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Despite All-Star Race win, Kyle Busch still seeks points-paying Cup win at Charlotte

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Kyle Busch was at the right place and at the right time when he won Saturday’s Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

He won $1 million, earned his first All-Star Race victory and his first in the Cup Series at Charlotte, and it was also the first win of the season for Joe Gibson Racing.

“Finally,” Busch conceded. “I’ve just been trying for here for so long and the right circumstances came our way tonight.”

Unfortunately, though, it was all for naught – or at least for very little. Sure, it heightened Busch’s confidence after several struggles during the first 11 regular season, points paying races.

“Hopefully this is a little bit of momentum, a little bit of wind in our sails, something we can build on for next week,” Adam Stevens, Busch’s crew chief, said after the race.

And it also proved JGR could win a race. But it was also unlike any race in NASCAR Cup this season, just 70 laps in total.

We’ve had such a time this year,” team owner Joe Gibbs said, adding with a laugh, “I told everybody I forgot where winner’s circle was here, it’s been so long since we won a race. It’s a huge deal.

“I would say on this race, this has probably been the hardest race that we’ve run. In 25 years we’ve won twice. That’s it.”

But as such, the All-Star win meant very little in terms of competition potential because Busch and JGR are still both winless this season in points paying races.

And it also means very little in that the next race, Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, also at Charlotte Motor Speedway, is the longest race of the regular season.

Ergo, what worked for Busch and JGR Saturday in the All-Star Race, likely won’t even come close to working in the 600.

It’s apples to oranges. Busch knows that as well as anyone.

“What would it mean to win a points race (at Charlotte)?” he said. “It would mean a lot still. It would certainly kind of I guess close the next chapter, as I said a little earlier, about getting that next victory here.  Hopefully we can sweep it.  It would be nice to be added to that list of drivers that have been able to do that.

“We’ve got a little bit of work to do in order to get ourselves in position to be able to do that.  600 miles is a long race. Starts in the day, ends at night. There are a lot of things that can happen in that race.

“Certainly it’s probably a heck of a lot more fun to do it the way Martin Truex did last year. If we have another one of those, it would be a bad thing. Hopefully we can lead the last lap, the one that matters most, and score that points win here.”

Busch’s All-Star Race win was a rarity. It not only was Busch’s first in the annual May exhibition, it also was his first Cup-level win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

To say he was expecting to win would be a misnomer, Busch agreed.

I think my move here a few years ago was probably a little bit more crazy when I restarted fourth, got through the middle of the front row,” he said. “I don’t remember what happened after that. I probably wrecked. That’s most times what I do in this race.”

And while Busch wasn’t exactly expecting a win Saturday due to his past history, Gibbs was a bit ahead of himself.

“To tell you the truth, I thought he had won here (in Cup),” Gibbs said of Busch. I’m so used to him winning races. I know this is a huge deal for him.

“I’m telling you, we feel like Kyle can win anywhere. Certainly this year he’s really been in position a bunch, the top five at the end of the races, not been able to win one.”

Now it’s time to put the All-Star Race in the rearview mirror and go from the shortest race in the circuit to the longest: 400 laps for 600 miles around the 1.5-mile track.

“Finally, we’re able to kind of close the chapter on that one,” Busch said of his lack of success in the All-Star Race. “Now it’s time to go get a points win here.”

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Check out Southern 500 paint schemes for Erik Jones, David Ragan and Landon Cassill

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Monday saw the reveal of three paint schemes for the Sept. 3 Southern 500 (on NBCSN). Here’s a look at the cars for Furniture Row Racing’s Erik Jones and Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan and Landon Cassill.

Jones, who is in contention for the Rookie of the Year award in the Cup Series, will honor previous winners of the award with his paint scheme. Specifically, the No. 77 Toyota will pay tribute to the Rookie of the Year recipients from 1984-89.

The scheme will feature pictures of Rusty Wallace (1984), Ken Schrader (1985), Alan Kulwicki (1986), Davey Allision (1987), Ken Bouchard (1988) and Dick Trickle (1989).

Ragan’s No. 38 Ford will be sponsored by Good Sam. Ragan’s paint scheme is an ode to the RV company’s early days. It was founded in 1966.

Cassill’s paint scheme probably looks familiar. It’s the same one the team used for the last Southern 500 when Chris Buescher drove the N0. 34. The team had to call an audible after Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing beat them to the punch on a Kulwicki tribute scheme. Fortunately, Cassill was cool with it.

MORE: Retro Rundown of 2017 Southern 500 paint schemes.

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Bump & Run: Taking stock of the NASCAR season

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What has surprised you the most about this season?

Jeff Burton: My biggest surprise is that there really hasn’t been a flaw in the new stage racing format. I believed that something would happen that revealed a flaw that no one had anticipated but we have yet to see it.

Nate Ryan: Martin Truex Jr.’s emergence as the championship favorite. It was expected he would run well and be a playoff contender and winner, but Furniture Row Racing regularly outrunning Joe Gibbs Racing as the best-in-class Toyota team has been a surprise – as has Truex’s runaway lead in the playoff points standings. He and crew chief Cole Pearn have become the crew chief-driver combination that is setting the pace in every way possible, whether it’s lap speeds, setup decisions or strategy calls.

Dustin Long: That there have been 14 different Cup winners (13 eligible for the playoffs) at this point in the season, which is already the most number of winners in an entire Cup season since 2013.

What driver has impressed you the most this season?

Jeff Burton: Martin Truex Jr. Speed and consistency is hard to achieve. He has been the guy that seems to be in the battle every single week. 

Nate Ryan: William Byron. His promotion to the Cup Series is well deserved, because he has proven the past two years to be an absolute prodigy with his acclimation to Xfinity and trucks. It makes one wonder if he already would have been a Cup winner if he had started his racing career in earnest before becoming a teenager.

Dustin Long: I’m amazed what William Byron has done for his relative lack of experience compared to drivers who started before they hit first grade. His ability to handle pressure situations has been noteworthy. While the challenges will increase next year, I’m already interested to see how he will do in Cup.

What storyline most intrigues you for the coming weeks?

Jeff Burton: I’m intrigued about the playoffs. There will be a big time driver and team that doesn’t advance into the playoffs. Watching who can take control and who can’t step up will be very interesting to witness.

Nate Ryan: The impact of playoff points on the championship race and how it affects who advances in each round. The suspicion here is that there will be much second-guessing and re-examination of decisions made during the regular season that had unanticipated repercussions months later.

Dustin Long: I’m intrigued to see if Kyle Busch and his team can finally eliminate the mistakes that have plagued them throughout the season and prevented Busch from possibly an epic season. With two wins in the last four races, he’s on the verge of a breakout that will lead to a dominating title run. Will it happen?

SunnyD extends sponsorship deal with Roush Fenway Racing

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SunnyD has extended its contract with Roush Fenway Racing to sponsor Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s team through the 2019 season, the organization announced Tuesday.

SunnyD will add races as primary sponsor each season, although how many was not announced.

The company has been the primary sponsor of Stenhouse’s car in three races this season – Atlanta, spring Bristol and Indianapolis. SunnyD will next sponsor Stenhouse in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We’ve had a great time partnering with SunnyD the last two years,” Stenhouse in a statement from the team. “It’s one of the coolest paint schemes on the track, and we’ve had a lot of fun promoting their classic brand. I’m excited that we have extended our relationship, and I can’t wait to see how much fun we can have with SunnyD in victory lane.”

“We are very excited to announce that we tore up the old contract and signed a new one that extends for another season and adds additional races with Ricky and Roush Fenway,” said Henk Hartong, Chairman of Harvest Hill Beverage Company, owners of the SunnyD brand, in a statement. “I’m very proud of our relationship with Jack Roush, Steve Newmark and the entire Roush Fenway team. It is something that we wanted to lock in for the foreseeable future. Ricky is one of the rising young stars in NASCAR and we have seen great response to the program from the passionate NASCAR fans.  We are pleased to bolster our association with him and Roush Fenway.”

Stenhouse has two wins this year and will be in next month’s playoffs.

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate NASCAR Cup playoff grid

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate the weekly NASCAR Cup playoff standings.

Truex did not gain any extra points during Saturday night’s Bristol Night Race, so he remains with 35 points, but that’s still a large spread over those chasing him.

Bristol winner Kyle Busch jumped from fifth to second place in the standings with 20 playoff points.

Kyle Larson fell back to third place (18 points), Jimmie Johnson fell to fourth (16) and Brad Keselowski is fifth (14).

As for the playoff bubble, Chase Elliott is 69 points ahead of the cut-off line, followed by Matt Kenseth (+61) and Jamie McMurray (+58) with two races left until the playoffs.

Outside the playoff cut line is Clint Bowyer, who dropped from 31 to 58 points down and Joey Logano from -98 to -117. Erik Jones climbed from -130 to -127, and Daniel Suarez dropped from -139 to -163.

 

Here’s this week’s playoff standings grid: