Ryan: God bless Kyle Busch and trolling Tom Brady-isms

7 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS – Kyle Busch played the Tom Brady card Sunday in an oh-so-perfect summation of all the intangible instigation he brings to NASCAR that resonates well beyond his boundless talent.

After his first win in the Brickyard 400, and his fourth in the past five Sprint Cup races, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was asked about those who insist he is unworthy of championship eligibility because he missed the first 11 races of the season.

“I don’t care what people say,” Busch said. “They pay me to be behind the wheel, and unfortunately due to injury, I wasn’t able to attend the first 11 races of the season.   It’s not like I didn’t want to be there, but my team was still there, and if we win a championship, then it’s not that they’re going to take it away from me.

“As far as right now, Tom Brady is going to be suspended for the first four games of the season, and then he’s probably going to go on and compete for a championship and might even win the Super Bowl, and I doubt anybody is going to take away a Super Bowl championship from that gentleman.”

And then he doubled down in the home of the other team embroiled in the Deflate-gate scandal that resulted in a suspension for the quarterback of the New England Patriots.

“If (Indianapolis Colts quarterback) Andrew Luck got suspended for four weeks and then he participated in the championship game, he’d still be considered a champion,” Busch said. “Either way.”

NASCAR has entered its peak “Rowdy” phase in every way possible.

And it’s glorious.

A season whose first half largely was missing the drama that makes stock-car racing alluring has landed on the storyline that just keeps giving.

That Busch was giving it back Sunday night makes it even better.

The lightning rod of the Sprint Cup Series is armed with innumerable fodder to troll NASCAR Nation with incessant justification.

Yes, if you like applying the letter of the law with the zealotry of a corporate drone who worries about how to staple expense reports, then there might be a rational argument to be constructed for why Busch shouldn’t qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But if you’re of a sound mind, it’s fallacy. He missed 11 races because his car smacked a wall unprotected by a SAFER barrier at Daytona International Speedway, leaving his right leg and left foot a jangled mess.

Complicit in those circumstances, NASCAR deservedly granted Busch a waiver from the rule requiring him to start every race to make the Chase. But he still had to win and make up an 11-race points deficit to reach the top 30 in the standings.

Nine races into his comeback, he’s on the cusp of achieving both well before the regular-season deadline. It’s inconceivable he could be deemed undeserving of racing for the title.

The high ground belongs to the driver that many love to hate.

This is a good thing. Busch, 30, is a recent father and a more mature and measured version of the brash and irascible star who once was famous for storming off after races and smashing a guitar in victory lane.

But another side of Busch still lurks that is polarizing and alluring all at once. Though he has yet to win a championship, he shares some of the swagger that makes Brady a superstar some can’t stand.

In the most memorable stretch of his career before this five-weak tear, Busch once flipped off his former Hendrick Motorsports team members while winning eight of his first 22 starts with JGR in 2008.

It wasn’t the classiest, but it was a captivating moment in a sport too often bleached of its personalities. NASCAR needs its villains, even if Busch donning a black hat is more about archetypes and caricatures than real life.

The surge has magnified his magnetism in a way best expressed Sunday by Joey Logano, who has finished runner-up to Busch twice in three weeks.

“I’m glad he’s back and all, but geez oh Pete, you don’t have to come back like that,” Logano said. “Man, we’ve been working our guts out all year, and he comes right back and is doing it. That’s amazing, the run they’re on.  Obviously he’s definitely going to make it into the Chase.

“He’s got four wins? Golly.”

That kind of awe would prompt a smirk from Busch.

And a scream from his detractors.

Much like Brady and his Patriots, there often isn’t much harmony in the land of Rowdy.

And that means happiness in the world of NASCAR

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Charlotte Roval

0 Comments

Sunday provides a final chance for drivers to advance to the Round of 8 and keep their Cup championship hopes alive.

Talladega winner Chase Elliott is the only driver who has advanced to the next round. That leaves seven spots available going into Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe holds the final transfer spot by a tiebreaker over Austin Cindric. At least for now.

William Byron is 11 points behind both drivers, but Hendrick Motorsports will appeal Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas on Thursday. Should Hendrick win and Byron get those points back, he would move into a transfer spot.

There’s just part of what to watch for in Sunday’s race.

Favorites to be No. 20

This season remains tied for the most different winners in series history at 19, but there are a few candidates who could become the 20th different winner this year on Sunday.

Among the favorites to do so:

Ryan Blaney, who came close to winning last week at Talladega, won the inaugural Cup race at the Roval in 2018.

Martin Truex Jr., who has four career Cup wins on road courses, still seeks his first victory of the season.

Michael McDowell, who is coming off a third-place finish at Talladega, has had a career-high 12 top-10 finishes this season, including top 10s in each of the last four road course events this year.

Will history repeat?

Last year, the four drivers eliminated after the Roval were Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell and William Byron.

Harvick was eliminated in the first round this year, but Byron (-11 to the cutline) and Bell (-33) are in jeopardy of being eliminated in this round again. Bowman stated Tuesday that he will miss his second consecutive race because of continued concussion symptoms. He will be among the four eliminated from title contention.

Bowman missed last weekend’s race because of concussion-like symptoms suffered at Texas. A decision on if he’ll be able to race at the Roval will come later this week.

Will chaos continue?

Consider what some of the former Roval winners have endured on their way to the checkered flag:

In 2019, Chase Elliott drove into the Turn 1 wall on a restart while the leader. He recovered to win.

In 2020, Elliott overcame a loose wheel to win for the second year in a row.

In 2021, Kyle Larson won after his team changed batteries and put the alternator belt back on.

Could a similar fate be in store for this year’s winner? Or will they have a cleaner day?

Entry lists

Thirty-nine drivers are entered including IndyCar driver Conor Daly, former Formula 1 driver Daniil Kvyat, former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller and former 24 Hours of Daytona winner Joey Hand. JJ Yeley will drive the No. 51 for Cody Ware, who stated that he would skip this event because of his ankle injury at Texas the footwork needed on a road course.

Charlotte Roval Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are IndyCar driver Marco Andretti and former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat.

Charlotte Roval Xfinity entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Saturday, Oct. 8

Forecast: Partly cloudy with a high of 66 degrees. No chance of rain during the Xfinity race.

  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. — Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (NBC Sports App)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Cup practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.)
  • 1 – 2 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3 p.m. — Xfinity race (67 laps, 155.44 miles; NBC, Peacock, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 9

Forecast: Sunny with a high of 64 degrees. No chance of rain during the race.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup race (109 laps, 252.88 miles; NBC, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

0 Comments

Hailie Deegan announced Tuesday that she will make her Xfinity Series debut Oct. 15 Las Vegas Motor Speedway on NBC and Peacock.

The 21-year-old Deegan is in her second full-time season in the Camping World Truck Series. She finished a career-high sixth in that series last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

She will drive the No. 07 car for SS Green Light Racing with Jeff Lefcourt.

 

 

Alex Bowman to miss Charlotte Roval race

0 Comments

Alex Bowman announced Tuesday night on social media that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup playoff race at the Charlotte Roval.

Bowman said on social media: “I am continuing to make strides in my recovery to make sure I can return to competition at 100%.”

This will be the second consecutive race he will have missed because of concussion-like symptoms after his crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Noah Gragson will drive the No. 48 car this weekend for Bowman.

“Alex’s health is our first priority,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “We’re focused on supporting his recovery and seeing him back in his race car when the time is right. Alex has a long career ahead of him, so we will invest the necessary time and take our guidance from medical experts. We’re putting no pressure on him to return before he’s 100% ready.”

Bowman will be one of the four drivers eliminated from title contention Sunday.

Also Tuesday, Cody Ware announced that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup race at the Charlotte Roval, as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered at Texas.

NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott leaps to the front

0 Comments

A slick late-race move by Chase Elliott carried him to Victory Lane Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway — and back to the top of the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Elliott is the only driver with five victories this season. No one else in the playoffs has more than two (Tyler Reddick, eliminated from the championship hunt, has won three times).

Elliott, already qualified for the Round of 8 with his Talladega win, will be among the favorites in Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Here’s how the rankings look approaching the end of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Chase Elliott (No. 3 last week) — Elliott’s power move to win at Talladega was quite impressive and gave him four top-five finishes in the past 10 races. Clearly, he has re-established himself as the championship favorite.

2. Denny Hamlin (No. 1 last week) — Hamlin drops a spot despite a strong run (20 laps led and finishing fifth) at Talladega. Count him in the hunt for an elusive first championship.

3. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Blaney simply will not go away despite continuing as the playoffs’ only winless driver (not including the Texas All-Star Race). He was victimized by Chase Elliott on Sunday at Talladega, finishing .046 seconds short of victory and a push into the next round.

4. Kyle Larson (No. 2 last week) — Superspeedway racing generally is not Larson’s strong point. He finished 18th Sunday despite leading eight laps and being in the front group much of the day.

5. Joey Logano (No. 4 last week) — Logano had an unusually poor performance at Talladega. He was involved in an early-race accident and struggled much of the rest of the day, finishing 27th.

MORE: Elliott celebrates, Logano laments

6. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain tied Aric Almirola for most laps led (36) at Talladega and has been consistent as of late with three finishes of seventh or better in the past four races.

7. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron’s worst news last week came off the track as he was penalized by NASCAR for dumping Denny Hamlin under caution at Texas. He finished 12th at Talladega.

8. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe is quietly making the case that he could make the Round of 8 and challenge for the title.

MORE: Winners and losers at Talladega

9. Daniel Suarez (unranked last week) — Suarez maneuvered through the Talladega draft with style and came home eighth. He has three top 10s in the past seven races.

10. Christopher Bell (No. 6 last week) — Bell had a rough day at Talladega and will be looking to Sunday’s race at the Roval for redemption.

Dropped out: Tyler Reddick (No. 10 last week).