CONCORD, N.C. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. grew up one town away from Charlotte Motor Speedway, running wild with his friends through the infield as his daddy thrilled the hometown crowd.
He became NASCAR’s most popular driver, the only North Carolina native who drives full-time in a series whose origins lie in part in the souped-up cars bootleggers used to outrun police as they moved moonshine around the state.
Earnhardt won’t be at the track on Saturday night. He will miss two races after a doctor benched him because of two concussions over the past six weeks. It marks the first time an Earnhardt won’t race at Charlotte since 1978 – and the first time an Earnhardt won’t run a Cup race since the 1979 Southern 500.
The show will go on without him, but it remains to be seen how many people come to watch. A week after Talladega’s announced attendance was its smallest since figures have been provided, Charlotte Motor Speedway officials were faced with the task of selling tickets to an Earnhardt-less race.
“The good news is we have not had a mass exodus of fans, or cancellations of tickets,” track president Marcus Smith said Friday.
NATIONWIDE SERIES: In Concord, N.C., Joey Logano raced to his eighth Nationwide victory of the year, passing Brad Keselowski with eight laps to go after taking on two tires and a splash of gas.
Logano led 62 laps en route to his 17th career victory and first at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
He has made 18 series starts this season.
Kevin Harvick was second, followed by Nationwide points leader Elliott Sadler. Kyle Busch finished fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth.