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Bump & Run: Is William Byron worthy of a Cup ride in 2018?

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Nate Ryan and Dustin Long debate some of the key issues in the sport this week:

William Byron has won the past two Xfinity races and easily could have won three in a row. Is he showing you he is worthy of a Cup ride next year?

Nate Ryan: Absolutely. He seems less of a risk every week for promotion by Hendrick Motorsports. (And he also seems more of a bargain at a Cup rookie salary.)

Dustin Long: Yes. His ability to adapt despite his relative lack of experience is stunning. Still, there’s a big difference between Xfinity and Cup. Hendrick is an organization that can put a good support group around him to help with a move to Cup and the challenges — and setbacks — he’ll likely face. If his success continues, maybe its worthwhile to go ahead and move him up to Cup for next year.

Kasey Kahne is running five nights of sprint car races this week and Kyle Larson is running four night of sprint car races. If you were their boss, how would you handle their desire to race those cars?

Nate Ryan: Let them run if it keeps them happy and if their cars are held to the most stringent of safety standards. Tony Stewart often proved that extracurricular racing didn’t detract from his Cup results (and honing his restart ability in a sprint car actually might have helped his push to the 2011 championship), and Larson seems to be in that same place now.

Of course, Stewart missed half a season with a broken leg in a crash four years ago, and team owners Chip Ganassi and Rick Hendrick understandably are leery about their drivers racing cars that occasionally can seem like deathtraps, which is partly why Larson is limited to 25 races and Kahne didn’t race sprint cars from 2013-15.

But Larson also made a compelling case recently for why drivers should compete on the grass-roots level as often as possible, and the greater good of NASCAR needs the benefit of that exposure and outreach.

Dustin Long: Chip Ganassi Racing’s model of limiting Larson to 25 races seems a fair and reasonable way to doing it. No driver needs to be racing all the time in another series. That’s a hobby and their main job is the Cup team — which many people depend on to succeed for jobs.

There has to be a balance. Just as Jimmie Johnson skies (people get hurt doing that), or he and other drivers bike (again people get hurt or could be killed in accidents), team owners aren’t going to be able to stop these drivers from living.

There can be a benefit to allowing these drivers to race. Look at the confidence Larson is building with his sprint car success. Owners say the most important part of their team is people. Confidence can mean a lot during a long, rigorous season. Let them race.

Steve O’Donnell said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast that officials are looking to move the overtime line to the start/finish line in 2018. What should NASCAR do about overtime?

Nate Ryan: Get rid of it altogether. Let races end under caution the way they did from 1948 to 2004. If there’s a wreck late in a race but still possible to let the lead pack race back to the flagstand without putting anyone at risk, hold the yellow until the leader reaches the line when possible. Or perhaps revisit the idea of red-flagging a race once if there’s a caution within a window of five to 10 laps remaining. But always follow this priority list for concluding a race: 1) safety; 2) competitive integrity; 3) entertainment value.

Dustin Long: NASCAR needs to decide what its goal is. I grew up with races ending under caution. Yes, it’s a downer, but I’m fine with that. However, I understand, that the entertainment factor of a green-flag finish provides more excitement and buzz for the sport than cars going under the checkered flag at 55 mph or less.

Let’s be honest, a good number of people judge how good a race is by the finish. In that sense, the sport is going to look for a way to end races under green while trying to limit the potential danger to drivers.

I’m fine with one attempt at a green-flag finish — whether that is overtime similar to what is the case now or red flagging a race when there’s a late caution — but I’m not for endless attempts at a green-flag finish that puts drivers in jeopardy.

For more on what’s happening in NASCAR, watch NASCAR America from 5-6 p.m. ET today with Carolyn Manno, Steve Letarte and Kyle Petty.

Two crew chiefs fined for loose lug nuts at Kentucky

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NASCAR has issued two fines to crew chiefs for loose lug nuts last weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

Brian Wilson, crew chief for Paul Menard in the Xfinity race, was fined $5,000 for a loose lug nut. Menard finished ninth.

Kevin Bellicourt, crew chief for Justin Haley in the Camping World Truck Series, was fined $2,500 for a loose lug nut. Haley finished 10th.

There were no other penalties.

NASCAR America: ‘Big 3’ achieves mark not reached since 1974

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The drivers labelled the “Big 3” keep reaching new milestones as they tear through the 2018 Cup season.

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are the only drivers to win on 1.5-mile tracks this season, sweeping all seven so far.

They’ve combined to win 14 of the first 19 races this season, with Truex claiming the latest on Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

Truex’s win gives him four this season while Busch and Harvick have five each.

With Truex’s victory, the “Big 3” are the first trio of drivers to win four or more races each through 19 races since 1974.

That year, the “Big 3” were Cale Yarborough (eight wins), Richard Petty (six) and David Pearson (four).

On NASCAR America, Steve Letarte said despite their dominance so far, he doesn’t believe all three members of the “Big 3” will make the Championship 4 in November.

“I don’t think the three in any way shape or form are guaranteed to make Miami,” Letarte said. “Everybody’s ready to put the ‘Big 3’ in Miami in the final four, I’m not. There’s way too many challenges along the way. I’m confident that all three won’t be at Homestead.”

Watch the videos above and below for more.

Cup teams to test Charlotte road course today

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The second half of Cup tests on Charlotte’s road course will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET today. It is open to the public.

Testing today are: Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Austin Dillon, AJ Allmendinger, Trevor Bayne and Ty Dillon. Chris Buescher is in a Chevy wheelforce car.

Last week, several Cup drivers tested on the course for a day. Bubba Wallace crashed early and left the test because his team did not have a backup car.

Jimmie Johnson had the fastest lap in last week’s session, according to NASCAR timing and scoring. Johnson had a lap at 1 minute, 17.4 seconds. Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin each had a lap at 1:17.5 last week.

 

 

 

NASCAR America: Paul Menard, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. among winners, losers at Kentucky

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On Monday’s NASCAR America, Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton discussed the winners and losers among drivers in Saturday’s Cup race at Kentucky Speedway.

Letarte singled out Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as one of the losers after he failed to overtake Alex Bowman in the playoff standings. Bowman entered the race as the last driver above the cutoff line for the 16 driver field in the playoffs.

Bowman earned his first DNF after he crashed from a flat tire and finished last.

Meanwhile, Stenhouse finished 26th, one lap down after he had to pit twice early in Stage 1, the first time for a cut tire. He is now nine points behind Bowman for the final playoff spot.

“To only gain 10 points on a driver who finished last in the field is a huge missed opportunity,” Letarte said. “When you look at drivers scoring 30, 40, 50 points each, Paul Menard picked up over 30. So the chance was there to gain (on) that bigger group and he just didn’t do it. So when I look at what Ricky Stenhouse did, he really missed probably 15 or 20 points. I know it was a flat tire, there’s always a reason. But in the end you have to make the playoffs, you have to go out there and take it from Alex Bowman, who has put him in that position.”

Burton picked Menard as a winner. The Wood Brothers Racing driver placed 11th Saturday after finishing fifth in Stage 1 and 10th in Stage 2.

He is now 18th in the standings, 23 points back from Bowman

“They performed well, got good stage finishes and did what they needed to do,” Burton said. “This team is starting to get a little bit better every single week. I find it very interesting that back there for that 16th spot it’s really a fight of mediocrity, to be honest with you, and who is going to not mess up.”

Watch the above video for more.