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Kyle Busch isn’t fretting how Joe Gibbs Racing has started season

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BRISTOL, Tennessee — Joe Gibbs Racing hasn’t gone this late into a season without a victory since 2007, has more drivers outside the top 20 in points (Matt Kenseth and Daniel Suarez) than in the top 10 (Kyle Busch), and didn’t have a driver finish in the top 10 the last week.

Contrast that with how the organization won 26 of 72 Cup races the previous two seasons and it’s easy to question what’s wrong with Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

While Kyle Busch admits the organization has not had the start of past years, he does have a message for those raising doubts about JGR.

“I feel as though as we’re competitive and we’re close,’’ he said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “There’s just some things that we see other teams doing that we haven’t necessarily ventured off to yet.

“We’re working on all those things. It certainly didn’t bode well for us last year to be as strong as we were in the beginning part of the season and the middle part of the season. We didn’t win a championship because of how strong we were early on. You look at (Jimmie Johnson) and those guys at Hendrick, they weren’t very strong at the start of the season and they picked up and won the championship.

“I don’t think there’s any reason for cause to be concerned yet. Ask me that question again in about 10 weeks.’’

Busch ranked second in Friday’s lone Cup practice session. Kenseth was fifth and Denny Hamlin was sixth.

Johnson won two of the first five races last season but then went 25 races without a victory before snapping it at Charlotte in the second round of the playoffs. He won three of the final seven races on the way to winning his seven series title.

Car owner Joe Gibbs said earlier this week that the organization is working to score only its second Cup victory since mid-September.

“Last year, we had one of our best years, were up front, very successful,’’ said Gibbs, whose team won seven of the first 12 races a year ago. “This year shows you how hard things are. Some people have improved. The hardest thing is to stay up there. It’s a short trip back down. We’ve isolated five different things we need to work on and improve on. Five things just overall with our program.’’

He did not name those areas.

Kenseth said earlier this week that this season has been a struggle. He enters this weekend 22nd in points.

“Martinsville has been one of our strongest tracks on performance since I’ve come to JGR,’’ Kenseth said. “We ran really, really bad the last time there. We didn’t finish bad, but we ran bad.

“We ran bad at tracks we historically run good at, which for me is a concern. If we run good this weekend and are competitive and part of the lead group, no matter where you finish, you feel you’re part of that lead group and can run with guys who have been running good all year, you’ll feel better about being on the right track and feel good about fixing problems and getting ahead of the curve.’’

Until then, questions will persist.

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NASCAR America: Austin Dillon has earned right to drive the No. 3

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Early Monday morning, Austin Dillon drove the No. 3 Chevrolet to the NASCAR Cup Series’ victory lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was the number’s first visit there since October 2000, when Dale Earnhardt won his final race at Talladega Superspeedway.

The number has only been back in the Cup Series since 2014, when Richard Childress’ grandson, began driving full-time in the Cup Series.

On NASCAR America, two drivers from different generations, Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman, responded to the historic moment for the sport and for Richard Childress Racing.

“I assure you Dale Earnhardt would appreciate the efforts that have been made by Richard Childress and Austin Dillon to make all this happen,” Jarrett said. “There are going to be people who say about last night he was lucky to win this race. You’re not lucky to win any race. You have to put yourself into a position. You have to have a fast enough race car to make fuel mileage work in certain conditions. … This man has worked very hard to get where he is and he did a tremendous job. When you save that much fuel, you know exactly what you’re doing as a race car driver.”

Watch the video for the full segment and for Parker Kligerman’s thoughts.

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 80: Jeff Burton on stage racing and its origins

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Stage racing started in NASCAR this season.

But NBCSN analyst Jeff Burton believes that is only the first stage of the new approach to counting championship points.

“You’re going to see stage racing in other forms of motorsports,” he said on last week’s episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “Any series that have people racing for championships and points, stage racing is more exciting to watch and more exciting to do and rewards people that run the best the most.”

Burton discussed the origins of stage racing in the podcast. The NASCAR veteran was among the key discussions that led to its implementation, including a large meeting at Las Vegas late last year.

There were many options considered (including heat races) before the new system was announced in January.

“There were some crazy ideas, and many were mine,” Burton said with a laugh, adding that the vetting process had an air of good faith in the greater interests of racing. “It was one of the best things I’ve ever been involved in. The process was right, 100 percent.”

Other topics discussed on the podcast:

–Why the “win and you’re in” concept under the old system actually meant “win and you’re done”;

–Why drivers are never trying as hard as they think they can;

–How stage racing was a good example of how NASCAR could learn from what works in other professional sports while maintaining its differentiation.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts 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.

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 79: Jason Weigandt on Supercross, Monster and Jimmie Johnson

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Motocross journalist and broadcaster Jason Weigandt joined the NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss the Supercross finale and the start of Outdoor season.

Weigandt, the editor of Racer X online magazine, also discussed how Monster Energy’s new title sponsorship of NASCAR has been perceived in Supercross, which the company has backed since 2008, and why he believes Jimmie Johnson isn’t NASCAR’s most popular driver despite his success.

Weigandt is the play-by-play announcer for the 2017 motocross season, which will be shown on NBCSN as well as on the NBC Sports Gold package (which will offer all motos, qualifiers and practices for the 12-round season as well as on-demand access to the past two seasons).

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts 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.

 

NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: North Dakota

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Today’s edition of “50 States in 50 Shows” profiles Nodak Speedway in Minot, North Dakota.

The 3/8-mile dirt track is located 110 miles north of Bismarck and is located on the grounds of the North Dakota State Fair.

Watch the video for the full look Nodak Speedway.