Kurt Busch running strong into playoffs and for many more years to come

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Short term or long term, Kurt Busch is in for the long haul. Whether it’s the upcoming NASCAR Cup playoffs or continuing to drive for several more years, he’s planning on going at things at full speed.

At the end of this season, Busch will be a free agent driver, as his contract at Stewart-Haas Racing has not been renewed. However, there are some mixed messages there as shortly after Busch made the revelation over a month ago, SHR tweeted that it wanted Busch to return.

So far, nothing has been confirmed, so Busch is approaching things as if he’ll be a free agent — unless things change.

The biggest thing for the 2004 NASCAR Cup champion right now is to start the playoffs on a strong note. The winner of this year’s Daytona 500 struggled for much of the first 26 races, but he, crew chief Tony Gibson and the rest of the No. 41 team seem to have hit upon something in the last several races.

Busch has shown vast improvement of late, particularly the last five races, where he’s finished — in order — eighth (Watkins Glen), 11th (Michigan), fifth (Bristol), third (Darlington) and fourth (Richmond).

“We started off with a huge bang, we won Daytona,” Busch said. “Since the engine change at Indianapolis, It’s like we have all the pieces now and know where we need to plug them in and where to go.”

Busch and his team have the potential — and momentum heading into the playoffs — to become perhaps the biggest and best sleeper candidate to go all the way to the final round of the championship.

And then there’s the 39-year-old’s long term viability to not only remain relevant and successful in NASCAR Cup — either with SHR or another team — for several more years. While other drivers are calling it quits, Busch says he still has much to do and achieve.

“As long as I’m with a competitive car to win races,” Busch said when asked how many more years he may still race. “To me, my heart’s in it, my body still feels young. I love the travel and have learned more about the history of our sport and places we go and race and the reasoning we race on certain tracks.

“… The contract thing, we’ll see how it all plays out. Being a free agent, it’s an interesting market now for drivers.”

Check out more about Busch’s thoughts about his tenure remaining in the following video.

 

Kurt Busch fastest in final Cup practice at Sonoma

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Kurt Busch posted the fastest single lap in the final practice for the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway with a speed of 94.061 mph.

He beat second-place Denny Hamlin (94.012 mph) by .040 seconds.

Martin Truex Jr. (93.718) had the third fastest lap, but the team will have some work to do before Saturday’s qualification. With nine minutes remaining on the clock, he ran into the back of Bubba Wallace in the esses and did significant damage to his nose. Wallace landed 34th on the chart with a speed of 91.641 mph.

Jamie McMurray (93.549) and Kevin Harvick (93.441) rounded out the top five.

Harvick (91.468) had the quickest 10-lap average – leading a sweep of the top three by Stewart Haas Racing. Busch was second quickest at 91.452 mph with Clint Bowyer third quick at 91.443 mph.

William Byron broke an axle seal in final practice, but the team was able to get him back on track with 24 minutes remaining in the session. His speed of 92.279 mph was 25th fastest.

Click here for the full report from final practice.

Friday Truck Series practice report from Gateway

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Second practice

Last week’s winner, Brett Moffitt topped the speed chart in Friday evening’s practice session for the Eaton 200 with a speed of 137.191 mph.

He beat second-place Myatt Snider (136.658 mph) by .128 seconds.

Johnny Sauter (136.608), Riley Herbst (136.355), and Ben Rhodes (136.219) round out the top five.

Herbst is making his Truck Series debut this week.

Also making his Truck debut is Zane Smith, who posted a lap of 136.120 mph to land sixth on the chart.

Christian Eckes (135.906) failed to back up his series-leading speed from the first practice session and was only ninth fastest, but he had the quickest 10-lap average of 135.039 mph.

Click here for complete results from practice 2.

First practice

Rain canceled the practice session at Gateway that was scheduled to run from 3:35 – 4:25 p.m. Eastern time.

When they finally got on track, Eckes posted the fastest single lap in the first practice session with a speed of 134.360 mph. He is making his Truck series debut this week.

Eckes’ speed was .009 seconds faster than Noah Gragon (134.324), who landed second on the speed chart.

Rhodes (134.120), Moffitt (133.817) and Matt Crafton (133.706) rounded out the top five.

Rhodes had the quickest 10-lap average of 133.466 mph.

With the first practice canceled at Gateway, NASCAR added a final practice session scheduled for Noon – 1 p.m.

Click here for complete results from practice one.

Denny Hamlin offers advice on how to deal with critics on social media

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Denny Hamlin, who has been fined by NASCAR for comments on Twitter, and was vocal toward critics after this year’s Daytona 500, says he’s found peace on how to deal with those on social media who don’t agree with him.

“I’ve been very good this year about not replying to mean people, and you all should do the same,’’ Hamlin said Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

“I’m making a (request) right now to every driver, every team owner, every NASCAR executive and every media member, stop replying to people who make nonsense comments. They have 16 followers. Don’t give them your 100,000. Do not give them your 100,000 as their stage. No one will ever see their comment, just brush it by, talk about the positives and I’m not a positive person.”

Asked how does one ignore such divisive comments, Hamlin said: “You just scroll by it. Forget it. That person doesn’t exit. They’re an admirer that has lost their way.’’

Hamlin has been better at doing so since the Daytona 500. He faced negative reaction on social media to the contact he and Bubba Wallace had at the end of the Daytona 500.

They engaged in a brief shouting match in the garage area after Hamlin learned that Wallace had taken a dig at him on national TV about a recent comment about drivers using Adderall.

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Clint Bowyer leads opening Cup practice at Sonoma

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Clint Bowyer was the fastest in the first of two Cup practices Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Bowyer, the winner of the most recent Cup race two weeks ago at Michigan, posted a lap of 93.590 mph. He was followed by Ryan Blaney (93.546 mph), Joey Logano (93.172), Jamie McMurray (93.049) and Daniel Suarez (92.746).

Sixth was Jimmie Johnson (92.661). He was followed by Michael McDowell (92.650), Martin Truex Jr. (92.614), AJ Allmendinger (92.596) and Ryan Newman (92.595).

Click here for full practice report

Final Cup practice will be from 5:40 – 6:55 p.m. ET. Qualifying will take place Saturday.

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