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Bump & Run: How much merit do Kyle Busch’s Dover comments have?

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Kyle Busch spoke up about the speeds at Dover on Friday and called the package raced there “terrible” on Monday. Do the former champion’s comments have merit or are they sour grapes?

Nate Ryan: There is merit here. Drivers warned all weekend that they were on throttle too much, and even winner Martin Truex Jr. admitted it was hard to pass with a dominant car after starting at the rear. In changing its rules for 2019, NASCAR officials said an objective was to ensure cars didn’t “check out” on the field, and that’s what happened Monday. Busch is known for being churlish after a mediocre finish, but the 2015 series champion also doesn’t whine this way unless it’s justified.

Dustin Long: They have merit. Busch has been clear about how he didn’t want this high downforce package previously. So you know where he’s coming from, but he wasn’t the only driver to raise issues about the package after the race. While those comments weren’t as sharp as what he said, they further lend validity to his words. Busch’s comments about the higher speeds also should not be ignored.

Daniel McFadin: Sour grapes. Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman came from the rear of the field and placed 1-2. Busch was stuck in 10th-15th for most of the race. He didn’t have a better car than that. 

Jerry Bonkowski: Kind of in-between. I think there should have been more testing at Dover, given how much greater the speeds were compared to years past. Might smaller engines have been a better option? How will the fall playoff race be? Right now, there’s a lot of questions that need answering – and Busch certainly has quite a few – before the fall race.

 

Who was Dover a bigger race for — runner-up Alex Bowman, third-place finisher Kyle Larson or fifth-place finisher Chase Elliott?

Nate Ryan: While I agree with Jeff Gordon’s assessment of Dover being a “career race” for Bowman, Larson’s jump back into a provisional playoff spot was the bigger moral victory.

Dustin Long: Chase Elliott. While the race was a nice pick-me-up for Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman, Elliott scored back-to-back top 10s for the first time this season. That they were top fives meant even more. This is a team that could be a force in the playoffs (Chase won twice in last year’s playoffs) but needs to build momentum and consistency. Maybe these are the first steps toward a title run.

Daniel McFadin: I’m going with Bowman because he had to come from the rear. He also never had consecutive top fives before Monday, while Elliott and Larson have plenty of their own top fives. Larson definitely needed Monday’s race, but what Bowman did was more impressive.

Jerry Bonkowski: No doubt about it, Kyle Larson, with his season-best finish. He finally had a decent race with no incidents for the first time this season. Given how cyclical this sport is, for as bad as Larson may have been in the first 10 races, he now could potentially go on a big run over the next 10 races. The motivation and momentum from Dover could take him and his team a long way, potentially even to victory lane.

 

Are you surprised there hasn’t been a winning vehicle disqualified so far this season?

Nate Ryan: Very surprised. It’s only a matter of time, and the ticking clock will get much louder if it doesn’t happen before the end of the regular season (because teams are bound to push the limits in the playoffs).

Dustin Long: Mildly but it’s still early. I’ll be surprised if it goes a whole season without a winner from either Cup, Xfinity or Trucks disqualified.

Daniel McFadin: Absolutely. That it hasn’t happened at least once in all three of the national series is astounding. It’s possible the threat of losing wins actually did the trick. But I don’t see us making it back to Daytona without it happening for the first time.

Jerry Bonkowski: To an extent, yes. NASCAR is very adamant that it will no longer tolerate overt cheating, and potentially teams even working in the proverbial “gray area.” While disqualifying a winning vehicle would be embarrassing to the sport and especially the team involved, it’s good to know NASCAR has put some teeth in its bite if it needs to. And in a way, if/when (you know it’s going to happen sooner or later) a winning vehicle is DQ’d, it has the potential of bringing more fans back or into the sport, seeing that NASCAR means business about cheating.

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.