NASCAR America: What do NASCAR drivers and Hollywood have in common?

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Each time NASCAR returns to Southern California and races at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, there is a distinct Hollywood connection.

Actors and entertainers come out to the race – some in official capacities, others just as regular fans – while NASCAR drivers often head to Tinseltown in their off-time to hang out and rub elbows with some of the biggest celebrities.

On Thursday’s NASCAR America, host Leigh Diffey asked analysts Parker Kligerman and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett about the sport’s connection with Hollywood, as well as what drivers might be Hollywood-like in their own ways.

Here are the topics they discussed and excerpts of their answers:

Who would be NASCAR’s version of Hollywood’s leading men?

Jarrett: “This is easy in my opinion. It has to be Kevin Harvick. When you look at the leading man and who’s on top and everybody wants to be like in that role, it’s Kevin Harvick. He’s doing his very best to stay on top. He’s the man that’s there right now.”

Kligerman: “I’m going with Kyle Busch as the leading man. He’s right behind Kevin Harvick, is the leading man at Joe Gibbs Racing and the leading man at Toyota, and I just believe he’s had the performances to be that leading man and has the personality to command the screen, if you’d give him a chance.”

Who’s the next big thing in NASCAR?

Jarrett: “The man that just got slapped with a 25-point penalty, Chase Elliott. Going back the last two years, we’ve been talking about when will get that first win? When will it happen. But I foresee that coming in the very near future.”

Kligerman: “Erik Jones in that 20 car. We saw some sparks of brilliance from him last season in the 77 car. I remember when he raced Kyle Busch and beat him in the Snowball Derby and he beat Kyle Busch. Kyle said, ‘That guy is the next me,’ and a lot of people think that (Jones) will be the next Kyle Busch.’”

Who’s the best character actor in NASCAR?

Jarrett: “There’s a lot of characters out there, for sure. I’m going to go with Ryan Blaney. He has everything you’d look for in an actor, the personality, the good looks, all of that. But along with it, he’s very, very talented. You have to have all of that to fit this role, I believe, and Ryan Blaney is doing his part single-handedly.”

Kligerman: “Kyle Petty. No, I’m just kidding. I’m going to go with Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. He has great personality, we saw the Daytona 500 weekend and some of his antics off the track. I love following him on social media, he’s a very funny guy. I just think he’s full of enthusiasm for the sport, he enjoys what he’s doing, he enjoys his chance and is relishing it, and I believe the performances will match his personality.”

Who isn’t really standing out right now?

Jarrett: “Our reigning champion, Martin Truex Jr.? He’s exactly that. Nothing flashy at this point but being very solid. Going from winning a championship last year and then trying to go out the next year and try to make things happen … I just think they’re trying to get their legs under them after having that great championship offseason and trying to get back to that championship level that they’re accustomed to.”

Kligerman: “Aric Almirola. I just believe this guy has been given a new lease on life and getting a chance at a top-caliber organization like Stewart-Haas. We’re seeing a little hint of that performance, but it’s going to take a little more to eclipse that teammate of his, Kevin Harvick, who obviously has been the leading man.”

Who’s the villain this year?

Jarrett: “Kyle Busch has been fantastic in his interviews the last couple of weeks after finishing second to Kevin Harvick. But I can assure you this man is ready to explode if he finishes second, especially to Kevin Harvick, this weekend.”

Kligerman: “I’m going to go with the most hated man on NASCAR Reddit, and that’s Denny Hamlin. For whatever reason, he finds a way to rile up the fan base on the Internet, whether it’s what he does in the car, what he tweets or what he says on TV, he plays that villain role nicely at times and has the performance to back it up.”

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Race results, Truck Series point standings after Eldora

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In a deal that came together at the last minute, Chase Briscoe battled ThorSport teammate Grant Enfinger during a two-lap shootout at Eldora Speedway and won the Edlora Dirt Derby for his second career win.

Along with Kyle Busch (Las Vegas Motor Speedway) and John Hunter Nemechek (Martinsville Speedway), he becomes the third driver this season to win who is not competing for Truck points.

Enfinger finished second as the two banged together crossing under the checkers.

Last year’s second-place finisher in this race, Stewart Friesen finished third while last year’s winner Matt Crafton came home fourth.

Brett Moffitt rounded out the top five.

Click here for complete results.

Despite finishing 16th, Johnny Sauter maintained the points lead by 32 over Noah Gragson.

Gragson finished sixth at Eldora.

Moffitt, Enfinger and Friesen round out the top five.

Click here for the complete points report.

Chase Briscoe wins Truck Series race at Eldora

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Chase Briscoe and ThorSport teammate Grant Enfinger banged doors as they crossed the finish line of the Eldora Dirt Derby at Eldora Speedway with Briscoe winning by a bumper. It was Briscoe’s second career Truck win. His first victory came in the season finale last year at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He has not raced in the Camping World Truck Series since, so this gives him consecutive victories.

Briscoe lobbied Ford for the ride, but the deal came together at the last minute, Briscoe said from victory lane.

The race had an extended green flag segment during the final stage, during which USAC National Midget racer Logan Seavey pulled away from the field. Two multi-car accidents in the closing laps involving Todd Gilliland, Myatt Snider, Dalton Sargeant and several others allowed Briscoe to climb through the field and set up the green-white-checkered finish.

Stewart Friesen finished third with Matt Crafton and Brett Moffitt rounding out the top five.

Briscoe is the sixth different winner in six editions of this race. Last year’s winner Crafton was the only previous winner in the field.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Ben Rhodes

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

HEAT RACE 1 WINNER: Ben Rhodes  (Complete Results)

HEAT RACE 2 WINNER: Todd Gilliland (Complete Results)

HEAT RACE 3 WINNER: Chase Briscoe (Complete Results)

HEAT RACE 4 WINNER: Matt Crafton (Complete Results)

HEAT RACE 5 WINNER: Stewart Friesen (Complete Results)

LAST CHANCE QUALIFIER WINNER: John Hunter Nemechek (Complete Results)

HOW CHASE BRISCOE WON: Briscoe took the lead from Seavey on the next-to-last restart before holding off Enfinger in a two-lap shootout.

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Simply making the A Main was an accomplishment for Norm Benning, who finished fourth in his heat race. He was involved in a late-race accident and finished last (32nd) … Stewart Friesen won his heat race and finished third after coming home one position short to Crafton last year. … Noah Gragson was forced to race his way into the Eldora Dirt Derby through the Last Chace Qualifier and climbed to sixth. … In his fourth career Truck race, Nick Hoffman scored his first top 10 with a 10th.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Attempting to make his first Truck race, RJ Otto walled his truck in the Last Chance Qualifier and spun with two laps remaining. …  Rhodes slapped the wall early in stage two and was forced to pit, losing two laps in the process. Rhodes spun again with 53 laps remaining. … Points leader Johnny Sauter qualified 34th, failed to race his way directly into the A Main via his heat race and spun early. He finished 16th. … Ryan Newman was collected in an accident involving Matt Crafton and Tyler Dippel. He lost four laps making repairs and finished 30th.

NOTABLE: Seavey dominated the final stage of the Eldora Dirt Derby, but a poor lane selection on the next-to-last restart cost him the lead. Restarting fourth on the final run, he was shuffled further back through the field to finish eighth, but came within four laps of winning in his Truck debut. Seavey was coming off a win at Sweet Springs (Missouri) Motor Complex, which gave him the overall victory in the USAC Mid-Atlantic Midget Week points standings.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “I wasn’t going to wear him out; I wasn’t just gonna wreck him for the win. We rubbed. I definitely let it float all the way to the wall and I’m sorry about that; it’s not how I race. But this means so much to win at Eldora. … This is our Daytona for dirt guys.” Chase Briscoe on FoxSports1.

WHAT’S NEXT: Gander Outdoors 150 at Pocono Raceway at 1 p.m. ET on July 28 on FS1.

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch would like to see more Xfinity, Truck short track races

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With the Camping World Truck Series racing their high-profile dirt race at Eldora Speedway, it opened up the question about whether the Cup or Xfinity series should also make a return to dirt.

That was a question for this week’s Bump & Run feature, and Kyle Busch also had an opportunity to weigh in Wednesday night on NASCAR America.

“I’m cool with it. I think it would be fun to see, one,” Busch said. “Two, I think it’s great that the trucks have that; let’s leave it special for the trucks.

“(The trucks) haul around dirt all the time. My Toyota Camry … ain’t gonna go around out there and haul around dirt.”

So, if Eldora doesn’t make Busch’s cut for a new venue on the Cup schedule, what would?

“I don’t know how you bring back the other venues and make it successful,” Busch said, mostly because of the limited infrastructure and seating capacity.

And while Busch is not supportive of tracks that previously held Cup races getting another date, he does believe there are options for NASCAR to explore.

“I think Trucks and Xfinity should be doing more of that than the mile-and-a-half stuff,” Busch continued. “Trucks and Xfinity should go to the Pensacolas, go to the Nashvilles, go to South Boston, go to Hickory … and make those races that anybody can sign up to run.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

Alex Bowman primed for playoff battle

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Any victory would be special for Alex Bowman. Not only would it be his first in Cup but also secure a playoff spot this season. But should that win come in two weeks at Watkins Glen, there would be extra reason to make that victory meaningful.

Wednesday on NASCAR America, Bowman unveiled the Nationwide Children’s Hospital car that he’ll drive next month at Watkins Glen. The car features 28 butterflies. A butterfly in flight represents optimism at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which has a staff of more than 13,000 providing state-of-the-art pediatric care during more than 1.4 million patient visits annually.

“Going to the Children’s Hospital, it’s amazing to see what they do for the kids and how little things that they do just keep the kids that much happier,” Bowman told NBC Sports. “It’s just amazing to see what they do and see how much the sports programs have raised for the Children’s Hospital through Nationwide. It’s really special just to be a small part of that, to have any role in putting smiles on kids faces.

“I would say if we were able to win with the Children’s Hospital car, it would be really special. It’s more having a patient champion’s name on the door, what it could mean to them.”

Before Bowman races at Watkins Glen, he has this weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and then Pocono the following week.

After his last-place finish at Kentucky last weekend, he leads Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by nine points and Paul Menard by 23 for that final playoff spot.

“I’m doing all that I can, and I feel like I’m doing my part,” Bowman said. “Obviously we’ve been off this year and we need to get better. Pressure for me really comes from me. I want to run better.

“There’s not a lot of added pressure from the team, the crew or media, really. I just want to run well and give the fans something to cheer for. Pressure comes from myself. I want to make the playoffs really bad, but I don’t want to make the playoffs and get eliminated in the first round.

“I want to make the playoffs and make a statement there. I think we could do that. We’re on a path to getting better. Kentucky obviously was rough for us, as the 88 team and as a company.”

Bowman also is confident in how his team stacks up against Stenhouse’s team and Menard’s team.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of pressures on those guys to try to erase that gap,” Bowman said. “Hopefully we can make them make mistakes by keeping the pressure on them, too.”

“I feel like we’ve got better race cars than the 17 (Stenhouse) most weeks, and we’ve got to better execution than the 21 (Menard) for the most part, if we can continue that.”

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