NASCAR Notes: Junior still smiling, even at a road course - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

NASCAR Notes: Junior still smiling, even at a road course

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. smiling, even at a road course
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) -
You can't wipe the smile off the face of Dale Earnhardt Jr. these days, not even at a road course.

With five races before the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins, Earnhardt is in unfamiliar territory as the series gets set for the second and final road race of the season at Watkins Glen International Sunday. He's perched atop the points standings. A year ago at The Glen, he was 10th, just one point ahead of eventual champion Tony Stewart. The top 10 drivers in the points and two wild-card teams qualify for NASCAR's version of a postseason.

Earnhardt, who has nine top-five finishes and 15 top-10s, leads Matt Kenseth by a scant five points, with Greg Biffle another point back and five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson only eight points behind.

In 12 starts at Watkins Glen, Earnhardt has qualified in the top 10 three times, but still is seeking the first road course win of his career. He has two top-five finishes and three top-10s at The Glen.

A steady rain on Friday forced NASCAR to push back Cup practice until late afternoon and Earnhardt was only 28th fastest. Qualifying for Sunday's Finger Lakes 355 is scheduled for late Saturday morning.

Hamlin crashes in Cup practice; goes to backup car
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) -
Denny Hamlin has crashed in Sprint Cup practice at Watkins Glen International.

Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota slammed into the guard rail that lines the 2.45-mile road course only seconds after Patrick Long's Toyota blew an engine, his No. 30 spewing oil on the track and kicking up grass as it came to a stop.

Jeff Burton then hit the back of Hamlin. There was left front damage and more damage across the entire back of Hamlin's car. That forced Hamlin to go to a backup car, but he had to go back to the garage when that car began leaking oil after practice resumed.

Burton also had to go to a backup car and was 29th fastest. Hamlin, eighth in the points standings, was 23rd.

Watkins Glen, NASCAR ready for weather
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) -
Watkins Glen International is ready for any kind of weather.

A week after 10 fans were injured by lightning strikes at Pocono Raceway, one of them fatally, WGI president Michael Printup says his staff has been drilled repeatedly on what to do in case of a storm.

Printup says there are more than 30 police cruisers with loudspeakers and nine big-screen televisions to warn fans. His staff also has text message availabilities to warn fans of impending danger.

Printup says all emergency action plans are reviewed with NASCAR prior to a race.

Several violent thunderstorms moved through the Watkins Glen area Thursday night and rain forced NASCAR to curtail Sprint Cup practice on Friday. The Cup cars still hadn't made it onto the track at 4 p.m., though the Nationwide Series practiced in the rain on rain tires.

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