Erik Jones misses out on first Cup win at home track

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On the biggest restart of his Cup Series career so far, Erik Jones had a choice to make.

He chose … poorly.

The rookie driver for Furniture Row Racing was in second place on the overtime restart of the Pure Michigan 400. To his right was teammate Martin Truex Jr. In the row behind him and representing the choices he had were Matt Kenseth and Kyle Larson.

Both Jones and Truex spun their tires, which allowed Larson and Kenseth to pounce.

“The 20 (Kenseth) got to the bottom of me and the 42 (Larson) was to the right of me,” Jones said. “I saw them both getting runs and kind of had to pick one or the other and picked wrong.”

Larson charged by Truex, bouncing off the No. 78 in the process as Jones failed to keep Kenseth behind him. The two made contact, which would result in Kenseth cutting a tire and finishing 24th. But for a brief moment all four cars were four-wide.

“I was pointed at the infield for half of (Turns ) 1 and 2,” Jones said. “For me it was an easy choice. It really doesn’t matter if we crashed. The only thing that was going to benefit us was a win, so we were in the middle and I just kept going and hoped that I would get enough air to keep moving along. So I think everybody was kind of on the same page, and it just worked out.”

By the time the field reached Turn 2, Jones was still in one piece but in fifth.

But in Turn 3, Trevor Bayne got loose driving through oil dry and washed up the track. This slowed Ryan Newman, which allowed Jones to get by both of them coming to the white flag.

“Just didn’t work out,” Jones said. “Wish it would have worked out a little bit better. It was looking like a Furniture Row one‑two (finish), kind of either way it was going to play out, so just didn’t work out the way we wanted it to.”

Jones led five laps over the course of the race. It was his fifth race to lead laps this season.

The finish ties Jones’ best so far in 26 Cup starts. He placed third at Pocono in June. It was his third top 10 in as many weeks.

A red flag prior to the overtime finish gave the 2015 Camping World Truck Series champion more than enough time to think about the significance of winning his first Cup race at his home track.

“It gives you a lot of time to at least play through different scenarios on the restart and how you want it to work out,” Jones said. “It’s very rare it actually works out the way you picture in your head, but yeah, you definitely ponder what that would be like. … I knew we had a shot right on the restart. We were just as quick I felt like right off the bat, and it would have been nice to be able to seal the deal for sure.”

With three races left in the regular season, Jones is 16th in the points standings. The Cup Series now heads to Bristol Motor Speedway, where Jones finished 17th in April.

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Kurt Busch on contract status beyond 2018: ‘we’ll see how it all comes together’

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LOUDON, N.H. — Former champion Kurt Busch said Friday that he’s focused on his performance on the track even though his contract ends after this season.

“For me, I’ve just been racing, driving and performing, doing all the things I can do to exceed in all categories, whether it’s teammate things, things on the track … communication with (crew chief) Billy Scott,” Busch said after winning the pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“I don’t know many drivers that have a primary sponsor with them. Monster Energy has been very loyal to me. It’s just a matter of when the time is to start talking about a contract. Last year, it went long just because I felt I deserved more. The landscape is changing in NASCAR on primary sponsorship values, teams with the purse and the guarantee that they get off the historical performance. There are a lot of things that move, so we’ll see how it all comes together.”

MORE: Stewart-Haas Racing makes pit crew changes

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. laments sponsor leaving after this year

Last year, Stewart-Haas Racing declined the option on Busch’s contact when there were questions about if Monster Energy would return as a primary sponsor. After that was settled, Busch signed a one-year contract with the team. The deal was announced Dec. 12.

This is Busch’s fifth season with Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s won five races, including the 2017 Daytona 500 with the team. He has made the playoffs each year with SHR.

Busch’s pole Friday was his third of the year. He has yet to win a race this season but has 10 top-10 finishes.

“When you go to a track that you have good vibes about and with the team doing well, it gives you that feeling like you’re a step ahead and you just have to execute with confidence and not get too far off expecting good things to happen,” Busch said. “Just go out there and do your job and that’s what we’re doing right now and it’s great to have the pole with the 41 car.”

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Starting lineup for New Hampshire Cup race

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Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. will start from the front row in Sunday’s Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Busch starts from the pole position for the third time this season and the first time at New Hampshire.

The top five is completed by Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney.

Alex Bowman in eighth and Daniel Suarez in ninth earned their best starting position at New Hampshire.

Kevin Harvick missed the final round of qualification and starts 14th.

Click here for the complete starting lineup.

Kurt Busch wins pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

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Kurt Busch posted a lap of 133.591 mph in the final round of qualification for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and will lead the field to green on Sunday. Busch was the only Stewart-Haas Racing driver to advance to the final round.

This is Busch’s first pole at New Hampshire, but he has started on the front row twice before – most recently in July, 2013. He finished 31st in that race and was 21st after starting second in July, 2007.

He beat Martin Truex Jr. (133.502 mph) by .019 seconds.

Kyle Busch (133.431), Denny Hamlin (133.361) and Ryan Blaney (132.720) round out the top five.

Alex Bowman (132.618) had the fastest Chevrolet in eighth. This is his best New Hampshire start in his seventh race.

Kevin Harvick (132.554) failed to advance to the final round and posted the 14th fastest time.

Kyle Larson (132.039) failed to back up his practice speed. He had the third fastest car in that session, but failed to make the final round and qualified 20th.

Last year, Kyle Busch won from the pole for the first time since Ryan Newman did so in the July 2011.This is Busch’s first pole at New Hampshire, but he has started on the front row twice before – most recently in 2013. He finished 31st in that race and was 21st after starting second in 2007.

Daniel Suarez  (132.581) in ninth earned his best New Hampshire start in three tries.

NASCAR America at 6 p.m. ET: Today’s action from New Hampshire

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and gets a jump on this weekend’s racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut.

On today’s show:

  • The New Hampshire race weekend is off and running. Carolyn and Parker have complete coverage following today’s practices and Monster Energy Series qualifying from Loudon.
  • They will get reaction from several drivers, including the one who will start from the pole in Sunday’s race.
  • Plus, New England native Parker Kligerman jumps in the NBC Sports iRacing simulator to show us the challenges of racing the Magic Mile.
  • Nate Ryan of NBCSports.com examines the dominance of NASCAR’s Big 3 of Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.
If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it 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 at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.