Ryan Sieg is getting out of his comfort zone after years in the Xfinity Series

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During the final 10 laps of last weekend’s Xfinity Series race, Ryan Sieg was slightly confused.

“We’re not at Daytona and we’re running second!” Sieg thought to himself.

While Sieg was “in shock,” he was in fact second as the laps wound down on the race at Iowa Speedway.

“It was a surprise to be running second at Iowa where you have to have everything resource-wise and car-wise … you have to have the best of everything,” Sieg told NBC Sports.

Ryan Sieg drives his No. 39 Chevrolet at Texas Motor Speedway (Getty Images).

His No. 39 Chevrolet trailed JR Motorsports’ No. 9 Chevy driven by 19-year-old Wiliam Byron and was ahead of 21-year-old Tyler Reddick in the No. 42 Chevy owned by Chip Ganassi Racing.

Pit strategy and a late caution had put Sieg and a handful of other smaller teams used to mid-pack racing in contention at the front.

The 30-year-old Sieg – a veteran of 116 Xfinity races – had a chance for one of his best finishes in the series.

“I was kind of out of it,” Sieg said. “There was just too many laps left to tussle with (Byron) and I didn’t want (Reddick) to get by. Tried to get the best restart I could without getting into (Byron). If there was less laps, it might have been a different story. But with 10 to go, there was probably not much I could do, just try to get a good restart and try to hang with him as long as I could and hopefully something could happen to him.”

Byron eventually slipped away, leaving Sieg to duel with Reddick right up to the last turn.

Sieg crossed the line second for his career-best NASCAR finish. He’d never placed better than eighth in a non-restrictor plate Xfinity race. It was only his third top five in his national NASCAR career, which includes 106 Camping World Truck Series races from 2008-2015.

Weeks before his career moment, BK Racing owner Ron Devine was insistent that Sieg drive one of his Cup cars. But the prospect of making his debut in NASCAR’s premier series wasn’t one Sieg was too hot on.

“He kept asking and we kept saying, ‘yeah, nah,’ I wasn’t sure I really wanted to do it,” Sieg said. “I didn’t know how tough it was and wasn’t too sure about how I would perform. I didn’t want to go over there and be multiple laps down. You know what I mean? It just didn’t seem very fun. … You’ve got have everything.”

Sieg has been comfortable getting by without everything so far in his NASCAR career. RSS Racing’s No. 39 car, owned by Rod Sieg, is worked on by less than six full-time crew members. The team’s shop is based in Tucker, Georgia, Sieg’s hometown and a community in the metro Atlanta area of roughly 35,000 people that only became an official town two years ago.

It’s just over 230 miles away from NASCAR’s epicenter in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Sieg is comfortable with the distance.

“The guys I worked with told me there’s no point in moving up there,” Sieg said. “It’s more expensive up there, it’s harder to keep people up there because I think people back in the day were switching teams and they’d just leave and go here or there.”

The distance has worked out so far. Last season, Sieg and his team qualified for the inaugural Xfinity playoffs and finished ninth in the standings.

Devine’s persistence finally worked out. Sieg agreed to drive BK Racing’s No. 83 Toyota at Dover International Speedway. Sieg’s decision was based on the track, which aligns with what he’s had to work with in his career so far.

“You don’t have to have all the best things to go to Dover,” Sieg said. “You don’t need a whole bunch of motor. You can kind of get way with having less motor there and get a decent run. … I finally decided to go over there and do it.”

Though he finished six laps down, Sieg started 34th and placed 26th at the “Monster Mile.”

“I just didn’t want to make a mistake or have anything happen,” Sieg said. “Little things … you don’t want to mess up your first time out there. That was about it. Once I got used to it, it was pretty fun. I figured out about halfway through the race kind of how it needs to drive.”

Sieg got another chance two weeks later at Michigan, where he took BK Racing’s No. 23 Toyota to a 33rd-place finish.

Now a week after the biggest night of his career and a few days of celebration on the beach, Sieg will get his third weekend of double duty at Daytona International Speedway (Friday night on NBCSN). It’s a track that has been a destination for his family for many years.

“Probably been coming down here each July since I was a baby because my grandpa and his brothers would go down to the July Daytona race,” Sieg said. “They would always come down here … since they probably raced on the beach, that’s how long they’ve been coming.”

If things work out, his family will get two chances to see Sieg to accomplish what he did in Iowa.

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Cup starting lineup at New Hampshire has Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch on front row

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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Rivals Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch will share the front row for Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Keselowski won his 15th career pole – and first since August 2017 – on Friday. He will have Busch start next to him.

MORE: Cup starting lineup

The rivals have had numerous run-ins throughout the their career.

Kurt Busch, who won last weekend at Kentucky, qualified third and is followed by Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney.

Three drivers will start at the rear: Denny Hamlin (backup), Alex Bowman (backup) and Ryan Newman (backup).

Brad Keselowski wins Cup pole at New Hampshire

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Brad Keselowski scored his first Cup pole since 2017, taking the top spot Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Keselowski topped the field with a lap of 136.384 mph. This is Keselowski’s 15th career Cup pole and first since Michigan in August 2017, a span of 68 races.

Keselowski’s run denied Toyota its first pole of the season. Keselowski will be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (136.311 mph).

MORE: Cup qualifying results

Kurt Busch, who won last weekend at Kentucky, will start third after a lap of 136.238 mph. Erik Jones qualified fourth with a lap of 136.189 mph.

Jones’ performance is part of a promising week for him. He stated Friday that he is “close” to signing an extension with Joe Gibbs Racing. Jones’ contract expires after this season.

Ryan Blaney completed the top five with a lap of 136.116 mph. Martin Truex Jr. qualified sixth at 136.082 mph, and Matt DiBenedetto qualified a career-best seventh at 135.990 mph. DiBenedetto’s previous best Cup start was ninth in this year’s Daytona 500.

Alex Bowman had a driveshaft failure on his qualifying run and did not complete a lap. He will start at the rear of the field.

“Just a big boom going down the front straightaway and smoke and oil everywhere,” Bowman told NBCSN.

Bowman will go to a backup car.

Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman also will start at the rear of the field because they both went to backup cars after separate incidents late in Friday’s only Cup practice session.

Andy Seuss (qualified 35th) and Austin Theriault (36th) both will be making their Cup debut Sunday.

Daniel Hemric qualified 19th. HIs car failed inspection twice before qualifying and a crew member was ejected.

 

Erik Jones ‘close’ to re-signing after meeting with Joe Gibbs this week

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LOUDON, N.H. – After meeting with team owner Joe Gibbs this week, Erik Jones believes he finally is “close” to signing an extension with the team after a few months of negotiations.

“We’ve had some good meetings, positive meetings, so we’re moving in the right direction,” Jones said during Friday afternoon’s qualifying session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “I’d love to get it done here soon. We’ve had good meetings between my guys and JGR. I’ve had good meetings with Coach talking about it and moving forward. I know I keep saying it, but I feel like we’re pretty close to getting it done.”

The uncertainty for the 2020 season seemingly has been no distraction in 2019 for Jones, who believes he is close to ending a yearlong winless streak. He has notched six top 10s in the past nine races to move into the 16th and final provisional spot for the playoffs with seven races remaining in the regular season.

The Byron, Michigan, native said he told Gibbs “I want to get (the extension) done. We both want to get it done and move forward and stop worrying about it and stop focusing on it, but we’re close. Hopefully here soon.”

An extension for Jones would mean JGR has a full lineup of four drivers signed for 2020 and shift the focus to what is next for Xfinity driver Christopher Bell, who is under contract to JGR next season.

“I think you know as much as I do,” Bell said Friday morning when asked about what series he will race next year. “Actually, you probably know a little bit more than I do. Ultimately, it’s not up to me. I can’t make the decisions, so I’m just along for the ride.”

Bell indicated his desire to move to Cup last season, and a Leavine Family Racing Toyota could be an option if JGR wants to farm him out for 2020 in NASCAR’s premier series.

“I learned early on in my career that a race car driver is only as good as the equipment,” Bell said. “I definitely want to make sure that I’m in equipment that can win.”

Jeffrey Earnhardt releases his remaining races for 2019

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Jeffrey Earnhardt announced his schedule for the rest of the season Friday.

He is scheduled to run six Xfinity races and one Cup race the rest of this season.

His Xfinity races will be Mid-Ohio (Aug. 10), Bristol (Aug. 16), Road America (Aug. 24), Darlington (Aug. 31), ISM Raceway (Nov. 9) and Miami (Nov. 16). He’ll drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity car at Mid-Ohio, Road America, ISM Raceway and Miami. He’ll drive the No. 81 Xtreme Concepts Racing car at Bristol and Darlington.

He’ll also drive the No. 81 Xtreme Concepts Racing Cup car at Talladega on Oct. 13.