Brad Keselowski signs contact extension with Team Penske (video)

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Team Penske announced Tuesday that it has signed Brad Keselowski to a multi-year contract extension. The team also announced that crew chief Paul Wolfe has agreed to a multi-year extension.

“In the time that Brad has driven for Team Penske, he has risen to the top echelon of stars in NASCAR,” said team owner Roger Penske in a statement. “Brad and Paul have established a terrific, winning combination and they are both real leaders within our team. More than just wins and championships, Brad is an important part our relationship with Ford Performance and his work with the Checkered Flag Foundation shows what kind of person he is away from the track. There is no question he continues to be a great fit for our organization.”

MORE: Updated Silly Season scorecard 

Dave Pericak, Global Director, Ford Performance said:We are extremely happy to secure Brad’s renewal with Team Penske. Brad is an integral part of our Ford NASCAR program, and we appreciate his leadership within the team and among the drivers in this sport. We look forward to helping him take Ford and Team Penske to victory lane many more times in the years ahead.”

Keselowski has been with the organization since 2009, scoring 22 of his 23 career Cup wins with the team and the 2012 title. Keselowski has two wins this season and is sixth in the points heading into this weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway.

“Roger and everyone at Team Penske have given me everything we need to win championships at the highest levels of NASCAR,” Keselowski said in a statement. “As I have said all along, Team Penske is where I want to be and I am thrilled to continue with the organization well into the future. I have a lot of years left in the sport and I truly feel our best years are ahead of us.

“There is no one I want helping make my racecars go fast more than Paul Wolfe. We have a lot of continuity between the two of us, and really the entire No. 2 Ford team, which is so important in today’s NASCAR. With partners like Miller Lite, Alliance Truck Parts, Wurth, Autotrader, Fitzgerald Glider Kits, Discount Tire and Ford Performance in our corner, I feel like we have the strongest overall program in the sport.”

Terms of the deal were not announced other than the 33-year-old Keselowski will remain with the team “well into the future.”

Team Penske announced in February that 27-year-old Joey Logano, crew chief Todd Gordon and sponsor Shell had extended their contracts to 2022 and beyond.

“He’s an outside-the-box thinker, which you’ve got to have a few of those in the mix,” Logano said Tuesday during a Goodyear tire test at Dover. “We get along great, I consider him a good friend of mine. So to have him as a teammate, we can keep bouncing things off of each other, keep growing that relationship and understanding what makes each other tick at certain race tracks.”

Penske also has stated that he would like add a car for 23-year-old Ryan Blaney, who drives for the Wood Brothers – which is aligned with Team Pensnke.

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Denny Hamlin hopes teams don’t shoot selves in feet with pit guns

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Denny Hamlin is the hottest driver on the Cup circuit. He has two wins – including Saturday night at Bristol – as well as two runner-ups, and a third- and fifth-place finish in the last six races. He’s also moved up to third in the rankings in that string.

But Hamlin isn’t taking anything to chance, particularly some of the smallest details – such as loose lug nuts and wheels.

Hamlin appeared Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On-Track” show and was asked about how not only his team, but also other Cup teams, can overcome the loose lug nuts and wheels issues.

Hamlin said a significant part of the problem – particularly at a place like Bristol Motor Speedway – is pit guns, which are allocated and issued in a pre-race lottery by NASCAR, rather than have teams use their own guns.

MORE: Denny Hamlin earns hard-fought win over Matt DiBenedetto at Bristol

Hamlin does not like that system and explained why:

“(Bristol) puts probably some of the biggest loads we have on our tires. Truth be told, over the last two years since we’ve had these guns issued to us, they’re not capable of getting all the wheels tight, they really aren’t.

“It’s a lottery whether you get a gun that’s good enough to get ‘em tight. Through JGR, Stewart-Haas and other teams that have documented it, in the spring race there were over 20 loose wheels. This is not just a team thing. It’s just that the equipment is not quite up to par as far as what it’s capable of.

“We keep track of all the guns and how good they are and how bad they are. It’s a lottery system of whether you’re going to get (a good or bad one). It doesn’t matter how fast you go, you can hold the gun on there and it’s just not going to get the torque quite tight enough.”

Hamlin experienced a loose wheel that forced him to pit under green on Lap 186 of Saturday night’s race at Bristol, leaving him two laps behind the leaders. Hamlin had another loose wheel on Lap 374 and pitted while running 10th.

Thus far this season, in addition to several loose wheels in races, Hamlin’s team has also been penalized four times for loose lug nuts after races: Fontana, Bristol spring race, Chicagoland and the July race at Pocono.

This isn’t the first time Hamlin has publicly complained about pit guns and loose lug nuts and wheels.

NBC Sports has reached out to NASCAR for comment.

Check out what Hamlin said about that after Saturday night’s race in the video above (Hamlin talks about this issue starting around the 6:00 mark).

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Preliminary entry lists for Xfinity, Trucks this weekend

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While the NASCAR Cup Series will be off this weekend, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any racing.

On the contrary, the Xfinity Series will be racing Saturday at Road America and the Truck Series will compete Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Here are the entry lists for both series:

Xfinity – CTECH Manufacturing 180 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

There are 39 cars entered.

Regan Smith will be in the No. 8 J.R. Motorsports Chevrolet.

A.J. Allmendinger will drive the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

Saturday’s Cup runner-up, Matt DiBenedetto, will drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

There is no driver listed yet for the No. 117 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Chevrolet Silverado 250 (2:30 p.m. ET FS1)

There are only 28 Trucks listed for the entry list.

All seats are filled.

Click here for the entry list.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. thanks all who have ‘lifted us up’ since plane crash

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. issued his first public comments Monday since he and his family survived a plane crash last Thursday afternoon at Elizabethton (Tennessee) Municipal Airport.

Earnhardt offered thanks to “everyone who has lifted us up with phone calls, messages and prayer since last Thursday. We are truly blessed that all on board escaped with no serious injuries, including our daughter, our two pilots and our dog Gus.”

Earnhardt also thanked the pilots, emergency personnel, law enforcement and hospital staff.

He stated that wife “Amy and I continue to be very appreciative of the privacy extended to us to process everything. It has been important to do that together and on our own time.”

Earnhardt stated that because of the ongoing investigation “we will not be speculating or discussing the cause of the accident.”

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board is expected this week. Ralph Hicks, a senior investigator for the NTSB said in a briefing last Friday that “the airplane basically bounced at least twice before coming down hard on the right wing landing gear. You can actually see the right wing landing gear collapsing on the video (from nearby buildings). The airplane continued down the runway, off to the end, through a fence and came to a stop … on highway 91.”

Both pilots have been interviewed and Hicks stated that what they said was “very consistent” with what the video showed. Hicks also said investigators had talked to the Earnhardt family.

NASCAR America 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Recapping Hamlin’s Bristol win

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs on NBCSN at a special time, from 6-7 p.m. ET, and will recap Denny Hamlin’s win at Bristol.

Steve Letarte will be joined by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett and A.J. Allmendinger to discuss Hamlin’s win and other storylines.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here for the special start time at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.