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Stars offer their advice for the 2017 NASCAR Cup rookie class

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When they first came into the NASCAR Cup Series, drivers like Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott were given advice on what to expect.

Now, with Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Ty Dillon and Gray Gaulding making up the 2017 NASCAR Cup rookie class, it’s time for Busch, Truex and others to be the advice givers.

During the recent NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, several drivers were asked by NBC Sports about what advice they’d impart upon the rookies.

2004 Cup champ Kurt Busch had one of the best replies, followed by a serious addendum.

“Just pull in behind the 41 car and I’ll take you to the front,” he quipped.

On the more serious side, Busch added: “Being a rookie in the NASCAR Cup Series, it’s a responsibility and there’s a lot to learn, but you deserve this right to be here.

“You’ve raced well in the Xfinity Series. Daniel, you’re a champion, Erik Jones you’re a winner, Ty you’re a winner. Welcome to the club. This is a tough group, but you’re going to be just fine.”

Ty Dillon
Ty Dillon

Busch’s teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, 2014 Cup champ Kevin Harvick, had some observations, as well.

“As you look at rookies in general, in my mind you see this a lot,” Harvick said. “You see guys come in and they will have a very good start to the year and they’ll get excited about everything that is going on and they’ll put a lot of effort into what is going on.

“The hardest thing for a rookie is having to manage their time as you get into the grind and through the year; really the second year would be harder than the first year. It takes drivers with experience and knowledge – and sometimes the young drivers have it and sometimes they don’t have it – to help your race team to grow, to push your team in the right direction, to progress your cars to where they’ll run faster.”

Last but not least, Harvick noted, “Learn how to manage your time and it’s okay to say ‘no’. … It’s important to take care of yourself.”

Martin Truex will have two rookies as Toyota teammates. Jones will be a teammate with Truex on the Furniture Row Racing team, while Suarez will drive the No. 19 car for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“(My) advice is just keep an open mind, enjoy yourself, try not to let the pressure get to you,” Truex said. “It’s such a big step, going from Xfinity to the Cup Series.

“Really, it’s like going from the first rung of the ladder to the top and I’m talking about a 25-foot ladder. It’s a big change. It’s a big jump, lot of pressure and a lot of people expecting you to do things. Just try to enjoy it and take it all in and learn as much as you can.”

Denny Hamlin will have Suarez, who replaces Carl Edwards in the No. 19 car, as one of his teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing.

“I think Daniel is more prepared than I ever was,” Hamlin said. “So I would imagine he would have a lot of success.”

But Hamlin also warns that Suarez could have a significant learning curve.

“No matter what, it’s a giant step and eventually you have to take it,” Hamlin said. “He just won the Xfinity championship. He was running in the top five every single week.

“So, like my dad said, what is there to accomplish? Move up to the next level and challenge yourself again. I think this is going to be a challenge for Daniel and Erik, but they’re as prepared as anyone I’ve seen in a while.”

And then there’s last year’s NASCAR Cup Rookie of the Year, Chase Elliott. As he enters his sophomore season in the Cup series, the son of a NASCAR Hall of Famer says this year’s rookie class is well prepared to make the jump to NASCAR’s marquee series.

“They’ve been racing long enough, they know what to expect,” Elliott said. “I don’t think me sharing something with them is going to be news to them. I think they have a good grasp of what’s going on.”

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Ryan Preece is fastest in final Xfinity practice Friday at Kentucky

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Ryan Preece soared to the top of the speed chart in the final Xfinity practice Friday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Preece covered the 1.5-mile oval with a top speed of 181.629 mph. He hit that speed on his first of 38 laps run during the session.

Justin Allgaier was second (180.777 mph), followed by Spencer Gallagher Jr. (180.114), Tyler Reddick (179.832) and Daniel Hemric (179.712).

Sixth through 10th: Matt Tifft (179.665), who was fastest in the first practice session earlier in the afternoon, William Byron (179.605), Brennan Poole (179.581), Sam Hornish Jr. (179.521) and Brandon Jones (179.521).

Five of the 12 Xfinity playoff contenders ended up in the top 10: Allgaier, Hemric, Tifft, Byron and Poole.

Others playoff contenders on the speed chart were Elliott Sadler (12th, 179.194), Ryan Reed (16th, 178.944), Cole Custer (17th, 178.838), Brendan Gaughan (19th, 178.453), Blake Koch (20th, 178.159), Michael Annett (21st, 178.124) and Jeremy Clements (25th, 176. 286).

Qualifying for Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 takes place at 5:30 p.m. ET, with the race set to take the green flag at 8 p.m. ET.

Click here for the full speed chart from the final Xfinity practice.

Starting lineup for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 NASCAR Cup race at Loudon

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Up until this season, Kyle Busch wasn’t necessarily looked upon as a prolific qualifier.

He earned a career-best three poles in 2013 and 2014.

But that’s nothing compared to 2017, as Busch earned a career-best eighth pole Friday for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It’s also his second consecutive pole, having won the pole for last weekend’s playoff-opening race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kyle Larson was next and will join Busch on the front row Sunday.

As for the other 14 NASCAR Cup playoff contenders: Denny Hamlin (134.763) was third, followed by Ryan Blaney (134.720), Chicagoland winner Martin Truex Jr. (134.188), Kevin Harvick (134.108), Kurt Busch (133.985), Kasey Kahne (133.966), Matt Kenseth (133.589), Jamie McMurray (133.680) and Jimmie Johnson (131.989).

Of the top 12 qualifiers, 11 are playoff drivers. The only non-playoff driver was Erik Jones (eighth, 133.971).

As for the other five playoff contenders, Brad Keselowski was 13th (133.422), Chase Elliott (133.357) was 14th, Austin Dillon was 17th (133.133), Ryan Newman was 18th (133.007) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified 24th (131.628).

Click here for the starting lineup.

 

Kyle Busch gets past Kyle Larson to take Cup pole at Loudon

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In a battle between Kyle and Kyle, it was Kyle Busch who emerged with the pole for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 Friday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The younger Busch brother was the only driver over 135 mph, taking his 27th career Cup pole with a speed of 135.049 mph.

“Just went out there and gave it what she had,” Busch told NBCSN. “It certainly would be great to finish this out in victory lane on Sunday.

“We knew we were going to have a shot for the pole, just didn’t know if we were going to get it. For as ugly as that session looked or felt from my vantage point, it certainly worked out.”

Busch has now won the pole for the first two playoff races, having won the pole last week at Chicagoland.

What’s more, this is the most prolific season of qualifying for Busch in his career: this is his eighth pole in 2017, most of all drivers in the Cup series and his most in a single season. His previous mark for most poles in a single season was three in both 2013 and 2014.

As for the other Kyle, Kyle Larson, he qualified on the outside of the front row with an effort of 134.911 mph.

“I feel overall that my lap was pretty good,” said Larson, who finished second in the July race at New Hampshire. “The 18 has been real fast, especially in qualifying all year. For us to be second to him is not bad.”

Denny Hamlin (134.763) was third, followed by Ryan Blaney (134.720), Martin Truex Jr. (134.188), Kevin Harvick (134.108), Kurt Busch (133.985), Erik Jones (133.971), Kasey Kahne (133.966), Matt Kenseth (133.589), Jamie McMurray (133.680) and Jimmie Johnson (131.989).

Of the top 12, 11 are in the NASCAR Cup playoffs. The only non-playoff driver was Jones.

As for the other five playoff contenders, Brad Keselowski was 13th (133.422), Chase Elliott (133.357) was 14th, Austin Dillon was 17th (133.133), Ryan Newman was 18th (133.007) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified 24th (131.628).

Elliott and Johnson both wrecked their primary cars in the Cup practice session earlier in the day.

While Johnson was able to get back on-track for that practice session with his back-up car, Elliott qualified cold with his back-up, unable to get back on-track during the morning practice.

Joey Logano did not take a qualifying lap after failing pre-qualifying inspection four times. Logano will start last (40th position) in Sunday’s race at NHMS, which he considers his “home track.”

Click here for the full qualifying grid.

Matt Tifft fastest in first of 2 Xfinity practices at Kentucky Speedway

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Matt Tifft ran 25 laps during Friday afternoon’s first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series practice sessions at Kentucky Speedway.

But it was just one lap that mattered the most, as Tifft (180.427 mph) emerged from the 55-minute practice as the fastest in the 36 cars that took to the track.

Brian Scott was second (179.253 mph), followed by Ryan Preece (178.465), Brandon Jones (178.288), Justin Allgaier (178.271), Ben Kennedy (178.136), Elliott Sadler (177.573), Tyler Reddick (177.544), Spencer Gallagher Jr. (177.503) and Brennan Poole (177.381).

Interestingly enough, only four of the top-10 were playoff contenders. The seven-race Xfinity playoffs begin with Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

There will be one more practice session today from 6:30-7:25 p.m. ET.

Qualifying and the race are Saturday.

Click here for the full practice speed grid.