With Erik Jones confirmed only for Kansas Speedway race, questions arise about Kyle Busch’s return to the No. 18


TALLADEGA, Ala. – Could Kyle Busch return to the Sprint Cup Series much earlier than anticipated?

The possibility was raised Friday at Talladega Superspeedway when Erik Jones, the latest replacement in Busch’s No. 18 Toyota, was asked about his upcoming schedule.

Though a Thursday release from Joe Gibbs Racing said Jones would replace Busch “starting at Kansas Speedway,” Jones said the team has confirmed him for only the May 9 race.

“Beyond that, I honestly don’t know,” he said. “I’d love to run (the car) again. We’ll have to see how things go. I’ll do the best we can and see what happens.”

Because he is running the Camping World Truck Series full time and has picked up many of Busch’s races in the Xfinity Series, it would be reasonable to expect JGR would be plotting the logistics of having Jones hop between series while filling in for Busch.

But Jones, who fills the void left by current substitute David Ragan moving to Michael Waltrip Racing after Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, said JGR hadn’t provided him with any details on when Busch might return or if he might have the chance to continue in the car.

“Just Kansas at this point, that’s all I’ve heard,” he said. “I’ve seen it, too. I saw it on TV 20 minutes ago where it says ‘until (Busch) returns,’ but honestly, Kansas is the only one I know of right now.”

A JGR spokesman said Friday there was no timetable for Busch’s return, nor had the driver received medical clearance while recovering from the broken right leg and fractured left foot he suffered in a Feb. 21 crash during the Xfinity Series opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Busch said during a news conference last month that his goal was to return by at least the July 5 race at Daytona, and his injuries generally require a minimum of three months to recover.

The next Sprint Cup points race after Kansas is the longest of the season – the Coca Cola 600 on May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The exhibition All-Star Race will be held May 16 at Charlotte.

Kanas will mark Jones’ debut in NASCAR’s premier series but not the first time he’s been in a Sprint Cup car. Without experience, he replaced an injured Denny Hamlin for the final 488 laps of the April 16 race at Bristol Motor Speedway, finishing 26th and staying out of the trouble.

The Byron, Mich., native, who scored his first Xfinity victory last month at Texas Motor Speedway and is ranked third in the truck standings, said a top 15 would be the goal at Kansas.

“It’s all seat time and experience,” he said. “Keeping our expectations realistic is a pretty big thing for us. If we can run top 15, I feel that’s a big win for us. It’s not going to be an easy step for anybody. I really believe we can run top 15. If we can do that, I think that’d be a good day.”

Jones, 18, has rekindled the debate over whether JGR put Joey Logano in Sprint Cup too early as an 18-year-old in 2009. Logano struggled for a few seasons before emerging as a star at Team Penske.

“It’s just a lot different situation altogether,” Jones said. “I’m stepping into a fill-in role. I’m running one race at Kansas, which is entirely different from Joey’s role, stepping in and trying to fill a full season. I feel comfortable about that.

“There’s a point you have to make the jump at some time in your career. Whether it’s now or a year down the road or two years down the road, I have to do it. I feel like this is probably the best situation to make that jump in a part-time situation like it is. It’s a great opportunity. It’s a top-flight car. So obviously, there are expectations to run well. But as long as I can keep my mentality that I’m just here to learn and make laps, I feel like it’s not going to hurt my development in any sort of way.”


NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”