While Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick are still mathematically eligible, a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship looks very likely for Jimmie Johnson.
One of the most dominant drivers in NASCAR history, Johnson rewrites the record books nearly every time he straps into the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Prior to the final race of the 2013 season, NASCAR RaceDay looked at five reasons Jimmie is so good, discussed the other six-time champions, and -- as usual -- Rutledge Wood asked the hard-hitting questions.
PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 4, 1990: Dale Earnhardt won the Checker 500 at Phoenix in 1990 in the Richard Childress Chevrolet. The only other leader during the race was Rusty Wallace. (Photo by ISC Archives via Getty Images)
(RacingOne, ISC Archives)
NASCAR Sprint Cup championship contestants Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth will say and do all the right things in Phoenix International Raceway this week, and again the following week at Homestead-Miami Speedway. They're both great racers and class acts who drive for championship-caliber teams. And they like and respect each other, which is why they've been joking with and texting each other.
But you know what?
Racing, like wrasslin', needs heroes and it needs villains, guys who are polarizing figures who get everybody talking and arguing. Championship fights need the kind of rancor you got with Petty vs. Allison or Waltrip vs. Yarborough back in the day, not two guys praising each other like it was an infomercial for a juicer.
Which brings us to the late, great Dale Earnhardt.
John Force sits in front of the image of Dale Earnhardt Sr. on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway grandstands.
(David Hakim, Castrol)
Dale Earnhardt has been dead for more than a decade, but his presence is still powerful, even outside of NASCAR.
Last weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway -- the drag racing facility adjacent to the 1.5-mile oval where NASCAR races -- NHRA legend John Force locked up his record 16th Mello Yello Funny Car championship.
But prior to Force's final round match up against daughter Courtney Force, John got on his scooter, left The Strip and rode over to the oval track, where he sought an audience with "The Intimidator," or at least his massive likeness on the side of the Dale Earnhardt Terrace grandstands.
Ty Dillon celebrates his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Texas Motor Speedway.
(Matthew Thacker, LAT)
There are few things in NASCAR that are as sensitive as the No. 3.
Made famous by Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Richard Childress Racing, the stylized No. 3 is as iconic as anything in American sports.
Debates rage over running the number in the Sprint Cup Series. Some are in favor, while others are vehemently opposed.
While it has yet to return to the Sprint Cup Series, the famous No. 3 is currently being run -- quite successfully -- by team owner Richard Childress' grandsons Austin and Ty Dillon in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, respectively.
With the next generation of drivers continuing the legacy, the No. 3 has not seen its final checkered flag in NASCAR.
FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 2, 2000: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his crew celebrate their win in the DirecTV 500 NASCAR Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway. The win was the younger Earnhardt's first in Cup competition.
(RacingOne, ISC Archives)
Regardless of how he does there this weekend, Texas Motor Speedway will always be a special place for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won both his first NASCAR Nationwide Series race there in 1998, and his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race in 2000.
In '98, driving the ACDelco-sponsored Chevrolet Monte Carlo owned by his father, Earnhardt Jr. was trailing Joe Nemechek in the Coca-Cola 300 when the green flag came out with seven laps to go. Nemechek pulled out to a big lead, but Earnhardt Jr. quickly reeled him in.
Coming to the white flag, Earnhardt Jr. got a tremendous run and went under Nemechek, taking the lead on the final lap and holding off an onrushing Elliott Sadler to win for the first time in 16 series starts. "What a day in history!" former racer and television commentator Buddy Baker said as Junior raced to the checkered flag.
Earnhardt Jr., on the radio to his father as he took the checkered flag, yelled, "Daddy, I love you to death!"
21 Oct 2001: Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrates with his team in Victory Lane after winning Sunday's EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala.
(Jamie Squire, Getty Images North America)
Without question, Talladega Superspeedway is one of the most unique tracks in NASCAR, a mammoth facility with a colorful history, lots of one-time winners, countless great finishes and a well-earned reputation for wild nightlife in the track campgrounds.
Every NASCAR driver has his or her own special Talladega memories. But when your last name is Earnhardt, well, those memories are a little more dynamic and maybe even poignant than most drivers have.
In the mid 1990s, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was working as a mechanic at his father's Chevrolet dealership and racing street stocks on the half-mile Concord Speedway near his hometown of Kannapolis, N.C.
And then one day his phone rang. It was Earnhardt's father, calling from a test session at Talladega.
"They were going from V-6's to V-8's in the Nationwide Series," Earnhardt Jr. recalled. "And Dad was down here driving it and Dave Marcis was out here driving Dad's car. And Dad called me at the dealership. I was changing oil and he told me to get my helmet and my suit and be at the airport the next morning and not to ask any questions or tell anybody where I was going."
It proved to be more of an adventure than Earnhardt Jr. was expecting, but a fun one.
Brian Scott will make his Sprint Cup Series debut Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
(Tom Jensen, FOX Sports)
This weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, up-and-coming drivers Kyle Larson and Brian Scott will be making their Sprint Cup Series debut in the Bank of America 500. Currently running the NASCAR Nationwide Series, both drivers join a long list of drivers to make their first start at the 1.5-mile track.
Larson will pilot the No. 51 Pheonix Racing Chevrolet as he prepares to run the full Sprint Cup season in 2014 for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, while Scott will drive the No. 33 Shore Lodge Chevrolet in his first stab at the Sprint Cup Series.
Both young drivers took part in a Sprint Cup Series test at Charlotte, so despite this being their first start, each has some laps under their belt in a Sprint Cup car.
If you had to compare Kyle Busch to an old-school NASCAR driver, who would it be?
NASCAR Race Hub answered the question in their "Old School New School" segment. Listen as Adam Alexander, Larry McReynolds and Jimmy Spencer give their thoughts on the which old-school drivers remind them of Kyle Busch.
It's elite company ... and sure to get a few of you fired up.
BRISTOL, TN - AUG. 23: Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 AdvoCare Chevrolet, looks on from the top of his car transporter during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 23, 2013 in Bristol, Tenn. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
(Sean Gardner, Getty Images North America)
There are few things that get NASCAR fans fired up more than the idea of the No. 3 returning to the Sprint Cup Series.
Made famous by Dale Earnhardt Sr., the No. 3 has not been run in the Sprint Cup Series since his untimely death in 2001.
Although an official announcement has yet to happen, it is widely expected that Austin Dillon will make the transition to run the in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season in 2014. The grandson of team owner Richard Childress, it is likely Dillon will drive the No. 3 car.
Atlanta Motor Speedway, a wicked-fast 1.54-mile oval track located about 20 miles southeast of Atlanta, is known for great racing. The pavement is old, there are multiple grooves and it's a track where how a driver manages tire wear and his racing line play a key outcome in the race.
It's also a place where plenty of NASCAR history has been made.
While there have been many memorable races at AMS, four standout as being head and shoulders above the rest.
Bristol Motor Speedway’s nickname is “The Last Coliseum” and in NASCAR’s long storied history, no one played the role of gladiator better than the late, great Dale Earnhardt.
So it’s only fitting that Earnhardt played the leading role in what is universally regarded as the best Bristol race ever and one of the greatest nights in NASCAR history.
The year was 1999 in what is now known as the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol. Before a packed house of 155,000 race fans, Earnhardt and Terry Labonte waged a fierce battle all night long, exchanging the lead eight times over the final 200 laps.
Four years earlier, the same two had tangled at the same track, with Earnhardt wrecking Labonte on the last lap, but Labonte holding on for the victory.
Not this time.
On Lap 490, the caution came out and most of the leaders pitted. Earnhardt stayed out on old tires, while Labonte came in for four fresh tires, restarting fifth on Lap 495. With four laps to go, Labonte was already past Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon for third. The next time around, he flew by Tony Stewart and took over second place.
With two laps to go, Labonte caught Earnhardt, the two cars briefly making contact. Coming to the white flag, Labonte passed Earnhardt, putting the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet underneath the familiar and menacing black No. 3.
FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 03: Kenny Wallace climbs out of the #99 Toyota Toyota after qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 3, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
(Jared C. Tilton, Getty Images North America)
There's nobody quite like Kenny Wallace.
As the Fox Sports analyst and NASCAR veteran turns 50 years old on Friday, we look back at some of the most classic Kenny moments from over the years.
1. Pushing Dale Earnhardt Sr. to victory at Talladega in 2000
In an amazing show of talent, Dale Earnhardt Sr. went from 18th to first in the closing laps of the 2000 Winston 500 at Talladega to score what would be his final NASCAR victory. While "The Intimidator" was bobbing and weaving through traffic, Kenny Wallace was glued to the back bumper of the black No. 3 the entire time. When Earnhardt took the checkered flag, Wallace followed him to a second-place finish.
Standing in Victory Lane, Dale Sr. credited Kenny for pushing him to the front. "Kenny Wallace really worked hard with us, and he did a good job," Earnhardt said. "I don't think we could have gotten back up there if it weren't for Kenny."
Sure, special paint schemes are commonplace in NASCAR these days, but which ones truly are something special?
Try these five on for size.
5. KURT BUSCH, Talladega Nights - Love him or hate him, Kurt Busch has a wicked good sense of humor. So last year, when he drove for Phoenix Racing and the team had no sponsorship for the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, Busch had the car trimmed out in a Ricky Bobby "Talladega Nights" special paint scheme. Busch even had a stuffed cougar in the garage.
Today we celebrate the life of The King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Elvis Presley, who died on Aug. 16, 1977.
Without question, Elvis was a NASCAR man. The King starred in a bunch of a racing movies including 1968’s “Speedway,” where he drove a Dodge Charger built by NASCAR Hall of Fame member Cotton Owens, with the lovely Nancy Sinatra as his co-star.
Click here for some mind-blowing pictures from back in the day in the Carolinas.
Even though he passed away 36 years ago, Elvis — or at least his likeness — has shown up more than once in NASCAR. There were at least three Dale Earnhardt diecasts with The King’s image and several for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Rusty Wallace, among others.
NASCAR racers, naturally, are car geeks. So it’s not surprising that as the popularity of the Barrett-Jackson Collector-Car Auctions have grown over the years, so as the interest of NASCAR racers.
This week, Barrett-Jackson is in Reno-Tahoe, Nevada for the first time, with SPEED and the FOX family of networks providing live coverage Aug. 8-10.
Here are 10 cars with strong NASCAR connect that sold at past Barrett-Jackson auctions.
10. 1992 Ford Thunderbird, sold for $45,000 at Palm Beach in 2010
A relative bargain, this T-bird was built by legendary NASCAR team owner Junior Johnson for Bill Elliott. Mike Beam, who was the team’s crew chief, personally oversaw the restoration of the car, which was said to have been the car Elliott drove to one of his two victories at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1992.
(Barrett-Jackson Auction Co.)
9. 2010 Toyota Camry, sold for $82,500 at Scottsdale in 2011
Thisrace-ready 2010 Toyota Camry NASCAR Nationwide Series road course stock car was prepared by Rusty Wallace Racing. Steve Wallace, Rusty’s son, scored top-10 finishes in this car three times in four road races. Rebuilt by the Rusty Wallace Racing staff following the 2010 season, this had an 800+ horsepower Toyota engine from Triad Racing Technologies.
Any list that includes a flying jump kick through a windshield is good with us.
Elsewhere, Richard Childress is still deciding if he'll bring Dale Earnhardt's No. 3 back to Sprint Cup competition. Austin and Ty Dillon have raced the #3 in the Trucks and Nationwide series, and Austin Dillon could run a full-time Cup schedule in 2014.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. exits car following crash during Sunday am warmup. World Copyright: Bill Stafford/LAT Photographic ref: Digital Image Only, 17 - 18 July 2004, Sears Point, California, USA
(BILL STAFFORD, LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC)
A driver’s worst fear is fire.
And no one knows that better than Dale Earnhardt Jr., who saw what looked at first like a minor crash turn into a terrifying inferno during a practice session for an American Le Mans Series race at Sonoma Raceway in 2004.
Jimmie Johnson appeared on FOX Sports Live Sunday night to talk about his sixth NASCAR championship. In the one-on-one interview with Dan O'Toole, he was also asked about McNabb's controversal comments about drivers not being athletes.