Dale Earnhardt Jr . talks on SIRIUS XM about what to expect from NASCAR’s new rules package that will be implemented at Kentucky Speedway.
Martin Truex Jr . gets sent into the tire barrier after making contact with David Ragan at Sonoma Raceway.
No. 78 gets his win, but the postseason is different RELATED: Truex breaks through for Pocono win " Drivers rally around Truex Martin Truex Jr . broke through for an emotional win on Sunday at Pocono that virtually assured the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet would be in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But now that he has secured a winner sticker for his car, is Truex considered a legitimate championship contender for the fall? In the latest Head-to-Head, George Winkler and Jerry Snow offer their views on Truex, who has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Read their opinions, then duke it out for yourself in the comments section below. Winkler: Hey Jerry, welcome to our virtual version of UFC's Octagon. I'd like to kick things off by saying that typically I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy. Therefore, yes I'm buying into Truex being a championship contender. However, besides my penchant for being optimistic, another reason to believe in the No. 78 is because there hasn't been a reason not to believe in the No. 78 this season. Thirteen top-10 finishes in the first 14 races will do that for you. Plus, Truex has posted the most laps led in each of the past three races. His car has been fast, and his results have been anything but fluky. Snow: Thanks George , now let's rumble. Truex is one of the best stories of the season, but he's not ready for prime time. He has only three career wins and this is his 10th full-time season. Truex must develop an edge before he can be a champion. Right now, it seems like he's just happy to be here. Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick are the class of the field, and if you want to talk dark horses, I could see Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski (both have an edge) in the winner's circle at Homestead before Truex. I'm happy for him that he finally broke through this year, but I don't think anyone is ready to call Truex a "closer." MORE H2H: Will Kyle Busch make the Chase? Winkler: I'd also like to see Truex show some outward fire. But that doesn't mean he lacks an inner fire. Truex has been through some difficult circumstances during the past couple of seasons. First, there's his girlfriend Sherry Pollex's battle against ovarian cancer. Before that, there was the huge setback after the Michael Waltrip Racing dustup in 2013 when Truex lost his ride. To witness how he has weathered both of those extremely difficult situations with dignity and class tells me that he's tough enough to deal with the ebbs and flows of a championship Chase in the fall. Snow: Maybe this is his time, but my gut tells me different. I'm not suggesting Truex is void of mental toughness, I just don't think he hates losing as much as a Johnson, a Harvick or a Keselowski. Those guys couldn't care less about a top 10 or even a top five. Over his career, Truex has finished among the top 10 more than 30 percent of the time (108 out of 347 starts), but he's won less than 1 percent of the races he's entered. At this stage in his career, Truex is conditioned to be satisfied with top 10s; he's obviously still learning how to win races. At 35 years old, I don't think his window of opportunity is closed, but until I see a sense of urgency, I'm going to expect the same results. Winkler: There's no doubt it will be a challenge for Truex to compete with champions like Johnson, Harvick and Keselowski down the stretch. But there's something clicking with Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn. I think that relationship has rejuvenated Truex and was exactly what he needed at this point in his career. As we saw last year with Team Penske's drivers and Harvick, once they caught on to the new rules package they seemed to maintain an advantage throughout the season. Truex and Pearn have clearly honed in on something, and the only ones not playing catch-up are Harvick and Johnson. That is impressive for a one-car team based in Denver. Snow: Truex and Pearn have figured some things out, and it's been entertaining to watch an underdog outperform some of the icons of the industry. But can we really expect him to keep this up against the big dogs? Or looking at it another way, isn't it just a matter of time before some of the established veterans like Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards put it together? Truex has the talent to win a championship one day, but it won't be this year. SHOP: Truex Jr . gear " WATCH: Truex recounts long road back to Victory Lane FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Check out Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Nationwide car being wrapped for Daytona International Speedway.
Driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet ready to compete in the Irish Hills MORE: Daytona paint scheme revealed for No. 88 SHOP: Dale Jr . gear, paint schemes CONCORD, N.C. -- The paint schemes on his No. 88 Chevrolet continue to impress Dale Earnhardt Jr . , especially his look for this weekend. At a 7-Eleven just minutes from Charlotte Motor Speedway , Earnhardt showed off the fresh look that his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ride, sponsored by AMP Energy, will have at Michigan International Speedway for the Quicken Loans 400 (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). "This is definitely unique," Earnhardt told NASCAR.com. "I like the idea behind the paint scheme and how it came about. I had a little influence on the paint scheme itself. I think it's pretty cool. I have never ran a car with purple on it, so that's new. "And I enjoy being involved in that part of it. I want to like the car that I'm driving. I want to like the way it looks, and that sort of is a bit of a motivating factor behind driving the race car in the first place, is to be able to design it and paint it yourself." So what influence did Junior have on the look that fans ultimately chose as the winner in a Facebook contest? "Some of the logo placements. The big deal on the door. They had some other things going on, where all that was a lot smaller, and I thought some of that stuff should get really blown up and be obnoxious on the side of the car to sort of give the car a little bit more of a dynamic look and some more energy. "They sort of had these little passion fruit emblems placed sporadically along the car and they were a lot smaller. And I just thought, 'Man this stuff should be coming at you and be really big.' " The Concord, North Carolina 7-Eleven location won the event and appearance from the sport's most popular driver by being the store of the 70-plus 7-Eleven's in the Charlotte area to sell the most AMP Energy drinks from May 18 to June 3. Passion Fruit is one of four new flavors AMP Energy recently introduced to its product line of energy drinks and is the one that will be featured on the No. 88 Chevrolet. Fans came in full force to see the Hendrick Motorsports driver, and the interaction with Junior Nation is something that the driver values tremendously, whether it is in person or through social media. Last month, Earnhardt crossed the one million followers mark on Twitter. "Trying to keep an understanding, I guess, of where they're at mentally with what we're doing, whether they're enjoying the marketing, the partnerships that we're creating. What they think about our racing and obviously our efforts out on the track. The best way to really get an understanding of that is to reach out and have conversation and let 'em rip. They tell you about the cars that they like, the partnerships you've created that they like and give you a good idea of where to focus your energy." RELATED: #TBT recalls Dale Jr .'s two Michigan wins This weekend, Earnhardt will be competing in the Irish Hills at the 2-mile venue at Michigan. He has two wins in 31 starts at the track and both of those wins snapped sizable winless streaks. Last year, Earnhardt finished seventh in the June race and fifth in the August race. The driver, who is fifth in the point standings and won at Talladega Superspeedway last month, feels good heading into the weekend. "I really enjoy racing there. Every time we show up to the racetrack, we go with new ideas because Greg (Ives, who is in his first year as the crew chief of the No. 88 team), he brings a lot more to the table that we didn't have last year. We ran great last year, but anytime you bring in a new guy, with new ideas, it adds to it and you hope that it improves and hope that it allows you to be more competitive. "The cars have been real fast and real fun to drive this year and that's a real, direct connection to Greg and his ideas and his ability to work with our lead engineer, Kevin (Meendering). I'm looking forward to it. We should run well, have fun. We've been enjoying ourselves this year, and it should be another week of that." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
No. 88 Chevrolet goes patriotic for Coke Zero 400 BUY: Earnhardt's Daytona paint scheme Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s paint scheme for the Coke Zero 400 was just released and the No. 88 Chevrolet wiil be appropriately themed for the event as it goes for a patriotic look. “ @nationwide88 : BREAKING NEWS: Check out #DaleJr 's patriotic paint scheme for @DISupdates on July 5th! #NW88JR pic.twitter.com/lfTcxZeMLt ” — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) June 10, 2015 The Coke Zero 400 is at 7:45 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 5 at Daytona International Speedway (NBC). It will be the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race televised on NBC this season. For more Sprint Cup coverage stay tuned to this weekend's Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday (FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM).
No. 78 places third, carries momentum from Michigan RELATED: Complete results for Michigan " Analysis of all 43 drivers at Michigan BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Martin Truex Jr . almost made the most of Sunday's rainy race day at Michigan International Speedway , aiming for his second straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory on the heels of the previous weekend's Pocono breakthrough. Instead, a brush with NASCAR royalty and continued momentum were respectable consolation prizes. Truex finished third in Sunday's rain-shortened Quicken Loans 400 , failing to lead a lap for the first time in a five-race span. But the streak associated with his strong start to 2015 became a historic one. With Sunday's result, Truex became the first driver to post 14 top-10 finishes in the season's first 15 races since King Richard Petty in 1969. "Just missed it a little bit today, but really proud of our season, really proud to have obviously my name mentioned next to Richard Petty," Truex said. "The King is pretty special, so thankful for my team and what they've done this year, and hopefully we'll keep this thing rolling." Momentum, as it pertained to the race itself, was difficult to achieve. The multiple starts and stops for periodic rain showers resulted in four red flags and more caution laps than green-flag laps in the opening 50 circuits. Even with the interruptions, Truex had moved all the way from his ninth-place starting spot to second in the running order. But in Truex's mind, the race turned for the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Chevrolet team and crew chief Cole Pearn during their first pit stop. When the yellow flew for a competition caution on Lap 40, Truex entered the pits in second place but left in seventh as the crew waited to get extra fuel in the tank. Truex lined up on the less-advantageous inside row for that restart and subsequent ones, halting his progress until the latter stages of the race. Measuring progress through the handful of brief rain delays wasn't an easy task. Pearn has been an integral part of Furniture Row's rise in his first season as a Sprint Cup crew chief, but for all his early signs of pit-box savvy, he'd never quite seen anything like the soggy Sunday in Michigan's Irish Hills. "It's got to be the weirdest race I've ever been a part of, that's for sure," Pearn said. "As many caution laps as we ran, the strategy kept changing. I felt like we did right at the end there, which it either could've gone green or could've restarted on the front row or fourth, I think we could've had a shot to win. "I felt like the car was good enough, but it's really hard to know. The pace was up and down -- some runs were really slow and then it picked back up at the end there, so it was all over the map." MORE: Manufacturer change for No. 78 team? For Truex, the rain delays posed less of an impact on strategy than they did on his focus. "More than anything it's just a pain in the butt," Truex said. "I mean, you get in there, you get ready to go, and you're like, all right, here we come, getting ready to go green, and it's raining again. It's just a pain in the butt. Once you get in the car and get the helmet on and get mentally prepared, you're ready to go, it's kind of just a big letdown when you've got to stop and get out of the car again. "More than anything, we just want to get out there and get racing and put on a good show and then get to go home and spend some time there." Circumstances -- whether rain- or restart-related -- didn't fall in favor of the Furniture Row outfit with the same alignment that they did at Pocono Raceway . But the team gets to carry the headway from another top-five finish back to its Colorado home base with an idle week for the series coming up. "I really felt like we had a good car capable of winning the race today; we just didn't really have the track position to show it, having to stay on the bottom as much as we did," Pearn said. "But that's just the way it went. Still good to keep the momentum going and have something we can continue to build off of." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Two of Junior's most memorable wins came in the Irish Hills of Michigan Dale Earnhardt Jr . has a knack for ending winless streaks at Michigan International Speedway . While his current drought is only four races thanks to his win in May at Talladega Superspeedway , there was once a time when NASCAR's most popular driver ended a pair of glaring winless streaks at the 2-mile track located in the Irish Hills of Michigan. With the Sprint Cup Series heading to MIS for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM), it's a good time to look back at 2008 and 2012, when the Hendrick Motorsports driver quieted the critics and brought roars from the stands. When Junior entered Victory Lane on June 15, 2008 after he took the LifeLock 400 checkered flag, it brought plenty of relief to Junior Nation, knowing that Earnhardt's decision to leave Dale Earnhardt Incorporated for Hendrick Motorsports could pay off. By picking up his first win since 2006 -- in just his 15th race with his new organization – it allowed his fan base to exhale a bit and focus on all the wins to come in the years ahead (more on that later). In the video above, you may have noticed the final lap lacked much drama, as Junior won the race after Patrick Carpentier spun on the white flag to bring out the yellow -- meaning all Earnhardt had to do was maintain speed as he came to the finish. It worked out because the No. 88 was running low on gas -- Junior didn't even have enough to do a victory burnout and needed to be pushed to Victory Lane -- so if the final lap had been run at full speed, it's possible he'd have run out. Besides, the slow lap just gave fans a chance to cheer louder and longer. Now, as for all of those "wins to come in the years ahead" -- they didn't. Following his landmark win in 2008, Junior then found himself mired in a 143-race winless streak, equating to just under four full seasons. Gas or no gas, after a streak like that, Earnhardt made sure he celebrated with one of the best burnouts we've seen in recent years after he took the Quicken Loans 400 checkered flag in 2012. Worth the wait. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Dale Earnhardt Jr . talks with his father's former barber about using Suave Men.
Hendrick driver upbeat despite not pulling off third straight win at Pocono RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings LONG POND, Pa. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . came to Pocono Raceway looking to join the select company of Bobby Allison and Tim Richmond as the only drivers to win three straight races at the Tricky Triangle. And while that didn't happen for the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet, his reaction on pit road after the Axalta "We Paint Winners" 400 wouldn't have given away an 11th-place finish. "I had so much fun today," Earnhardt said after the race, his first result outside the top 10 at Pocono in his last five starts at the 2.5-mile track. "My car was awesome, we were passing five, 10 cars on restarts, having a blast." Earnhardt started the race 20th and by Lap 20, found himself in the top 10. On Lap 75, he was running in second place and looked to be making his way toward the lead. He would spend a good amount of the next 50 circuits in the top five before restarting sixth on Lap 126. On that restart, Earnhardt made contact with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne , resulting in some left-rear quarter-panel damage on the No. 88 Nationwide Chevy. Junior went from sixth to 12th in a short span before pitting under the next caution on Lap 131. He explained what happened after the race. "I can't visually picture what exactly I saw coming off of Turn 2, but I thought I was up on the quarter-panel of the 2 ( Brad Keselowski )," Earnhardt said. "I knew the 5 (Kahne) was down there, and I thought the 2 yanked off the wall as if he had almost hit the fence or something. He sort of yanked the car to the left, and I saw that and moved and hit the 5. Tore the left side of my car up. I'm sorry whatever it did to Kasey. I'm sure it didn't help him being run into like that." Junior restarted in 28th on Lap 134 and in two green flag laps had moved up to 17th before another caution came out. He was able to do something similar on the next restart on Lap 140, moving up to 11th before the last caution of the day occurred. From there, he couldn't work his way into the top 10 over the final green flag run of 16 laps, despite recording the most green flag passes (83) and second-most quality passes (41) on the day, according to NASCAR loop data. "I'm racing hard. It's so hard to pass here. You got to take every position you can and when you get a position on a guy, when you can get to his quarter-panel and draft, you got to go." Earnhardt also didn't think the team's pit stall did them any favors, a result from their worst starting spot since the April race at Richmond International Raceway . The 88 team had stall No. 12, which was right in the middle of the first block of 24 stalls on pit road at Pocono. "We had a really bad pit stall behind the 4," Earnhardt said. "They had to pick last because of their penalty and ended up forced into the stall behind us. So we had to come around him all day and the 16 come around us all day. So we're terrible getting in our stall, losing several spots because of that. And that cost us a lot." Still, on a day where he could have been disappointed by his showing and seeing Hendrick's five-race winning streak at Pocono end, the sport's most popular driver remained very upbeat. "We had a good enough car to run in the top three. Probably not win the race, but I had a blast." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule