The Future NASCAR Stars Are Here!

Christopher Bell

According to NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France, you don’t have to look far to find the next generation of stars.

“They are here,” France said on Sunday morning before the Ford EcoBoost 400 during a question-and-answer session with reporters at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “They are here, and they’ve got to develop their performance, but they’re doing well. You look at Ryan Blaney, you look at Chase (Elliott) almost making the final here in Miami. Go down the list. We’ve got a loaded group.

“But it’s true, we’re in a transition, too. But that happens from time to time, not usually in the concentrated manner that we have now, but it happens. But we’re excited. We’ve got a great, great bunch of 19-, 20-(year-olds), and they’re talented, so we’re in good shape.”

NASCAR President Brent Dewar, who appeared with France on the dais, echoed those sentiments.

“We anticipate every decade you’re going to go through this rotation, and between NASCAR Next and Drive for Diversity, these young stars that you’re talking about have all come through those classes, and they’re all good wheel men and women that are coming up through these series. And I think that’s the key thing, and we’re working with them in terms of how they work outside the car.

“And I think the other part is if you look at most sports, name any other major sport where you get to have a 15  to 20 year career at the highest level. It just does not exist. Those are exceptions.  It’s the norm here. So if you look at all the ones you take and you add 20 years, you’re going to be somewhere around the age of a Dale Jr. and a Matt Kenseth, so they were those same very 19 , 20 , 21 year olds years back.”

France’s and Dewar’s comments were juxtaposed against the backdrop of a sea change in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, from which the sport’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is retiring after Sunday’s race. Kenseth, the 2003 champion, also faces a hiatus from NASCAR’s premier series, and Danica Patrick announced on Friday she will race for the last time in the series in the 2018 Daytona 500.

“Dale Jr. has made an obviously big contribution on and off the track for a long time,” France said. “So while we’re going to miss him for obvious reasons, he’s not going to be that far away, being an owner and working with NBC.

“So he’s going to be glued to the sport, and that’s a good thing for us.”

Both France and Dewar expressed optimism about the state of the sport and were thankful for the dialogue and collaboration between the sanctioning body, team owners, manufacturers, drivers and race tracks toward a long-term strategic plan for the sport.

“Well, I’m really more optimistic right now, and I know you may expect me to say that, but we’ve made the transition largely,” France said. “We’ve gotten the council meetings going. We’ve gotten charters in position so we can get our interests aligned more closely with drivers, OEMs and the charters and the team owners.

“We have the young drivers already in place. We’d like a couple more, of course. We’ve got some diversity with Bubba Wallace going in the 43 car (as the only African-American driver competing at NASCAR highest level). We like that. We’d love to see more of that. And we like all the changes that we’ve made in the last four or five years, including stage racing this year. It has created the things that we thought were important.”

And just as the sanctioning body has collaborated extensively with race teams on the evolution of the racing on the track, so too has NASCAR and the industry worked to improve the overall business model.

“The difference is now we have a mechanism of working together and a process to do that, and we’re all in,” Dewar said. “From tracks to teams to drivers, we’re all in, and we’re trying to focus on the sport, the business behind the scenes, and just continue to make continuous improvement to do that.

“I’m making it sound easy. It’s really hard. It’s really, really hard. At the end of the day, they’re racers. Race car drivers want to win, and team owners want to win, and we want them to win. We want to cultivate and nurture that as much as possible, but there’s still a business behind all these sports, and we need to make continued improvement on the business side.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Hendrick Motorsports Previews The Ford EcoBoost 400 At Homestead

HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY (1.5-MILE OVAL)

LOCATION: HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 36 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 2:30 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, NOV. 19 (NBC/MRN/SIRIUSXM)

No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS / Kasey Kahne

Driver Kasey Kahne   Hometown Enumclaw, Washington
Age 37                        Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 14th in standings
  • 35 starts
  • 1 race win
  • 0 stage wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 41 laps led

Career

  • 503 starts
  • 18 wins
  • 27 pole positions
  • 92 top-five finishes
  • 175 top-10 finishes
  • 4,648 laps led

Track Career 

  • 13 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 2 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finishes
  • 4 top-10 finishes
  • 107 laps led
GREAT CLIPS: Kasey Kahne will pilot the No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the final race of the season. The Enumclaw, Washington, native last drove the scheme in September at Chicagoland Speedway. Homestead marks the eighth time this season that the Great Clips scheme has graced Kahne’s Chevy.

KAHNE AT HOMESTEAD: Kahne returns to the Florida track with two poles, one top-five finish and four top-10s on his Homestead resume. The 37-year-old driver has led three different times at the 1.5-mile track for a total of 107 laps, ranking him seventh among active drivers. Kahne has an average starting position of 11.8 and an average finishing position of 16.9 at Homestead.

SALUTING KASEY: Homestead will mark the final race with Hendrick Motorsports for Kahne, who has won six Cup races since joining the organization in 2012. His first Hendrick Motorsports win came in the Memorial Day weekend race at Charlotte in May 2012, followed by checkered flags at New Hampshire, Bristol, Pocono, Atlanta and, most recently, historic Indianapolis. He has scored eight runner-up finishes with the No. 5 team, along with five pole positions, 35 top-five finishes, 73 top-10s and 1,284 laps led. Kahne earned Cup Series playoff berths in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017. He finished a career-high fourth in the championship standings in 2012.

5’S FINAL RIDE: This weekend at Homestead marks the end of an era, as Hendrick Motorsports will no longer field its No. 5 Chevrolet following the season. It was the organization’s first car number and has run full-time since the team was founded in 1984. The No. 5 was raced to Hendrick Motorsports’ first victory by Geoff Bodine at Martinsville Speedway during its inaugural season, and Terry Labonte drove it to a Cup Series championship in 1996. Seven drivers have piloted the car full-time since 1984 — Bodine, Ricky Rudd, Labonte, Kyle Busch, Casey Mears, Mark Martin, and now Kahne, who took over the ride in 2012. The car number has amassed 38 wins for Hendrick Motorsports. Next season, the organization will field Nos. 9, 24, 48 and 88

HOMESTEAD LOOP DATA: According to NASCAR’s loop data since 2005, Kahne is third in the green-flag passes category with 1,024. He also ranks fourth in average speed late in a run at 145.546 mph, eighth in fastest laps run with 108 and ninth in quality passes with 474.

GOING HOME: Two No. 5 team members will return to their home state this weekend. Engine tuner Billy Fraser, a University of Florida graduate, was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. Rear-tire changer Johnny Roberts hails from Titusville, Florida.

No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS / Chase Elliott

Driver Chase Elliott   Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 21                      Resides Dawsonville, Georgia

2017 Season

  • 5th in standings
  • 35 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 3 stage wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 11 top-five finishes
  • 20 top-10 finishes
  • 560 laps led

Career

  • 76 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 21 top-five finishes
  • 37 top-10 finishes
  • 918 laps led

Track Career 

  • 1 start
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 0 top-10 finishes
  • 0 laps led
NAPA AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET: As the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season comes to a close this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NAPA AUTO PARTS will once again grace the hood of the No. 24 Chevrolet SS with its familiar blue-and-yellow colors. The Atlanta-based company has served as majority sponsor for Chase Elliott during the 2017 season and will return as a primary sponsor to Elliott and the No. 9 team in 2018. Elliott’s fresh paint scheme was revealed in October. Most recently, Elliott piloted the NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevy at Martinsville Speedway, where he led four separate times for a total of 123 laps. The No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS driver ultimately finished 27th after being spun out by a competitor while leading in the final five laps.

HOMESTEAD-MIAMI STATS: The second-year driver is set to make his second NASCAR Cup Series start at the 1.5-mile oval. In last year’s race, Elliott qualified fifth and finished 11th. The driver of the No. 24 has also competed in two NASCAR XFINITY Series races at the Homestead, Florida, track, garnering one top-10 finish. In 2014, Elliott was crowned the XFINITY Series champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

2017 SEASON: Up to the final race of the season, Elliott and the No. 24 team have collected 11 top-five finishes, 20 top-10s and 560 laps led. Elliott has captured five runner-up finishes, four of which came in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. The 21-year old has averaged a starting position of 10.5 and finishing position of 12.2 throughout 2017.

PHOENIX REWIND: Elliott and the No. 24 Hooters team put up a valiant effort on Sunday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native led three times for 34 laps on his way to the seventh runner-up finish of his career. Despite scoring his fourth runner-up finish in nine playoff races, Elliott will be on the outside looking in as the Championship 4 race for the NASCAR Cup Series title on Sunday. Elliott ranks fifth in the series points standings entering the season finale.

No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS / Jimmie Johnson

Driver Jimmie Johnson   Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 42                             Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 10th in standings
  • 35 starts
  • 3 race wins
  • 1 stage win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 4 top-five finishes
  • 11 top-10 finishes
  • 217 laps led

Career

  • 578 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 35 pole positions
  • 222 top-five finishes
  • 341 top-10 finishes
  • 18,663 laps led

Track Career 

  • 16 starts
  • 1 win
  • 2 pole positions
  • 5 top-five finishes
  • 11 top-10 finishes
  • 102 laps led
#CHASING8: Last weekend in Phoenix, Jimmie Johnson suffered a blown right-front tire on Lap 149 while running 11th. The damage was too severe to fix and the No. 48 Lowe’s team did not advance into the final Championship 4 round for this weekend’s event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Johnson is currently 10th in the point standings entering the final race of the season.

PERFORMANCE IN MIAMI: Among Johnson’s five top-five finishes at Homestead are two runner-up finishes, the most recent of which came in 2010. It marked his best finish at the track until last year, when Johnson led only three laps during the season finale event, but they were the final three, clinching both his first career win at the track and his seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship.

CMA RED CARPET RECAP: Last week before heading to Phoenix, Johnson and his wife Chandra attended the 51st Annual Country Music Association Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. Johnson, along with actress Michelle Monaghan, presented the award for Female Vocalist of the Year to country music standout Miranda Lambert. Among the many entertainment media outlets that covered the event, E! News referred to the Johnson’s as one of the “cutest” couples on the red carpet. Click here to see the red carpet photos.

DRIVER RATING: According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics since 2005, Johnson has the fifth-best driver rating at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a score of 97.8. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.

No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS / Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.   Hometown Kannapolis, North Carolina
Age 43                                Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 21st in standings
  • 35 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 0 stage wins
  • 2 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 8 top-10 finishes
  • 47 laps led

Career

  • 630 starts
  • 26 wins
  • 15 pole positions
  • 149 top-five finishes
  • 260 top-10 finishes
  • 8,234 laps led

Track Career 

  • 16 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 2 top-10 finishes
  • 121 laps led
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Nov. 16, at 10:20 a.m. local time in the Homestead-Miami Speedway media center.

APPRECI88ION TOUR SUCCESS: In June, Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced a five-month campaign called the JR Nation Appreci88ion Tour, which started at the July Daytona event and has carried through to the end of the 2017 season, his last as a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver. The Appreci88ion campaign gave Earnhardt’s fans, his partners and the NASCAR industry a way to celebrate his historic career while offering the driver an opportunity to make gestures of gratitude to everyone who made the ride possible. Throughout, the fans have joined the celebration by using the #Appreci88ion hashtag on social media. Earnhardt himself used it to share weekly videos recounting memories and milestones from each of the tracks on the NASCAR circuit. The gestures of appreciation from the entire industry were overwhelming, and many will create a lasting impact on local communities across the country, celebrating the legacy Earnhardt has created.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: The 2017 season marked Earnhardt’s 18th full-time year in the Cup Series. The native of Kannapolis, North Carolina, has earned 26 career victories, including the 2004 and 2014 Daytona 500s. His 26 victories tie him for 29th on NASCAR’s all-time race winners list. He also has 15 pole positions and eight non-points wins (five in the Daytona 500 qualifying Duel, two in the Clash and one All-Star Race victory). Overall, Earnhardt has qualified for the NASCAR playoffs eight times (2004, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015). He is the only third-generation NASCAR champion, achieved when he won the 1998 and 1999 NASCAR XFINITY Series titles. He follows his legendary father Dale Earnhardt Sr., a seven-time Cup champion and winner of 76 races, and his grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt, the 1956 NASCAR Sportsman champion. The three Earnhardts combine for 10 NASCAR championships.

AT HOMESTEAD: Earnhardt, who has yet to earn his first win at Homestead, has been on the upswing in his most recent visits to the 1.5-mile oval. While Earnhardt has a total of one top-five and two top-10 finishes in his 16 starts at the facility, the Kannapolis, North Carolina, native has finished inside of the top 15 in four of his last five trips to Homestead-Miami Speedway, including a career-best third-place finish in the 2013 event. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Earnhardt ranks near the top of the fastest laps run category. The driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS is fourth among active drivers at Homestead since 2005 with 150 fastest laps run, some of which have been during the 121 laps he’s led in his 16 starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

ROOKIE SCHEME: Earnhardt’s No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS, originally unveiled live on QVC on Aug. 2 from Axalta’s Customer Experience Center, will be red with black and white stripes, paying homage to the driver’s very first paint scheme, which debuted in 1999 when he competed in his first career Cup Series race. Click here to see how the scheme came to life.

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER: On Tuesday, Nov. 28, NASCAR and Nationwide will bring together fans, family, friends, key influencers in his racing life and a few surprise guests to join Earnhardt to tell stories at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas at 9 p.m. PST. Hosted by Earnhardt himself, this once-in-a-lifetime fan experience will tell the tales of NASCAR’s reigning most popular driver. The best part is all the proceeds from the event will benefit Nationwide Children’s Hospital including the great work being done in the Dale and Amy Earnhardt Activity Room. For tickets and more information, click here.

IT’S NOT GOODBYE, IT’S SEE YOU LATER: While Earnhardt is retiring from full-time Cup racing, he will still be a very visible presence in the sport. He will drive in two NASCAR XFINITY Series races for his JR Motorsports team in 2018, be active in his role as an owner of that team, and, in the second half of the season, he will join the NBC Sports group in the Cup broadcast booth. In short, the man who has been voted by fans as NASCAR’s most popular driver for 14 consecutive years isn’t really going anywhere.

Hendrick Motorsports

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT HOMESTEAD: Hendrick Motorsports drivers have earned two wins, three pole positions, 14 top-five finishes and 29 top-10s at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The first win came courtesy of Jeff Gordon in 2012, when he led the final 13 laps of the race en route to Victory Lane. The organization’s most recent win at the Florida track came just last season as Jimmie Johnson clinched his record-tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series title after leading the final three laps of the race.

LASST RIDE FOR THE SS: Homestead will be the last race for the successful Chevrolet SS model NASCAR Cup Series race car before the manufacturer transitions to the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in 2018. The Chevy SS made its debut in the 2013 Daytona 500, which was won by Johnson. Hendrick Motorsports earned the car’s first three race wins and has amassed 40 total points-paying victories and two Cup Series championships with the SS.

SEASON IN REVIEW: With one NASCAR Cup Series race remaining in 2017, Hendrick Motorsports has amassed four wins, three pole positions, 19 top-five finishes and 45 top-10s. The four wins came at four different tracks — Texas, Bristol, Dover and Indianapolis. Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott and Johnson qualified for the series’ playoffs, with Kahne being eliminated following the Round of 16 and Elliott and Johnson following the Round of 8 cutoff event last weekend at Phoenix.

ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 249 race victories, 213 pole positions, 1,028 top-five finishes and 1,739 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led 67,239 laps since 1984.

QUOTABLE / 

“You have to be able to run the wall, it seems like, for a lot of that race, because the speed is up against the fence. So, just being confident with that, confident with the grip of your car and then you also have to move around late in the race. It seems like the wall kind of goes away a lot of times. I’ve always liked Homestead. I’ve won one race there in XFINITY and ran well in Cup races, led a lot of laps. But it’s a track that’s really tough to win at. To me, the pace falls off a ton and it’s rough in spots. I think it’s one of our tougher tracks throughout the season.”

Kasey Kahne on racing at Homestead

“I felt like I gave it my all at Phoenix. We’re going to go to Homestead and try to finish the season as strong as we can and then get ready to come at them next year as hard as possible.”

Chase Elliott on not advancing to the Championship 4

“Yeah, you know, we have other tracks that have progressive banking and they don’t quite work like Homestead. I think one thing people overlook is the straightaways are actually straight we don’t have a dogleg there. I think that makes a big difference in how the track is shaped and what allows you to run some different lanes. I think that plays a bigger factor than people think.”

Elliott on Homestead’s progressive banking

“I hate it for this team that we won’t be competing for an eighth championship this year. They’ve worked so hard all year long and I’m very proud of their efforts. It’s obviously not the result that we want, but we’re Hendrick strong and I’m proud of Team 48 and very thankful for the support and all the opportunities Lowe’s, Kobalt and Chevrolet give us. We will make some changes in the offseason, get those new Camaros built and come back next year strong.”

Jimmie Johnson on being eliminated from the 2017 playoffs

“I’ve known Dale a long time, well before he joined Hendrick Motorsports and even before I was a stock car driver. To have him as a teammate, I’ve been able to get to know him behind the scenes and behind the steering wheel – our friendship has gone to deeper levels. I really have enjoyed my friendship with him. It will be sad to see the No. 88 go away, but I’m so proud of him for everything he has accomplished. I can’t wait to see him as a dad, to compare notes (laughs) and am just so happy for him and Amy. I’m excited to see what this next chapter has in store for him.”

Johnson on Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“I am not sure that I’m ready to be going through all of the emotion that I will have in Homestead, but it’s coming. I hope that I can handle it well, but it’s definitely going to be interesting to see how that feels. All these videos and all these things that our partners are creating, this content has just been incredible. It makes you feel so good in your heart. The comments from fans … it is more than you can process and I’m sure that Homestead is just going to be like the cork coming out of the bottle. I’m lucky that Amy (Earnhardt) is going to be there, I’m lucky my family will be there, and my team. I will have so much support and I want to support them. It’s going to be emotional for them and our fans.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his emotions leading into Homestead

“I’m trying to run hard, trying to do well, trying to figure out our cars and get as good a finish as we can. We’re going to have a lot of things going on this week. Going in there and trying to do as well as we can is at the top of the list, but there are a ton of other things happening. We will just take it one day at a time. It’s going to be a busy weekend.”

Earnhardt on racing at Homestead

“Throughout the years, my relationship to Dale has gone through many phases. In his early years I was a fan, watching him win races and championships in the iconic AC Delco paint scheme. It was so cool that we had the privilege to run a throwback to that scheme at Darlington this year. In 2004 when I started at Hendrick Motorsports, he was a competitor that we had to go out there and race each weekend, especially at the superspeedway races where he was so strong.

“When he made the move to Hendrick in 2008, we began a pretty neat relationship. Dale and I are pretty calm and quiet in our personal environment, but when it comes to competition we are extremely focused and competitive. The fantasy football league was where we had our first encounter of determination. The unique battle we had formed a bond that we can still talk about today.

“Moving to JR Motorsports in 2013, Dale became my boss as I tried to help lead his company back to winning races and eventually a championship. Every time Dale came to my office, he asked what he could do for me to help the teams get better – never to tell me how to do my job. There are plenty of Monday morning crew chiefs, but he was never one of them.

“Then in 2015, I got the call to be his crew chief. It was an honor to accept the challenge because I knew we could have quick success with the relationships we had already established. That held true for the 2015 season and 2016 was going to be even better. Putting more focus on winning and being perfect, we were so close in 2015, so why not? When Dale got hurt in 2016, I took a lot of the responsibility on myself. We had to work through the tough times together, had to confide in each other, and ultimately developed our best relationship – our friendship.”

No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives on his relationship with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“Kasey is one of the best people you’ll ever meet, and he’s contributed so much to our organization. He’s won big races like the World 600 and Indianapolis, competed for championships, and added a lot to the legacy of the ‘5’ team. Kasey’s a true racer, and I haven’t seen many drivers with his level of pure talent. I’m looking forward to continuing our friendship for a long time. He’s a great dad. He’s someone who does so much good through his charitable work and has such a passion for racing. I admire his character and truly appreciate everything he’s done for us. It’s going to be hard not seeing the ‘5’ car on the track next year, but I’m proud that he’ll be the driver to give it one last ride.”

Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick on Kasey Kahne

“Dale said he was going to make me popular. (laughs) His star power and his talent immediately created a lot of enthusiasm both inside and outside the organization. His fans of course pull for him, but some of them have also supported our other drivers because they’re his teammates. So it’s been neat to see the Earnhardt fans come on board and embrace what we’ve done together. He’s been a great teammate and a great ambassador. He really jumped in from day one and put his heart and soul into the team.”

Hendrick on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s impact on the organization

“A lot of pressure. (laughs) You know what the expectations are. You want to give him the best possible stuff. You want him to run well. That’s what folks expected when he came over and joined us. You don’t want to let his fans down, and you don’t want to let Dale down.”

Hendrick on whether he felt pressure being Earnhardt’s car owner

“To win the very first race he ran (the 2008 Budweiser Shootout) was unbelievable. There was a lot of hype going into that season, so to win right out of the gate was exciting and took some pressure off. The Daytona 500 (in 2014) was so special. Any time you can be with Dale in victory lane at Daytona, it carries a lot of meaning. I think all the way back to his very first test with us at Atlanta (2007) when he drove our car with City Chevrolet on the hood and All-Star Racing on the side. That’s when we were like, ‘OK, this is really happening.’ I kept the car (from the test). That’s how much it meant to me.”

Hendrick on his favorite moments with Earnhardt at Hendrick Motorsports

“It’s really, really special. He always told me that Dale would drive for us. I didn’t think it would ever be possible. For that to actually come together, it was like we were fulfilling something that he (Ricky) always believed in and wanted to see happen.”

Hendrick on Earnhardt driving for Hendrick Motorsports as his son Ricky predicted

“After knowing Dale and Kelley (Earnhardt Miller) for so long, it’s kind of felt like a family affair. I want to be someone Dale can talk to and confide in. In a way, I think we’ve filled a void for each other. No one will ever replace my son and no one will ever replace his dad, but we share a special bond. I’ve just loved watching him grow up and mature, from hanging out with his posse (friends) to getting married and now starting a family with Amy.”

Hendrick on his relationship with Earnhardt

“We’ve talked about it a lot. We’ve made a commitment to each other that we’re not going to let this end. We’re going to do even more things together. We’re partners in JR Motorsports. We’re partners in car dealerships. We both love to go down to Florida and fish. I want to see him as a dad and watch his family grow. Our relationship is so much more than him just driving the car. He’s a special person and friend.”

Hendrick on how his relationship with Earnhardt will change after the driver’s retirement

“He’s still going to be very visible – maybe even more visible after going to TV. I think he will keep it loose (on TV) and the fans will really respond. Dale loves the sport. He’s a car owner (at JR Motorsports). He’s committed. He’s going to stay involved. The one thing I know for sure is that Dale is always going to be Dale.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Chase Elliott: Win Or Bust

Chase Elliott
Unlike Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney or Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott doesn’t have a realistic chance to advance to the Championship 4 on points—and he knows it.

“Our task at hand is pretty simple,” said the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, who trails Keselowski by 49 points for the final spot at Homestead. “We have to win the race to move on next week. Everybody in here knows that. We know that and we are going to try to attack the weekend as best we can.

“Hopefully, give ourselves a chance to do that Sunday afternoon and see what happens. That’s pretty straightforward what we have to do with the situation we’re in now. It’s not the most ideal situation, but if you were able to pull it off, it would be a lot of momentum moving into next week. We’ll give it our best shot and see what happens.”

Elliott got off to a strong start on Friday afternoon with a fourth-place qualifying effort. He was second fastest behind Kevin Harvick in Saturday’s first practice session but dropped to 17th in Happy Hour when the one-mile track at Phoenix Raceway got hotter and slicker—closer to the conditions he’ll face in Sunday’s Can-Am 500.

Elliott was within four laps of winning the opening race in the Playoff’s Round of 8 at Martinsville when Hamlin drove him into the Turn 3 wall. But Elliott would prefer not to dwell on what might have been.

“You can play the game of ‘what if’s,’ but unfortunately for our circumstances, this is a sport of do’s and don’ts and we have not,” Elliott said. “I’ve said that before. It’s just the facts. What happened last week or a month ago or the beginning of the season or having an opportunity to win and not—it’s nothing you can change now.

“I think you just have to understand whatever position that you’re in and hope that you learn something from that experience to know that, if you’re ever in that position again, you can change the outcome.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Elliott Faces A Must Win At Phoenix

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott knows firsthand how quickly one’s fortunes can change in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

The driver of the No. 24 was three laps away from a win at Martinsville two weeks ago – a win that would’ve automatically clinched him a spot in the Championship 4 – when he was wrecked out of the lead thanks to a “punt” from Denny Hamlin.

Now, only one Championship 4 berth remains after Kyle Busch won his way in at Martinsville, Kevin Harvick advanced with a victory at Texas and Martin Truex Jr. clinched via points in the Lone Star State.

Elliott enters Sunday’s Can-Am 500 Playoff cutoff event at Phoenix Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) 49 points behind Brad Keselowski for the final Championship 4 berth, virtually needing a victory to earn the final bid.

“I know we’re building a better race car and taking a few new ideas to Phoenix,” Elliott said. “We’ll go there and fight as hard as we can. One thing this team will never do is give up.”

The 21-year-old Dawsonville, Georgia native proved he can win at Phoenix in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ visit to the one-mile track in March. Elliott led 106 laps and won the second stage before finishing 12th due to some shuffling on a late restart.

In his two previous starts at Phoenix, Elliott finished eighth (March 2016) and ninth (November 2016). His average finish in three career Phoenix starts is 9.7.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILLL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Hendrick Motorsports Previews The Can-Am 500

PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY (ONE-MILE OVAL)

LOCATION: AVONDALE, ARIZONA
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 35 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 2:30 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, NOV. 12 (NBC/MRN/SIRIUSXM)

No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS / Kasey Kahne

Driver Kasey Kahne   Hometown Enumclaw, Washington
Age 37                        Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 12th in standings
  • 34 starts
  • 1 race win
  • 0 stage wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 41 laps led

Career

  • 502 starts
  • 18 wins
  • 27 pole positions
  • 92 top-five finishes
  • 175 top-10 finishes
  • 4,648 laps led

Track Career 

  • 26 starts
  • 1 win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 5 top-five finishes
  • 8 top-10 finishes
  • 55 laps led
FARMERS AT PHOENIX: Kasey Kahne will pilot the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS at Phoenix International Raceway for the final time this season. The Enumclaw, Washington, native last drove the black-and-blue scheme last month at Talladega Superspeedway, where he raced it to an eighth-place result and secured his sixth top-10 finish of the season.

KAHNE AT PHOENIX: Kahne returns to Phoenix this weekend for his 11th start at the track with Hendrick Motorsports. The 37-year-old driver’s win at Phoenix in November 2011 was his 12th career NASCAR Cup Series victory, and he finished with a 0.802-second margin of victory over Carl Edwards. Overall, Kahne has an average starting position of 12.0 and an average finishing position of 17.8 at Phoenix.

PHOENIX LOOP DATA: According to NASCAR’s loop data since 2005, Kahne is eighth in quality passes at Phoenix with 483. Quality passes are the number of times a driver passes another car that is running in the top 15 while under green-flag conditions. He also ranks ninth in fastest laps run with 198, 10th in green-flag passes with 929, ninth in laps run in the top 15 with 4,154 and eighth in the closers category with 10 positions moved up over the last 10 percent of the race.

RECAPPING TEXAS: After qualifying 19th and ending two of three practice sessions inside the top 15, Kahne and the No. 5 team overcame an early on-track incident in Sunday’s 500-mile event at Texas Motor Speedway and utilized pit strategy to secure an 11th-place effort at the Fort Worth, Texas, track.

No. 24 Hooters Chevrolet SS / Chase Elliott

Driver Chase Elliott   Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 21                      Resides Dawsonville, Georgia

2017 Season

  • 7th in standings
  • 34 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 3 stage wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 10 top-five finishes
  • 19 top-10 finishes
  • 526 laps led

Career

  • 75 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 20 top-five finishes
  • 36 top-10 finishes
  • 884 laps led

Track Career 

  • 3 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 2 top-10 finishes
  • 106 laps led
Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 Hooters Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Nov. 10, at 1:05 p.m. local time in the Phoenix International Raceway media center.

HOOTERS CHEVROLET: For the second consecutive week and third time this season, the orange-and-white Hooters paint scheme will adorn the hood of the No. 24 Chevrolet SS this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. A casual dining establishment with a deep history in NASCAR, the Atlanta-based company was a three-race primary sponsor of the No. 24 team this season with Phoenix being their final race of 2017. Chase Elliott most recently piloted the No. 24 Hooters Chevrolet SS to an eighth-place finish last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

PHOENIX STATS: The second-year driver is set to make his fourth start at the one-mile oval this weekend. Elliott has collected two top-10 finishes in his three previous starts, led 106 laps and averaged a starting position of 9.0 and finishing position of 9.7. Elliott has also competed in five NASCAR XFINITY Series races at the Avondale, Arizona, track, garnering two top-five finishes and five top-10s.

PLAYOFF STANDINGS: Elliott is currently seventh in the NASCAR Cup Series playoff standings — 49 points behind fourth — as the series heads to Phoenix International Raceway for the Round of 8 cutoff race.

TEXAS REWIND: The Dawsonville, Georgia, native and the No. 24 Hooters team finished eighth in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway after battling through the field from the rear due to not completing inspection in time for qualifying.

HOOTERS 25TH ANNIVERSARY: November marks the 25th anniversary of Hooters’ NASCAR Cup Series 1992 championship with driver Alan Kulwicki. To honor that great achievement, Elliott will sport a special pair of racing shoes this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.

COMING HOME: No. 24 team jackman John Gianninoto, who grew up in Tucson, Arizona, will compete in front of his hometown crowd at Phoenix International Raceway. Gianninoto graduated with honors from Catalina Foothills High School and went on to sign as an offensive lineman for UNLV in 2006, earning his first letter in 2007 and becoming a team captain in 2010. Gianninoto participated in the Carolina Panthers’ 2012 training camp before signing with Hendrick Motorsports in September 2012.

No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS / Jimmie Johnson

Driver Jimmie Johnson   Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 42                             Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 8th in standings
  • 34 starts
  • 3 race wins
  • 1 stage win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 4 top-five finishes
  • 11 top-10 finishes
  • 217 laps led

Career

  • 577 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 35 pole positions
  • 222 top-five finishes
  • 341 top-10 finishes
  • 18,663 laps led

Track Career 

  • 28 starts
  • 4 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 15 top-five finishes
  • 20 top-10 finishes
  • 990 laps led
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Nov. 10, at 9:45 a.m. local time in the Phoenix International Raceway media center.

PLAYOFF PICTURE: Jimmie Johnson had a tough Texas race, facing multiple issues on pit road and fighting the handling of his Lowe’s Chevrolet before ultimately finishing 27th. He is now eighth in the playoff points standings and in a potential must-win situation heading into Phoenix.

CMA PRESENTER: Before heading to Phoenix, Johnson will stop over in Nashville, Tennessee, to represent NASCAR at the 51st Country Music Association (CMA) Awards. Johnson, along with actress Michelle Monaghan, will present the 2017 Female Vocalist of the Year award. The CMAs are live on Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

SUPPORT FROM HIS FRIENDS: Ryan Dungey, a seven-time motocross and supercross champion, made a surprise visit to Texas Motor Speedway to lend some support in Johnson’s quest for an eighth championship. Dungey, who recently retired from racing, attended his first NASCAR race in August at Bristol Motor Speedway earlier this season. He and Johnson have been supportive friends throughout each other’s careers.

PHOENIX STATS: According to NASCAR loop data since 2005, Johnson has the series-best driver rating at Phoenix with a score of 111.0. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.

RECORD SPEED: The four-time winner at Phoenix also holds the track record for fastest qualifying speed. On Nov. 13, 2015, Johnson clocked a time of 25.147 seconds or 146.308 mph around the one-mile track. He is credited with 35 career pole positions, three of which have come at Phoenix. Johnson won one Phoenix event from the pole position, which was in November 2009.

No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS / Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.   Hometown Kannapolis, North Carolina
Age 43                                Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 22nd in standings
  • 34 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 0 stage wins
  • 2 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 7 top-10 finishes
  • 47 laps led

Career

  • 629 starts
  • 26 wins
  • 15 pole positions
  • 149 top-five finishes
  • 259 top-10 finishes
  • 8,234 laps led

Track Career 

  • 29 starts
  • 3 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 9 top-five finishes
  • 14 top-10 finishes
  • 569 laps led
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Nov. 10, at 10 a.m. local time in the Phoenix International Raceway media center.

MOST RECENT WIN: Dale Earnhardt Jr. won at Phoenix International Raceway in November 2015 after a rain-shortened event. The wet weather didn’t put a damper on Earnhardt, who led 22 laps en route to his 26th career NASCAR Cup Series victory and his third at the track. The 43-year-old driver earned his first two Phoenix wins back-to-back, going to Victory Lane in November 2003 and November 2004 when the one-mile tri-oval hosted one Cup event per season. By virtue of his three wins, Earnhardt ranks third on the all-time wins list at Phoenix behind Kevin Harvick (eight) and teammate Jimmie Johnson (four).

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: Earnhardt, a three-time winner at Phoenix, has experienced a resurgence lately at the short track. In his last eight races at the facility, the driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS has earned one win, five top-five finishes and six top-10s. The only one of those eight events in which he finished outside of the top 15 was when the series visited the short track in March 2015 and a blown right-rear tire ended his day on Lap 180. Earnhardt is ranked 11th among all active competitors with a driver rating of 88.6 from 2005-2017. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. He ranks fourth among his competitors for completing the most green-flag passes since 2005 with 977, fifth in fastest laps run with 278 and seventh in laps led with 259.

VISITING KIMMEL: Before he makes his way to Phoenix, Earnhardt will stop in Los Angeles to appear on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Thursday, Nov. 9. “Jimmy Kimmel Live” airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. ET, but check your local listings for details. Actor Josh Hutcherson and musical guest Dan Auerbach are also scheduled to join Earnhardt on Thursday’s show. It won’t be Earnhardt’s first visit – the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet SS has made multiple appearances on Kimmel’s late-night talk show.

NATIONWIDE IS ON HIS SIDE: The weekend’s event at Phoenix marks Nationwide’s final primary paint scheme with Earnhardt on the No. 88 Chevy, highlighting a very successful partnership. In September 2014, Nationwide announced an agreement with Hendrick Motorsports to become the majority primary sponsor for Earnhardt and the No. 88 Chevrolet for 21 races in each of the 2015-2017 seasons, although the partnership began well before that. Nationwide and Earnhardt officially teamed up in 2009, but it was a connection a long time in the making. The partnership was an extension of his family’s longtime relationship with Nationwide off the track – the Earnhardts have trusted Nationwide for their insurance needs for more than 35 years. Earnhardt continued that with his own 25-year relationship, trusting Nationwide to protect everything from his cars to his house to his business and even his dog, Gus. To honor and celebrate Earnhardt’s Cup career, Nationwide released a touching commercial spot last week that can be seen here.

GRAY GLOVES: Earnhardt will wear his gray-accented gloves again for the Phoenix and Homestead races to close out the month of November, raising awareness for diabetes. Through the Dale Jr. Foundation’s Driven to Give Gloves program, his race-worn gloves will be auctioned off to raise funds for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s clinical and research programs. Nationwide Children’s is America’s largest pediatric hospital and research center with all care provided regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

PATIENT CHAMPION J.R. CURRY: Additionally, through The Dale Jr. Foundation’s Driven to Give Gloves program, 10-year-old John Roger (J.R.) Curry will have his name featured above the passenger door of Earnhardt’s No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS at Phoenix. J.R. was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 2 and has received care through the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. J.R. started out with four shots and at least 10 finger pokes a day – that’s 1,460 shots and 3,650 finger pokes in a year – and had a tough time adjusting to his condition in the beginning, but he eventually got used to the process and became accustomed to the needles. He recently switched to a pump, which gives him a lot more freedom and his parents are able to monitor the readings. J.R. doesn’t let his diabetes stop him from doing what he loves – he plays soccer, baseball, basketball and is even a race car driver.

HOME TRACK: Phoenix International Raceway is the home track for No. 88 jackman Nick Covey, who grew up in Glendale, Arizona. He joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2009 and has been a member of the No. 88 team for six years. Covey played football for the University of Nebraska, where he was a linebacker from 2005 to 2009. Away from the racetrack, he says his focus is on his wife and his children, who play baseball.

Hendrick Motorsports

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT PHOENIX: Hendrick Motorsports has earned 10 wins, 11 pole positions, 45 top-five finishes and 79 top-10s at Phoenix International Raceway. Those 10 wins are spread among six drivers, with Jimmie Johnson accounting for four. Dale Earnhardt Jr. recorded the organization’s most recent Phoenix victory in November 2015.

ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 249 race victories, 213 pole positions, 1,027 top-five finishes and 1,737 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led 67,205 laps since 1984.

QUOTABLE / 

“Just the different ends of the track. (Turns) 1 and 2 kind of being like it is and (Turns) 3 and 4 being so flat we have to be set up a lot like at Darlington – you have to pick a little bit of the best on both and try to marry the two together the best you can to be good there.”

Chase Elliott on what makes Phoenix unique

“You want to try to win the race. The guy who wins that race is probably going to go on, we saw that last year. We weren’t really in the hunt there last year to win the race. We weren’t in the playoffs anymore at that point, so all those guys, you try to respect them as much as you can when you are not involved in it, but at the same time you want to win. Fine line you have to walk there, but just try to get the victory if you can to punch your ticket.”

Elliott on competing at Phoenix for a spot in the Final 4 at Homestead

“I know we’re building a better race car and taking a few new ideas to Phoenix. We’ll go there and fight as hard as we can. One thing this team will never do is give up.”

Jimmie Johnson on racing at Phoenix

“Phoenix is a good track for us. We have certainly had a great car there the last several times. Knowing we have won there helps you just go in there with a good attitude. I don’t think that we’ve lost hope on winning a race by any means. So, we’ll go in there with a solid attitude and see how it works out for us.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on racing at Phoenix

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Some Eye Popping Numbers In The Round Of 8

Martin Truex, Jr.
Is Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader Martin Truex Jr. a shoo-in to make the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway?

Maybe. He has a big enough lead that he could clinch a spot in the Championship 4 on Sunday at Texas without winning the AAA Texas 500. If a Playoff driver other than Truex or Kyle Busch takes the checkered flag, Truex can clinch with a lead of 56 points or more over the second-place non-winning Playoff driver.

If Busch or a non-Playoff driver happens to win, Truex will clinch if he holds a lead of 56 points or more over the third-place non-winning Playoff driver.

On the other hand, Truex has three DNFs (did not finish) at both Texas and Phoenix for a total of six. The other seven Playoff drivers have a combined seven DNFs at the two tracks. Though Truex is a strong bet to advance, he’ll have to avoid calamity – and that’s not a guarantee.

Interestingly, the only two Playoff drivers without a DNF at either track are last week’s Martinsville combatants, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott. Hamlin has a combined 47 starts at Texas and Phoenix. Elliott’s sample size is much smaller – three starts at each track.

But if Elliott decides to get some payback for last Sunday’s wreck and has the opportunity to do so, Hamlin’s unblemished streak could end!

Elliott has the best combined average finish at the final two tracks in the Round of 8 – 6.0 at Texas and 9.7 at Phoenix, again with a small sample. The second-best combined average finish belongs to seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, with 8.1 at Texas and 9.0 at Phoenix in 56 starts combined.

The driver who scored the highest number of stage points in the spring races at Texas and Phoenix is Ryan Blaney, who will start eighth in the AAA Texas 500. Blaney claimed seven stage points at Phoenix in March and won the first and second stages at Texas (worth 10 points each) in April before finishing 12th.

In five starts at Texas, however, Blaney has by far the worst average finish (27.6) but has come home 12th in each of the last two races in Fort Worth.

Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski scored the second most stage points on the initial visits to the tracks this year – 23 each.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Is There A Payback On The Horizon?

Chase Elliott
Chase Elliot wasn’t going there.

If he’s hatching a revenge plot against Denny Hamlin in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, he’s keeping to himself.

“I am not going to answer your questions about whether I am going to get him back or not,” Elliott said on Friday morning before opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at TMS.

“Don’t even ask because you are not going to hear it from me. Just don’t go there.”

But don’t think Elliott has put last Sunday’s wreck at Martinsville behind him. With four laps left in the First Data 500, Hamlin shoved Elliott, then the race leader, into the Turn 3 wall, simultaneously denying the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet a likely first career victory and a berth in the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“I am still pretty frustrated about it, and as long as the week has gone along, it has given me a lot of time to think about how close we were to going to Homestead,” Elliott said. “I think, if anything else, that will drive you up the wall more if you think about it.

“Definitely not happy about it and I don’t think a whole lot has changed.”

After the race, Hamlin apologized for wrecking Elliott but continues to maintain that crashing the leader was not his intent. Hamlin said Elliott has not responded to overtures to discuss the incident.

The wreck knocked Elliott back to 27th at the finish and left him eighth in the series standings, last among Playoff drivers and 26 points behind Kevin Harvick in fourth. After the Nov. 12 event at Phoenix International Raceway, the Playoff field will be cut from eight drivers to four.

Elliott realizes where his focus needs to lie for the next two weeks.

“You can’t let the situation and the things that went on (at Martinsville) consume you,” Elliott said. “If you do, you’re going to lose sight of what really matters. What really matters is us trying to win one of these next two weeks and go race for a championship, as we were so close to doing last weekend.

“Close doesn’t cut it in any form of racing. I’ve kind of learned that the hard way over some circumstances that either I’ve put on myself, or things just haven’t worked out.”

Interestingly, Elliott and Hamlin are the only two remaining drivers in the Playoff who have never had a DNF (did not finish) at either Texas or Phoenix.

Of course, that could change on Sunday if Elliott really does have revenge on his mind – and wisely isn’t saying so.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Chase Elliott Looks To Rebound At Texas

Chase Elliott
No one was more disappointed following last Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 opener at Martinsville Speedway than Chase Elliott.

The No. 24 driver held the lead at the Southern Virginia short track with three laps to go and looked well on his way to his first career win and a berth in the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Then, Denny Hamlin drilled Elliott’s back bumper, sent him crashing into the wall, and ended his day.

“We had a great car today and we had an opportunity,” said Elliott after furiously confronting Hamlin following the race. “We had a good restart there at the end and felt like I was doing what I needed to do. And I can’t control his decisions and whatever the hell that was. We’re on to Texas.”

On to Texas Motor Speedway Elliott will go for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 – the penultimate race of the Round of 8. As a result of the Martinsville wreck, Elliott dropped to eighth on the Playoff Grid, 26 points below Kevin Harvick on the cutoff line. He essentially has to win one of the next two races – at Texas or Phoenix – to compete for the championship at Homestead.

In three starts at Texas, Elliott has finished fifth (spring 2016), fourth (fall 2016) and ninth (spring 2017). His 9.6 average running position at the 1.5-mile track ranks second among active drivers.

Elliott has finished fourth or better in the last four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at 1.5-mile tracks: third at Kentucky, second at Chicago, second at Charlotte and fourth at Kansas.

“Looking forward to getting back to Texas – it’s a fun place to go,” Elliott said. “I enjoy going there and after the good runs we had there last season, I’m definitely looking forward to returning. In the spring we had a pretty good car, our teammate won, so good things to look back to for that race when we go back.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Hendrick Motortsports Previews The First Data 500 At Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY (0.526-MILE OVAL)

LOCATION: RIDGEWAY, VIRGINIA
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 33 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 3 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, OCT. 29 (NBCSN/MRN/SIRIUSXM)

No. 5 UniFirst Chevrolet SS / Kasey Kahne

Driver Kasey Kahne   Hometown Enumclaw, Washington
Age 37                        Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 12th in standings
  • 32 starts
  • 1 race win
  • 0 stage wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 38 laps led

Career

  • 500 starts
  • 18 wins
  • 27 pole positions
  • 92 top-five finishes
  • 175 top-10 finishes
  • 4,645 laps led

Track Career 

  • 27 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 5 top-10 finishes
  • 60 laps led
UNIFIRST: The green-and-white colors of UniFirst return to Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet SS for the second consecutive weekend at Martinsville Speedway. UniFirst signed an eight-year agreement with Hendrick Motorsports in 2016 to be the organization’s official workwear provider. Martinsville marks the workwear and textile service company’s final primary race of this season.

KAHNE AT MARTINSVILLE: Kahne has one pole award at Martinsville in his first start at the 0.526-mile track for Hendrick Motorsports. In 2012, he edged Kevin Harvick to earn the top starting position after posting a 19.496-second lap. In April 2016, the 37-year-old started on the outside pole with a lap time of 19.515 seconds, just 0.002 shy of the pole-winning time. In Kahne’s 11 starts with Hendrick Motorsports at the paperclip-shaped track, he has earned three top-10s and a pair of 11th-place finishes. Throughout his Cup Series career, Kahne has led 60 laps at the Ridgeway, Virginia, track, which ranks him 14th among active drivers.

SHORT-TRACK STATS: In Kahne’s 83 starts at tracks less than one mile in length, he has 13 top-five finishes and 25 top-10s, earning an average starting position of 15.0 and an average finishing position of 18.2. The Chevy driver has also led 853 laps in his NASCAR Cup Series career at short tracks.

MARTINSVILLE LOOP DATA: According to NASCAR’s loop data since 2005, Kahne is fourth in the closers category with 22 positions gained over the last 10 percent of the race. The Enumclaw, Washington, native is ninth in fastest laps run with 283 and green-flag passes with 1,167.

GOING HOME: No. 5 team crew chief Darian Grubb returns to his home state of Virginia this weekend. Grubb is a native of Floyd, Virginia, which is located approximately one hour northwest of Martinsville Speedway. The 42-year-old is a graduate of Virginia Tech with an engineering degree. Grubb has been Kahne’s crew chief since September’s New Hampshire race and has accumulated 23 wins in the NASCAR Cup Series, which ties for third-most among active crew chiefs.

No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS / Chase Elliott

Driver Chase Elliott   Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 21                      Resides Dawsonville, Georgia

2017 Season

  • 8th in standings
  • 32 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 3 stage wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 10 top-five finishes
  • 18 top-10 finishes
  • 402 laps led

Career

  • 73 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 20 top-five finishes
  • 35 top-10 finishes
  • 760 laps led

Track Career 

  • 4 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 20 laps led
NAPA AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET: This weekend at Martinsville Speedway, the familiar blue-and-yellow colors will once again grace the hood of the No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS. The Atlanta-based company serves as majority sponsor for Chase Elliott during the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season. Most recently, Elliott piloted the NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevy to a fourth-place finish at Kansas Speedway.

MARTINSVILLE STATS: Elliott is set to make his fifth start at the 0.526-mile speedway on Sunday. In his four previous starts at the Virginia track, Elliott averages a starting position of 11.0 and finishing position of 18.2. At Martinsville in March, the second-year driver collected a stage win and led 20 laps en route to a third-place result — his best career finish at the track. The same weekend, Elliott also earned his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory after starting from the pole and leading 92 laps.

KANSAS RECAP: Elliott started 14th in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 cut-off race at Kansas Speedway and picked up crucial points by finishing seventh in Stage 1 and ninth in Stage 2. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native took the checkered flag in fourth for his 10th top-five finish of the season, advancing the No. 24 team to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

PLAYOFF STANDINGS: With the fourth-place finish at Kansas Speedway propelling the No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS team forward in the playoffs, Elliott enters the Round of 8 just 11 points behind fourth place, which will be the final position that advances to Homestead-Miami Speedway.

TESTING: Before Talladega race weekend, Elliott and the No. 24 team represented Hendrick Motorsports at a Martinsville tire test on Oct. 10-11. Elliott, who clocked laps on both Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, said the test was very beneficial to the No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS team.

No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS / Jimmie Johnson

Driver Jimmie Johnson   Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 42                             Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 5th in standings
  • 32 starts
  • 3 race wins
  • 1 stage win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 4 top-five finishes
  • 11 top-10 finishes
  • 193 laps led

Career

  • 575 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 35 pole positions
  • 222 top-five finishes
  • 341 top-10 finishes
  • 18,639 laps led

Track Career 

  • 31 starts
  • 9 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 19 top-five finishes
  • 24 top-10 finishes
  • 2,838 laps led
PLAYOFF PICTURE: Last weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway came down to the wire from a points perspective and despite spinning out twice during the race, Jimmie Johnson was able to advance to the Round of 8. Johnson has a combined 20 wins at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix, the three race venues in the Round of 8. He was also a winner one year ago at Martinsville — where he clinched his position in the 2016 Championship 4 — and won the Texas event earlier this season.

MARTINSVILLE STATS: According to NASCAR’s loop data since 2005, Johnson has the series-best driver rating at Martinsville Speedway with a score of 116.9. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.

LAP LEADER: Johnson’s 2,838 laps led at Martinsville Speedway are the most among active drivers. The number ranks him fifth all-time at the paperclip-shaped oval.

ONE YEAR AGO: Johnson punched his ticket into the championship round of the 2016 NASCAR playoffs on Oct. 30 when he won for the ninth time at Martinsville. Johnson led 92 laps that day and went on to win his seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship three weeks later at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

MASTERING ‘THE PAPERCLIP’: Richard Petty leads all drivers with 15 career victories at the paperclip-shaped track. Johnson has the most wins among active drivers with nine victories. Former teammate Jeff Gordon also has nine wins. Additionally, Johnson is the most recent driver to win consecutive races (fall 2012 and spring 2013) at Martinsville. He has won the fall race at the track in four of his seven championship seasons.

HOMESTEAD TESTING: Johnson and the No. 48 team are representing the Hendrick Motorsports organization at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the test session on Oct. 25-26 in preparation for next month’s season finale.

PINK HAT FOR OCTOBER: Johnson has helped bring awareness and recognition of those who are fighting breast cancer by wearing a gray hat with pink accents for the month of October. He will don it for the final time in 2017 this weekend at Martinsville. The hat can be purchased here.

No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS / Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.   Hometown Kannapolis, North Carolina
Age 43                                Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 22nd in standings
  • 32 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 0 stage wins
  • 2 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 7 top-10 finishes
  • 44 laps led

Career

  • 627 starts
  • 26 wins
  • 15 pole positions
  • 149 top-five finishes
  • 259 top-10 finishes
  • 8,231 laps led

Track Career 

  • 34 starts
  • 1 win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 13 top-five finishes
  • 18 top-10 finishes
  • 972 laps led
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 10:30 a.m. local time in the Martinsville Speedway media center.

ANOTHER CLOCK: Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his first victory at the historic 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 26, 2014. He held off former teammate and nine-time Martinsville winner Jeff Gordon to score the win, taking home the iconic grandfather clock that the speedway gives as its trophy. In the last 12 races at the paperclip-shaped oval, Earnhardt has earned five top-five finishes and seven top-10 results, which bodes well for the 43-year-old veteran’s chances to capture his second grandfather clock this weekend.

MAKING PASSES: Earnhardt is one of the best drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series at Martinsville, and NASCAR’s loop data since 2005 backs up that claim. He ranks first among active drivers in green-flag passes (1,450) and second to teammate Jimmie Johnson – by just six passes – in quality passes (864 to Johnson’s 870). Earnhardt ranks fourth among all active competitors with an average driver rating of 97.8 at the track. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS ranks fourth in several categories, including average running position (12.050), fastest laps run (586), laps in the top 15 (8,769) and green-flag speed (91.210 mph).

GREY GHOST RETURNS: Fitting with the JR Nation Appreci88ion Tour theme, Nationwide gave fans the chance to pick Earnhardt’s paint scheme for this weekend’s race at Martinsville. When the votes were tallied, fans selected the “Grey Ghost” as the No. 88’s scheme – fitting for Halloween weekend considering the orange and black colors. In 2016, Earnhardt was scheduled to run the sleek, silver scheme on his No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet for the throwback race at Darlington Raceway, but Jeff Gordon ended up filling in as Earnhardt missed the final half of the season due to a concussion. It’s only fitting that Earnhardt will get to race one of his all-time favorite schemes before he retires from full-time Cup Series racing.

AMY PACING THE FIELD: Earnhardt will be making his final Cup start at Martinsville while his wife, Amy, will lead the field to the green. She will serve as the Honorary Pace Car Driver for Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, which will be her first time behind the wheel of the pace car.

DEW AD SPOTS: After releasing a poignant ad spot last week, Mountain Dew’s newest promo takes a humorous approach to Earnhardt’s pending retirement as the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports. Follow @DaleJron Twitter to see the release of the spot this Thursday, which is also scheduled to run on television during Sunday’s race at Martinsville as well as during Game 5 of the MLB World Series.

Hendrick Motorsports

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT MARTINSVILLE: At Martinsville, Hendrick Motorsports has team records for wins (24), top-five finishes (78), top-10s (122) and laps led (9,094) at a track and has earned at least one win there in each of the past five years.The combined 17 poles at the Virginia track are tied with Charlotte, Daytona and Richmond for the organization’s most at a track.

FIVE MAKE 24: The organization’s 24 wins at Martinsville have come courtesy of five different drivers: Jimmie Johnson (nine), Jeff Gordon (nine), Darrell Waltrip (four), Geoff Bodine and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 249 race victories, 213 pole positions, 1,027 top-five finishes and 1,736 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led 67,051 laps since 1984.

QUOTABLE / 

“To win at Martinsville would be such a challenge. To be able to put 500 laps together and win the race there – to me, it’s one of our most difficult races of the year because so much can go on between restarts, pitting and just having a car that handles the proper way to get to the finish and to be fast enough to win. There are guys who have been so strong at that track and others who aren’t and I’m somewhere in the middle. It would be really, really neat to win the race there and get the clock and figure out where to put it because it’s so big.”

Kasey Kahne on racing at Martinsville

“I hope this past time wasn’t just a lucky weekend. Martinsville has been a disaster for me, so this past time was really good. Needed a little bit to run with the No. 18 and No. 2, but way improved from where I have been there in the past. I feel like I learned a couple of things. The tire did change, so I hope it wasn’t just the tire changing that made me kind of luck into running well. So, we will see.”

Chase Elliott on improving at Martinsville

“It’s not back to zero with all those stage points. For us to advance moving forward, we’ve got to win. Martinsville is not a bad track for us. So, hopefully we can repeat last year’s performance there. It’s pretty simple from here on out, we’ve got to get some speed in our cars and we’ve got to win a race.”

Jimmie Johnson on progressing in the Round of 8

“Martinsville this weekend should be a lot of fun. We’ve got the Grey Ghost – I appreciate everybody voting for that paint scheme so I can run it. I didn’t get to drive that car last year and I love that car, so I may have swayed the vote because I went on social media and said, ‘That’s the one I’d love to run.’ I’m excited to get the opportunity to drive that car this weekend. Martinsville is a great track for us. I love the short tracks and short-track racing.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on racing the Grey Ghost scheme at Martinsville

 TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Hendrick Motorsports Previews The 2017 Kansas Race

KANSAS SPEEDWAY (1.5-MILE TRI-OVAL)

LOCATION: KANSAS CITY, KANSAS
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 32 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 3 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, OCT. 22 (NBCSN/MRN/SIRIUSXM)

No. 5 UniFirst Chevrolet SS / Kasey Kahne

Driver Kasey Kahne   Hometown Enumclaw, Washington
Age 37                        Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 13th in standings
  • 31 starts
  • 1 race win
  • 0 stage wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 38 laps led

Career

  • 499 starts
  • 18 wins
  • 27 pole positions
  • 92 top-five finishes
  • 175 top-10 finishes
  • 4,645 laps led

Track Career 

  • 20 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 5 top-five finishes
  • 9 top-10 finishes
  • 102 laps led
UNIFIRST: The green-and-white colors of UniFirst return to Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet SS this weekend at Kansas Speedway. UniFirst signed an eight-year agreement with Hendrick Motorsports in 2016 to be the organization’s official workwear provider. The workwear and textile service company will also adorn Kahne’s Chevy at next week’s Martinsville Speedway event.

500 STARTS: This weekend at Kansas Speedway marks Kahne’s 500th start in the NASCAR Cup Series. Kahne’s rookie year in the Cup Series was in 2004, when he won four pole awards and took home Rookie of the Year honors. At the time, the 24-year-old was the youngest rookie of the year since Jeff Gordon won the honor at the age of 22 in 1993.

KAHNE AT KANSAS: In Kahne’s 20 Kansas starts, he has led 102 total laps in six races, which ranks him 11th among current drivers and 19th all-time. In the 11 starts the 37-year-old has made at the track while driving for Hendrick Motorsports, he has earned four top-five finishes and six top-10s, including a second-place finish in April 2013, in addition to one pole position in October 2012. The Enumclaw, Washington, native has an average starting position of 14.7, an average finishing position of 13.4 and has completed 99 percent of the laps possible.

POLE AWARDS: Kahne has earned three of his 27 career Cup Series pole awards at Kansas – in October 2006, October 2010 and October 2012. The three Kansas pole positions tie him for the most among active drivers alongside Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. The three poles are tied for Kahne’s second-most at a track alongside Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Michigan International Speedway. The only track where the Enumclaw, Washington, native has more pole awards is Darlington Raceway, where he has amassed four.

KANSAS LOOP DATA: According to NASCAR’s loop data since 2005, Kahne is sixth among his peers in the driver rating category with an average of 91.1. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. He’s second in green-flag passes with 1,438 – teammate Johnson owns the tie breaker because of a higher average finish, and he’s also second in quality passes with 713. Quality passes are the number of times a driver passes another car that is running in the top 15 while under green-flag conditions. The Chevrolet driver is fourth in laps spent in the top 15 with 3,364, and he’s sixth in the fastest laps run category with 173.

TALLADEGA RECAP: Last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, Kahne completed final practice in the first position on Friday afternoon, with teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounding out the top two. Saturday, he qualified the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS in the 11th position. Sunday, Kahne survived a pit road miscue, a left-front flat tire and damage to the No. 5 machine to bring it home in the eighth position, earning his third top-10 finish in four superspeedway starts this season.

CREW CHIEF WINS: Darian Grubb — Kahne’s crew chief since September’s New Hampshire weekend – is a two-time winner at Kansas. He visited Victory Lane at the 1.5-mile track in October 2009 with Tony Stewart and again in April 2012 with Denny Hamlin. Grubb’s 23 wins tie him with Paul Wolfe for the third-most among active crew chiefs in the NASCAR Cup Series.

No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS / Chase Elliott

Driver Chase Elliott   Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 21                      Resides Dawsonville, Georgia

2017 Season

  • 6th in standings
  • 31 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 3 stage wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 9 top-five finishes
  • 17 top-10 finishes
  • 402 laps led

Career

  • 72 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 19 top-five finishes
  • 34 top-10 finishes
  • 760 laps led

Track Career 

  • 3 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 4 laps led
NAPA AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET: This weekend at Kansas Speedway, NAPA AUTO PARTS will return to the hood of the No. 24 Chevrolet SS. The Atlanta-based company serves as majority sponsor for Chase Elliott during the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season. Most recently, Elliott piloted the NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevy to a 16th-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway.

KANSAS STATS: The Dawsonville, Georgia, native is set to make his fourth Cup start at Kansas this weekend. In his previous three starts at the 1.5-mile tri-oval, Elliott has collected one top-10 finish and averaged a starting position of 12.0 and a finishing position of 23.0. He also has two starts at Kansas Speedway in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, earning two top-10 finishes and averaging a starting position of 12.0 and finishing position of 8.5.

‘DEGA REWIND: Elliott led three different times for a total of 26 laps in Sunday’s Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. The No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS driver’s race ultimately ended with a 16th-place finish after he was collected in a multiple-car incident while trying to take the lead in the final 10 laps of the race.

PLAYOFF STANDINGS: With the 16th-place result at Talladega, Elliott ranks sixth in the NASCAR Cup Series playoff standings heading into the Round of 12 cutoff race Sunday at Kansas Speedway. The second-year driver holds a 20-point advantage over the ninth-place driver, which would be the first competitor eliminated.

ELLIOTT AT CHEVY STAGE: Elliott will appear at the Team Chevy Stage on Sunday, Oct. 22, at 11:30 a.m. local time for a question-and-answer session.

No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS / Jimmie Johnson

Driver Jimmie Johnson   Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 42                             Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 8th in standings
  • 31 starts
  • 3 race wins
  • 1 stage win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 4 top-five finishes
  • 11 top-10 finishes
  • 193 laps led

Career

  • 574 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 35 pole positions
  • 222 top-five finishes
  • 341 top-10 finishes
  • 18,639 laps led

Track Career 

  • 22 starts
  • 3 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 9 top-five finishes
  • 17 top-10 finishes
  • 601 laps led
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Oct. 20, at 11:15 a.m. local time in the Kansas Speedway media center.

PLAYOFF PICTURE: This weekend in Kansas is the final race of the Round of 12 and Jimmie Johnson will have to stay within the top eight to continue to the Round of 8. With five playoff races complete and an unfortunate 24th-place result at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend, Johnson finds himself in eighth place, just seven points ahead of ninth place — the first driver that would be eliminated.

KANSAS DRIVER RATING: According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics since 2005, Johnson has the series-best driver rating at Kansas with a score of 108.7. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.

LAST WIN AT KANSAS: Johnson’s last win at the 1.5-mile track came on May 9, 2015, when he passed Kevin Harvick with 10 laps to go and took the checkered flag for his third win at Kansas.

MORE STATS: Johnson has spent 82.1 percent of all laps run at Kansas inside the top 15. He has made 1,438 green-flag passes and has an average finish of 8.5.

PINK HAT FOR OCTOBER: Johnson will help bring awareness and recognition of those who are fighting breast cancer by wearing a gray hat with pink accents for the month of October. The hat can be purchased here.

No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS / Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.   Hometown Kannapolis, North Carolina
Age 43                                Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 22nd in standings
  • 31 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 0 stage wins
  • 2 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 44 laps led

Career

  • 626 starts
  • 26 wins
  • 15 pole positions
  • 149 top-five finishes
  • 258 top-10 finishes
  • 8,231 laps led

Track Career 

  • 21 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 9 top-10 finishes
  • 148 laps led
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Saturday, Oct. 21, at 11:45 p.m. local time in the Kansas Speedway media center.

KANSAS STATS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. has yet to win a race at Kansas Speedway, but he’s earned solid stats at the 1.5-mile track. The driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS has one pole (2002) at the speedway. He’s earned top-five finishes in two of the last six races at Kansas and in the other four he encountered a variety of issues unrelated to the speed of the car. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Earnhardt ranks first among active drivers in the closers category, which represents the number of positions that a driver improves over the last 10 percent of the race. He has improved 31 positions, gaining an average of 1.8 spots since 2005. He also ranks seventh in fastest laps run with 151 and green-flag passes with 1,280, and has the ninth-best driver rating at 88.6.

BABY ON THE WAY: Earnhardt and his wife, Amy, made a big announcement on Instagram on Monday, Oct. 16 – they are expecting their first child, a baby girl. Click here for more.

NASCAR AMERICA: On Tuesday, Oct. 17, the driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS will appear on a live one-hour broadcast of “NASCAR America,” NBCSN’s daily NASCAR news program. The show will be broadcast from the NASCAR Hall of Fame starting at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

THE PLAYER’S TRIBUNE: Check out the behind-the-scenes photo essay from Earnhardt’s final Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway, featuring photos from The Player’s Tribune senior staff photographer, Jed Jacobsohn. Jacobsohn also took over Earnhardt’s Instagram account during the Talladega race weekend.

TODAY SHOW: “TODAY Show” host Willie Geist came to Talladega for an in-depth interview with Earnhardt, which will air on NBC on Sunday, Oct. 22. The pair also took a few laps around Talladega Superspeedway in a Corvette provided by Hendrick Chevrolet of Hoover, Alabama.

CLOSEST TO HOME: Jacob Conley, fueler for the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, considers Kansas Speedway to be his home track on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit. Conley grew up about three hours away in Omaha, Nebraska, and said he was always a NASCAR fan, but had never attended a race until he started working for Hendrick Motorsports. He played football at Doane University before joining the organization in 2013 as a member of the developmental pit crew. In 2015, he was a backup pit crew member for the Nos. 5 and 24 teams. Conley then became a starter for the No. 88 team in 2016 as one of the six primary over-the-wall crew members.

Hendrick Motorsports

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT KANSAS: At Kansas Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports has amassed six wins, five pole positions, 29 top-five finishes and 51 top-10 finishes in addition to 1,077 laps led. Johnson, who leads active drivers in wins, top-five finishes and top-10 finishes at the track, most recently won for the organization at Kansas in 2015.

ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 249 race victories, 213 pole positions, 1,026 top-five finishes and 1,734 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led 67,051 laps since 1984.

QUOTABLE / 

“I’ve always enjoyed Kansas, before the repave and now the new pavement the last few years has been really good for us, too. I think Kansas is one of our best tracks in the playoffs.”

Kasey Kahne on racing at Kansas

“I don’t know. We have had some really good cars there. We had one of the best cars I think I have ever had in the Cup Series last fall in the playoff race there. Very frustrating to have our tire go down there leading. I feel like we had another good car there this past spring, which was encouraging.”

Chase Elliott on his struggles at Kansas

“You know, it just depends on where you are at in the picture. You have to run well at all of them to get in and now with the way the playoff points are you can pad your way all the way to Homestead if you’ve done a good job throughout the entire season.”

Elliott on heading into a playoff cutoff race

“Obviously we are in a tight spot in the playoffs after last weekend at Talladega. We know what we need to do in Kansas.”

Jimmie Johnson on the playoff picturing heading into Kansas

“Kansas is a great racetrack for me. That place has widened out pretty good and you can run against the fence there, which is a line that I like to run. It’s a very fast racetrack and very smooth – a lot of fun, so we should have a good time.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on racing at Kansas

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!