to Jeff's inclusiveness, and his capabilities extended beyond just being a very successful athlete as a race car driver." There have been issues from time to time, but nothing major, according to Helton, who added, "Of course we've had conversations in which he'd had to write checks afterward." Earnhardt's death in 2001, in the season-opening Daytona 500 , turned the sport upside down. Gordon was one of the few who could help stabilize it in an uncertain time. "I think the whole industry looked at Jeff to take Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s place when we lost Dale," said Helton. "The garage area needed a voice like we've had historically, whether it was Richard Petty or Darrell Waltrip, Dale Sr. ... He got pressure from the industry inside the garage to be that voice. "When that came, along with the championships that preceded that, he understood the need for a league or sanctioning body in order for the athlete to be successful. But he also had a good soapbox to stand on saying 'Look, we need our voice to be heard too.' And I think the respect worked both ways." RELATED: NASCAR Nation honors Gordon with #24ever 'Iron Man' of NASCAR Consecutive starts: 796. It's one more impressive record in Jeff Gordon 's body of work. He's never missed a start, and passed Ricky Rudd for the consecutive starts record earlier this year. Now, only one remains, one final attempt, one final opportunity. Because of the format for NASCAR's championship-determining Chase, Gordon doesn't have to win Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 . He has to finish ahead of only three challengers -- Kevin Harvick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Kyle Busch ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) and Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ) to capture the title. He'll go out a winner regardless of where he finishes. Whether or not he goes out a champion has yet to be determined. Capturing the inaugural Brickyard 400 in '94 has always stood out as his most memorable moment. Until a recent Martinsville victory put him in the Championship 4 here at Homestead-Miami Speedway . The '98 season when he won 13 races, the fourth title in '01 with crew chief Robby Loomis after the departure of mentor Ray Evernham and the '95 crown that was won when he "was going against Earnhardt; that was huge," Gordon said earlier this week. The finality of the moment, though, carries much weight. "My final year, my final race, (wife) Ingrid and the kids," Gordon said. "Kids motivate you in a whole new way, and no matter what we're going to go out and be happy and celebrate. "But to do it as a champion, oh, my gosh, I just can't imagine anything that would be more emotional and more exciting and more gratifying than to look at my wife in the eyes and see that reaction from her when that race is over if we win it." MORE: Drivers offer favorite Gordon memories
Ben Rhodes: Chasing dreams on-track and on-camera
Ask some of the people who work most closely with Ben Rhodes about him and you'll get the same sense -- that the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie isn't an ordinary 19-year-old. Ask his crew chief. "I've known this kid since he was 15 years old and he was always very mature, very respectful and acts older than he is," Kevin Bellicourt says. "I mean, the way he has shown maturity in the race car and everything around that, I do forget that he is 19 years old." Ask the sports director who co-hosts Rhodes' TV show -- yes, his own TV show -- in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. "I'll look at him sometimes and I'll just be like, 'Look, stop it. Just be a kid.' But he's not," Kent Spencer says. "He's definitely wise beyond his years." The wisdom has served Rhodes well in all facets of his budding NASCAR career, which carried him to the K&N Pro Series East championship in 2014 and a stint with the NASCAR Next youth initiative that identifies the sport's up-and-coming stars. The next step is a full-season campaign this year with powerhouse ThorSport Racing in the Truck Series, which makes its next stop Friday night at Kansas Speedway . Even in casual conversation, Rhodes' composure comes through in a calm that belies his age, less than one year removed from receiving a high school diploma. It's a collected nature that helps him feel just as at home in front of a TV camera's lens as he does behind the wheel. Rhodes doesn't have to balance a racing career with schoolwork any more, but his focus is far from singular. "It's full-time racing now, and it's full-time everything that has to do with racing, not just being on the track or working on the cars, but sponsors, events, fans -- which is cool," Rhodes says. "I really like that aspect of it. You can't be on the track without that." The story of how Rhodes came to be on the track isn't unlike the tale of other youngsters with a dream and a heavy right foot. But it's the unique wrinkles of his narrative that make Rhodes' story ready for prime time. Early beginnings Around their home state, where the term "racing" is most commonly associated with Thoroughbreds, it's fitting that Rhodes' career choice was galvanized by figuratively getting back on the horse. Rhodes had barely entered grade school when the itch for speed struck him. He recalls helping his older brother, Chris, try to emulate his father's practice of removing the governor from their go-karts, much to their mother's dismay. The recreational -- and occasionally unrestricted -- karting soon led to competition. "We were having a blast around the house," Rhodes says, "but when we hit the race track, it didn't really click at first and it took awhile before I got in a wreck to figure it out." Rhodes recalls crashing his first time out -- the leader coming around to lap him, clipping one of his back wheels and landing on top of his kart. The wreck naturally made him gun-shy, but it took another altercation to set his course toward making racing a lifelong pursuit. Rhodes' family vividly recalls that incident at the Clark County, Indiana, 4-H Fairgrounds, where the 7-year-old driver was on the receiving end of an intentional wreck for the first time. His family worked to repair his kart while the youngster seethed, intent on retaliation. But as Rhodes began to furiously charge back through the pack, something changed in his demeanor. "Once I passed the other guy, I didn't even think about wanting revenge or whatever, I just started having a blast," Rhodes says. "Passing cars was a lot more fun than getting passed, and that's when it all started clicking for me. We started working on set-ups and had just an awesome time doing it. It was an awesome family experience." Into NASCAR Those first forays led to progression and an eventual place in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East at age 16. After a partial first season, his first full campaign in 2014 netted a remarkable five victories and six pole positions, with Bellicourt serving as his car chief. The performance drew the interest of JR Motorsports, which fielded Rhodes in a 10-race slate in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2015. After a seventh-place series debut at Iowa Speedway in May, Rhodes endured largely uneven results in the JRM No. 88, despite help from the team's fleet of Sprint Cup drivers -- Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kevin Harvick , Chase Elliott and Regan Smith . "I learned so much from them, but the problem is it was hard to apply it," Rhodes says of his sporadic schedule. "You have to be in the car feeling it. I had a month between times (in the car) more than once before I could actually feel what they were talking about or actually apply it. All the momentum that you had was lost. It was just really hard for me to get adjusted to and just hard to keep the learning going, but the jump, I felt like if I ran the whole season, the jump maybe wouldn't have been that bad." An offseason to regroup also led to a new opportunity, as one of the newest faces at ThorSport Racing, a championship-caliber team with an evolving driver roster. In the offseason, Rhodes joined two-time Truck Series champ Matt Crafton , second-year driver Cameron Hayley and fellow rookie Rico Abreu under the watch of team owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson. The team's drivers have perennially lauded the resources that the Thorsons provide to compete at a high level. Rhodes found this out early on, when they sought his input to hire a crew chief for his No. 41 Toyota. He immediately thought of Bellicourt, who had just finished helping William Byron as crew chief for his K&N East championship run in 2015. In some respects, the job was a tougher sell than most, requiring Bellicourt to move from North Carolina to within reach of ThorSport's Sandusky, Ohio, shop. But it was also a commitment for his wife, his 11-month-old daughter and the baby the couple are expecting in early June. But the opportunity to move from the regional and touring level to a NASCAR national series was too good to pass up. After taking the leap, the driver-crew chief reunion went seamlessly. "The communication is back to where it was and it's like we never even left off," Rhodes says. "I remember the first time that he was up at ThorSport and I was there and we were having such a good time. None of the guys up there had seen us run before or work together, so when we came up there, they were like, 'We've got a feeling that you just brought your best friend in to work on these race cars.' That was kind of cool that we hit it off right away once again." Says Bellicourt: "We just have a good time. I understand what he's saying when he's talking about the truck, and he understands when I'm trying to make a point with him. His understanding of the race car has just come a long way since I first met him when he was 15. He understands that a lot, and all the set-up stuff. That just helps a lot, too, with the driver having that knowledge. We've just been able to roll with it so far this season." Rolling with it has meant gradual gains in the early stages of the year, but one accomplishment stands out -- winning the pole position last month at Martinsville Speedway . Though a late-race wreck saddled Rhodes with a midpack 16th-place result, the speed shown in qualifying and out front for 42 laps made a solid impression. "It felt really good to get the pole because it validates what we know that we have," Rhodes says. "We're trying to show others what my crew chief and I know. We have an awesome relationship and we know how to set up the race cars, we know how to get speed, it's just a matter of getting the experience together now. It just validates that." The fact that Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch was among the competitive field in qualifying that day didn't hurt the team's confidence, Bellicourt says. "You look at that and say there's no reason we can't run with any of these guys," Bellicourt says. "Now Ben knows it. We knew it before, but you always want to make it happen and then you just get that extra confidence. I know it, the guys know it, Ben knows it, and hopefully now everybody else sees what we're capable of. "We're looking to continue to do more of that to show that it wasn't just a flash-in-the-pan, one-time thing. We're going to try to do it at Kansas again." On the mic Rhodes has visions of keeping his racing aspirations going, climbing the ladder, chasing victories. But if his NASCAR dream somehow ended tomorrow, he has an entertaining backup plan -- in television. The 19-year-old is in his fifth season as co-host of "On Track with Ben Rhodes ," a 30-minute weekly show that chronicles his racing career and allows him to meet and interview personalities in the Louisville area. Kent Spencer -- the sports director at WHAS-11, an ABC affiliate in Louisville -- has served as the show's other co-host since its inception. "I'd met Ben before, but in kind of a different realm," Spencer says. "He was a young man trying to come up, went to a local high school, trying to make it in NASCAR, so we interviewed a few times there. This was obviously a different beast. He and I have a really good rapport together, we like to be around each other, so we kind of knew early on that this was going to work." The experience has allowed Rhodes to interact with community leaders from all walks of life. This season, Rhodes and Spencer have taken their show on the road, spending time with charitable organizations, returning to Holy Cross High School (the driver's alma mater), and paying visits to Churchill Downs, site of Saturday's 142nd Kentucky Derby. Rhodes' comfort on camera has grown not only in his hometown, but also during media sessions in the garage on race weekends. "I get to see and build new relationships with people, but it's also trained me to talk to the media and how to talk on camera," he says. "Before the show, I was really, really bad. Now that I've done the show for a couple seasons, I've done a lot better and it makes the job at the race track a lot easier for me." Even Bellicourt has noticed. "You give that kid a microphone and you're going to have to rip it out of his hand before he quits talking," he says with a laugh. "He's very outgoing and does a good job with that. He's kind of a total-package guy. He's got the marketing side, he's really good in front of the camera and obviously has performed on the race track great, so he's got an enormous amount of talent." It all circles back to the versatility and composure that extends beyond Rhodes' years. "I got that feeling from him back when he was 17," Spencer says. "You could definitely tell he's not a normal high school junior, not a normal high school senior. It's just the way he goes about things and the way he can communicate, and I think a large part of that is because the way that his mom and dad make him do a lot on his own. "If you want this dream, it's not easy. You're going to have to work for it. Every week, we get done taping the show and Ben helps tear down the set. He does a lot setting up his own schedule. He's out there and he's doing it, getting the job done, but there's a lot of times where it just blows me away." Several drivers with successful NASCAR credentials have made smooth transitions to the broadcasting booth for second careers after their driving days are done. Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon added his name to the list this season, joining FOX Sports for its coverage of the sport. Rhodes says he'd love to see a similar trajectory for his career, but right now he's one-upping it -- by taking on both jobs at once. "Hopefully my racing career goes on for a long time and I can build up a great reputation and go out on TV broadcasting," he says. "I think it's really cool that drivers do that once they're done, and they're able to go up in the broadcast booth and shine new light on the subject and able to give fans kind of the inside scoop on things. As things change and progress, maybe some of the other broadcasters might not be aware of it. "New drivers like Jeff Gordon and the guys that are fresh out of the race car can show them and talk about what's changing in the sport. I think that's really cool that drivers can do that." Spoken like a kid who is wise beyond his years.
As executive producer, Dale Jr. excited about new series
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- When Dale Earnhardt Jr . previewed the first installment of the upcoming three-part series "NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said he was amazed at what he witnessed. "The first part I watched like a kid at Christmas," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said Tuesday, adding that he kept thinking, "This is cool; I love what I'm seeing. I didn't know it was like this; this is awesome." Earnhardt is an executive producer for the series, which debuts this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on CMT. "You know about Red Byron (NASCAR's first premier series champion) and guys like that and what they've done but you've never actually had a window into what they might have been like," he said. "So that was really, really neat. "Watching that first episode, it's completely different from watching the other two. The other two I was there, or I remember it as a kid. You immediately go to sort of picking it apart and (asking) does it live up to the standard?" The series (episodes 2 and 3 will air on consecutive Sundays, May 15 and May 22) uses archival footage as well as reenactments and interviews to document the history of NASCAR from its beginning to modern day. Among those contributing on-air to the project were stars such as Jeff Gordon , Kevin Harvick , Tony Stewart and Darrell Waltrip. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and Lisa France Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer of International Speedway Corp., provide additional insights. NASCAR founder William Henry Getty France was their grandfather, Bill France Jr. their father. Episode 1 details stock car racing's rough, raw beginnings and the senior France's desire to pursue his dream of bringing acceptability and professionalism to the sport. Episode 2 features the continued rise of the sport and France's many battles to bring NASCAR to mainstream America. Episode 3 begins with the '79 Daytona 500 , a watershed moment for NASCAR, and focuses heavily on the career of France's son, Bill Jr., and seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt before closing with where NASCAR sits in today's sports landscape. But it was that first episode that Earnhardt Jr. said, "Intrigues me the most. "Because I wasn't there and didn't know much about that time," he said. "You know people's names and you match that name with an accomplishment. But you never really knew their personalities much. "I believe in this kind of film you're able to see maybe what this guy's attitude or personality was like. You see when Big Bill is trying to form NASCAR, some of the drivers are kind of grinding against the gears and pushing back a little bit. "We really don't know a lot about that and there aren't a lot of stories telling that part of it, that side of it. So that was real interesting."
New Hampshire Motor Speedway: 25 Years, 25 Moments
Buy Tickets - SYLVANIA 300 New Hampshire Motor Speedway 's September event weekend will mark the facility's 25th Anniversary. Relive some of the top moments over the past 25 years. From Rusty Wallace capturing the inagural NASCAR Sprint Cup race win to Cole Custer becoming the youngest driver to visit Victory Lane in a National Series event - check out the top 25 moments below. 1. August 13, 1989: Groundbreaking for New Hampshire International Speedway (formerly Bryar Motorsports Park). 2. June 5, 1990: Track owner Bob Bahre and N.H. Governor Judd Gregg cut the ribbon to officially open “New Hampshire International Speedway.” 3. July 15, 1990: In NASCAR's debut at NHMS, Tommy Ellis wins the Grand National Series ( XFINITY ) race. 4. August 23, 1992: Joe Nemechek and Dale Earnhardt (Sr.) bump each other on the way to the finish line with Nemechek taking home the win. 5. July 11, 1993: Rusty Wallace wins the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at NHMS. 6. July 9, 1995: Jeff Gordon earns his first win at NHMS en route to his first Cup Series championship. 7. July 14, 1996: Ernie Irvan captures the win in one of the more emotional victories in NASCAR history. The win came less than two years after Irvan suffered a near-fatal crash at Michigan, where he was given less than a 10 percent chance of survival. 8. June 28, 1998: In his final season as an IndyCar driver, Tony Stewart wins the IRL New England 200, his final career win in the series. 9. Sept. 17, 2000: Jeff Burton leads all 300 laps of the Dura Lube 300 to earn his record-setting fourth Cup Series win at NHMS. The race is infamously remembered for its use of restrictor plates. 10. Nov. 23, 2001: The New Hampshire 300 runs as the last race of the season on Friday after Thanksgiving. Robby Gordon wins the race and Jeff Gordon holds the Sprint Cup Series trophy for the fourth time. 11. Sept. 19, 2004: The Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship debuts with its opening race, the SYLVANIA 300. Kurt Busch wins the race and goes on to become crowned Champion. 12. Sept. 18, 2005: Robby Gordon chucks his helmet at Michael Waltrip after a wreck on the backstretch. 13. June 28, 2008: Chuck Hossfeld edges Ted Christopher by 0.001 seconds in the Whelen Modified Tour’s New England 100, the closest margin of victory in speedway history. 14. June 28, 2009: Joey Logano becomes the youngest winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history at 19 years, 35 days. 15. Sept. 20, 2009: Fifty-year-old Mark Martin takes the lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship with the 40th and final win of his illustrious career. It was his first and only win at NHMS. 16. June 26, 2010: Kyle Busch ends a streak of 23 straight different winners at NHMS in the XFINITY Series by becoming the first two-time series winner in the track's history. He also won the '09 race and followed up with wins in '11 and '13. 17. July 16, 2011: Kyle Busch earns his 100th NASCAR National Series win and ties Mark Martin ’s record for most XFINITY Series wins with 49. 18. Sept. 25, 2011: Tony Stewart assumes his only lead in the SYLVANIA 300 with two to go when Clint Bowyer runs out of gas. The win was Stewart’s second in as many Chase races and propelled him to the championship. 19. July 14, 2012: NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Mike Stefanik beats Ron Silk in the Whelen Modified Tour Town Fair Tire 100 by 0.003 seconds. 20. Sept. 23, 2012: Denny Hamlin follows through on his guarantee to win, and celebrates with military personnel in victory lane. 21. July 11, 2013: Toomas Topi Heikkinen wins the SYVLANIA SilverStar zXe Global RallyCross race when leader Tanner Foust crashes on the final hairpin turn. 22. July 14, 2013: Part-time driver Brian Vickers wins the Camping World RV Sales 301, his first win since battling back from blood clots in his legs and lungs that threatened his life. 23. July 11, 2014: Ryan Newman wins the inaugural Modified All-Star Shootout event, a combination race between the best of the Whelen Modified Tour and Whelen Southern Modified Tour. 24. July 13, 2014: Brad Keselowski ties a NASCAR record by becoming the 13th different non-repeat winner at the same track in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. 25. Sept. 20, 2014: At 16 years, seven months and 28 days, Cole Custer wins the NASCAR Camping World Truck s Series UNOH 175 to become the youngest winner of a NASCAR National Series race.
Jeff Gordon to drive pace car at Indy 500
Driver will compete in Coca-Cola 600 on same day
Herman Unplugged: Was Kevin's punch at Jimmie warranted?
Debating the Johnson-Harvick incident, who will win the Chase RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated " Harvick shoves Johnson post-race After a rollicking start to the Chase at Chicagoland Speedway , we move on to the tighter confines of New Hampshire with the possibility of more confrontation. With visions of Robby Gordon and Michael Waltrip coming to mind -- helmet toss, anyone? -- intensity always seems to amp up when the races left start to dwindle. Was Kevin Harvick right, was Jimmie Johnson wrong? Can’t we all just get along? We roll along now into this week’s installment of Herman Unplugged: NASCAR ILLUSTRATED: You were dead-on a few weeks back here in predicting Kevin Harvick 's mental and physical tactics coming into play once the Chase started. Was his punch warranted after the incident with Jimmie Johnson though? HERMAN: "No, and it made me sick to my stomach. I know that these two are somewhat friends, they both have children and both are champions. I know for a fact and in my heart that Jimmie didn't say, 'Hey, I’m gonna flatten your tire.' I thought Jimmie was trying to make it right. He felt his relationship with Kevin was strong enough and he was going to address the issue. Props to the NBC camera people because we wouldn't have seen all this otherwise. What made me sick was you could tell how shocked Jimmie Johnson was and the way that Kevin reacted. I hated it for both of them." NI: Do you think it was done for the purpose of intimidation or gamesmanship? HERMAN: "No, because everybody in the garage area knows that Jimmie is involved in sports therapy and he's got a Green Beret type mentality. You're never gonna get Jimmie; that's why you just can’t get to him. I guarantee you that Jimmie has already psychologically figured out how to get over it, whether from the sports therapist or in some of the lessons that he learned. I think that was a natural reaction from Kevin Harvick . It could be a meeting of the psychological minds because Kevin's into therapy, too. In professional modern day sports, it’s in your best interest to pay a handful of thousands of dollars a year to talk to a sports therapist. They teach you how to focus, be positive and ignore social networking. All of us are a little fragile or we're a little too strong." NI: The after effect of these incidents especially in the Chase is this provides a wonderful promotional tool and NASCAR will want to make the most of it. It's like wrecks, too. Are you OK with that promotional aspect of things? HERMAN: "Yes I am and let me tell you why. We are in a new era in life. You cannot believe the ratings for this UFC fighting. People love cage fighting. It's a little crazy to think but people like death and destruction whether they admit it or not. I was just at Berlin Raceway in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the promoter Don DeWitt told me that one of his biggest moneymakers was cage fighting on the front straightaway. We have to do something to reinvent ourselves. The foundation of NASCAR is something of an old template. A car going around in circles is very boring for the human right now. So they're going to tune in to see a fight or a wreck. They are not gonna tune in, and it's sad to say, people don't tune in anymore to watch cars go in circles. They tune in to watch cars battle, bump, fight and wreck." NI: One race into the Chase and you can have Joe Gibbs Racing or the field as this year's champion. Who are you going with and why? HERMAN: "I'm gonna go with Joe Gibbs Racing because it seems to me that whatever they have it's not shaken, it's not going away. If I'm in a fight and I have a gun, I want as many bullets as I can get. And they got four -- and all four of them are capable. Some people are taking all four Gibbs cars -- Johnny Roberts, my comrade at FOX Sports, he's not an idiot, he took all four to be in the final round at Homestead." SUBSCRIBE NOW!
NMPA tabs Donlavey for third quarter Spirit Award
Longtime car owner joins Lynda Petty, Martin Truex Jr. as quarterly honorees RELATED: Images of Junie Donlavey's life in NASCAR Longtime car owner Junie Donlavey was named the National Motorsports Press Association Spirit Award recipient for the third quarter of 2014. Donlavey, who passed away in June at the age of 90, competed at NASCAR's highest level from 1950 through 2002. The native of Richmond, Virginia, gave numerous drivers their start in NASCAR's premier series, now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series . That list included two-time champ Joe Weatherly, Jimmy Hensley, Harry Gant and Robby Gordon . Donlavey also aided the careers of drivers such as Ken Schrader and Dick Trickle. Teams owned by Donlavey made 863 starts, and nine of those teams finished in the top 10 in points in the season standings. His lone win as an owner came in 1981 at Dover International Speedway with driver Jody Ridley. Donlavey was inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame in 2009, and in September, the garage area at Richmond International Raceway was named in his honor . Also receiving votes for the third quarter were Sprint Cup Series drivers Kasey Kahne , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart and Kyle Larson . Other quarterly winners of the Spirit Award for 2014 are Lynda Petty (first quarter) and Martin Truex Jr . (second quarter). The NMPA Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. Each year, quarterly winners are chosen, and an overall winner is selected by a vote of the NMPA membership. 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
Gibbs updates Kyle Busch's injury status
Team owner lauds spirit of his driver, NASCAR community Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch is "resting comfortably" following surgery Saturday night at Halifax Medical Center, but how soon he returns to competition is unknown. "Kyle ... was kind of light-hearted and joking around with me and talking about wanting to get back in the car right away before surgery," said team owner Joe Gibbs. "(The doctor) said everything went very well. RELATED: See the updated Daytona 500 lineup "The major portion of what they did yesterday was his lower right leg ... they took care of that. They're going to wait on his (left) foot. ... They said there's no rush on that." Busch, 29, sustained a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a mid-foot fracture of his left foot in an accident on Lap 112 of the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series event, the Alert Today Florida 300. RELATED: Kyle Busch undergoes surgery on right leg His No. 54 Toyota was involved in a multi-car crash, slid across the track and struck the interior wall just beyond the exit of pit road on the frontstretch at Daytona International Speedway. After being treated at the scene, Busch was transported to Halifax. On Sunday afternoon, he tweeted for the first time since the wreck: Would rather b driving than watching the #Daytona500 but pulling 4 @Matt_Crafton and the No. 18 @mmschocolate team. — Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) February 22, 2015 Two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton will drive the No. 18 Toyota in today's season-opening Daytona 500. "Matt has driven some of Kyle's stuff," Gibbs said. "He's a veteran guy and we felt like it was the perfect fit. "As far as time or length, I don't have a good understanding of that with the doctors and everything -- I think we're just going to pray for him to bounce back." "I can tell you this, Kyle's already telling (wife Samantha), 'Hey, I just want to get back to racing.' He has a great spirit about things like that. "... I told him before surgery, 'Hey, I love you.' And that's the way we feel about it." Gibbs said no further surgeries dealing with Busch's right leg are anticipated and that the left foot injury can be dealt with at a later date. "As far as going back to Charlotte, we're on standby with the plane," he said. "Whenever he feels that he can travel, we'll get him back to Charlotte." Crafton, driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Toyota, will be making his first start in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. He has driven Sprint Cup cars previously, qualifying for Robby Gordon in 2008 at Dover International Speedway as well as testing for JGR a year ago. Busch was slated to start today's race from the fourth spot, but because Crafton was not the driver of record during qualifying, he will be required to drop to the rear of the field. "We're going to ride in the back for a little bit, get comfortable with the car," Crafton said Sunday morning. "We've got 500 miles to figure it out. I'm sure for the first half of the race, we're going to ride, be smart and just see what I can learn." The area of the wall struck by Busch's car is not protected by the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier, although much of the 2.5-mile track features the energy dissipating system. Saturday night, track president Joie Chitwood III said tire packs would be place along the wall as a safety measure for today's race, and that SAFER barrier would be installed "on every inch at this property" following the race. "This is not going to happen again," he said. "We're going to live up to our responsibility. We're going to fix this and it starts right now." Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick said Sunday he had hit close to the same spot as Busch during last year's 500 "and kind of voiced my opinion." "Unfortunately I was just a dot on the chart and there was no reaction," the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said. "Hopefully this is a lesson learned. "We know what fixes these walls. ... That's why we wear a helmet. That's why we wear HANS. That's why we wear fire suits. That's why we have fire bottles. It's for that one moment that you have to protect yourself against." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule