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Kyle Busch looks to Martinsville for first Cup win in 2018


It’s probably safe to say Kyle Busch is tired of not winning.

That’s saying a lot because it’s only been eight races since he last visited victory lane in the Cup Series.

In four of those races, the No. 18 Toyota was in the top three when the checkered flag waved. In three of those races, Busch finished in second.

Busch’s last victory celebration was in October at Martinsville Speedway.

The Cup Series returns to the 0.526-mile track this weekend for the STP 500, a race Busch dominated last year before he finished … second.

Busch has won two of the past four races in Martinsville and led 813 of 2,005 laps in that stretch.

“We’ve run well the last two years especially at Martinsville, and we’re definitely pumped about getting back there,” Busch said in a release. “I’m hoping we can have a really good car there again this time around, like we did the last two years, especially. We led a lot of laps, and we were really fast. Hoping that some of those things we were able to push through there last fall at Martinsville we’ll be able to do this time around with our M&M’s Caramel Camry.”

Busch has finished in the top five in each of the last five races at the oldest track on the Cup circuit. All of those results came after he started outside the top five.

Last March, he started 10th and led 274 laps before losing out to Brad Keselowski in the closing laps.

“It’s a tough racetrack, and anytime you come in the pits and make an adjustment on your car, you certainly hope it goes the right way, or you make enough of it, or you don’t make too much of an adjustment,” Busch said.

Pits stops have plagued Busch the last two weeks.

At Phoenix, he led 172 of 312 laps. But during the last green-flag run, Busch’s team elected to run longer than the other leaders during green flag stops. When he finally pitted, the jack dropped unexpectedly while changing tires on the left side.

That allowed Kevin Harvick time to build an insurmountable lead over Busch to win.

MORE: Dale Jr. explains Kyle Busch’s pit strategy at Phoenix

On Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, Busch led 62 laps. He was second when he and leader Martin Truex Jr. pitted on Lap 163. The No. 18 exited pit road first, but Busch’s crew made the wrong adjustment on the car, and he was told to use his track bar to compensate.

Truex eventually passed Busch on Lap 169.

MORE: NASCAR America analysts react to Kyle Busch’s Fontana Twitter storm.

Busch said the last run at Martinsville can be “tricky.”

“You can be coming off a 50-lap run on right-side tires and take four and you’ve only got 30 (laps) to go, or you could have 80 to go and you know you have to manage that run all the way to the end,” Busch said.

While it’s the shortest track on the circuit, Martinsville plays host to some of the longest races at 500 laps.

Busch says a key to navigating a Martinsville race is to not “worry about what lap it is, ever.

“That’s the worst thing that could happen to you,” Busch said. “You just try to not ever worry about what lap you’re on or what’s going on around you. You just keep battling, keep driving, keep your focus forward on what you’re doing. That’s the best way to go about those long, long races.”

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NASCAR America: Joe Gibbs Racing finding more speed

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While much of the focus last weekend at Phoenix was on all four Stewart-Haas Racing cars finishing in the top 10 for the first time, Joe Gibbs Racing also accomplished the feat.

Kyle Busch finished second, Denny Hamlin placed fourth, Daniel Suarez was eighth and Erik Jones placed ninth.

As NBC’s Nate Ryan noted, it was the eighth time JGR placed all four of its cars in the top 10 since becoming a four-car operation in 2015 — a year after Stewart-Haas Racing expanded to four cars.

While Busch and Hamlin provide the leadership, the organization also has a pair of second-year drivers in Suarez and Jones.

“These are two guys that as the year goes on, they’re going to contend for wins,’’ NBC’s Kyle Petty said of Suarez and Jones.

NBC’s Marty Snider said Hamlin’s crew chief, Mike Wheeler, told him the organization is finding more speed after overcoming some challenges, including the new splitter.

“We had to rebalance our race cars, that was very different for us from 2017,’’ Snider said Wheeler told him.

Check the video above for what else Wheeler told Snider has helped JGR find more speed.

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NASCAR America: Ryan Preece ready to get back in Xfinity car (video)

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Ryan Preece makes his season debut in the Xfinity Series this weekend at Auto Club Speedway, driving the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing.

This will be the first of 10 Xfinity starts for Preece, who scored four top-five finishes — including a win at Iowa — in four series starts.

“I’m ready to get out to California,’’ Preece told NASCAR America’s Dave Burns.

Preece drove a modified in Florida, winning a couple of races, when NASCAR was at Daytona and raced a three-quarter midget indoors in the Northeast since his last Xfinity race last year in Miami.

Preece said he’s focused on more strong results.

“For me, this is the opportunity that I’ve been wanting for my entire life, to go there and compete for wins,’’ he said.

Preece talked about his racing plans for the rest of the season when he’s not driving in the Xfinity Series. Check out the above video for that and more.

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Bump & Run: Is it time to eliminate inspection at R&D Center after races?


Should NASCAR inspect cars only at the track after a race and no longer do so at the R&D Center days later even though penalties can be found there?

Nate Ryan: Yes, NASCAR needs to find a way to make this happen. It’s worth the accompanying drawbacks and sacrifices.

Dustin Long: What’s the goal here? If NASCAR inspects only at the track and doesn’t do as comprehensive of an inspection as at the R&D Center, are officials all but encouraging teams to spend as much money as possible on certain things that don’t get inspected? Won’t that cause a greater difference between teams? Is that best for the sport? If that’s less a concern than announcing penalties three days later, go ahead and eliminate the R&D Center inspection.

Daniel McFadin: I’m split on this. The NASCAR community shouldn’t have to find out penalties three days after an event. But by doing the more in-depth inspections, teams learn just how far they can color outside NASCAR’s designated lines. It’s a necessary evil, but one that should be done much closer to the checkered flag.

Jerry Bonkowski: Yes. Inspections, and very thorough ones at that, should come immediately after the race. If there is an issue that needs further examination — and which could potentially lead to a penalty — only then should a vehicle be sent back to the R&D Center.

Do you believe social media influences NASCAR in terms of penalizing teams? Is that a concern?

Nate Ryan: The impact was mostly overstated after Harvick’s Las Vegas penalty; but you also can’t untether social media from the rise of technology that has changed the nature of policing races (i.e., rival teams would have ensured NASCAR sees potentially incriminating photos regardless of whether they were on Twitter). This is the 21st century world in which NASCAR finds itself. The ultimate answer is to find a way to do postrace inspection expeditiously and exclusively at track.

Dustin Long: Penalizing? No. Can social media flag potential infractions? Sure. Of course, teams are going to see what others are doing and someone is likely to make NASCAR aware of something that doesn’t seem right. In the end, NASCAR needs to penalize based on the rulebook, not on what is being said on social media. If it gets to that point, then just let the fans run the sport.

Daniel McFadin: I think it should be a concern, especially since most fans don’t know the extent to what is legal and illegal according to NASCAR’s rulebook. I honestly believe it’s possible Kevin Harvick‘s team would have been penalized following Las Vegas even if social media and Reddit hadn’t pulled out their Junior Detective kits. Harvick’s car was already going back to the R&D center. On the other hand, I don’t think Chase Elliott‘s team would have been penalized at Chicago last year if not for those same Internet sleuths.

Jerry Bonkowski: NASCAR shouldn’t and I believe doesn’t let outside influences like social media impact its decisions on whether or not to penalize teams for infractions. Let’s face it, if a team is wrong and if modifications to a car are outside of the rules, a penalty is a penalty, pure and simple. And that’s why teams are cited for infractions. It is interesting to see the reaction on social media both before and after penalties are meted out, but I believe NASCAR has enough integrity not to let fan comments, either pro or con, influence how it deals with infractions.

Other than Kevin Harvick’s dominance, what has stood out to you in the season’s first four races?

Nate Ryan: That Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing seem to have maintained last year’s pace (it’s just that Harvick has been slightly better).

Dustin Long: The relevance of the No. 10 car with Aric Almirola this season. Yes, Stewart-Haas Racing and Ford are strong, but Almirola has made an immediate impact with that team and organization. Remember, he nearly won the Daytona 500.

Daniel McFadin: Martin Truex Jr.‘s quiet consistency. He’s finished in the top five in the last three races and has placed in the top 10 in all but one stage through four races. Yet he’s only led 14 laps. Makes me wonder when the No. 78 team will start to show its muscle.

Jerry Bonkowski: Jimmie Johnson‘s struggles. While he’s managed to move up to 26th place, that’s nowhere near where the seven-time champion should be. I sense that he and crew chief Chad Knaus have had difficulty adapting to the new Chevrolet Camaro, but this isn’t the first time we’ve seen early-season struggles from the No. 48 team. All Johnson and Knaus need is one win, or maybe a top-five, and I believe they’ll be back on-track from that point on.

Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch headline Hamlin’s Short Track Showdown

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After a two-year hiatus, Denny Hamlin‘s Short Track Showdown is returning this spring for its ninth iteration.

The 200-lap pro-am late model charity race will be held April 19 at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia. It will feature Hamlin, Kyle Busch and former Camping World Truck Series driver Timothy Peters.

All proceeds from the race benefit the Denny Hamlin Foundation, which supports Cystic Fibrosis research and therapy.

“This is truly one of my favorite events to host because of what it means for the local racers,” said Hamlin in a press release. “It’s great they get to race against NASCAR veterans like Kyle, Timothy and myself. Plus, I love the attention it gives to these historic Virginia tracks where many drivers, myself included, got our start racing stock cars. Langley has always been special to me, so I’m excited to bring this event there, and look forward to raising money for the Foundation as well.”

Langley Speedway, where Hamlin made his stock car debut in 1997, is the fourth track to host the event. It follows Southside Speedway (2008-10), Richmond Raceway (2011-13) and South Boston Speedway (2014-15).

The 4/10-mile asphalt oval hosts the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East.

Tickets go on sale March 11 and cost $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and military, $15 for kids 6 through 12, and are free for kids 5 and under. Advanced tickets will be available online at

Past Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown Winners:

  • 2015 – Timothy Peters
  • 2014 – Matt Bowling
  • 2013 – Kyle Busch
  • 2012 – Tony Stewart
  • 2011 – Denny Hamlin
  • 2010 – C.E. Falk
  • 2009 – Kyle Busch
  • 2008 – Kyle Busch

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