A young man’s championship: Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick vie for Truck title

Leave a comment

While the Camping World Truck Series came into existence in 1995, Erik Jones and Tyler Reddick wouldn’t for another year.

Now, both 19-year-old drivers are 134 laps from making NASCAR history.

Barring a series of unforeseen events in tonight’s Truck series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Jones or Reddick will be the youngest champion in the series’ history.

The average age of the last five drivers to win a Truck title, based off the year they won it, was 35.8. Matt Crafton, the two-time defending champion, was 38 last year.

“To be able to put ourselves in this position to have a great shot to go and get it, that’s just a big accomplishment in itself,” Jones said Tuesday in a teleconference with Reddick. “I’d be really, really happy if we can bring that (championship) back to (Kyle Busch Motorsports). For everything they’ve done for me, and for everything Kyle has done for me. To be the youngest to do it would be a bonus for me.”

Despite winning 45 races in its five seasons in the Truck series, Kyle Busch Motorsports has yet win a driver’s title. That could change with the Ford EcoBoost 200 with Jones, who enters the race with three wins and 11 top-five finishes.

Brad Keselowski Racing has eight wins in 206 races since 2008 and also doesn’t have a driver’s title.

Reddick takes to the 1.5-mile track with two wins and 13 top fives. The first win – also the first of his career after 17 prior starts – came in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. It took Jones nine races to get his first win of 2015.

“Being the youngest would be a bonus as well,” Reddick said. “But aside from that and the bigger picture, obviously this is a big deal to everyone at Brad Keselowski Racing. It’s a really big deal to Brad too. He’s really been wanting a championship for his team and everyone else back at the shop has been working hard at it.”

Two years removed from their first NASCAR national starts, Jones and Reddick are separated by 19 points entering tonight’s race. It’s the closest gap between first and second entering the final race since 2012 when James Buescher and Timothy Peters were separated by 11 points.

Reddick has one advantage over Jones. Both will be making their 40th truck starts Friday, but Jones will be making his first at the 1.5-mile track. Reddick started fourth and finished sixth at this track last year.

“Fortunately last year there we had a good bit of speed and we were fast, so we just go in and continue to work on the things we did when we were last there, I think we’ll be fast,” Reddick said. “Obviously, the situation we’re in, we’re going to have to run very good.”

Jones isn’t inexperienced at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Busch gave Jones practice laps there last year and the No. 4 team tested there earlier this season.

“We saved a test for him to be able to have a test here,” Busch said during media day for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship race. “I don’t think he was necessarily ready when they unloaded, but he learned a lot and did a really good job. I’m optimistic that he’ll have a good day.”

With a 19-point cushion over Reddick, Jones knows he doesn’t necessarily have to race for a win or take the risks that would come with a smaller point differential. He won’t feel forced to run in the top five or even the top 10.

“I think it’s going to be somewhat conservative of an approach, but I don’t think we need to change our approach by a whole lot,” Jones said. “Obviously, Homestead and the big risk for anybody is getting up into the fence the way you get around that place. But I think most of the day we’ll just concentrate on not ever really getting up by the wall. We don’t need to make that kind of time.”

But just within range will be Reddick. The California native will be looking for any opening after finishing in fifth in each of the last four races.

“Obviously racing hard for first or second is totally different than racing hard for 10th,” said Reddick, who has leaned on the experiences of Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Alex Tagliani during his first full season. “Going into the next year (that) is something that I’ve definitely picked up on and put in the bank for next year and all the races yet to come. Trying to race really hard and end up wrecking for 10th is a lot different than for the win.”

But a win is what it might take to make history.

NBC Sports’ Racing Week in America begins April 6

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Beginning April 6, NBC Sports will present Racing Week in America on NBCSN, providing racing fans with a chance to relive the most thrilling motorsports moments from the past two decades on NBC and NBCSN.

Featuring races from NASCAR, INDYCAR, IMSA, Supercross and other series, Racing Week in America will have a specific theme for each day, starting with “Mayhem Monday” on April 6. NBC Sports will air 12 hours of motorsports coverage (1 p.m.-3 a.m. ET) Monday-Thursday and seven hours (8 p.m.-3 a.m. ET) on Friday-Saturday. Sunday’s coverage airs 2-4 p.m. ET and 10:30 p.m.-3 a.m. ET. Below is each day’s highlighted content throughout the week:

  • Monday, April 6: “Mayhem Monday”
  • Tuesday, April 7: “Twists and Turns Tuesday”
  • Wednesday, April 8: “WednesDale”
  • Thursday, April 9: “Best at the Brickyard”
  • Friday, April 10: “Daytona Speed Day”
  • Saturday, April 11: “Championship Saturday”
  • Sunday, April 12: “Sunday Funday”

Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

In addition, NASCAR America will present the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge from Monday-Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin headline a group of 18 drivers competing at virtual versions of iconic race tracks across America.

 

MONDAY, APRIL 6 – MAYHEM MONDAY

“Mayhem Monday” will feature some of the most intense battles across NASCAR, INDYCAR, Supercross, and American Flat Track, including two classics from Martinsville Speedway. The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race saw Kyle Busch win in overtime and Chase Elliott confront Denny Hamlin for costing him the victory. Two years earlier at Martinsville, Jeff Gordon earned his final win after Matt Kenseth put his feud with Joey Logano to rest. “Mayhem Monday” also has the 2015 INDYCAR race from Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, which produced a record 80 lead changes before Graham Rahal finally won out.

COVERAGE TIME (ET) NETWORK
NASCAR – Bristol Motor Speedway 2019 1 p.m. NBCSN
INDYCAR – Auto Club Speedway 2015 3 p.m. NBCSN
NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge – Rockingham 7 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Martinsville Speedway 2017 8 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Martinsville Speedway 2015 10 p.m. NBCSN
Supercross – Anaheim #2 2020 12 a.m. NBCSN
American Flat Track – Buffalo Chip TT 2019 2 a.m. NBCSN

 

TUESDAY, APRIL 7 – TWISTS AND TURNS TUESDAY

From city streets to massive dirt jumps, NBCSN will showcase the best twists and turns that motorsports have to offer starting Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. “Twists and Turns Tuesday” includes the NASCAR Cup Series’ thrilling first race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL; a return to INDYCAR Victory Lane for NBC Sports’ own James Hinchcliffe at iconic Long Beach; and the closest finish in Supercross history from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

COVERAGE TIME (ET) NETWORK
IMSA – Long Beach 2019 1 p.m. NBCSN
INDYCAR – Long Beach 2017 3 p.m. NBCSN
NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge – Lucas Oil Raceway 7 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL 2018 8 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Watkins Glen 2017 10 p.m. NBCSN
Supercross – Arlington 2019 12 a.m. NBCSN
Monster Jam World Finals 2019 2 a.m. NBCSN

 

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8 – WEDNESDALE

NBC Sports presents a full day dedicated to motorsports icon and NBC Sports analyst Dale Earnhardt. Jr. From his emotional victory at Daytona in 2001 to making “Slide Job!” go viral in his broadcasting debut at Chicago in 2018, fans will see highlights from his memorable career, as well as an episode of his popular podcast/TV show, The Dale Jr. Download.

COVERAGE TIME (ET) NETWORK
NASCAR – Talladega Superspeedway 2019 1 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Chicagoland Speedway 2018 3 p.m. NBCSN
NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge – Myrtle Beach 7 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Daytona International Speedway, July 2001 8 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Talladega Superspeedway 2017 10 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Martinsville Speedway 2005 12 a.m. NBCSN
The Dale Jr. Download 2 a.m. NBCSN

 

THURSDAY, APRIL 9 – BEST AT THE BRICKYARD

Thursday takes a look back on NBC Sports’ exciting history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, highlighted by Simon Pagenaud’s win last May in NBC Sports’ first-ever Indianapolis 500 broadcast. Also included are emotional Brickyard 400 wins for Indiana native Tony Stewart and transplant Jeff Gordon, and Drive Like Andretti, NBC Sports’ captivating documentary on the life and times of racing icon Mario Andretti.

COVERAGE TIME (ET) NETWORK
INDYCAR – Grand Prix of Indianapolis 2019 1 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – 2005 Brickyard 400 3 p.m. NBCSN
NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge Championship – Martinsville 7 p.m. NBCSN
INDYCAR – 103rd Indianapolis 500 (2019) 8 p.m. NBCSN
Drive Like Andretti 11 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – 2004 Brickyard 400 12 a.m. NBCSN
100th Indy 500 Special 2 a.m. NBCSN

 

FRIDAY, APRIL 10 – DAYTONA SPEED DAY

Whether they’re on two or four wheels, legends are made at Daytona International Speedway. On Friday, NBCSN focuses on ‘The World Center of Racing’ with exciting races from NASCAR and Supercross, plus highlights from this year’s 24 Hours of Daytona – better known as the Rolex 24.

EVENT TIME (ET) NETWORK
NASCAR – 2004 Daytona 500 8 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Daytona International Speedway, July 2001 10 p.m. NBCSN
2020 Daytona Supercross 12 a.m. NBCSN
IMSA – 2020 Rolex 24 2 a.m. NBCSN

 

SATURDAY, APRIL 11 – CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY

It’s what every driver works for. On Saturday, NBCSN gives fans some of the best championship moments, starting at 8 p.m. ET. The day’s schedule includes Jimmie Johnson claiming his record-tying 7th NASCAR Cup Series title in 2016; Kurt Busch’s stirring rally to become the first champion of the NASCAR Playoff era in 2004; and Scott Dixon’s triumph over Juan Pablo Montoya by the slimmest of margins to win the 2015 INDYCAR crown.

EVENT TIME (ET) NETWORK
NASCAR Cup Series Championship – Miami 2016 8 p.m. NBCSN
INDYCAR Championship – Sonoma 2015 10 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR Cup Series Championship – Miami 2004 12 a.m. NBCSN
American Flat Track – Meadowlands 2018 2 a.m. NBCSN

 

SUNDAY, APRIL 12 – SUNDAY FUNDAY

Above all else, racing is fun – and that’s what the final day of Racing Week in America is about. “Sunday Funday” has the incredible 2019 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race from Talladega (won by Ryan Blaney over Ryan Newman by .007 of a second), as well as INDYCAR’s Texas thriller from 2016, where four drivers – Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe, Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud – went wheel-to-wheel in a pulse-pounding dash to the checkered flag.

EVENT TIME (ET) NETWORK
NASCAR – Talladega Superspeedway 2019 10:30 p.m. NBCSN
INDYCAR – Texas Motor Speedway 2016 12:30 a.m. NBCSN
Racing Roots – Kyle Larson 2:30 a.m. NBCSN

NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge to debut Monday

Photo: NASCAR
Leave a comment

Reigning Cup champion Kyle Busch, three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin and NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. are among the headliners in the NASCAR America presents the NBC eSports Short Track Challenge.

The week-long event begins at 7 p.m. ET on Monday on NBCSN.

From Monday-Wednesday, six different drivers will compete in two timed races in Cup Series cars at an iconic track at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The top two finishers from each night will advance to the championship race at the virtual Martinsville Speedway on NBCSN.

Monday night’s races will be at a virtual Rockingham Speedway

Tuesday night’s races will be at a virtual Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.

Wednesday night’s races will be at a virtual Myrtle Beach Speedway.

Thursday night’s championship race will be at a virtual Martinsville Speedway.

Here is the driver lineup for each night:

Monday at Rockingham Speedway: Kyle Busch, William Byron, Austin Dillon, Parker Kligerman, Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace.

Tuesday at Lucas Oil Raceway: Justin Allgaier, Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, Harrison Burton, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.

Wednesday at Myrtle Beach Speedway: Landon Cassill, Matt DiBenedetto, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Timmy Hill, Ryan Preece and Myatt Snider.

“We’re proud to continue our successful collaboration with iRacing and NASCAR, which began last year, to produce the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge,” said Jeff Behnke, vice president, production, NASCAR on NBC and NBCSN. “Thanks to all the drivers from the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series for joining in what should be four consecutive nights of entertainment and fun for all the great race fans and viewers.”

“Of all of the events we’ve been putting together for real-world pros, the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge should be one of the most fun,” said Steve Myers, iRacing executive producer. “So many of the top drivers in NASCAR have honed their skills on both local short tracks and iRacing, and combining the two for a virtual week-long showdown should deliver plenty of excitement. We can’t wait to see who takes the checkered flag and bragging rights!”

This marks the latest collaboration between NBC Sports and iRacing, which began in 2019 when NBC Sports telecast the first-ever eNASCAR live event on television. NBC Sports and iRacing teamed up to present the 2019 eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Championship in a two-hour event live on NBCSN last October. Earlier this year, it was announced that six races of the 2020 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Playoffs will air live on NBCSN later this fall.

NBC Sports NASCAR commentators Rick Allen and Steve Letarte will call the action, including interviews with drivers during the races. Jeff Burton and Marty Snider will host the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge via Zoom.

April 2 in NASCAR history: Dale Jr. gets first Cup win in Texas

Leave a comment

One day late in matching his father’s own achievement 21 years earlier, Dale Earnhardt Jr. began etching his name in the history of the Cup Series on April 2, 2000 with his first career win.

The victory came at Texas Motor Speedway, the same track the third-generation driver earned his first Xfinity Series win at two years earlier.

Earnhardt led 106 of 334 laps and beat Jeff Burton to score the victory in just his 12th career start, four races sooner than his father’s first win in 1979. The victory also was the first for Dale Earnhardt Inc. in the Cup Series.

“I’ll tell you what, that was the hardest race I’ve ever drove,” Earnhardt told CBS in Victory Lane. “Had the flu all day long, all week long, felt pretty good. Once the race started, we had a good race car and I was pretty happy.”

Earnhardt’s victory was the last time a Cup Series driver earned their first career win at Texas Motor Speedway.

Also on this date:

1967: Driving for the Wood Brothers, Cale Yarborough led 301 of 334 laps at Atlanta to earn his second Cup win and his first on a speedway.

1978: Darrell Waltrip beat John Utsman (relief driver for Benny Parsons) by one lap to earn his first of a record 12 career Cup wins at Bristol Motor Speedway.

1989: Harry Gant ended a 90-race winless streak with a dominant win at Darlington. He led 171 of the last 180 laps to beat Davey Allison and Geoff Bodine. The race was plagued by a 19-lap caution at one point in order to correct a scoring error that gave Gant a one-lap lead on the field.

1995: Jeff Gordon earns his first of four consecutive wins in the Food City 500 at Bristol. It was his third win in the first six races of the season, as Gordon would go on to claim his first Cup Series championship.

Kevin Harvick, Tony Kanaan discuss IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Over a 22-year IndyCar career featuring its share of adversity, Tony Kanaan has learned to embrace trying to find the positives in a negative situation.

He believes NASCAR and IndyCar will find a tiny silver lining from the novel coronavirus pandemic. The series will race on the same day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course in a July 4 doubleheader, which he believes sends a message of unity he’d like to see from the world during this dark period.

“It’s time to send that message (of unity),” Kanaan told “Happy Hours” hosts Kevin Harvick and Matt Yocum in a Wednesday afternoon interview on SiriusXM’s NASCAR Channel. “If we don’t come out of this situation as better people, globally, in every way, shape or form … it’s just being kind to people. Hopefully, we’ll be sending the right messages, doing radio shows together, doing live on Instagram together, doing races together.”

Click here to read the entire story on NBCSports.com’s MotorSportsTalk page.