Bump & Run: Debating Jimmie Johnson’s move; who to watch in Round of 12

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Are you good with Jimmie Johnson’s decision to go for the win, which led to his spin and cost him a chance to advance to the next round? 

Nate Ryan: Initially, it made little sense, but the more I ponder it, the easier the move becomes to justify. The No. 48 isn’t racing just to make the Round of 12, it’s championship or bust every year, and the five playoff points from that win would have increased the very slim odds of advancing through the next two rounds. As Jeff Burton said Saturday on Victory Lap, going for the win trumped playing it safe for advancement because the validation and momentum would mean much more than remaining winless but still in a deep hole for the next three races. (Now if Johnson wins at Dover, I reserve the right to revisit this answer.)

Dustin Long: Yes. As Nate notes, this is about the championship and those five playoff points for the win could have been valuable in helping Johnson advance throughout the playoffs. With such a thin margin for error, those points were as valuable as a checkered flag for a team that hadn’t won in more than a year. When the opportunity is there, you seize it.

Daniel McFadin: Heck yeah. Sure, he was locked into Round 2 when he entered Turn 16, but he hadn’t won in 51 races. I can’t remember seeing Johnson make that kind of move before, but we’ve also never seen Johnson that desperate for a win before. I would have been shocked if he hadn’t made that move.

Dan Beaver: Even if he advanced, Jimmie Johnson was not going very far in the playoffs. Winning and erasing his 51-race losing streak was much more important to the success of this team – so his priorities were right. The pass itself did not have a ghost of a chance, so I expected more car control from a seven-time champion.

Who is a driver you will watch closely in the second round?

Nate Ryan: Kyle Larson. Now that he has survived a major scare, he becomes a more dangerous threat

Dustin Long: Ryan Blaney. He said the first round was going to be tough for him and his team. Now let’s see what they can do in these upcoming races.

Daniel McFadin: Kevin Harvick. The round features two tracks – Dover and Kansas – where he won earlier this year. Due to his DNF at Las Vegas, we haven’t seen him display dominate race winning speed on an intermediate track since his Michigan victory.

Dan Beaver: Chase Elliott: Having survived a close call in Round 1, he is going to be much more prepared at Dover and Kansas – races that are in his control. I expect he will challenge for the win in both.

Do all of the Big 3 — Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. — advance to the next round?

Nate Ryan: Yes. They remain on a collision course for Miami.

Dustin Long: Yes. They’ll be dominant at Dover and Kansas and will get through Talladega.

Daniel McFadin: I don’t think so. I believe Talladega will put enough of a dent in one of their point situations that it will haunt them at Kansas. My guess: Truex.

Dan Beaver: Yes. Their bonus point lead over eighth is enough to give them an easy pass even with one mulligan.

What has been the finish of the year in Cup so far? The Roval finish? Chicagland duel between Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch? Brad Keselowski’s battle with Denny Hamlin at Indianapolis? Or some other race?

Nate Ryan: 2018 finishes, ranked: 

1. Chicagoland Speedway

2. Daytona 500

3. Roval

4. Watkins Glen

5. Brickyard

Dustin Long: The Kyle Busch-Kyle Larson duel at Chicagoland remains the finish of the year for the beating and banging on the last lap at the 1.5-mile track. Plus it gave us “Slide Job!”

Daniel McFadin: Hands down the Roval. The two leaders going into the final two turns didn’t win, instead giving it to the third-place car. And Kyle Larson’s “I think I can, I think I can” charge in a damaged car to pass Jeffrey Earnhardt and get into Round 2 seals the deal.

Dan Beaver: I’d have to go with the Busch/Larson battle at Chicagoland since they both finished the race in the top two spots. I’d give honorable mentions to last week’s Charlotte road race and the Daytona 500 for the last-lap action.

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

Kyle Busch Motorsports

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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