Kyle Busch ready to pick up where he left off at Fontana

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There’s just something about Auto Club Speedway that gets Kyle Busch marching toward Victory Lane seemingly more often than not.

Although he grew up about three hours away in Las Vegas, the younger Busch brother has taken to the 2-mile, high-speed track like a duck to water, becoming one of the most successful racers ever to compete there.

Busch heads into this weekend’s Sprint Cup and Xfinity races having captured the checkered flag 11 times at ACS over the years, including three in Sprint Cup, six in the Xfinity Series and twice (in two tries) in the Camping World Truck Series.

In a sense, ACS owes Busch another Cup win – or at least a strong performance. After winning the Cup races there in 2013 and 2014, he was unable to compete in last year’s race (as well as the Xfinity race) because he was in the midst of recovering from injuries sustained in an Xfinity race at Daytona Beach in February 2015.

Now fully healed, Busch is hoping to resume his winning streak and good fortune there.

“The finishes of both of those races (2013 and 2014) were pretty exciting,” Busch said in a media release. “Of course, I won both so that makes it even better for me.

“The track is just down the road from Toyota Racing Development (TRD) headquarters, and our wins there were the first two Sprint Cup wins for them at their hometown track.”

“I’m hoping we can get our M&M’s Camry back to victory lane there and win three races in a row – at least in the races I’ve been able to run in.”

Busch’s scorecard at ACS is stout:

* In 17 Sprint Cup starts, 3 wins, 8 top-fives and 12 top-10s, plus one pole.

* In 16 Xfinity starts, he has a track record six wins, 10 top-fives and 13 top-10s, plus three poles. That includes wins in six of his last nine starts there, the most recent being in 2013.

* In 2 Truck Series starts, he won both times.

ACS is one of the fastest and widest tracks on the NASCAR circuit. Drivers are able to go pretty much wherever they want – and Busch certainly falls in that category.

He’s been part of several four- and five-wide packs heading into one of the track’s turns. And while the track has aged over time, it’s aged gracefully. Still, it’s one rough customer.

“That place is tough,” Busch said. “It’s really a hard racetrack to get ahold of, now, especially when it’s hot and the sun is out.

“There are two completely different types of racing when you run the top versus the bottom groove. You can run from the top to the bottom, but when you run the bottom, you really feel like you’re puttering around the racetrack. You feel like you aren’t making up any time on the bottom.

“But when you are running the top groove, you feel like you’re getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top.”

Having visited Victory Lane 11 times thus far at Fontana, Busch looks to make it an even dozen with a win either Saturday or Sunday – and potentially a baker’s dozen of 13 if he’s able to sweep both ends of the weekend racing action there.

“It’s a fast racetrack and you just have to be able carry a lot of speed through the corners,” Busch said. “You’re in the corner for a long time but, the more speed you carry through the turn, the better it makes your straightaways.

“It’s a big, fast racetrack and I’m hoping we can get M&M’S their first win during their 75th anniversary celebration year.”

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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.