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Could youth be served this time at Talladega?

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — They say that anyone can win a restrictor-plate race, but is that the case?

As the sport goes through a transition to younger drivers, it seems only a matter of time before Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon and others win.

The question is if they can win on a restrictor-plate race. While Trevor Bayne shocked the sport with his 2011 Daytona 500 victory in just his second career Cup start, experienced drivers have prevailed at Daytona and Talladega.

Five drivers have combined to win the last 10 restrictor-plate races: Brad Keselowski (three wins), Joey Logano (three), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two), Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin.

Their stranglehold at the front of restrictor-plate races could be ending. Youth was nearly served in the Daytona 500 and could be in Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega.

While Busch won at Daytona, Kyle Larson and Elliott were in contention until they ran out of fuel at the end, and Blaney finished second.

That race was significant for Larson because he ran at the front so much.

“I think what I learned at Daytona was how to kind of start a run and continue that momentum to get to the lead,’’ said Larson, whose two career Cup wins are at Michigan and Auto Club Speedway. “I have never really, before the 500, I never really was in position to pass somebody for the lead. I could work my way up to sixth, seventh, eighth, around there, but then I would kind of stall out. 

“I made some mistakes and lost the lead, but was able to get back to the lead and had I not run out of fuel at the 500, I thought I had learned enough throughout the race that nobody would have passed me on that final lap.’’

Chase Elliott also was in contention for the Daytona 500. He enters Sunday’s race confident.

“I thought the 500 this year was our best performance on a plate track,’’ Elliott said. “Hope we can bring some of that here. I can’t say that I’m going to do my job any differently because the guys with a lot of starts have won the past number of races. I think Brad and Joey seem to have won a lot of them over the past few years and they’ve done a good job of mastering plate racing. I think there’s always something you can learn from and look at from guys like that who have won a lot of these things here recently.”

One driver who can see up close what Keselowski and Logano have done is Blaney, whose Wood Brothers team is aligned with Team Penske.

“Being a teammate with Brad and watching what he does has really been helpful to me,’’ Blaney said. “I feel like we’ve had pretty decent runs, but I never really feel like we’ve been at that point that he’s at, that we’ve had that dominance that whole race. I feel like he can get out there and control the whole race.’’

Could it be Sunday?

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Matt Kenseth: Brickyard 400 restarts ‘kind of ridiculous’

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Matt Kenseth came close to winning Sunday’s Brickyard 400, but ultimately finished fifth.

Kenseth called the race “kind of ridiculous” down the stretch because of the several restarts that brought about further havoc and wrecks.

Kenseth competed in his final Brickyard 400 for Joe Gibbs Racing. With his future uncertain and whether he’ll be able to continue racing in 2018, could Sunday have been the final Brickyard 400 of his career, much like good friend Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is retiring after this season?

Check out the video above for Kenseth’s comments on the race.

Rick Hendrick on Kasey Kahne’s future: ‘Our plans are not set for the No. 5 car’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Brickyard 400 winner Kasey Kahne has a contract for 2018 at Hendrick Motorsports but possibly doesn’t have a job next season.

Team owner Rick Hendrick confirmed Sunday night that “our plans are not set for the No. 5 car” after Kahne ended a 102-race winless streak in the Cup Series.

“There’s nothing concrete or done, and that hasn’t changed,” Hendrick said. “We’ll see how things shake out the rest of the year.  There’s a lot of things involved, sponsors and a lot of things we look at.  We’re going to try hard.  But there’s no decisions made at this time.”

Kahne felt the 18th victory of his career helped him make a case for staying in the No. 5 Chevrolet.

“I think this shows I still want to win races,” he said. “It shows I gave it all that I can to get a win and shows that I’m passionate about driving stock cars, and that I can still win races, too.

“I have a deal through 2018 with Hendrick Motorsports. I hear a lot of things, but it’s tough to say exactly what’s going to happen. I don’t know at this point and time. I know me and Mr. H will figure it out. I think this shows that I want to be and still have the drive and passion to do it, so I’m going to keep trying hard I know that.”

During a Sunday morning pre-race news conference to formally introduce Alex Bowman as the replacement next season for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick said he planned to run four cars next season but deflected a question about Kahne’s status (“that’s for another day”).

Xfinity Series rookie William Byron, who is under contract to Hendrick, would be an option for the No. 5 Chevrolet, but Hendrick said “we’re not ready to cross that bridge yet” when asked about Byron’s Cup future.

Kahne is ranked 22nd in the points standings with only four top 10s in 20 races this season.

“When you’ve had a rough road, your confidence gets down,” Hendrick said. “He said, ‘I know I can do it. The harder I try, the more it seems like I have this rough bad luck.’

“Something like this (win) can be really good for any guy to have, the whole team, to have confidence.  … All I can say about Kasey is he shows up, he shows up on time, and he shows up on time with his game face on, and he puts in the effort. Sometimes it just takes a break.  But he’s done everything.  I know in his heart he wants to do it.  He’s trying, so … ”

Ryan Newman on Brickyard 400: ‘That’s not racing, just craziness’

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Ryan Newman was in the right place at the right time in Sunday’s Brickyard 400, finishing third.

It was Newman’s second-best finish of 2017 after his win earlier this year at Phoenix.

But Newman, who is never afraid to speak his mind, did just that after Sunday’s race. Even with his strong finish, he echoed the comments of several other drivers that the racing action — particularly restarts — by saying, “That’s not racing, just craziness.”

Check out what Newman had to say in the video above.

Joey Logano’s fourth-place finish is bittersweet as playoff chances dip

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Joey Logano had a bittersweet day in Sunday’s Brickyard 400.

He finished a strong fourth in the incident-filled 24th edition of the Brickyard 400. It was just Logano’s second top-five finish and third top-10 showing in the last 11 races.

But there was also bad news, too.

Kasey Kahne‘s win knocked Logano further back in his bid to rejoin the top-16 drivers eligible for the upcoming NASCAR playoffs. With Clint Bowyer dropping out of the top-16 and Kahne moving into playoff contention, Logano has slipped back to 18th place in the playoff-eligible standings.

As a result, Logano all but has to win one of the next six races to qualify for the playoffs — unless he can point his way in with continued strong top-five finishes.

Logano talked about the situation he faces with NBC Sports after Sunday’s race. Click on the above video to see what he had to say.