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Feature

10 Surprising Outcomes in the Bojangles’ Southern 500

Denny Hamlin scored an exciting victory in Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway after leader Martin Truex Jr. suffered a flat tire in the closing laps.

The victory, the second of the year and 31st of his career for Hamlin, capped a long, intense night of racing at NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway.

Here are 10 surprising facts about the 25th race in the 26-race Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season.

  1. Seven-time’s struggles

Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time Cup champion, finished 12th at Darlington. He has now gone 12 consecutive races without finishing better than 10th. His last finish inside the top 10 came June 4, when he won at Dover.

  1. Battle of the brands

Toyotas swept four of the top six finishing spots, with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Hamlin (1st), Kyle Busch (2nd) and Matt Kenseth (6th) turning in strong showings. Rookie Erik Jones (5th) had an excellent run in his Furniture Row Racing Camry. Kurt Busch (3rd) was the lone Ford in the top six finishers, with Austin Dillon (4th) the only Chevrolet.

  1. Dillons do it

It was a good night for the Dillon brothers. Austin Dillon finished fourth to earn his first top-five finish since winning the Coca-Cola 600 in May, while brother Ty was 13th in the No. 13 GEICO Chevy. That matched Ty’s best finish of the season

  1. Twice as nice

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch finished third behind race-winner Hamlin and Kurt’s younger brother, Kyle. Coming off a fifth-place run at Bristol, this is the first time Kurt has finished in the top five in consecutive races all season.

  1. Playoffs

Three drivers who are winless in 2017 — Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray — remain playoff eligible heading into the final regular-season race next weekend. The only way one of them can be knocked out is if there is a first-time winner at Richmond International Raceway next Saturday night. No other driver can race his way in on points.

  1. Points

Martin Truex Jr. won the first two stages of the Darlington race and has clinched the regular season championship and the 15 playoff points that go with it. He will enter NASCAR’s championship battle with at least 52 points.

  1. Martin’s mayhem

There were two throwback paint schemes in the race that paid homage to NASCAR Hall of Fame member and two-time Bojangles’ Southern 500 winner Mark Martin. Trevor Bayne finished 35th in one of the Martin schemes and Clint Bowyer 40th in the other.

  1. Leading the way

In a 367-lap race, Hamlin and Kyle Larson each led the exact same number of laps – 124.  You don’t see that very often.

  1. Broom time

Hamlin swept both the Monster Energy Cup and the NASCAR XFINITY Series races at Darlington for the second time, having done it first in 2010. The only other drivers to sweep at The Track Too Tough To Tame are Dale Earnhardt in 1987 and Mark Martin in 1993.

  1. Broom time, Part Deux

Joe Gibbs Racing didn’t win any of the first 18 races of the Cup season. They have now won four of the last seven. And for the second consecutive Cup race, JGR swept the weekend, as Hamlin won both races at Darlington and before that, Kyle Busch won all three at Bristol. This team is peaking at the right time.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Six Keys to Victory at Darlington

Tonight at Darlington Raceway, 40 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will throw down in the Bojangles’ Southern 500, one of the most intense and grueling races of the year.

Darlington, an egg-shaped, 1.366-mile track is an especially brutal and unforgiving circuit, certainly among the toughest in all of NASCAR. There’s a reason it has nicknames like “The Lady In Black” and “The Track Too Tough To Tame.” Darlington is fast, treacherous and merciless.

Here are six keys to victory tonight’s race:

The high life

The Bojangles’ Southern 500 will have plenty of cautions. It always does. On restarts, the race leader gets to choose which lane he wants to restart in. At Darlington, the fast way around is the outside lane, which the leader will choose every time. This is especially critical if there’s a restart at the end of the race.

Size matters

This is a long race. Over the last three years, the Bojangles’ Southern 500 has taken an average of 4 hours, 2 minutes to complete. And the longer the race, the more the potential for mistakes — hitting the wall, making a bad pit stop, speeding on pit road, botching a restart. The likelihood of calamity striking is one huge reason why upset winners at Darlington are few and far between. Here, the best drivers on the best teams win.

No gambling

At some tracks, you see crew chiefs gamble on fuel only or two tires on pit stops or maybe no pit stops at all.  Not at Darlington. Tire wear is too pronounced here to gamble, so every pit stop will be for four tires.  In yesterday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race, the caution came out with 10 laps to go and all the leaders pitted for four fresh Goodyears. That will be the case tonight as well.

Equal opportunity

The first three rows of the starting grid tonight consists of two Fords (Kevin Harvick 1st, Brad Keselowski 6th); Two Toyotas (Martin Truex Jr. 2nd,  Kyle Busch 3rd); and two Chevrolets (Kyle Larson 4th, Jamie McMurray 5th). That would suggest a highly competitive race where no one team or brand has a pronounced advantage over the others. And it’s a good bet that one of the top six qualifiers will win.

Hendrick struggling

The struggles continue for Hendrick Motorsports, which right now lacks speed across the board in its cars.  Jimmie Johnson qualified 18th, Chase Elliott 20th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 22nd and Kasey Kahne 23rd. In the final practice the Hendrick cars weren’t speedy, either, with Kahne best of the bunch at ninth in single-lap fast speed and Elliott sixth in 10-consecutive-lap average speed. That won’t cut it tonight.

Penultimate pandemonium

The Bojangles’ Southern 500 is the 25th of 26 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season. After the final race next weekend at Richmond International Raceway, the 16-driver playoff field will be set. Several big-name drivers on the outside looking in must win either tonight or at Richmond to make the playoffs, including Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer.

 

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Darlington Raceway Event Making a Tradition of Honoring Traditions

No professional sport honors its past like NASCAR. Racing’s history is rich in tradition, and one of the most cherished events on the schedule will appear to go back in time this weekend.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Darlington Raceway for the 68th annual Bojangles’ Southern 500.

The race traditionally ran on Labor Day Weekend from 1950 to 2003 and returned to its prominent place on the schedule in 2015.

By renewing one tradition, another started as the track began hosting NASCAR Throwback weekend.

From throwback paint schemes to the retro driver and crew uniforms, nearly every team in the field participates in bringing an old-school feel back to the race track.

“The entire garage and fan base gets into it, and it’s really just a walk down memory lane, and a chapter out of a history book,” Darlington Raceway president Kerry Tharp said. “It’s really kind of cool.”

Not only will the race itself reflect the past, but fans at the track will be fully immersed in a weekend from the 1980s.

“We try to tie everything into the throwback, whether it be the paint schemes, the music,” Tharp said. “We got great pre-race entertainment. We’ve got Bret Michaels, who is the former lead singer of the rock band Poison. The Oak Ridge Boys are going to sing the national anthem, and they’re certainly an iconic group in this country. “

It will taste and look like the 80s as well, from favorite foods to classic outfits.

“We’ve got the throwback food items, the pimento cheese sandwich, the tater tot, sloppy joe, funyuns combo,” Tharp said. “Then also bringing back the Darlington dog. Then all of these are at throwback prices as well. Fans will dress up in the 80s attire, whether that be bell bottoms or what have you. So it’s going to be kind of cool.”

Each year the track recognizes a particular period of its history and this weekend reflects back on 1985-1989. Some of NASCAR’s all-time greats found success at Darlington during that span, adding to the legacy they built by conquering one of the most challenging speedways on the schedule.

“Dale Earnhardt Sr. won four Cup races during that time at Darlington including two Southern 500’s,” Tharp said. “Then 1985 is when Bill Elliott came to Darlington and won the Winston Million. Those are three of the cool aspects that we’re honoring this year during our race weekend.”

Now the stars of today have the opportunity to mirror those they grew up watching. 

“This is one of the crown jewels of the sport,” Tharp said. “It ranks right up there; I’d say right behind the Daytona 500 for a race that the drivers want to win.”

Only seven competitors in Sunday’s field have captured a Southern 500 victory before, and they will face a stiff challenge from the young talent looking to make a name for themselves by winning a career-defining event.

For one weekend a year, the sport relives moments of its storied past while charging forward in the 2017 season. The significance of the race stretches beyond what unfolds on the track and truly is a one-of-a-kind event, something that Tharp hopes will continue adding to Darlington’s legacy.

“We want our weekend to be a reunion,” Tharp said. “Whether it be families, former NASCAR friends or associates, to come back and make this the one weekend that they circle on the calendar on Labor Day Weekend that tells them this is the place to be Labor Day Weekend.”

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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NASCAR Cup Series

EXCLUSIVE: Mark Martin Knows How Big Darlington Is

This weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to historic Darlington Raceway for the annual Bojangles’ Southern 500 throwback Labor Day weekend, one of the most exciting and important races on the schedule.

Drivers prize a victory at Darlington, because it is one of the toughest and most demanding tracks on the circuit in terms of driving skill.

NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Mark Martin, a two-time Southern 500 winner, knows all about that.

“Darlington ranks up there in a lot of ways,” Martin told PopularSpeed.com in an exclusive interview. “It had so much history before I got there as being a difficult and challenging race track.”

Despite the track’s treacherous nature — there’s a reason it’s nicknamed “The Lady In Black” — Martin did well at Darlington, winning there in 1993 with Roush Fenway Racing and again in 2009 with Hendrick Motorsports.

“I had a lot of success there through the years,” said Martin. “I remember running second to (Dale) Earnhardt in both races in 1989, when I hadn’t won a race yet, so I was pulling my hair out. And then to get a couple of Southern 500s is major in my career.”

This weekend, Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford will honor Martin with a Carolina Ford Dealers throwback paint scheme that dates back to Martin’s his days in the Busch Series in 1989.

“I really have an extra soft spot in my heart with the throwback weekend,” Martin told POPULAR SPEED. “Because it is so much fun to be a part of — to go have a reunion with all the heroes of our sport that made it what it is today.”

Categories
News

6 Things You Need to Know About Darlington Raceway

The last off-weekend of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is now officially history.

This weekend, the Cup teams return to historic Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500, one of the most exciting races of the season.

Here are six things you need to know about Darlington and this weekend of racing:

NASCAR’s first superspeedway

When Darlington opened in 1950, the NASCAR Strictly Stock Series — what today is the Cup Series — was in its second year. There were only 19 races in 1950, 16 of which were run on dirt tracks. Darlington was the only track on the schedule that was more than a mile long. The first Southern 500 in 1950 featured a field of 75 cars, with the race won by Johnny Mantz by a margin of nine laps over Fireball Roberts. It was Mantz’s only victory in 12 career NASCAR starts.

The big event

Before Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, the Southern 500 was the biggest and most prestigious race on the NASCAR schedule. It was also the biggest party. The old Southern 500 schedule was to qualify on Saturday, take Sunday off and race on Labor Day. That meant a lot of drinking and dancing on Saturday night. And while Talladega Superspeedway has the reputation of being a wild place, Darlington was party central decades earlier.

Palmetto Pride

When you think of NASCAR’s epicenter, you think of the metro Charlotte area, where most of the teams are based now. But South Carolina has a rich and deep history in stock-car racing. NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers David Pearson and Cale Yarborough both hail from the Palmetto State, as do NASCAR Hall team owners Cotton Owens and Bud Moore.

Throwback time

For the third consecutive year, the Bojangles’ Southern 500 will have a throwback theme, with teams running old-school paint schemes from the 1980s and ‘90s. You can see the schemes here. The throwback weekend has been a huge hit with fans, sponsors, drivers and crews and it makes this race something truly unique.

Playoffs

The Bojangles’ Southern 500 is the 25th of 26 races in the Cup regular season. Following the conclusion of the regular season at Richmond International Raceway, the 16-driver field will be set for NASCAR’s 10-race, season-ending playoffs. Already, 13 drivers are locked into the playoffs by virtue of winning a race.

No surprises

Some tracks, most notably Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway, produce a lot of first-time and upset winners. Not Darlington, though. The treacherous and wickedly fast 1.33-mile circuit is one of the most challenging tracks in NASCAR and rarely does an upstart ever win here. In the last 15 years, the only true surprise Southern 500 winner was Regan Smith, who in 2011 won his only Cup race and the first for Furniture Row Racing.

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News

Danica Patrick Salutes Robert Yates with Darlington Throwback

And the hits just keep on coming for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway.

Danica Patrick’s No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford will carry a special paint scheme honoring NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018 member Robert Yates for the Labor Day weekend throwback race.

The Quality Care/Ford Credit-sponsored paint scheme is similar to the one NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett carried on his No. 88 Robert Yates Racing Ford during his championship season of 1999.

“The throwback race at Darlington is such a cool event,” said Patrick. “… I’m excited to run a true throwback scheme this year. It’s great that we’re able to honor Robert Yates and all he’s done for the sport.”

“The No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford was definitely a memorable program for our team,” said Yates.  “We won the Daytona 500 in Dale’s first race with that scheme in 1996 and went on to win many more races and the championship in 1999. … I can’t thank Stewart-Haas Racing for honoring me and everyone that was on the team during those years.”

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Feature

Bowyer Takes Throwback Paint Scheme Personally

And the hits just keep coming. Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Uptown Charlotte, Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin unveiled the throwback paint scheme Bowyer will carry Labor Day weekend during the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. 

Bowyer’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford will carry the deep blue colors of the Carolina Ford Dealers in a tribute to Martin’s 1989 ride in what was then known as the NASCAR Busch Series.

“For me, it was really easy,” said Bowyer, who is 11th in Cup points in his first season with SHR. “When you think about throwback paint schemes and how to honor a legend of the sport, it was so easy to look back at 2012, when Mark Martin came over to be my teammate at (Michael Waltrip Racing).

“It meant so much to me,” said Bowyer. “I learned so much from him (Martin). To have this opportunity to honor him at the Darlington throwback weekend they’ve created is so much fun.”

And the sponsors is a good fit, too.

“This Carolina Ford Dealers paint scheme is an easy one for me,” Bowyer said. “As soon as I saw it, I’m like, ‘That’s the scheme.’”

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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XFINITY

Preece Earns Top 10 in Darlington Debut

JD Motorsports earned its first top 10 of 2016 when the No. 01 Chevrolet driven by Ryan Preece crossed the finish line 10th at Darlington Raceway on Saturday.

Preece, a XFINITY Series rookie, knows his finish at the track called “The Lady in Black” was hard-earned after qualifying 22nd and flirting with the top 15 for the first 100 laps of the 200-mile event.

A four-car accident in Turn 4 on Lap 103 brought out the final caution of the race and ensured Preece would have a decent position on the restart and a lead-lap finish.

“Track position was pretty important and that caution just happened to fall our way when the 13 [Carl Long], Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and my teammate, Ross [Chastain], ended up wrecking,” Preece told POPULAR SPEED. “That caution came out at a good time for us because it was kind of between pit cycles. We hadn’t talked about pitting yet.

“I knew after that [caution] that we were going to pit soon because tires were so important. That caution came out when we were on the lead lap. We restarted ninth and ended up staying 10th, so it all worked out. It’s a worn out racetrack, and personally, I like it.”

The South Carolina track is notorious for giving racecars the “Darlington Stripe,” which happens when a car brushes the outside wall on one of the turns. Inexperienced rookies of any NASCAR series are particularly susceptible to the “Stripe” and often become victims of the track that can be “too tough to tame.” But Preece kept his JDM machine in fine shape by the race’s end.

“[The track] goes toward the feel that you’re looking for. In [Turns] 1 and 2, there’s so much throttle time, and you’re driving off the right rear of the car. In 3 and 4, it’s a combination of right rear [drive] and overall grip,” Preece said.

Preece’s goal for the rest of 2016 is to remain a top-15 car. At the season’s start, he aimed for top-20 finishes every weekend, but as the summer has progressed and he improved, he feels confident in more opportunities at top-10 results.

He expects to be back with JDM for the 2017 XFINITY season, along with teammates Garrett Smithley and Chastain.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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NASCAR Cup Series

RAPID REACTION: Drama in Darlington

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Many drivers attempted to court The Lady In Black, but Martin Truex, Jr. was the only one to succeed. The No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota held a position within the top 10, even as the race transitioned into night. Even when he complained of terrible handling, the car ran stout lap times. His win at Darlington Raceway makes 2016 the first multi-win season of his career.

Nighttime brought a little bit of everything to the South Carolina track; green flag runs were offset by quick hitting cautions late in the race. Pit road problems shook up the restart order on more than one occasion. A combination of issues could have made it anyone’s day – and that is what the Southern 500 is all about.

As the smoke from Truex’s burnout clears, here are some thoughts following the second-to-last race of the regular season.

Not a one trick pony

Last week’s winner, Kyle Larson, proved his victory wasn’t a fluke; the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet finished third after an impressive day/night. Starting 16th put him in a tight spot, but he and crew chief Chad Johnston quickly tweaked the car to Larson’s liking.

Once he got into the top 10, handling of the car became necessary. His car ran well on short runs – and the plethora of late cautions played right into his hands. However, Kevin Harvick refused to back down.

Larson said, “I kind of cleared the No. 4 in the middle of one and two, and I wish I would’ve pulled up a little bit more to get a better run off the corner and get a better run off the backstretch. He gave me a push, and I really didn’t know what to do with it down the back, and I went down to the bottom.”

When he went to the bottom, Harvick moved around him and claimed second. Neither could catch winner Martin Truex, Jr., but Larson is grateful for the strong run.

“All in all, it was a good day. I’m happy to be a contender two weeks in a row for a win, especially leading up to the Chase.”

Bubble boys

Drivers Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman finished seventh and eighth on Sunday night, earning much-needed top 10s to keep their Chase hopes alive. Newman went into the weekend 14th in points, only 37 points ahead of 16th-place Kahne.

Both drivers overcame mediocre starting positions to claim their results; Kahne started 18th and ran consistently within the top 15 throughout the whole night. The final pit stop changed the game; he gained four spots on pit road, lining him up sixth for the last restart. It was a bright spot for the entire No. 5 team, who haven’t collected a top 10 since their ninth-place finish at Sonoma Raceway.

Newman’s charge toward the front involved hard-nosed racing – something the Richard Childress Racing driver is a pro at doing. After starting from the rear of the field, Newman struggled with a loose racecar early on while running top five lap times. He eventually earned the lucky dog and returned to the lead lap. From there, he raced through the field and landed in eighth for his eighth top10 of 2016.

Although this is good news for Kahne and Newman, other drivers vying for Chase slots now feel more pressure than before. Jamie McMurray competed within the top 10 before being relegated to 15th at the end of the event. Austin Dillon and Ryan Blaney finished 12th and 13th, respectively, yet those results are not good enough this late in the season. Next weekend at Richmond International Raceway just got a lot more intriguing for this handful of competitors.

Testy Tony

Despite being in his final season, Tony Stewart hasn’t lost any of his bite. When Brian Scott came down on Stewart, the No. 14 retaliated and hit Scott. The No. 44 hit the wall and brought out the caution on lap 203. Stewart ran within the top 10 until his engine blew on lap 317.

“We were 40 laps into our run, on old tires, sliding around. I got underneath him in two, and for some reason, he ran us through there,” he said after he took his No. 14 to the garage. “I got really loose and was starting to gather it and got him in the left rear and wrecked him. I’m surprised he didn’t wreck us, too.”

NASCAR called Stewart and crew chief Mike Bugarewicz to the hauler after the race. Any penalties from the incident will be announced during the coming week.

A historic night

The second year with the throwback theme was grander than anyone expected. More teams participated with legendary paint schemes and vintage firesuit styles, while NBC brought back Ken Squier, Ned Jarrett, and Dale Jarrett to call a portion of the event. Even the racing added to the atmosphere; The Track Too Tough To Tame came alive after sunset, bringing cautions galore and hard, dramatic racing.

The fans got what they paid for – and thousands attended to take it all in. Fans filled nearly every seat on the front stretch and proved that the throwback event at Darlington Raceway is one that can’t be – and shouldn’t be – missed.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Time Critical to Earnhardt’s Recovery

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is taking his time – and that is exactly what he needs.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver spoke with the media on Sunday afternoon, days after the announcement Earnhardt would sit out the rest of 2016. Team owner Rick Hendrick and Dr. Michael “Micky” Collins sat by his side as he discussed his progress and condition – both of which are going well.

“I feel like the recovery is going really good. I’m starting to see improvements as we are going,” Earnhardt said. “It seems like this has lasted a really long time, but when you look at it on paper it has been a very short period, and the gains that I’ve felt in that short period give me a lot of confidence that this is going in the right direction. All the stuff and hard work we are doing is paying off.”

Concussion-like symptoms sidelined Earnhardt earlier this season, causing him to exit the No. 88 Chevrolet and allow Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman to fill in. Collins, who is the medical director of the University of Pittsburg Medical Center sports medicine program, echoed Earnhardt’s thoughts on his gains. He talked in-depth about Earnhardt’s improvements and dedication to getting better.

Collins said, “In fact, over the last two or three weeks I’m pleased to tell you that the fruits of that labor are now paying off. Dale has been a model patient.  I know this is cliché sitting up here, but Dale has worked as hard as any patient that I treat currently or in the past.  He has been very diligent about doing his therapies and we actually have very specific treatments that are targeting these problems that Dale has and we are seeing the benefits of that.”

Earnhardt’s treatment currently includes cognitive exercises and emersion therapy to draw out any symptoms. Because his symptoms are also related to panic, his doctors recommend going into situations that increase anxiety. Although that is a difficult task, he keeps pushing – and seeing results. Hendrick has noticed his driver’s efforts.

“He is like a member of the family. And, I care about him as a person probably as much or more, than as a race car driver. So, I’ve been concerned,” Hendrick said, “But, I’ve been surprised how hard he’s worked. I shouldn’t say that. But he sends me video as proof. But, we’re like a family there at Motorsports and all the drivers and crew chiefs; and you see the team light up with he shows up. It’s just like anytime you have a member of your family hurt or sick or going through something, everybody wants to rally to help him.”

Although healing is definitely the priority, Earnhardt wishes the process could be sped up.

“I’m very disappointed.  I miss my guys, I miss the garage, I miss all of you folks [the media],” he said. “It’s so much fun to see so many familiar faces.  That part is the disappointing part because I am just used to being here and this is sort of our circle, our family.  It’s been weird not being at the track.”

Earnhardt plans to be around the track as much as he can and continue honoring sponsor commitments. Once cleared by Collins and NASCAR, he wants to test before the Daytona 500 next season. Time is the best medicine for NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver. Although his return is To Be Determined, Earnhardt wants to pick up exactly where he left off.

“My heart wants me to continue and wants me to continue to be working with the guys I’ve got. I’m only 41. I think I have some good years left. I’m as good as I have ever been inside the car,” Earnhardt said, adding, “Rick likes to say we have unfinished business. I certainly feel the same way.”

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.