Post-Race Reactions: Top Gear 300
Roush teammates Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse and others comment on a hot and long day in Charlotte.
Keselowski grinds out top five on 'so-so day'
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Keselowski gear " Chase gear LOUDON, N.H. -- As one of the resident wizards of the "Magic Mile" over the past five years, it was a little curious to see Brad Keselowski -- who sports a 6.27 average finish at the track since the fall race of 2011 – come out a little flat in Sunday's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. For his latest trick, the Team Penske driver entered the top 10 for good at Lap 270 of 300 and continued to rise from there, sticking the landing with a fourth-place finish that was nearly a third, save for a late pass from Kyle Busch. "We caught a couple breaks on the restarts that helped out. Pleasantly surprised (at how this race turned out)," Keselowski said on pit road following the race. " … It was just a good call there towards the end to put tires on and then just being smooth and keeping it in one piece driving through traffic. … Sometimes you catch some good breaks in this sport. … It was just a really great finish to kind of just a so-so day." While the recovery portends well for Keselowski's hopes of advancing into the Round of 12, the speed that his car lacked at New Hampshire should be of some concern for the 2 team as the Chase continues. The 2012 champ pins it on this week's rules update for post-race inspection that eliminated P2 and P3-level penalties for infractions resulting from the laser inspection system. "I think that rules change at the last minute was certainly not very favorable to our team," said Keselowski, in search of his first win since early July at Kentucky. "We've got to work to find a little more speed for sure." The No. 2 crew chief, Paul Wolfe, pins the lack of performance on a swing-and-a-miss setup after they couldn't quite nail down what they were looking for in Saturday's practice sessions. "The car never drove like what we've had here in the past. We were kind of on the fence about where we wanted to be today as far as set-up wise. There were a couple things we went through in practice yesterday and we picked a direction that obviously wasn't good," Wolfe told NASCAR.com. "So we just really struggled to get any speed out of the car all day. Just tried to stay calm, get what we could and not get in trouble. Brad was doing a good job of that. There at the end, the position we were in I felt it was worth putting tires on it and it was really the new tires and a couple of good restarts that got us to the front. "Definitely not the performance or the speed in the car that we were hoping for today, but we were able to get a good finish out of it and at this point of the Chase, that's obviously the important part." Keselowski now heads to the Dover International Speedway with a little more of a cushion -- he's the overall points leader, though second and sixth-place (in the point standings) drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick, respectively, have clinched their Round of 12 berths -- than it looked like he'd have for most of the race, and should be a lock to advance save for a major, catastrophic mishap. "It feels good to go to Dover and be able to sleep easy knowing that if you have a part failure or get caught up in a wreck or any of those silly things that can happen that aren't you fault, you don’t have to worry about them so that's good," he said. "But we still have some work to do to get a little faster.”
2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series Owner Standings
MORE: Monster Energy Series owner standings " Camping World owner standings Pos. Owner Car No. Points Ldr Nxt Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Attempts 1 Roger Penske 22 320 0 0 0 3 3 7 2 Joe Gibbs 20 277 -43 -43 2 2 12 7 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1 260 -60 -17 0 2 2 7 4 Chip Ganassi 42 252 -68 -8 1 1 6 7 5 Rick Hendrick 9 244 -76 -8 0 1 1 7 6 J D Gibbs 18 231 -89 -13 1 3 3 7 7 Richard Childress 2 205 -115 -26 0 0 0 7 8 Richard Childress 3 201 -119 -4 0 0 0 7 9 Kelley Earnhardt-Miller 7 200 -120 -1 1 0 5 7 10 Jack Roush 16 184 -136 -16 1 0 5 7 11 Richard Childress 21 180 -140 -4 0 1 1 7 12 Jack Roush 6 180 -140 0 0 0 0 7 13 Matt Kaulig 11 164 -156 -16 0 0 0 7 14 Chip Ganassi 48 163 -157 -1 0 0 0 7 15 Joe Gibbs 19 160 -160 -3 0 0 0 7 16 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5 157 -163 -3 0 0 0 7 17 James Whitener 28 139 -181 -18 0 0 0 7 18 Gene Haas 00 130 -190 -9 0 0 0 7 19 Richard Childress 33 128 -192 -2 0 0 0 7 20 Maria Gonzalez Hernandez 24 125 -195 -3 0 0 0 7 21 Mark Smith 14 111 -209 -14 0 0 0 7 22 Richard Childress 62 108 -212 -3 0 0 0 7 23 Rod Sieg 39 108 -212 0 0 0 0 7 24 Maurice Gallagher Jr. 23 103 -217 -5 0 0 0 7 25 Michelle Gosselin 90 88 -232 -15 0 0 0 7 26 Tony Stewart 41 86 -234 -2 0 1 1 2 27 Johnny Davis 01 86 -234 0 0 0 0 7 28 Tony Clements 51 83 -237 -3 0 0 0 7 29 Gary Cogswell 0 81 -239 -2 0 0 0 7 30 Gary Keller 4 81 -239 0 0 0 0 7 31 Fred Biagi 98 76 -244 -5 0 0 0 5 32 Jimmy Means 52 74 -246 -2 0 0 0 7 33 Roger Penske 12 64 -256 -10 1 0 0 2 34 Bobby Dotter 07 64 -256 0 0 0 0 7 35 Danielle Long 40 63 -257 -1 0 0 0 7 36 Rick Hendrick 88 49 -271 -14 0 0 0 1 37 Bj McLeod 78 48 -272 -1 0 0 0 7 38 Jessica Smith-Mcleod 99 47 -273 -1 0 0 0 7 39 Jessica Smith-Mcleod 8 41 -279 -6 0 0 0 7 40 Rick Gdovic 46 37 -283 -4 0 0 0 2 41 Danielle Long 13 20 - 300 -17 0 0 0 7 42 Mike Harmon 74 16 -304 -4 0 0 0 7 43 Lynn Cockrum 25 12 -308 -4 0 0 0 2 44 Mark Smith 44 10 -310 -2 0 0 0 1 45 Pamela Sieg 93 6 -314 -4 0 0 0 6 46 Victor Obaika 97 4 -316 -2 0 0 0 6 47 Cindy Shepherd 89 2 -318 -2 0 0 0 5 48 Victor Obaika 177 0 -320 -2 0 0 0 1
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: By the numbers
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond RELATED: Dale Jr. announces retirement " Amy's message to Dale A statistical look at the NASCAR career of Dale Earnhardt Jr., with numbers as of April 25, the day he announced his retirement from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at the end of the 2017 season. For a deeper statistical dive, visit Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s page at racing-reference.info . 0 -- The number of laps completed in Earnhardt Jr.'s shortest race, the result of a first-lap crash in the 2001 Dura Lube 400 at Rockingham. The event was the first for NASCAR after the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500. 1 -- The number of NASCAR All-Star Race victories in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s career. He became the invitational event's first rookie winner in 2000. 2 -- The number of Daytona 500 victories recorded by Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3 -- The car number made famous by his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt. Also, Earnhardt Jr.'s highest-ranking finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, in 2003. 6 -- The number of wins recorded by Earnhardt Jr. at Talladega Superspeedway, the most among active drivers. Also, the number of victories Earnhardt achieved in his winningest season (2004). RELATED: All of Junior's wins " Dale Jr. through the years 8 -- Earnhardt Jr.'s first car number in NASCAR premier-series competition. Also, his starting spot in his premier series debut in the 1999 Coca-Cola 600. 10 -- The number of seasons that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has driven for Hendrick Motorsports, which fields his No. 88 Chevrolet. 11.3 -- The best average finish in a single full season in Earnhardt Jr.'s career, recorded in his three-win campaign of 2015. 12 -- The number of tracks where Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in his premier-series career -- Talladega (6), Daytona (4), Phoenix (3), Richmond (3), Pocono (2), Michigan (2), and one each at Atlanta, Martinsville, Bristol, Chicagoland, Texas and Dover. RELATED: Best paint schemes " Junior plans to run two XFINITY races in '18 13 -- The number of Coors Light Pole Awards that Earnhardt has collected in his career in NASCAR's top division. 20 -- Over two seasons (2012 and 2016), the number of races that Earnhardt missed due to concussions. 21 -- The age at which Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his debut in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series. He finished 14th on June 22, 1996 at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway. 22 -- The number of top -10 finishes Earnhardt Jr. posted in both of his NASCAR XFINITY Series championship seasons. 24 -- The age at which Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his debut in NASCAR's premier series. 42 -- The age at which Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his decision to retire from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. RELATED: Dale Jr. explains his decision -- best quotes from the No. 88 driver and Rick Hendrick 50 -- The number of NASCAR national series victories for Dale Earnhardt Jr., with 26 in premier-series competition and 24 in what is now known as the XFINITY Series. 88 -- The car number the Dale Earnhardt Jr. has campaigned since moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. 100 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. reached this milestone number of premier-series starts on Sept. 1, 2002 in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He finished 16th. 143 -- The number of races in the longest losing skid of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s career, spanning 2008-12. Both wins that bookended the dry spell were recorded at Michigan International Speedway. 149 -- The number of top -five finishes that Earnhardt Jr has registered in his career at NASCAR's top level. 291 -- The number of starts that Earnhardt Jr. made for Dale Earnhardt Inc., the team founded by his father that gave him his start in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. 312 -- The number of starts -- as of April 25, 2017 -- made by Dale Earnhardt Jr. for Hendrick Motorsports. 426 -- The number of laps led by Earnhardt in his first full season (2000) in NASCAR's top division. 540 -- The number of times that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was scored as running at the finish in his career, an 89.6 percent rate. 595.5 -- The number of miles Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed in his big-league debut May 30, 1999 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Earnhardt placed 16th, three laps down in the Coca-Cola 600. 600 -- The milestone number of premier-series starts Earnhardt achieved in March 2017 at Auto Club Speedway. 1,131 -- The number of laps led in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s most prolific season (2004) in that category. 8,195 -- The number of laps led in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s career to date. </p>
Speeding penalty foils Larson at Bristol -- but he still put on a show
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond BRISTOL, Tenn. – Kyle Larson's No. 42 Chevrolet was incredibly fast on the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway during Monday's rain-delayed running of the Food City 500. Unfortunately, it was a bit too fast on pit road, too, and the misstep changed the team's pit strategy, and likely cost the Chip Ganassi Racing driver a shot a second victory through eight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races this season. Sixth in the final rundown, the 24-year-old Larson put on quite a show right up until the end of the race. "Yeah, I knew I gave the race away there," Larson, who won earlier this season at Auto Club Speedway, said of the infraction which came on Lap 422 of the 500-lap race. "I was surprised that I was able to line up with an opportunity there at the end. We lucked out taking two (tires), and then the 78 (of Martin Truex Jr.) sped and it lined us up fourth (for the final restart)." Larson, the points leader and pole winner (the latter coming when rain forced officials to cancel qualifying on Friday), dominated the opening 125-lap Stage 1 Monday, leading every lap. He was nearly as invincible in the second stage, leading 77 circuits around the .533-mile oval before finally yielding the point to Truex. Larson ran in the top five for much of the final 250-lap stage and was second when he dropped onto pit road following the race's eighth caution period. The speeding penalty sent him to the rear, but he was 12th when a final caution flag flew for an incident involving Kasey Kahne (Hendrick Motorsports) and Paul Menard (Richard Childress Racing). Larson was one of a handful of drivers able to run both the high and low lines around Bristol seemingly picking his spots and picking off cars at will. Fifth on the final restart, he quickly made his way to second and was closing on leader Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing), when Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports) and Clint Bowyer (SHR) began running down the two. "I thought maybe if I could get the top going quick and get by Kevin, I could get the win," Larson said. "But I think even if I was able to get into the lead, I don't think I would have won because Jimmie and Clint were way faster than I was. They were a straightaway ahead of us, I think, at the checkered flag." Johnson took the win, his 82nd , with Bowyer earning runner-up honors. Harvick, Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Joey Logano (Team Penske) completed the top five. "I think I speed on pit road every time I come to Bristol," Larson said. "So I've got to clean that up." Larson has five top -five and six top -10 finishes this season. Chase Elliott (HMS) finished seventh and trails Larson by 27 points. </p>
Earnhardt: With young talent, 'sky's the limit for NASCAR'
RELATED: Blaney on Dale Jr.'s influence on him CONCORD, N.C. -- High-profile departures have been a recent trend in NASCAR's top division, a development that began with transcendent four-time champion Jeff Gordon's retirement at the end of the 2015 season. Popular three-time champ Tony Stewart followed after 2016, then fellow star Carl Edwards stepped away just before this season. That list will include the most popular of all -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- at the end of 2017, a move he signaled in a Tuesday announcement at the Hendrick Motorsports compound. But instead of sounding an alarm about a possible void, Earnhardt issued a strong vote of confidence for the sport's future with positive remarks about the stock-car racing's recent influx of spellbinding talent, a group of young stars that have the potential to dazzle fans for future generations. RELATED: Larson, Elliott top point standings "We definitely have tons of talent. There is no question, but I love the people they are," Earnhardt said, naming 21-year-old teammate Chase Elliott and current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader Kyle Larson, 24, as two brilliant examples. Being marketable, approachable and having a level of savvy with social media certainly hasn't hurt. "These guys are effortless at it," he added. "So once they start to pick it up and understand the power of what they have at their fingertips, the sky's the limit for NASCAR. I'm super excited about the future." MORE: Dale Jr. announces retirement " Vote: Favorite Junior win Earnhardt has done plenty himself to help cultivate the next crop of stock-car prodigies, fielding JR Motorsports' four-car effort in the NASCAR XFINITY Series as a developmental program for next-gen stars. Among those is 19-year-old William Byron, a product of the NASCAR Next youth initiative and a top prospect for success at the sport's highest level. It's why team owner Rick Hendrick was quick to echo Earnhardt's sentiment. "I've never seen so much young talent," the 67-year-old team owner said. "I can remember when the question was all of our drivers are in their 40s or they're going to be, what are we going to do when they retire? I think we've got the answer. They're here, they're young, they're aggressive, they're fun." RELATED: Hendrick: Dale Jr. is 'like a son' to me The current group of 20-somethings -- or younger -- includes a diverse group of Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates in the Monster Energy Series. Erik Jones, 20, was the first to throw his hat into the rookie race with a full-time jump hitched to a newly expanded Furniture Row Racing operation. Ty Dillon and Daniel Suarez, both 25, followed with their offseason announcements. Their task now: To become better acquainted with fans who have long-running associations of support for Gordon, Stewart, Edwards and Earnhardt. Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, said that transition and exposure to a broader stage will come in time. "It's something that evolves," O'Donnell said. "That's you getting to know them more, them being in Victory Lane more. People like winners. … As they win and compete for top fives and are exposed more, we have no doubt that people will see their personalities and then it'll be up to them as well to take those personalities outside the sport also." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Zalenski survives Phoenix melee for first NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series win
RELATED: See the complete iRacing schedule Rookie NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series driver Bobby Zalenski scored his first victory at Phoenix International Raceway Tuesday night, holding off Ray Alfalla and Ryan Luza on two late-race restarts. Zalenski took the lead on a restart with ten laps to go when leader Andrew Fayash missed a shift. Logan Clampitt, who was restarting second, also moved alongside Fayash as the three raced door-to-door into Turn 1. Zalenski had such a sharp angle into the corner he could not keep his car on the bottom which led him to hit Clampitt, spinning the erstwhile series leader out of contention. Zalenski escaped with minimal damage and had the race lead, but he would need to execute on one more restart with the two strongest drivers in 2017 thus far right behind him. The green flew with five laps left but before Alfalla and Luza could challenge for the win, Michael Conti spun Fayash entering Turn One leading to a race-ending caution. Alfalla finished runner-up, right in front of Luza as both rebounded from their problems at Texas. Dylan Duval finished fourth and Zack Novak was fifth, the first time either driver has finished in the top five this season. Matt Bussa started on pole and led the race to the green flag, building a comfortable lead on Luza during the opening laps. Bussa led the entirety of the first run, only relinquishing the lead to pit for tires and fuel on Lap 53. However, Bussa would not return to the front after the stops as several sim racers short-pitted including Michael Conti, who assumed the lead. A caution on Lap 59 brought nearly all the lead lap cars back into the pits for tires with Conti leading the pack off pit road. Conti would restart third but only took one lap to pass Adam Gilliland and Marcus Richardson to retake the lead. Unlike the first run when Luza kept in touch with Bussa, nobody came close to matching Conti's speed on the long run as the No. 5 drove off and left the field. Like Bussa, Conti led until pitting for routine service on Lap 106 and just like the first round of stops, a caution interrupted the pit cycle before it was complete, costing Conti and other frontrunners some track position. The final 40 laps were quite the wreckfest as drivers tried to gain positions after restarts. Chris Overland held the lead briefly but Fayash got by shortly after the restart. Despite not showing speed early in the race, Fayash looked quite strong out front and led until his unfortunate missed shift and subsequent crash one restart later. Luza is back on top of the standings thanks to his third-place effort and Clampitt's troubles. He leads Zalenski by five points while Clampitt slips to third, seven points adrift. Alfalla sits fourth, but is within striking distance as he is only 13 points out of the lead. Darik Bourdeau rounds out the top five, 32 points back. Next up is a date with Richmond International Raceway, the second-consecutive short track on the schedule. Look for many of the same faces to be up front as Luza, Alfalla, Clampitt and Zalenski look to break away from the field. With 2017 looking like one of the most competitive NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series seasons ever, can anyone break away and become the favorite for the sim racing title? Find out in two weeks on iRacingLive!
Bruce on Junior: A kid, a son, a racer and fan favorite
RELATED: Junior announces retirement after '17 season " Reaction to news The pressure was probably there from the first time he slid behind the wheel of a race car. Before that, he was just "Dale's kid." No real burdens, few expectations. Hanging out at the track on occasion, playing with the kids of other competitors. He was a child, the son of a racer for sure, but just a child and nothing more. But once he became Dale Earnhardt Jr., racer, everything changed. Once he became a racer, he became the son of a seven-time champion, the son of one of NASCAR's most legendary figures. Once he became a racer, nearly every single thing took on an entirely different meaning. Expectations didn't grow, they exploded. He raced and he won and his popularity grew, in part because of folks that were also fans of his father, but maybe more because he was new and fresh and cutting edge, and younger fans in the sport found someone with whom they could relate. He listened to Nirvana. He was featured in "Rolling Stone" and "Playboy." MTV featured him on its popular "MTV Cribs" show. He was the new face for the sport. And then the horrific 2001 accident took the life of his father and fans of his dad flocked to Earnhardt Jr., hoping to keep the memory of their hero alive, hoping to keep "their" sport alive through the son. MORE: Dale and Dale: Pictures of father and son Earnhardt Jr. never, ever discounted those who came to him as fans of his father. He embraced them, understood them and welcomed them. They were old school and as Earnhardt Jr. matured and grew and became more and more involved in all aspects of the sport, he became old school, too. Maybe he didn't "become" old school as much as he began to embrace it. You want a history lesson on NASCAR? Earnhardt might not be a professor, but his depth of knowledge and his love of the sport's colorful past are unrivaled. Now he's stepping out of the driver's seat after winning two XFINITY Series championships in 1998 and '99, 26 career races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and two Daytona 500 victories. RELATED: Recap every win " Full Dale Jr. stats It's been an incredible journey for Earnhardt Jr., who in addition to his duties as driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports is also co-owner of an XFINITY Series operation -- JR Motorsports -- that fields four full-time entries. But it's been an incredible journey for his fans as well, who have voted him the series most popular driver for 14 consecutive years. Most saw him win for the first time in the top series at Texas in 2000 and then weeks later when he got the big ol' bear hug from his father in Victory Lane after winning the series' All-Star Race at Charlotte. Fifteen years later he was still winning, and who knows, perhaps his winning hasn't stopped just yet. His father's passing and the eventual surprise move to Hendrick Motorsports, and through it all the winning and contending for wins and his fans yearning and hoping and wishing for a championship that has yet to arrive. He's been a kid and a son and a racer and a champion and fan favorite. And now a husband and he's talked about children so yeah, he may be a father some day, too. MORE: Dale and Amy through the years " Wedding album He's a brand and a spokesperson and there are many in the garage that share their time and talent and resources with those less fortunate, but Earnhardt is among those at the top of the list. And the entire time he's let everyone in, let 'em come along for the ride, because the kid who used to change oil in cars at his father's dealership knows race fans about as well as he knows himself. He's traveled his own path and enjoyed a racing career and at the end of the day you look back and say, well, that's life. One chapter ends and another begins. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;&lt;span _rtetemp=&quot;spchk&quot; style=&quot;background-color: #ffffaa;&quot; _rtespchksugg=&quot;Lt"alt"ult"flt"let"lit"lat"lot"ltd"t&quot;&gt;am&lt;/span&gt;p;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Junior endears himself to fans by being the real deal
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond RELATED: Reactions " Relive every Dale Jr. win " Top quotes from day How appropriate that after an emotional, heartfelt press conference to formally share his decision to retire at the end of the 2017 NASCAR season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. walked outside into the Hendrick Motorsports parking lot to find a large crowd waiting for him. Some were there to ask him for his autograph, but many more had come to give Earnhardt their support and appreciation as he competes in his final season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The adoration is something Earnhardt, 42, receives in bulk every time he goes anywhere in public. The fan love and positive feedback have translated to more than 2 million followers on Twitter. Sure, two Daytona 500 trophies, the amazing run of restrictor-plate victories and the racing lineage have helped earn him these loyal fans. But perhaps it's the real triumphs and real struggles of Earnhardt's career -- the high highs and low lows -- that the masses of people relate to and appreciate most. "One thing that's made this career the incredible ride that it's been, is Junior Nation," Earnhardt acknowledged. "The fan support that I received straight out of the gate, was in large part because of my famous last name. "But throughout the ups and downs it occurred to me that the fans that stuck it out and the new ones that joined us, they were there because of the person I was and not who they wanted me to be." While Tuesday's news may have caught some off-guard, the sport's reigning 14-time Most Popular Driver seems genuinely content about the decision. And that should give his fans some peace. MORE: Junior: A kid, a son, a racer and fan favorite Earnhardt openly shared the process behind his decision and then answered questions from the media. Often there were long pauses between question and answer and that's because Earnhardt actually thinks about his responses instead of replying with clichés and soundbites. He is honest and heartfelt -- even in the moments after he's just climbed out of his race car. He is genuine. And that -- not just his ability to win big races or even his racing lineage -- is what fans seem to appreciate most about Earnhardt. His time behind the wheel has evolved -- much as the sport's fan base has as well. There was the "Junior" I first met in the mid-1990s -- young, worry-free and sporting bleach-blond highlights. He was learning about the sport, winning Busch Grand National races and hoisting championship trophies under the watchful eye of his dad, seven-time premier-series champion Dale Earnhardt. It was fun to watch their interaction and see the pride on the elder Earnhardt’s face. I remember vividly the way Earnhardt shut down an interview in the Daytona press box one afternoon during Speedweeks just so he could watch his son run practice laps on the speedway down below. Fans were intrigued by the young Earnhardt then -- those that cheered for his father and those that cheered against him. He was a "typical" 20-something making his way up the ranks, having fun and winning. After his legendary father passed away on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, Junior's world naturally shifted. Almost immediately he received new fans. So many felt for this young man who had suddenly lost his beloved dad. Many others had already taken him in as "their guy." And Junior never disappointed. Whether he won or not. His career highlight reel includes winning the summer Daytona Monster Energy Series race five months after losing his father and a streak of four consecutive Talladega victories from 2001-03. He has collected 26 trophies in all -- huge triumphs at Daytona and Talladega and workmanlike wins at Phoenix and Pocono. He has challenged for season championships -- finishing a career-best third in 2003. TAKE A DEEPER LOOK: Complete Junior stats It's the success he's collected without trophies that will be remembered most -- the way he has shown how to persevere after tragedy, overcome doubt and recover from injury. Perhaps Earnhardt's announcement this week wasn't honestly a total surprise to his fans and friends. He is 42 years old, just got married on New Year's Eve and maybe there's a "Dale III" in the future. MORE: Dale, Amy's wedding album " Dale and Amy through the years As Junior stressed on Tuesday, his decision to retire after an incredible career came of his own free will. It was not dictated by injury or loss of ability, team orders or even a sponsor decision. It is what Junior wants to do. It is best for him. And what more could you ask. He deserves that. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Jimmie Johnson rallies, corrals Texas victory
RELATED: Texas race results " Detailed race breakdown SHOP: Johnson gear FORT WORTH, Tex. -- Jimmie Johnson proved on Sunday that you can't keep a good driver, a good car and a good team down for long -- even if you change the playing field at one of his favorite race tracks. The seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion passed Joey Logano for the lead on Lap 318 of 334 and pulled away for his first victory of the season in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at newly repaved and reconfigured Texas Motor Speedway. The win was Johnson's seventh at the 1.5-mile track and the 81st of his career, and it came despite an inauspicious start to the weekend. Johnson spun in the first round of Friday's knockout qualifying and flat-spotted his tires. Because his team changed tires on the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet before the race -- contravening NASCAR's mandate that drivers start the race on their qualifying tires -- Johnson dropped to the rear for the initial green. By the time NASCAR called the fifth caution of the race on Lap 121 for debris on the frontstretch, Johnson had cracked the top -10, and he was fourth out of the pits for the subsequent restart on Lap 127. At the end of Stage 2, which concluded on Lap 170, the No. 48 Chevy was second behind Ryan Blaney, who swept the first and second stages but finished 12th overall after sliding through his pit box on the final stop on Lap 300 and losing track position. RELATED: Blaney wins Stages 1, 2 Blaney led 148 laps. Johnson led 18, but he led the one that counted most. The victory was Johnson's sixth in the last 10 races at Texas. "I guess I remembered how to drive, and I guess this team remembered how to do it!" said Johnson, who has been the victim of some inevitable second-guessing after scratching out a lone top -10 (ninth at Phoenix) in the first six races of the season. "I'm just real proud of this team. "What a tough track and tough conditions. We were really in our wheelhouse and we were just able to execute all day." The only thing that bothered Johnson was a lack of hydration in the car, thanks to a malfunction in the fluid delivery system, but with a break in the schedule for Easter, he'll have nearly a fortnight to recover before the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series goes to Bristol Motor Speedway. "Oh, it was hot in there," Johnson acknowledged. "I got cooked in the car today. I didn't have any fluids, so I'm not feeling the best, but we got into Victory Lane. I'm so proud of the fight in this race team. I can't wait to celebrate during this off-weekend with my family and friends and really enjoy this." Johnson paid a visit to the infield care center after climbing from his car, before coming to the media center for his post-race press conference. RELATED: Johnson treated in care center Kyle Larson finished second for the fourth time this season. A winner at Fontana, California, in late March, Larson also started 32nd because his car didn't pass pre-qualifying inspection in time to make an attempt during time trials. After working his way toward the front, Larson was sent to the rear again for driving through too many pit boxes under a competition caution on Lap 33. But he again found his way to the front. It simply took him too long to get past Logano during the final 30-lap green-flag run. "Wish I would have got him by a little sooner, but all in all a great day for our Credit One Bank Chevy team," Larson said. "I made a mistake there on the first pit stop and clipped too many boxes. I turned in way early. "I was disappointed in myself then, because I feel like our car was really, really good the beginning part of the race and probably could have drove up to the lead and maybe controlled the race from then on. So you never know. "But I just got to focus a little bit harder and not make mistakes, and we can control some races, lead some laps. All in all, still a really good finish for us and we extend the point lead a little bit (to 17 points over ninth-place finisher Chase Elliott), so a solid day." RELATED: Larson: 'Had a little brain fart' The racing groove on the repaved surface began to widen out as the race progressed, thanks in part to the track's effort to drag tires and lay down rubber throughout the weekend. "Yeah, the track was a little bit better than I think I expected it to be," Larson said. "I thought it would be a little bit harder pass. Maybe it was, but our car was really good, so it could operate on the bottom of (Turns) 1 and 2 really good, and that was about the only place you could pass was the exit of 2, so our car was thankfully working good over there." On a contrarian pit strategy that dictated he stay out in the lead for the final restart, Logano held third. Polesitter Kevin Harvick came home fourth after leading 77 laps. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran fifth, far and away his best result of the season, after starting 37th because of the same pre-qualifying inspection issue that buffaloed Larson. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
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