Kurt Busch wins first Sprint Cup pole since 2013 for Auto Club 400


Kurt Busch continues to make up for lost time.

In his second week back from a three-race suspension by NASCAR, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver claimed the pole for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway with a speed of 185.142 mph.

The pole, Busch’s first since Darlington in May 2013, comes a week after he finished fifth at Phoenix in his first race back since being suspended in the days leading up to the Daytona 500.

“This is huge for Gene Haas. … Thank you, Gene, for believing in me,” Busch said after the final qualifying round. “This is my job: come to the track, drive the car and put it up on the pole and go for wins. That is what Gene has told me to do from the get-go and I’m glad I have this chance to go back out there and live up to why he hired me.”

NASCAR suspended Busch after a Delaware Family Court ruled against him and issued a protective order in favor of former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll.

The pole comes practically in the backyard of Gene Haas. Haas Automation is located in Oxnard, Calif., two hours west of Fontana, where Auto Club Speedway calls home.

“(I) drove over there yesterday, battled that good L.A. morning traffic, that was fun,” Busch said. “(I went) to do an appearance there to see all the employees and everybody that has been so anxious for me to get back and feel the love and the warmth from them. It gives you that extra motivation. That is probably what got us on the pole today was all the love from Haas Automation.”

Busch’s Stewart-Hass Racing teammate Kevin Harvick, who is on a roll after winning the last two Sprint Cup events at Las Vegas and Pheonix, qualified second with a speed of 185.047 mph. It’s only the second time the front row has ever been swept by a pair of Stewart-Haas drivers.

“Well it is definitely not going to hurt anything,” Harvick said. “I’m just really proud of everybody on the No. 41 and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and everybody on our No. 4 team for everything that they do.

“Hopefully, we can keep it up this week. I didn’t get to run where I wanted to run (because) there were three cars on the apron down there where I wanted to be that had finished their lap.”

Rounding out the top five are Matt Kenseth (184.966 mph), David Ragan (184.866) in replacement of Kyle Busch, and Kyle Larson (184.337).

Not in the top 12 to go for the pole in the final qualifying round was Joey Logano, who qualified 13th. Logano missed out on making the final qualifying round for the first time in nine races, dating back to the fall Talladega race.

1. Kurt Busch … 185.142
2. Kevin Harvick … 185.047
3. Matt Kenseth … 184.966
4. David Ragan … 184.886
5. Kyle Larson … 184.337
6. Denny Hamlin … 184.233
7. Jeff Gordon … 184.087
8. Brad Keselowski … 184.063
9. Ryan Newman … 183.725
10. Clint Bowyer … 183.407
11. Paul Menard … 183.383
12. Martin Truex Jr. … 183.299
13. Joey Logano … 183.323
14. Jimmie Johnson … 183.257
15. Carl Edwards … 182.978
16. Sam Hornish Jr. … 182.904
17. Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 182.848
18. AJ Allmendinger … 182.764
19. Kasey Kahne … 182.746
20. Tony Stewart … 182.445
21. Austin Dillon … 182.343
22. Danica Patrick … 182.140
23. Aric Almirola … 181.800
24. Michael Annett … 180.397
25. Brian Scott … 181.768
26. Jamie McMurray … 181.626
27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 181.557
28. Alex Bowman … 181.433
29. Greg Biffle … 181.392
30. Brett Moffitt … 181.219
31. Justin Allgaier … 180.995
32. Cole Whitt … 180.560
33. Chris Buescher … 180.505
34. Jeb Burton … 180.023
35. Josh Wise … 179.775
36. Trevor Bayne … 179.314
37. Casey Mears … Owner points
38. Brendan Gaughan … Owner points
39. Mike Bliss … Owner points
40. Landon Cassill … Owner points
41. J.J. Yeley … Owner points
42. Matt DiBenedetto … Owner points
43. David Gilliland … Owner points

Did not qualify: Reed Sorenson and Travis Kvapil

Nashville Fair Board votes to terminate contract with operator of Fairgrounds Speedway

Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway
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The Nashville Metro Fair Board voted Tuesday to terminate its contract with the operator of Fairgrounds Speedway, a track being eyed for a possible NASCAR race, according to The Tennessean.

Last December, Formosa Productions and Bristol Motor Speedway announced “an agreement to explore bringing major NASCAR racing events” back to the .596-mile track. The earliest Nashville could potentially be added to the schedule is 2021, though the schedule for that season is expected to be revealed in April.

Bristol Motor Speedway released a statement Tuesday night saying it is still interested in pursuing future involvement with the Fairgrounds Speedway.

“We appreciate all that Tony and Claire Formosa have done to sustain local racing in Nashville over the years,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager for Bristol Motor Speedway. “Today’s news does not change our interest or belief that Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway can be returned to prominence to help create a true renovation of the Fairgrounds. There is huge local, regional and national interest in the future of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. As Mayor (John) Cooper, the Fair Board and Council determine what’s next for the historic race track, we are ready to engage with them on the vision that we believe can deliver a bright future for the Fairgrounds.”

The vote to terminate the contract with Formosa Productions, operated by Tony and Claire Formosa, is in response to a claimed breach of contract, which was first raised by the city in April and includes unpaid concessions commissions and rent payments.

A fairgrounds spokesperson told The Tennessean that the Formosas would owe the city nearly $180,000 by the end of the year. The Tennessean reports the Formosas have 90 days to vacate the premises.

According to The Tennessean, Nashville Fairgrounds Director Laura Womack said she and another board member met Oct. 14 with the Formosas and asked that they provide specific contract changes and documents regarding attendance and revenue records from this year’s racing season.

A meeting where those documents were due to be delivered was rescheduled to Nov. 6 before it was canceled by the Formosas.

“This shows little to no faith that we will be paid by the end of the year,” said Fair Board member Caleb Hemmer, according to The Tennessean. “Which begs the issue that we need to start looking to the future and what we need to do as a board to ensure there’s racing next year if the (Formosas) can’t fulfill their obligations as put forth by (the contract).”

Jim Roberts, an attorney representing the Formosas, attended the meeting according to The Tennessean. Roberts believed the meeting, which was delayed two hours due to winter weather, was in violation of the opens meeting act due to it not being properly noticed.

The Formosas have operated the track since 2010 and entered into a five-year agreement in 2017 after the city chose its bid over one from Bristol Motor Speedway

The deal between Formosa Productions and Bristol Motor Speedway, which would need to be approved by the Fair Board, would focus “on a long-range plan of significant track improvements and high-profile race events that could include NASCAR events upon the facility meeting standards.”

In May, Bristol officials revealed a $60 million proposal to renovate the track.

The plan would increase seating capacity of the .596-mile short track from its current size of 15,000 to 30,000, as well as include an expanded concourse, premium seating, pedestrian tunnels and sound barriers.


Penalty report from ISM Raceway

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NASCAR has fined five crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts on their cars after last weekend’s playoff races at ISM Raceway.

Each fine was for having a single unsecured lug nut.

In the Cup Series:

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford, and Mike Hillman Sr., crew chief on J.J. Yeley‘s No. 53 Chevrolet, were each fined $10,000.

In the Xfinity Series:

Taylor Moyer, crew chief on Zane Smith‘s No. 8 Chevrolet, was fined $5,000.

In the Truck Series:

Joe Shear, Jr., crew chief on Johnny Suater’s No. 13 Chevrolet, and Trip Bruce lll, crew chief on race winner Stewart Friesen‘s No. 52 Chevrolet, were fined $2,500.

Preliminary entry lists for Championship Weekend in Miami

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NASCAR’s final race weekend of the year has arrived with the championship races for all three of its national series at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for all three races.

Cup – Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

A full field of 40 cars are entered into the race.

Drew Herring is entered in Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota for his Cup debut.

John Hunter Nemechek will make his third start in Front Row Motorsports’ No. 36 Ford in relief of Matt Tifft.

Joe Nemechek is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet.

Joey Logano won this race last year over Martin Truex Jr. to claim his first Cup title.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Ford EcoBoost 300 (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 39 cars entered. One car will not qualify for the race.

Jeb Burton is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Harrison Burton is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota.

Tyler Reddick won this race last year over Cole Custer to claim the championship.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Ford EcoBoost 200 (8 p.m. ET Friday on FS1)

There are 37 trucks entered. Five trucks will not qualify for the event.

K&N Pro Series West champion Derek Kraus is entered in Bill McAnally Racing’s No. 19 Toyota for his fifth start of the season.

Angela Ruch is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 44 Chevrolet.

Christian Eckes is entered in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota.

NBC Sports analyst Parker Kligerman is entered in Henderson Motorsports’ No. 75 Chevrolet.

No drivers are listed for NEMCO Motorsports’ No. 87 Chevrolet and Reaume Brothers Racing’s No. 33 and No. 34 Toyotas.

Brett Moffitt won this race last year to claim the championship.

Click here for the entry list.

JJL Motorsports announces new team owner

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JJL Motorsports, Jesse Little‘s Gander Outdoors Truck Series team, announced Tuesday it has sold its assets to Logan Puckett, president of Diversified Utility Group, a turnkey general contractor specializing in fiber optic telecommunications construction.

The company will sponsor Little in Friday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1).

Puckett will re-brand the team as Diversified Motorsports Enterprises in 2020 with plans to compete part-time with Little as its primary driver.

Little, 22, has made eight starts in the Truck Series this year in his No. 97 Ford.

More: Jesse Little to compete full-time for JD Motorsports in 2020

The team announced in early September that its assets were up for sale.

“I’m honored to represent Diversified Utility Group this weekend at Homestead,” Little said in a press release. “Logan has been so excited about the opportunity to enter the Truck Series as an owner in 2020, but to have his company be a part of our last race under the JJL Motorsports banner as a sponsor is even more awesome.

“Hopefully we can have a good performance for him on Friday night before looking ahead to 2020.”

Said Puckett: “I am really looking forward to taking over an outstanding program that JJL has put together as it provides a great foundation to build on and hopefully grow. I think the growth potential is what excites me the most.

“I am certainly looking forward to the challenge that this provides, and I hope that I can bring some value to the team and ultimately it would be awesome if I can bring value to the sport as a young owner with a fresh outlook.”