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Stage racing adds another element to racing on short tracks

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Even now, Chase Elliott can’t believe he won the second stage at Martinsville Speedway earlier this month.

Running second, Elliott was set to finish there until Ricky Stenhouse Jr. bumped Kyle Busch out of the way to get back on the lead lap. Stenhouse’s move sent Busch up the track and allowed Elliott to nip Busch, win the stage and earn a playoff point.

Stenhouse’s bump did more. It changed how drivers view stage racing. Now the leader has to be more aware as they run up on lapped traffic late in a stage what could happen. And those cars in danger of being lapped have an additional ploy they can use to try to stay on the lead lap.

I was blown away that that even happened,’’ Elliott said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“I’ve gone a lap down a lot at Martinsville. And I can’t say that, man I’d have to really think about it a lot to move the leader out of the way to try to get my lap back. So, I don’t know what the situation was there, if there had been history. So it’s hard for me to really get involved. But it surprised me.’’

There was a bit of a history. Stenhouse recently told reporters that he was running in the top 10 at Atlanta and Busch was a lap down. Busch ran Stenhouse hard. Stenhouse eventually got by him but wore his tires and was passed before the stage ended and didn’t score any stage points. 

That experience and how strong his car was at Martinsville led to Stenhouse’s decision to move Busch. It worked. Stenhouse went on to finish 10th.

With the series back at a short track this weekend for the first time since that race, the bump and run might be used throughout the field at the end of a stage, especially with the lower groove likely the preferred line.

“I think you’ll see that here at Bristol as well, just depending on if things play out,’’ Stenhouse told NBC Sports. “It might be for 10th and 11th to get points or it might be for the win or for cars to stay on the lead lap.’’

It wouldn’t surprise Kurt Busch if there was such contact toward the end of a stage.

“I think that moment at Martinsville is a perfect definition to the stage racing,’’ he said. “It creates opportunities for many different things to happen, whether you’re a lapped car or you’re the leader. 

“Short tracks, superspeedways, road courses, those are the three types of tracks that I thought would be impacted the most by stage racing.”

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NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 90: Roger Slack

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Eldora Speedway general manager Roger Slack joined the NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss his track’s past, present and possible future with NASCAR.

Slack detailed the run-up to the initial “secret” test with Tony Stewart and Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon that led to scheduling a Camping World Truck Series race that recently completed its fifth edition.

Slack also discussed the storied history of Eldora, which opened in 1954 and was bought by Stewart 50 years later.

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: How Daniel Suarez found out he was replacing Carl Edwards (video)

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On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Daniel Suarez recalled the moment he got the call that he was being promoted to replace Carl Edwards in the NASCAR Cup Series at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Suarez was at dinner back home in Mexico with family and friends when JGR officials called and him to be ready for a teleconference in a few moments.

Suarez stepped away, telling his dinner partners he’d be back shortly — which ultimately lasted 40 minutes.

When he returned to the dinner table, he couldn’t tell anything about the phone call — JGR officials swore him to secrecy — but he eventually revealed that he had been promoted to the NASCAR Cup Series to replace Edwards, who had decided to take a hiatus from his racing career.

Check out the video above.



NASCAR America: What Joe Gibbs Racing teammates really think of each other (video)

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Daniel Suarez appeared on Wednesday’s live broadcast of NASCAR America from the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina,

One of the funniest segments of Suarez’s visit was a video and verbal collage of how much he and his fellow Joe Gibbs Racing teammates really think of each other — all in good humor, of course.

Check out the video above where Suarez, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch answer the “tough questions” about themselves, as well as how they feel about their fellow teammates.

NASCAR America: Daniel Suarez’s journey from Mexico and VW Beetles to NASCAR champion (video)

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In winning last year’s Xfinity Series championship, Mexican native Daniel Suarez became NASCAR’s first international champion.

It was the culmination of a journey that began with his father and, interestingly enough, Volkswagen Beetles.

Check out Suarez’s story and the thoughts about his success and prowess by our NASCAR America analysts in the video above.

Speaking of VW Beetles, Suarez’s father sold his restoration shop to fund his son’s racing dream. Years later, Daniel repaid his father by purchasing a new restoration shop for him. See the video below.