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Noah Gragson addresses where he stands with Todd Gilliland, 2019 plans

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Noah Gragson said he doesn’t know where he’ll race next year but stated Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio where things stood with Todd Gilliland after their last-lap incident Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

Gragson attempted to pass Gilliland for the lead on the last corner but made contact. Both trucks spun, allowing Justin Haley to win the playoff-opening race in the Camping World Truck Series and secure a spot to the next round. Gragson finished ninth. Gilliland placed 11th.

Gragson addressed the incident with Gilliland, his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate, on “SiriusXM Speedway.”

“I’ve talked to Todd a little bit,” Gragson told host Dave Moody. “We’re back on good terms. I wanted to get his opinion on that last lap. He wanted to get my opinion. At the end of the day, we were racing for a win. I hate the result for everybody at Kyle Busch Motorsports. Not my intention. We’re both going to move on from it and keep racing each other hard and going out there and trying to beat the rest of the competition.”

As for what car owner Kyle Busch said to him, Gragson said: “I don’t think he’s too happy. He’s been on vacation this week. I’m sure we’ll hear about it later on.”

Another question for Gragson is about his future.

Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported Wednesday that JR Motorsports is expected to sign Gragson for next season in the Xfinity Series. Gragson would replace Elliott Sadler, who announced earlier this month that this would be his final full-time season in NASCAR.

“I think the key word to that whole phrase,” Gragson told Moody when asked about being a part of the rumor mill, “is rumor. Right now it’s not really my focus. I know my guys at Clutch Management have been working really hard on finding me an opportunity next year. My main focus is to win a championship at Kyle Busch Motorsports and compete for wins on a weekly basis.”

Asked about how quickly he’d like to advance to the Xfinity Series, the 20-year-old Gragson said: “I’m not really sure what I’m going to do next year. I think it would be a great opportunity if I was in position to race in the Xfinity Series.”

Gragson finished second in his Xfinity debut at Richmond in April and followed it with a fourth at Talladega and a seventh at Dover for Joe Gibbs Racing. Those were all Dash 4 Cash races and Cup drivers were not allowed to compete in those events.

Gragson is in the Truck playoffs and is third in the points after one race. He has one win this season.

Cup starting lineup at New Hampshire has Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch on front row

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Rivals Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch will share the front row for Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Keselowski won his 15th career pole – and first since August 2017 – on Friday. He will have Busch start next to him.

MORE: Cup starting lineup

The rivals have had numerous run-ins throughout the their career.

Kurt Busch, who won last weekend at Kentucky, qualified third and is followed by Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney.

Three drivers will start at the rear: Denny Hamlin (backup), Alex Bowman (backup) and Ryan Newman (backup).

Brad Keselowski wins Cup pole at New Hampshire

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Brad Keselowski scored his first Cup pole since 2017, taking the top spot Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Keselowski topped the field with a lap of 136.384 mph. This is Keselowski’s 15th career Cup pole and first since Michigan in August 2017, a span of 68 races.

Keselowski’s run denied Toyota its first pole of the season. Keselowski will be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (136.311 mph).

MORE: Cup qualifying results

Kurt Busch, who won last weekend at Kentucky, will start third after a lap of 136.238 mph. Erik Jones qualified fourth with a lap of 136.189 mph.

Jones’ performance is part of a promising week for him. He stated Friday that he is “close” to signing an extension with Joe Gibbs Racing. Jones’ contract expires after this season.

Ryan Blaney completed the top five with a lap of 136.116 mph. Martin Truex Jr. qualified sixth at 136.082 mph, and Matt DiBenedetto qualified a career-best seventh at 135.990 mph. DiBenedetto’s previous best Cup start was ninth in this year’s Daytona 500.

Alex Bowman had a driveshaft failure on his qualifying run and did not complete a lap. He will start at the rear of the field.

“Just a big boom going down the front straightaway and smoke and oil everywhere,” Bowman told NBCSN.

Bowman will go to a backup car.

Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman also will start at the rear of the field because they both went to backup cars after separate incidents late in Friday’s only Cup practice session.

Andy Seuss (qualified 35th) and Austin Theriault (36th) both will be making their Cup debut Sunday.

Daniel Hemric qualified 19th. HIs car failed inspection twice before qualifying and a crew member was ejected.

 

Erik Jones ‘close’ to re-signing after meeting with Joe Gibbs this week

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LOUDON, N.H. – After meeting with team owner Joe Gibbs this week, Erik Jones believes he finally is “close” to signing an extension with the team after a few months of negotiations.

“We’ve had some good meetings, positive meetings, so we’re moving in the right direction,” Jones said during Friday afternoon’s qualifying session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “I’d love to get it done here soon. We’ve had good meetings between my guys and JGR. I’ve had good meetings with Coach talking about it and moving forward. I know I keep saying it, but I feel like we’re pretty close to getting it done.”

The uncertainty for the 2020 season seemingly has been no distraction in 2019 for Jones, who believes he is close to ending a yearlong winless streak. He has notched six top 10s in the past nine races to move into the 16th and final provisional spot for the playoffs with seven races remaining in the regular season.

The Byron, Michigan, native said he told Gibbs “I want to get (the extension) done. We both want to get it done and move forward and stop worrying about it and stop focusing on it, but we’re close. Hopefully here soon.”

An extension for Jones would mean JGR has a full lineup of four drivers signed for 2020 and shift the focus to what is next for Xfinity driver Christopher Bell, who is under contract to JGR next season.

“I think you know as much as I do,” Bell said Friday morning when asked about what series he will race next year. “Actually, you probably know a little bit more than I do. Ultimately, it’s not up to me. I can’t make the decisions, so I’m just along for the ride.”

Bell indicated his desire to move to Cup last season, and a Leavine Family Racing Toyota could be an option if JGR wants to farm him out for 2020 in NASCAR’s premier series.

“I learned early on in my career that a race car driver is only as good as the equipment,” Bell said. “I definitely want to make sure that I’m in equipment that can win.”

Jeffrey Earnhardt releases his remaining races for 2019

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Jeffrey Earnhardt announced his schedule for the rest of the season Friday.

He is scheduled to run six Xfinity races and one Cup race the rest of this season.

His Xfinity races will be Mid-Ohio (Aug. 10), Bristol (Aug. 16), Road America (Aug. 24), Darlington (Aug. 31), ISM Raceway (Nov. 9) and Miami (Nov. 16). He’ll drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity car at Mid-Ohio, Road America, ISM Raceway and Miami. He’ll drive the No. 81 Xtreme Concepts Racing car at Bristol and Darlington.

He’ll also drive the No. 81 Xtreme Concepts Racing Cup car at Talladega on Oct. 13.