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NASCAR fits Indy 500 veteran James Davison ‘like a glove’

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All roads lead back to Days of Thunder.

Whether you’re Kyle and Kurt Busch in Las Vegas, Nevada, or Dale Earnhardt Jr. in North Carolina, the 1990 Tom Cruise film had an immeasurable impact on many of today’s NASCAR drivers.

Not even James Davison, growing up in Melbourne, Australia, could escape its reach.

The movie which proclaimed that “rubbin, son, is racin’,” was the first exposure to NASCAR for the 30-year-old driver.

James Davison during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Mid-Ohio Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 12, 2017 (Getty Images).

“It was obviously incredible inspiring,” Davison told NBC Sports. “When you think this Cole Trickle character was,an IndyCar driver, came from the Indy ranks over to NASCAR, it’s obviously exactly what I’m doing. … It would be pretty amazing to achieve winning in NASCAR when as a kid it was just a movie. Like a dream that’s never going to happen really in my life. I’d never been to America before and NASCAR’s so huge and the drivers are so famous and all that stuff. Now here I find myself racing NASCAR.”

Davison, who has made three starts in the Indianapolis 500 since 2014, will pilot Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota this weekend when the Xfinity Series travels to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

It will be his third NASCAR start in two years after making his debut last season at Road America in the No. 90 owned by Mario Gosselin.

Unlike Cole Trickle, who got to test the best fictional equipment NASCAR had to offer before getting to race, Davison parachuted into Road America and had a crash course in stock cars with the underfunded team before making his debut.

“I was told straight up we were going to qualify somewhere between 10th and 20th, that’s what the car had,” Davison said. “We were going to be 50 horsepower down. We were going to be lacking compared to all the big, top teams. … These small teams’ budgets are like 20 percent of the big teams. I then had to swallow my pride and do the best I could with what I had.”

On a track he’s won at in Star Mazda and the Pirelli World Challenge, Davison qualified 18th and finished 19th. Three months later, during NASCAR’s race weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he had initial talks with JGR about a potential ride this season.

Now, after finishing fourth at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago, Davison says “NASCAR very much fits me like a glove.”

Davison is a veteran of five IndyCar starts since 2013. One of those was the high-profile substitution of the injured Sebastien Bourdais in last May’s Indy 500.

Though he crashed out of the race on Lap 183, Davison was able to lead two laps. The personal achievement was not lost on Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles, who sent Davison a note about it the next month.

“It hasn’t really sunk in because you’re so caught up in the moment,” Davison said. “To think there’s 10s of millions of people watching and you’re one of 33 in the race and then you’re fortunate enough to find yourself leading it, regardless of how hard you work or how deserving you are and all that stuff, you are privileged.”

But without a major sponsor to back his open-wheel racing aspirations, Davison has “resigned” himself to only driving in the Indy 500 when it comes to IndyCar. Davison now sees stock car racing as the best chance for him to establish himself.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” Davison says. “It’s where I want to be.”

Davison got his first taste of what NASCAR could provide him not at Road America last year, but in 2012, in a late-model race in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

“That was for sure a culture shock,” Davison said. “I’ve been living in America for 12-and-half years and that was something else. The terminology they use and their accent is very hard to understand on the radio, but a great experience.”

The race came when Davison was living in Charlotte for two months with Nelson Piquet Jr. and “first looking at NASCAR,” but when he had “no profile or sponsorship support” behind him.

“I had no career breaks forthcoming and I literally would drive anything,” Davison said.

Davison would eventually meet the right people. After making two IndyCar starts in 2013, he was the last entry into the 2014 Indy 500, racing for KV Racing Technology.

Now everything that resulted from that race has led to Davison getting his second NASCAR start of the year with the best team in the Xfinity Series. The Australian has spent just over 10 days with JGR over the last month preparing for the races at Mid-Ohio and Road America.

In that time, he’s bonded with his team by exchanging Days of Thunder quotes and getting laughs with his best impression of a southern accent. He’s also had multiple visits to a simulator for a virtual visit to Road America.

“It’s just doing what I need to do to make sure all the prep is done as well as possible and I fit in the car and building some chemistry up with the team,” Davison said.

Confident in his abilities, Davison said he has avoided seeking much advice from other drivers.

“I haven’t leaned on anyone,” Davison said. “I’m very much just (studying) myself, watching onboard videos and chatting with my engineer. I’ve become friendly with some of the other guys, like Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier. Had a good chat with (Sam) Hornish (Jr.). It’s very much every man for them self. … I’ve driven in NASCAR at Road America last year, so I knew what to expect for the most part.”

If he were to visit victory lane on Sunday, there’s little doubt it would be the biggest career achievement for the man who first experienced the thrills of NASCAR through Cole Trickle.

Adding to the occasion: Davison’s No. 20 Toyota will have Trickle’s Mello Yello paint scheme from the climactic Daytona race in Days of Thunder.

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NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

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Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

 

Xfinity Series playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Chase Briscoe opened the Xfinity Series playoffs by earning his second consecutive win.

His victory Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gives him 57 playoff points and an automatic spot in the Round of 8.

Harrison Burton holds the final transfer spot. He has a two-point advantage over Ross Chastain.

Behind Chastain below the cutline are Michael Annett (-10 points), Riley Herbst (-14) and Brandon Brown (-20).

Below is the full Xfinity Series playoff standings going into Saturday’s race at Talladega (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance. Drivers in yellow are in the remaining playoff spots.

Xfinity Series playoff standings

Cup playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Kurt Busch flipped the script on the Cup playoff standings with his win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings, but is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.

Replacing Busch in the bottom spot of the playoff standings is Austin Dillon. He is 32 points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final cutoff spot.

Behind Bowman is Kyle Busch (-9 points), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Dillon.

“Obviously, the 1 car (Kurt Busch) was not a car that we needed to win a race,” Clint Bowyer said after Sunday’s race. “It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. (Kurt Busch) winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out.”

Here is the full playoff standings entering Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance to the Round of 8. Drivers in yellow hold the remaining available playoff spots.

Cup playoff standings

 

 

Kurt Busch win capped off big racing weekend for family

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After hopping from the door of his No. 1 Chevrolet Sunday night, Kurt Busch let out a primal scream.

The source of his emotion?

“20 years of agony and defeat” at the his home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, had been replaced by “triumph.”

After the fortunate timing of a caution and pit strategy Sunday night, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver led the final 26 laps and visited LVMS’ Victory Lane for the first time, a day after his brother Kyle Busch experienced a special win.

There was plenty more for the 42-year-old driver to celebrate. He’d entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings. But with his first win in 46 races, Busch became the first driver to plant in his flag in the Round of 8.

But the Las Vegas native’s focus was on the 1.5-mile track, which he’d seen evolve from a “desert gravel pit” into the site of two NASCAR race weekends each year.

“This feeling of growing up here and watching the track get built … when Speedway Motorsports came in and bought it, I’m like, ‘Man, there’s going to be a Cup race there, I hope I can make my way up through Legend cars (and race there). And just all the memories, all the memories of everybody, my mom and dad, every Saturday night, all the commitment they gave me and my little brother (Kyle Busch) to make it in racing.

“For me it was a hobby. I never knew I’d get this far. A guy named Craig Keough here locally in Las Vegas, the owner of the Star Nurseries here in Las Vegas, took a chance on me and let me run his late model a few times and we won a couple races and started working our way up.”

Busch made his first NASCAR start on the Las Vegas oval in 2001 driving for Roush Fenway Racing. Between then and Sunday, he won 31 Cup races, the 2004 championship and the 2017 Daytona 500.

But his home track eluded him until his 21st year competing on the sport’s top circuit.

Busch said Sunday’s win is “right there underneath” his Daytona win and the championship.

“Any time you win, it’s special,” Busch said. “But to do it in front of my hometown crowd and nobody was there (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and all the people that I see every time I come to Vegas and I get to say thank you and I can’t right now, that’s the hardest part. So this one is easily ramping up to being my third most favorite win ever.

“Right now it’s my favorite because it’s here, it’s Vegas, and I have so many people to thank. They know they helped me, and they know who they are, and it just all started with mom and dad taking me to the racetrack right here at the Bullring in Las Vegas.”

The Busch family got to celebrate more than one win over the weekend.

The night before Kurt’s Vegas breakthrough, a third generation racer got his first taste of victory.

Kyle and Samantha Busch’s son, Brexton, won his first karting race and celebrated with his parents in Victory Lane.

“It’s so much fun to watch him and just to see his excitement and how much he enjoys going to the race track and being with is friends,” Kyle Busch said after his sixth-place finish Sunday. “It’s three generations worth, I guess. My dad (Tom) did it, myself and Kurt and now him. It’s pretty fun to just be out there. My dad is kind of the truck driver, the team manager, the crew chief, the lead mechanic and all that stuff on his kart.

“He’s got a big task at hand in order to get it all ready to go and get us to the race track every week. It’s been fun to see (Brexton) and to see how excited he was when he was able to win and beat the other competition that was out there and to see his joy. I told him, ‘Whatever that feeling is, whatever you’re feeling, however that sits in you, that’s feasible, that’s possible a lot more often than just one time. So don’t rest on just getting one, we gotta go out there and fight for more.'”

Kurt Busch wasn’t there for his nephew’s win, but he got all the details from his sister-in-law as they flew to Las Vegas.

“It definitely felt like a generational shift was happening,” he said. “But maybe not. Maybe not. This old guy has still got it going on.”