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NHMS Notebook: Earnhardt Jr. eyes first with in NHMS race on Sunday

By MIKE CULLITY and ALLEN LESSELS
New Hampshire Union Leader

September 22. 2012 7:42PM
Dale Earnhardt Jr., waits as his crew prepares his car for practice at NHMS on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)


LOUDON - Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fourth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 in July and has never been better than third here.

He figures it's high time he picked off a New Hampshire win.

'It's a little bit frustrating that I haven't won here because this is a track where I feel I should be capable of doing that,' Earnhardt said.

Earnhardt was eighth in last week's opener to the Chase to the Sprint Cup championship at Chicagoland Speedway and is seventh in points entering today's race. He starts 14th in the race today.

Earnhardt's third-place result here came in 2004. Three times at NHMS he has been fourth and three other times fifth.

The results don't match up with how he feels about the track.

'I really love racing here,' Earnhardt said. 'It's so much fun to race here. It's so challenging to pass. It's just how the car rolls through the center and you work so hard to try to get that to happen all day. I kind of enjoy short track racing and the corners here and the speeds kind of lend themselves to that style.'

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Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager at NHMS, expects Sunday's event to sell out with a crowd of about 100,000.

As of Saturday afternoon, less than 1,000 tickets remained.

There will be tickets on sale today, Gappens said. There will be general admission tickets available for the hill on the track's backstretch at least.

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Of the front 10 drivers in the starting lineup for Sunday's Sylvania 300, only four are in the Chase.

Jeff Gordon, who is 12th in the points and 47 behind leader Brad Keselowski, starts on the pole and Kyle Busch, who is not in the Chase, is beside him.

Other Chase drivers in the front 10 are Tony Stewart who qualified third, Kasey Kahne fifth and Martin Truex Jr. ninth. A string of Chasers - Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Earnhardt Jr., Keselowski and Harvick - start from 12th to 16th.

Jimmie Johnson starts 20th, Matt Kenseth 25th and Denny Hamlin is 32nd to complete the Chase field.

Brian Vickers starts fourth and Carl Edwards is fifth.

Mike Olsen, the North Haverhill native making his Sprint Cup debut for longtime buddy and Cup owner Frank Stoddard Jr., starts 42nd.

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NASCAR and NHMS will honor the memory of U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Gionet of Pelham before the Sylvania 300. Gionet died on June 4, 2006, during combat operations in Iraq. Gionet's mother, Denise, will receive a VIP experience at the track through the Honor and Remember Organization.

Brian Vickers, who will drive the No. 55 Toyota in the Sylvania 300, will sign autographs at the Race Fans 4 Freedom tent in the NHMS fan midway at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Vickers is helping the nonprofit organization promote its 'Race 2 The Polls' campaign, encouraging fans to vote in November.

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NASCAR is offering fans the chance to win a trip for two to Las Vegas for 'NASCAR After The Lap,' a Nov. 29 night of entertainment featuring all 12 drivers who qualified for the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup. The prize package also includes a 2013 Ford F-150 FX4 truck. To enter the sweepstakes, visit NASCARafterthelap.com.

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A photo of Manchester resident Jack Campbell's smiling face will adorn Ryan Newman's No. 39 Aspen Dental Chevrolet during Sunday's race. Aspen Dental selected Campbell as part of its partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing on the NASCAR Smiles initiative, featuring patient smiles at NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races throughout the season.


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