Kyle Busch fastest in first Cup practice in Miami

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Championship 4 driver Kyle Busch was fastest in the first Cup Series practice for the Ford EcoBoost 400.

Busch posted a top speed of 172.695 mph around Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led Martin Truex Jr. (172.529), Kevin Harvick (171.865), Kyle Larson (171.217) and Denny Hamlin (170.854).

Truex and Harvick are among the Championship 4.

The fourth driver of the group, Brad Keselowski, was 21st fastest at 168.919 mph.

None of the championship drivers made more than seven laps in the session.

Larson had the best 10-lap average at 165.012 mph.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is making his last Cup start, was 14th fastest. Earnhardt will go to a backup engine after burning a piston early.

Matt Kenseth was 12th fastest.

Click here for the practice report.

Kyle Busch on Brad Keselowski: ‘Sometimes you just don’t like a guy’ (video)

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MIAMI BEACH, Florida — Kyle Busch was blunt Thursday when asked about the animosity between he and Brad Keselowski.

“Sometimes you just don’t like a guy,’’ Busch said during the press conference for the Cup title contenders at the Lowes Miami Beach. “I never ran into Matt Kenseth. I don’t think Matt Kenseth ever ran into me. There is a respect factor out there on the race track and you can certainly do a better job sometimes when you’re around some of those guys that you may or may not necessarily like.

“As once a wise man told me, I think it was Chase Elliott, I race those how they race me.’’

The history between Busch and Keselowski is marked with controversial moments, crashes and frustrated feelings.

After some bumping in an Xfinity race at Bristol in 2010, Busch returned the favor and Keselowski wrecked.

Their rivalry intensified in 2012 when Busch wrecked after contact from Keselowski on the last lap at Watkins Glen.

A year later, Keselowski wrecked after contact from Busch in an Xfinity race at Kansas.

Busch hit the wall after contact from Keselowski at Bristol in 2016.

At the start of the Xfinity race in June, Busch spun after contact from Keselowski. Then at Watkins Glen this year, they both spun after Busch made an aggressive move through the inner loop.

At the start of the playoffs, Keselowski’s complained about Toyota’s dominance and went to Twitter to express his disappointment with NASCAR for allowing it to happen. Busch responded with a strong message to Keselowski.

Keselowski was more diplomatic about the feelings toward Busch.

“I haven’t really thought about it,’’ he said. “I think looking through this weekend there’s four of us up here on this stage and for probably both of us it’s not enough to beat each other, we’ve got to beat everyone to win the championship. From my perspective (it would be) a little bit foolish to get caught up with any one person. I do think that both of us are fortunate to have great cars, great teams and when you run up at the front a lot things are going to happen. I feel like where we’re at in the sport right now, we’re both going to be here for a long time to come.

“If you looked across the field, every one has had some run-ins with each other. Probably all four of us have probably run into each other through the course of our careers. That’s part of the fun of the sport as well.’’

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Miami represents final race for many Cup drivers with current teams

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In case you haven’t heard, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is making his final Cup start this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

He will retire from Cup competition after his last race driving Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 Chevrolet. He will be replaced by Alex Bowman next season.

But the 14-time most popular driver is one of many drivers making their last start with their current team.

The driver landscape in Cup will shift dramatically following Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

Here’s a breakdown of the rest of the drivers making final starts with their current teams.

Matt Kenseth – Making final start in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota in likely his last Cup race. Will be replaced in 2018 by Erik Jones. Kenseth has driven the No. 20 since 2013.

Erik Jones – Last start in Furniture Row Racing’s No. 77 Toyota after one season in the car, which the team won’t run in 2018 due to a lack of sponsorship. (Announcement made July 11)

Danica Patrick – Last start in Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 10 Ford, which she has driven since 2013. Losing ride due to lack of sponsorship. Will be replaced by Aric Almirola in 2018. (Announcement made Sept. 12)

Aric Almirola – Last start in Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 Ford, which he has driven since 2012. He will be replaced by Darrell Wallace Jr. in 2018 as he moves to Stewart-Haas Racing. (Announcement made Nov. 8)

Kasey Kahne – Last start in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevrolet, which he has driven since 2012. Losing ride due to lack of sponsorship. He will be replaced by Xfinity Series driver William Byron in 2018 as the No. 5 will become the No. 24. Kahne will drive the No. 95 Chevrolet for Leavine Family Racing. (Announcement made Sept. 19)

Michael McDowell – Last start in Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 Chevrolet, which he began driving in 2014 as an part-time ride. It became a full-time effort this season.

Ryan Blaney – Last start in Wood Brothers Racing’s No. 21 Ford, which he began driving part-time in 2015. He became a full-time driver in 2016. He will join Team Penske in 2018 driving the No. 12 Ford. Blaney will be replaced by Paul Menard(Announcement made July 26)

Paul Menard – Last start in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 27 Chevrolet, which he has driven since 2011. RCR has not announced plans for the No. 27 next season. Menard will be the 44th driver to compete for Wood Brothers Racing as he takes over the No. 21 Ford. (Announcement made July 26)

Landon Cassill – Last start in Front Row Motorsports’ No. 34 Ford, which he began driving this season. He joined Front Row Motorsports in 2016 driving the No. 38 Ford. FRM has not announced a new driver for the No. 34. Cassill has not announced his plans for 2018. (Announcement made on Oct. 9)

MORE: The future of Kurt Busch is still unknown. Busch has driven Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 41 Ford since 2014. The team announced in August it wasn’t picking up the option on his contract. Busch said after winning the pole at Texas two weeks ago that he and the team were still in negotiations.

“That’s our goal, is to have Kurt back in that car for next year,” co-owner Tony Stewart said at the time.

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NASCAR America: Scan All from Phoenix Raceway

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With likely two races left in his Cup career, Matt Kenseth threw a wrench in the playoffs by winning Sunday’s Cup race at Phoenix Raceway.

It was the 39th Cup win for the 45-year-old driver, who was left in tears at the start-finish line as he celebrated before a thunderous crowd.

“You guys are going to see the biggest cry baby you’ve ever seen,” Kenseth said over his radio after taking the checkered flag.

Kenseth and crew chief Jason Ratcliff recap their winning effort in this week’s edition of “Scan All.”

Here’s some more highlights from the scanner traffic during the Can-Am 500:

  • “I’m trying to survive here and I don’t really have any ideas.” – Brad Keselowski as he struggled to be in a position to advance to the championship race.
  • “Just throw this thing in the garbage.” – Danica Patrick, who finished 25th in her next to last race with Stewart-Haas Racing.
  • “That was pretty entertaining to watch, to be honest with you.” – Ryan Blaney after watching the battle between Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin that resulted in Hamlin crashing from damage suffered in the duel.

Watch the above video to hear more.

Who’s Hot, Who’s Not heading into NASCAR Cup championship race (video)

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This is it, the championship-deciding finale of the 2017 NASCAR Cup season: Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

After the third and final elimination race this past Sunday at Phoenix, four drivers remain to battle it out for the championship: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski.

Here’s how those four drivers shape up against other drivers and who’s hot or not heading into Sunday’s race:

WHO’S HOT:

 No. 78 Martin Truex Jr.

  • Second Championship 4 appearance
  • Finished second at Martinsville and Texas, third at Phoenix
  • Finished top five in eight of the nine playoff races this season
  • Seven wins in 2017, the most by a driver since Matt Kenseth had seven in 2013
  • Finished in the top five 18 times and the top 10 25 times this season, both are the series-best
  • Led a series high 2,175 laps in 2017, led the most laps in nine races
  • Best Miami finish is second in 2006
  • Best Miami finish in the last three races is 12th, worst in the prior eight races there was 11th
  • Won six of the 10 races on 1.5-mile tracks this season
  • Top-10 finishes in all 10 1.5-mile races this season
  • Finished top two in the last five 1.5-mile races

No. 4 Kevin Harvick

  • Third Championship 4 appearance
  • Fifth at Martinsville, won at Texas, fifth at Phoenix
  • Will compete for the Championship at Miami for the third time in the last four years
  • Six top-10 finishes in the playoffs and three finishes of 17th or worse
  • One Miami win, 2014 to win the championship
  • Finished top 10 in the last nine Miami races including top three in the last three
  • Top-10 finishes in the last eight 1.5-mile races including winning the last one at Texas
  • 11 career 1.5-mile wins

No. 18 Kyle Busch

  • Third Championship 4 appearance
  • Won at Martinsville on last-lap pass, his third win of the playoffs, 19th at Texas, seventh at Phoenix
  • Five wins this season, all in the last 15 races
  • Failed to lead at Phoenix, snapping a 17-race streak of leading at least one lap
  • One Miami win, 2015 to win the Championship
  • Finished top 10 in four of the last five races at Miami
  • Only one top-10 finish in the last four 1.5-mile races, 10th at Kansas

No. 2 Brad Keselowski

  • First Championship 4 appearance (won 2012 championship under old format)
  • Finished fourth at Martinsville, fifth at Texas and 16th at Phoenix
  • Got some help and luck at Phoenix to make the Championship 4 at Miami for the first time
  • Advanced to the Round of 8 with his win at Talladega
  • Winless at Miami in nine starts, best finish of third, twice
  • Only three top-10 finishes at Miami, all came in the last four races
  • Only two top-10 finishes in the last six 1.5-mile races

No. 11 Denny Hamlin

  • Finished seventh at Martinsville, third at Texas, 35th at Phoenix after an accident after finishing second and first in the first two stages
  • Finished top 10 in nine of the last 12 races
  • Finished Round of Eight fifth in points, -19 to the cutline
  • Two Miami wins, 2009 and 2013
  • Finished top 10 in the last four races at Miami
  • Finished top five in the last six 1.5-mile races

No. 21 Ryan Blaney

  • Finished eighth at Martinsville, sixth at Texas and 17th at Phoenix
  • Finished top 10 in three of the last four races
  • Finished sixth in points in the Round of 8, -23 to the cutline
  • Two series starts at Miami, finished 17th and 26th
  • Worst finish on a 1.5-mile track in the last five races is 11th at Chicago

No. 24 Chase Elliott

  • Finished 27th at Martinsville after late-race wreck with Denny Hamlin while leading. Finished eighth at Texas, second at Phoenix
  • Now has seven career runner-up finishes without a win, tied for the most all-time
  • Five top-five finishes in the playoffs is tied for second to Martin Truex Jr. (eight)
  • Finished seventh in points in the Round of 8, -25 to the cutline
  • One series start at Homestead, started fifth, finished 11th last year
  • Top-10 finishes in the last five 1.5-mile races; best finish of second, twice

No. 20 Matt Kenseth

  • Won at Phoenix, the 39th victory of his career
  • Won at least one race 14 different seasons
  • Left the Round of 12 10th, -30
  • One Miami win, 2007
  • Top-10 finishes in six of the last seven Miami races including the last four
  • 12 career 1.5-mile wins, second most among active drivers

No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

  • On best streak of season
  • Finished 10th at Phoenix, finished top 12 in six of the last seven races this season
  • Best Miami finish is third in 2013, his only top five at Miami and one of only two top-10 finishes
  • Miami will be the 631st and last start of his Cup career; he has won 26 times

 WHO’S NOT:

No. 42 Kyle Larson

  • Finished 39th at Kansas (engine), 37th at Martinsville and Texas (accidents), 40th at Phoenix (engine), his worst four consecutive races in his career
  • Left the Round of 12 ninth in the standings, -9
  • Eight runner-up finishes this season
  • Four wins in 2017, had one entering this season
  • To- five finishes in the last two races at Miami including runner up last year
  • Finished runner-up four times on 1.5-mile tracks this season

No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

  • Finished eighth at Phoenix, best finish since his Daytona win in July
  • Left the Round of 12 in 11th, -46
  • Best Miami finish is 22nd, three times
  • Only two career 1.5 mile top-10 finishes in 57 starts (three percent)

No. 3 Austin Dillon

  • Finished 14th at Phoenix, fourth straight top-15 finish
  • Finished 14th in the first round, -4
  • Only four top-10 finishes this season, had 13 at this point last year
  • Won on fuel mileage at Charlotte earlier this year
  • Best Miami finish is 12th, last year
  • Only one top-10 finish in the last 12 1.5-mile races, his win at Charlotte in May

No. 1 Jamie McMurray

  • Finished sixth at Phoenix, ended four straight finishes of 18th or worse
  • Left the Round of 12 in 12th, -48
  • Seventeen top-10 finishes this season, six more than this point last year
  • Seventeen top-10 finishes is his second most in a single season (23 in 2004)
  • Five DNF for accidents in 2017
  • Best Miami finish is third in 2008
  • Finished top five in two of the last three races at Miami
  • Top-10 finishes in eight of the last 11 1.5 mile races

No. 48 Jimmie Johnson

  • Finished 12th at Martinsville after starting at the rear, 27th at Texas after a loose loose wheel, 39th at Phoenix for a wreck
  • Only one top-five finish in the last 22 races
  • Finished outside the top 10 in the last five races
  • Four top-five finishes this season, three were wins
  • Finished the Round of 8 eighth in points, -70 to the cutline
  • One Miami win, 2016 to win the Championship, led only three laps
  • Finished top 10 in the last four races at Miami
  • Twenty-eight career 1.5-mile wins, most all-time
  • Only three top-10 finishes in 10 starts on 1.5-mile tracks this season

No. 5 Kasey Kahne

  • Finished 19th at Phoenix, his worst finish in the last seven races
  • Only three top 10 finishes in the last 25 races
  • Finished 15th in the first round, -23 to the cut line
  • Six DNFs accident this season
  • Won at Indianapolis ending a 102 race winless streak, took a super lucky timed caution and turned it into a win.
  • Best Miami finish is 4th in 2006
  • Finished 12th or worse in the last five Miami races

No. 31 Ryan Newman

  • Finished 20th at Phoenix, only one top-10 finish during the playoffs
  • Finished Round of 16 13th in the standings, -2 to the cut line
  • Best Miami finish is second in 2014
  • Two top-three finishes in the last five Miami races but finished 16th or worse in the other three

No. 41 Kurt Busch

  • Finished 21st at Phoenix, six finishes of 20th or worse in the last eight races
  • Only two top-10 finishes in the playoffs
  • Finished 16th in the first round, 25 points below the cut line
  • One Miami win, 2002
  • Last top-five finish at Miami was 2009

No. 14 Clint Bowyer

  • Finished 13th at Phoenix, only three top-10 finishes in the last 13 races
  • Was 88 points out of a playoff spot
  • Finished runner-up three times in 2017
  • Thirteen top-10 finishes in 2017, had three in all of 2016
  • Best Miami finish is second in 2012
  • Finished top 12 in eight of his 12 Miami starts

No. 22 Joey Logano

  • Finished 12th at Phoenix
  • Thirteen finishes outside the top 20 in the last 26 races
  • Won at Richmond after starting in the rear due to a transmission change, but win was ruled 
encumbered due to illegal suspension
  • First time he missed the playoffs with Team Penske
  • Best Miami finish of fourth, twice
  • Finished top 10 in three of the last four Miami starts