Drivers make their Super Bowl picks

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The Super Bowl is almost here and nearly everyone is making a prediction on Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles (6 p.m. ET on NBC with pre-game show beginning at 1 pm ET on NBC).

NASCAR drivers are no different and many have made their picks. See who they’re taking and the challenge a driver made to one team’s fans.

Chase Elliott 

“I will pull for the Patriots. I can’t say that I’m a diehard of either one of them (Elliott is an Atlanta Falcons fan), but I do think that just the Brady-Belichick era is one that we often take for granted how good that whole situation is up there, that we’re watching probably the greatest quarterback ever to play the game. I don’t think there’s a whole lot arguing that in my opinion. The guy is really good and the coaching staff he has around him has put good people in place. I would love to see their legacy continue because they’re worthy of it.

“Definitely it sucks what happened last year (New England rallying to beat Atlanta in the Super Bowl). I think that what (the Patriots) have done, I have a lot of respect how they do their jobs, how they deal with the media and how they’re leaders. I think they’re worthy of the success they have.’’

David Ragan

“If it were for money I would have to pick the Patriots just because they’re that good. I don’t like the Patriots because they win too much and I’m jealous of all the New England sports fans because I’m an Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons fan from Georgia and we don’t have many championships. I hope it’s a 0-0 tie and no one wins.’’

Brad Keselowski

“I’ve got the Eagles. They’ve got a better defense. Defense wins Super Bowls.’’

Elliott Sadler

“The Pats baby. Go Pats go. I’m a huge Patriots fan. My Super Bowl pick will be Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.’’

Ty Dillon

“Logically the Patriots. I don’t really care about either team. Definitely can’t stand the Eagles. I’m a Panthers fan through and through, born in North Carolina. It’s the only (NFL) team I care about honestly, but I’m a big sports fan. Patriots are going to win. They’re going to beat them pretty bad. I don’t really see Nick Foles coming back with another performance like he did. Unfortunately Eagles fans, I know that you’re going to hate me for this but I don’t really care for you either. I was at the Monday Night Football game that the Panthers played in Philadelphia and every single one of you fans treated me like trash so I have no love for your fan base … and I hope you lose the Super Bowl.’’

Martin Truex Jr.

“Definitely Eagles are going to win it. I said 28-17, but I don’t know. It might be higher score than that. I’m thinking 34-24.’’

Matt DiBenedetto

“My heart wants the Eagles to win just because I empathize with Nick Foles and I like the route he’s had to go and had kind of a tough journey the last few years. He had a lot of success and almost got forgotten about for a period of a few years. I empathize with that. I’ve had to go a crazy, crazy hard journey to get where I’m at in my career. So my heart lies with hoping that the Eagles win because it would be cool and it would be different. Now my brain tells me there’s no way you can bet against Tom Brady and the Patriots. That whole team has so much experience. Bill Belichick and those folks are so used to winning the Super Bowl. They’re like the Jimmie Johnsons of the NFL.’’

Denny Hamlin

“I know what the spread is but I think that the spread should be 3.5. I think the Eagles will keep it close for a very long time. I don’t know that they’ll be in the lead. I don’t know that the Patriots are going to make a last-second comeback. I think the Eagles offense is underrated. I think Nick Foles is underrated. I think their team is championship caliber. He’s good enough to run that team to be a close competitor of the Patriots even though they fall short.’’

AJ Allmendinger

“Fly Eagles Fly, 27-24 Eagles. The story of the underdog, Nick Foles, benched, backup, reborn. That’s what I love.’’

Trevor Bayne

“If I’ve got to pick one, you go with the odds, you got to go with the Patriots, right?’’

Kasey Kahne

“My pick is the Patriots, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick. They’re just so tough this time of the year. I think the Eagles will have a real good shot.’’

Paul Menard

“I’ve got to go with the Eagles. From the first time I watched this year, probably week two or three, I was impressed with their defense. Defense is what wins championships and they have a good one.’’

Clint Bowyer

“I’m pissed off at the Patriots. I’m over the Patriots. Even Jimmie Johnson gave us a breather. Give us some time to get over it and then we might root for you again. But the dude (Tom Brady) is so good. I’m not excited about the Super Bowl because he’ll win.’’

Kyle Busch

“I’ve got to go with the Eagles. They’re putting up points, man. I’m a Patriots fan, second to my No. 1 (Denver) Broncos. But if I had to choose one, I think the Eagles are pretty tough right now.’’

Cole Custer

I’m going to go with the Eagles. I don’t really have a reason. I like their helmets, I think that’s kind of cool with the wings on them.”

Austin Dillon

“Tom Brady is pretty tough to beat. The guy just keeps coming back and getting more. He’s like Jimmie Johnson. I’m racing with one of those guys that just has this desire to compete every year and to win a championship. What Tom Brady is doing is special. Tom Brady wins 21-14 over the Eagles. The Eagles have probably the best team but the Patriots have the best coach in the history of football and probably the best player in Tom Brady. Clutch moments, there’s no one who has seen more of them than Brady. It’s hard to beat him. I just think it’s Brady time again. This time of year.’’

Daniel Suarez

“I wish I could say (Carolina) Panthers, but I guess it’s going to be Patriots.”

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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.

Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr. benefitting from surviving Daytona

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It took until July, but it seems Erik Jones has finally found his footing at Joe Gibbs Racing.

And the 22-year-old driver is somewhat keeping pace with one of the members of the “Big Three.”

Thanks to them surviving the carnage at Daytona, Jones – who won the race – and Martin Truex Jr. are the only Cup drives enjoying active streaks of top-10 finishes.

With Truex’s win and Jones’ seventh-place finish on Saturday at Kentucky Speedway, they each have four consecutive top 10s.

The streaks began with the June 24 race at Sonoma, which Truex also won.

Jones’ Kentucky finish came after he radioed his team multiple times during the race about his concerns that his engine might blow up.

Jones needs two more top 10s to match his streak of six last season during his rookie campaign at Furniture Row Racing. That streak started at the July race at Pocono and ended with the regular-season finale at Richmond.

Here’s a look at the best top 10 streaks this season among drivers with nine or more top 10s (Jones and Ryan Blaney have nine).

Kyle Busch (15 top 10s) – Steaks of eight and six consecutive top 10s; current streak: one top 10

Kevin Harvick (15 top 10s) – Streaks of three, seven and four top 10s; current streak: one top 10

Joey Logano (14 top 10s)  – Streaks of three, six and two top 10s; Currents streak: one top 10

Martin Truex Jr. (13 top 10s) – Steaks of five and four (twice) top 10s; Current streak: four top 10s

Kyle Larson (11 tops 10s) – Streaks of four and two (twice) top 10s; Current streak: one top 10

Brad Keselowski (11 top 10s) – Steaks of three and two (twice) top 10s; Current streak: one top 10

Clint Bowyer (10 top 10s) – Streaks of four and three top 10s; Current streak: none

Kurt Busch (10 top 10s) – Streaks of four and two top 10s; Current streak: one top 10

Denny Hamlin (10 top 10s) – Streaks of three and two (three times) top 10; Current streak: none

Erik Jones (nine top 10s) – Streaks of four and three tops 10s; Current streak: four top 10s

Ryan Blaney (nine top 10s) – Streaks of three and two tops 10s; Current streak: one top 10.

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Kentucky recap, Fantasy standings

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and recaps the storylines from the weekend’s racing at Kentucky Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Steve Letarte from Stamford, Connecticut. Jeff Burton joins them from Burton’s Garage.

On today’s show:

  • We take a look back at Martin Truex Jr.’s dominant performance on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway. Is Truex better now than in his 2017 championship season? Our experts weigh in.
  • We’ll also hear from Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, who both expressed frustration following top-five performances on Saturday. We’ll examine the ongoing competition between NASCAR’s Big Three with just seven races remaining until the playoffs.
  • Speaking of the playoffs, we’ll check in on the Bubble Boys. Paul Menard had a huge night points-wise, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. drew even closer to Alex Bowman, who currently holds the final playoff spot.
  • We’ll take a look at Christopher Bell’s winning performance in Friday’s Xfinity Series race. Plus, we’ll find out who the big winners were among the NBC broadcasters in NASCAR Fantasy.
If 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 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Martin Truex Jr: ‘I still pinch myself’ three years into dominance with Furniture Row

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As Martin Truex Jr. stood in the back of a truck riding around Kentucky Speedway before last Saturday’s Cup race, a fan called out to the 2017 champion.

“Let somebody else win!” he yelled.

After a beat, Truex responded with a chuckle, “No!”

Truex stayed true to his word. A few hours later, the Furniture Row Racing driver took the checkered flag to claim his fourth win of the season.

His triumph over Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski took his career win total to 19 – tying him on the all-time wins list with Joey Logano, 2019 Hall of Fame inductee Davey Allison, Greg Biffle, Hall of Famer Buddy Baker and Fonty Flock.

The victory is the 17th for the No. 78 team since 2015. Truex leads all drivers in wins since 2016 with 16.

For a driver who only won twice in his first nine full-time seasons, Truex said “I still pinch myself” over his dominance of the sport.

He doesn’t lead the series in wins after 19 races. That goes to Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, who are tied at five wins each.

This marks the first time since 1974 that three drivers have won four or more races at this point in a season.

“I think all three of us have great teams,” Truex said after his win. “Those two guys are great drivers. Obviously, I have a lot of respect for them. It’s pretty amazing to be a part of this group, honestly. I think when I was a kid and you (saw) Dale (Earnhardt) and Rusty (Wallace) and guys like that, Terry Labonte and you had guys that just dominated and won everything, and watching them, it was like, ‘Man, that’s so cool, they’re heroes and they’re such a big deal,’ and to think that I’m one of those guys this year and I guess last year, too, is just ‑‑ it’s amazing to me.”

Even after he won his first Cup title last November, it didn’t occur to him until almost a month later that he will one day be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame alongside Earnhardt, Wallace and Labonte.

Truex joined Furniture Row Racing in 2014 after losing his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing, a casualty of the race manipulation scandal involving MWR in the 2013 regular season finale at Richmond Raceway.

That year, Truex went winless, led one lap and finished 24th in the standings.

The following season Truex was paired with rookie crew chief Cole Pearn. The duo won one race, earned eight top fives and made the Championship 4.

In their 126 races together, the duo has put together a record comparable to other great driver-crew chief parings in Cup history.

“Really the last three years have been just having the time of my life and just lucky to have great people around us, a great car owner (Barney Visser),” Truex said. “Just feel really lucky.  I’ve been on the other side of it before where teams were struggling and struggled to get in position to win races, and having a lot of things kind of going against you and kind of fighting that uphill battle.

“So it’s amazing to be on this side of it. I can’t tell you how proud I am of all the guys on our team and what they’ve done, and I honestly just enjoy every single one of these wins like it’s my first because you never know when they’re going to come to an end.  You never know when you’re going to have your last one. You never know what’s going to happen next. Just trying to ride the wave of momentum and enjoy it all, and my team is just so badass, I can’t even explain it.”

Truex, 38, “always felt” he “could get the job done” during the early years of his Cup career, spent with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and then MWR.

“I had enough glimpses of really good days or glimpses of greatness that I think it just kept me alive, kept me hungry enough to keep fighting for it,” said Truex, who won two Xfinity championships before moving to Cup. “I think through the years there was just ‑‑ for me personally, and I don’t know what everybody else thought, I know I had some people that probably didn’t think I was that good.

“That’s part of this deal.  You’re only as good as your last race. And if you’re not getting results now, people question your ability.  … For me personally, I always (felt) like I could be a good driver, be a great driver.  I never knew I’d get to where I was last year, and I never really knew I could go on a championship run and win (16) races in three years … That’s been amazing.”