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Friday 5: While not a perfect 100, Kyle Busch comes closest

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He amazes and angers, riles and riffs, and leaves no one on the fence. One is either a Kyle Busch fan or not. Just as Busch rarely takes the middle ground, it is the same for those watching.

In a career in its 14th full-time Cup season — and likely another decade for the 32-year-old — Busch is headed for the NASCAR Hall of Fame having already amassed 43 Cup victories, 91 Xfinity wins and 50 Truck triumphs (the latest coming Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway).

There’s another way to judge what Busch has done. Look at his body of work since he returned from injuries in the 2015 Xfinity season opener at Daytona.

Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway marks Busch’s 100th Cup points event since coming back from the crash that broke his right leg and fractured his left foot. Busch has 14 wins in the previous 99 starts.

  • No driver has won more Cup races than Busch in that time.
  • Only one driver has more top-five and top-10 finishes in that span.
  • Busch is the only driver to make it to the championship race in Miami each of the last three years, winning the 2015 title.

He missed the first 11 Cup races of the 2015 season after that Daytona crash, got a waiver from NASCAR to be eligible for the playoffs and won in his fifth race back.

Even in his remarkable championship season — he won four of his first nine races back from the injury — the haters said he shouldn’t have been competing for the title because he missed nearly a third of the season.

No matter what Busch does, there will be detractors. Just as there are his defenders. While not as loud, they enjoy his triumphs on the track and treats off it from him signing for unsuspecting fans at campsites or in traffic after a race and saying what he feels — even to a competitor (as he did on Twitter to Brad Keselowski last year after Keselowski’s comments about Toyotas).

For those who boo Busch, you will likely have plenty of more chances. Just as those who cheer him will have many chances to do so.

Here is who has won the most times in the last 99 Cup races (dating back to the 2015 Coca-Cola 600):

14 — Kyle Busch

13 — Martin Truex Jr.

10 — Jimmie Johnson

9 — Joey Logano

8 — Kevin Harvick

Those five drivers have combined to win 54 of the last 99 Cup races.

Among Busch’s 14 wins are back-to-back victories at Indianapolis (2015-16), the Sonoma shocker in 2015 for his first win since returning from his injuries, the 2015 Homestead finale to claim the title and two of the last four races at Martinsville.

Top 5s in last 99 Cup points races:

47 – Kevin Harvick

43 – Kyle Busch

43 – Joey Logano

40 – Denny Hamlin

38 – Brad Keselowski

Top 10s in last 99 Cup points races:

69 – Kevin Harvick

64 – Kyle Busch

64 – Joey Logano

62 – Denny Hamlin

62 – Brad Keselowski

2. IS A STORM COMING?

Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is in the worst drought of his career. Consider:

He is on a 25-race winless streak, longest of his career.

He has eight consecutive finishes outside the top 10, longest of his career.

He has five consecutive finishes outside the top 20, longest of his career.

He comes to Las Vegas with four top-10 finishes in his last six starts at the 1.5-mile track. Can it undo the struggles he’s faced since last fall?

The drought began last fall at Talladega when he was involved in a 16-car crash late in the event. His race ended when the spotter told team members during a red flag that NASCAR was rescinding it, and they could work on the car. That wasn’t the case, and NASCAR parked the team for the infraction.

From there, it was on to Kansas.

Johnson spun twice at Kansas in the final 80 laps before rallying to finish 11th. He spun in morning qualifying before the Martinsville race and started at the rear for unapproved adjustments. He fought an ill-handing car to place 12th at a track he once dominated.

He then was 27th at Texas, finishing three laps behind the winner in a race Johnson had won four of the previous five years. A right-front tire went down and sent Johnson into the wall at Phoenix the following weekend, ending his title hopes with a 39th-place finish. At Miami, Johnson closed the season with an invisible 27th-place finish on the day the championship was determined.

3. Pit crew pirouettes

Take the time to check out the analysis by NBC’s Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton on how Cup teams are using different methods on pit stops

Atlanta was a good testing ground for teams with so many four-tire stops required. Watch how teams do it this week at Las Vegas. In the race to shave time off stops, if a team sees someone else completing their stops significantly quicker, they’ll start doing the same thing.

Eventually, teams will settle on their best plan for the season, but there’s still experimenting and refinement taking place.

4. Kyle Larson one to watch

Kyle Larson finished no worse than second during the West Coast swing last year, winning at Auto Club Speedway. While it’s easy to discount the results of the test Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at Las Vegas because not every team participated, Larson posted the fastest lap each day.

Could Larson be the one to give Chevrolet its first win on a non-restrictor-plate track with the new Camaro this weekend?

5. The Final Word: Kevin Harvick

From the Stewart-Haas Racing’s weekly release for the No. 4 team with Kevin Harvick talking about having all four SHR cars run well at Atlanta:

”The thing I took away from it was the No. 10 car and Aric Almirola were more competitive for us and that is important for us to have that extra set of notes that we really hadn’t used the last several years because that car hasn’t performed well enough. It hasn’t been competitive enough to really bring anything to the table. To see that No. 10 car running well is great for myself, Kurt (Busch) and Clint (Bowyer) and, really, everybody at SHR.”

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Kyle Larson scores second Ohio Sprint Speedweek win in three nights

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Kyle Larson scored his second win in the opening three nights of the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions Ohio Sprint Speedweek. Larson won at Wayne County Speedway on Monday. Andrew Palker was second.

The victory is Larson’s eighth in the All Star Circuit of Champions.

Xfinity driver Christopher Bell was fifth Monday. Kasey Kahne placed 17th. Tony Stewart finished 24th in the 26-car field.

Larson won at Eldora Speedway on Saturday night.

Ohio Speedweek continues Tuesday at Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio.

 

NASCAR America: Sport needs more races like Iowa Speedway

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With the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series taking Father’s Day weekend off, the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series took center stage at Iowa Speedway and put on a pair of shows that had drivers and NASCAR America analysts asking for more.

Late-race battles for the lead with Noah Gragson‘s unsuccessful last-lap pass on Brett Moffitt and Christopher Bell’s near miss at closing the distance on Justin Allgaier is something that has been missing from the Cup series for much of the season, and the action had a lot to do with the configuration of the speedway.

“That’s why this racetrack has become so popular,” Parker Kligerman said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “Because it’s allowing this multi-groove racing like we’ve seen. And it’s got everyone discussing – kind of like Brad Keselowski was saying – why don’t we bring the Cup cars there? It would be awesome.”

Iowa Speedway was built with inspiration from Richmond Raceway and both tracks have characteristics of a short track and a speedway. It is something that Jeff Burton believes the sports needs to embrace.

“There is no doubt that this style of racetrack is what we need more of,” Burton said. “The sport needs more of it. And all this effort we’ve been talking about with the All-Star package. All that is an effort to try and create races like we saw on Saturday and on Sunday.”

For more, watch the video above.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Iowa recap, Scan All featuring Parker Kligerman

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and recaps the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races at Iowa Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut. Jeff Burton joins them from Burton’s Garage.

 On today’s show:

  • The Xfinity & Camping World Truck Series took the spotlight this weekend at Iowa Speedway. We’ll have highlights from both races and also dive into why some of the sport’s biggest names are pushing for Iowa to be on the Cup Series schedule.
  • Dale Jarrett and his father, Ned Jarrett, are champion drivers and NASCAR Hall of Famers. But one member of the family – Dale’s son, Zach Jarrett – didn’t follow in their footsteps. As we come off Father’s Day, we’ll introduce you to Zach and his passion for another great sport.
  • Scan All is usually a Tuesday tradition, but today, we’re changing it up a bit. Listen in as our colleague, Parker Kligerman, hits the track in Scan All Parker!
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 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Kyle Larson wants to compete in World of Outlaws full-time ‘before I’m 40’

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Late last year Kyle Larson said his main career goal was to compete full-time in the World of Outlaws and that “NASCAR’s just the step to get there.”

Now the 25-year-old Cup driver has told the Internet that he hopes to compete full-time in World of Outlaws “Before I’m 40.”

In a lengthy Q&A session, Larson answered a fan’s question about the topic.

It was on the official World of Outlaws podcast in December where Larson expressed his desire to eventually transition to World of Outlaws.

“NASCAR is where I wanted to make it, but I would have been perfectly fine if I didn’t make it either,” Larson said. “I’d probably be on the Outlaw (sprint car) tour probably right now, racing and loving life … I would say racing on the World of Outlaws tour full-time is my main goal.”

A lot can change between now and 2033 – which would put Larson at 18 full-time Cup seasons after 2032 – so better stock up on those Larson race win diecasts while you can over the next 15 or so years.

Here’s other tidbits from Larson’s Q&A session:

Larson declared his stance on last year’s peaceful protests by NFL players regarding police brutality and unequal treatment of African-Americans that took place during the National Anthem.

Last September, President Donald Trump praised NASCAR in general and its “supporters and fans,” saying “They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag!”

That was after team owner Richard Childress and Richard Petty said they would fire any employees who kneeled during the anthem in protest.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. later tweeted in support of the protests and Jimmie Johnson also said he supported peaceful protests.

Larson’s response was noted by other NASCAR drivers.

If you’ve noticed Larson isn’t running against the wall as much this season, there’s a reason.

Larson believes the Cup Series needs more short tracks to garner more excitement and that the cars are not the problem.

Larson also expressed a desire for there to be mid-week races on the schedule.

Larson is not planning on competing in the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway, which he won in 2016.

Larson thinks a Truck race at Knoxville Raceway, the dirt track that hosts the Knoxville Nationals, would be worthwhile.

Larson also announced where he’ll be competing in some sprint races later this year.