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Dale Earnhardt Jr. appeared ready to contend once more at Talladega Superspeedway, but the Junior Nation went home unhappy as their hero wound up 26th in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 after leading 26 laps.

Late in the running, Earnhardt decided to drop back in order to avoid potential wrecks. But while a four-car pileup did occur with 12 laps remaining, he was unable to make a charge off the next restart after Josh Wise moved high and blocked his momentum.

Another crash set up one last run to the checkers with three laps to go, but Earnhardt couldn’t make headway.

Today on NASCAR AMERICA, which airs at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra for online/mobile devices, Earnhardt’s decision at ‘Dega will be a topic of discussion for host Marty Snider and analyst Jeff Burton.

Also on tap:

  • Another edition of “Scan All 43”, featuring the best sights and in-car radio bites from Sunday’s event…
  • NBCSN reporter Kelli Stavast talks with Richard Childress Racing’s Ryan Newman, who sits ninth in the Sprint Cup standings but has yet to win this season…
  • And Jeff Burton will also talk about an important piece of safety equipment for the drivers – their “wraparound” head protection devices…

Just be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified. Once you plug those pieces of information in, you’ll have access to the stream.

Again, CLICK HERE at 6 p.m. ET to watch NBCSN’s NASCAR AMERICA.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force qualifies 15th with no motor explosion, says ‘I need to race smart’ Sunday

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There’s good news and bad news for John Force fans.

The good news is the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ did not suffer yet another motor explosion after enduring his third in three races during Friday’s qualifying session at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.

In fact, Force intentionally feathered the gas pedal on his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to make sure it wasn’t again overtaxed, qualifying 15th with a run of 4.281 seconds at 222.88 mph.

Now for the bad news.

When Sunday’s final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET, Force will be matched against daughter and No. 2 qualifier, Courtney Force (3.914 seconds at 332.18 mph).

“It is a little bit of a bummer that I have to race him in the first round,” Courtney Force said of her father. “Tomorrow is a new day and we will have all our stuff ready and we will put on our game faces to go for that win.”

Courtney Force is seeking her second consecutive win, having also won two weeks ago at the second national event of the season in suburban Phoenix.

“I want to have a good side-by-side safe race tomorrow in round one,” Force said. “Our goal is to take my dad down and have a long day at the track winning rounds.

“We want to move the momentum over from Phoenix. I feel like my guys have a good handle on this Advance Auto Parts Camaro.”

But don’t count out dear old dad, an eight-time Funny Car winner at Gainesville.

“I am the kind of guy that, when it is qualifying day, I run it to the edge.,” John Force said. “I run it even if I know it will hurt itself.

“(With his three motor explosions this season) I am rethinking all that. What I am looking is the long haul. To go out here and say I have to win this race or I have to qualify low after as much stuff as we have put on the ground in Pomona and Phoenix and then to come here and do it again is bad. … We want to fix this problem and move on.

“Tomorrow I am going to have to play the odds game. I am going to run it to 700 or 800 feet and hope (Courtney) gets in trouble. I need to race smart.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski