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Bump & Run: Is Kyle Busch right about Cup drivers in lower series?

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Should NASCAR implement Kyle Busch’s suggestion that any Cup driver can run as many races in a lower series until they miss one? So if they run the first 10 Xfinity races and miss one, they can’t compete in that series the rest of the year?

Nate Ryan: It’s an idea with merit. One of the main complaints about Cup drivers dropping down into lower series is cherry-picking events. This proposal eliminates that concept while also still allowing unrestricted participation — with one major catch.

Dustin Long: What’s the goal here? NASCAR needs to decide. Is it worth having the Cup regulars compete more often in lower series? Or is it better for the sport to limit those drivers and allow others to have a chance? Based on its actions, NASCAR seems to suggest that it is better to give other drivers the opportunity and not have Cup regulars compete. Until NASCAR makes a philosophical change, don’t expect Kyle’s plan to take hold.

Daniel McFadin: I don’t think Kyle Busch thought this through before saying it out loud in Martinsville. He’s already promised his wife not to compete in Truck and Xfinity races at Daytona and Talladega. That means he’d be eliminated from both series after Speedweeks in February.

Jerry Bonkowski: I like the way the system is now and don’t see any need to change it. While I understand Busch’s suggestion, what would preclude a driver – including Busch – from competing in ALL Xfinity or Truck races (or both)? Busch previously did that before NASCAR limits were put in place, and didn’t seem too worse for the wear. Of course, if NASCAR implemented Busch’s idea, he potentially could hit 300 or more wins in his career before he hangs up his firesuit for the final time.

Who will be the first driver from outside Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing to win a Cup race?

Nate Ryan: Kyle Larson.

Dustin Long: Kevin Harvick

Daniel McFadin: Kurt Busch and it will come at Bristol.

Jerry Bonkowski: I believe that driver will come from Stewart-Haas Racing. The question is who will it be first: Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola or Clint Bowyer? All three have been knocking on the door to victory lane. While I believe Harvick has the best shot, seeing Almirola or Bowyer beat Harvick to victory lane first would not be a surprise.

Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer had a spirited battle during the first stage at Martinsville, causing some choice words from Harvick about his teammate on the radio. Typical short-track racing, or are some of the 2019 frustrations boiling over for Stewart-Haas Racing?

Nate Ryan: Stewart-Haas Racing has been solid but still a notch below Gibbs and Penske on the big speedways early this season. Martinsville represented one of the team’s best chances yet to score a 2019 victory, and the sniping (as well as the urgency for Bowyer to get to the front in the first stage) was a byproduct of that.

Dustin Long: Typical short-track racing. Move on.

Daniel McFadin: It’s a combination of SHR not having won through six races and neither Harvick or Bowyer having defended wins from last year. Bowyer was a favorite at Martinsville, but that was futile. Harvick should be among the favorites at Texas.

Jerry Bonkowski: Combination of the two. It’s definitely partly due to short-track racing, particularly at Martinsville, which is the shortest and tightest track on the Cup circuit. But also, Harvick is likely frustrated that he hasn’t been able to reach victory lane yet. And even though they’re all teammates, Harvick may feel threatened by Bowyer and Aric Almirola and the success they’ve had of late. And let’s not forget Daniel Suarez. If he finds himself in the right place at the right time, he potentially could beat his other three teammates to victory lane first.

After tying a season-low finish (24th) as the worst Hendrick Motorsports driver at one of his best tracks, has Jimmie Johnson bottomed out, or are four finishes outside the top 15 in six races the new normal for the No. 48?

Nate Ryan: It’s possible this was the bottom, given how average he has been lately at Martinsville (where he now has five consecutive finishes of 12th or worse since his Oct. 30, 2016 win there). But when juxtaposed against his teammates — runner-up Chase Elliott nearly won, Alex Bowman hung around the top 10, and even William Byron finished ahead of Johnson after starting from the rear and enduring a tough weekend of contact — there should be significant concern that midpack is where Johnson’s team will reside at most tracks now.

Dustin Long: Jimmie said before this season this new package would be a challenge for him. Add to that he has a new crew chief and Hendrick Motorsports has carried over some of its struggles from last season, the tough times are not surprising. But his results at Atlanta and Martinsville in particular are troubling. I still think he’ll bounce back, it just might take longer than anticipated.

Daniel McFadin: Martinsville was a measuring stick for the No. 48 team. Now we know that nothing before 2019 matters. Johnson shouldn’t have any expectations going forward.

Jerry Bonkowski: This is Jimmie Johnson, seven-time champ and winner of 83 Cup races, we’re talking about. He hasn’t forgotten how to win. Hendrick Motorsports struggled much of 2018 and continues to do so in 2019. But I predict that if Johnson wins and finally breaks his 65-race winless streak – and he very likely could do so Sunday at Texas, where he’s won seven times – HMS as a whole will also start to rally back.

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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski