Watch NASCAR America live at 5:30 pm ET: Valentine’s stories, team previews, Dale Jr.

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Today’s edition of NASCAR America airs from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET.

Carolyn Manno and NASCAR Hall of Famer and NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Jarrett will host from our Stamford, Connecticut studio, while NASCAR On NBC analyst Kyle Petty will join us from NBC Charlotte.

On today’s show:

* In honor of today being Valentine’s Day, several NASCAR drivers share their best – and worst – stories. Plus, which driver became the latest to tie the knot?

* With new format enhancements and driver changes, which drivers are set to excel in NASCAR’s “new era” and which may be on the hot seat in 2017? We’ll start by breaking it all down as our series of team previews begin. Today’s team previews feature Joe Gibbs Racing, Furniture Row, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske.

*  Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s was forced to miss the entire second half of last season with a concussion. At the same time, the absence of NASCAR’s most popular driver for more than a decade created quite a bit of talk among younger drivers about their health and their future in the sport they love. They’ll explain the valuable lessons they’ve learned from Junior’s story.

If you can’t catch the show on TV, you also can watch it via the online stream at http://nascarstream.nbcsports.com

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you plug-in that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5:30 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

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Atlanta to host 2,500th race in Cup history, last on current surface

Hyundai 200
Photo courtesy Atlanta Motor Speedway
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This weekend’s NASCAR action at Atlanta Motor Speedway, with all three major series running, will provide some interesting storylines.

First and perhaps most important, Sunday’s Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 will be the last race ever held on the current track surface.

A complete repaving of the 1.54-mile high-speed quad oval track is slated to begin later this spring.

To make Sunday’s race all the more unique and momentous, it will also be the 2,500th race in Cup history.

AMS, which first opened in 1960, has had the same racing surface for the last 20 years, since its last repaving in spring 1997. That makes it the second oldest current surface in NASCAR.

During that time, it has played host to 31 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, 19 Xfinity Series races and 15 Camping World Truck Series events.

Among some of the highlights over the years on the outgoing surface:

* Dale Earnhardt’s 0.01-second margin of victory over Bobby Labonte in 2000. It would be Earnhardt’s 75th career Cup win and the second-to-last win of his storied career (won at Talladega that fall).

* In his third Cup start after the tragic death of Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500, Kevin Harvick would take the re-numbered No. 29 to victory lane at Atlanta, capturing a 0.006-second margin of victory over Jeff Gordon.

* Carl Edwards’ first Cup win and the first of two wins for him in both Atlanta races in 2005.

* AMS’s first-ever night race in 2009.

* Sunday marks AMS’s 102nd 500-mile race. No other track on the circuit has hosted as many races of that length.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sunday could also be a big day for defending and seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

Having won both the 2015 and 2016 Cup races at AMS, Johnson is looking to become the first driver in track history to win three consecutive races there.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen won four times in as many years (1961 to 1964) at AMS, but they were not consecutive. Another Hall of Famer, Cale Yarborough, also won three straight spring races (1967 to 1969), but failed to win any of the fall races those same years at the track.

Johnson is also looking to extend his overall supremacy at the track, being the only active driver to have ever won there five times in a career (all on the current racing surface).

NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt holds the record for most wins ever at AMS with nine triumphs.

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Alex Bowman driving for GMS Racing in Atlanta Truck race

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 05: Alex Bowman, driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, walks through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 5, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Alex Bowman isn’t getting much time off between NASCAR starts.

Two weeks after he drove Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s No. 88 in the Advance Auto Parts Clash, Bowman will make his first start this year in a race that counts. He will drive GMS Racing’s No. 24 truck in the Camping World Truck Series’ Active Pet Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bowman is filling in for Justin Haley, who at 17, is too young to race on tracks 1.5-miles long or bigger due to NASCAR rules.

The defending K&N East Pro Series champion, Haley turns 18 on April 28.

The race will only be Bowman’s second start in the Truck Series. He made his first in 2015 at Michigan International Speedway for JR Motorsports. He started 16th and finished 11th that day.

Bowman continues to capitalize on his performance last season when he helped fill in for Earnhardt in the No. 88 while he recovered from a concussion. Bowman made 10 starts in the No. 88, which included winning the pole for the fall race at Phoenix Raceway. That qualified him for the Clash, which he finished third in.

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NASCAR entry lists for Atlanta Motor Speedway

HAMPTON, GA - FEBRUARY 28:  Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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Speedweeks is finally over and all three of NASCAR’s national series will once again be in action this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

It will be the last time the Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series will be at the same track until May.

Kyle Busch will start in all three races.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for all three events, beginning with the Cup Series’ Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500.

There are 38 cars entered into the Cup race. A full field would be 40 cars.

The trip to the 1.5-mile track will be the first start of the season for Derrike Cope, Timmy Hill, rookie Gray Gaulding and Reed Sorenson.

Last year, Jimmie Johnson won his first race of the season after short pitting and leading the final 45 laps for his fifth Atlanta win.

Click here for the full entry list.

Xfinity Series – Rinnai 250

A full field of 40 cars are entered into the Xfinity Series race.

There are eight Cup drivers in the field: Kyle Busch, Ty and Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson.

Last year, Busch led 119 of 163 laps to win the Atlanta race, the first of three straight wins for Busch.

Click here for the full entry list.

Truck Series – Active Pest Control 200

There are 34 trucks entered into the second truck race of the year.

A full field in the Truck series is 32 trucks. Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch are the only Cup drivers entered into the race.

Alex Bowman will drive the No. 24 truck for GMS Racing in place of Justin Haley, who isn’t old enough to run on tracks 1.5-miles or larger.

Last year, John Hunter Nemechek won the race after leading the last eight laps, including the final two in an overtime finish.

Click here for the full entry list.

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Tony Gibson: A flip of the switch helped Kurt Busch to Daytona 500 win

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race - Practice
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NASCAR race teams keep a lot of things in reserve on race weekends, just in case they need something.

Things like extra engine parts, body panels, back-up cars and the like.

Even fuel – which was one of the keys to Kurt Busch’s win in Sunday’s Daytona 500: he had a little bit left in reserve in his tank.

Winning crew chief Tony Gibson was on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s The Morning Drive on Monday, reiterating what he said Sunday that Busch was about a half-lap short of fuel to finish the “Great American Race.”

But Busch had a bit in reserve in his tank: having made his last pit stop for fuel with 51 laps left in the scheduled 200-lap race, a reserve fuel pump gave him just enough of a secondary boost to make it to the checkered flag first.

“All the mileage, we figured it every different way, but we were definitely a half-a-lap short, for sure,” Gibson said. “But we knew we had the reserve switch (for the back-up fuel pump) he could hit and I could make a lap with that, so we kind of planned everything around that lap with 51 to go to where we could make it on fuel.

“The other guys were like a lap-and-a-half or two laps less on fuel than we could make it. As the race unfolded and started changing, we had to adjust our strategy too, but it ended up working out pretty good.”

Several drivers ran out of fuel on the final two laps including Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon.

But not Busch. Gibson had planned ahead.

“We have another tank inside the tank, a little bladder that holds a half-gallon of fuel,” Gibson said. “You can run two pumps in your fuel cell, so we choose to run one in this reserve box and then one in the main bladder cell. We know exactly, when we turn that switch on, we know at each racetrack how far we can make it.

“It gives the driver a little bit of security that if it starts running out, he can switch it and know how he has this many laps to get to pit road for fuel or to make it to the end. I just reminded Kurt with like 10 (laps) to go or something that if we get down to one to go, to flip your switch.

“When he got to Turn 4 coming to get the white (flag), go ahead flip it and I knew we could make it the rest of the way. And then some other guys started running out of fuel and so I hesitated, almost told him to turn it on earlier, but I’ve got to wait. As long as his pressure doesn’t drop and he can get it to (Turn) four, it’ll pick up pretty quick and then I’ve got it made from there, so it worked out.”

Winning the Daytona 500 is every driver and crew chief’s dream. But Sunday’s win was a rarity, an even greater accomplishment than usual, as Gibson was born and raised in the Daytona Beach area.

In other words, the hometown boy did good – real good.

“Every time I come in the gate, is this the weekend you’re going to win?” Gibson told TMD. “It gets to the next level because you dream as a kid that you want to be a crew chief in this business. I’ve been able to achieve a lot of goals and championships and races, but I’ll have to say this is the biggest one.”

But after less than 90 minutes of sleep Sunday night, it’s back to work for Gibson and the rest of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team as they prepare for this weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“The Daytona 500 is a race everybody wants to win, but in this sport, you’re only as good as your last win or last performance,” Gibson told TMD. “We’ve got to step up.

“We know there’s going to be some bumps in the road switching over manufacturers and not all days are going to be like yesterday, so we have to be prepared for that and keep our guard up and try to do our best to keep those speed bumps as soft as we can.”

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