Earn­hardt hopes to add a win to many Char­lotte mem­o­ries

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY STEVE REED

con­cord, n.c. — Dale Earn­hardt Jr.’s first child­hood mem­o­ries of Cup Se­ries rac­ing come from Char­lotte Mo­tor Speed­way.

He re­mem­bers watch­ing his fa­mous fa­ther Dale Sr. tear up the track. He ran plas­tic Richard Petty and Cale Yar­bor­ough cars down a nearby dusty hill. He re­calls his days as a teenager, break­ing into the track with buddies and hotwiring golf carts un­til they were chased off by ap­proach­ing head­lights.

It’s the place where he’d fin­ish run­ning an Xfin­ity race and re­turn to the Cam­pus Con­nec­tion apart­ment com­plex across the street and drink beer with his buddies un­til late into the night.

It’s also the track where he ran his first NASCAR Cup Se­ries race — and won the 2000 all-star race as a rookie.

But of all of the mem­o­ries at Char­lotte, one is strangely ab­sent — a Cup Se­ries points race vic­tory.

Earn­hardt, 42, would like to change that in his fi­nal sea­son as a NASCAR driver be­fore step­ping away for re­tire­ment. In fact, he wants to win the Coca-Cola 600 more than any other race re­main­ing on the docket.

“I would love that, to win the 600,” Earn­hardt said. “It’s an iconic event.”

Earn­hardt was a non-fac­tor at the all-star race at CMS last week­end, but brought a to­tally dif­fer­ent setup this week af­ter con­sult­ing with team­mate Jim­mie John­son, a seven-time Cup Se­ries cham­pion, and No. 48 team crew chief Chad Knaus.

Earn­hardt ran a lit­tle bet­ter in prac­tice on Satur­day af­ter qual­i­fy­ing 19th.

Kevin Har­vick will start along­side Kyle Busch on Sun­day for NASCAR’s long­est race, a gru­el­ing 400-lap run on a 11/2-mile oval.

Earn­hardt’s best chance to win here came in 2011 when he ran out of gas on turn four of the fi­nal lap while lead­ing the race.

Blaney wins Xfin­ity race

Ryan Blaney passed Kevin Har­vick on a restart with three laps to go to win the Xfin­ity Se­ries race at Char­lotte Mo­tor Speed­way on Satur­day.

Blaney went from last to first to earn his fifth ca­reer Xfin­ity race win and first in two years.

Har­vick has won 46 ca­reer Xfin­ity Se­ries races but has been shut out at Char­lotte.

Blaney had qual­i­fied third for the race, but was sent to the back of the field to start the race be­cause of un­ap­proved tire changes to his No. 12 Ford. He raced to the lead early in Stage 2.

Austin Dil­lon fin­ished third and Christo­pher Bell fourth.

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