Five things to watch in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway


LOUDON, N.H. – It took half a season, but NASCAR’s newest Dream Team seems in the midst of a full realization entering Sunday’s 5-hour Energy 301.

After putting all four drivers in the top five (led by race winner Kyle Busch) for the first time last Saturday at Kentucky Speedway, Joe Gibbs Racing will start nearly as strong at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Carl Edwards, who joined JGR this year in its expansion to a fourth Toyota, will lead the field to green with his first pole position in almost two years, and teammates Busch (fourth), Denny Hamlin (fifth) and Matt Kenseth (eighth) will be just behind.

These results hardly seemed possible only a month ago. Edwards admittedly pressed himself into mistakes in his transition from Roush Fenway Racing (where he spent the first decade of his Sprint Cup career), Busch missed the first 11 races because of injuries from his Xfinity crash at Daytona, and Hamlin and Kenseth both struggled with the handling of their Camrys (particularly during a disastrous outing at Phoenix, where Hamlin proclaimed their cars “sucked”).

But the past two weekends, the JGR teams have been simpatico, exhibiting a rapport reminiscent of when Edwards and four other Roush drivers (Kenseth, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle) all won and made the Chase in 2005

“It feels to me like we’re in this sweet spot that I’ve only been in a couple times in my time in this sport where all of us are fast, and we’re all pushing one another, but we’re sharing information and it’s really neat,” Edwards said. “It’s fun to have teammates like I have that motivate me and push me and challenge me, but we all do it and at the same time celebrate each other’s successes. It’s really cool, and I think there will be a lot of good things to come. I do recognize that Kentucky is a standalone event, and this track is really unique so this might not continue, but for now it’s really fun.”

Other storylines to watch heading into New Hampshire:

Under pressure: Two teams experienced bizarre left-rear tire problems that left their cars stranded on track during practice. A Goodyear official said it was a setup-related mishap that waylaid Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Chevrolet while Ryan Newman’s No. 31 Chevy apparently ran over debris.

Though it certainly doesn’t seem to be widespread, it’s worth monitoring given that Jimmie Johnson suffered two tire failures in the first 15 laps of this race a year ago (Goodyear attributed those woes to air pressure).

–The other Toyota: David Ragan qualified a season-best third at a track that conjures good memories for his Michael Waltrip Racing team. Brian Vickers scored an emotional victory at the 1.058-mile oval two years ago, raising spirits for a repeat. “It’s still encouraging for our team,” Ragan said. “You see the pictures (of the celebration) walking around the shop, and that gives you some confidence. A lot of guys on our pit crew were part of that team that went to victory lane. Absolutely, that’s something that we can build some confidence from.”

Slower Chevys: Only two drivers (Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson) from the bow-tie brigade cracked the top 10 in qualifying, which perhaps isn’t so surprising given that it’s been three years since a Chevrolet (Kasey Kahne) reached victory lane at NHMS.

Lost weekend? Jeff Gordon qualified a mediocre 23rd Friday, had a fender bender with Clint Bowyer in the garage during first practice Saturday and lost a significant amount of track time while the team made repairs. What else could go wrong? “I don’t want to say it can’t get worse, but I know it can,” said Gordon, who has three wins at New Hampshire but none since 1998. “But hopefully this will all pay off for us (Sunday).”

Justin Haley replaces Kyle Busch in Kaulig car for Xfinity race


Justin Haley will drive Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 car in Monday morning’s scheduled NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Haley replaces Cup Series regular Kyle Busch, who was scheduled to drive for Kaulig in the 300-miler. The race was postponed from Saturday to Monday because of weather, giving NASCAR a 900-mile doubleheader at the track.

Busch decided to concentrate on the Coca-Cola 600 Cup race, scheduled for a  3 p.m. start.

Haley also will race in the 600.

Ty Gibbs is scheduled to run in both races.

Charlotte Cup race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — All-day rain Sunday forced the postponement of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race to Monday.

The postponement means that Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host 900 miles of stock car racing Monday. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled Saturday and first postponed to noon Monday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET Monday (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Cup race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sunday’s Cup race was scheduled to start at 6:21 p.m. ET, but light rain was still falling at that time in the speedway area near Charlotte. Rain intensified a few minutes later and, despite an evening forecast that showed slight improvement, officials decided at 6:30 p.m. to postpone the race.

Monday’s forecast calls for a 34% chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race and a 30% chance at the start of the Cup race.

William Byron will start the race from the pole after qualifying was washed out Saturday night.

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

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“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

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Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”