NASCAR’s ‘Young Elvis’ is more comfortable with the mic at Michigan

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BROOKLYN, Mich. – He’s officially a Cup Series winner, but Chase Elliott is rebuffing attempts to be crowned as greatness yet.

Particularly as it relates to an Elvis Presley comparison that Dale Earnhardt Jr. made about his former Hendrick Motorsports teammate during his Dale Jr. Download podcast.

“I think he needs to retire from giving nicknames,” Elliott said with a laugh about being bestowed with the “Young Elvis” moniker by Earnhardt. “For some reason, he has always thought I looked like Elvis, and I really don’t know why. I know he has a little bit of an obsession with Elvis. He has an Elvis room in his house, which is kind of weird. I’ve been in that room before and you wake up and there is this Elvis man staring at you.”

While “The King” has left the building, Elliott’s reign in NASCAR’s premier series could be just beginning, especially considering he is locked into the playoffs earlier than he ever has been.

“I certainly can probably use a little more offense than what you would have if you weren’t locked in,” the No. 9 Chevrolet driver said. “I’ve been on the other end of the stick these past two years, and it’s such a nice feeling to come into these last few races and know that you’re locked into the deal.

“But I think more than that, playoff points are really important to get. And I think that’s our goal is to try to get as many of those as we can, whether it be winning stages or trying to put yourself in position to win. Obviously, you’re always trying to win. But those stage victories are big, and you can rack up those playoff points quickly. I know it’s only one per stage, but they add up. I think that’s our goal for these next few weeks to just try to get some more playoff points and kind of get to that next tier of guys in points with people you’re going to be racing against in the final 10.”

Elliott is on a streak of three consecutive races with stage wins (the only three stage victories for Hendrick this season), and his victory at Watkins Glen International showed how much he has improved on restarts.

Sunday could be another strong indicator. Elliott has finished second three times at Michigan International Speedway, and both times in 2016 he lost the lead on a late restart.

“I would like to think I could change the result for sure,” Elliott said about his improvement on restarts. “But until you are in those positions it’s hard to know. Some of it is circumstance, too. You could get a good restart and maybe not get a good push, and the guy next to you does get a good push and lose the lead that way. But I would like to think I would do a little better at it, but until you are in those spots you don’t really know.”

Elliott is on a streak of five consecutive top 10s at the 2-mile oval (his worst being a ninth in June) and will try to become the sixth Cup driver to win in his 100th start (the last being Carl Edwards at Michigan on June 17, 2007.

Beyond his history at the track, Elliott’s NASCAR history also suggests Sunday’s race at the 2-mile oval could be a good one.

After scoring his first Xfinity Series career victory April 4, 2014 at Texas Motor Speedway, Elliott won the following week at Darlington Raceway.

“Yeah, I hope so,” Elliott said when asked about history repeating in Cup. “This has been a pretty good track for us in general. That’s not to say this weekend will go good. I feel like we were better here my first two years than we were in the spring race this year, unfortunately.

“So, yeah, I don’t know. I hope this weekend goes good and I think this weekend will be kind of a gauge of where we stack-up for some of these race tracks that are coming up at Indy and Vegas and some of the 1.5-mile and 2-milers coming up. We didn’t stack up very well here in the spring race. I think we’ve gotten a little better at these style tracks since then, so hopefully. We’ll see.”

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.