Dale Earnhardt Jr. Officials Credit Pilots For Saving Driver & Family

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Officials are crediting the heroic actions of the pilots on Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s private jet for evacuating the NASCAR legend and his family from his burning plane during the crash, this according to new documents.

After the plane crash landed in Elizabethton, Tennessee on August 15 ... it caught fire and began to burn.

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But, while the flames raged, "the flight crew [which only consisted of the pilot and co-pilot] secured the engines and assisted the passengers with the evacuation," according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB has been investigating the crash and while they have not specifically released the cause ... they do note that the landing gear on the plane collapsed at some point during the crash landing.

Officials say everything about the flight appeared to be routine until the landing ... when, for some reason, the plane bounced twice on the runway ... before crashing with only 1,000 feet of runway left.

The plane ultimately settled on the edge of a nearby highway where the flight crew evacuated Dale Jr., his wife, their 1-year-old daughter and the family dog.

Dale says he suffered back injuries in the wreck but expects to be fine. The rest of the family and the two pilots are all reportedly doing fine.

As part of the investigation, officials recovered the plane's black box -- but it was damaged in the fire ... so it's been sent to a lab for examination.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 'My Back's Bruised Up Real Bad' ... After Plane Crash

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he's still VERY sore after surviving a plane crash just 7 days ago -- but he's already getting himself ready to RACE again next week.

"My lower back is bruised up real bad," the 44-year-old NASCAR legend told a fan on Twitter.

"Lots of swelling and I just need that to go down and the pain to chill out."

Of course, Dale, his wife, his 1-year-old daughter, his dog and two pilots were involved in a terrifying wreck last Thursday when their plane crash landed in Elizabethton, Tennessee.

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Scott Reis

Dale and his family's injuries were initially described as bumps and bruises ... but now Earnhardt's revealing he's actually pretty banged up.

The good news ... Dale says he's gunning to get healthy enough to race in the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW200 at the Darlington Raceway on August 31, which features the biggest stars of NASCAR's XFINITY Series.

"I been treating the area [lower back] every day solely to get well to race," Dale says.

"I have a plan B but hope not to use it."

It's still unclear what caused Earnhardt's plane to go down last week ... but in a press conference, National Transportation Safety Board officials said the scene was scary, adding Earnhardt's plane bounced TWICE on the runway before it skidded to a stop.

Officials are expected to reveal a cause of the crash in the upcoming days.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. NASCAR Thanks Plane Crash First Responders ... Free Tickets!!!

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NASCAR dropped an awesome "thanks for saving our legend" gift over the weekend ... donating tickets to the first responders at Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s plane crash -- and seems they loved the gesture!

44-year-old Junior was involved in a fiery plane wreck last week, where he, his wife, his daughter and two pilots miraculously survived when their aircraft went down in Elizabethton, Tennessee.

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Scott Reis

Everyone involved in the accident thanked the town's first responders for making sure they all got out OKAY ... and as a present, NASCAR gave them tix to Saturday night's Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

"We had a great time with our first responder family at the BMS night race!" The Carter County Sheriff's Office said.

"A big thank you to NASCAR for giving us and all the agencies that responded to Dale Jr.'s plane crash free tickets!"

Dale also chimed in with a thank-you message of his own -- breaking his silence on the crash -- writing Monday, "We are truly blessed that all on board escaped with no serious injuries, including our daughter, our two pilots and our dog Gus."

"I am thankful for the quick response of my pilots, local law enforcement, emergency personnel and hospital staff."

So far, the cause of the accident has yet to be revealed ... but National Transportation Safety Board officials said last week they anticipate having a preliminary report out soon.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Plane Bounced Twice On Runway Before Crash ... Officials Say

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THE INVESTIGATION CONTINUES
WHNS

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is SERIOUSLY lucky to be alive today ... National Transportation Safety Board officials just announced his plane bounced TWICE on the runway before it eventually crash landed.

Junior, his wife, his 1-year-old daughter and the two pilots on the plane all miraculously survived after their aircraft crashed in Elizabethton, Tennessee on Thursday.

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Scott Reis

NTSB officials updated media members on some of the details of the accident ... revealing the whole thing was caught on surveillance video -- and it sounded scary as hell.

The lead NTSB investigator, Ralph Hicks, said he could see the plane hit the runway two times before the right landing gear on the aircraft collapsed on the runway.

Hicks said the plane -- a Cessna Citation Latitude 680 -- skidded down the runway, through a chainlink fence and into a ditch before it came to a stop near the local highway.

Hicks said all five passengers -- and Dale's dog -- were able to get off the plane in a matter of minutes ... before massive flames engulfed the aircraft.

Hicks said the flight was only a 20-minute one from a nearby city in North Carolina.

NTSB officials have yet to determine a cause for the crash ... saying it could take about week before their investigation concludes.

Dale Jr. -- who works as a race announcer for NBC -- is taking the weekend off after the crash. He's expected to try to return to his broadcasting job next week in Darlington.

For their part, the Earnhardts released a statement on Friday through Dale's sister, Kelley, saying, "Dale, Amy, Isla and our two pilots are doing well."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. In Fiery Plane Crash Released From Hospital

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5:50 AM PT -- 8/16 -- NBC Sports released a statement saying they spoke with Dale and his team after the incident and are in "agreement that he should take this weekend off to be with his family." They're hoping to see him back in the booth next month at Darlington.

4:16 PM PT -- A source close to the situation tells TMZ Sports ... Dale and his family have all been discharged from the hospital and are expected to be okay.

3:12 PM PT -- WCYB in Bristol has obtained footage of Dale Jr. being treated by EMS at the scene of the crash.

Waiting for your permission to load the Facebook Video.

2:05 PM PT -- The FAA tells TMZ Sports ... the airplane rolled off the end of the runway at 12:40 PM PT. We're told an investigation is currently underway and the National Transportation Safety Board is expected to determine a cause of the crash.

1:58 PM PT -- Dale Jr.'s sister, Kelley, just released a statement ... confirming Dale, his wife and daughter -- as well as 2 pilots -- were involved in the crash.

"Everyone is safe and has been taken to the hospital for further evaluation. We have no further information at this time. Thank you for your understanding."

THE CRASH SITE
Scott Reis

NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. was a passenger on an airplane that caught fire after crashing in Tennessee ... and officials tell TMZ Sports he was transported to a nearby hospital.

The plane -- registered under Earnhardt's JR Motorsports -- crashed at Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Carter County just minutes ago. No word on what caused the crash.

Officials tell us Dale Jr. made it off of the plane alive ... but his current status is still unknown. We're told there were other passengers on the plane, but officials do not have a complete passenger list yet.

Reportedly, Earnhardt's wife, Amy, and 1-year-old daughter, Isla, were both on the plane as well. Officials would not confirm that with us, nor share their health status.

FYI -- the aircraft is a 10-seat, twin-engine Cessna Citation Latitude ... and the pictures show the plane was a fiery wreck at the end of the runway at the small airport.

We've reached out to Dale Jr.'s rep for comment ... and all they would say is “we are aware of the situation, and will put out a statement later.”

Originally Published -- 1:41 PM PT

Tony Stewart Punches Fan In Face In Race Track Fight ... Caught On Video

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DON'T MESS WITH TONY
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NASCAR legend Tony Stewart straight-up socked a heckler in the jaw at a racetrack Friday night ... and the entire incident was caught on camera.

48-year-old Stewart -- a 3-time NASCAR Cup Series champ -- was driving in a sprint car race in Jackson, Minnesota when he claims his engine blew out on him after just one lap.

A ton of fans flocked to the track to see the race star drive that night -- the Jackson Motorplex even advertised it as "Tony Stewart Night" -- so Tony stuck around afterward to sign some autographs.

That's when a heckler came up to Stewart -- and according to one eye witness, Brandon Woehl -- began cussing out Smoke for "quitting" only one lap into the race.

"F*ck you, Tony," the heckler allegedly said ... "You piece of sh*t. You come here and basically race for one lap and quit, you piece of sh*t."

That's when Woehl says Tony responded, firing back, "I blew my engine, you f*cking asshole. Do you want to pay for it?"

The two traded a few more barbs ... with Stewart deciding to unleash a single-barrel salute to the heckler with his left hand.

In the video, you can hear the heckler's response, because he screams back at Stewart, "Hey, Tony, I got two of them" while flipping him off with BOTH hands.

Stewart immediately lost his cool and went after the guy ... and in the video, you can hear Tony's left fist collide with the heckler's face!!!

Woehl claims Tony said after the punch, "F*ck, I broke my hand."

Woehl also says members of Tony's camp took him away from scene almost immediately after the incident ... while the heckler was ushered away by event security.

Cops tell TMZ Sports they were NOT called to the scene ... and, instead, they say the matter was handled internally by race track officials. They say no formal complaints against the driver have been filed.

We've reached out to Tony's camp multiple times, but so far, no official comment.

Stewart -- who retired from NASCAR following the 2016 season -- now spends a ton of time racing in small events throughout the country. He's also the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing.

Tony is set to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2020.

Brian France NASCAR's Ex-CEO Pleads Guilty In Drunk Driving Case

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Brian France -- the former CEO of NASCAR -- just pled guilty to misdemeanor drunk driving stemming from an August 2018 arrest in the Hamptons ... TMZ Sports has learned.

France, 56, was pulled over on August 5, 2018 in Sag Harbor, NY -- and during the stop, cops say he bombed a field sobriety test and later blew a .18 on the breathalyzer ... more than twice the legal limit.

According to the police report, cops say they also found oxycodone pain pills. To make matters worse, we're told France name-dropped President Trump during the arrest in an effort to skate on the charges.

Now, the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office says France has pled guilty to one count of misdemeanor DUI and in exchange, he got 100 hours of community service and must complete an alcohol education course before June 5, 2020.

If he completes the terms of his plea deal, prosecutors will allow France to withdraw his guilty plea and reduce the charge to a traffic violation.

France was originally charged with misdemeanor criminal possession of a controlled substance, aggravated DWI and DWI, and was facing up to a year in jail for each charge.

France was the CEO of NASCAR at the time of the arrest -- a role he held for 15 years -- but took a leave of absence following the incident and later stepped down. Brian's uncle, Jim France, is currently serving as Chairman and CEO of NASCAR.

Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini issued a statement about the case saying, "This case is a reminder for both residents and anyone visiting Suffolk County this summer that it is all of our responsibility to keep our roads safe. It is not acceptable for anyone to be driving while drunk or on drugs in our community."

NASCAR's Joey Logano Help Me Find Our Lost Dog!!!

NASCAR stud Joey Logano needs your help ... he says his family's searching for their missing dog, an adorable French Bulldog named Luigi.

Joey's wife, Brittany, says Luigi's been missing since Monday, and she thinks he figured out a way to get past the fence at their home in North Carolina.

The Loganos say they've been calling around to local animal shelters, dialing 311 and have been putting up flyers all around their neighborhood in Charlotte -- but to no avail.

Luigi is black and brindle, weighing in at 19 lbs and should be wearing a green collar with his name and a phone number for his parents. He's also got a microchip implant, but apparently, that hasn't helped his family find him. Poor little pup.

Joey addressed the scary situation Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway ... telling reporters he thinks the dog might've been stolen.

“We’ve learned that Frenchies are one of the most stolen dogs around," Logano said. "It’s kind of sad that someone does that. It’s a member of your family. It’s a jerk move. Hopefully, we can figure it out.”

NASCAR's Denny Hamlin Treated for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning ... During Race

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This is scary stuff ... NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin fell ill while behind the wheel of his #11 car during a race at Dover on Monday when carbon monoxide gas began seeping inside of his ride.

The 38-year-old says he felt sick and experienced double vision and was treated by medical staff on pit road after he finished the race in 21st place.

According to the AP, Hamlin's car had been struck by debris on the track -- which knocked out his rear right crush panel and created an opening which allowed the dangerous fumes to enter the inside of the car.

Video from reporter Davey Segal shows Hamlin receiving oxygen and water. He looks exhausted -- but overall okay.

FYI, carbon monoxide poisoning is no joke -- it can be deadly if inhaled at high levels.

The good news ... Hamlin told reporters he felt much better on Tuesday and expects to race at Kansas Speedway this upcoming weekend.

Donald Trump Honors NASCAR's Joey Logano ... at White House

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WHITE HOUSE HOSPITALITY

Another day, another athlete honored at the White House ... this time, President Donald Trump held a special ceremony for NASCAR champ Joey Logano.

"It's my pleasure to welcome to 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano and Team Penske to the White House," Trump said on Tuesday.

"Over the course of the 2018 season, the #22 team earned 26 top 10 finishes, led 934 laps, won 3 races and competed against 3 former champions in the playoffs and came out ahead," Trump said.

Trump also shouted out Joey's wife and their son, Hudson -- noting Joey celebrated the championship by placing Hudson in the trophy.

"That was quite a scene," Trump explained.

Logano was stoked to be at the White House -- saying, "It's an honor to be speaking here."

He gifted Trump a track-worn racing helmet from the championship season -- which Trump says he'll put on display in the Oval Office.

Trump says he considers himself a NASCAR fan and says he's been good friends with team owner Roger Penske for years.

Trump referred to the 82-year-old as "one of the truly great people of our world."

At the end of the ceremony, Trump invited the entire NASCAR team to view the Lincoln Bedroom -- and promised to personally give the tour.

No word if he served up fast food when it was all over.

Jimmie Johnson Completes Boston Marathon ... Barely Misses 3 Hour Mark

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JJ CROSSES THE FINISH

10:36 AM PT -- Johnson finished the marathon in 3:09:07 ... JUST missing his 3-hour goal.

Still, an AMAZING performance from a guy running his very first 26.2 mile race.

His average time per mile was 7 minutes and 13 seconds. Incredible!

Congrats!!

Jimmie Johnson doesn't need a car to go fast -- the NASCAR driver is running the Boston Marathon and he's CRUSHING IT SO FAR ... on pace to finish right around the 3-hour mark!!

43-year-old Johnson's been training for months with the goal of breaking the 3-hour mark ... and at the time of this post, he's almost at the halfway point -- on pace for a 3:03 final time based on his splits.

What's even more amazing ... Jimmie's never completed a marathon before!

Oh, and on Saturday, he was RACING CARS -- he competed in the Toyota Owners 400, a 300-mile race at the Richmond Raceway in Virginia.

Jimmie is wearing bib #4848 during the marathon, a tribute to his #48 car.

Johnson says he's always wanted to run the marathon but his NASCAR schedule got in the way -- but this year, NASCAR shifted the schedule, which freed him up to run.

During his training, Johnson suffered injuries to his pelvis, left calf and IT band -- but battled through it ... and he's out there running right now!!

If you want to track Jimmie, click here.

GO JIMMIE GO!!!

Originally Published -- 8:58 AM PT

Aaron Rodgers Eiffell In Love ... Paris For Danica's Birthday!!!

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Add "Boyfriend of the Year" to Aaron Rodgers' trophy case ... the QB took Danica Patrick to Paris for her birthday -- and she was SWOOOOONNNNIIINGGGG!!!!

"For my birthday he said pack a bag, we are going somewhere......" the ex-NASCAR driver said ... "Amazing."

The Green Bay Packers superstar and Danica have been going strong for over a year now ... and things are DEFINITELY getting serious.

The two have traveled the world together during Aaron's downtime from football ... with both droppin' L-bombs left and right -- and postin' lovey-dovey pics all the time.

But, France for an on-the-whim birthday trip?? Now, we KNOW this really ain't a fling ...

"Happy Birthday to this Beautiful, intelligent, strong, driven, bad ass woman that I get to stand beside in this life," Aaron wrote ... "#lover #friend #travelpartner #smokinhot #finewine"

Aaron's got a few more months to hang with Danica before it's back to the daily grind of Packers training camp.

Which begs the question ... could there be a ring in Danica's future before Aaron chases his second one with the Pack next season????

Stay tuned ...

Danica Patrick Aaron Rodgers Hit On Me ... Using 'Dumb and Dumber' Lines!

Aaron Rodgers and Danica Patrick are a happy, loving couple these days ... and they can thank Jim Carrey for that -- so says the ex-NASCAR driver herself.

Danica was delivering a motivational speech in North Dakota on Wednesday ... and afterward, she fielded some questions about her relationship with the Packers star QB.

One of the questions ... what was Aaron Rodgers' first line that got you to (eventually) go on a date with him?

HEAD OVER HEELS
AM 1100 The Flag WZFG

That's when D.P. said the future Hall of Famer went straight to the "Dumb and Dumber" quote well to catch her attention.

"He was at the bar, puttin' out the vibe -- 'Dumb and Dumber,' you know?" Danica says.

"And, I remember he was doing movie lines! And, people that love movie lines, LOVE movie lines. So, I think we had a dialogue in movie lines, and I was like, 'This guy is really funny!'"

Danica says that all went down at the ESPYs back in 2012 ... and it helped lay the foundation for their future relationship, 'cause they kept in touch until they got serious about a year ago.

As for the actual first date ... Danica wasn't spillin' many beans there, but did say, "We were cooped up. We were cooped up. We weren't out in public."

In other words .... touchdown, Rodgers?!?!

Aaron Rodgers I'm In Love with Danica 'We're Really Into Each Other'

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Aaron Rodgers dropping L-bombs!!

The Green Bay Packers QB opened up on his relationship with Danica Patrick -- telling Michele Tafoya he already feels comfortable saying he loves her.

"We're just two people who enjoy being around each other and love each other," Rodgers said in the interview for Artful Living.

"We're really into each other ... We're really attracted to each other."

Aaron and Danica went public with their relationship back in January -- and things have gotten pretty serious ever since.

"We really enjoy traveling. She went on the trip to India and Africa [back in the spring], and we had a blast. And we’ve taken some trips domestically that have been fun."

He added, "She’s a good travel partner because she’s so laid-back and low-maintenance. And she’s a hell of a cook, so we love just staying in, too. She eats really healthy. She’s inspired me in that way."

The only real issue in their relationship -- Danica's family cheers for the Chicago Bears.

Aaron joked to Tafoya, "They can’t come to the games if they’re doing that."

NASCAR CEO Brian France Pleads Not Guilty In Oxy & DWI Case

EXCLUSIVE

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France ain't exactly rolling over in his DWI and Oxycodone possession case ... 'cause he pled not guilty to multiple charges in an NY court.

France -- who's currently on a leave of absence from NASCAR -- was arrested August 5 in Sag Harbor, NY.

Cops say they pulled BF over and suspected he was intoxicated ... so they gave him a field sobriety test -- which they say he bombed.

During the stop, police say they also found Oxycodone pain pills.

To make matters worse, we're told France name-dropped President Trump during the arrest ... in an effort to skate on the charges.

France's attorney appeared on his behalf in Sag Harbor Village Court on Friday ... and pled not guilty to misdemeanor criminal possession of a controlled substance, aggravated DWI, and DWI.

He's facing up to a year in jail for each charge.

France is due back in court October 5.

Danica Patrick Aaron Rodgers Is The G.O.A.T. ... 'Unreal Baby!'

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Nobody was happier to see Aaron Rodgers' insane comeback Sunday night than Danica Patrick ... 'cause she showered her man with praise after the win -- calling him the greatest of all time!!

The ex-NASCAR driver had a luxury box seat to Rodgers' rollercoaster ride against the Bears ... with cameras showing her nervous during Aaron's injury and shock during his comeback.

When the game was over -- and the injured QB had led his team from down 20-0 to a 24-23 win on one healthy leg -- she took to social media.

The pic was of a Lambeau Field T.V. -- complete with a goat emoji and the words, "Unreal baby."

FYI ... this ain't the first time Danica's celebrated her man's Packers greatness -- remember the custom bottle of champagne she popped after he inked his mega deal?!

Seems like Aaron's not the only one angling for a ring this season ...

By the way ... Randall Cobb -- the dude who caught the game-winning, 75-yard touchdown from Rodgers -- had quite the postgame celebration too ... giving his newborn baby the game ball!!

The baby boy -- Caspian Cyrus Cobb -- is barely a month old ... but little man's already got a piece of Packer history for the rest of his life.

Good times in Green Bay.