Kurt Busch stays perfect for weekend, leads Sprint Cup happy hour


Kurt Busch continued his reign over the speed charts at Auto Club Speedway, once again being the fastest driver in the final Sprint Cup Series practice Saturday afternoon.

Busch has been the fastest driver in the Sprint Cup Series this weekend – period. He was the fastest in all three practice sessions, as well as earned the pole for Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

Now all that’s left for him to cap off a perfect weekend is to win Sunday’s race.

Busch, who at one point in Saturday’s final practice hit over 205 mph on the back stretch according to Fox Sports 1, once again led the way with a speed of 184.971 mph.

Paul Menard was second-fastest at 183.885 mph, followed by Kevin Harvick at 183.220 mph.

Busch and Harvick will start Sunday’s race from the front row.

Casey Mears was fourth-fastest (183.146) followed by Jimmie Johnson (182.992).

Here’s the speed chart from Saturday’s final Sprint Cup practice:

1 Kurt Busch … 184.971 mph … 45 laps
2 Paul Menard … 183.885 … 35 laps
3 Kevin Harvick … 183.220 … 31 laps
4 Casey Mears … 183.146 … 34 laps
5 Jimmie Johnson … 182.992 … 45 laps
6 Martin Truex Jr. … 182.783 … 28 laps
7 Ryan Newman … 182.699 … 40 laps
8 Joey Logano … 182.348 … 36 laps
9 Brad Keselowski … 182.292 … 40 laps
10 Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 182.099 … 42 laps
11 Danica Patrick … 182.007 … 33 laps
12 David Ragan … 181.713 … 34 laps
13 Kasey Kahne … 181.644 … 33 laps
14 Greg Biffle … 181.644 … 33 laps
15 Matt Kenseth … 181.493 … 35 laps
16 Kyle Larson … 181.433 … 41 laps
17 Denny Hamlin … 181.420 … 32 laps
18 Carl Edwards … 181.128 … 29 laps
19 Austin Dillon … 181.018 … 42 laps
20 Clint Bowyer … 180.591 … 37 laps
21 AJ Allmendinger … 180.438 … 31 laps
22 Jeff Gordon … 180.140 … 21 laps
23 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 179.623 … 22 laps
24 Brian Scott … 179.596 … 35 laps
25 Aric Almirola … 179.395 … 37 laps
26 Jamie McMurray … 179.185 … 33 laps
27 Tony Stewart … 179.096 … 19 laps
28 Justin Allgaier … 178.909 … 23 laps
29 Sam Hornish Jr. … 178.620 … 23 laps
30 Landon Cassill … 177.945 … 25 laps
31 Alex Bowman … 177.857 … 27 laps
32 Brett Moffitt … 177.721 … 35 laps
33 Trevor Bayne … 177.624 … 18 laps
34 Josh Wise … 177.279 … 30 laps
35 Cole Whitt … 177.257 … 17 laps
36 Chris Buescher … 177.048 … 28 laps
37 Michael Annett … 176.791 … 24 laps
38 JJ Yeley … 176.600 … 27 laps
39 David Gilliland … 175.987 … 20 laps
40 Jeb Burton … 175.966 … 26 laps
41 Mike Bliss … 175.161 … 16 laps

Best 10 consecutive lap average:

1 Kurt Busch … 180.470
2 Kevin Harvick … 180.294
3 Jimmie Johnson … 180.020
4 Denny Hamlin … 179.683
5 Brad Keselowski … 179.159

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NASCAR Awards: Scene on the red carpet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community gathered at the Music City Center to commemorate the 2022 season and celebrate Joey Logano‘s second Cup title.

The event can be seen at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Here is a look at the scene on the red carpet before Thursday night’s NASCAR Awards:

Joey Logano and Brittany Logano (Photo: Dustin Long)


Ryan Blaney and Gianna Tulio (Photo: Dustin Long)


Kyle and Samantha Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)


Chase Elliott (Photo: Dustin Long)


Alex Bowman and Crystal Marsh (Photo: Dustin Long)


Tyler Reddick and Alexa De Leon (Photo: Dustin Long)


Denny Hamlin and Jordan Fish (Photo: Dustin Long)


Daniel Suarez and Julia Piquet (Photo: Dustin Long)


Chase Briscoe and Marissa Briscoe (Photo: Dustin Long)


Christopher Bell and Morgan Bell (Photo: Dustin Long)


Austin Dillon and Whitney Dillon (Photo: Dustin Long)


Kyle Larson (Photo: Dustin Long)


William Byron and Erin Blaney (Photo: Dustin Long)


Kevin Harvick (Photo: Dustin Long)


Ross Chastain and Erika Turner (Photo: Dustin Long)


Austin Cindric (Photo: Dustin Long)


Kurt Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)


Harrison Burton and Jenna Petty(Photo: Dustin Long)
Mario Andretti (Photo: Dustin Long)

Chase Elliott wins NMPA Most Popular Driver Award


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott won his fifth consecutive NMPA Most Popular Driver Award on Thursday.

The announcement was made during the NASCAR Awards at the Music City Center. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Elliott is one of only five drivers to win the award since 1984.

Bill Elliott won it from 1984-88, 1991-2000 and 2002. Dale Earnhardt won the award posthumously in 2001. Darrell Waltrip won it in 1989-90. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won it from 2003-17. Chase Elliott has won it every year since.

Noah Gragson was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Xfinity Series. Hailie Deegan was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Camping World Truck Series.

Kevin Harvick to make decision on future by Daytona in February


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Cup champion Kevin Harvick says he’ll know by Daytona in February his plans beyond 2023.

Harvick’s contract with Stewart-Haas Racing ends after the upcoming season. 

Harvick said Thursday before the NASCAR Awards that “it could go either way at this particular point” on what he’ll do, but he affirmed that “going into Daytona, I’ll know what I’m going to do.”

The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 19. Harvick anticipates making an announcement by then.

“We’re at a point where everybody needs to know what’s going on,” Harvick said. “There’s too many tentacles to everything that happens. Whether it’s the race team, driver management company, every element needs to know. It’s not fair to anybody to have to start the season not knowing.”

Harvick turns 47 on Dec. 8. Next season will be his 23rd in Cup. His debut came a week after Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. Harvick was selected by car owner Richard Childress to drive for Earnhardt’s team. 

Harvick has gone to win the 2014 Cup championship and 60 races at Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s tied with Kyle Busch for ninth on the all-time Cup wins list.

Harvick won two races last season. His victory last August at Michigan snapped a 65-race winless streak. He followed that by winning the next weekend at Richmond. 

Harvick has won at least two races in nine of the past 10 seasons. He has scored 41 of his 60 Cup wins since he turned 37 years old.

“Kevin, I think, is probably the No. 1 leader of the drivers, as he should be,” two-time Cup champion Joey Logano said Thursday. “He’s been around the longest. He’s very accomplished. He’s very smart. He’s been through the ups and downs. He’s lived it. There’s wisdom in experience. It’s great to hear his opinion on where we are as a sport.”

Harvick’s business interests include a management company that represents Cup drivers Ryan Preece, Harrison Burton and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., along with other athletes. Harvick also has worked as a broadcaster on NASCAR Xfinity races for Fox Sports, earning positive reviews. 

Harvick’s son Keelan, who is 10 years old, races and has competed in karting in Europe. 

“He’s got one more race in Italy … and then we’ll start all over again,” Harvick said of his son.

Harvick went overseas after the season finale at Phoenix to watch Keelan race.

“I think he’s definitely matured a little bit since he’s been making these trips,” Harvick said. “I think it’s important to have that culturing aspect of life to be comfortable to do things like that anywhere in the world.”

The NASCAR Awards program airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 3 on Peacock. To sign up for Peacock, go here.

BJ McLeod, Live Fast team move to Chevrolet


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Driver/owner BJ McLeod and Live Fast Motorsports will race in Chevrolets beginning with the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Based in Mooresville, North Carolina, Live Fast has been a Ford team.

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Live Fast is owned by McLeod, Matt Tifft and Joe Falk. Jessica McLeod, BJ’s wife, is the team’s chief operating officer.

“Our team is excited to make this transition to Chevrolet,” BJ McLeod said in a statement released by the team. “Chevrolet Camaros have proven great success on the track, and Live Fast Motorsports is looking forward to becoming a part of this advance.”

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The team will use ECR engines.

McLeod had one top-10 finish in 29 starts in the Cup Series last season.