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Earnhardt chases one title as driver, one as owner

Going great guns: Track president Eddie Gossage gives Tony Stewart a rifle as a trophy for the Cup pole at Texas.

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Going great guns: Track president Eddie Gossage gives Tony Stewart a rifle as a trophy for the Cup pole at Texas.

FORT WORTH, Texas — For Dale Earnhardt Jr. the driver, the No. 1 item on his bucket list is a NASCAR Sprint Cup title.

For Dale Earnhardt Jr. the car owner, a NASCAR Nationwide series championship would be a perfect cap to the 2014 season — and Earnhardt's JR Motorsports is making a concerted run.

With Chase Elliott and Regan Smith driving, and strong support from Sprint Cup juggernaut (and Earnhardt's Cup employer) Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt thinks JRM might have the critical mass necessary to win a championship. The title eluded them last year as Smith's lead disappeared in the second half of the season.

"We want to win a championship so bad this year," Earnhardt said Friday, after Elliott earned his first Nationwide win in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. "We feel like we learned a lot last year going through that process with Regan, and now we have two teams that are really capable of getting the job done."

Elliott, the 18-year-old son of former Cup champion Bill Elliott, became the second-youngest winner in the history of NASCAR's second-tier series.

"He's just really humble, but very understanding of what's happening to him," Earnhardt said. "He grew up with his father as a racer and saw how popular Bill was, and I'm sure has been in and around situations where he's not going to be overwhelmed with the attention. He's really focused on his racing and trying to do well."

Stewart on pole: Tony Stewart beat Brad Keselowski for the pole as qualifying ended Saturday for today's Sprint Cup Duck Commander 500 at Texas.

Stewart ran a lap of 195.454 mph at the end of the final round on the 1½-mile track.

It's his 15th Cup pole and first since Atlanta in 2012.

"It was cool. I'm not normally a qualifier," Stewart said.

Keselowski (195.419) was out of his car watching the scoring pylon and dropped his head in disappointment after Stewart crossed the finish line.

What Final Four? Many in the NASCAR community planned to attend Saturday night's NCAA basketball semifinals at nearby AT&T Stadium in Arlington, but not Joey Logano.

"I just know racing," Logano said. "I don't really care about any other sport too much. I'm here to race and win a race. Whatever they want to do shooting hoops, they can keep on going with that. They don't need me there."

Logano has been focused to the fullest extent since joining Team Penske last season.

"I've probably taken that to the extreme over the last two years," Logano said. "If you're looking to be the best, you've got to work harder than everybody. You've got to figure out how to be better. I'm in the garage until it closes all the time, just to be with the guys. If something comes up, I can help them with some answers or help them with some setup stuff."

Formula One: Mercedes swept the front row for today's Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir, with Nico Rosberg earning the pole position ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton. Rosberg (1 minute, 33.185 seconds) was a quarter-second faster than Hamilton, who abandoned his final lap after running wide at the first corner.

Sprint Cup points

After six of 26 races. Sixteen drivers will make the season-ending Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 227—

Matt Kenseth 218 9

Carl Edwards 217 10

Jeff Gordon 216 11

Jimmie Johnson 209 18

Kyle Busch 189 38

Brad Keselowski 188 39

Joey Logano 187 40

Austin Dillon 179 48

Ryan Newman 174 53

Paul Menard 169 59

Denny Hamlin 165 62

Brian Vickers 165 62

Today's race

Duck Commander 500, 3 p.m., Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth TV/radio: Ch. 13; 102.5-FM

Earnhardt chases one title as driver, one as owner 04/05/14 [Last modified: Saturday, April 5, 2014 7:49pm]

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