(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

Rico Abreu kisses the wall, then chance at first win goodbye

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FORT WORTH, TEXAS — Rico Abreu hopped down from his No. 98 Toyota and was immediately met by two crew members.

As William Byron conducted his second victory burnout of the year on the Texas Motor Speedway front stretch, they helped the 4-foot-4 Abreu remove his helmet and safety equipment and told him there was no reason to be mad.

Minutes before, Abreu had gone from running second with three laps to go in the Rattlesnake 400 to finishing ninth, his best result in nine Camping World Truck Series starts.

As Byron drove his No. 9 truck past where Abreu stood on pit road, on the way to victory lane, one crew member told the Abreu he had just experienced some of the most fun he’d ever had.

When Byron passed Matt Crafton with five laps to go, Abreu soon followed. The native of St. Helena, California, spent the next two laps driving like he had for most of the race and his whole career – staying as close to the Texas Motor Speedway wall as possible.

“When it gets hot and slick like that, your tires get wore out; I just felt so comfortable up there,” Abreu said of the area of the track and style of racing he mastered while rising through the ranks on dirt tracks.

The driver Abreu was chasing down had the same strategy. However, Byron, who won his first race at Kansas Speedway last month, “wasn’t paying attention much” to Abreu as he bore down on him.

“I was still running the top, because that’s what I was running (all night),” Byron said. “Then they said ‘two back’ and I was like ‘Man, we’ve got to figure something out here, so I got to make sure I hit both corners right.'”

Byron did that, taking away Abreu’s racing line, which Byron called the “name of the game” Friday night.

“A couple of guys took my line away and got me into the wall a bit, but you just can’t give up on it,” Byron said. “That outside gives you such huge momentum down the frontstretch.”

Abreu took the momentum he had and reached Byron’s bumper as they came down to two laps to go. But as they entered Turn 1, Abreu’s favorite place on the track became very uncomfortable.

“I figured I maybe could have cleared him off of (Turn) 4, maybe coming to the white,” Abreu said. “But I just got too tight behind him and got into the wall. Can’t have that stuff happening.”

Abreu kept his speed up enough that teammate Matt Crafton, who was running in third, believed Abreu would have “definitely” finished second.

But those chances ended after the white flag when Abreu once again impacted the wall in Turn 2. This time, he didn’t leave the wall until he was on the backstretch.

“That shows how much heart he had that he wanted to win the race,” said Crafton, who led a race-high 133 laps. “He likes that high, wide and handsome stuff and it bit him right there.”

The loss didn’t shake the confidence of Abreu, who started the night in 13th. But he felt bad for the crew members that met him after the best night of his short Truck career.

“They built a great truck this weekend and I just smashed it all,” Abreu said. “I got speed, I just got to put a whole damn night together. I haven’t figured that part out yet.”

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch questions Xfinity rules package at Indy

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Kyle Busch isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and he certainly did so after Saturday’s  Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NASCAR implemented a number of changes to make the racing closer, tighter and more exciting — including restrictor plates, a larger rear spoiler, aero ducts, and a smaller splitter — and achieved all that on many fronts.

But not for the younger Busch brother, who wasn’t pleased with the rules package. Was it actually designed to specifically slow him down rather than to even out things for the entire field?

Or was he just simply upset because he didn’t win a third Xfinity race in a row at IMS?

Check out how our NASCAR America analysts gauged the Xfinity changes in the above video.

 

TriStar Motorsports team owner Mark Smith passes away

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Mark Smith, owner of TriStar Motorsports, died Saturday at his home, after a long battle with cancer, the team announced Monday. He was 63.

He began his racing career building engines for his brother Jack’s drag car in the 1970s. He moved his family from the West Coast in the early 1990s to pursue a career in NASCAR. He was the owner of TriStar Motorsports and Pro Motor Engines.

TriStar Motorsports fields the No. 14 in the Xfinty Series with JJ Yeley and the No. 72 in the Cup Series with Cole Whitt. The team stated the team will continue operations under the management of Bryan Smith, son of Mark Smith.

“It was dad’s dream to own and operate a NASCAR team,” Bryan Smith said. “He devoted his life to that dream and his family plans to honor his wishes by continuing our efforts in his memory.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Victory Junction Gang victoryjunction.org or NOVA (National Organization for Vehicle Access, part of the BraunAbility) novafunding.org.

The family will receive friends from 5-8 p.m. ET, Aug. 1 at Cavin-Cook Funeral Home, Mooresville, North Carolina. They have created a Facebook page where you are encouraged to leave a story for the family to enjoy. (facebook.com/Remembering-Mark-Smith-301261653675224)

NASCAR America: Analysts break down Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. wreck (video)

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Given how wild the Brickyard 400 played out, the big wreck between race leaders Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. wasn’t exactly surprising.

Rather, with the way the race transpired from the opening lap, was the Busch/Truex wreck almost inevitable?

Truex got loose and washed up into the left rear of Busch’s car, sending both drivers and their respective cars into the outside retaining walls, hitting hard and ending their respective days.

Check out what our NASCAR America analysts had to say about the wreck from Monday’s show in the above video.

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr. recaps wild Brickyard 400 (video)

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, Dale Earnhardt Jr. — who will become part of our NBC Sports Group in 2018 — looked back on a wild and intense Brickyard 400.

Earnhardt was one of several drivers whose day came to an early ending — in Junior’s case when he ran into the back of Trevor Bayne‘s car, destroying his radiator in the process.

All the mayhem and mishaps could be linked to over-aggressive driving, Earnhardt said, saying that every driver was in “attack mode,” especially on restarts.

Check out Junior in the video above.