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Bump & Run: Which driver is next to score first Cup win?

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We all have opinions, and we all think we’re right. Of course, that isn’t always the case even though we don’t like to believe that.

Today debuts NBC Sports’ opinion forum, Bump & Run. Each Tuesday, our analysts and writers will give their take on the various topics of the day.

Feel free to join the discussion or vote in the polls with these throughout the year. We know you have an opinion on these subjects.

  • Who is the next driver to get their first Cup win?

Nate Ryan: Ryan Blaney. He showed last year he has the ability (top fives at Kansas, Michigan, Chicagoland). Wood Brothers Racing’s move to a shop closer to Team Penske will ensure Blaney maximizes that potential this season.

Dustin Long: Austin Dillon. He placed in the top 10 in each of the four plate races, and his 13 top-10 finishes last year came at 10 different tracks, showing a versatility. Add crew chief Slugger Labbe’s gambling ways and this team could be celebrating this season.

Daniel McFadin: Chase Elliott is the closest to breaking through, and if he manages to do it in the Daytona 500, he’ll match Jeff Gordon in getting his first Cup win in his 42nd start.

Jerry Bonkowski: Chase Elliott has the best shot. He was impressive as a rookie, made the Chase, he just needed a win. That win — and maybe more than one — comes in 2017.

  • Who is the top team at Ford with Stewart-Haas Racing moving over there this year?

Nate Ryan: Team Penske. Stewart-Haas Racing still has more cars, but Penske has them covered pound for pound with Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. Expect intrasquad competition between the organizations (which won’t be sharing much information) to be fierce, though.

Dustin Long: Team Penske’s two cars trumps Stewart-Haas Racing’s one and a half (Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch). Nate’s right. It could be just as interesting to see how well these teams get along.

Daniel McFadin: Until we have a healthy sample size after a few races, Team Penske will still be the top Ford organization. In the last three seasons its two-team operation has 25 wins, while Stewart-Haas and its four teams (with Chevy) had 17. 

Jerry Bonkowski: Team Penske, without a doubt. You can’t go against 27 combined Cup wins — including a Daytona 500 triumph — in the last four seasons in a Penske Ford. SHR will have success, but there could be a development curve getting adjusted to the new manufacturer. 

  • Other than Jimmie Johnson, no other active driver has more than one Cup championship. Who will be the next to reach two series titles?

Nate Ryan: Brad Keselowski. He admittedly is obsessed with shaming the naysayers who point to his 2012 championship as a fluke. Through his smarts and sheer will, Keselowski will ensure his legacy is defined by the validation of being a multi-time champion.

Dustin Long: Joey Logano. Yes, he doesn’t have a title yet and five others have one championship each, but Logano’s time is now. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him win two of the next three or four titles.

Daniel McFadin: I see Brad Keselowski as the best chance to get another title. While it may not be this year, he tends to operate on the San Francisco Giants format of enjoying success every other season. Since his 2012 title, he’s won multiple races in 2014 and 2016.

Jerry Bonkowski: With the enhanced race format this season, strategy — and the crew chief that is best at adapting to the format (other than Chad Knaus) — will be more important than ever. I think one of the Busch brothers — Kyle (crew chief Adam Stevens) or Kurt (Tony Gibson) — will be the first to earn a second Cup crown of all drivers that currently have one title.

Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s to sponsor RCR in Cup, Xfinity in 2018

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Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s will sponsor Richard Childress Racing in multiple races in the Cup and Xfinity Series next year, the team announced Monday.

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s merged in September 2017.

The outdoors brands will be on Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet during the 60th Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 and in several other races during the season.

Richard Childress Racing

They will also be a primary sponsor for Austin and Ty Dillon on the No. 3 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series for several races.

“Our relationship with Bass Pro Shops dates back to the mid-1990s and we’re thrilled to be able to continue it during the 2018 season,” team owner Richard Childress said in a press release. “Austin, Ty and Ryan are terrific ambassadors for the great outdoors. They are all passionate about our hunting, fishing and conservation heritage which has made this partnership thrive.

“Next season will be exciting as we welcome Cabela’s, the iconic outdoor brand acquired by Bass Pro Shops, to the RCR family.”

Bass Pro Shops, founded in 1972 by Johnny Morris, is also a primary sponsor of Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota owned by Furniture Row Racing.

The store chain will be on the hood of the No. 78 in 16 races and on the sides of it in 14 others.

Here’s the eligible drivers for the 2018 Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona

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NASCAR has officially announced the 20 drivers who are eligible to take part in the Cup Series’ season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway.

The 75-lap exhibition event is set for 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 11, the same day as qualifying for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

The race will be divided into two segments. A competition caution on Lap 25 will divide them.

Drivers become eligible for the Clash by winning a pole the previous season, being a Daytona 500 pole-winner who competed full-time the previous season or being a playoff driver the previous season.

Here are the eligible drivers.

2017 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (14)

Former Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (3)

2017 Playoff Drivers (3)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth are not expected to compete in the race. Earnhardt retired from Cup competition following the 2017 season and Kenseth doesn’t have a ride for the 2018 season.

Danica Patrick, the 2013 Daytona 500 pole-sitter, announced last month she was done as a full-time driver but that she planned to race in the Daytona 500. No definitive team plans have been announced for her.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram injury update: still in ICU, but continues to show progress

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram continues to show improvement from the serious injuries he suffered in a December 3 car crash in his native Asheville, North Carolina.

In an update Sunday written on, Ingram’s daughter, Ingrid Jones, said her father remains in the Intensive Care Unit at Asheville’s Mission Hospital.

According to Jones:

“Daddy continues to hold his own, making healing steps forward and then a step back, which we fully expected-but he’s surprising us each and every day with his strength and courage to overcome this. Overall, he’s doing amazingly well.”

Ingram’s family had hoped he could have moved out of ICU and into the Trauma Unit as the next phase of his recovery, but he remains in intensive care.

Said Jones:

“For now, he’ll remain in ICU until he can go a full 24 hours without ventilator assisted breathing. We’re almost there … but may still be a few days.”

Ingram, who turns 81 on Dec. 28, was able to sit in a chair and watched part of Sunday’s NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings with his family. Jones wrote that Ingram also was surprised to learn that the mountain near the family’s Asheville-area home received a total of 16 inches of snow Friday and Saturday.

Jones added, “We continue to be optimistic for his health, and we also continue to appreciate the prayers and encouraging thoughts.”

K&N Pro Series West 2018 schedule includes Las Vegas dirt race

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The 2018 K&N Pro Series West schedule includes the series’ first dirt race in 39 years.

NASCAR announced the 15-race schedule Monday, revealing the series will race on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track on Sept. 13.

The race will kick off NASCAR’s playoff-opening weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for all three of its national series.

It will be the series’ first dirt race since 1979 at Ascot Park in Gardena, California. The K&N West series joins the Camping World Truck Series in holding one dirt race a year. The Trucks race at Eldora Speedway in July.

The K&N West season will open March 15 at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, Calif.

The schedule includes two joint-races with the K&N Pro Series East series. They will be held on July 27 at Iowa Speedway and on Aug. 24 at Illinois’ Gateway Motorsports Park.

NBCSN’s broadcast schedule for the season will be announced at a later date.

Below is the full schedule.

Date Track Location
15-Mar Kern County Raceway Park Bakersfield, Calif.
5-May Tucson Speedway* Tucson, Ariz.
19-May Orange Show Speedway San Bernardino, Calif.
9-Jun Colorado National Speedway Dacona, Colo.
23-Jun Sonoma Raceway Sonoma, Calif.
30-Jun Douglas County Speedway Roseburg, Ore.
15-Jul Spokane County Raceway Airway Heights, Wash.
27-Jul Iowa Speedway** Newtown, Iowa
11-Aug Evergreen Speedway Monroe, Wash.
24-Aug Gateway Motorsports Park** Madison, Ill.
13-Sep Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track Las Vegas, Nev.
29-Sep Meridian Speedway Meridian, Idaho
13-Oct All American Speedway Roseville, Calif.
27-Oct Kern County Raceway Park Bakersfield, Calif.

*100-lap twin features
**Combination event with NASCAR K&N Pro Series East