Kyle Petty

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Bump & Run: Forecasting what to watch for in 2018

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1. Of the changes taking place this season, what is the one you’re most interested in seeing how it goes?

Steve Letarte: I guess it’s a combination of inspection, rules and a new body for Chevrolet. There was so much talk last year about aerodynamics and perhaps Toyota had a little more efficient car than the other two manufacturers, according to the other two manufacturers or the teams that raced for them. Is the combination of the new inspection station, perhaps some rule tweaks … and the new Chevrolet body style, will that combination change the racing we see at the mile-and-a-half and 2-mile tracks?

Kyle Petty: I honestly don’t have an opinion on the changes. It always seems to me it’s not so much the change we talk about as we move through the season as it is the ripple effects of those changes. I’ll wait to see how large the waves are.

Nate Ryan: Schedule. It’s been the least discussed but could have the greatest impact — particularly on the Round of 16’s complexion, which could feature major cutoff drama in the debut of the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

Dustin Long: I’m most intrigued in how Hendrick Motorsports performs this season with all the changes that organization has made on and off the track. Even though the organization won four races last year, even car owner Rick Hendrick noted the lack of competitiveness and ability to lead laps much of the year. Will the management changes, the driver changes (William Byron and Alex Bowman) and the cultural changes (closer working relationship among the four teams) lead to greater success or more frustration? How these changes perform will have an impact on the playoff picture.

2. Of the drivers with a new Cup ride this year, who are you most intrigued about?

Steve Letarte: I think that is going to drive some excitement into the sport to have all those changes. The name that I have highlighted that I’m going to watch is Erik Jones. Aric Almirola (to Stewart-Haas Racing) has been around a while, we kind of understand where he is. Ryan Blaney did win a race, I think his transition (to Penske) will be smooth. William Byron I think kind of gets a freebie. He’s run so well at everything. It’s his rookie year, he’s so young. Come, learn. I would add Alex Bowman as well. Erik Jones and Alex Bowman. I think those two have to prove they deserve to be in the cars they are. Erik Jones is remarkably talented, and I have no doubt that he has the ability. But the ability is not the same as going to Victory Lane. At some point you need trophies. Now that he’s driving that 20 car, a car that won with Matt Kenseth, a company that knows how to win, I really look for Erik Jones to show up this year. He’s probably the one I’m most intrigued about and I’m going to watch the closest.

Kyle Petty: Blaney and Byron. Blaney because of his talent in the car. We saw a glimpse of that last year but as much because of his personality. He has something and has tapped into something that NASCAR and the sport has been missing! A driver who has fun, has personality … and can WIN! Novel idea! Byron because of his ability at such a young age to face pressure and stare it down! He appears wise beyond his years as a person and as a driver. His personality will develop. I’m not sure in what direction it will go, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Nate Ryan: Darrell Wallace Jr. With even a modicum of success, he could trigger positive shock waves of good cheer throughout the team and NASCAR. But if he falters, it will raise questions about the long-term viability of RPM and “The King’s” tolerance for hanging around NASCAR as an also-ran.

Dustin Long: I want to see what Kasey Kahne can do with Leavine Family Racing and a single-car operation. Can he help raise the organization’s performance level or will he be stuck in the middle of the pack? With a one-year contract, there’s a lot at stake for Kahne.

3. Which one of the drivers who raced for a championship in Miami last year (Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski) has the best chance of returning?

Steve Letarte: Kevin Harvick seems to always be there. So that means the odds are something is going to happen that maybe he won’t. Brad Keselowski, I put him in the same bucket as Harvick. I have some concern where the Fords are. Toyota had good speed last year. Chevrolet has made a body change. I’m really waiting to see at the beginning of the year what the Fords have to counteract that. As much as Martin Truex Jr. was so dominant last  year, I have to say Kyle Busch. I think Kyle Busch has the ability to dominate at different types of race tracks, so I think he has the best chance to go back to Miami.

Kyle Petty: Kevin Harvick … because he’s Kevin Harvick. Enough said

Nate Ryan: Martin Truex Jr. because of his No. 78 team’s continuity. The contraction of the No. 77 could make Furniture Row Racing even better considering how far it went as a single-car team in 2015 and ’16.

Dustin Long: Kyle Busch. He’s done it three years in a row. It’s easy to see him making it four in a row.

4. Who wins first — Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Darrell Wallace Jr., Ty Dillon or someone else?

Steve Letarte: It should be Chase Elliott or Erik Jones but something in my gut tells me that it never works that way. I think William Byron breaks through super early in his career. I do think of this list, Chase Elliott wins, Erik Jones wins, William Byron wins. Those three I’m confident to say will win a race this year. Hopefully, for Alex Bowman and Daniel Suarez they can join the list, but I’m going to have to see something at the beginning half of the year to be able to move them on to the winning list.

Kyle Petty: Erik or Daniel. I don’t see JGR or Toyota getting weaker and I see Erik and Daniel getting stronger and better. The experience of last year should pay dividends this year.

Nate Ryan: Chase Elliott, maybe as soon as the Daytona 500. He’s long overdue for a breakthrough, and after the first victory with the number his father made famous, many more soon will follow.

Dustin Long: Chase Elliott. He’s been too close too long. His time is coming.

* NASCAR America returns to NBCSN on Feb. 26 after the Winter Olympics  

Kyle Petty, wife Morgan, expecting first child

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Kyle Petty, the former Cup Series driver and current NBC Sports analyst, announced on Twitter Wednesday night he and wife Morgan are expecting their first child together.

The baby is due in June.

The couple was married in 2015. Formerly Morgan Castano, Petty’s wife served as the executive director of the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, the annual cross-country motorcycle trip that fundraises for the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

Petty, 57,  had three children in a previous marriage, sons Adam and Austin and daughter Montgomery.

The first born, Adam, died in a May 2000 Xfinity Series practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway at 19 years old.

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Crew chief Barry Dodson, led Rusty Wallace to 1989 Cup championship, dies at 64

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Veteran NASCAR crew chief Barry Dodson passed away Wednesday at the age of 64.

Barry Dodson’s brother, John Dodson, issued a family statement: “Barry’s passing leaves us all with heavy hearts. He left his mark in the NASCAR history books and he served the sport with a passion that few will ever match. We love him and we miss him.”

Dodson was crew chief for several drivers in NASCAR’s premier series, including the late Tim Richmond, NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip and Kyle Petty.

But it was with NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace that Dodson enjoyed his greatest success.

Dodson and Wallace combined for 18 of Wallace’s 55 career Cup wins and earned nine poles during a five-season tenure from 1986 through 1990.

The highlight of their time together was 1989, when with Dodson aboard the pit box, Wallace won his lone Winston Cup championship.

Wallace and Dodson also recorded a second-place finish in 1988, a fifth-place showing in 1987 and sixth-place finishes in their first and final seasons together, 1986 and 1990.

Dodson was unique in that not only was he Wallace’s crew chief, he also spent much of his time serving as part of the over-the-wall pit crew that serviced the Raymond Beadle-owned No. 27 Pontiac that Wallace piloted.

Dodson’s other Cup win was with Kyle Petty. He also earned six wins with driver Mike Bliss in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (1995-98).

Sadly, two of Dodson’s children, 17-year-old son Trey and 16-year-old daughter Tia, were killed in a one-car accident in 1994 in Darlington, South Carolina.

Fellow NASCAR crew chief and stepson Trent Owens took to Twitter to memorialize Dodson.

Dodson also served as general manager when Wallace began a NASCAR Xfinity Series team in 2004.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Martin Truex Jr., Sherry Pollex win prestigious Myers Brothers Award

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Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. and girlfriend Sherry Pollex were selected as the recipient of the Myers Brothers Award Wednesday in Las Vegas.

The Myers Brothers Award, named for Billy and Bob Myers, honors those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport. The award, presented annually since 1958, is voted on by members of the National Motorsports Press Association.

WATCH: NBCSN to air special NASCAR America at 7 p.m. ET Thursday, followed by Cup Series Awards Show at 9 p.m. ET.

Truex and Pollex were honored for their charitable work around childhood and ovarian cancer that includes the Catwalk for a Cause, which was held an eight consecutive year and raised more than $550,000 this year, and their second annual “Drive for Teal & Gold.”

“I didn’t see that coming,” Truex said to Pollex on stage after accepting the award.

“I didn’t either,” Pollex said. “I’m going to try really hard not to cry. It’s been a crazy, crazy year for both of us. Personally and professionally with my cancer and …” she could not continue.

Truex then added: “This is definitely an unbelievable honor to receive this award. We definitely didn’t see it coming. Did not expect it. I think Sherry and I have been very fortunate in our lives to have all the things we needed, great families, great parents that raised us right and taught us right from wrong. I think they probably deserve a lot of the credit for us being who we are and being able to give back and help people. Being a part of this sport, it’s who we are.

“We are so proud of everybody. We’ve learned so much from past champions. Just everybody in this sport is willing to give back and willing to give their time to great causes. We don’t deserve all the credit for this. I think we’ve learned a lot of lessons from a lot of people in this room and a lot of people in this sport in general. We’re very fortunate and definitely lucky to be able to give our time to great causes, and I’m so proud of (Pollex) for her fight and her battle and what she’s been able to pull through and get through, and at the same time willing to help others to give her time. Just really, really proud of this. Thank you all very, very much.

“We’re humbled. We’re very lucky to be here, and we’re very proud of this.”

They both then said: “Thank you.”

Previous winners of the award include Ned Jarrett, Richard Petty, the Wood Brothers, Junie Donlavey, Kyle Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Mike Helton, Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Benny Parsons, Barney Hall, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

Truex was named on 82 percent of the ballots cast for this year’s award. Others receiving votes were NASCAR team owner Jack Roush and seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.

Other awards presented Wednesday at the Myers Brothers Awards included:

SMI Chairman Bruton Smith won the Buddy Shuman Award for contributions to the sport.

Chevrolet honored Dale Earnhardt Jr. with the Chevrolet Lifetime Achievement Award and donated a car for his foundation to auction.

NBC Sports and Fox Sports were jointly honored with the 2017 NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award.

“We are fortunate to have two world-class television partners dedicated to presenting our sport in new and innovative ways each weekend,” said Steve Phelps, EVP, Chief Global Sales and Marketing Officer. “Both FOX Sports and NBC Sports are deserving honorees, each delivering dynamic marketing campaigns that introduced our sport to new audiences and brought fans closer to our athletes than ever before.”

“NBC Sports is incredibly proud of our long-standing partnership with NASCAR, and we are thrilled to accept this award,” said Jenny Storms, Chief Marketing Officer, NBC Sports Group. “This prestigious honor is the direct result of an insights led strategy, combined with the passion and creativity of our team, to continue to connect and engage with fans in new and exciting ways.”

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NASCAR America: Challenges of manufacturer parity in Cup

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As NASCAR closes the 2017 season this week in Las Vegas, an issue becomes if manufacturer parity will be a reality in 2018.

Toyota, which debuted a new Camry before the 2017 season, didn’t win the most races in the regular season — Chevrolet did with 10 — but Toyota won eight of 10 playoff races and won the championship with Martin Truex Jr. (Chevrolet went winless in the playoffs).

Toyota’s dominance was an issue Ford driver Brad Keselowski raised toward the end of the regular season. Toyota driver Kyle Busch had a sharp response to Keselowski’s comments at Chicagoland Speedway on the opening weekend of the playoffs. 

NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty and Jeff Burton addressed the issue of manufacturer parity.

“Is the parity of the manufacturers, is that such that you’re going to have to do a (car) submittal every year?’’ Burton said. “So that Ford can go back … (and) resubmit the same car to be able to shift that downforce. I don’t think a Toyota makes more downforce than a Ford. I think it makes more rear downforce and less front and that was advantageous this year with the rules. That’s a tough situation for NASCAR to get a hold of.’’

Chevrolet debuts the Camaro ZL1 next season in Cup. That will leave Ford with the oldest model among the three manufacturers

“It’s going to be interesting to see what NASCAR does or how they try to balance the field,’’ Petty said. “If they want true parity, they’re going to have to look at this at some point in time and try to figure out how to weigh it.’’

Watch the video above for more from Petty and Burton on the issue.