Bump & Run: Superlatives, surprises, bold prediction

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What is a performance that has stood out to you so far this season?

Nate Ryan: Joey Logano. He quietly is tied for the series lead in top 10s (12) with Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch but ranks only 10th in laps led, which indicates he is maximizing his finishes.

Dustin Long: Kevin Harivck’s dominance. This reminds me of how strong Harvick was in 2014. The only difference is that in 2014 he lost the chance at a number of wins because of various issues from mechanical to pit road and such. Harvick and his team aren’t having those issues this season. Their ability to run mistake-free races week after week has been as impressive as the speed the No. 4 car has.

Daniel McFadin: Joey Logano. He’s third in points coming off his horrid season in 2017. He’s tied with Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch with 12 top 10s and he has a better average finish (8.1) than Harvick (9.3). He only has one win, but he should be in the conversation for being part of the “Big 4” this season.

Dan Beaver: Clint Bowyer’s performance at Martinsville – especially as it came on the heels of Martin Truex Jr.’s win at Auto Club. For a moment, it appeared the competitive landscape was going to open up.

What is something that has surprised you about this season?

Nate Ryan: The number of winners. It seems improbable that with 11 races to go, there are still 10 provisional playoff spots based on points. Based on how Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. have run this season, and their performances at the upcoming tracks, there is a real possibility that half the playoff field will be determined by points – which could make for some nail-biting storylines down the stretch and at the Brickyard.

Dustin Long: The dominance of the veteran drivers this season.

Daniel McFadin: Kyle Larson‘s inability to have consecutive clean races. His spin at Michigan came after similar spins at Phoenix and Charlotte, wrecks at Texas, Talladega, Daytona and Kansas and his spin from contact with Ryan Newman at Bristol. He bounced back to nearly win at Bristol, a seventh-place finish at Charlotte and a fourth at Kansas. Imagine the season Larson could be boasting if some of these incidents hadn’t occurred. He’s been the strongest Chevy driver all year, but he’s also been arguably the sloppiest.

Dan Beaver: The sheer domination of Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. It is not only that they are winning so many races, but that no one else has been in the same league as them through 15 races.

Eleven more races remain until the playoffs begin. Give me one bold prediction about what might take place before then.

Nate Ryan: Despite going winless in the regular season, Hendrick Motorsports still qualifies three for the playoffs as Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman each earn berths via points.

Dustin Long: Two drivers currently outside the top 20 in points each win a race and make the playoffs.

Daniel McFadin: Alex Bowman and William Byron will win as Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott founder.

Dan Beaver: The inevitable leveling of the playing field. Chevrolet will catch up before the playoffs, but they are not going to have a dominant performer like Ford’s Harvick or Toyota’s Busch and that is going to spread the wealth around.

NASCAR America: What makes Kyle Busch so good at Bristol?

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Kyle Busch swept all three national series at Bristol Motor Speedway in August 2010. The next spring, he won both the Truck and Cup series. That five-race winning streak is part of a remarkable 21 victories on this track.

Last August, he swept the three national series at Bristol again.

Busch’s numbers at Bristol are nothing short of amazing – and they include back-to-back wins in the last two Cup races.

But what makes him so good?

“It’s because he’s an amazing driver,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said.

“(Busch is) a guy who can make an amazing difference behind the wheel and so when you go to a track that needs a talented driver to be able to get around it, he’s a guy that takes advantage of his own skill,” Earnhardt continued. “You have to apply that to the short track. All the guys that do well at short tracks are drivers. They’re real, real men.

“They came from racing short tracks and honing those abilities … have the patience, the judgment, the decision-making ability, but also the raw speed to be able to set up their cars the way they need to be all night long.”

On a track where laps are completed in less than 15 seconds, drivers are constantly in traffic. Busch’s ability to navigate through slower cars is another key to his success, according to Kyle Petty.

“Bristol is a rhythm racetrack. … Kyle is a rhythm driver,” Petty said. “When he gets in a rhythm, you watch him when he runs – he catches lapped traffic; he disposes of them. He doesn’t spend a lot of time breaking his rhythm and having to start again.”

For more, watch the video above.

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Kaulig Racing to field second entry in Indianapolis Xfinity race

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Kaulig Racing will field a second entry for the first time in its three-year history in the Sept. 8 Xfinity race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, team owner Matt Kaulig told NBC Sports.

The entry, the No. 10 Chevrolet, will join the No. 11 that is driven by Ryan Truex. The No. 10 will be driven by a “big driver.”

The news comes after Kaulig Racing earned its first top-five finish last week at Mid-Ohio, where Truex finished fifth. It came in the team’s 87th Xfinity start and was in Kaulig’s home state of Ohio, where his company, Leaf Filter Gutter Protection, is headquartered.

“It’s very (significant), it shows how our organization is growing,” Kaulig said. “A lot of these teams are getting smaller, are cutting people, are just cutting back and we’re growing. We’re just getting started. When you look at a team like ours, that’s just two-and-a-half years in, it’s all upside, it’s all of our great stuff that’s ahead of us. Not behind us. We just want to win trophies.”

The addition of a second car for the Indianapolis race follows the team building a 15,000-square foot addition onto its shop, which is located in Welcome, North Carolina, on the campus of Richard Childress Racing.

Kaulig’s time in NASCAR began as a sponsor of Blake Koch in 2015 when he drove for TriStar Motorsports.

Through 21 races, Truex is eighth in the point standings and has nine top 10s in addition to his first top five.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Wild Bristol moments, #WednesDale

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN with a look back at some of Bristol’s wildest moments.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. hosts with Marty Snider and Kyle Petty joining him at the Big Oak table.

On today’s show:

  • The panel will discuss Xfinity Series driver Elliott Sadler’s decision to end his full-time career following the 2018 season. Sadler is currently second in Xfinity Series points and drives for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at JR Motorsports.
  • Dale Jr. weighs in on NASCAR’s invitation to Fernando Alonso to compete in next year’s Daytona 500.
  • Fans can ask Dale Jr. and our panel questions by using #WednesDale.

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.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. to serve as honorary pace car driver for Brickyard 400

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Fans will get to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a car going around Indianapolis Motor Speedway next month, it just won’t be going very fast.

Earnhardt, who serves as a NASCAR analyst for NBC Sports, has been announced as the honorary pace car driver for the Sept. 9 Brickyard 400.

The race, which was held in July for its last 11 runnings, will be the regular-season finale for the Cup Series for the first time.

Earnhardt will drive a 2018 Camaro ZL1.

“I am honored that Chevrolet asked me to drive the Camaro ZL1 Pace Car in one of the biggest races of the year,” Earnhardt said in a press release. “The fan in me was already looking forward to this event. It’s a big race. There is a lot at stake since it’s the final chance for the teams and drivers to make the playoffs. So, I hope to do a good job leading the field to the green flag, but I can promise you I’ll soak in every minute and enjoy the Brickyard in a way I never have before.”

Earnhardt made 17 starts in Indianapolis between 2000-17, with a best finish of fourth in 2012 among his five top-10 finishes.

Fans will be able to see Earnhardt drive a little bit faster two weeks later. Earnhardt will compete in the Sept. 22 Xfinity race at Richmond Raceway. It will be his first race since retiring from full-time Cup competition at the end of 2017.

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