Doctors have not cleared Dale Earnhardt Junior to return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as he continues to recover from a concussion. As a result, he’ll miss at least two more races – Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway and the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 4th. Alex Bowman, who drove the Number-88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to a twenty-sixth-place finish last month in New Hampshire, will make his second start as Earnhardt’s sub in Sunday’s race at Michigan. Jeff Gordon, who has run the last four races in Earnhardt’s absence, will be back behind the wheel for the Darlington round on Labor Day weekend.
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Dale Earnhardt Junior was held out of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday and it was already announced that Jeff Gordon will once again drive the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS at Pocono Raceway this coming weekend. Although there is no official timetable for his return to the track, Earnhardt Jr. posted to Twitter over the weekend that he sees ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and that gains were seen during physical therapy. Once Earnhardt Jr. returns to racing, he will have an uphill battle to make The Chase for the Sprint Cup on points alone. Following Indianapolis Earnhardt Jr. has fallen outside the cutoff to seventeenth in points and will likely fall further after not competing in Pocono.
Kyle Busch made NASCAR history with his dominating performance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway winning the Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard Sunday afternoon. Busch’s bid for history started Saturday when he won the NASCAR Xfinity Series Lilly Diabetes 250 from the pole leading all but one lap in the sixty-lap main event. Taking the green flag on the pole Sunday afternoon was the next step. History would be made three hours later when Kyle Busch took the checkered flag and became the first driver in NASCAR history to sweep a weekend’s races from the pole position. However, the win was not without a little late race drama as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver had to survive several late race restarts including the first double overtime since NASCAR’s new rules went into effect this year. Matt Kenseth restarted on the outside of Busch on the final restart but quickly settled into the runner-up position to give JGR a one-two finish. Jimmie Johnson battled back from an early speeding penalty to finish third. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-5. In his final race at the speedway, Tony Stewart raced up front in the early portion of the race. A pit road speeding penalty that put him a lap down looked to spoil the Columbus, Indiana native’s last race at his “home track.” Stewart battled back to finish eleventh and took a special lap around the track with Jeff Gordon, who finished thirteenth filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr., saluting the fans on their final race at the famed speedway together. The race featured four lead changes among three drivers and eight cautions for thirty-four laps.
Next Stop Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Crown Royal 400 at The Brickyard, the twentieth round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season. All eyes will be on the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 which will be driven by Jeff Gordon, who comes out of retirement to fill in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. who is still dealing with concussion symptoms that forced him to sit out last week at New Hampshire. Sunday will also mark the last start at the Indiana track for Columbus, Indiana native Tony Stewart, who will retire at the end of the season. Stewart is a two-time winner at the speedway and is coming off back to back top-five finishes the last two weeks. The new driver of the No. 24 car, rookie Chase Elliott will look to rebound after three finishes outside the top thirty at a track that saw the No. 24 go to victory lane five times.
Last Year’s Race: Kyle Busch’s mid-season march toward a post-season berth continued with his third victory in four races. The win lifted him from thirty-fifth to thirty-third in the point standings with seven races left in the regular season that would ultimately lead to a championship for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. Busch led ninety-five laps, including the final forty-nine trips around the one-mile oval. The race ended under caution for Alex Bowman’s single-car accident that took place in Turn-2 after Busch took the white flag. Brad Keselowski led a race-high 101 laps and finished second with Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano (Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate) and Dale Earnhardt Junior completing the top five … Pole sitter Carl Edwards led just nineteen laps and finished seventh … Busch was the ninth different winner in the last nine summertime races contested in New Hampshire dating back to 2007 … Denny Hamlin was going for a weekend sweep after winning the X-FINITY Series race twenty-four hours earlier but finished fourteenth on the Cup side. He was one of twenty drivers running on the lead lap with Busch at the checkered flag.
Track Position at Loudon: Twenty-three of the forty-two Sprint Cup Series races run have been won from a starting position of tenth or better. Ten winners have come from a starting position of twentieth or worse … Winning From the Pole in Loudon: Just five of forty-two Cup Series races have been won from the pole position, most recently by Ryan Newman in 2011 … Track Qualifying Record: Keselowski (Ford) … 140.598 miles per hour … 27.090 seconds … September 2014 … Track Record, Race Speed: Jeff Burton (Ford) … 117.134 mph … 2 hours, 42 minutes, 35 seconds … July 1997.
Practice Schedule: Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. (ET) … Saturday from 10 to 10:55 a.m. and 12:30 to 1:25 p.m. (ET) … Qualifying: TODAY at 4:45 p.m. (ET).
Dale Earnhardt Junior will not compete in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race in New Hampshire, suffering from concussion-like symptoms. Following accidents last month at Michigan International Speedway and earlier this month at Daytona International Speedway, doctors evaluated Earnhardt this week in Charlotte and did not clear him to race. Alex Bowman will drive the Number-88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the New Hampshire 301. The 23-year-old from Tucson, Arizona, is running a limited X-FINITY Series schedule for Junior Motorsports this year with a best finish of third place in four starts, that coming in mid-May at Dover. A timetable for Earnhardt’s return has not been established.
Brad Keselowski led a race-high 115 laps on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway, including the final seventeen, to claim his twentieth career victory and third this season. The final caution period forced the race one lap past its scheduled distance. On the restart, Keselowski darted away from the field and beat runner-up Kyle Busch to the checkered flag by fifteen one-hundredths of a second. Trevor Bayne finished third with Joey Logano fourth and Ricky Stenhouse Junior fifth. Fords claimed four of the five top finishing positions with Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota the only “outsider” among them. Pole sitter Greg Biffle led just one lap and finished eighth in the forty-car field.
Keselowski started fifth in his Number-2 Team Penske Ford, took his first lead nine laps into the race and ran steadily in the top five throughout the night. His three wins tie Busch for the series lead as drivers start thinking about seeding for the post-season Chase that begins in two-and-a-half months … Saturday’s race included five cautions, most notably for a massive crash that gobbled up half the field early in the second half of the race.
The twenty-two-car melee was triggered when Jamie McMurray brushed teammate Kyle Larson and then went up the track across the nose of Jimmie Johnson’s Chevrolet. Dale Earnhardt Junior and Kevin Harvick were among those victimized. Earnhardt was able to complete the race and finished twenty-first. Harvick could not and he placed thirty-ninth, watching his regular-season points lead shrink to fourteen over Keselowski – who advanced from fourth to second in the standings with nine races remaining before the Chase opens.
With Tony Stewart’s victory Sunday in Sonoma, California, the list of Sprint Cup Series winners this season grows to eleven. If there are six more drivers who reach Victory Lane over the final ten regular-season races, then there’ll be one driver with a victory to his credit that will not get a spot on the 2016 Chase Grid – which will include only the sixteen top eligible drivers based primarily on race wins.
The lone remaining driver who won last year but is still without a victory in 2016 is Dale Earnhardt Junior … who will arrive at Daytona International Speedway later this week as defending winner of Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola.
Stewart’s the last driver to win back-to-back July races there, in 2005 and 2006.
Next stop Sonoma Raceway in Northern California for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350, the sixteenth round of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the first of two road races on the schedule. With Joey Logano’s victory twelve days ago at Michigan International Speedway, the list of Sprint Cup winners this season grew to ten. If there are seven more drivers who reach Victory Lane over the final eleven regular-season races, then there’ll be one driver with a victory to his credit who will not get a spot on the 2016 Chase Grid –which will include only the sixteen top eligible drivers based primarily on race wins. The lone remaining driver who won last year but is still without a victory in 2016 is Dale Earnhardt Junior.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Number-42 Sprint Cup Series team has been penalized for the second week in a row, following Kyle Larson’s third-place finish Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. Last week, crew chief Chad Johnston drew a one-race suspension after it was discovered during post-race inspection at Pocono that all the lug nuts on Larson’s Chevrolet were not properly tightened. On Wednesday, interim crew chief Philip Surgen was fined twenty-five thousand dollars after Larson’s car failed post-race inspection at M-I-S. The team was also docked fifteen driver and owner championship points.
In the Camping World Truck Series, Red Horse Racing crew chief Scott Zipadelli has been suspended for one race, fined five thousand dollars and placed on probation through December 31st. Following German (air-MONN) Quiroga Junior’s eighth-place finish last weekend in Texas, it was determined that all the lug nuts on his Number-11 Toyota were not properly tightened.
And in the X-FINITY Series, Team Penske crew chief Brian Wilson has been fined seventy-five hundred dollars and the Number-22 team was docked ten championship points. Joey Logano’s Ford failed post-race inspection at Michigan following his sixth-place finish in the Menards 250.
In addition to the Ganassi penalties after the Michigan race, sixteen Sprint Cup teams – more than one-third of all entries were issued written warnings for various infractions.
The list of drivers whose teams violated NASCAR rules includes Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Junior … and Stewart- Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart.
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