Kyle Busch leads Cup practice that sees a few cars spin

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Kyle Busch posted the fastest lap in the opening Cup practice Saturday at Watkins Glen International.

Busch posted a speed of 125.516 mph on the 2.45-mile road course. He was followed by Martin Truex Jr. (124.797 mph), Denny Hamlin (124.546), Jamie McMurray (124.525) and rookie Erik Jones (124.467).

Sixth through 10th: Brad Keselowski (124.444), Joey Logano (124.218), Chase Elliott (123.972), Kasey Kahne (123.847) and Michael McDowell (123.736).

Click here for practice speeds

A number of drivers had issues in the session.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. spun. Jimmie Johnson spun in Turn 1 and had slight contact with the barrier. Corey LaJoie spun just after esses and slapped the wall with the back of his car. Danica Patrick slid at the exit of the carousel and had no contact. Kurt Busch spun off the exit of Turn 1 and made slight contact with the inside wall.

Final Cup practice begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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NASCAR America: Dale Jr. on father’s advice, racing in his shadow, Kelley’s influence (videos)

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the special guest for the entire hour of Tuesday’s NASCAR America, which was live from the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Among some of the revelations Junior offered was how his father rarely gave him racing advice early in his career, and how his father left him in victory lane following his first NASCAR Cup win at Texas in 2000.

“Pulling into victory lane, seeing Dad, knowing he was there,” Junior said. “We had already celebrated a few wins with him in the Xfinity Series, but that was the first Cup win you just dream about, just making it to the Cup Series. Celebrating with Dad, I’ll never forget it.”

Junior related another story from that celebration when his father left early.

“I would fly with him, jump on the plane and go with Dad,” Junior said. “We won the race and he’s like, ‘I’m not sticking around for all this. You’re going to be another hour or two, so find a ride home but have fun.”

But before the elder Earnhardt left, he passed along some excellent advice to his son.

“He said enjoy this, make sure you let this sink in,” Junior said.

Junior also talked about being a third-generation champion, following in the footsteps of his seven-time Cup champion father Dale Sr., and his grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt.

Junior admitted that when he first started racing, he not only had to work at everything, but also feared the prospect of having to race in his father’s shadow.

“If we showed the initiative and the will to do the work, he would help us out,” Junior said. “I wanted to drive. I remember racing go-karts for a while as a 12-year-old but I kept flipping out of the thing and dad didn’t like that, so he finally put a stop to it.

“He didn’t like that I didn’t have a roll cage or a seatbelt and I kept flying out of the thing. I asked him when do I get to race? He said the next opportunity you get to race is when you get your driver’s license. I couldn’t imagine waiting three or four more years to race. I’m going to go crazy waiting. I had to find something.

“I wanted to race pretty bad but I was really scared of racing in his shadow. I knew, even at a young age, that was going to be so hard. I was really nervous about that, not living up to everyone’s expectations. But it was not as hard, honestly, as I made it out to be as a kid.”

As for the little advice his father gave him, Junior understood why his father did that.

“The first half of my career, people would ask what was the best advice my dad gave me,” Junior said. “Nothing. The only thing I can resort to was there was one day he gave me racing advice. I was at Bristol (Motor Speedway). He gets up on his truck during Xfinity practice, got on the radio and told me where to lift and when to get back on the gas. It was not where I was thinking. He said, ‘lift at the flagstand.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, this is way better.’ I was driving it way too hard and making it much harder than it needed to be.

“That was the only time he ever did anything like that. We never talked about the draft, being calm, taking your time, pace yourself, we never did any of that. Any time I asked him questions, it would always ended up going somewhere else and always wound up being more about life lessons, having your head on straight and showing initiative and appreciation.

“He wanted to see me working my guts out for it, and that would spur him to be involved and start to give me that advice. But he wasn’t just going to hand it over.”

NASCAR America: Dale Jr. and wife ‘giddy’ over baby due in May (video)

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the special guest during Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America from the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

One of the biggest topics is Monday’s news that Junior and wife Amy are expecting their first child, a daughter.

Earnhardt further revealed during Tuesday’s show that Amy is 12 months pregnant and is due to deliver in May.

Here’s some of his thoughts on fatherhood:

  • “I am (ready to be a dad). It’s a very exciting thing and me and Amy are thrilled and over the moon.”
  • “I have no idea what I’ve got myself into and I couldn’t be more excited about it. This is something Amy and I have been working toward for a really long time.”
  • “All those little tiny moments during this short period of time, there’s been so many cool little moments. Me and her have been giggling … and giddy for so long. It’s finally good to be able to tell everybody, to share with my mother, my sister. their reactions were priceless. And obviously, we’re getting a tremendous amount of support from everybody.”

Hear more from Dale Jr. during his appearance Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in the video above.

NASCAR America: Dale Jr. ‘just wanted to have fun’ at Talladega (videos)

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When Dale Earnhardt Jr. arrived last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, he hoped to recapture some of the magic that led him to six wins at NASCAR’s longest track earlier in his career.

It would be Earnhardt’s final time that he’d race at his favorite and most successful track and he wanted to take in as much of the experience and commit it to his memory bank as possible.

He had success on the track, earning his first career pole at ‘Dega and finishing seventh in the Alabama 500.

But more than anything, Earnhardt went to Talladega without any preconceived notions. He just wanted one thing, he said on Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America.

“I just wanted to have fun,” Earnhardt said. “We came away with a decent run. We would have loved to have won the race but I think the fans I’ve heard from said it was exciting to watch and we were in the mix all day long. So I’m happy I was somewhat deliver on the promise that we were going to have a good day.”

While Earnhardt approached it as just another race, the fact it was at Talladega took things to a much higher level, as well as being given his father’s former race car from 1979 and 1980 from the International Motorsports Hall of Fame that sits adjacent to the superspeedway.

“It was really emotional,” Earnhardt said. “We had the gift from the track with the car. I’d been going to the museum since I was about 12, seeing that car all those years. … I couldn’t believe they were letting me have this car.

“I was like what museum gives away their prized possessions? It was really a special moment to take the car out and go around the track.”

Listen to more of what made the weekend special for Junior in the video above.

Martin Truex Jr. still hottest in Who’s Hot, Who’s Not heading into Kansas

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With so many of the remaining 12 playoff drivers finding trouble at Talladega this past Sunday, several find themselves in further trouble heading into Sunday’s race at Kansas.

Once the checkered flag falls, four of the 12 remaining playoff drivers will be eliminated from advancing to the Round of 8 that begins next Sunday at Martinsville, followed by Texas and Phoenix.

Here are the drivers that are hot coming into Kansas, as well as those that are not:

Who’s Hot:

 No. 78 Martin Truex Jr. (Hot)

  • Won at Charlotte, sixth win this season (most of all drivers and personal best), finished 23rd at Talladega.
  • Finished in the top 10 21 times this season, a series-best.
  • Won 19 stages this season, series-best.
  • Sixty-four playoff points this season, series-best.
  • Led a series-high 1,977 laps in 2017, led the most laps in eight races.
  • Won at Kansas in May.
  • Average finish on 1.5-mile tracks this season is third.
  • Won five of the eight 1.5-mile races this season.

No. 4 Kevin Harvick (Hot, Good at Kansas lately)

  • Finished third at Charlotte after winning the first two stages and 20th at Talladega.
  • Five fewer top fives and top 10s this year compared to last year (three less wins).
  • Fourth in the standings, +22 to the cut line.
  • Two Kansas wins, both coming in the playoffs.
  • Finished top three at Kansas the last three years including a win in this race last year.

No. 11 Denny Hamlin (Hot)

  • Finished fourth at Charlotte, sixth at Talladega.
  • Finished top six in six of the last eighth races.
  • Fifth in the standings, +21 to cut line.
  • One Kansas win, Spring 2012.
  • Finished 15th or worse in four of the last five Kansas races including 23rd in May.

No. 18 Kyle Busch (Hot)

  • Finished 29th at Charlotte, hit the wall while running second. Finished 27th at Talladega after crash.
  • Ninth in the standings, -7 to the cut line.
  • Four wins this season, all in the last 11 races.
  • Led laps in the last 14 races this season, career-best
  • One Kansas win, Spring 2016.
  • Finished top five in his last five races at Kansas, tied for longest streak ever at Kansas.

No. 20 Matt Kenseth (sneaky good, pretty good at Kansas)

  • Finished 11th at Charlotte, 14th at Talladega.
  • Worst finish in the playoffs is 14th.
  • Tenth in the standings, -8 to the cut line.
  • Two Kansas wins, last coming in 2013.
  • Worst finish at Kansas in the last 14 races is 14th.
  • Won the pole, led over 100 laps in this race last year, finished ninth. Finished 12th in May.

No. 2 Brad Keselowski (Good)

  • Finished 15th at Charlotte, won at Talladega after having radio issues.
  • Advances to the Round of 8
  • One Kansas win, fuel mileage in 2011.
  • Top-10 finishes in four of the five races at Kansas including runner-up in May.

No. 24 Chase Elliott

  • Finished second at Charlotte, sixth career runner-up finish. Finished 16th at Talladega.
  • Finished second in three of the last five races this season.
  • Sixth in the standings, +20 to the cut line
  • Worst finish in the last seven races is 16th.
  • Best Kansas finish in three starts is ninth in Spring 2016.
  • Finished 29th at Kansas in the Spring.

No. 42 Kyle Larson (Hot in 2017, Not great at Kansas)

  • Finished 10th at Charlotte, 13th at Talladega after crash.
  • Third in the standings, +29 to the cut line.
  • Eight runner-up finishes this season.
  • Four wins in 2017, had one entering this season.
  • Best Kansas finish is second in 2014, only finish better than 15th since is sixth in May.

No. 48 Jimmie Johnson

  • Finished seventh at Charlotte, 24th at Talladega after accident
  • Top-10 finishes in four of the last six races.
  • Eighth in the standings, +7
  • Four top-five finishes this season, three were wins.
  • Three time Kansas winner (tied for the most), last was Spring 2015.
  • Only two finishes outside the top 10 in his first 16 starts at Kansas, three in the last six including 24th in May.
  • Only three top 10 finishes on 1.5-mile tracks this season

No. 77 Erik Jones

  • Top-10 finishes in seven of the last 11 races this season.
  • Two Kansas starts including the first of his career driving the No. 18.
  • Finished 22nd at Kansas in May, multiple spins

Who’s Not Hot:

No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Not)

  • Finished 13th at Charlotte, 26th at Talladega
  • 11th in the standings, -22 to the cut line
  • Best finish since his win at Daytona in July is 13th
  • Best Kansas finish is 11th, twice including in May

No. 1 Jamie McMurray (Decent)

  • Finished fifth at Charlotte and 37th at Talladega after crash.
  • Twelfth in standings, -29 to cut line.
  • Sixteen top-10 finishes this season, six more than this point last year.
  • Best Kansas finish is seventh, twice in 21 starts.
  • Finished eighth in May at Kansas.

No. 21 Ryan Blaney (Just OK)

  • Finished eighth at Charlotte, 18th at Talladega after accident after leading 27 laps.
  • Currently seventh in the standings, +9 to the cut line.
  • Last top-five finish was his win at Pocono in June.
  • Eleven top-10 finishes this season but none have come in back-to-back races.
  • Top-10 finishes in three of his last four starts at Kansas.
  • Won the pole, finished fourth in May, led 83 laps, won Stage 2.

No. 3 Austin Dillon (Not hot)

  • Finished 29th Talladega.
  • Only two top-15 finishes in the last 12 races.
  • Finished 14th in the first round
  • Only four top-10 finishes this season, had 12 at this point last year.
  • Finished top 10 in two of the last three races at Kansas.

No. 5 Kasey Kahne (Not hot)

  • Finished eighth at Talladega, first back-to-back top-10 finishes since the first two races of the season.
  • Only three top-10 finishes in the last 21 races.
  • Finished 15th in the first round
  • Six DNFs this season.
  • Won at Indianapolis ending a 102-race winless streak.
  • He has finished on the lead lap in 54 percent of the races this season.
  • Best Kansas finish is second, twice.
  • Worst finish in the last four races at Kansas is 16th.

No. 31 Ryan Newman

  • Finished second at Kansas, broke a four race streak of finishing outside the top 10.
  • Finished round one 13th in the standings
  • One Kansas win, 2003.
  • Only three Kansas top fives, all came in the first three races at Kansas.
  • Finished last at Kansas in May.

No. 41 Kurt Busch

  • Finished 25th at Talladega
  • Finished 19th or worse in the last five races.
  • Finished 16th in the first round, 25 points below the cut line.
  • Best Kansas finish is second in 2013.
  • Finished 19th in May at Kansas.

No. 14 Clint Bowyer

  • Finished 35th at Talladega.
  • Finished runner-up three times in 2017.
  • Twelve top 10s in 2017, had only three in all of 2016.
  • Best Kansas finish is second in 2007.

No. 22 Joey Logano

  • Finished fourth at Talladega, only his fourth top-five finish since his Richmond win.
  • Eleven finishes outside the top 20 in the last 22 races.
  • Won at Richmond but was encumbered.
  • First time he has missed the playoffs with Team Penske.
  • Two-time Kansas winner.
  • Finished top five in six of the last eight races at Kansas.

No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

  • Finished seventh at Talladega
  • Finished top 12 in the last three races, best streak this season.
  • Best Kansas finish is second in 2011
  • Finished 15th or worse in three of his last four Kansas starts.