Kyle Busch’s NASCAR peers approve of Chase waiver

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If Kyle Busch manages to win a Sprint Cup championship despite missing the first 11 races of the season, don’t expect much backlash from his peers.

NASCAR granted Busch a waiver Wednesday morning that will allow him to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup if he can be ranked in the top 30 in points with a victory by the regular-season finale Sept. 12 at Richmond International Raceway. Busch has been sidelined since breaking his right leg and fracturing his left foot in a Feb. 21 crash in the Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway. He will return this weekend for Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

During a break from testing Wednesday at Dover International Speedway, Joey Logano said there’s “a good chance” that Busch will make the Chase.

“It’s well deserved,” Logano told reporters during a break from testing. “If we race him for a championship at the end of the year, that’s great. I’m not going to say he shouldn’t have won (the title). Those are the rules we’ve got this year with the Chase and last year, too. Really, in any other sport, it doesn’t happen. It’s cool we get to do that.”

Six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson also had no qualms with the move.

“We don’t have sick days in our sport,” said Johnson, who also was testing at Dover. “If you get injured in our industry, the repercussions are so big. Even though he is granted a waiver, you look at what the team has been through with a couple different drivers trying to develop the equipment and get it going (with) missed opportunities to win races.

“It’s a huge penalty to have an injury. If you can come back and win a race, you deserve to be in the Chase. I don’t have a problem with it.”

Logano said Busch wasn’t abusing the intent of the rule that requires drivers to start every race in order to be Chase eligible.

“It’s not like he chose to skip races,” he said. “I think that’s the difference. They don’t want to see someone win a race and say, ‘Oh I’m good, I’m going to take four to five weeks off and enjoy it and not drive a race car.’ They don’t want to see that.

“But Kyle is getting back in the car as soon as he possibly can to make the Chase, so letting him do it is fine. That’s the way it should be. It’s not his fault he got hurt in the first place.

David Ragan, who replaced Busch for eight races in the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, said Busch still wasn’t getting a free ride. In addition to a victory, he would need to average at least an 18th-place finish in the other 14 races remaining in the regular season.

“A waiver is he’s just eligible,” said Ragan, who was testing the No. 55 Toyota that he will drive for Michael Waltrip Racing the rest of the season. “He’s still got to have a great season to make the Chase. He’s got to win a race, which isn’t easy to do. And he’s got to score some good points to get in the top 30.

“NASCAR made the right call, Kyle should be happy with that, and if he can meet that criteria, and make the Chase, he deserves to be in the Chase.”

Ragan said Busch was returning to JGR as the team’s cars were starting to hit their stride.

“Every team goes through cycles,” Ragan said. “The Gibbs folks worked really hard, and they’re on the front side of the cycle. They have really good stuff in the pipeline. The 18 is one of the top four to five cars in the garage. Kyle is one of the top four to five drivers. That combination has been successful.”

 

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.