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Who’s hot, who’s not in Cup Series heading to Kentucky

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A look at some of the drivers who are streaking or reeling heading into Saturday’s Cup race at Kentucky Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

HOT

  • In 18 races in 2018, 14 finishes of 7th or better (including 5 wins) & 4 finishes of 19th or worse
  • Finished in the Top 5 in 18 of the last 25 races, dating back to last season
  • 5 straight Top 10s at Kentucky
  • Never finished worse than 16th in 7 Kentucky starts
  • Won 4 of last 8 races on 1.5-mile tracks

Kyle Busch

  • Won 5 of the last 12 races
  • Finished in the Top 10 in 6 of the last 7 races
  • Finished in the Top 5 in 12 of 18 races this season
  • Finished in Top 10 in 6 of 7 starts at Kentucky, including 2 wins
  • Never finished worse than 12th in 7 Kentucky starts
  • Won 3 of last 4 races on 1.5-mile tracks

Erik Jones

  • Won at Daytona
  • Finished 7th or better in 3 straight races
  • First first-time winner since Ryan Blaney at Pocono in June 2017
  • Led only 2 laps and scored 1 stage point in last 3 races, despite 3 straight Top 10s
  • Top 10 in 4 of last 5 races on 1.5-mile tracks

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Finished 2nd at Daytona
  • Finished 4th or better in 3 straight races
  • Finished in the Top 5 in 7 of the last 8 races
  • Won 2 of the last 5 races
  • 4 Top 10s in 7 starts at Kentucky, including win in 2017
  • Won 7 of last 16 races on 1.5-mile tracks (none in 2018)
  • Finished 8th or better in 16 of last 17 races on 1.5-mile tracks

Alex Bowman

  • Finished 10th at Daytona
  • Finished in the Top 10 in 3 straight races and 4 of the last 6
  • Top-10 finishes in the last two races on 1.5 mile tracks

 

NOT

Jamie McMurray

  • Finished 30th at Daytona
  • Finished 15th or worse in 14 of 18 races this season
  • 2 straight finishes of 7th at Kentucky
  • 3 Top 10s in 7 starts at Kentucky, including the last two races
  • Top 10 two of the last four races on 1.5 mile tracks

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

  • Finished 17th at Daytona
  • Finished outside the top-10 in 7 of the last 8 races
  • Finished 14th or worse in 14 of 18 races in 2018
Ryan Blaney
  • Finished 40th at Daytona
  • Finished 18th or worse in last 3 races, including 2 of 34th or worse
  • Finished 35th (2016) and 10th (2017) in 2 career Kentucky starts

Chase Elliott

  • Finished 34th at Daytona
  • Finished 19th or worse in last 2 races
  • Finished outside the top-10 in 5 of last 8 races
  • Finished 11th or worse in 5 straight races on 1.5-mile tracks

Matt Kenseth

  • Finished 8th or better in 6 of 7 starts at Kentucky, including win in 2013
  • Finished 13th or worse in 4 starts in 2018 (last start – 33rd at Michigan)
  • Never finished worse than 17th in 7 starts at Kentucky
  • Average finish of 26.5 in 2 starts on 1.5-mile tracks for Roush in 2018

 

 

Kurt Busch on contract status beyond 2018: ‘we’ll see how it all comes together’

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LOUDON, N.H. — Former champion Kurt Busch said Friday that he’s focused on his performance on the track even though his contract ends after this season.

“For me, I’ve just been racing, driving and performing, doing all the things I can do to exceed in all categories, whether it’s teammate things, things on the track … communication with (crew chief) Billy Scott,” Busch said after winning the pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“I don’t know many drivers that have a primary sponsor with them. Monster Energy has been very loyal to me. It’s just a matter of when the time is to start talking about a contract. Last year, it went long just because I felt I deserved more. The landscape is changing in NASCAR on primary sponsorship values, teams with the purse and the guarantee that they get off the historical performance. There are a lot of things that move, so we’ll see how it all comes together.”

MORE: Stewart-Haas Racing makes pit crew changes

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. laments sponsor leaving after this year

Last year, Stewart-Haas Racing declined the option on Busch’s contact when there were questions about if Monster Energy would return as a primary sponsor. After that was settled, Busch signed a one-year contract with the team. The deal was announced Dec. 12.

This is Busch’s fifth season with Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s won five races, including the 2017 Daytona 500 with the team. He has made the playoffs each year with SHR.

Busch’s pole Friday was his third of the year. He has yet to win a race this season but has 10 top-10 finishes.

“When you go to a track that you have good vibes about and with the team doing well, it gives you that feeling like you’re a step ahead and you just have to execute with confidence and not get too far off expecting good things to happen,” Busch said. “Just go out there and do your job and that’s what we’re doing right now and it’s great to have the pole with the 41 car.”

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Starting lineup for New Hampshire Cup race

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Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. will start from the front row in Sunday’s Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Busch starts from the pole position for the third time this season and the first time at New Hampshire.

The top five is completed by Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney.

Alex Bowman in eighth and Daniel Suarez in ninth earned their best starting position at New Hampshire.

Kevin Harvick missed the final round of qualification and starts 14th.

Click here for the complete starting lineup.

Kurt Busch wins pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

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Kurt Busch posted a lap of 133.591 mph in the final round of qualification for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and will lead the field to green on Sunday. Busch was the only Stewart-Haas Racing driver to advance to the final round.

This is Busch’s first pole at New Hampshire, but he has started on the front row twice before – most recently in July, 2013. He finished 31st in that race and was 21st after starting second in July, 2007.

He beat Martin Truex Jr. (133.502 mph) by .019 seconds.

Kyle Busch (133.431), Denny Hamlin (133.361) and Ryan Blaney (132.720) round out the top five.

Alex Bowman (132.618) had the fastest Chevrolet in eighth. This is his best New Hampshire start in his seventh race.

Kevin Harvick (132.554) failed to advance to the final round and posted the 14th fastest time.

Kyle Larson (132.039) failed to back up his practice speed. He had the third fastest car in that session, but failed to make the final round and qualified 20th.

Last year, Kyle Busch won from the pole for the first time since Ryan Newman did so in the July 2011.This is Busch’s first pole at New Hampshire, but he has started on the front row twice before – most recently in 2013. He finished 31st in that race and was 21st after starting second in 2007.

Daniel Suarez  (132.581) in ninth earned his best New Hampshire start in three tries.

NASCAR America at 6 p.m. ET: Today’s action from New Hampshire

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and gets a jump on this weekend’s racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut.

On today’s show:

  • The New Hampshire race weekend is off and running. Carolyn and Parker have complete coverage following today’s practices and Monster Energy Series qualifying from Loudon.
  • They will get reaction from several drivers, including the one who will start from the pole in Sunday’s race.
  • Plus, New England native Parker Kligerman jumps in the NBC Sports iRacing simulator to show us the challenges of racing the Magic Mile.
  • Nate Ryan of NBCSports.com examines the dominance of NASCAR’s Big 3 of Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.
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 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.