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One Cup crew chief, two others in Trucks, fined for Bristol penalties

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NASCAR on Wednesday issued three penalties from the past weekend of racing at Bristol Motor Speedway.

In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was found to be in violation of Sections 10.9 and 10.4 of the NASCAR Rule Book: Tires and wheels (lug nuts not properly installed).

As a result, crew chief Scott Graves has been fined $10,000.

In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the No. 51 and No. 83 Trucks were also found to be in violation of Sections 10.9 and 10.4 (lug nuts not properly installed).

As a result, Kevin Manion, crew chief of the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, and Richard Mason, crew chief of the No. 83 DJ Copp Motorsports Chevrolet, were each fined $2,500.

All penalties were issued for safety level violations.

There were no penalties in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. There also were no suspensions or other penalties across all three series.

Kyle Busch wins Truck pole at Bristol with record lap

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Kyle Busch set a track record with a lap of 14.827 seconds (129.413 mph) to win the pole for tonight’s Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The former track record was 14.884 seconds (128.917 mph) by Tyler Reddick last August.

The pole is Busch’s 18th in the series.

He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Christopher Bell (128.606). It is the sixth front row starting spot for the series points leader this year.

Johnny Sauter (128.271) starts third and will be followed by KBM’s Noah Gragson  (128.253) and Brandon Jones (127.911).

Grant Enfinger, who is 24 points outside the final playoff spot, starts seventh after a lap of 127.648 mph.

Click here for starting lineup

Kyle Busch calls NASCAR’s restrictions on Cup drivers in other series ‘frustrating’

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Kyle Busch calls NASCAR’s efforts to limit how many races Cup drivers can run in the Xfinity and Truck Series “frustrating” and said that if he was ever barred from running all Truck races, he’d shut his team down.

Busch made the comments Tuesday afternoon on “SiriusXM Speedway.’’

NASCAR announced Tuesday morning that it would further limit how many races Cup drivers can run in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series. For Busch, he will be able to run seven Xfinity races (down from 10 this year) and five Truck races (down from seven this year) next season.

MORE: What does further limits on Cup drivers in Xfinity and Trucks mean?

Busch expressed his disappointment with the rule change on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“It’s just kind of the way the sport has gone, I guess,’’ he said. “What’s kind of been happening the last couple of years with the comments and whatnot. It’s a bit frustrating for myself and for my team and for what we all had going on at Joe Gibbs Racing and what we wanted to accomplish. I get the picture. The problem with the picture is that it’s not painted as pretty as some may like it to be.’’

Busch noted that he skipped seven Xfinity races from early April to early June and all those races were won by Cup drivers — Kyle Larson and Erik Jones won twice each during that stretch.

“It didn’t change a damn thing,’’ Busch said of not running,“by eliminating the races that Cup drivers can run.

“If we all get together this offseason and pick and choose our races around each other’s schedule, we can still screw it up as much as we want to screw it up and piss everybody off. I wouldn’t be so certain that might not happen.’’

Busch also forecast the end of Kyle Busch Motorsports — which is in its eighth season in the Camping World Truck Series — if NASCAR won’t let him drive in that series.

“If the limits for the Truck Series goes to zero, I’m done,’’ Busch said. “You will no longer see Kyle Busch Motorsports teams out on the race track. That’s the way I’m going to make it. We’ll see how that progresses as the years go along. On the Xfinity Series side, I’m sure that Joe (Gibbs) is frustrated, and I know I’m frustrated. We’ll just continue to race the races were allowed to run with the sponsorship that we have.’’

Busch’s Truck team has won 61 races since 2010. He runs Truck races in part because of the sponsorship he can bring in, which allows the team to run younger drivers in other races.

“I enjoy going out and running Truck races,’’ said Busch, who has won two of the four Truck races he’s run this season. “If I’m not allowed to do that, then why am I owning a team that I’m not allowed to race for? It just doesn’t make any sense. If I’m out there spending money for other drivers and whatnot to come up through the ranks, but yet I’m getting beat up and not allowed to drive in it, then it’s no fun for me. Then why am I spending money to evolve talent that is going to replace me one day?’’

Many fans refer to NASCAR’s restrictions as a Kyle Busch rule since he’s the Cup driver who typically runs more Xfinity and Truck races than most.

Busch was asked if he felt he was being unfairly targeted by the restrictions.

“I don’t think it’s me necessarily getting singled out,’’ he told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I do feel as though that people have a legitimate bark, I guess let’s call it, with the Cup drivers in the Xfinity Series races. It only seems to get louder when it’s one particular driver.

“I do feel as though that these conversations wouldn’t be what they are if I were, let’s see, a Kevin Harvick or a Kyle Larson or a Brad (Keselowski), where I have a couple of wins a year here and there and I run 20, 15 races a year. But when I was running 20 races a year and I was winning 10 or 13 of those races, that’s when the barks seemed to get louder and talk of the restrictions seemed to get more and more.’’

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Truck teams racing as much for cash as checkered flag

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DOVER, Del. — The green flag will fly today for the Camping World Truck Series and some teams could be further in the red by the time the checkered flag waves.

A series that debuted with four demonstration races in 1994 sees its teams battle financial challenges while facing questions about a schedule that has veered from its grassroots beginning.

Brad Keselowski understands all too well what team owners face. He said his truck operation lost $1 million in the 2014 season and says that’s still the average for his organization, which has five victories since 2015.

“It’s a money loser,’’ Keselowski told NBC Sports. “Big time.’’

If an organization lost $1 million in a season (23 races this year), that would equate to losing more than $43,000 per race on average.

Red Horse Racing, which was in its 13th season in the series, suspended operations May 22 after struggling to find sponsorship. It made that move even though Timothy Peters was fifth in the points at the time.

Kyle Busch says it costs $3.2 million a year to run a full-season Truck team at Kyle Busch Motorsports and he has to put some of his own money into the operation. Keselowski says the cost is closer to $4.5 million to run a full-season Truck team, counting reinvested purse money and manufacturer support.

It is amid those challenge that former Truck owner Kevin Harvick recently suggested on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show that the series run at more short tracks — as it did in its early years — to help NASCAR reconnect with grassroots racing fans and give the series a stronger identity.

“I think it’s something that a lot of people want to say and haven’t said, but I think it’s definitely time to look at the grassroots sides of things, and I think the Truck series is a grassroots division,’’ Harvick said last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I’m not saying we need to take them from Daytona or Phoenix or some of these other places, but there are some places that they don’t need to be going.’’

On his radio show, he mentioned Dover — site of today’s race — as one of those places.

“They don’t want to show up on a Friday at Dover and watch these trucks drive around the race track because they’re going to show up on Sunday to watch the Cup cars,’’ Harvick said. “Take the trucks somewhere where everybody wants to see them, because there’s short tracks across the country that want to see them.’’

Busch likes the idea.

“I would definitely enjoy that model of going back to those race tracks,’’ he said. “Now again, how you accomplish that and how you get that done, that’s for people a hell of a lot smarter than me to figure out.

“But I would certainly enjoy seeing the Truck Series go back to Tucson, or even around here, go to Motor Mile, go to some of these short tracks that you can put 10, 15, 20,000 people in the stands for an exciting truck race.

“Because in all honesty, that’s the crowd count that you’re getting at a mile‑and‑a‑half anyways, so pack the place, make it look good, and put on a good show for the fans and go back to some of the roots of short track racing that these drivers are coming up from.’’

If NASCAR went to some smaller tracks, it might have to lower sanctioning fees and that could mean a smaller purse for teams.

“If we make less money, you’re digging our grave, so the sanctioning agreements can’t be for any less money, that’s for sure,’’ Busch said. “We actually need them to be for more. In order to cut our costs, we need to be able to make more money or compete for more money to race for more winnings. If you cut our winnings out, you might as well just say goodbye.’’

Keselowski said that even when Brad Keselowski Racing wins, it doesn’t cut the spending deficit in a weekend by much.

“If we win the race it is, at best, and this is at best, about 5 percent of what we spent (that weekend),’’ he said.

But Keselowski said that there is a way the finances could work for teams even if with smaller purses.

With more short tracks, Keselowski said, engines are not as great a factor and money can be saved there. Also, more short tracks would make aero development less important and that might be another area to save money.

“I’m a big believer you can’t cut your way to prosperity,’’ he said,“but you can make smart decisions.’’

The race is on to make those decisions before more teams end up like Red Horse Racing and are faced with leaving the sport.

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Todd Gilliland lands six-race sponsorship with Pedigree in Truck Series

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Todd Gilliland‘s Camping World Truck Series debut and five more races this year will be sponsored by Pedigree.

The son of former NASCAR Cup driver David Gilliland, the 17-year-old Gilliland will make his Truck debut on June 2 at Dover International Speedway in the No. 46 Toyota owned by Kyle Busch Motorsports.

The 2016 K&N Pro Series West champion will also drive the No. 46 at Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 28.)

Pedigree will also sponsor Gilliland in four races in the No. 51 Toyota. After Dover, Gilliland will race at Gateway Motorsports Park (June 17),  Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Sept. 3), New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Sept. 23) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 10).

“I’m proud to have a sponsor as well-known as Pedigree join us at Kyle Busch Motorsports this season,” Gilliland said in a press release. “There’s a family connection with Pedigree, as they were the sponsor on my Dad’s car in 2006. It’s a great feeling to know that they have confidence in me and this race team. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get behind the wheel, earn solid finishes and hopefully get Pedigree to Victory Lane this season.”

Through five races in the K&N West season this year, Gilliland has won every pole and won four races. He has 11 wins in 20 starts dating back to 2015.

Kyle Busch Motorsports also announced the addition of two Truck races to Busch’s schedule. He will drive the No. 46 at Kentucky Speedway (July 6) and Bristol Motor Speedway (Aug.16). He will be sponsored by Banfield Pet Hospital.