Kyle Busch predicts an aero battle at Bristol: ‘Fantastic. Can’t wait’

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – Kyle Busch skipped watching Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, but the Joe Gibbs Racing driver didn’t seem to need a preview of how Bristol Motor Speedway will race Sunday.

Echoing a refrain sounded by several drivers after the March 24 race at Martinsville Speedway, Busch is anticipating the high downforce package to add an aerodynamic element to short-track racing in NASCAR’s premier series.

“I think you’re going to run or try to run wherever you can where the guy in front of you ain’t because you certainly can’t follow,” Busch said, adding a touch of sarcasm. “(Cars are) plowing tight. Aerotight at Bristol. At a short track. Fantastic. Can’t wait.”

While a major factor at the 1.5-mile speedways that bring higher speeds, aerodynamics rarely come into play on shorter tracks where speeds are much lower.

But after Martinsville, Denny Hamlin said setting up passes was more difficult because the wake was so unstable for the trailing car.

Busch is expecting similar conditions over 500 laps Sunday at Bristol’s 0.533-mile oval, which has much higher banking than Martinsville.

Is it related to the high downforce?

“Yep,” he said. “That’s exactly what we told everybody.”

So how does he think the race will unfold Sunday?

“Drive as hard as you can until you blow a right front, and hopefully you’re not the first one that blows it, so then there’s a caution, you come in, you make spots on pit road,” Busch said.

Busch’s No. 18 Toyota ranked fifth on the speed chart during final practice Saturday. Joey Logano was fastest at 128.830 mph and is expecting his No. 22 Ford will need to be “versatile” to be successful Sunday.

“That’s what Bristol is all about these days is being able to have a car where you can run up top when you have to, run the bottom when you have to and run everywhere in between when you’re in traffic,” Logano said. “Those are the cars that usually succeed in the race, so I feel like I have that in my car right now.”

Track workers will apply traction compound after Saturday’s Xfinity race to ensure there’s a bottom groove Sunday. Jimmie Johnson, whose No. 48 Chevrolet was second fastest in practice, said warmer temperatures Sunday could make the traction compound more effective, but it likely will fade over the race’s second half.

Logano anticipates it’ll be harder to drive away than at Martinsville (where winner Brad Keselowski led 445 laps), but “if you’re smart about how you’re up front, you can stay up there for a long time if your car is good.

“It’s a little stickier on the bottom still, so that stuff only lasts for a certain period of time before a lot of rubber sticks to it and it kind of gets rough and becomes very challenging to run down there,” Logano said. “I’m sure the bottom is going to be tough on the start of the race until it gets heat and then the bottom is going to roll for a while until it clumps up and then the top is going to start rolling and then the top is going to clump up and then you just have to find a lane that works best for your car.

“That’s what’s fun about Bristol. I love it.  It’s always changing.  I’m sure the dirt guys probably love it because the track is always changing.”

As a seven-time winner at Bristol, his winningest track in Cup, Busch also is a big fan of Thunder Valley and is optimistic of his chances Sunday (“I feel like we’re a top four or five car; it’s got good speed.”).

But he won’t have the advantage of preparing with the Xfinity race, which is restricted from Cup drivers because it’s a Dash 4 Cash event. That didn’t exactly make it must-see TV for Busch.

“Nope,” Busch said when asked if he’d watch the race (he rarely does when he isn’t competing). “I don’t give a shit. Hopefully all the fans that have packed this place today, and everybody who is going to turn on a TV and watch because Kyle Busch ain’t in the race will enjoy a great race.”

It sounds as if Busch, who recently crossed 200 career victories, might have an edge and extra motivation for excelling Sunday and inciting his haters again.

“I’m just an unhappy person,” Busch deadpanned. “Clint Bowyer’s told you that.”

Charlotte Cup race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — All-day rain Sunday forced the postponement of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race to Monday.

The postponement means that Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host 900 miles of stock car racing Monday. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled Saturday and first postponed to noon Monday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET Monday (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Cup race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sunday’s Cup race was scheduled to start at 6:21 p.m. ET, but light rain was still falling at that time in the speedway area near Charlotte. Rain intensified a few minutes later and, despite an evening forecast that showed slight improvement, officials decided at 6:30 p.m. to postpone the race.

Monday’s forecast calls for a 34% chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race and a 30% chance at the start of the Cup race.

William Byron will start the race from the pole after qualifying was washed out Saturday night.

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

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“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

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Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”




Jimmie Johnson: Building a team and pointing toward Le Mans


CONCORD, N.C. — These are busy days in the life of former NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson is a co-owner of Legacy Motor Club, the Cup Series team that has struggled through a difficult first half of the season while it also is preparing for a switch from Chevrolet to Toyota next year.

Johnson is driving a very limited schedule for Legacy as he seeks to not only satisfy his passion for racing but also to gain knowledge as he tries to lift Legacy to another level. As part of that endeavor, he’ll race in the Coca-Cola 600 in Legacy’s No. 84 car, making his third appearance of the season.

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And, perhaps the biggest immediate to-do item on Johnson’s list: He’ll race June 10-11 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s biggest endurance race and another of the bucket list races the 47-year-old Johnson will check off his list.

“I’m excited, invigorated, exhausted — all of it,” Johnson said. “It has been a really exciting adventure that I’ve embarked on here — to learn from (Legacy co-owner) Maury Gallagher, to be a part of this great team and learn from everyone that I’m surrounded by. I’m in a whole new element here and it’s very exciting to be in a new element.

“At the same time, there are some foundational pieces coming together, decisions that we’re making, that will really help the team grow in the future. And then we have our job at hand – the situation and environment that we have at hand to deal with in the 2023 season. Depends on the hat that I’m wearing, in some respects. There’s been a lot of work, but a lot of excitement and a lot of fun. I truly feel like I’m a part of something that’s really going to be a force in the future of NASCAR.”

Johnson is scheduled to fly to Paris Monday or Tuesday to continue preparations for the Le Mans race. He, Jenson Button and Mike Rockenfeller will be driving a Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Chevrolet as part of Le Mans’ Garage 56 program, which is designed to offer a Le Mans starting spot for a team testing new technologies.

“For me, it’s really been about identifying marquee races around the world and trying to figure out how to run in them,” Johnson said. “Le Mans is a great example of that. Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 — these are the marquee events.”

He said his biggest concerns approaching the 24-hour race are being overtaken by faster prototypes in corners and racing at night  while dealing with the very bright lights of cars approaching in his rear view mirrors.

At Legacy, Johnson has work to do. Erik Jones has a top finish of sixth (and one other top 10) this season, and Noah Gragson is still looking for his first top-10 run. He has a best finish of 12th – at Atlanta.

“I think Erik (Jones) continues to show me just how good he is,” Johnson said. “He’s been in some challenging circumstances this year and keeps his head on — focuses, executes and gets the job done. I’ve really been impressed with his ability to stay calm and execute and just how good he is.

“With Noah, from watching him before, I wasn’t sure how serious he took his job in the sport. I knew that he was fast, and I knew that he liked to have fun. I can say in the short time that I’ve really worked with him closely, he still has those two elements, but his desire to be as good as he can in this sport has really impressed me. So I guess ultimately, his commitment to his craft is what’s impressed me the most.”