Kurt Busch overtakes Kasey Kahne to lead Sprint Cup Happy Hour at Bristol

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Kurt Busch kept Kasey Kahne from sweeping all three practice sessions in preparation for Sunday’s Food City 500 In Support of Steve Byrnes at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Kahne won Friday’s session as well as the first of two Sprint Cup practices Saturday morning.

But Busch, who ran 100 laps, rallied to take the top spot in the Happy Hour final practice with a very stout run of 127.554 mph, well over one mph more than Kahne, who was second-fastest (126.537 mph).

David Ragan was third-fastest (126.503), followed by Jeff Gordon (126.420) and Brad Keselowski (126.378).

The top 10 drivers all exceeded 126 mph.

Here’s how Saturday’s final practice session played out:

1 Kurt Busch … 127.554 mph … 100 laps

2 Kasey Kahne … 126.537 … 71 laps

3 David Ragan … 126.503 … 102 laps

4 Jeff Gordon … 126.420 … 76 laps

5 Brad Keselowski … 126.378 … 74 laps

6 Joey Logano … 126.287 … 88 laps

7 Kevin Harvick … 126.245 … 71 laps

8 Denny Hamlin … 126.220 … 66 laps

9 Jimmie Johnson … 126.204 … 104 laps

10 Carl Edwards … 126.129 … 69 laps

11 Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 125.988 … 109 laps

12 Jamie McMurray … 125.897 … 105 laps

13 Kyle Larson … 125.823 … 76 laps

14 Ryan Newman … 125.346 … 77 laps

15 Brett Moffitt … 125.256 … 82 laps

16 Tony Stewart … 125.256 … 83 laps

17 Clint Bowyer … 125.207 … 86 laps

18 Sam Hornish Jr. … 125.158 … 65 laps

19 Matt Kenseth … 125.085 … 66 laps

20 Austin Dillon … 124.995 … 76 laps

21 Justin Allgaier … 124.987 … 101 laps

22 Paul Menard … 124.963 … 64 laps

23 Casey Mears … 124.922 … 71 laps

24 Aric Almirola … 124.889 … 73 laps

25 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 124.759 … 45 laps

26 Martin Truex Jr. … 124.565 … 49 laps

27 Matt DiBenedetto … 124.525 … 66 laps

28 AJ Allmendinger … 124.525 … 53 laps

29 Michael Annett … 124.363 … 126 laps

30 Jeb Burton … 124.283 … 67 laps

31 Alex Bowman … 124.242 … 57 laps

32 Trevor Bayne … 124.146 … 57 laps

33 Chris Buescher … 124.130 … 84 laps

34 Landon Cassill … 124.114 … 57 laps

35 Cole Whitt …. 124.090 … 37 laps

36 Greg Biffle … 124.090 … 69 laps

37 Danica Patrick … 124.058 … 77 laps

38 David Gilliland … 123.970 … 83 laps

39 Josh Wise … 123.937 … 81 laps

40 Michael McDowell … 123.174 … 77 laps

41 Mike Bliss … 123.063 … 52 laps

42 JJ Yeley … 122.733 … 48 laps

43 Alex Kennedy … 121.305 … 87 laps
Best Consecutive 10 Lap Average

1 Kevin Harvick … 125.934 mph

2 Kasey Kahne … 125.396

3 Joey Logano … 125.273

4 David Ragan … 125.224

5 Brad Keselowski … 125.161

6 Kurt Busch … 125.107

7  Kyle Larson … 124.749

8 Matt Kenseth … 124.631

9 Carl Edwards … 124.603

10 Jimmie Johnson … 124.482

11 Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 124.477

12 Clint Bowyer … 124.362

13 Tony Stewart … 124.338

14 AJ Allmendinger … 124.208

15 Ryan Newman … 124.131

16 Justin Allgaier … 124.061

17 Austin Dillon … 124.056

18 Sam Hornish Jr. … 124.014

19 Jamie McMurray … 123.911

20 Jeff Gordon … 123.890

21 Denny Hamlin … 123.836

22 Martin Truex Jr. … 123.760

23 Brett Moffitt 123.743

24 Alex Bowman … 123.719

25 Aric Almirola … 123.713

26 Matt DiBenedetto … 123.580

27 David Gilliland … 123.540

28 Michael Annett … 123.165

29 Jeb Burton … 123.049

30 Danica Patrick … 123.048

31  Trevor Bayne 122.923

32 Greg Biffle … 122.733

33 Landon Cassill … 122.639

34 Chris Buescher … 122.614

35 Michael McDowell … 122.470

36 Paul Menard … 122.460

37 Josh Wise … 122.350

38 Mike Bliss … 122.133

39 Casey Mears … 121.780

40 JJ Yeley … 121.379

41 Alex Kennedy … 120.270

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NASCAR America MotorMouths: Is Kyle Busch the Tiger Woods of NASCAR?

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On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America’s MotorMouths, a caller — “Texas Tommy” from Corpus Christi, Texas — offered a question that got analysts Kyle Petty and Steve Letarte thinking and talking.

Given how Tiger Woods won The Masters this past Sunday in dramatic fashion, and also given how much success Woods has had in his career, “Texas Tommy” wanted to know whether Petty and Letarte agreed if Kyle Busch — with all the success he’s had — is the Tiger Woods of NASCAR?

He’s about the best driver NASCAR has and (most) dedicated of races he’s put in in the Cup, Truck and Xfinity Series,” “Texas Tommy” said. “He’s about the best driver that I can come up with next to Jimmie Johnson. He’s shown promise in every series and he has no stop in him.”

Tiger Woods, after winning The Masters this past Sunday. Is Kyle Busch the Tiger Woods of NASCAR?

Petty both agreed and disagreed.

That’s a valid point if we look at wins and what he does on the racetrack,” Petty said of Busch. “Yes, (Busch) has those numbers. Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters and 15th major, all that. You look at all that and what Kyle Busch has done at a relatively young age, Tiger Woods did the same thing at a young age.

The problem is, and the difference is, Tiger Woods has the entire sport of golf on his shoulders. It grows, it falls, it goes to the left, to the right. Everything Tiger does, every fan that follows golf is watching, whether you like Tiger Woods or not.

Kyle Busch doesn’t have that. He isn’t that way, he doesn’t have that connection to the fans, for whatever reason. People love to boo him, but if they boo him, they’re not going to follow him. I don’t know if we have that Tiger Woods personality or person (in NASCAR). I think Kyle (Busch) moves the needle for me. What he does on the racetrack, what he does in the garage area or on the radio, he moves the needle. Jeff Gordon moved the needle, then Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. moved the needle, and then there’s been nobody since.”

Letarte, former crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., agreed with Petty, yet also added he believes Chase Elliott has the potential to become NASCAR’s version of Tiger Woods – but with a caveat.

“Tiger Woods doesn’t move the golf needle, he moves the needle outside of golf,” Letarte said. “That’s really what we’re talking about. Let’s be clear. There are very few people in any sport that transcend their sport. Tiger Woods is one of them.

“Jeff Gordon was on Saturday Night Live, he was outside of NASCAR. In the current world of NASCAR, Clint Bowyer has a great personality, but doesn’t have Tiger Woods numbers on the race track. Kyle Busch, I’m not going to say he has Tiger Woods numbers, but he’s one of a few that have great numbers but lacks the relatability, the needle, outside the sport. You can’t generate it, something has to cross.

You have to have someone like perhaps Chase Elliott, someone who has the opportunity and the image and the ability.”

And then came the caveat from Letarte:

“But then Chase Elliott has to deliver the numbers that we’ve never seen before, because that’s what Tiger Woods did. You’ve got to start talking 10-win seasons and championships. … There is no recipe. It just happens.”

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All-Star Race features longer final stage, technical changes

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The Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race will feature a longer final stage for $1 million and some technical changes that could be implemented in the Gen 7 car.

NASCAR announced the technical guidelines and race format Wednesday night.

The two technical changes for the May 18 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be:

# A single-piece carbon fiber splitter/pan that is expected to offer improvements in ride height sensitivity for drivers. This is expected to provide a more stable aero platform and create more consistent performance in traffic.

# The car will be configured with a radiator duct that exits through the hood as opposed to the current design, which exits into the engine component. This feature is expected to create improved aerodynamic parity and reduce engine temperatures.

“Throughout its history, the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race has provided a platform to try new and innovative ideas, some of which we have incorporated on a full-time basis,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “Last year’s all-star rules package resulted in one of the most exciting all-star races in history. With a similar package, and added elements that we could see in the next generation race car, we expect another must-watch event.”

The format for the race is similar to last year with the exception of the final stage. That stage will be 15 laps — five laps longer than last year’s race. That will make the race 85 laps total.

The first stage will be 30 laps and the next two stages will be 20 laps each. Green flag and yellow flag laps will count in the first three stages. Only green flag laps will count in the final stage.

Each stage must end under green. Overtime procedures will be in place for each stage. If the race is restarted with two laps or less in the final stage, there will be unlimited attempts at a green, white, checkered finish.

As was the case last year, there is no mandatory pit strategy.

The Monster Energy Open, which also will be held May 18, will be three stages. The first two stages will be 20 laps. The final stage will be 10 laps. That is the same as last year.

Each stage winner in the Monster Energy Open advances to the All-Star Race.

Those eligible for the All-Star Race are winners from last season and this season, previous all-star winners who are competing full-time in the series, Cup champions who are running full-time in the series, the three stage winners from the Monster Energy Open and the winner of the fan vote, which is underway at nascar.com/fanvote.

Drivers who are eligible to compete are:

Aric Almirola

Ryan Blaney

Clint Bowyer

Kurt Busch

Kyle Busch

Austin Dillon

Chase Elliott

Denny Hamlin

Kevin Harvick

Jimmie Johnson

Erik Jones

Brad Keselowski

Joey Logano

Ryan Newman

Martin Truex Jr.

Kevin Harvick won last year’s All-Star Race. Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and AJ Allmendinger advanced to last year’s All-Star Race by winning a stage in the Open. Chase Elliott was the fan vote winner.

Also, the format for All-Star qualifying will remain the same. Qualifying will include a pit stop.

Weekend passes for the All-Star Race are $79 per person and include admission to the May 17 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Charlotte, All-Star qualifying, the Monster Energy Open on May 18 and the All-Star Race after that. Kids 13 and under get in free on May 17 and for $10 with an adult purchase on May 18. For more ticket information, call 1-800-455-FANS or visit CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com.

 

Two-day Xfinity Series tire test concludes at Iowa Speedway

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While the Xfinity Series — as well as the Trucks and Cup teams — are off this weekend for Easter, five Xfinity teams were still in action Tuesday and Wednesday for a Goodyear tire test at Iowa Speedway.

The test on the 7/8-mile oval was in preparation for the speedway’s race weekend on June 15-16.

Teams that took part in the test were the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford (driver: Cole Custer), the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet (Tyler Reddick), the No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet (Justin Haley), the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (Christopher Bell) and the No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet (John Hunter Nemechek).

Custer, Bell and Nemechek are all past winners at Iowa. Custer, who won there in the K&N East Series, is looking forward to returning to the track in hopes of securing another win there.

We were able to do a lot of different things and I think we found a little bit, for sure,” Custer said. “Our team has always struggled a little bit on short tracks so to get to come and test at one is a huge deal for us and I think it will help us a ton when we come for the race. We still have to get it a little better to be with that 20 car (Christopher Bell), but we’re right in the ballpark and just need a few more adjustments.

Everybody has worked so hard to get us where we are right now. Every single track we go to, we can compete for wins. I love the surface here, it’s so bumpy and so wore out it makes for good racing. It’s one of the best tracks we go to.”

Rain threatened to disrupt Wednesday’s action, but held off until the session was completed.

“It’s a good thing we came and did this tire test because we would have rolled into this race a good bit off the pace of the guys we need to compete with for the championship this year,” Reddick said. “We know we have to work on something and hopefully with all this data we were able to acquire, we’ll have a good sense of direction in the next coming weeks.

We found out we have some work to do compared to Cole (Custer) and Chris (Bell), especially. They were just able to be a lot more consistent and fire off faster and end the run faster, almost faster than we could start ours. That’s not very good for us but gives us something to chase after and work for.”

The next Xfinity Series race is the Dash 4 Cash event at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, April 27. Custer, Reddick, Austin Cindric and Justin Allgaier will compete for the $100,000 bonus to the highest-finishing driver in that race.

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NASCAR America MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET with special guest Ryan Newman

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America MotorMouths airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, with Krista Voda, Steve Letarte, Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan.

Cup driver Ryan Newman will be a call-in guest.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online 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.

Also, immediately afterward, tune in to the NASCAR America Debrief show on the NBC Sports’ YouTube channel at 6 p.m. ET with Ryan, Letarte and Petty.