Kurt Busch praises Ford, Doug Yates power for Stewart-Haas surge

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First it was NASCAR Cup points leader Kevin Harvick.

Now, Kurt Busch has joined his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate in praise of the team’s switch to Ford in 2017 from Chevrolet.

Two weeks ago, Busch won the Daytona 500 for the first time in his career. As big of a personal achievement it was for Busch, it was also a huge achievement for SHR and Ford, as it was the organization’s first race with Ford and Doug Yates’ power under the hood.

“When we made the announcement that we were switching to Ford last year, it came with extra meetings and longer driver debriefs,” Busch said Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “We were looking at blueprints and different front-end geometry changes because of Doug Yates’ engines and how they’re built slightly different, with where the pulleys are and the way the belt serpentine system works as well as the pressurized system versus unpressurized.

“So, a lot of extra work had to go into switching our cars over to Ford. When you roll up your sleeves with a group of racers like we have at Stewart-Haas Racing, it allowed us to go over the car with a finer tooth comb and we looked at every area.

“When you’re changing suspension components around and you’ve got great Haas CNC machines to make these pieces, you can go through versions A, B, and C and get a lot of work done quickly. I’ll tell you, though, it was a full-on effort to get these cars switched over, but I love the way we went over them in extra detail and Tony Gibson is a master at the restrictor-plate races, so his wisdom and expertise was distributed to the other teams.

“Rodney Childers (crew chief for Kevin Harvick) is great at the mile-and-a-half tracks, so his lead for Atlanta and Vegas really kicked in. The way that the rest of the group chipped in to find all these areas, it’s like each team took care of one specific project and the four of us have worked together in a stronger fashion than we ever have before.”

Busch also credited Yates’ power, which replaced the Chevrolet power from Hendrick Motorsports that SHR ran with the last several years, including winning Cup championships in 2011 and 2014.

“Doug Yates’ power, I want to say, is slightly better than where we were, it just feels that way,” Busch said. “The aerodynamic balance of the Ford has more distribution on one region of the car than another and it feels better. “

Other reasons Busch cited for SHR’s strong start in 2017: “Tony Stewart being a full-time owner, Clint Bowyer coming in with his ideas.  We upgraded in all categories at Stewart-Haas, so it’s really neat to see everything come out of the box strong.

“We still have to get through this west coast run and get to Martinsville, and once we get past Martinsville we’ll evaluate where things are. You just can’t go off of two races. Let’s give it five, six or seven.”

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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.