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NASCAR’s championship duo not such a great team on a bike path

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They’ve been through good and bad together since 2002, but there’s one thing reigning Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus don’t do together — even after winning seven titles.

Ride bikes.

Johnson has helped spearhead a cycling community within the NASCAR Cup garage that includes drivers, crew members and even crew chiefs. The group rides on race weekends when the garage is closed. Johnson led rides at Daytona from the track to the beach. Thursday, Johnson was a part of a group that biked to North Wilkesboro Speedway. Among those riding with Johnson were Matt Kenseth and Josh Wise.

Knaus also has gotten into riding and recently told Nate Ryan in the NASCAR on NBC podcast about a particular time riding with Johnson.

“I don’t like riding with people or running with people,’’ Knaus said on the podcast. “I know it sounds weird. I’m a bit of a loner, I think most people know that about me. I use those opportunities to clear my head. I don’t want to be talking to Jimmie, who I’m trying to figure out how to make his race car faster, after he just made me upset while we were practicing or vice versa. I use it for alone time.

“We were in Kansas one time on a ride. I was not feeling well. Going up a climb to the top of a hill. I wasn’t doing well. He goes to the top, comes back down, ‘Hey man, are you going to make it?’ ‘Yeah, give me a break! I’m going to make it eventually.’ We take off, ride to top, get to next climb. He goes to top and comes back down, he says ‘Get on my wheel, I’ll draft you up.’ I’m like, ‘Go away. I don’t even want to ride with you right now.’ Huffing, puffing, not feeling well. I pulled over, sat on a log. ‘I’m going to sit right here until you leave.’ (Johnson says) ‘No man left behind!’ No, you’re leaving me behind.’’

Asked what he recalled of that, Johnson told his side of the story

“The cussing barrage I received made it very easy to leave him behind at that point,’’ Johnson said. “They’re steep hills. It’s a great park, lots of cycling, mountain bike trails, big reservoir there. He wasn’t feeling it that day and on these rides that I’ve been doing on Saturdays with everyone, I showed up as the weakest guy in the group. All the strong guys love the opportunity to climb more so when you get to a hill, they’ll blast to the top and they’ll come down and ride up with you and chat with you. I’ve always enjoyed it. Cool, they’re coming back to help me up.

“Chad found that completely offensive. Like, you think that I’m this weak, you’ve got to help me? No man, I’m being nice. I’m here to help you. I enjoy when people do it. ‘No, you get out of here.’ The second hill I came back down and he just stopped and got off his bike and sat down on a log. ‘I’m not going until you leave.’ Many colorful words layered in there. ‘OK, dude, guess you find your way back to the track from here.’ ’’

Although their experience wasn’t great riding together, they’ve been unstoppable at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where the series races Sunday. Johnson has won the past two Cup races at the 1.5-mile track. Kanus’ pit strategy helped Johnson win last year’s race.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on AudioBoom by clicking here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

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NASCAR America 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Dale Earnhardt Jr. live from NASCAR Hall

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN from the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Our special guest for the entire hour is two-time Daytona 500 winner and 14-time Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Marty Snider hosts and will be joined by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton.

Among the topics on today’s show:

  • We’ll talk with Dale Jr. about his last Cup race at Talladega, the emotions he went through, starting from the pole for the first time there and ultimately finishing seventh.
  • How is Earnhardt approaching the final five races of his Cup career before retiring at season’s end, the JR Nation Appreci88ion campaign, his role with NBC Sports Group next season, as well as his Hall of Fame father, Dale Earnhardt and the Earnhardt legacy. Also, what does the future hold for him?
  • Speaking of the future, we’ll also congratulate the 26-time Cup race winner on soon becoming a father for the first time with wife Amy. What kind of father does Junior expect to be?
  • You can also send in your own questions for Dale Jr, who will answer them during the show! Just send them on social media with the hashtag #AskDaleJr

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also 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 enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

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

William Byron tops Xfinity playoff grid to start second round

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The second round of the Xfinity Series playoffs begins this weekend when the series heads to Kansas Speedway for the Kansas Lottery 300.

Following an elimination race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the series and the eight remaining playoff drivers are coming off an off week for the first time in months.

Those eight drivers are led by JR Motorsports’ William Byron, Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler. The three drivers have been at the top of the standings since the second race of the first round.

There was a minor adjustment after the Charlotte race. Matt Tifft was penalized 10 driver points for his car failing post-race inspection. But due to the reset in points, it had no bearing on his placement in the playoffs.

Tifft is eighth in the standings and trails Ryan Reed by one point. The bottom four drivers – Cole Custer, Brennan Poole, Reed and Tifft – are each separated by one point.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

Carl Edwards to receive Stan Musial Award for sportsmanship

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Former NASCAR Cup driver Carl Edwards is among one of more than a dozen individuals that will receive the prestigious 2017 Musial Award.

The annual ceremony will be held Nov. 18 at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis.

The Musial Awards – named after late St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial – “honor this year’s greatest moments of sportsmanship and the biggest names in sports for their class and character,” according to a media release.

Edwards will be honored for his actions in last year’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Here’s how the awards committee described what Edwards did that day:

Last November at Homestead—Miami Speedway, Edwards was among four drivers in contention for NASCAR’s Cup Series championship. He led the season finale race with 10 laps to go. But as he tried to block competitor Joey Logano from passing him on a restart, the two drivers crashed, ending Edwards’ shot for his first Cup Series title.

“Instead of losing his cool, as other athletes might have done, Edwards took the high road and showed pure class. He walked over to Logano’s pit crew, shook hands with crew chief Todd Gordon, and wished the team good luck. It was a gesture of extraordinary sportsmanship that was lauded throughout NASCAR.

“Based on the character he has shown throughout his career, it was not a surprise Edwards would take such a gracious approach. Winner of NASCAR’s Busch Series in 2011 and holder of 28 Cup Series wins, the Columbia, Mo., native’s success on the track is equaled by the class, respect and humility he has personified over time.”

Also, renowned track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee – considered by some as the greatest female athlete ever – will receive the Musial Lifetime Achievement Award, joining previous lifetime award winners Joe Torre (2014), Arnold Palmer (2015) and Cal Ripken Jr. (2016).

Other honorees include Arizona Cardinals (NFL) president Michael Bidwell, female boxer Aliyah Charbonier and LSU head baseball coach Paul Mainieri.

Preliminary entry lists for Kansas Speedway

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NASCAR’s top two series will be in action this weekend at Kansas Speedway as they hold two different stages of their playoff races.

The Cup Series has its second round elimination race with the Hollywood Casino 400. The Xfinity Series begins its second round with the Kansas Lottery 300 after an off week.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for both races:

Cup – Hollywood Casino 400

There are 41 cars entered into the race.

StarCom Racing is set to make its debut with Derrike Cope driving the No. 00 Chevrolet. Tony Furr will serve as Cope’s crew chief.

There are four cars without drivers attached to them yet: BK Racing’s No. 23 and No. 83 Toyotas, Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet and Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet.

Gray Gaulding will driving Premium Motorsports’ No. 55 Chevrolet.

Martin Truex Jr. won the last visit to Kansas Speedway in May. He beat Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick after passing Ryan Blaney with 19 laps to go.

Harvick is the defending winner of the playoff race.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Kansas Lottery 300

There are 41 cars entered into the race.

Cup drivers entered into the race include Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney.

Christopher Bell will driver the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Kyle Busch is the defending winner of this race. He has won the last three Xfinity races at the track.

Click here for the entry list.