Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Earnhardt Jr. reaches another milestone in NASCAR

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. slipped through sliding doors of his hauler and parted into a sea of memorabilia-toting fans.

"Make a hole please!" a man working for Hendrick Motor­sports shouted as he walked with Earnhardt. "He has to get to his car for practice!"

Earnhardt silently signed some autographs Saturday and didn't have much time to stop and talk on a busy day.

Does he have a lot of memories at Michigan International Speedway?

"Yeah," Earnhardt said in a voice just loud enough to be heard over the sounds of revving engines and clamoring fans.

After preparing for a practice, he changed into a suit to provide commentary during the Xfinity series race, which included some drivers that compete for him and JR Motorsports. During breaks, he was featured in a TV commercial.

Earnhardt starts 27th today in the 40-car field at NASCAR's FireKeepers Casino 400 on a 2-mile oval he has become very familiar with over the years. Joey Logano has the pole and is in the front row with Martin Truex and just ahead of Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin.

Earnhardt, a 26-time winner, has two victories at MIS. He is making his 34th start on the track, tying Richmond for the venue in which he has competed on the most since making his NASCAR debut in 1999.

He picked up a desperately needed win at the wide, high-banking track on June 17, 2012, and ended a four-year, 143-race slump without a victory.

Earnhardt is coming off his best two-year stretch — winning three times last year and four times in 2014 — since winning a combined eight races in 2003 and 2004.

This year, though, Earnhardt hasn't won any of his 14 races and is among three drivers ranked in the top 12 without a win.

“Each and every week there are 12 to 15 guys with a shot to win," said Kyle Busch, who leads the Sprint Cup series with three victories, "and there are about five more guys who can surprise you by winning."

Earnhardt was second last week at Pocono, his fourth runner­up finish this year.

"Pocono was a good step in the right direction," he said. "I think we learned a lot that we could use to understand how to get better. I'm looking forward to Michigan."

NASCAR is tweaking its aerodynamic package this week, and next month at Kentucky, in the hopes of creating more competitive racing. Among the changes are reducing side-force by setting the rear toe to zero and shortening the spoiler by an inch.

"We're working on getting these cars to be less aero dependent," Busch said. "We want them to be more drivable so we can outrace guys and make moves with a better handling car instead of getting stuck in a line. I think that'll help the product. I haven't been comfortable by myself out here so far, so that doesn't bode well for being in traffic. Maybe everybody will be uncomfortable and we'll just have to outdrive them."

Comments
The Buccaneers on Hard Knocks: Moments that are even funnier, weirder and sadder now

The Buccaneers on Hard Knocks: Moments that are even funnier, weirder and sadder now

We’re now five months removed from the Buccaneers’ appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks. We went back and rewatched the series and found it to be even more entertaining the second time. Here are some of the highlights:1. Ready for launch...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Jonathan Marchessault on Lightning: ‘It started here’

Jonathan Marchessault on Lightning: ‘It started here’

Life is good for Jonathan Marchessault.The former Lightning forward is thriving for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, which recently signed the undrafted forward to a six-year, $30 million deal. Marchessault's wife is expecting their third child, a...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Lightning’s Cory Conacher hopes ‘simple’ leads to more ice time

Lightning’s Cory Conacher hopes ‘simple’ leads to more ice time

The loss of wing J.T. Brown to Anaheim will be a gain for some Lightning forwards in terms of ice time. Whether that player is currently with the team or still at AHL Syracuse has yet to be determined.Center Cory Conacher, a healthy scratch in the Li...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
USF announces 3-game football series with Louisville

USF announces 3-game football series with Louisville

USF announced Thursday it has scheduled a three-game football series with Louisville — Coach Charlie Strong's former team — starting in 2022, giving the Bulls nine games against Power Five teams over the next seven years.USF visits Papa J...
Updated: 1 hour ago
This 66-year-old is about to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents

This 66-year-old is about to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents

When Robert Owens’s father was 75, he gave his son some advice. "He said, ‘You know, son, the sad part is when you get old they just put you on a shelf and you become irrelevant. Fight to stay relevant. Fight to stay in the game, otherwise they will ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett isn’t trying to prove himself to NFL

Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett isn’t trying to prove himself to NFL

ST. PETERSBURG — Dean Powell rolled in from Safety Harbor on his motorcycle with a poster and message for former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.J.T. thx for representing The OSU with class!So Powell was thrilled when Barrett saw it this we...
Updated: 3 hours ago
‘Piratically speaking,’ NHL thrilled to don Gasparilla garb for All-Star Game

‘Piratically speaking,’ NHL thrilled to don Gasparilla garb for All-Star Game

TAMPA — Jose Gaspar, mythical pirate, meet Lord Stanley of Preston. Hang out, get to know one another, have as much fun as possible during the wrinkle in time that makes possible what will likely be a one-time-only encounter. Next weekend, th...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rick and Tom podcast: What does it mean when Bucs GM cringes at expectations?

Rick and Tom podcast: What does it mean when Bucs GM cringes at expectations?

Bucs general manager Jason Licht told Rick Stroud that he cringed at some of the preseason expectations last season, and the outrage from some fans has been more than he expected.In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down what it a...
Updated: 4 hours ago
With Victor Hedman out, Lightning’s Slater Koekkoek finally gets chance to prove himself

With Victor Hedman out, Lightning’s Slater Koekkoek finally gets chance to prove himself

TAMPA — When it comes to replacing its top defenseman, the Lightning realizes that’s not possible."Let’s be honest," coach Jon Cooper said. "Nobody in that room is Victor Hedman."But with Hedman out three to six weeks with a lower-body injury, it mea...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballMurray State at Belmont7 p.m.ESPNUJacksonville State at Morehead State7 p.m.CBSSNWomen: Florida at Arkansas7 p.m.SECWomen: Tennessee at Notre Dame7 p.m.ESPNMinnesota at Maryland8:30 p.m.FS1UNC Asheville at Winthrop9 p.m.ESPNUSt...
Published: 01/17/18