Alex Bowman primed for playoff battle (video)

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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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Preliminary entry lists for Road America, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

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The Cup Series is enjoying its final off-week of the 2018 season. That leaves the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series to enjoy the spotlight.

Both series will be on their own, competing on different road courses. Xfinity teams return to Road America near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The Truck Series travels to Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, to race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Here are the entry lists for both races.

Xfinity – Johnsonville 180 (3 p.m. ET on Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 41 entries for the race, including Hall of Fame Bill Elliott, who will drive GMS Racing’s No. 23 Chevrolet in his first NASCAR start since 2012.

James Davison is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota, making his second consecutive start for the team at Road America.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly will attempt to make his NASCAR debut in Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 6 Ford.

Last year, Jeremy Clements was the surprise upset, scoring his first career NASCAR win.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Silverado 250

There are 31 entries for the race.

Alex Tagliani is entered in Young’s Motorsports’ No. 12 Chevrolet.

Jesse Iwuji will make his national NASCAR series debut in Reaume Brothers Racing’s No. 34 Chevrolet.

Last year, Austin Cindric won his first career NASCAR race after spinning Kaz Grala on the last lap.

Click here for the entry list.

What the world was like when Kurt Busch last won at Bristol

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The jokes and observations began flying in the Bristol Motor Speedway media center not long after Kurt Busch won Saturday night’s Cup race.

It had been how long since Busch visited Victory Lane at the half-mile track?

Some media members had covered that race. Others – specifically this writer – had been *checks notes* a freshman in high school when Busch won the Food City 500 on March 26, 2006.

Oh, that long.

Twelve years have passed between Busch’s Bristol wins, the latest bringing him six career wins in “Thunder Valley.”

That fifth win, in Team Penske’s No. 2 Dodge, came in a very different time in NASCAR.

For one, that was two versions of Bristol ago. A year after his win, the track added progressive banking in the turns. That was then retrofitted in 2012, which resulted in the top groove often being the preferred lane.

“This track has been kicking my butt since they redid the concrete, reground the outside lane, then have been throwing the traction compound on the bottom lane,” Busch said. “It’s great to win on the old one and the new one.  It’s been a while.”

What else was going on in NASCAR when Busch claimed his fifth Bristol win? Get ready to feel the kind of nostalgia that will make you feel old in all the wrong ways.

– Even if you don’t remember Busch’s win in 2006, you might remember what happened on pit road after it. Jeff Gordon showed off his temper for the first time, when he shoved Matt Kenseth after Kenseth spun him with two laps to go.

Jimmie Johnson hadn’t even claimed his first of a record-tying seven Cup championships. He would go on to do so that year, beginning his stretch of five titles in a row.

– In the field for the Bristol race were three rookies by the name of Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer.

– Also in the field: Sterling Marlin, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Jeremy Mayfield and Kyle Petty.

Ken Schrader was driving the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing.

– Nextel was the title sponsor for the Cup Series and would be through 2007. Sprint took over in 2008.

– The much maligned Car of Tomorrow was exactly a year away. It would make its part-time debut in the Food City 500, and race winner Kyle Busch (his first of seven wins at Bristol) did not like it.

Chase Elliott, Cup’s most recent first-time winner, was 9-years-old.

Pop Culture

Music

This is what was hot in the world of pop culture on March 26, 2008.

The No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 was “So Sick” by Ne-Yo, an artist I don’t remember and a song title I couldn’t have told you. But I definitely remember hearing this on the radio.

If that doesn’t jolt your memory of the time, “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt was the previous No. 1 song for a week and two weeks later, Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” would start a five-week run as at the top before being the year-end No. 1 song.

2006 was a bad year for music.

Film

– The No. 1 movie at the box office that weekend was Denzel Washington’s “Inside Man.” It made $28.9 million and beat out Natalie Portman’s “V for for Vendetta” and the video game horror film “Stay Alive.”

Books

The top book on the New York Times’ bestseller list was “The 5th Horseman” James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. The following week, “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown would start its second, two-week stretch at the No. 1 book.

 

NASCAR America: Jimmie Johnson earns best finish in nine races

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Jimmie Johnson showed flashes of his old self Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, running in the top five and placing in the top 10 in each stage before earning a ninth-place finish.

It was Johnson’s best result since finishing eighth in June at Pocono Raceway, nine races ago.

Saturday’s result was his second top 10 in that span.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver is inside the cutoff for the playoffs with two races left in the regular season, but he’s still mired in the longest winless streak of his career, which is at 47 races.

On NASCAR America, Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman discussed what Johnson’s performance could indicate for Johnson as the season winds down.

“I thought it was a positive night for the 48 team, ” Kligerman said. “I’m going to say for a couple of reasons. … It wasn’t a stirring performance where it felt like he was going to challenge at any time for the win. But I’ll tell you this, I was down in Turn 4 for most of the first half of the race … I got to watch Jimmie drive completely sideways every lap, on the bottom trying to pass cars. No one was as exciting to watch as that 48 car. I think that’s a testament to maybe the cars aren’t that great … I just saw him do that lap after lap and thought, ‘This was a positive night for the 48.”

Jarrett said he’s “not quite as optimistic” about Johnson.

“He’s driving his tail off and his race car isn’t going anywhere right now,” Jarrett said. “I think there’s a lot of work to be done here if they think they’re even going to move out of the first round of the playoffs.”

Watch the above video for more.

 

NASCAR America: Should Kyle Busch expect payback from Martin Truex Jr.?

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Martin Truex Jr.‘s night in Bristol Saturday may have ended with Kyle Buch accidentally turning him into the inside wall and Truex angrily kicking his car, but NASCAR America’s Parker Kligerman and Dale Jarrett don’t expect any retribution from the defending series champion…maybe.

“Probably nothing is going to happen, but the possibility is there,” Jarrett said. “Not saying he’s going to go wreck Kyle Busch, he can just make life miserable. Is Kyle Busch going to drive scared around Martin Truex? No. But I will say this, if they get side-by-side at some places, he’s going to give Martin Truex a little bit more room. Just because he’s going to have that in the back of his mind, what might he do because of this incident?”

Said Kligerman: “We can’t look into the future for these two, but you definitely end up racing each other differently after an incident like that.”

Watch the above video for more.