Kyle Petty

NASCAR America: Where does Matt Kenseth go from here?

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When Matt Kenseth exclusively told our Nate Ryan at Texas that he was stepping away from NASCAR racing after this season, it was more of him taking a hiatus rather than outright retirement.

In Tuesday’s NASCAR America, Jeff Burton, Kyle Petty and Ryan discussed what they believe the future holds for Kenseth.

Here are some of their thoughts:

BURTON: “I think rightfully so, he’s got his feelings hurt a little bit. He’s done what Joe Gibbs Racing hired him to do. He’s done a nice job, is still contending for wins, but there’s not a place for him. That’s a hard place for a guy like Matt Kenseth to be. He’s very quiet but has a lot of pride. There’s no way not to take this personal. It’s impossible.”

PETTY: “He does take it personal. But in the end, it was a business decision that was out of his control, and that’s the problem. He said he’d like to go out on his own accord, the way he wants to go out, the way Dale Jr.’s gone out, the way Tony Stewart‘s gone out, the way Jeff Gordon‘s gone out. They made the decision and followed through with it. This was not Matt’s decision.”

RYAN: “He never used the word ‘retirement.’ But you know what it’s like for a race car driver, especially one like this, who still feels like he can win — and proved Sunday that he can still lead laps. … He’s stepping away in 2018 and it’s for an indefinite period of time and it’s as declarative or definitive statement as you’re going to get. This is tantamount to him saying retirement.” 

NASCAR America: Who has the best chance to reach Miami?

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On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Kyle Petty eloquently put into words how important Sunday’s race at Phoenix is for the five drivers still eligible for the one remaining position for the Championship 4 race at Miami the following week.

“It’s a party of five, table for one,” Petty said.

So who has the best chance to fill that one vacancy? Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin or Ryan Blaney?

Petty and Jeff Burton broke down their predictions for each driver, and who has the best chances to keep their dream alive.

“They’re not good,” Burton said with a laugh. “Some people embrace it, some people really thrive on that pressure. When I think about Jimmie Johnson and probably Chase Elliott, they just know their deal: they know they’re going to have to win Phoenix.

“And if they can’t, they’re probably not going to make their way in unless something crazy happens. For them, it’s actually a little bit easier. I think it becomes a little bit harder to manage if you’re Brad, Denny or Ryan, if Denny and Ryan can catch Brad in a weak moment and get really good stage points in the first stage, it’s a whole new ballgame.”

Petty, meanwhile, sees things a little bit different and how the drivers with the longest odds potentially having the least pressure upon them.

“I think everybody has to go there thinking they have to win that race, even Brad (Keselowski) has to,” Petty said. “If I look at Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott, they have to go there with one single focus: win.

“So that makes their job easy. They don’t worry about points or stage points, but that last 10-15 laps, being in position to capitalize on somebody else’s mistake, or checking out on everybody.”

Check out the video above to get more insight from Burton and Petty.

Bump & Run: Who makes the cut at Kansas, who doesn’t?

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
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Which four drivers will fail to advance in the playoffs after Kansas?

Kyle Petty: Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr (points deficit too great to make up in one race), Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson (for these two I think it comes down to stage points).

Dale Jarrett: Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. Even though Kenseth has the capabilities of qualifying well and getting the stage points, they haven’t been able to finish off races. I think Ryan Blaney is fast enough to get stage points and can manage a top-10 finish and keep him ahead of Jimmie Johnson.

Nate Ryan: Ryan Blaney, Matt Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Jamie McMurray. I think Blaney and Kenseth have shown the speed to be worthy of advancing, but the consistency has been absent.

Dustin Long: Ryan Blaney, Matt Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Jamie McMurray. While Blaney has finished no worse than 11th in the last three 1.5-mile tracks, he’s scored two stage points in those races combined. Doesn’t give much confidence he’ll score enough to stay ahead of those behind him Sunday.

Why do you think or don’t think Kyle Busch will advance?

Kyle Petty: Kyle Busch makes it! Two reasons: 1. He has speed, others that are ahead of him have struggled on 1.5-mile tracks. 2. He can score stage points and ultimately win! He’s proved that all year.

Dale Jarrett: Kyle Busch runs up front all day and might even get somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 stage points and then is going to finish in the top three, if not win the race. I think that is enough to get him in there.

Nate Ryan: I think he could win Kansas, and at the very least, I think he will amass enough stage points to propel him back over the cutoff line.

Dustin Long: Wouldn’t surprise me if he won or scored another top five at Kansas to advance. I think the odds are much greater he advances even with his deficit.

What is the best place for Talladega in regards to the playoffs? Regular-season finale? Beginning of a round? Middle of a round? Last race in a round?

Kyle Petty: I like where it is in the middle of a round as a fan. It can help your driver or at least give you hope your driver can come back from a bad Talladega. As a driver I would want it as the first race in a round. So no matter what happened I had two races to recover. As a fan or driver, I hate it as a cut race because, as we saw Sunday, so much that happened is because of plain old luck, good or bad.

Dale Jarrett: I wish we would pose this to the drivers and see where they might want it. I honestly think it’s in the perfect spot right now. I don’t like the idea of it being the first race in a round. I think there is more attention to it and more pressure put on it by being right there in the middle. I think it gives a driver and a team opportunities to look at that first race, which this year was Charlotte, and try to see about getting something done as Martin Truex Jr. did and not have to worry about the consequences of Talladega. Then it also gives you an opportunity on the back end to see where you are and what you need to do. My crazy self as a fan and a media person would love to see it at some point in time be either one of two things — the final regular-season race or the final race of the season to determine the champion.

Nate Ryan: I think Denny Hamlin and the Drivers Council are correct in moving it to the regular-season finale. That seems the best of all worlds – offering protection for drivers already with victories while providing an opportunity for a long shot hoping to snatch a spot. And for winless drivers trying to earn a berth on points, no one likely would be safe – which also feels right.

Dustin Long: I like where it is, but if people want to move it, make it the opening race of the playoffs when then are 16 playoff contenders. That could enhance the next two races as those with bad finishes at Talladega scramble to make it to the next round.

NASCAR America: Don’t count out Kyle Busch at Kansas (video)

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Kyle Busch is ranked ninth, seven points below the cut-off line to advance to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup playoffs, heading into Sunday’s Round of 12 finale at Kansas Speedway.

While many of his fans may fear that with back-to-back poor finishes at Charlotte and Talladega, Busch will be eliminated at Kansas, the NASCAR America crew on Monday felt exactly the opposite.

They’re bullish on the younger Busch’s chances of advancing to the third round of the playoffs – very bullish.

Here’s why:

Dale Jarrett: “Other years, you have two bad races like he’s had, he wouldn’t have a chance of going to Kansas other than winning. I think he’s very capable of winning at Kansas. He has two opportunities here: he runs well in both stages, let’s say he earns 17 to 20 points and he gets himself in a good position and then he runs in the top-five, which he’s done on a regular basis recently. I think he has great opportunity and gets through (to the Round of 8) with no problem.”

Nate Ryan: “At one point, Kansas Speedway was a house of horrors for Kyle Busch. It took him 10 years to get his first win there. Now, he’s had five straight top-fives there. He had 16 stage points in the race there at May. And because Toyotas are running really well on mile-and-a-half speedways, he’s qualifying well, I think you can count on him amassing a significant number of stage points and probably more than the guy he’s below on the cutline right now, Jimmie Johnson.”

Kyle Petty: “I know we’re looking at the points; don’t look at the points. In the first 26 races, he was in contention almost every week. Honestly, I don’t think the stage points are going to matter … Kyle Busch can go there and win this race and all this speculation, all this doubt, can be thrown out the window. He’s still a favorite, as far as I’m concerned.”

NASCAR America: What Talladega win meant to Yates family (video)

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It was a heartwarming day Sunday for engine builder Doug Yates.

While he was happy that Brad Keselowski and his Ford – powered by a Roush-Yates engine under the hood – won the Alabama 500, it was also a strong reminder of his father, Robert, who passed away nearly two weeks ago.

“My dad and I loved racing here together so much, from the time we started with Davey Allison back in 1987 when he won here,” Doug Yates said. “It’s an emotional time.

“It’s a great place, I’m glad I’m here, feels like coming home, and I know he would be so proud of us and all the hard work that everybody at Roush-Yates Engines put in, and Ford Performance and the drive that Brad Keselowski and Team Penske put on was really special.

“We’re really proud to be here and I know my dad’s smiling today.”

Also, check out what Dale Jarrett, Nate Ryan and Kyle Petty had to say about the significance of the Yates family legacy to NASCAR over the years.