Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Sports

Dale Earnhardt Jr. aims for Michigan

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapped a long losing streak when he won at Michigan International Speedway two years ago.

How much have times changed? A victory this week would give NASCAR's most popular driver a winning streak.

Earnhardt has reached Victory Lane twice this year, including last weekend at Pocono.

Junior also has three second-place finishes in 2014 and is third in Sprint Cup points. And the question is no longer whether he can win, but how often.

"Definitely that's new," Earnhardt said. "That's the new conversation topic for us, but I just want to win the next one. We have so much fun winning and going to Victory Lane, and last week was so much fun (with) the feeling that you have inside and that you have for several hours after that. It's like the best feeling ever. And I want to do it again. I want to do it now, this weekend."

Earnhardt, who also won the Daytona 500, has his first multiwin season since 2004. And Michigan is a place where he has won twice, including the 2012 victory that was his first in a Cup race anywhere since he also won at Michigan four years earlier.

Earnhardt's success this year has come to some degree at the expense of Brad Keselowski, who got his break when Earnhardt hired him to drive for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide series. Though their developing rivalry does not involve any real bad blood, Earnhardt and Kese­lowski have gone head to head a decent amount lately.

When Earnhardt won at Daytona, Keselowski was third, and Keselowski was second to Earnhardt last week at Pocono. When Keselowski won in March in Las Vegas, Earnhardt finished second.

Keselowski, a Michigan native, has never won a Cup race at Michigan International Speedway. A win by Keselowski would extend Ford's winning streak to four Cup races at the track. Joey Logano took last year's August event, and Greg Biffle took the two before that.

But Chevrolet has won the past four Cup races, and Keselowski will try to end that run while giving team owner Roger Penske another victory in Michigan after Logano prevailed last year. Keselowski is fifth in the Cup standings; Logano is ninth.

"I think it's really good for Roger," Keselowski said. "We rely on him so much to make our team go … whether that's motivation, sponsorship, funding, decision making, leadership — across the board — and to see him be excited to have two cars that are legitimate front-runners week in and week out, I think that really energizes him to play a strong role on the NASCAR side."

Menard captures Nationwide win

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Joey Logano was a few laps from victory Saturday in the Ollie's Bargain Outlet 250 when suddenly, holding off Paul Menard wasn't his main problem. "I could tell something was wrong on the back straightaway," Logano said.

His flat tire with about five laps left let Menard win the Nationwide series race at Michigan. It was Menard's second victory in NASCAR's second-tier series and first since 2006.

"I hate to give them away like that," Logano said. "You look at the silver lining, I guess, which is we had a fast race car and should have won the race. You win some this way and lose some this way."

Logano led until he was derailed by the tire problem. Menard then held off Sam Hornish by 0.468 seconds.

Trucks: Darrell Wallace captured his second series victory by winning the Drivin' for Linemen 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill. Wallace (133.361) finished 0.329 seconds ahead of German Quiroga. Erik Jones battled Wallace for the lead until spinning out with six laps left.

NHRA: Brittany Force earned the No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel for today's Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tenn. Force claimed her second No. 1 spot in three events as her Friday run of 3.828 seconds at 317.94 mph held up. Del Worsham (3.992 seconds at 319.45 mph) led Funny Car, and Shane Gray (6.621, 208.78) topped Pro Stock.

24 Hours of Le Mans: The Toyota LMP1 prototype driven by Alexander Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima, which started on the pole, led after 11 hours at the sports car race in France. The race ends today.

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