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Ben Rhodes scores Truck win at Kentucky Speedway

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SPARTA, Kentucky —  Ben Rhodes, who grew up in nearby Louisville, held off Stewart Friesen in the final laps to win Thursday’s Camping World Truck Series race at his home track, Kentucky Speedway.

“This is sweeter than my first win,” Rhodes said. “This is sweeter because of the people that are here.

“(Kentucky Speedway) doesn’t have the history that Daytona does but it has the history for me,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes had one of the strongest trucks in the 150-lap race (he won the opening stage) but was aided by fuel-only pit stop with 25 laps to go. The other leaders took two tires.

MORE: Race results, points report 

The victory was the second of Rhodes’ career. His other win came Sept. 2017 at Las Vegas. The win is Rhodes’ first of the season and earns him a spot in the playoffs.

Friesen, who started at the rear because of an engine change before the race, finished second. Matt Crafton was third and followed by Brandon Jones and John Hunter Nemechek.

Stage 1 winner: Ben Rhodes

Stage 2 winner: Noah Gragson

How Ben Rhodes won: Runner-up Stewart Friesen said he felt that he lost time to Rhodes coming on to pit road when they made their final pit stops. After that, Friesen struggled with his truck’s handling the closer he got to Rhodes before fading in the final laps.

Who had a good race: Stewart Friesen’s second-place finish marked the fourth time in the last five races on 1.5-mile tracks he’s placed sixth or better. … Matt Crafton started 30th (after nearly crashing in qualifying) and finished third for his best result since placing second at Dover in May. … Dalton Sargeant’s ninth-place result snapped a streak of eight consecutive finishes outside the top 10.

Who had a bad race: Rookie Myatt Snider had to start at the rear after crashing in qualifying and had to go to a backup. He was never a factor, finishing 26th. … Points leader Johnny Sauter was penalized for speeding on pit road and then for a commitment line violation while serving the speeding penalty. He finished 15th, two laps off the leaders.

Notable: Ben Rhodes’ win marks the fourth consecutive series victory for a driver age 25 or under. Rhodes is 21 years old.

Quote of the night: ThorSport Racing General Manager David Pepper after Ben Rhodes’ win: “With 5 races to go in the regular season, leading into the playoffs, the rest of these teams need to look out for ThorSport. We’re going to be a factor.”

Next: The series races at Eldora at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, July 18.

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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

NBC Sports
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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.