Erik Jones

NASCAR America: Which NASCAR driver is ready for zombie apocalypse?

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Now there’s something you don’t hear NASCAR drivers talk about every day: how to prepare — and potentially survive — a zombie apocalypse.

Our intrepid reporter, Rutledge Wood, threw a number of NASCAR drivers for a loop when he asked them that very question.

The reactions range from incredulousness to seriousness.  Among those Rut talked with included Martin Truex Jr., Elliott Sadler, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones and Kyle Larson.

And here’s a few surprises:

  • Brad Keselowski wants to buy a tank for the apocalypse, and supposedly Dale Earnhardt Jr. is waiting to take delivery on his own tank — both to kill zombies, of course!
  • Several drivers also talked about one of their former own who reportedly has already made big plans to take on any zombies that come across his path. As Wood said, that former driver’s name rhymes with Schmarl Schmedwards.

Check out the hysterical video — trust us, it WILL make you laugh — if for nothing else the outlandish responses from some of the drivers.

But it also makes one wonder: what if a zombie is among us and he’s disguised as a zombie? What then — and who might it be?

NASCAR weekend racing schedule at Sonoma (Cup), Iowa (Trucks, Xfinity)

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Once again, the three major NASCAR series will race in two separate locations this weekend.

While the NASCAR Cup Series will be at Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, both the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series will be racing halfway across the country at Iowa Speedway.

Tony Stewart is the defending winner of Sunday’s Cup race, which was the 49th and last win of his NASCAR premier series career. Stewart retired from racing in the Cup series after last season.

Iowa Speedway will host the M&Ms 200 Truck race on Friday night, and the American Ethanol e15 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday night.

William Byron won last year’s Truck race at Iowa, while Sam Hornish Jr., won the Xfinity race there. Erik Jones returned to Iowa several weeks later to win the mid-summer Xfinity race there.

Hornish will once again return to Iowa and attempt to defend last year’s win, racing for Team Penske.

Here’s the full weekend schedule for both Iowa and Sonoma:

(All times are Eastern)

Friday, June 23, at Sonoma

12:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. Cup garage open

3 p.m. – 4:55 p.m. – Cup first practice (FS1)

6:30 p.m. – 7:55 p.m. – Cup final practice (FS1)

Friday, June 23, at Iowa

8 a.m. – Truck garage opens

10 a.m. – 11:25 a.m. – Truck first practice (FS1)

11:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. – Truck final practice (FS1)

2 – 2:55 p.m. – Xfinity first practice (FS1)

5 – 5:55 p.m. – Xfinity final practice (FS1)

6:05 p.m. – Truck qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (No TV)

7:30 p.m. – Truck driver/crew chief meeting

8 p.m. – Truck driver introductions

8:30 p.m. – M&M’s 200 Truck race (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR radio

Saturday, June 24, at Sonoma

10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Cup garage open

2:45 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, two rounds) (FS1, Performance Racing Network)

Saturday, June 24, at Iowa

2:30 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

6:15 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (Tape delayed at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

7:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

8 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

8:30 p.m. – American Ethanol e15 200 Xfinity Series race (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)

Sunday, June 25, at Sonoma

10 a.m. – Cup garage open

1 p.m. – Driver/crew chief meeting

2:20 p.m. – Driver introductions

3 p.m. – Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup race (110 laps, 218.9 miles) (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)


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NASCAR America: How Joe Gibbs Racing, Furniture Row Racing work together

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In the second year of a technical alliance between Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing, things have been going better for the latter.

Through 15 races, Martin Truex Jr. has two wins for Furniture Row while Joe Gibbs Racing has no wins with the combined efforts of Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Daniel Suarez.

Truex also has a significant lead over all teams in stage wins with 10 following the race at Michigan. Kyle Busch has the most for JGR with four.

NASCAR America’s analysts discussed how a relationship between the two teams works, especially when the smaller teams seems to be benefiting more.

“You get technical information, you get aerodynamic concepts and thoughts, engineering support, everything is given to you,” said Slugger Labbe. “It’s not for free. It comes at a healthy price, I’m certain. The main thing though is that Joe Gibbs Racing provides the pit crew to this team. So if the 78 or 77 team (Erik Jones) have an issue with a part or a bad pit stop, they don’t worry about it. They hand the parts back to Joe Gibbs Racing, they talk to the pit crew coach and say ‘hey, this jackman had an issue or this tire changer had an issue.’ They solve the problem. What that allows Furniture Row Racing to do is worry about speed.”

Watch the rest of above video for more.

Bump & Run: Should Kyle Busch’s team be frustrated or encouraged?

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Parker Kligerman joins Dale Jarrett, Slugger Labbe, Nate Ryan, Ato Boldon and Carolyn Manno from 5:30 – 7 p.m. today on NASCAR America. Kligerman, Ryan, Steve Letarte and Dustin Long discuss this week’s hot topics.

If you were on Kyle Busch’s team, what would be your mindset? Frustrated the team is winless this season or encouraged by the fact the car has been fast and in position to win races?

Steve Letarte: If I was the crew chief, I’ve been in that position before and I think the important thing is you be honest with your guys. You let them know it’s OK to be frustrated. You should be frustrated. You want to win, you expect to win, you’ve had cars fast enough to win, but you need to temper that frustration by showing them how bad it could be. I’d give them some examples of teams that just don’t have the speed. I’d show them how many laps we’ve led and continue to give them reason to be excited to go back to the race track, but at the same time I’d encourage their frustration because it’s real. I think if you hide from it, it’s just going to get worse.

Parker Kligerman: Simply, keep doing what you’re doing. In my opinion, this is the sole in-house JGR car that has rid itself of the speed woes of earlier this season and has only been held back from victory lane by circumstance. I will go on a limb to say the No. 18 will win at least one race before the regular season is done. 

Nate Ryan: If you are employed by a master motivator such as Joe Gibbs, you will maintain a positive mindset despite all the adversity and agony this season. Busch feasibly could have as many as eight victories this season if execution and events had broken a different way. Gibbs will keep the focus on being in position to win so many races rather than having so many that were lost. The recent improvement of his teammates (Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth ran well at Michigan) lessens the pressure on Busch carrying the banner at Joe Gibbs Racing, and the team’s resurgence will be stamped by a Busch win within the next three weeks.

Dustin Long: To go this long without a win would be frustrating. This team is built to win and expected to do so. Adding to the frustration is how this stretch could hurt this team win a championship. Look at all the playoff points that have slipped away in this winless streak. For as good as this team has been — Busch has led at least double-digit laps in each of the last six races — the No. 18 crew needs to see a reward for all its work. And see it soon.

Name one driver you will be watching in the coming weeks and why.

Steve Letarte: Without a doubt the 88 of Dale Jr. has to be the biggest one. He had a good run at Michigan but didn’t really gain a lot of points and that’s my fear for the 88. I don’t see them pointing their way in. I just don’t see it. There are too many good cars that haven’t won a race. I think the 88 is going to have to look for victory lane. I’ll be keeping my eye on the 88 to see if they can turn that good run at Michigan somehow into a win.

Parker Kligerman: Dale Earnhardt Jr. And no it’s not because of him being so popular. I believe over the next 11 races we will either see a resurgence out of the 88, or we are saying thanks for participating. As the rest, the focus moves onto the playoffs and eventually who will be in the 2017 champion. But, for the 88 fans, there is hope. I can confidently say that at Michigan the 88 was a top-five car. If he was able to get track position in that race (not being the first car on two tires) he would have easily finished in the top-five speed wise. Add in the great recovery through the field in the final couple laps to get to ninth and this momentum is exactly what they need going into two unique races. Lastly, I believe he has actually had one of the best average finishes at Sonoma in the last three years – maybe we are talking about Dale Jr.’s first road course win come Monday? 

Nate Ryan: Matt Kenseth. Is this the last season of his career? His last season at Gibbs? The answers are scant about the veteran’s future, but the 45-year-old has indicated he wants to keep driving, and his results during this upcoming stretch might carry a long way in determining how he closes an impressive career on the premier circuit.

Dustin Long: Kyle Larson. Does he show he is a true championship contender? Can he and his team continue to hold an advantage on the field or will they be caught heading toward the playoffs? All signs point to Larson being a leading title contender at this point, but how often have you seen someone excel in the first half of the season only to fade at the end and not be in the championship hunt?

With 11 races left until the playoffs start, these drivers are outside a playoff spot: Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones, Trevor Bayne, Daniel Suarez, Kasey Kahne, Ty Dillon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Which of these is most likely to make the playoffs?

Steve Letarte: I think it’s Erik Jones. I think he’s driving the best equipment of that group, going off how fast (teammate) Martin Truex Jr. is. I like Daniel Suarez and the same argument could be made for him, but I think he is just a little down in the experience level of Erik Jones. I don’t know the reason why, whether it’s the fact that Erik Jones had more time to mentally prepare for the Cup Series where Daniel just found out in January. But in that list, I feel the best about Erik Jones finding a way to bounce his way in.

Parker Kligerman: Clint Bowyer, as he has been the fastest of this group consistently. I would say his main foil could come in the form of an Erik Jones win or stretch of solid races. But with Bowyer’s prowess at Sonoma, I think he will start to build solid momentum and propel himself into the playoffs. 

Nate Ryan: Bowyer should be able to scratch his way back into a playoff berth, and Jones has matured quickly enough that the speed might allow stealing a win in the next three months. Short of a Daytona swan song by Earnhardt, I can’t see postseason spots for any of the rest.

Dustin Long: Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins a race to make the playoffs. It most likely comes at Daytona, but if not there, it will happen before the playoffs begin.

NASCAR’s preliminary entry lists for Sonoma, Iowa

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NASCAR heads back out west this week as the Cup Series gears up for its first road course race of the year at Sonoma Raceway, which marks the halfway point of the season.

Meanwhile, the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series go to Iowa Speedway for the first time this season.

Here’s the entry lists for all three races.

Cup – Toyota/Save Mart 350

There are 38 cars on the entry list and they include four drivers who are making their Cup debuts.

Richard Petty Motorsports announced that sports car driver Billy Johnson will drive the No. 43.

Israeli-born driver Alon Day will make his debut in the No. 23 Toyota for BK Racing. Tommy Regan will drive the No. 15 Toyota for Premium Motorsports. Josh Bilick will drive the No. 51 for Rick Ware Racing. He replaces Cody Ware who is out indefinitely with back issues.

Last year, Tony Stewart won his 49th and final Cup race after swapping the lead twice with Denny Hamlin on the last lap, including passing Hamlin in the final turn.

Click here for the full entry list.

Xfinity –  American Ethanol E15 

There are 41 cars on the entry list, meaning one car will not qualify for the race.

There are no Cup drivers entered into the event.

Sam Hornish Jr. is set to make his first start of the year in Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford.

Joe Gibb Racing will have Kyle Benjamin in its No. 18 Toyota and Christopher Bell in the No. 20.

Ben Kennedy will make his second start for Richard Childress Racing in the No. 2 Chevrolet.

Ty Majeski will make his Xfinity debut driving the No. 60 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.

Last year, Hornish led 183 laps and won this race driving the No. 18 for JGR in his first NASCAR start of the year. Erik Jones won the August race.

Click here for the full entry list.

Truck – Iowa 200

There are 29 Trucks entered into the race. A full field would be 32 trucks.

The No. 52 truck of Stewart Friesen has withdrawn from the event.

Last year, William Byron won this race, his third of the year, after leading 107 laps.

Click here for the full entry list.

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