Brad Keselowski matches best finish of year, ‘not where we need to be’ vs ‘Big 3’

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Brad Keselowski was close to earning his first Cup win of the season on Sunday.

Well, sort of.

“It’s hard to really show any aggression when the guy that won the race was three-and-a-half seconds ahead of you,” Keselowski said after placing second in the Consumers Energy 400 to Kevin Harvick.

Keselowski earned his sixth top five of the season, matching his season-best result from February’s race at Atlanta, where he was also runner-up to Harvick as he won his first of a series-best seven races.

The Team Penske driver only assumed second place when Austin Dillon pulled out of Keselowski’s way with two laps to go due to a vibration. Dillon finished fourth.

Keselowski, a Michigan native, started the day in 18th but managed to put his No. 2 Ford in the top 10 at the end of the first two stages, placing ninth each time.

That Stage 2 finish and his eventual second-place result came after he had to pit for a loose wheel on Lap 76 under caution and restart 21st.

Keselowski’s impressive come back followed a stretch where he finished 17th or worse in four of the previous five races, including two DNFs for wrecks at Daytona and Pocono.

“The last few weeks we’ve had some pretty big struggles, finishing out races with breakdowns and letdowns and all of the above,” Keselowski said. “It’s nice to just be able to have a clean race, or mostly clean … To be able to kind of get the finish we deserve, that’s important.  It’s important to get what you have out of your car, and although we might not have race‑winning speed, you still need to execute.

“So with that in mind, that’s good for everybody’s morale at Team Penske and on the 2 team, as well, but of course we want to break through and win, as well, and kind of like you indicated, we’re not where we need to be to just win on pure speed against those guys week in and week out.”

Harvick’s win was the 17th for the “Big 3” this season, which also includes Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. It was also the 10th win for Ford this season, but Team Penske owns only one of those. That came via Joey Logano in April at Talladega.

Keselowski’s own last win came last October at Talladega. He is seventh in the standings, inbetween Logano and fellow teammate Ryan Blaney

Keselowski was asked if he can only finish three seconds behind Harvick all the way to Miami, how will he know if has a shot to compete with Harvick come the season finale.

“I don’t know if there’s a great answer to that,” Keselowski said. “I could throw you something out there, but it would just be a lob, right? With the way the points format obviously is … you have to get to Homestead.  You have to make it through those playoff rounds.  To that end, I don’t think you can guarantee on being able to point your way through.  You can really only point your way through to the third round.  You really can’t count on pointing your way through to the fourth round, unless you have all the bonus points, which we don’t.”

Keselowski has only four playoff points from his four stage wins.

“With that in mind, we’re going to have to deliver and make results and win races, and I think that’s what the sport is about at the end of the day,” Keselowski said.

As for having the speed to compete each weekend with the “Big 3,” Keselowski said “I don’t know if I’ve really put a lot of thought into that.”

He treats “each weekend as a reset point,” going into as “though this could be the weekend where we have the speed to win that way or could execute that way.

“Then when you start to get through the weekend, you have to get the most out of what you have.  We’ve had some races where I feel like we’ve been equal to or better than those guys where we haven’t put it all together, mostly the plate tracks I would say.  So that’s kind of on us to get a result.

“But on these types of tracks, the mile‑and‑a‑half, intermediate, whatever you want to call them, 2‑mile tracks, we haven’t had that yet, but we’ve been closer some places than others.”

The series heads to Bristol next, where Keselowski has two wins but has failed to finished better than 18th in the last five races.

Then comes Darlington, where Keselowski has two top fives in nine starts. He placed 15th last year and ninth in 2016.

The regular season final arrives the next week, with it being held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time.

Keselowski led 23 laps there last year before placing second, his only top five in Indy in eighth starts.

 

Raphael Lessard to drive full-time for Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2020

Kyle Busch Motorsports
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Canadian driver Raphael Lessard will compete full-time in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the 2020 season, the team announced Thursday.

The 18-year-old native of St. Joseph de Beauce, Quebec, will drive the No. 4 Toyota Tundra for KBM and will also compete for Truck Series Rookie of the Year honors.

Lessard has competed in five Truck races this season, three for KBM and two for DGR-Crosley Racing, with two top-10 finishes including a best showing of ninth at Iowa. He has an average starting position of 10.4 and an average finish of 11.1.

Also this year, Lessard posted two top-five and three top-10 finishes in three ARCA Menards Series starts and one win, one top-five and two top-10 finish in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series in Canada. His win came at his home track, Autodrome Chaudiere in Vallee-Jonction, Quebec, on June 29 when he led a race-high 153 laps.

“I’ve been working really hard the last few years to put myself in position to drive full-time for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series — so this opportunity is a dream come true,” Lessard said in a media release. “Being able to drive for such a great organization in one of NASCAR’s top three series is going to be awesome and I’m going to work hard on and off the race track to learn as much as I can to get better every race.”

Added team owner and NASCAR Cup driver Kyle Busch, who will be bidding for his second career Cup championship this Sunday in Miami, “We’ve watched Raphael grow as both a driver and a person since joining our Super Late Model program in 2018 and we’re looking forward to being a part of his continued progression as he graduates to a full-time role in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series next year.”

Lessard won two events in KBM’s No. 51 Super Late Model in 2018; the Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and the Red Bud 400 ARCA/CRA Super Series race at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway.

In 16 starts for KBM across the CARS Super Late Model Tour, the Southern Super Series and the ARCA/CRA Super Series, Lessard posted two wins, three poles, seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes last season.

“Similar to Erik Jones and Christopher Bell before him, Raphael joined our Super Late Model program and immediately won some big races,” Busch added. “Then, when given a part-time Truck Series schedule, they all proved capable of running up front and earned the right to compete full time. Erik and Christopher went on to win races and a championship in trucks, now Raphael has the opportunity to continue to follow their blueprint.”

Sponsor and crew chief announcements for Lessard as well as announcements on the rest of the KBM driver lineup for 2020 will be made at a later date.

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Previewing championship races

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will preview the championship races this weekend from Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Krista Voda will be joined by Marty Snider, Parker Kligerman and Nate Ryan. Snider and Ryan will be reporting from  NASCAR’s Championship 4 Media Day.

We’ll also have interviews with all four NASCAR Cup Championship 4 drivers: Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch 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.

NBC Sports, NASCAR to launch ‘TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold’

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Press release

STAMFORD, Conn. and DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 14, 2019) – NASCAR® and NBC Sports have teamed up to launch TrackPassTM on NBC Sports Gold, a new streaming product representing NASCAR’s most significant undertaking in the direct-to-consumer space.

Set to launch in early December, TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold builds off the foundation set by FansChoice.tv and immediately becomes the most robust live and on-demand motorsports content offering in the domestic digital marketplace.

TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold will bring fans more exclusive live motorsports events and an extensive library of archived documentaries and films. The platform will offer exclusive live viewing of a multitude of motorsports, including American Flat Track, select ARCA Menards Series™ events (including ARCA Menards Series East and ARCA Menards Series West), NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour™, and tentpole grassroots racing events, as well as NASCAR Cup Series™ and NASCAR Xfinity Series™ practice and qualifying sessions (NBC Sports’ half of the schedule only).

International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) enthusiasts are also covered, as TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold will feature live and archived content from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship™, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and IMSA Prototype Challenge. Live NASCAR national series races (NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series™) will not be offered on the platform.

“The launch of TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold is a significant step forward in both our commitment to grassroots racing and the evolution of our direct-to-consumer strategy,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR president. “By partnering with NBC Sports, we can deliver more high-quality content to fans who have passionately followed their favorite racing series via FansChoice.tv, while increasing product availability and reliability.”

“Our partnership with NASCAR on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold is a win for racing fans across the U.S., from four-wide action at superspeedways to two wheels sliding across dirt tracks,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer and President, Production, NBC and NBCSN. “TrackPass will deliver unprecedented, exclusive live coverage of a wide variety of diehard racing fans’ favorite series – from IMSA, ARCA and American Flat Track, to grassroots racing at iconic local tracks like Bowman-Gray Stadium and Myrtle Beach Speedway. TrackPass is a must-have for passionate race fans.”

Fans can access all the content on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold for $4.99/month or $44.99/year. Lowerpriced, series-specific subpackages for IMSA, AFT and NASCAR Roots content will also be available. Both the IMSA and NASCAR Roots (which includes ARCA, Whelen Modified Tour, tentpole grassroots events and select NASCAR practice and qualifying sessions) packages are $2.99/month or $19.99/year. The American Flat Track package will have a $1.99/month or $10.99/year introductory rate for 2020. Existing FansChoice.tv registered users will receive an introductory free trial to TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.

While FansChoice.tv was a web-based platform, TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold allows users to cast streamed content on a connected device via NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, letting fans to experience racing action on their preferred hardware, including big-screen environments. Upon launch, TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold will be available on desktop web browsers via the NBC Sports app on iOS and Android phones and tablets, Apple TV (Gen 4), Roku, Amazon Fire TV, AndroidTV, Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex and Chromecast devices connected via HDMI.

Click here for additional information on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.

In the meantime, catch the crowning of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion from Homestead-Miami Speedway this Sunday, November 17, at 3 p.m. ET on NBC or click here to stream the race live.

JJ Yeley to drive full-time in Cup in 2020 for Rick Ware Racing

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Rick Ware Racing announced Thursday that it will field three full-time cars in the 2020 NASCAR Cup season.

The team revealed that veteran driver J.J. Yeley will be one of its three full-time drivers. The other two drivers will be announced at a later date, the team said.

“I can’t thank Rick and Lisa Ware enough for the opportunity to be back behind the wheel of a NASCAR Cup Series car full-time next year,” Yeley said in a media release. “They are a family owned team, who continues to grow and build new relationships with sponsors, and expand their efforts in NASCAR. Over the past couple weeks, we’ve accumulated some pretty solid finishes and can’t wait to see what we can accomplish in 2020.”

Yeley has made 14 starts for RWR this season with an average start of 35.9 and an average finish of 29.2. His best finish was 12th in the summer race at Daytona.

Yeley has made 290 career Cup starts, with a best finish of second at Charlotte in May 2007 for Joe Gibbs Racing. He also has made 328 Xfinity Series starts (0 wins, 15 top five finishes) and 35 Truck Series starts (0 wins, 2 top 10 finishes).

“I am excited to have JJ Yeley on board with the Rick Ware Racing organization for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season,” team owner Rick Ware said in a media release. “JJ is a great asset to any team, and has a proven track record for bringing home solid finishes for RWR. I look forward to having him on board, as we continue to grow this team.”

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