NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Martinsville breakdown, Aric Almirola and Bubba Wallace

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and features host Carolyn Manno and Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut, and Jeff Burton and Landon Cassill from Burton’s Garage.

Among the topics today:

  •  Prepare for paint swapping, bent fenders, and bruised egos. It’s time to go short-track racing at Martinsville Speedway! Jeff, Parker and Landon will tell you what to expect this weekend at the famous half-mile. We’ll also see what it takes to succeed there, as Parker takes us for some quick laps in the NBCSN iRacing Simulator.
  • After making the switch to Stewart-Haas Racing in the offseason, Aric Almirola is off to the best start of his Cup Series career. Currently 10th in the standings, he’ll tell Marty Snider about his early season success.
  • Since finishing second at the Daytona 500, rookie driver Bubba Wallace has cooled off. Now he faces his first Cup Series start at Martinsville in the iconic No. 43 car, and he’s feeling confident — it’s where Wallace scored his first truck series win nearly five years ago. We’ll examine the struggles he might have to work through this season and also hear his reflections on his early years of racing in the latest edition of “A Driver’s Drive.”

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Entry lists for Martinsville (updated)

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NASCAR visits a short track for the first time this season when it heads to Martinsville Speedway, the oldest track on the circuit.

The Cup Series is joined by the Camping World Truck Series, which has been off the last two weeks.

Here are the entry lists for both races.

Cup – STP 500

There are 38 cars entered.

Jeffrey Earnhardt is listed as driving StarCom Racing’s No. 00 Chevrolet, but the team announced Sunday it has parted ways with Earnhardt.

Landon Cassill will take his place this weekend and at Texas Motor Speedway.

D.J. Kennington is entered in his third race this season, driving Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota.

Ross Chastain is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet for the fifth time this season.

Harrison Rhodes is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet. Rhodes has one start in the No. 51 at Atlanta.

JJ Yeley will drive Premium Motorsports’ N0. 55 Chevrolet. Reed Sorenson was originally listed as the driver.

Last year, Brad Keselowski won this race after leading 116 of 500 laps. He beat Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott. In the fall playoff race, Busch won over Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Alpha Energy Solutions 250

There are 36 trucks entered.

Todd Gilliland will make his first start of the season in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 4 Toyota.

Kyle Benjamin is entered in DGR-Crosley’s No. 54 Toyota. It will be his first Truck start.

Timothy Peters will make his first start of the year driving Ricky Benton Racing’s No. 92 Ford. A former driver for the defunct Red Horse Racing, Peters’ last start was in the 2017 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, Chase Elliott won this race over Johnny Sauter and Christopher Bell. The fall playoff race was won by Noah Gragson over Matt Crafton and Sauter.

Click here for the entry list.

Hanging with the King: Richard Petty teaches Darrell Wallace Jr. life’s lessons

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A month into his first full season driving for Richard Petty Motorsports, Darrell Wallace Jr. still is struck by who his boss is.

“I’m still in shock of racing for The King, honestly,’’ Wallace said Friday at Auto Club Speedway. “Being around him and in his presence is unreal. Just to see how he interacts with the fans, how he interacts with just people and family it’s the coolest thing ever.’’

Wallace got some time with Petty this past week at Petty’s place near the Teton Mountains in Wyoming. He joined Petty and others for a few days or rest, relaxation and snowmobiling.

“I had never been to Wyoming, checked that off the list,’’ Wallace said. “Landed in Idaho, so I checked that off the list, so it’s been good. Ever since Daytona all the way up to that was just crazy madness and now I’ve been able to kind of relax and stay focused on what we need to do without any extra cameras or attention or anything.”

Just as memorable was a car drive Wallace and Petty had together the night before the Daytona 500.

“That was a 20-minute conversation about life and about racing,” Wallace said. “The whole time I was like ‘this is badass, this is cool.’ ”

Asked what type of life lessons he’s learned from Petty, Wallace said:

“You can overcome a lot of things if you put your mind to it and you have the will to do it, but you can never overcome fate. That is the biggest thing that has stuck out to me. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. If it’s not then, move on.”

That’s the approach Wallace has taken from week to week in his rookie Cup season. After finishing second in the Daytona 500, he has not placed in the top 20 since.

“It’s a hell of a ride right now despite the finishes that we’ve had, I’m still keeping a positive mindset looking forward to each and every race because it’s a reset for me,’’ Wallace said. “Each and every track there is no need for me to hang my head over the last finish because I don’t know what the hell is next until we get to Pocono, Kentucky, Michigan and Daytona.”

Wallace said “Atlanta was bad luck,’’ noting some mechanical issues that slowed them. At Las Vegas, he said “we missed it’’ on the setup. Phoenix he felt much better about. Of those three tracks, though, his best finish (21st) came at Las Vegas.

Even with those results, Wallace said the Richard Childress Racing alliance has helped the team this season.

“We are all sharing notes and trying to figure out how we can be the best organization out there and get our cars better,’’ Wallace said. “Some races the No. 3 (Austin Dillon) and the No. 31 (Ryan Newman) is what we are leaning on because we are still trying to figure things out.  But, it’s been a great alliance so far. They have been very open to wanting to help us out.’’

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Starting lineup for the Auto Club 400

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Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch will start on the front row of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

They will be followed by Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon and Joey Logano.

Kevin Harvick will start his attempt at a fourth consecutive win from 10th.

Thirteen drivers will start from the rear after their cars failed qualifying inspection.

Click here for the starting lineup

NASCAR America: What do NASCAR drivers and Hollywood have in common?

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Each time NASCAR returns to Southern California and races at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, there is a distinct Hollywood connection.

Actors and entertainers come out to the race – some in official capacities, others just as regular fans – while NASCAR drivers often head to Tinseltown in their off-time to hang out and rub elbows with some of the biggest celebrities.

On Thursday’s NASCAR America, host Leigh Diffey asked analysts Parker Kligerman and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett about the sport’s connection with Hollywood, as well as what drivers might be Hollywood-like in their own ways.

Here are the topics they discussed and excerpts of their answers:

Who would be NASCAR’s version of Hollywood’s leading men?

Jarrett: “This is easy in my opinion. It has to be Kevin Harvick. When you look at the leading man and who’s on top and everybody wants to be like in that role, it’s Kevin Harvick. He’s doing his very best to stay on top. He’s the man that’s there right now.”

Kligerman: “I’m going with Kyle Busch as the leading man. He’s right behind Kevin Harvick, is the leading man at Joe Gibbs Racing and the leading man at Toyota, and I just believe he’s had the performances to be that leading man and has the personality to command the screen, if you’d give him a chance.”

Who’s the next big thing in NASCAR?

Jarrett: “The man that just got slapped with a 25-point penalty, Chase Elliott. Going back the last two years, we’ve been talking about when will get that first win? When will it happen. But I foresee that coming in the very near future.”

Kligerman: “Erik Jones in that 20 car. We saw some sparks of brilliance from him last season in the 77 car. I remember when he raced Kyle Busch and beat him in the Snowball Derby and he beat Kyle Busch. Kyle said, ‘That guy is the next me,’ and a lot of people think that (Jones) will be the next Kyle Busch.’”

Who’s the best character actor in NASCAR?

Jarrett: “There’s a lot of characters out there, for sure. I’m going to go with Ryan Blaney. He has everything you’d look for in an actor, the personality, the good looks, all of that. But along with it, he’s very, very talented. You have to have all of that to fit this role, I believe, and Ryan Blaney is doing his part single-handedly.”

Kligerman: “Kyle Petty. No, I’m just kidding. I’m going to go with Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. He has great personality, we saw the Daytona 500 weekend and some of his antics off the track. I love following him on social media, he’s a very funny guy. I just think he’s full of enthusiasm for the sport, he enjoys what he’s doing, he enjoys his chance and is relishing it, and I believe the performances will match his personality.”

Who isn’t really standing out right now?

Jarrett: “Our reigning champion, Martin Truex Jr.? He’s exactly that. Nothing flashy at this point but being very solid. Going from winning a championship last year and then trying to go out the next year and try to make things happen … I just think they’re trying to get their legs under them after having that great championship offseason and trying to get back to that championship level that they’re accustomed to.”

Kligerman: “Aric Almirola. I just believe this guy has been given a new lease on life and getting a chance at a top-caliber organization like Stewart-Haas. We’re seeing a little hint of that performance, but it’s going to take a little more to eclipse that teammate of his, Kevin Harvick, who obviously has been the leading man.”

Who’s the villain this year?

Jarrett: “Kyle Busch has been fantastic in his interviews the last couple of weeks after finishing second to Kevin Harvick. But I can assure you this man is ready to explode if he finishes second, especially to Kevin Harvick, this weekend.”

Kligerman: “I’m going to go with the most hated man on NASCAR Reddit, and that’s Denny Hamlin. For whatever reason, he finds a way to rile up the fan base on the Internet, whether it’s what he does in the car, what he tweets or what he says on TV, he plays that villain role nicely at times and has the performance to back it up.”

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