Friday Charlotte Notebook

A Meaningful Gift In Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Honor

CONCORD, N.C. - As he moves through his final season of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had one consistent request-that gifts and recognition in his honor have a broader societal impact. Moments after posting the third-fastest speed in the opening minutes of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashed Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt got loose entering Turn 4 and slid up the track where he struck the outside wall preparing for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America 500 (Sunday, Oct. 8
NBC at 2:00 PM ET).

On Friday, Charlotte Motor Speedway honored Earnhardt's wishes-and then some-with a gift of $100,000 to establish and underwrite the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Concussion Research Fund at the Carolinas Healthcare System's Levine Children's Hospital.

During two separate seasons, Earnhardt missed races because of concussion symptoms. In 2012 he was sidelined for two events, and last year he sat out the final 18 races after his symptoms from a wreck at Michigan worsened drastically in subsequent weeks.

During Friday's presentation, the football team from Mooresville High School, Earnhardt's alma mater, was ushered into the media center as part of the surprise.

"We have a lot of history with concussions and awareness and rehab and all that good stuff, so this is something that is actually very close to my heart," Earnhardt said. "I hope to be able to continue to help others going forward. This is a great way to do that, so thanks again."

Earnhardt didn't play football at Mooresville. In fact, his Twitter profile lists him as "Former backup fullback for Mooresville Blue Devils varsity soccer."

"I was four 4-feet-10-inches tall at the time," Earnhardt said of the year he entered high school. "I think I was 5-foot-3 when I got my driver's license. So I was real short, and we were driving by the football field-well, the practice field-and they were out there practicing, and I said, 'I want to play football.' And the guy said, I'm going to take you down and introduce you to the soccer coach, because I don't think you need to be playing football.

"So I played soccer anyways. I got me a letter jacket and all that. We went to State and lost, but it was a lot of fun. I played one year, and I was the back-up, so I sat on the bench all year and I got to play a couple of games. We were a pretty good team, so we would get a big lead, I would get in a couple of games."


The Oct. 15 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway is all but certain to have a profound effect on the Playoff.

Though Talladega isn't an elimination race per se, the random nature of events at a restrictor-plate track can elevate the championship prospects of drivers who avoid the inevitable "big one" and dash the hopes of those who don't.

But there's a strategy that can make the outcome at Talladega moot. Just win Sunday's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and lock up a spot in the next round before heading to the heart of Alabama. That, says playoff driver Ryan Blaney, is the only way to approach Talladega with any sense of comfort.

"If we're in Victory Lane (at Charlotte), to be honest with you, I feel that's the only way that you can really feel good about heading into a speedway like (Talladega)," Blaney said. "Even if you win a couple stages, yeah, that's great and you have a bunch of gap.

"But you can go out and get caught in one before the first stage and lose a bunch. I don't think you can ever feel comfortable going into a speedway race unless you're locked in. Hopefully we can win the race. That's our main goal. Maybe a solid day helps out. I don't think you really be comfortable unless you win the race going into next week."


NASCAR can't control the weather at its race tracks, but through an association with The Weather Company, announced Friday as an official NASCAR partner, hyper-local prediction of conditions affecting racing venues will be more ac curate than ever.

In collaboration with Flagship Solutions Group, The Weather Company will integrate a weather insights dashboard into NASCAR's racing operation and decision support system.
"There is an enormous amount of logistics and planning needed to support a NASCAR race, but the one thing we do not have control over is weather," said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR vice president, officiating and technical inspection.

"This partnership with The Weather Company and Flagship Solutions Group will provide NASCAR access to critical information that can improve race operations and help minimize delays, while improving the race-day experience for millions of our loyal fans."

--- NASCAR Wire Service---