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Bump & Run: Which NASCAR driver would you like to see run the Indianapolis 500?

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Nate Ryan, Dustin Long, Jerry Bonkowski and Daniel McFadin answer this week’s questions.

Other than Kyle Larson, who is another driver you would like to see have a chance to run in the Indianapolis 500 some day?

Nate Ryan: Jimmie Johnson would be high on my wish list, but I don’t think he would be interested. Brad Keselowski has indicated interest in IndyCar, so he would be fun to watch, as would Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Newman.

Dustin Long: Once he gets more established in NASCAR, I’d like to see Christopher Bell get a chance to run at Indy and see what he could do.

Jerry Bonkowski: His brother Kurt did it in 2014. I think it’s just a matter of time before Kyle Busch also does it. When? I predict the younger Busch brother does the feat by 2020.

Daniel McFadin: Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. Busch shares Larson’s desire to race anything with a steering wheel and expressed multiple times last year an interest in attempting “The Double.” Keselowski has time in an IndyCar, having driven a Team Penske car during a test at Road America last June. Wouldn’t it be something to see their rivalry play out over two races in different racing disciplines in the same day? 

Jimmie Johnson scored his 81st career win Sunday at Texas. He is 12 behind Jeff Gordon for third on the all-time wins list. Does Johnson, who turns 42 in September, surpass Gordon’s total? If so, when?

Nate Ryan: Yes, he will … in 2020, which also will be his final season in Cup. David Pearson’s 105 victories probably are out of reach, but he will surpass Gordon, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough.

Dustin Long: No. Johnson decides to walk away from the sport after the 2019 season and doesn’t surpass Gordon.

Jerry Bonkowski: Johnson has averaged 4.75 wins per season through his Cup career. I predict not only does he surpass Gordon by or before 2020 (which likely will be his final season), he may retire with as many as 100 wins.

Daniel McFadin: I don’t think he does. Johnson’s well behind Gordon when it comes to age. Gordon reached win No. 81 in 2009 – his 17th season – when he was 37. It took him until 2015 at age 43 to get to 93 wins. Johnson’s 81st win comes a little sooner pace-wise in his 16th full season, but I don’t see 12 more victory lane trips for the No. 48 team.

Joe Gibbs Racing remains winless. Who will be the first JGR driver to win this year and where?

Nate Ryan: Kyle Busch in the April 23 race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He consistently has been the best of the JGR drivers, he is very strong on short tracks … and I’m picking him to win that race (and every race) until he breaks through for a victory.

Dustin Long: Denny Hamlin at Talladega.

Jerry Bonkowski: Considering JGR won just two races in 2014, it could be a similarly long season in 2017. It surprises me most that Kyle Busch hasn’t won since last year’s Brickyard 400. I predict Matt Kenseth will be the first JGR driver to win this season. As for locale: Richmond on April 30.

Daniel McFadin: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kyle Busch win at Richmond in three weeks, especially after how the race ended last year. Busch will want to redeem himself after Carl Edwards bumped him out of the way on the last turn of the last lap.

Saturday’s NASCAR Cup, Xfinity schedule at Richmond

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Today is the midpoint of the racing weekend at Richmond International Raceway.

The NASCAR Cup Series will have two practice sessions, while the NASCAR Xfinity Series will have qualifying and then race in the Toyota Care 250.

Here’s how today’s schedule shapes up (all times are Eastern):

6:30 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Cup garage open

9 – 9:55 a.m. – Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

10:05 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying; three rounds/multi-car (FS1)

11:15 a.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting

11:30 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. – Final Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

12:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

1 p.m. – Toyota Care 250; 250 laps/187.5 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Starting grid for Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond

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The Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway will begin Sunday with Matt Kenseth and Ryan Blaney on the front row.

They will lead a 38-car field to green in the ninth race of the Cup season.

Filling out the top five is Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Joey Logano.

Click here for the full starting grid.

Denny Hamlin: Joe Gibbs Racing’s rebound won’t happen ‘overnight’ or ‘in a month’

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With NASCAR visiting a track where Joe Gibbs Racing has won the last three races, one of its drivers admits the issues that have plagued the team so far in 2017 won’t be remedied quickly.

“I think we are slowly getting better, we’re gaining more knowledge trying to figure out what it is that we need to work on,” Denny Hamlin said Friday at Richmond International Raceway. “It’s not going to happen overnight, it’s not going to happen this week, it won’t happen in a month. Some things are going to take a long time for us to get better at, but I’m very confident that when push comes to shove, we’re in September starting the (playoffs), we should be hopefully back where we were, if not better.”

Entering the Toyota Owners 400, Joe Gibbs Racing has yet to win race through eight events. All four of its drivers sit outside the top 10 in points. Hamlin was the last active JGR driver to win, winning last years’ regular season finale at Richmond.

The 2016 Daytona 500 winner is 15th in the standings and has yet to finish in the top five. By this point in each of the last two seasons, Hamlin had three top fives and one win.

“It’s always taken me a long time to get over winter break,” Hamlin said. “For whatever reason, it’s taking 10 races or whatever into the season to kind of hit my stride. I’m not really sure what it is. I try just as hard at the beginning as I do at the end. It just seems like that break in the offseason, it takes myself a little while to get over that hump, get in the flow of things. I’m not really sure.”

JGR is still learning about its new 2018 Camry bodies, which Toyota introduced this year. Furniture Row Racing, which is in a technical alliance with JGR, has one win with Martin Truex Jr. (Las Vegas), who is also third in points. Erik Jones is 13th in the standings with just one top 10.

Truex and Jones claimed the top spots in Friday’s only Cup practice session.

“We all get the same information,” Truex said Friday. “I guess at the end of the day it’s how you use it, how you put it to use. I think our team, (crew chief) Cole (Pearn), (engineer) Jazzy (Jeff Curtis), (competition director) Pete (Rondeau), our guys in general are just – right now we’re just clicking. We have a lot of confidence. Things are going well.”

Through eight races, there have been six different winners. NASCAR America analyst Steve Letarte has called this Sunday’s race “pivotal” for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“I think our competition also did a phenomenal job over the off‑season of getting better,” Hamlin said. “They just showed up this year with just more raw speed than what they had at the end of last year. It’s the same drivers, same crew chiefs, but their cars are faster. That makes their job a whole lot easier. But these are the trying times, you could say, that defines your character. It makes you work hard. We were on top for probably a year and a half, every week having four out of five of the fastest cars each week. Sometimes we won, sometimes we didn’t. But we’re going to get better. We’re not on top right now, so we’ve got to work extra hard to get there.”

One piece of the JGR puzzle who has had to work harder is Daniel Suarez.

The defending Xfinity Series champion enters the ninth race of his rookie season 22nd in points. The biggest road block for him has been working with two crew chiefs. His initial partner, Dave Rogers, took an indefinite leave of absence following the West Coast Swing. Since then, the No. 19 team has been led by Scott Graves, who was Suarez’ crew chief last year during his title campaign.

“It’s been a lot going on for sure,” Suarez said Friday. “I felt like we were going in a good direction maybe a month and a half ago and then we had some changes that were out of our hands and I feel like we had to start again on these processes in the Cup car. Scott, he’s a very smart crew chief, he knows a lot and he has won two championships in a row in the Xfinity Series, but in the Cup car it’s different and he knows that and I’m learning that. I believe now we are learning together instead of I’m just learning myself.”

All of these comments were made Friday morning and afternoon. In the evening, Matt Kenseth did his part to turn things around for JGR by winning the pole for Sunday’s race.

It’s the first pole for JGR since the Kenseth claimed it last fall at Kansas Speedway.

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Matt Kenseth wins first pole of year for Toyota Owners 400

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For one afternoon at least, Matt Kenseth changed the conversation about Joe Gibbs Racing’s early season problems by winning the pole for the Toyota Owners 400.

Kenseth won his first pole of 2017 with a speed of 121.076 mph around Richmond International Raceway. It’s also the first pole for Toyota this season.

It’s Kenseth’s 19th Cup pole and his second at the .75-mile track (spring 2013). Kenseth’s previous best start this season was fourth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Those guys did really a job adjusting between rounds,” Kenseth told Fox Sports 1. “We had enough speed in out Circle K Camry that we only had to do one lap in each of the first two rounds to get into the third round. … This year has not been a good year for us, obviously so far. … We haven’t been getting any stage points, we’re buried in the points back there. We finally got a decent finish last week (at Bristol).

“Hopefully this week we can start up front, stay up front and collect some stage points.”

Kenseth will try to extend JGR’s win streak at Richmond to four races.

Ryan Blaney qualified second with a speed of 120.854 mph.

“The last lap of the last section we moved up (the track),” Blaney told FS1. “I wish I had done it both laps of the last session. so I knew how hard to go. I was in there little bit shallow the second lap and I knew I regretted it right away … I guess a bunch other cars did that and they picked up. I don’t know where (Kenseth) ran. It was a solid effort.”

It will be Blaney’s third start from second this season, which is a fact that annoys the sophomore driver in the No. 21 Ford.

“I really want to race the Clash at Daytona, that’s like my biggest thing right now,” Blaney said. “It’s upsetting me that we can’t get a pole.”

Filling out the top five for Sunday’s race is Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Joey Logano.

In his first race since announce his retirement following this season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 12th.

Other notable starting spots: Chase Elliott (14th) Brad Keselowski (15th), Denny Hamlin (16th) Jimmie Johnson (17th) and Kyle Larson (18th).

Austin Dillon will start last as a penalty for failing pre-race laser inspection five times last week at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Click here for full qualifying results.