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Crew chief for Kurt Busch says team has ‘got to be better’

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Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch has led one lap since his season-opening victory, dealt with alternator issues in back-to-back races, and was eliminated by an accident in another race.

The result is that the five-time Bristol winner enters this weekend’s Cup race at the high-banked, half-mile track 15th in points.

“We’ve got to be better as a race team,’’ crew chief Tony Gibson said Tuesday on “Tradin’ Paint” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We don’t feel like we’re running strong enough. (Teammate Clint) Bowyer has been carrying the flag over here at our place, he’s been doing extremely well.’’

Bowyer, who joined Stewart-Haas Racing this season, is the team’s highest-ranked driver in the points. He’s ninth. Kevin Harvick is 10th, Busch 15th and Danica Patrick 29th.

Things have not gone well for Busch since his last-lap victory in the Daytona 500. After placing seventh at Atlanta, alternator issues thwarted his efforts at Las Vegas (30th) and Phoenix (25th). He placed 24th at Auto Club Speedway and was 37th after he was collected in a crash at Martinsville. He rebounded to finish 10th at Texas before Easter.

Gibson said the holiday break came at a good time for the team.

Kurt Busch celebrates with his crew after winning the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 26, 2017. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“I believe that everybody just needed to catch their breath because so many things had happened, the highs and the lows and they were coming so fast,’’ Gibson told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “You just need downtime no matter what. It’s the guys that are winning every weekend and running top five every week that don’t want the break. I felt like we were kind of middle of the road. We had two good weeks, and we had three bad weeks and another good week.’’

Gibson admits a challenge for SHR has been the switch from Chevrolet to Ford this season and understanding the car.

“We knew that there would probably be some ups and downs and we were kind of preparing ourselves for that,’’ Gibson said of the manufacturer change.“Daytona, a lot of it is luck, preparation meets opportunity, that’s luck. We did our homework there and all our cars ran really well. We dodged some bullets. We fixed some damage and won it and were on a high, but in the back of your mind, going into Atlanta and those places, it was such an unknown for us as a company what we were going to have going into some of these other racetracks.

“We know that if at least one of our cars is running good or two of them, we can do it. Our company has the capability of running up front. We’ve just got to find something. This aero balance has been really, really messing with Kurt a little bit. It’s been a different, different program for him. We’ve been in the Ford simulator a lot trying to work on balances and things to do to try to catch up.

“We are getting better. We’re learning. Went to Texas and had a great race there and a good solid day. I think we learned some things. We’ll try to take this momentum from this last race at Texas and build on that.’’

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NASCAR America’s Jarrett, Letarte, Petty recap 2017, make 2018 predictions

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The 2017 NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series seasons have only been over for a few days.

And while it’s understandable that on Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, analysts Steve Letarte, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty reflected back on the recently completed race seasons, they also took a very bold move:

The new season is still three months away, but our analyst team is ALREADY making predictions for 2018.

We don’t want to spoil the surprise or show their hands. If you want to hear how they’re already viewing 2018, click on the video above.

Justin Hartley from NBC’s ‘This Is Us’ on Dale Jr.’s special bond with fans

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Even though Dale Earnhardt Jr. is now officially retired as a NASCAR Cup driver, the special bond between the former driver of the 88 will likely never go away.

Sure, Alex Bowman is replacing Junior in the 88, which will likely pick up some of Junior Nation to cheer for him. Others will gravitate to cheer for other drivers, perhaps youngsters William Byron, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and others.

But one thing is for certain: once a Dale Jr. fan and a member of Junior Nation, ALWAYS a Dale Jr. fan and a member of Junior Nation.

Justin Hartley, who plays Kevin on NBC’s top-rated “This Is Us,” is proud to call himself a card carrying member of Junior Nation. In the video above, Hartley shows what it’s like to be a Dale Jr. fan, what the third-generation driver meant to so many people for so many years, and how his legacy will continue on for decades to come.

Check out the video above to see what Junior Nation is all about, as well as thoughts from our NBC analysts, Kyle Petty, Steve Letarte and Dale Jarrett.

NASCAR America: Nate Ryan on how 78 rode roller coaster to Cup crown

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If the 2017 NASCAR Cup season was an amusement park ride, it definitely would be a roller coaster for Martin Truex Jr., crew chief Cole Pearn and the rest of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team.

Up and down the season went, from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.

There was adversity on the track and tragedy off the track, with Pearn losing his best friend to a freakish infection, and team member Jim Watson passing away in Kansas one day before the Cup race that Truex would go on to win and dedicate to his fallen teammate.

And through it all, Truex and longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex dealt with the recurrence of ovarian cancer with strength, inspiration and fortitude.

The 78 team’s dedication, sticking to the plan and rallying together as a family was the difference.

NBC Sports’ and NASCAR Talk’s Nate Ryan presented a touching pre-race tribute to Truex and his team before Sunday’s race. On Tuesday’s NASCAR America, Ryan gave an updated version of that tribute, capping it off with the best way possible: recalling how Truex and the 78 team won it all.

Check out the video above to see Nate’s touching piece.

 

Scan All: Miami — the best from the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400

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This week’s Scan All: Miami combined not only regular scanner traffic from team radios during Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400, but also studio cut-ins of Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn talking about their road to the Cup championship.

Here’s some of the best exchanges:

Martin Truex Jr. on coming into the race: “I felt good all weekend, I really did. I was relaxed and knew that no matter what happened, we had a great season and a lot to be proud of and a lot to build upon for the future.”

Truex on his team radio just before the green flag: “We’ve been working a long time to get here. I can’t say enough about how proud I am of you guys and what you’ve done. Thank you for an unbelieveable season. Let’s cap it off tonight.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. just before the green flag: “I just want to thank everybody that’s had an impact on my career. I’ve made friendships and relationships that’ll last a lifetime, and I’m just so thankful for that.”

Aric Almirola on his last start for Richard Petty Motorsports: “King, if you’re on the air, thanks for that phone call six years ago. It’s been a lot of fun driving this 43 car.”

Crew chief Darian Grubb to Kasey Kahne on his final start with Hendrick Motorsports: “I know it’s an emotional day for everybody. I’m proud to be able to call you teammate and even more proud to be able to continue to call you friend after this, bud.”

Kahne’s reply (while holding back tears): “Thank you guys for everything, man.”

Kahne’s spotter, Kevin Hamlin, to Grubb: “Man, you’ve got to make him cry before we go green?”

Cole Pearn on Kyle Larson getting a run: “The 42 is running the wall. He’s hauling ass.”

Clayton Hughes, spotter for Truex: “How about this, Martin Truex Jr., you are the champion, baby!”

Truex in studio cut-in on winning championship: “It was our time. There’s no doubt in my mind that it was our time. Sometimes, things are meant to be.”

Check out the whole Scan All segment in the video above.