Kyle Busch tops Kevin Harvick to score first win of season

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Kyle Busch ended weeks of frustrating runner-up finishes by winning at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday in a race that left many of his competitors frustrated.

Busch, who had finished second in three of the first six races of the season, dominated the final 100 laps to collect his 44th career Cup victory.

MORE: Race results 

MORE: Points report 

Kevin Harvick overcame pit issues to finish second. 

“It looked to me like (Harvick) stayed pretty good right there the whole last run of the race,” said Busch, who had twice finished second to Harvick this season. “I kind of got out on him a little bit because he kind of slipped a couple laps and then he kind of closed back in on me, but once he closed back in on me, it just kind of seemed like it was the accordion of four to six (car) lengths. That was about all there was and that was what it was in dirty air for everybody today. It was really hard to pass some of the guys that were even slower than us.”

Jamie McMurray placed a season-best third. Erik Jones finished fourth and Ryan Blaney placed fifth after a penalty for an uncontrolled tire, a loose wheel and damage to the front of the car.

It was a race of survival. Tire woes caused Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson to crash. Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Aric Almirola were collected in a seven-car crash. They were among several cars damaged in incidents.

Stage 1 winner: Kevin Harvick

Stage 2 winner: Kyle Busch

How Kyle Busch won: It was bound to happen after all those runner-up finishes this season. It didn’t hurt that Kevin Harvick had various issues that kept him from dominating and scoring his fourth win of the season. Still, Busch was strong and earned this win.

Who had a bad day: Martin Truex Jr. suffered his first DNF of the season when he crashed just before the end of stage 1 while running second. He finished 37th. The finish ended a streak of 10 consecutive top-five finishes on 1.5-mile tracks, dating back to last season. … Kyle Larson had a right front tire go down and he slammed into the Turn 1 SAFER barrier for his first DNF of the season. … Denny Hamlin had two pit road penalties and was involved in a crash with more than 150 laps left. He placed 34th … Jimmie Johnson had a loose wheel that dropped him off the lead lap and then was collected in the crash with Hamlin and five others later in the race. Johnson placed 35th.

Who had a good day: Jamie McMurray had not finished in the top 15 all season. He placed third. It was his best finish since placing second at the spring Talladega race last year. … Erik Jones recorded his fourth top-10 finish of the season and his best result of the year. … Darrell Wallace Jr. finished eighth, his best result since his runner-up showing in the Daytona 500. … William Byron, who started at the rear because of an engine change, finished 10th to earn his first career top-10 result in Cup.

Notable: NASCAR will take the cars of Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch and Erik Jones to a wind tunnel to compare them.

Quote of the day: Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick, was critical of the NASCAR-mandated pit guns in an interview on Fox Sports 1, saying “at some point we’ve got to get these (air) guns better, I’ve bit my lip all year about this stuff and I’m tired of biting my lip about it. We’ve got to bring some better stuff out here for these guys to change tires with.” Childers isn’t the first person to express concern with the new air guns all teams must use this year.

Next: The Cup series races at Bristol at 2 p.m. April 15.

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Cup playoff race at Talladega to resume at 2 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
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Let’s try this again.

Stage 1 was finished when rain came Sunday and prevented the Cup playoff race from continuing at Talladega Superspeedway. NBCSN’s coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET today. The engines will be fired at 2:02 p.m.

Fifty-seven of 188 laps have been completed. The race will resume with stage 2. That stage will end at Lap 110.

The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 72 degrees and 0% chance of rain when the race resumes. There is no chance of rain in the afternoon.

William Byron, who won stage 1, was the leader when the race was stopped Sunday. He is followed by Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski.

Matt Crafton has replaced Paul Menard in the No. 21 car and will take over driving duties when the race resumes.

After the race was stopped, Chevrolet summoned its drivers, crew chiefs and competition directors to a meeting that lasted about 25 minutes. Chevrolet has been adamant about its teams working together at Talladega and Daytona since the April race at Talladega. Chevrolet has won the past two races at those tracks with Elliott winning at Talladega in April and Justin Haley winning at Daytona in July.

Asked about Chevy’s tactics, Jimmie Johnson told NBC Sports: “Every year the sport changes. It doesn’t matter if it’s how we race each other on track or how strategies play out. The sport is ever-evolving and you’ve got to be on your toes and ready to adjust or the sport is going to pass you up.”

 

Rain postpones Cup race at Talladega until Monday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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The Cup Series playoff race at Talladega has been postponed due to rain. The race will resume Monday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The race was put under a rain delay after the completion of Stage 1.

57 of 188 laps have been completed. The race is not official until the end of Stage 2 (Lap 110).

William Byron won the first stage.

The top 10 is Byron, Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Daniel Suarez, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney.

Blocking a key issue at Talladega for drivers

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — The question isn’t who to race with at Talladega, manufacturers have dictated that, but it is where to race.

Run at the front and hope the wreck is behind? Run at the back and hope to avoid the carnage?

The package used at Talladega and Daytona this season punches such a big hole that drivers say the closing rate between cars is quicker than before. That gives cars trying to block less time to make their move. Be late and it can lead to a wreck.

As it has at Talladega and Daytona this year.

“There’s been many evolutions in racing and blocking is one for me that I’ve had to evolve with, but blocking is a part of our sport now on a weekly basis,” Kevin Harvick said. “It’s not just here. I mean, you see it at the mile-and-a-half race tracks. 

“You’re just going to have wrecks blocking. Sometimes you’re going to make a bad move. It’s just something that’s a little bit newer in the pace of the car that’s approaching you and the style of block and how you throw it, but we’re going to wreck from a block because it’s just become part of what we do.”

Three wrecks this year at Talladega and Daytona can be traced to blocking at the front of the field.

“When you have the smaller spoiler, you’re able to get in front of them, that lead car would get the push before that (trailing) car would actually get to the back bumper of the lead car,” Joey Logano said. “Now, it seems like the trailing car can get to the back bumper and then some (with the larger spoiler), so the blocks have to be quicker and have to be precise. Even once you block them it doesn’t mean it’s over because now they’re still on your bumper and they’re pushing you around. It’s more challenging from that standpoint.”

The late April race at Talladega debuted this package and saw a crash at the front of the field early in the event. Bubba Wallace was third when he and Ryan Blaney, running second, got out of shape and triggered a crash that damaged six cars. Wallace said the accident was a result of “the amount of runs and the force of it. All I was trying to do was just some wreck avoidance.”

The Daytona race in July saw two crashes that started at the front of the field because of blocking.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was leading when he was late on a block on Kurt Busch and they made contact, spinning Stenhouse.

Late in the race, Austin Dillon, in the lead, blocked as Clint Bowyer went low to try pass. They made contact, triggering an 18-car crash.

Dillon notes that blocking is a part of speedway racing.

“You’re going to do it,” he said. “Somebody has got a run at you at the end of the race. There’s not much else you can do. You can give up certain times of the race, but if it’s a last-lap situation you’re going to be held accountable for the actions you make and you’re going to feel bad if you go home not making the block that could win you the race … or you’re going to feel bad if you’re wrecked. I’ve been on both sides of it. It’s speedway racing. That’s all I have to say about it.”

Blocking, to Ryan Newman, is nothing new.

“What was it ’08 when (Tony) Stewart won blocking Regan Smith?” Newman said of the fall 2008 Talladega race where Smith crossed the finish line first but Stewart was given the win because Smith went below the yellow line. “Stewart got the win and blocked Regan and everything was fine. Here we are 11 years later still talking about the same thing. Does it do any good to talk about it?”

Harvick was encouraged how NASCAR reacted at the end of Saturday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. NASCAR penalized leader Johnny Sauter for forcing Riley Herbst below the yellow line on the final lap. Spencer Boyd was declared the winner.

“I can’t stand blocking,” Harvick said. “We didn’t use to penalize the blockers  very much. It was always the guy that was trying to make the move. So, you know, the guy had a lane … Johnny was trying to win the race. You can’t blame for him for trying to block. I like when the blockers get called. I don’t like it for Johnny Sauter. You’ve got to have a lane to race.”

 

Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega: Start time, lineup and more

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One of the first things Kyle Larson said after winning last weekend at Dover was that “everybody in this playoff field is going to be stressing at Talladega … except me.”

Talladega is here and it’s time for many drivers to stress. Except Larson, of course.

The playoff standings could be jumbled by the time the 500-mile journey at Talladega Superspeedway ends. Who will be collected in a crash? Who will get through the carnage and contend for the win?

Here is all the info for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: Edward Graham, assistant VP of Operation Christmas Child for Samaritan’s Purse, will give the command to start engines at 1:48 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:03 p.m.

PRERACE: The Cup garage opens at 10 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at noon. Driver introductions are at 1:15 p.m. The invocation will be given at 1:41 p.m. by Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas. The National Anthem will be performed at 1:42 p.m. by the 313th United States Army Band out of Birmingham, Alabama.

DISTANCE: The race is 188 laps (500.08 miles) around the 2.66-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 55. Stage 2 ends on Lap 110.

TV/RADIO: NBC will televise the race at 2 p.m. Coverage begins with NASCAR America at 1 p.m. on NBC. Countdown to Green follows at 1:30 p.m. on NBC, leading into race coverage. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 1 p.m. and also can be heard on mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

STREAMING ONLINE: Click here for NBC’s live stream of the race.

FORECAST: Wunderground.com forecasts mostly cloudy conditions with a temperature of 68 degrees and a 0% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Chase Elliott led a 1-2-3 Chevrolet sweep in late April, finishing ahead of Alex Bowman and Ryan Preece. Aric Almirola won this playoff race a year ago, giving Ford a 1-2-3 sweep with Clint Bowyer second and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. third. 

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.