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!

Hendrick Motorsports Previews Talladega

TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY (2.66-MILE OVAL)

LOCATION: TALLADEGA, ALABAMA
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 31 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 2 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, OCT. 15 (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

  • 14th in standings
  • 30 starts
  • 1 race win
  • 0 stage wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 5 top-10 finishes
  • 33 laps led

Career

  • 498 starts
  • 18 wins
  • 27 pole positions
  • 92 top-five finishes
  • 174 top-10 finishes
  • 4,640 laps led

Track Career 

  • 27 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 4 top-five finishes
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 83 laps led
FARMERS INSURANCE: Farmers Insurance returns to the No. 5 Chevrolet SS this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. Kasey Kahne most recently drove the Farmers Insurance livery at Dover International Speedway, where he finished 14th. The longtime Hendrick Motorsports partner will also adorn Kahne’s Chevy at the upcoming Phoenix race weekend.

KAHNE AT TALLADEGA: Kahne has earned one of his 27 pole awards at Talladega. He captured the prime starting position with a speed of 191.455 mph in October 2012. The Enumclaw, Washington, native also has two starts on the outside pole position – both in 2015. Kahne has finished second in the Talladega race twice – October 2006 and November 2009. Earlier this year at Talladega, Kahne finished in the fifth position.

TALLADEGA LOOP DATA: According to NASCAR’s loop data since 2005, Kahne ranks first in the closer category with 57 positions moved up over the last 10 percent of the race. The 37-year-old is ninth in green-flag passes with 8,073. He’s 11th in laps spent in the top 15 with 1,979 and in quality passes with 4,578. Quality passes are the number of times a driver passes another car that is running in the top 15 while under green-flag conditions.

RESTRICTOR PLATES: At restrictor-plate tracks this season, Kahne has led 19 laps for 47.5 miles and earned 88 points. Kahne has one top-five finish and two top-10s at superspeedways in 2017.

CREW CHIEF WINS: Darian Grubb — Kahne’s crew chief since September’s New Hampshire weekend — has earned one win at Talladega. Grubb visited Victory Lane at the 2.66-mile oval in May 2014 with driver Denny Hamlin. The crew chief’s 23 wins are 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

  • 4th in standings
  • 30 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 3 stage wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 9 top-five finishes
  • 17 top-10 finishes
  • 376 laps led

Career

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

Track Career 

  • 3 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 36 laps led
Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Oct. 13, at 11:20 a.m. local time in the Talladega Superspeedway media center.

NAPA AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET: This weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, the familiar blue-and-yellow NAPA AUTO PARTS paint scheme will return to 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 second-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway.

TALLADEGA STATS: Elliott will make his fourth start at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. The 21-year-old driver earned the pole award in his first start at the track in May 2016 and garnered a top-five finish. Elliott has led 36 laps and averages a starting position of 4.3 and finishing position of 15.7 at the track. He has three starts at Talladega in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, collecting one top-10 finish.

TALLADEGA DRIVER RATING: According to NASCAR’s loop data since 2005, Elliott has the highest driver rating at Talladega with a score of 91.4. 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.

CHARLOTTE REWIND: Elliott started Sunday afternoon’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in seventh, but it didn’t take long for him to find the front of the field – taking the lead on Lap 41 and leading 11 laps before eventually finishing Stage 1 in second. The second-year driver maintained the second position through the end of Stage 2. Elliott and the No. 24 SunEnergy1 team continued their strong run, collecting their third runner-up effort in four playoff races.

PLAYOFF STANDINGS: With the runner-up finish at Charlotte, Elliott now ranks fourth in the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs as the series heads to Talladega this weekend. The driver of the No. 24 holds a 16-point advantage over the ninth-place driver, which would be the first competitor eliminated.

ELLIOTT AT TALLADEGA: Elliott will appear at the Team Chevy Stage on Sunday, Oct. 15, at 10:10 a.m. local time for a question-and-answer session.

TESTING AT MARTINSVILLE: Elliott and the No. 24 team will represent Hendrick Motorsports at the Martinsville test on Tuesday and Wednesday. The NASCAR Cup Series will return to Martinsville for the first race of the Round of 8 in the playoffs on Oct. 29.

No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS / Jimmie Johnson

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

2017 Season

  • 7th in standings
  • 30 starts
  • 3 race wins
  • 1 stage win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 4 top-five finishes
  • 11 top-10 finishes
  • 193 laps led

Career

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

Track Career 

  • 31 starts
  • 2 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 7 top-five finishes
  • 12 top-10 finishes
  • 470 laps led
PLAYOFF PICTURE: With four races in the books and a seventh-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway last weekend, Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team are currently seventh in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs standings heading into Talladega.

ALABAMA GANG: Front-tire carrier R.J. Barnette hails from nearby Pinson, Alabama. Barnette played football at Samford University as a defensive end and tried out for the Hendrick Motorsports pit crew in 2009. He has been on the No. 48 team ever since.

JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATIONOn Monday, Johnson hosted his 11th annual golf tournament benefiting the Jimmie Johnson Foundation. The private event, usually held on the West Coast in California where Johnson is from, was held in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Quail Hollow. The event raised over $753,000 and Johnson has now donated over $11 million to children in need. For more information, click here.

TALLADEGA DRIVER RATING: According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics since 2005, Johnson has the fifth-best driver rating at Talladega with a score of 88.1. 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. 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.

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 Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS / Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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

2017 Season

  • 22nd in standings
  • 30 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 0 stage wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 5 top-10 finishes
  • 37 laps led

Career

  • 625 starts
  • 26 wins
  • 14 pole positions
  • 149 top-five finishes
  • 257 top-10 finishes
  • 8,224 laps led

Track Career 

  • 34 starts
  • 6 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 12 top-five finishes
  • 16 top-10 finishes
  • 960 laps led
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Oct. 13, at 3:20 p.m. local time in the Talladega Superspeedway media center.

WINNING WAYS: Winning may not be all Dale Earnhardt Jr. does at Talladega Superspeedway, but the driver of the No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS does have six wins on the 2.66-mile tri-oval, more than he has at any other track on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit. In 2015, he won the spring race and entered Talladega’s fall race in a win-to-continue playoffs scenario, where he finished second, just missing his opportunity to make it into the penultimate round of the postseason. The 2016 spring race looked promising as Earnhardt qualified third, but after two separate incidents, he wasn’t able to finish the race. In this year’s spring race, Earnhardt qualified second and was running third with 15 laps to go before having to pit for a loose wheel. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Earnhardt is at the top of the chart among active drivers in the laps led category at the track, leading a total of 471 laps since 2005, 15 more laps than his next closest competitor.

TALLADEGA LOOP DATA: In addition to leading the most laps, Earnhardt has the second-best driver rating among active drivers at the track with an average of 91.0 since 2005. 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. Earnhardt also ranks near the top in several other loop data categories, including average running position (third – 14.422), laps in the top 15 (fourth – 2,808) and green-flag speed (third – 193.759 mph). The Kannapolis, North Carolina, native ranks in the top 10 in many of the additional categories, including fastest laps run (eighth – 87), green-flag passes (seventh – 8,189), and quality passes (fourth – 5,228).

THANK YOU, FANS: The No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS will sport a special paint scheme this weekend. Through the “Ride with Jr.” program, Mountain Dew allowed fans to sign up to get their name on the No. 88 Chevy and say thank you to the driver in the process, which fits right in with Earnhardt’s JR Nation #Appreci88ion Tour. Click here for more.

TODAY SHOW: While he’s in Talladega, Earnhardt will spend time with “TODAY Show” host Willie Geist for an interview that will air later this fall.

DALE JR. DAY: Governor Kay Ivey has declared Sunday, Oct. 15, as “Dale Earnhardt Jr. Day” in the state of Alabama. Ivey, who will also serve as Grand Marshal for the Alabama 500, made the announcement in celebration of six-time Talladega winner Earnhardt and his legacy at the world’s greatest “Super” Superspeedway. Click here for more.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DALE!: Please join us in wishing Earnhardt a very happy birthday as he celebrates his 43rd today.

HOMETOWN HERO: William “Rowdy” Harrell, rear-tire carrier for the No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet team, can certainly be called a hometown hero when he returns to Alabama, and particularly to Moundville, the small town where he grew up. After playing football in high school, Harrell was a walk-on linebacker for Nick Saban’s well-known University of Alabama football team, winning three national championships in his four years with the team. The tire carrier can also add race winner to his list of accolades, as he joined the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 team in 2014 and became one of the six primary over-the-wall crew members in 2015. During those two seasons, the No. 88 team racked up seven wins, including the 2014 Daytona 500. Alabama’s football team is undefeated to this point of the 2017 college football season, which the outgoing former linebacker still follows very closely. Harrell was also selected to be on Steve Letarte’s All-Star Pit Crew segment for NBC this weekend.

ICYMI 2018 UNVEIL: Alex Bowman and Earnhardt unveiled the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 last Thursday that Bowman will race in 2018. Click here for a recap from the event.

Hendrick Motorsports

2018 CHEVROLET CAMARO REVEAL: On Thursday, Oct. 5, Hendrick Motorsports revealed all four of its 2018 Daytona 500 primary paint schemes featuring drivers Chase Elliott, William Byron, Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman. The 2018 driver lineup was joined at the event by Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon, 14-time most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and 1988 Cup champion Bill Elliott. Click here to watch the 2018 car reveal and here for up-close photos of the four Camaros.

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT TALLADEGA: At Talladega Superspeedway, Hendrick Motorsports has 12 wins, 11 pole positions, 55 top-five finishes and 80 top-10s. Hendrick Motorsports’ most recent Talladega win came in 2015, when Earnhardt made his way to Victory Lane in the May race after qualifying fourth.

SIX MAKE 12: Hendrick Motorsports’ 12 wins at Talladega have come thanks to six different drivers. Ken Schrader earned the organization’s first win at the track in 1988. Jeff Gordon contributed six wins, Johnson has earned two, and Brian Vickers, Terry Labonte and Earnhardt have claimed one apiece.

ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 249 race victories, 212 pole positions, 1,026 top-five finishes and 1,732 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led 67,013 laps since 1984.

QUOTABLE / 

“I think we can do well at Talladega. Unfortunately, you can’t control everything at Talladega, though. Sometimes you are unlucky and that’s just part of what happens there. We had a strong finish there earlier this year and all we can do is focus on everything we can control.”

Kasey Kahne on racing at Talladega

“I think there is something you can do. There are guys that have been consistently winning at those races over the past number of years. Anytime you see something consistently happen, there is obviously not just luck involved in it.”

Chase Elliott on luck versus control at Talladega

“We have to go there. It counts as much as the rest of them so I kind of look at it as an opportunity. The guys who have embraced it and have been willing to want to figure it out seem to excel and we would like to be among that group.”

Elliott on restrictor plate racing

“Talladega is indeed a wildcard race. I’m happy it’s not a cut-off for the Round of 8, but we really need to make it through the race and have a good finish. We don’t want to go to Kansas fighting to stay alive in the hunt for an eighth championship.”

Jimmie Johnson on racing at Talladega

“I’d like to fly under the radar a little bit. I don’t want to put too much pressure on us – it messes up the way you think, the way you use strategy in the race, everything. But Talladega is a great track and a great opportunity to win. I think we’ll also have a chance to win at Martinsville and Texas, and some of these other tracks we go to.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on racing at Talladega

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

Kyle Busch Steals The Apache Warrior 400 Win At Dover

Kyle Busch

You can call Kyle Busch the Grinch.

Halloween may be the next holiday on the calendar, but Kyle Busch, for sure, stole Christmas morning from Chase Elliott late Sunday afternoon at Dover International Speedway.

Running Elliott down from more than four seconds back in the last 40 laps of the Apache Warrior 400 at the Monster Mile, Busch powered his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota around the outside of Elliott’s No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and cleared him off Turn 4 as the cars approached the white flag.

A lap later, Busch had his second straight victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff, leaving a disheartened Elliott still in search of his first victory in the series and agonizing over what he might have done differently.

Though Elliott was inconsolable, there were plenty of positives in his performance. The Hendrick cars showed real speed for the first time since the Playoff began two weeks earlier at Chicagoland, and Elliott moved on comfortably to the Round of 12.

Not as fortunate were Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch, who were eliminated from the Playoffs, as Ricky Stenhouse Jr., claimed the 12th and final spot in the next round by two points over Newman, thanks to a risky-but-serendipitous pit call by crew chief Brian Pattie.

But it was Busch who stole the show and stole the race, running the top line as he sliced into Elliott’s advantage and diced his way through traffic more adroitly than his less experienced rival.

“Man, I saw that carrot out there, and I wanted to go and get it,” said Busch, who won for the fourth time at Dover and the 42nd time in his career. “I got within five lengths and I stalled out and I was like, ‘Oh, man, I think that was it,’ you know? But I got back to the top and got enough momentum back rolling. Chase was kind of plugged up with the lapped cars in front of him, so I think the lapped cars actually helped us with that one.

“But, overall, just great day for us. Great job by the team being able to get in Victory Lane here in Dover. It’s been a long time since we’ve been in Victory Lane here, and it’s hard to come by wins here because (11-time Dover winner) Jimmie (Johnson) takes up all the darn Monster trophies. But it’s nice to have a third or fourth in my collection – I can’t remember.”

Johnson, who finished third, tried to console his teammate, but Elliott felt he let his team and organization down when he failed to beat Busch to the finish line.

“I thought if I had a clean track, I could have run as fast as he did, but I didn’t, and I should have done something different,” said Elliott, still despondent when he arrived at the media center for his post-race interview. “So that’s just on me, and he did a better job than I did. At the end of the day that’s what it comes down to…

“Man, such a bummer, such a disappointment for my team. I don’t really have a whole lot to add.”

Series leader and pole winner Martin Truex Jr. ran fourth, followed by Kyle Larson and a trio of non-Playoff drivers—Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Daniel Suarez.

Busch, Truex, Larson and 10th-place finisher Brad Keselowski had clinched spots in the Round of 12 before arriving at Dover. Elliott, Johnson, Jamie McMurray (ninth on Sunday), Matt Kenseth (11th), Kevin Harvick (17th), Ryan Blaney (23rd), Denny Hamlin (35th) and Stenhouse (19th) joined them on Sunday.

But it was Stenhouse who won the nail-biter. But for Pattie’s decision to keep the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford on track as long as possible during a cycle of green-flag pit stops late in the first stage, Stenhouse would have been eliminated.

As luck would have it, Jeffrey Earnhardt spun into the barrels protecting the entrance to pit road on Lap 86 to cause the first caution of the race one circuit before Stenhouse was scheduled to pit. The fortuitous yellow left five cars on the lead lap and gave Stenhouse the track position he needed to score seven points as the fourth-place finisher in Stage 1.

That gave him the edge he needed over Newman.

“We caught the caution there right at the right time with a perfect amount of laps left in the stage to get stage points and that was the turning point of the day,” said Stenhouse, who battled back from disaster at Chicagoland and a lackluster run at New Hampshire. “Our Fastenal Ford was definitely not close to what we needed, especially the last two runs. We were close before the last two runs and made some adjustments there and really fell off.

“All in all, like I said, I feel lucky that we had all the mistakes at Chicago and really not a good car at Chicago, Loudon or Dover but we still made it in. Really, it’s hats off to the guys for fighting all day, and it’s nice that the round starts over.”

Check out the unofficial results of the Apache Warrior 400 at Dover.

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

Hendrick Motorsports Previews The Apache

DOVER INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY (ONE-MILE OVAL)

LOCATION: DOVER, DELAWARE
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 29 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 2 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, OCT. 1 (NBCSN/MRN/SIRIUSXM)

No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS / Kasey Kahne

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

2017 Season

  • 16th in standings
  • 28 starts
  • 1 race win
  • 0 stage wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 4 top-10 finishes
  • 31 laps led

Career

  • 496 starts
  • 18 wins
  • 27 pole positions
  • 92 top-five finishes
  • 173 top-10 finishes
  • 4,638 laps led

Track Career 

  • 27 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 8 top-10 finishes
  • 90 laps led
FARMERS AT DOVER: This weekend at Dover International Speedway, Kasey Kahne will drive the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS. The Enumclaw, Washington, native most recently piloted the Farmers Insurance livery at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where he went on to capture his 18th career NASCAR Cup Series win. Kahne will also be behind the wheel of the Farmers Insurance Chevy for the upcoming races at Talladega Superspeedway and Phoenix International Raceway.

KAHNE AT DOVER: Kahne has started in the second position three times at Dover and looks to earn his first pole award at the concrete track this weekend to add to his 27 career Cup poles. In Kahne’s last five races at the “Monster Mile,” he’s accumulated two top-five finishes and one top-10, as well as two additional finishes inside the top 20. He has an average starting position of 14.0 and a finishing position of 18.6. In this year’s May race, Kahne had a strong run going until he was caught up in a late-race incident in the closing laps and ultimately finished 17th.

DOVER LOOP DATA: According to NASCAR’s loop data since 2005, Kahne ranks third in green-flag passes at Dover with 1,022. He’s sixth in fastest laps run with 371 laps. The 37-year-old is eighth in quality passes with 508 and ninth in laps spent in the top 15 with 5,802. Quality passes are the number of times a driver passes another car that is running in the top 15 while under green-flag conditions.

RECAPPING NEW HAMPSHIRE: Kahne and the No. 5 team entered last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with a newly appointed crew chief, Darian Grubb. After a strong opening practice session on Friday, Kahne qualified the No. 5 machine in the ninth position. During the opening of Sunday’s race, Kahne battled a loose-handling race car. As the race continued, the handling improved and Kahne was on the verge of reaching the top 10 with under 50 laps remaining before he was forced to the garage to repair a mechanical issue. Unfortunately, he was relegated to a 35th-place finish in the second race of Round 1 in the playoffs.

GOLD AND TEAL WHEEL: Earlier this month at Richmond Raceway, Kahne used a special teal and gold steering wheel for the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation’s second annual “Drive for Teal and Gold” campaign. The goal is to bring awareness and raise funds for ovarian (teal) and childhood cancers (gold). Kahne’s steering wheel is up for auction via the NASCAR Foundation through the Fanatics website. Bidding for Kahne’s No. 5 steering wheel closes on Oct. 1.

No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS / Chase Elliott

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

2017 Season

  • 9th in standings
  • 28 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 3 stage wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 7 top-five finishes
  • 15 top-10 finishes
  • 226 laps led

Career

  • 69 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 17 top-five finishes
  • 32 top-10 finishes
  • 584 laps led

Track Career 

  • 3 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 3 top-10 finishes
  • 0 laps led
NAPA AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET: This weekend at Dover International Speedway, the familiar blue-and-yellow NAPA AUTO PARTS paint scheme will return to 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 second-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway.

MONSTER MILE STATS: The Dawsonville, Georgia, native is set to make his fourth start at Dover this weekend. In Elliott’s first three appearances at the one-mile oval, he has collected three top-five finishes. He averages a starting position of 12.7 and finishing position of 3.7. Elliott also has four starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at the Dover, Delaware, track. In those four starts, the 21-year-old driver garnered two top-five finishes, four top-10s and 19 laps led, averaging a starting position of 6.0 and finishing position of 5.2.

DOVER DRIVER RATING: According to NASCAR’s loop data since 2005, Elliott has the fourth-highest driver rating at Dover with a score of 100.2. 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.

LOUDON REWIND: Elliott and the No. 24 team started 14th in a backup car due to a single-car incident in first practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The second-year driver ended the opening 75-lap stage in 17th after reporting that his car was too tight. After a pit stop for four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments to improve the handling conditions on the Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet, Elliott restarted 14th to begin Stage 2. The 21-year-old driver gained one position during the stage for a 13th-place finish at Lap 150. Elliott restarted ninth for the final stage after a quick pit stop by the No. 24 team. He was scored 11th on Lap 221 when the caution flag waved. He continued to maintain the 11th position when the yellow flag was displayed once again at Lap 274. The No. 24 driver restarted 10th with 23 laps to go and fought to hold his position, but ultimately finished just outside the top 10 in 11th.

PLAYOFF STANDINGS: With the 11th-place result in Loudon, Elliott ranks ninth in the NASCAR Cup Series playoff standings heading into the Round of 16 cutoff race Sunday at Dover International Speedway. The second-year driver holds a 26-point advantage over the 13th-place driver, which would be the first competitor eliminated.

DRIVE FOR TEAL & GOLD: Since Richmond, Elliott has been running a special steering wheel for the second annual Martin Truex Jr. Foundation’s “Drive for Teal & Gold” steering wheel campaign to bring awareness for ovarian and childhood cancers. The bidding is open until Sunday, Oct. 1, for Elliott’s signed, race-driven wheel via the NASCAR Foundation though Fanatics.

No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS / Jimmie Johnson

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

2017 Season

  • 7th in standings
  • 28 starts
  • 3 race wins
  • 1 stage win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 9 top-10 finishes
  • 188 laps led

Career

  • 571 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 35 pole positions
  • 221 top-five finishes
  • 339 top-10 finishes
  • 18,634 laps led

Track Career 

  • 31 starts
  • 11 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 16 top-five finishes
  • 22 top-10 finishes
  • 3,100 laps led
PLAYOFF PICTURE: Two races into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team are seventh in the standings heading into Dover, the closing race of the Round of 16. Johnson finished 14th last weekend at New Hampshire after a miscue on a pit stop resulted in the team not finishing in the top 10.

ELITE COMPANY: With his 11 wins at Dover, Johnson is just the fifth driver to win 10 or more races at a single track, joining Dale Earnhardt Sr., David Pearson, Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip.

DOVER STATS IMPRESSIVE: In addition to his 11 wins at Dover, Johnson has led a total of 3,100 laps at the one-mile concrete speedway. He has spent over 85 percent of all laps run in the top 15 and has an average finish of 7.9. Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s team swept both races at Dover in the 2002 and 2009 seasons.

LAST TIME AT DOVER: Dover was the site of Johnson’s latest win in June. He started 14th and led only seven laps – but they were the final laps, as Johnson battled Kyle Larson down to the wire. It was Johnson’s 83rd win in the NASCAR Cup Series and his record-breaking 11th victory at Dover.

DOVER DRIVER RATING: According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics since 2005, Johnson has the best driver rating at Dover with a score of 118.3. 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.

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 42                                Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 22nd in standings
  • 28 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 0 stage wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 4 top-10 finishes
  • 37 laps led

Career

  • 623 starts
  • 26 wins
  • 14 pole positions
  • 149 top-five finishes
  • 256 top-10 finishes
  • 8,224 laps led

Track Career 

  • 34 starts
  • 1 win
  • 1 pole position
  • 7 top-five finishes
  • 12 top-10 finishes
  • 451 laps led
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Sept. 29, at 2:55 p.m. local time in the Dover International Speedway media center.

TAMING THE ‘MONSTER’: Dale Earnhardt Jr. has one win at the “Monster Mile,” which came in the 2001 fall race after leading the final 39 laps en route to victory. He’s earned five top-five finishes and nine top-10s at the concrete oval since his trip to Victory Lane in 2001 and had a notably good weekend in the fall of 2013, starting from the pole and finishing second. He finished 11th in this year’s spring race at Dover, just missing the top 10.

MONSTER MILE STATS: According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Earnhardt ranks fourth among active drivers since 2005 for green-flag passes at Dover International Speedway, completing 1,018 green-flag passes. The driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS ranks eighth in fastest laps run during that span at the one-mile oval with 257.

STANDINGS UPDATE: After Earnhardt did not qualify for the 16-driver NASCAR playoffs following the Sept. 9 race at Richmond, he mentioned that the goal for the No. 88 team would be to finish in the top 20 in points. It’s a challenging goal — especially after Earnhardt was caught up in a multi-car incident last weekend in Loudon, relegating him to a 34th-place finish — but one that is certainly mathematically possible with eight races remaining. Currently, the driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevy is ranked 22nd in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings. Earnhardt is 30 points behind the driver ranked 21st, Trevor Bayne, and 142 points out of 20th, the spot currently held by Daniel Suarez.

CLOSE TO HOME: The rear-tire changer for the No. 88 Nationwide Chevy team, Devin DelRicco, hails from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, which is approximately two hours west of Dover. The high school baseball player used one of the pit crew schools in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area to work his way into NASCAR. The 27-year-old tire changer has been with the No. 88 team for three years.

TIRE TEST: Earnhardt and the No. 88 team participated in a Goodyear tire test at Dover International Speedway on July 25. The one-day test had drivers testing a new tire package for this weekend’s race at the one-mile concrete oval.

Hendrick Motorsports

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT DOVER: At Dover International Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports has 19 wins, nine pole positions, 62 top-five finishes and 100 top-10s. Johnson most recently visited Victory Lane for the organization at the track earlier this year in June.

FINDING VICTORY LANE: Hendrick Motorsports’ 19 wins at Dover are tied with Charlotte Motor Speedway for the organization’s second-most at a track. The Dover victories have come via five different drivers — Johnson (11), Gordon (5), Geoff Bodine, Ricky Rudd and Ken Schrader.

ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 249 race victories, 212 pole positions, 1,023 top-five finishes and 1,726 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led 66,856 laps since 1984.

QUOTABLE / 

“Dover is probably one of my favorite tracks and always has been. It’s definitely one of the more difficult tracks. The hardest thing about Dover is on a long run your tires build up with so much air that your car starts bouncing a lot more and your head starts moving around a lot more. Every time the car bounces it tries to take grip out of the front or rear tires, whichever one is close to sliding. Trying to control that as a driver and with the balance of your car to me is key to really running well there.”

Kasey Kahne on racing at Dover

“I’ve been trying to talk to him every time I’ve ever been. I still haven’t figured it out, but yes, I would say he is the best there, no doubt. I would love to know what makes him so good at that track. I feel like I have learned some things and have gotten better there over the past few races. We had a solid race there last time. I had a solid race in the fall of last year, too. I think we are gaining on it. We are not to his level by any means, but I think we are gaining on it.”

Chase Elliott on learning from teammate Jimmie Johnson at Dover

“Yeah, there is a different feel. A lot of times the concrete tracks have patches and you can tell where the cracks and the lines in the concrete are. As you get some laps on tires and the air pressure builds up it really wants to bounce across those grooves and patches in the track. You can notice it, for sure. One thing about the concrete tracks is they don’t really age, they stay about the same. I know Dover does some cool things, too, like watering the track when it’s hot and things to try to keep that from happening. But, they seem very consistent to me.”

Elliott on the difference between concrete and asphalt tracks

“Dover, hands down, is one of my favorite tracks. It suits my driving style as well as the team in how they build and set up the cars. We have had so much success over the years at Dover, I wish we raced there every weekend. I can’t wait to get in that race car.”

Jimmie Johnson on racing at Dover

“I’m looking forward to Dover. Well, I’m especially looking forward to some of the tracks that we have coming up after that – Martinsville, Talladega, Texas, Phoenix, etc. I don’t know how we’re going to do at Dover, it hasn’t been a great track for us the past several years. I appreciate everybody’s support though and it does help. We’re going to keep grinding and keep working hard and try to get a good run for everybody this weekend.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on racing at Dover

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

Louden Short Strokes

Joey Logano's helmet
Happy Hour was anything but happy for Joey Logano. While other drivers practiced during Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series final practice, Logano sat on pit road, serving the entire 55 minutes in NASCAR’s version of a penalty box. Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford failed in repeated attempts to get through pre-qualifying inspection on Friday and did not make an attempt during time trials. He’ll start last in Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 with no practice during Happy Hour…

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who qualified 15th on Friday, was eighth fastest in final practice at 131.112 mph, second best among non-Playoff drivers. Earnhardt is racing at New Hampshire for the last time in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet…

Ty Dillon scraped the wall with his No. 13 Chevrolet in Happy Hour and will start Sunday’s race from the rear in a backup car. Jimmie Johnson (seventh in final practice) and Chase Elliott (13th) also are in backup cars because of accidents in Friday’s opening practice, but will start where they qualified (12th and 14th, respectively) because their wrecks occurred before time trials.

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

Chase Elliott And Jimmie Johnson Wreck Primary Cars In Louden Practice

Chase Elliott
A bad week quickly got worse for Chase Elliott!

Shortly after his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, clobbered the Turn 3 wall at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Friday’s opening practice session, Elliott did the same when he carried too much speed into the corner.

Accordingly, both Elliott and Johnson will start Sunday’s ISM Connect 300, the second race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, in backup cars.

Elliott finished second in last Sunday’s Round of 16 opener at Chicagoland, but NASCAR penalized the No. 24 team when the sanctioning body discovered unauthorized modifications designed to improve the aerodynamics of the car.

Docked 15 points for the infraction, Elliott is racing at The Magic Mile without the services of crew chief Alan Gustafson and car chief Joshua Kirk, who earned one-race suspensions. Veteran Kenny Francis is calling the shots from the pit box this week, and early in Friday’s first practice, he had a backup car to prepare.

“Just got kind of loose into Turn 3 and got up the track and ran out of room,” Elliott said after the accident. “I hate it. That’s not what we needed. We’re behind this weekend now, so that’s never good, but it’s Friday, so we’ve got another day and a half to get things turned around and try to get it fixed.”

Johnson said he was overly ambitious with his second lap and paid the price when he lost contact with the traction compound (PJ1) applied to the track to provide more grip in the first and third lanes.

“I had a good first lap, and entering Turn 3 for my second lap, just got in there with a lot of speed anticipated it sticking,” Johnson said. “It didn’t quite stick, and then once I got out of the PJ1, there was just really no slowing down or directing it off the wall at that point.

“Came around and it got the fence. Definitely not the way we wanted to start. Frustrating, but we will take it and go figure it out.”

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

Elliott’s Playoff Game Plan: Improvement And Consistency

Chase Elliott

In his final 10 races in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Chase Elliott doesn’t feel he can afford to look beyond his own efforts and his own team during his second run in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff.

After all, Elliott qualified for the postseason on points. In a season where other drivers collected their first career victories—Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.—Elliott, surprisingly, is still seeking his first trophy at NASCAR’s highest level. In recent outings, Elliott and his No. 24 team haven’t performed to expectations. As a consequence, improved performance is a priority as the 10-race playoff begins.

 “Our game plan right now is to try to focus on ourselves,” Elliott said on media day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. “We need to be better as a whole. We need to improve, for sure. We need to be competing for race wins. We haven’t been doing that recently. I’ll be the first one to admit that. 

 “I think, for us, we’ve got to focus on ourselves first and foremost, try to be consistent. I think consistency will carry you a pretty good distance in this deal. I don’t think consistency will get you to Homestead alone, but I do think consistency will carry you a good ways. That’s our first thing right now, try to be consistent and improve ourselves and try not to worry about everybody else right now.”

 Elliott also hopes to add at least one victory to the legacy of the No. 24 Chevrolet before he switches to the No. 9 Chevy at Hendrick Motorsports next year. Jeff Gordon, the only driver ever to win at the Cup level with the No. 24, recorded all 93 of his victories with that number.

 Not only that—the only sure way to advance in the playoff is to win a race.

 “I think you’re at least going to have to have a really good ability to win a race,” Elliott said. “If you’re not winning a race, you better have just lost it by not a lot. If you make it to the round of eight, if you’re not winning, you better be well inside the top five every week, in my opinion.”

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

Dale Jr. Thinks He’s Leaving NASCAR Racing In Good Hands

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
There’s no debating that the highest level of NASCAR racing is witnessing a changing of the guard.

Jeff Gordon retired from full-time racing at the end of the 2015 season. Tony Stewart followed a year later. Earnhardt is playing out his final year in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Danica Patrick has announced she won’t return to Stewart-Haas Racing next year. And veterans Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne are out of their current rides, with no concrete plans to announce yet for 2018.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is short on star power. With neophyte young guns like Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez, Austin Dillon and Erik Jones leading a parade of talented 20-somethings, Earnhardt believes he’s leading the competition in firm hands.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Earnhardt affirmed. “I think that these young guys are really crafty with social media and I think that’s a great direction for them to interact with not only current fans, but to find new fans. I think they do a great job at that.

“I had to learn what Twitter was and how to use it. These guys grew up in this generation, and they are sort of already masters of it. There’s a lot of great things going on on Instagram and Twitter, and I think that there’s a lot of opportunity there to capture an audience and make new fans and create new fans.”

Earnhardt also believes the drivers who will carry the sport for the next generation must accept the necessity of outreach—even if it’s an inconvenience.

“They need to push themselves, which is hard to do. I didn’t want to do any of this when I was young. But when NASCAR says we need somebody in New York to do morning shows this week to promote the playoffs, these guys need to jump on that wagon and go.

“It’s not a ton of fun, but once you’re in the middle of it, doing it, it’s really enjoyable meeting these people and these personalities and making these connections and networking with these people.”

So here comes the next generation of NASCAR super stars to carry the sport for the next decade or so!

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

Hendrick Motorsports Previews Chicagoland

CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY (1.5-MILE OVAL)

LOCATION: JOLIET, ILLINOIS
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 27 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 3 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, SEPT. 17 (NBCSN/MRN/SIRIUSXM)

No. 5 Great Clips Strong Against Cancer Chevrolet SS / Kasey Kahne

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

2017 Season

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

Career

  • 494 starts
  • 18 wins
  • 27 pole positions
  • 92 top-five finishes
  • 173 top-10 finishes
  • 4,638 laps led

Track Career 

  • 13 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 2 top-five finishes
  • 4 top-10 finishes
  • 12 laps led
GREAT CLIPS: This weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, Kasey Kahne will pilot the No. 5 Great Clips Strong Against Cancer Chevrolet SS. The longtime Hendrick Motorsports partner will also adorn the No. 5 machine at Texas Motor Speedway and the season-ending finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In last year’s race at Chicagoland, Kahne ended the day with a seventh-place finish. His highest finishes at the Joliet, Illinois, track are two third-place results.

MEET WYATT: Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet SS will have a different look this weekend at Chicagoland. Children from Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Strong Against Cancer initiative, in conjunction with Great Clips, had the opportunity to create a design for Kahne’s car this weekend. The three finalists went before a fan vote, with 9-year-old Wyatt, from Washington, receiving the most votes. Wyatt was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in October 2016 after he woke up one morning with an egg-sized lump on his neck. Wyatt, his parents and siblings will all be attending this weekend’s event courtesy of Great Clips.

PLAYOFFS: After finishing 12th at Richmond Raceway last weekend, Kahne will begin the playoffs as the 13th seed among the 16 competitors vying for the championship. The first playoff round goes until the Oct. 1 race at Dover International Speedway. Kahne will need to be in the 12th points position following the checkered flag at the “Monster Mile” in order to continue on in his quest for the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series championship. It marks Kahne’s first time in the 10-race playoffs since the 2014 season.

CHICAGO LOOP DATA: According to NASCAR’s loop data since 2005, Kahne is first in the closers category with 20 positions gained during the last 10 percent of those races. Additionally, the 37-year-old ranks ninth in fastest laps run at Chicagoland with 78.

No. 24 NAPA Brakes Chevrolet SS / Chase Elliott

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

2017 Season

  • 10th in standings
  • 26 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 2 stage wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 6 top-five finishes
  • 14 top-10 finishes
  • 184 laps led

Career

  • 67 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 16 top-five finishes
  • 31 top-10 finishes
  • 542 laps led

Track Career 

  • 1 start
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 75 laps led
NAPA BRAKES: This weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, Chase Elliott will pilot the No. 24 NAPA Brakes Chevrolet SS for the second time this season. Elliott most recently raced the scheme at Richmond Raceway in April. Now through Sept. 30, save up to $50 on your favorite sports team apparel and merchandise from Fanatics.com with qualifying brake pad and rotor purchases at participating NAPA AUTO PARTS stores.

PLAYOFF-BOUND: For the second consecutive season, Elliott has secured his spot in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. He will begin the playoffs as the 10th seed among the 16 competitors.In the regular season, the 21-year-old driver collected six top-five finishes, 14 top-10s and the pole award for the season-opening Daytona 500. In those 26 races, Elliott averaged a starting position of 10.4 and finishing position of 13.5.

CHICAGOLAND STATS: This weekend, Elliott will make his second Cup Series start at Chicagoland Speedway. In his 2016 start at the 1.5-mile track, Elliott qualified 14th and finished third after leading 75 laps. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native also has four NASCAR XFINITY Series starts at Chicago – collecting a win in his first start at the speedway in July 2014. In the four XFINITY starts he averaged a starting position of 7.5 and finishing position of 9.8

RICHMOND REWIND: Elliott started ninth in Saturday night’s 400-lap regular-season finale and used that position to score two additional points in Stage 1 by finishing ninth. The No. 24 Mountain Dew team slipped just outside the top 10 in Stage 2, finishing 12th after Elliott reported he may have charged too hard and overused his tires in the early laps of what ended up being a lengthy green-flag run throughout the 100-lap stage. The No. 24 team raced inside the top 20 for the remainder of the night and was able to climb to 10th when the checkered flag waved, securing his playoff berth for the second consecutive season.

SEE ELLIOTT IN CHICAGO: Elliott is scheduled to participate in NASCAR’s youth autograph session at the Chicagoland display in the midway of the racetrack on Sunday, Sept. 17, beginning at 10:30 a.m. local time.

No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS / Jimmie Johnson

Driver Jimmie Johnson   Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 41                             Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 5th in standings
  • 26 starts
  • 3 race wins
  • 1 stage win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 8 top-10 finishes
  • 188 laps led

Career

  • 569 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 35 pole positions
  • 221 top-five finishes
  • 338 top-10 finishes
  • 18,634 laps led

Track Career 

  • 15 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 2 pole positions
  • 7 top-five finishes
  • 10 top-10 finishes
  • 695 laps led
TESTED AT CHICAGO: Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team spent two days testing at Chicagoland Speedway in August to help Hendrick Motorsports prepare for the playoff-opening event.

CHICAGO DRIVER RATING: According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Johnson has the second-best driver rating at Chicagoland with a score of 90.3 since 2005. 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 and is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. JOHNSON: El Cajon, California, native Johnson will celebrate his 42nd birthday on Sunday, Sept. 17.

WINLESS IN THE WINDY CITY: Even though Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s team have led 695 laps at Chicago and own seven top-five finishes, the 1.5-mile track remains one of the three venues on the current NASCAR Cup schedule where Johnson has yet to score a win. The others are Kentucky and Watkins Glen.

BRISTOL BOUND: On Thursday, Sept. 14, Johnson will head to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, for NASCAR playoff media and to help promote the sport over the next 10 weeks en route to the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series championship.

PLAYOFF-BOUND: With Johnson’s three wins this season, he is currently seeded fifth in the NASCAR playoffs grid with 17 playoff points. He is the only driver who has made the NASCAR Cup Series’ postseason playoff system every year of its existence.

KNAUS FROM NEARBY ROCKFORD: No. 48 team crew chief Chad Knaus was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, approximately 106 miles north of Chicagoland Speedway. Knaus made a name for himself racing Late Model Stock cars at Rockford Speedway with his father, John. Knaus graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Rockford.

STEERING WHEEL FOR A CAUSE: September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Johnson honored fellow competitor Martin Truex Jr. and his longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex — who is an ovarian cancer survivor — with a teal-and-gold-colored steering wheel last weekend at Richmond. The second annual “Drive for Teal & Gold” campaign is designed to raise awareness of and funds for ovarian (teal ribbon) and childhood (gold ribbon) cancers. At the end of September, the autographed wheel will be available via online auction by the NASCAR Foundation to benefit the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation.

No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS / Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.   Hometown Kannapolis, North Carolina
Age 42                                Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 22nd in standings
  • 26 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 0 stage wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 4 top-10 finishes
  • 37 laps led

Career

  • 621 starts
  • 26 wins
  • 14 pole positions
  • 149 top-five finishes
  • 256 top-10 finishes
  • 8,224 laps led

Track Career 

  • 15 starts
  • 1 win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 5 top-10 finishes
  • 123 laps led
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Sept. 15, at 5 p.m. local time in the Chicagoland Speedway media center.

AXALTA ON THE NO. 88: This weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway will mark Axalta Coating System’s penultimate race as primary sponsor on the No. 88 Chevrolet SS for 2017. This season, Axalta colors have adorned the No. 88 Chevy for 11 races with Chicagoland making 12. The leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings will close out the season with the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a special red-and-black scheme. In 2018, Axalta will be a primary partner for both the No. 88 and the No. 24 teams at Hendrick Motorsports.

CHICAGOLAND STATS: In 15 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Chicago, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has one win, three top-five finishes and five top-10s. He has an average start there of 16.9 and an average finish of 15.3. His average running position (12.9) since 2005 ranks him ninth among active drivers, according to NASCAR’s loop data statistics. He has completed 97.4 percent of all the laps he’s attempted (3,903 of 4,008 total) and has led 123 laps at the 1.5-mile track. Per NASCAR’s stats, the driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet ranks eighth among active competitors since 2005 in fastest laps run at Chicagoland with 79 laps. Earnhardt leads all active competitors in the green-flag passes category with 801 passes and ranks second in quality passes with 394. Quality passes are the number of times a driver passes another car that is running in the top 15 while under green-flag conditions.

WINDY CITY WIN: Earnhardt reached Victory Lane at Chicagoland Speedway on July 10, 2005. The then-30-year-old Earnhardt lined up 25th for the event and cracked the top 10 within the first 100 laps. He led the final 11 laps en route to securing the win.

PAWS CHICAGO SUPPLY DRIVE: Chicagoland Speedway has partnered with PAWS Chicago to pay tribute to Earnhardt’s career. Taking his love for his dogs into consideration, a donation drive will be held in his honor during the race weekend, Sept. 14-17. PAWS Chicago, the Midwest’s largest No Kill humane organization, finds homes for more than 5,100 animals each year. With the level of destruction and homelessness caused recently by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, animals are in need of emergency sheltering. To assist in the aftermath of these tragedies, PAWS Chicago has mobilized an ongoing rescue effort to evacuate animals from the impacted areas. With the influx of animals, the organization is in desperate need of wet dog and cat food and kitty litter. All supplies collected for the Chicago-based animal shelter will be donated in Earnhardt’s name. In addition to the physical donation generated by NASCAR’s loyal fan base, Chicagoland Speedway will also make a monetary contribution. For more, click here.

IVES’ BIRTHDAY: No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives celebrates his 38th birthday on Wednesday, Sept. 13. The Bark River, Michigan, native grew up working with his father and older brother at the racetrack and spent eight years behind the wheel before finding his true calling under the hood. This is his third season atop the pit box with Earnhardt and the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet SS team.

TEAL SHOES: Earnhardt will wear teal shoes for the remainder of September before auctioning them off in support of ovarian cancer research online at http://www.ebay.com/usr/dalejrfoundation. For more, visit The Dale Jr. Foundation’s website.

Hendrick Motorsports

DISASTER RELIEF FUND: Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have launched a disaster relief fund with the goal of raising $500,000 in two weeks to support hurricane victims. The drivers, Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick Automotive Group committed a combined $300,000 and are encouraging the public to join the effort. Visit HendrickRelief.org for more information and to donate.

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT CHICAGO: At Chicagoland Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports has two wins, four pole positions, 21 top-five finishes and 31 top-10s. Mark Martin most recently visited Victory Lane for the organization at the track in 2009.

ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 249 race victories, 212 pole positions, 1,022 top-five finishes and 1,724 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led 66,814 laps since 1984.

QUOTABLE / 

“I’m glad I’m in the playoffs this year and have an opportunity to see how far we can go. We just need to get the best results every week and make no mistakes and see where we end up. I think with everybody all-in, hopefully we can come out of nowhere and really make some noise throughout the next 10 races. We just need to do the best we possibly can, give a lot of effort and put a lot of time into it. If we do all of that I think we’ll get our best result and I’ll be happy with it.”

Kasey Kahne on making the playoffs

“Anything is possible. I know that everyone is really going to start pushing it next week and I hope our group is leading the pack when it comes to performance and the things that we need to do. Now is the time of the year to get in the right direction if we are going to do it. So, we will see.”

Chase Elliott on beginning the playoffs

“I feel like we have been talking about our summer slump a lot lately, but I am confident going into these next 10 races that the ‘slump’ is over. No one steps up to the challenge better than my No. 48 Lowe’s team. I’m looking forward to Chicago, we had a great test there and I’ve always wanted to give (No. 48 team crew chief) Chad (Knaus) a win at his home track.”

Jimmie Johnson on racing at Chicagoland

“We should’ve run well all year and gotten ourselves into the playoffs for all of our fans. I’m proud of how we did last weekend and I hope we can continue to run like that the rest of the year. Chicago should be a good track for us. One of our teammates went out there and tested, so we’ve got some information that we can look at. (No. 88 team crew chief) Greg (Ives) is going to be back. T-Mack (Travis Mack, served as interim crew chief last week at Richmond) is still there as a car chief. I told all my guys at the end of the race last week that this is the team that Greg needs underneath of him to be successful. All of these guys stepped up a little bit and we need to be that way all year long. We should be able to do this going forward, at least that’s what I think we’re capable of, so we’re going to keep working hard for these last 10 races.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on entering the final stretch of the season

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

A First Time Winner Could Really Shake Things Up At Richmond

Chase Elliott
The last three drivers on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff grid are separated by a mere three points.

If there’s no new winner from off the playoff grid in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway, those three drivers – Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray – would all make the postseason. But, if there’s a new winner from off the playoff grid, one of the three would be eliminated.

Going into the race, Elliott leads Kenseth by two points and holds a three-point advantage over McMurray.

“We need to continue to run like we have ran these past couple of weeks and have solid weekends altogether,” said Elliott, who has a high finish of 12th in four Richmond starts. “I feel like our qualifying efforts have really improved here lately, which is what we need and I think what is going to be even more important as time goes on, so we need to continue to do that. Getting in is one thing, but doing something when you get in, if you get in, is another thing and you want to be able to do something if you can get in.”

In 35 starts at Richmond, Kenseth claims two wins, six top fives, 16 tops 10s and a 16.1 average finish. He won the September race there in 2015 and won the Coors Light Pole at the .75-mile track in April.

“Because this is the last race before the playoffs start, this will be a big weekend for a lot of teams, since there are several still trying to lock themselves in to the playoffs,” said Jason Ratcliffe, Kenseth’s crew chief. “It’s always an exciting race, and thankfully, it’s a track that we typically run well at and I feel like it’s a place where we can win. Knowing that we need a win to get in or that we’re going to be fighting our way into the playoffs on points, I’m excited that we’re going to a race track that we’ve performed well at.”

McMurray has produced three top fives, eight top 10s and a 19.2 average finish in 29 Richmond starts. In his last eight starts at the Northern Virginia track, he’s logged three fourth-place showings and five top-seven performances.

“We have been really good at Richmond the last few times there,” McMurray said. “So I’m looking forward to having a good race for our team and securing a spot in the playoffs.”