Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (13236)

Rookie drivers Gray Gaulding and Corey LaJoie faced one of the biggest challenges of their careers this week competing for the first time at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Both drivers conquered the “Last Great Coliseum” and brought home solid finishes in the rain-delayed Food City 500 on Monday, April 24th.

Having previously scored a top-ten finish at Bristol in the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, Corey LaJoie felt confident going into this week’s race. LaJoie kept the car clean in the caution-filled race and matched his season-best finish of 24th. “I was excited coming into the week because I’ve ran so well here in the past. It took the first quarter of the race for me to get used to how the Cup cars drive around Bristol. Throughout the race, my crew chief Randy Cox and the crew guys made the car better, and we raced the JAS Expedited Trucking Camry to the 24th spot.”

Gray Gaulding also came into the Food City 500 with some experience at the legendary track. Gaulding had also run at Bristol in the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series season and scored a 13th place finish. Early in Monday’s race, Gaulding had a right front tire start to go down and was forced to pit during a green flag. This cost him track position but ultimately saved to car from having a blown tire. The No. 23 SunFrog crew and Gaulding fought hard all day and finished 29th. “I am so proud of my No. 23 crew for everything we accomplished today. It is never good having to pit under green at Bristol, but we never gave up and finished the race with a clean car. I love racing at Bristol, and I can’t wait to be back there for the night race.”

Up next for BK Racing is the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, home track to the Virginia-based team. Corey LaJoie will pilot the No. 83 E. J. Wade Construction Toyota, and Gray Gaulding will drive the No. 23 sweetFrog Toyota.
BK Racing PR

Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s 14-time most popular driver, announced Tuesday he will retire from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series following the conclusion of the 2017 season.  Earnhardt, who missed the final 18 races of the 2016 season due to a concussion, will step away from racing after a career spanning most of 19 seasons and more than 600 starts. 

Below, FOX NASCAR analysts Jeff Gordon and Larry McReynolds and play-by-play announcer Mike Joy share their thoughts on the news.

FS1 is carrying the Dale Earnhardt Jr. press conference live today with a special edition of NASCAR RACE HUB at 3:00 PM ET hosted by Adam Alexander and Shannon Spake.  Later in the day, NASCAR RACE HUB airs live at 6:00 PM ET on FS1 with the latest news and analysis.

FOX SPORTS: What was your reaction to the news and its timing?

“Dale Jr. has had a huge impact on our sport – and you can see that every week with his legion of fans and Junior Nation. He has a tremendous sense of the history of NASCAR and, while he shares his father’s name, Dale has made a name for himself with his accomplishments in racing. While we will miss Dale on the track next year, he loves this sport, those working in the industry and the fans too much to ever be too far away.”

--Jeff Gordon, FOX NASCAR analyst and former Earnhardt teammate at Hendrick Motorsports

“We all knew this was coming, but I thought the horizon was farther out and that he might drive for another season or two.  I am happy for Dale Jr. because I’m sure it is a decision he has weighed heavily over quite a long time, and it’s one he is comfortable enough with to announce now and go through an entire season of well-wishes from others.”

--Mike Joy, FOX NASCAR play-by-play announcer 

“When you look at his age, the length of his career and what he has been through the last few years, it’s not surprising. But the timing blew me away – a Tuesday after a Monday makeup race due to a rainout.  But for everyone’s sake, including Dale Jr., Rick Hendrick and the new driver, the sooner, the better.  It always sounds simple – you just plug another guy into the race car, but a lot of sponsors have to sign off.  They have a lot of decisions to make.  They have gotten a huge bang for their buck the past few years and they’re losing the most popular driver in any form of motorsports. They must figure out how to market the next driver.  For that reason, the sooner, the better.”

--Larry McReynolds, FOX NASCAR analyst

FOX SPORTS: In a couple of years of each other, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have retired and Carl Edwards stepped away from racing.  Are you at all concerned about who will fill their shoes within the garage and among the NASCAR fan base?

“In a very short time, we’ve seen three of the drivers who have had the most impact on the sport in their generation retire and Carl Edwards step aside indefinitely. I remember when (Richard) Petty, (David) Pearson, (Bobby) Allison and (Cale) Yarborough were at the tail end of their careers and everyone was bemoaning, ‘Oh, my gosh, who will step up? Will we have any heroes? Will we have any superstars?’ And, of course, we did.  That’s the way sports go. Someone retires and someone else takes their place. I will imagine that by tomorrow morning, everyone from Greg Biffle to Gray Gaulding will have their resume on Rick Hendrick’s desk.”

--Mike Joy, FOX NASCAR play-by-play announcer

“From the standpoint of leadership and a driver who is listened to by the industry and fans when he speaks, not to mention his popularity, this is a big hit for NASCAR.  But I don’t think Dale Jr. will fade away from view.  He has a big presence as a car owner in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.  But something tells me we probably will see him as a TV race analyst for one of the networks down the road.”

--Larry McReynolds, FOX NASCAR analyst

FOX SPORTS: How long will it be until we see the ascendance of the next generation of superstars?

“If you look closely, we’re already seeing it.  Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson. We have young drivers with superstar potential that they are just beginning to realize.  The difference between this group and the group back in Cale and Bobby’s day is that these young drivers are there already.  They are not going to have to race out from underneath the shadow of the established stars because they are making their own way right now. They’re running up front and capable of winning races.”

--Mike Joy, FOX NASCAR play-by-play announcer

FOX SPORTS: What legacy does Dale Earnhardt Jr. leave behind in the sport?

“You can’t just pinpoint his legacy in one area.  He is one of the most down-to-earth, honest guys who doesn’t always say what everyone wants to hear. What he has done off the track is a huge part of his legacy.  The number of Make-A-Wish kids he has entertained at the track, for instance, is astounding, as is his work for people in need.  Add in the fact he’s a blue-collar racer, like his dad was.”

--Larry McReynolds, FOX NASCAR analyst

FOX SPORTS: How difficult will the transition be for Hendrick Motorsports and the driver who replaces Dale Earnhardt Jr.?

“It will be no less difficult than when Tony Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s going to be very, very tough.  I think William Byron is the heir apparent to the next open seat at Hendrick Motorsports.  He has the talent and tools and demeanor, but does he right now have the experience to step into a front-line Cup car? I don’t know.  Will they promote him right away or will there be an interim driver until Byron becomes a little more seasoned? I’d be surprised if that isn’t part of the current discussion within the organization.”

--Mike Joy, FOX NASCAR play-by-play announcer

“My knee-jerk reaction today would be Alex Bowman to replace Dale Jr.  He’s already been in that car and has had some success.  He is young and can build upon his previous experience and success. I would hope the thought process isn’t William Byron because he will have only one full year of NASCAR XFINITY Series competition in the books and is only 19 years old. But who knows.  There could be someone out there. But it will be sponsorship-driven. It doesn’t matter who Rick Hendrick or Dale Jr. want to replace him as much as what those sponsors want.  With the job he did last year and the type of person and driver he is, coupled with his young age, the sport could continue to grow with Alex Bowman.”

--Larry McReynolds, FOX NASCAR analyst

FOX Sports PR

Richmond race fans are invited to Kroger Fan Fest at the Kroger store located in the Ridge Shopping Center at 1510 Eastridge Road on Thursday, April 27 from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. The free event will include an appearance from AJ Allmendinger along with autograph signing, photo opportunities with fans and a shopping competition with FeedMore.

FeedMore representatives will have five minutes to fill their shopping carts with essential food bank items. Once completed, Allmendinger and a Kroger associate will compete in a bagging competition to see who can bag the groceries the fastest. The food from the competition will be donated to FeedMore along with a gift card as a part of Kroger’s ongoing efforts to support FeedMore in their fight against hunger in the Richmond area.

At Fan Fest, Allmendinger, who currently competes full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, driving the No. 47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet SS for JTG Daugherty Racing, will also attend a private Big Brothers Big Sisters event at the store for local Big Brothers Big Sisters matches to enjoy together.

“We love hosting these events with AJ at Kroger stores so his fans can come out and have a great experience meeting him,” said Allison McGee with Kroger Mid-Atlantic. “We’re especially excited about the private meet and greet for Big Brothers Big Sisters – we know meeting AJ will be an experience the kids will remember and a special memory the matches will have together.”

Allmendinger will appear at the Kroger store located at 1510 Eastridge Road on Thursday, April 27 from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. where he will be available to meet fans and sign autographs.

“I’m looking forward to spending time with the Richmond community at Kroger this Thursday evening before racing at Richmond International Raceway on Sunday,” Allmendinger said. “We have a lot of fun with these events and the best part is having the chance to meet so many fans. I hope to see you there!”  

JTG Racing PR

An extensive weather system created an extended weekend for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Due to rain in the area, the MENCS qualifying efforts were canceled on Friday. NASCAR set the starting line-up per the rule book slotting Cole Whitt to roll off the grid 31st to start the Food City 500. As the precipitation continued to saturate the local area through the scheduled Sunday date, NASCAR was forced to postpone the event until Monday.  
The first caution of Stage 1 came as the result of an incident on lap 56.  Cole Whitt relayed the RITC Coolers No. 72 was "loose in the nose, loose in, tight in the center and loose off". Being one lap down from the leader, Crew Chief Frank Kerr made the call to keep Whitt out on track to take the wave around posting him back on the lead lap to restart 31st. On lap 102, Whitt radioed he was battling brake issues and soon fell a lap down from the leader. He completed Stage 1 in the 28th position one lap down from the leader. During the Stage 1 completion caution, Whitt pitted for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment sending him back out to rejoin the field 28th.
A Stage 2 incident on lap 211 resulted in the third caution of the day. Running 27th, Whitt reported he had sustained some right rear damage but stayed out under caution to again take the wave around for track position. Soon thereafter, on lap 219, a much needed caution afforded Whitt the opportunity to pit for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Continuing to battle a loose condition and brake issues, Whitt completed Stage 2 in the 25th position and was the wave around recipient.
Beginning Stage 3, Whitt took the green flag restart 25th and back on the lead lap in the RTIC Coolers No. 72. After a few laps, Whitt reported the car was bouncing in the front-end and the handling was worse. Despite the handling, Whitt stayed out on track during a caution on lap 325 and was scored 19th on the lead lap for the restart on lap 329. With the handling worsening, he fell two laps down from the leader. Whitt continued to battle brake issues but maintained and 18-20 place running. He ultimately crossed the finish line 21st two laps down to complete the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Tristar PR

Martin Truex Jr.’s overall performance at this time of the season is outperforming any of his previous years in NASCAR’s elite series, including last year when he was one of the hottest drivers on the circuit.

After eight NASCAR Cup Series races, Truex is ahead of 2016 in wins at one (0 at same time last year), top fives at two (one), top 10s at five (two), laps led at 432 (198), average start 9.9 (12.4) and average finish at 8.6 (13.0).

He ranks third in driver points compared to 10th after the same number of races in 2016.

Truex also leads the Cup series in stage wins at five and is tied for playoff bonus points at 10. He ranks second with an additional 92 standing points for his stage racing performances. His 432 laps led is positioned in second place, one fewer than Kevin Harvick’s 433.

“We’ve had fast cars all year and I thank Toyota, TRD, our road crew and all the guys at our Furniture Row Racing shop in Denver, along with our technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing for providing me with top-notch equipment,” said Truex, who will drive the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota Camry in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway. “Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and his engineering staff have produced week in and week out. It’s been a solid team effort all around.”

Though Truex is quick to point out that he has enjoyed more success early in the season compared to past years, he truly understands how quickly things can change.

“If you stand pat in this business your performance will drop in a flash,” stated Truex, who qualified for the playoffs the past two years. “It’s all about the future, finding ways to make the car run faster. But don’t get me wrong, it’s a good feeling to start off the season with some success. It’s been a momentum and confidence builder.”

Truex has had strong performances at various types of venues this season, including the recent race at the Bristol Motor Speedway’s half-mile short track. He was in contention for the win late in the race, running a close second to eventual winner Jimmie Johnson. But a speeding penalty on his final pit stop dashed any hopes of a win. However, he did battle back to post an eighth-place finish, his best result at Bristol in five years.

Richmond’s 0.75-mile circuit will be the third short track in the last four NASCAR Cup Series races. Truex has had recent success at Richmond, earning three top-10 finishes in the last four races. Last year he posted top 10s in both Richmond races -- ninth in the first race and third in the second. He is looking for even better results this weekend in his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota.

“Richmond is one of those tracks where you will get almost a 100 percent consensus from the drivers for track likability,” noted Truex. “It’s not an easy track to maneuver but a fun track to race at. You have to have a short track mentality to race there because there are a number of differences for a track that is only 0.75 mile in length. The straightaways are long and corners one and two are completely different from corners three and four. You have to have the right balance, and after what we accomplished at Bristol I feel good about our chances in the Toyota Owners 400.”


After heavy downpours postponed Sunday's Food Lion 500, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series took to the high banks of Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway under sunny skies on Monday afternoon. During the 500-lap race, Ty Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Racing team were the recipient of four free pass awards and would use this benefit to their advantage in the closing stages to cross the finish line in the 15th position. This strong effort marks the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender's second top-15 finish of the 2017 season.
With qualifying being rained out on Friday afternoon, the starting lineup was set by championship owner points, placing Dillon in the 24th position for the showdown in Thunder Valley. During the opening 125 laps, the young gun would find himself a lap down on two separate occasions, both of which would take place a handful of laps before a caution, allowing Dillon to return to the lead lap each time. While the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet fought a "loose in, loose off, and tight in the middle" handling condition, Dillon brushed the wall at the conclusion of Stage 1, causing damage to the right rear fender. 
Once the Germain Racing pit crew made repairs to fix the damage under caution, Dillon restarted from the 23rd position on lap 137. Fighting an ill-handling condition that would hinder his ability to get through the corner, Dillon would go a lap down on lap 181, but fight to stay in the free pass position. A timely break in action came on lap 210 as the yellow flag was displayed, allowing Dillon to return to his rightful place on the lead lap. By the completion of Stage 2, the GEICO Racing Chevrolet held 23rd-place.
By lap 300, Dillon began his steady climb through the field and drove his way into the 18th position shortly after. Running consistently inside the top-20, the rookie held his ground on-track, while the GEICO team, led by Crew Chief Bootie Barker, continued to make positive air pressure adjustments to help Dillon's handling. When a caution came on lap 421, the North Carolina native received his fourth and final Lucky Dog award, allowing the No. 13 Chevrolet to return to the lead lap and take over the 16th position. Quickly, Dillon broke into the top-15, where the Germain Racing entry would remain over the final 40 laps to bring home a 15th-place finish.

"It was definitely a battle for our No. 13 GEICO Chevy team today," said Ty Dillon after the race. "We got damage to the right rear at the end of the first stage that really hurt our speed through the rest of the day. So, our race really became about getting track position any way that we could. My spotter did great getting me through traffic, and crew chief Bootie Barker and my guys on pit road did everything they could to keep us where we needed to be. We had to fight for all that we could, and I gave it everything that I had. it was a good day to come out of Bristol with a 15th-place finish." 
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will now head to another short track, the .75-mile oval of Richmond International Raceway. Dillon and his No. 13 GEICO Racing team will hit the track on Friday, April 28for opening practice at 11:30 am ET, with qualifying following at 4:45 pm ET.
The green flag will fly for the Toyota Owners 400 on Sunday, April 30 at 2:00 pm ET. FOX will carry the live television broadcast, with the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 carrying the live radio broadcast.

Statement from Eddie Gossage at TMS

"Dang it! Dale Jr., put my kids through college and I was hoping he would stick around long enough to send my grandkids to college. You have to be happy and support him when he makes a choice like this and, certainly, I do. Now I've got to go pony shopping..."

IMS Statement about Retirement of Dale Earnhardt Jr. after 2017 Season

“Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a NASCAR legend, and everyone at IMS offers him best wishes after his retirement as a full-time driver. His legacy is secure as a champion, a winner, a great ambassador for motorsports and a class act. Dale always has given so much of himself to everyone, especially the fans. We’re looking forward to seeing him race one more time at IMS during the Brickyard 400 weekend on July 21-23. And, as a promoter, I’m usually neutral and support the field, but frankly I hope Dale wins the 2017 Brickyard 400!” Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles

Statement from Darlington Raceway

“All of us at Darlington Raceway wish Dale Earnhardt Jr. the best as he announces his future retirement at the end of the 2017 NASCAR season. Dale has been a tremendous supporter of Darlington Raceway and our throwback weekend. His passion for the history of the sport has forged a special relationship with our race track. His contributions, attitude and perseverance throughout his career have made him a fan favorite for many, many years. He has carried the Earnhardt name with great pride and dignity and he has had an enormous positive impact on us all.  We wish Dale, his wife Amy and their entire family all the best and we encourage our fans to show their support as Dale races in his final Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Sept. 3.” Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp

Statement from Richmond’s President Dennis Bickmeier

“The Earnhardt name is iconic in the sport of motor racing,” said Richmond President Dennis Bickmeier. “Dale Earnhardt Jr. has upheld the legacy of his family to lift the sport to new heights. We look forward to watching Dale Jr’s last Richmond day race this weekend and his final regular season race this September in Richmond. We wish him all the best as he continues to serve the sport and its fans in the years to come.”

Statement from LVMS President Chris Powell

“Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been the embodiment of NASCAR for two-plus decades.  His respect for NASCAR’s history and his willingness to help develop the sport’s next superstars make him the true bridge from NASCAR’s past to its future.  He has done all of that with humility, leading to his being voted by the fans as the sport’s most popular driver every year since 2003. We’ll miss him here in Las Vegas as well.  While he never won here, his 10 top 10s tie him for first all-time at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and he’s been a great ambassador for our speedway and our city.  We wish him well for the remainder of the 2017 season and beyond and hope he remains a very visible part of NASCAR for many years.”

Statement from Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell

Every driver deserves the right to go out on his terms and I’m happy that Dale’s able to do that. While Dale won’t be on the track next year, I have no doubt that he will continue to serve as a great ambassador for our sport. One of my favorite memories at Martinsville came in 2014, when he finally won here, taking home the grandfather clock. As a historian of the sport, I know what that meant to him and seeing how excited he was is something I will never forget. I look forward to seeing him one more time in a Cup car here in the fall and look forward to continuing to see him around the garage for years to come.” – Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell








Erik Jones and the No. 77 Sport Clips Toyota Camry team found out it doesn’t take much at Bristol Motor Speedway Monday to turn a strong performance into a “what-could’ve-been” afternoon.

The 20-year-old rookie was heading to a top-10, if not a top-five finish with fewer than 100 laps remaining in the one-day-rain-delayed Food City 500 when minor contact by a competitor on Lap 420 put the Furniture Row Racing entry into the outside retaining wall. Jones was able to continue on but had to settle for a 17th-place finish, one lap short of the full 500.

“We were passing the 23 (Gray Gaulding) and I don’t know if he got loose, but he got into us about halfway down the backstretch and must have cut the right front,” said Jones. “It’s unfortunate because I thought we had a really good car. If we could have got some track position and maybe got up front, I think we could have led some laps and had a shot at the win. I thought we were just as good as the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) for the majority of the day. We’ll keep working on it and we now have a good package to come back with in the fall.”

Jones started 14th after rain Friday washed out qualifying, setting the field based on owner points. He had moved the No. 77 Camry to eighth by the competition caution on Lap 60 and was second by Lap 94. He finished the 125-lap first stage 1 in third place, picking up eight valuable championship points.

The Byron, Mich., native ran between fourth and seventh the entire 125-lap second stage, crossing the line sixth at the 250-lap mark and picking up an additional five championship points.

The team’s performance in the third and final stage seemed to be setting up a run at the leaders. Jones started the 250-lap segment in ninth, quickly dropped to 14th but was eighth by lap 300. Adjustments made during a pit stop on Lap 326 helped the car’s handling as Jones moved into fifth on lap 333, fourth three laps later and third on Lap 382.

The Furniture Row Racing team made another stop under caution on Lap 384. Despite making no chassis adjustments to affect the car’s handling, Jones said right after the restart on Lap 395 that the handling was “super tight.” He maintained the eight position in the running order and was in the process of lapping the No. 23 car when contact was made.

“I thought it was going to be a really great day for us,” said crew chief Chris Gayle. “I felt like right before we got into the accident and cut the tire that we were actually going to have a shot to compete for the win here. I was looking forward to getting that next set of tires off and getting ready for the last 100 laps. It’s just unfortunate that a little contact cuts a tire and turns what could have been a really great day for us into just an okay points day.”

The silver lining in the afternoon was that Jones moved up two spots, to 12th, in the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series point standings. 


Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team had another fast Ford Fusion for Monday’s rain-delayed Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

After running in the top six for most of the race’s first 60 laps, Blaney reported to the team that he felt a problem with the car’s power-steering system.

The problems worsened, and Blaney began losing laps to the leaders. Soon, crew chief Jeremy Bullins called Blaney to the garage, where the team changed the power steering system and sent him back onto the track.

The Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion was fast again, with Blaney posting impressive lap times for the remainder of the race. The problem was he was 48 laps down and wound up with a disappointing 33rd-place finish, which dropped him from sixth to 10th in the championship standings.
Team co-owner Eddie Wood said there was little Blaney or the crew could do once the mechanical issue arose.
“It’s not like the old days, when you could cut the power steering belt and the car drove like it had manual steering. It's almost impossible to drive one of these cars now without power steering.” Wood said, adding that it’s hard to be too disappointed when the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion was as quick as it was at Bristol.
“The car was fast, like it has been every week,” he said. “We’ll go on to Richmond, and sooner or later our luck will even out and everything will be OK.”
Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team will return to Richmond International Raceway this weekend for Sunday’s 400-lap race on the three-quarter mile oval.


ExxonMobil’s new high-performance product line provides exceptional performance benefits. It’s no wonder, then, that 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), was chosen to fly its colors during Sunday’s Richmond 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

Mobil 1 Annual Protection allows customers to go longer between oil changes – one full year or 20,000 miles, whichever comes first. It’s a low-impact product designed to help safely reduce the amount of used oil generated through regular oil changes. In fact, more than 2 billion quarts of oil would be saved each year if every driver in the United States switched to Mobil 1 Annual Protection.

Busch will look to exceed expectations as Mobil 1 Annual Protection does this weekend at Richmond, a track where he’s had some exceptional results.

In 32 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Richmond, Busch owns a pair of victories. The first came in September 2005, when Busch started fifth and led 185 laps en route to the win. Busch scored his second Richmond victory in April 2015 driving an SHR-prepared racecar. He turned in a dominating performance, leading six times for a race-high 291 laps and holding off his teammate Kevin Harvick, to score his first win of the 2015 NASCAR Cup Series season. In addition to his success in NASCAR’s top touring series, Busch also has a NASCAR Xfinity Series win at the .75-mile track, scoring the victory in April 2012.

But Richmond has been a bit fickle for Busch, who has had a handful of races in which he flirted with additional victories but wound up with less-than-stellar results. It was a trend the Las Vegas native changed, however, during this very race just two years ago when he was finally able to take advantage of a dominant racecar and found his way to victory lane once again.

There’s no doubt Busch has the know-how and the determination needed to put his No. 41 Mobil 1 Advanced Protection Ford Fusion in victory lane at the .75-mile oval known as “The Action Track.”

Busch heads to Richmond after a disappointing outing in Monday’s rain-delayed race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Since winning this year’s season-opening Daytona 500, Busch and his No. 41 team have scored three top-10 finishes in the first eight races but have experienced a string of bad luck. Despite that, their goals remain the same – scoring another early season victory, accumulating playoff points and returning to victory lane at Richmond.


After 18 seasons and more than 600 races behind the wheel, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will bring his NASCAR Cup Series driving career to a close at the conclusion of 2017. Today, he shared the news with members of his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team.

The fan favorite and two-time Daytona 500 champion will discuss his decision in a press conference this afternoon. He will be joined by Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, for whom Earnhardt has driven since 2008. The two first met about the driver’s decision on March 29.

Earnhardt, who will turn 43 in October, made his first career Cup Series start on May 30, 1999, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Since then, the Kannapolis, North Carolina, native has captured 26 points-paying Cup race wins and been voted by fans as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver a record 14 consecutive years. He has qualified for the NASCAR playoffs eight times.

Now in the midst of his 18th full-time season at the elite Cup level, Earnhardt made his 600th career series start on March 26 at Fontana, California. He will compete in his final NASCAR Cup Series race on Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hendrick Motorsports will announce plans for its 2018 team alignment at a later date.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a third-generation driver in a family forever connected to the sport of stock-car racing, and while his innate ability behind the wheel comes from Earnhardt DNA, his competitive driving style and business savvy are all his own. His common-sense charisma and flair for originality have helped propel him to become one of the most popular figures in sports. Race fans have selected him a record 14 consecutive times as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver. Earnhardt tops all NASCAR and IndyCar drivers on MVPindex’s social media power rankings. His appeal is not limited to loyal race fans, as Earnhardt has appeared on Harris Interactive’s annual survey of America’s Top 10 Favorite Athletes, frequenting the list with such names as LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning and Derek Jeter.

The 2017 season marks Earnhardt’s 18th full-time year in NASCAR Cup Series competition. The native of Kannapolis, North Carolina, has amassed 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 13 pole positions and eight non-points wins (five in the Daytona 500 qualifying Duel, two in The Clash and one All-Star Race victory). Even though he was sidelined for the second half of the 2016 season with a concussion, Earnhardt still managed to find success, scoring a victory in his preseason Daytona 500 qualifying Duel and earning four runner-up finishes through the first 18 races. Overall, Earnhardt has qualified for the NASCAR playoffs eight times (2004, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015).

Earnhardt 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. In October 2009, Earnhardt Sr. was selected as a posthumous inductee in the inaugural 2010 class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In 2007, Ralph Earnhardt was inducted posthumously into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. Both his father and grandfather were selected among NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers of all time in 1999. The three Earnhardts combine for 10 NASCAR championships.

Until 2008, Earnhardt Jr.’s career as a full-time driver was solely within the confines of the family-owned business, Dale Earnhardt Inc., where he accumulated 39 victories in the XFINITY and Cup Series from 1998-2007. But the 2008 season marked one of significant change, as Earnhardt made the boldest decision of his young career by signing with NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner Rick Hendrick to drive the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

Earnhardt’s role as a team owner and businessman continues to enjoy its own ascent separate from his driving career. JR Motorsports employs more than 140 people and fields four full-time entries in the XFINITY Series, in addition to two late model stock cars competing regionally in the Southeast. From its inception in 2006, JR Motorsports has scored 32 XFINITY Series wins after adding five in 2016 and one thus far in 2017. Chase Elliott earned the company’s first XFINITY Series championship in 2014 with teammate Regan Smith completing a one-two sweep of the top spots in the driver standings. Josh Berry secured track championship honors for the JRM late model program racing at Motor Mile Speedway (2012) and Hickory Motor Speedway (2014).

Earnhardt’s first turn at ownership began with Chance 2, a team started in 2002 and jointly operated with Dale Earnhardt Inc. With that team, Earnhardt was co-owner of the 2004 and 2005 XFINITY Series championship teams with driver Martin Truex Jr.

Fans and media selected Earnhardt as one of the top-three XFINITY Series drivers of all-time in a 2006 NASCAR poll. Earnhardt’s 24 victories rank him tied for 10th on the all-time series wins list. His two championships, in 1998 and 1999, introduced him to the NASCAR history books, and his accomplishments throughout the ensuing decade reinforced his place. On July 2, 2010, Earnhardt scored a popular victory at Daytona International Speedway in a throwback blue and yellow No. 3 Chevrolet made famous by his father in the mid-1980s. It was Earnhardt’s sixth XFINITY Series victory at Daytona, which ranks second all-time behind Tony Stewart and Earnhardt Sr. with seven apiece. On April 23, 2016, Earnhardt Jr. scored his most recent XFINITY series victory, and his first in a JRM entry, at Richmond International Raceway.

With crossover appeal that stretches beyond his accomplishments as an athlete in NASCAR, Earnhardt continues to garner media attention worldwide. He has appeared on more than 150 magazine covers and has been featured in high-profile publications such as Maxim, Rolling Stone, GQ, Men’s Journal, Sports Illustrated, People Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Men’s Fitness and TV Guide.

In 2009, Earnhardt appeared on country music’s biggest stage as a presenter at the 43rd annual Country Music Awards. The live telecast on ABC was watched by 35.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. It marked Earnhardt’s first appearance at a major pop-culture awards show since he was a presenter at the 2002 MTV Music Awards. He has been a guest on “60 Minutes,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “The Today Show,” “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “Good Morning America,” “Live with Regis and Kelly,” “Chelsea,” “The Soup,” “CBS This Morning” and “Larry King Live.” He has played cameo roles in major motion pictures “Talladega Nights” and “Cars” and was the subject of an episode of MTV’s “Diary” and VH1’s “Driven.” In 2004, he played a cameo role on the CBS sitcom “Yes Dear.” In 2010, he was featured in an episode of “Shaq Vs.” – ABC’s fall primetime reality show in which NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal went one-on-one against America’s top athletes and entertainers in their respective professions. The same year he was the voice of Chase Crawford, one of the central characters in Disney Channel’s “Handy Manny” primetime special. In 2012, he was featured in “CBS This Morning’s” Note to Self, and wrote a letter to his 16-year-old self about his relationship with his father, his racing career and building confidence within. In 2013, Earnhardt teamed up with Diet Mountain Dew and Discovery Channel’s “Fast ‘N Loud” to restore and customize a 1956 Chevy Nomad. The episode broke a series viewership record with 2.7 million viewers tuning into the cable network. In 2016, Earnhardt appeared in the season finale of Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters,” which delivered a season-high 1.3 million total viewers. After appearing previously in their YouTube videos, Earnhardt teamed up with Dude Perfect in the CMT series premiere of “The Dude Perfect Show,” which earned a total of 3.4 million viewers and ranked as CMT’s highest rated original debut ever with teens 12-17. Earnhardt also appeared in the premiere episode of DIRECTV’s “Religion of Sports” series, which examines unique examples where sports profoundly influence societies and cultures in a manner that extends far beyond merely entertainment value, from executive producers Tom Brady, Gotham Chopra and Michael Strahan. Earnhardt also spent time in the radio and television broadcast booths in 2016, calling several NASCAR XFINITY and Cup Series races for FOX Sports, NBC Sports and MRN Radio. During Super Bowl LI, FOX used its hit series “The Simpsons” to promote the 2017 Daytona 500 by featuring Earnhardt’s animated character behind the wheel with Homer Simpson riding shotgun.

Earnhardt’s eclectic taste in music is reflected in the diverse list of artists that have featured him in their music videos, including Jay-Z, Staind, Sheryl Crow, Three Doors Down, Trace Adkins, O.A.R., the Matthew Good Band and Nickelback. Earnhardt became a best-selling author in 2001 with “Driver 8,” a documentation of his rookie season in the NASCAR Cup Series. The book landed on The New York Times best-seller list for 17 weeks, and online retailer named “Driver 8” the top-selling sports book of the year.

In 2012, Forbes magazine ranked Earnhardt seventh overall on its list of “Most Influential Athletes.” In January 2013, BusinessWeek magazine named Earnhardt to its top-100 most influential people in sports. The Charlotte Observer listed him sixth among the top-25 most influential in NASCAR in 2014. In July 2014, Harris Poll rated Earnhardt tied for fifth in its “America’s Favorite Sports Star” rankings, and rated him tied for eighth in the category in September 2015, marking his 11th appearance in the top 10. In May 2016, ESPN ranked Earnhardt as the most famous auto racing driver in the world. Earnhardt tops all NASCAR and IndyCar drivers on MVPindex’s 2016 social media power rankings. He has a following of more than 5.5 million across his three main social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Earnhardt’s business sense extends beyond the track. In 2006, he started Hammerhead Entertainment, a one-stop-shop production company that produces shows for multiple national television networks. In April 2008, Earnhardt extended his entrepreneurship into the Charlotte, North Carolina, entertainment scene, as he opened Whisky River, an uptown bar and nightclub located in the EpiCentre. In May 2015, Whisky River expanded to include a location at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Earnhardt launched “Dirty Mo Radio,” a podcast network, in February 2013, which features race recaps as well as behind-the-scenes insight from Earnhardt, team members, family members and others. The free podcasts can be found on and other outlets such as iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher.

While the obligations of being a driver and team owner occupy much of his time, Earnhardt is active in charities and non-profit organizations. In 2007, he launched The Dale Jr. Foundation, a charity dedicated to giving underprivileged individuals, with a focus on youth, the resources to improve their confidence, education and the opportunity to achieve extraordinary goals. The Dale Jr. Foundation has contributed to more than 400 local and national organizations. He also is involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In May 2010, Make-A-Wish recognized Earnhardt as one of only a handful of athletes who has facilitated more than 200 “wishes” for kids battling terminal or life-threatening illnesses. The occasion was documented by the ESPN “SportsCenter” My Wish series. In recognition of his career achievements as a champion driver, team owner and philanthropist, Earnhardt was named the recipient of the 2014 NMPA Myers Brothers Award, a prestigious accolade recognizing those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport of stock car racing. In 2016, a harmless tweet from Earnhardt about his sandwich of choice, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and banana on white bread, went viral and triggered an outpouring of donations for Blessings in a Backpack, which provides food for children who face hunger on weekends when they are out of school. More than 1,195 donors contributed, while The Dale Jr. Foundation and Hellmann’s each pledged to donate $50,000, raising a total of $159,935.33 for the charity.

Earnhardt’s hobbies include listening to music, traveling and continuously quenching his thirst for NASCAR history. He enjoys spending time on his property affectionately known as Dirty Mo Acres. It consists of a vintage Western-style town, a treehouse, a paintball course and five miles of ATV trails. He married wife Amy in a New Year’s Eve ceremony on Dec. 31, 2016.