Kyle Busch discusses Watkins Glen incidents with Bubba Wallace, William Byron

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BROOKLYN, Mich. — Kyle Busch admits it was “surprising” that the two drivers he had issues with last week at Watkins Glen International were those who raced for his Truck Series team early in their careers.

Busch had confrontations on the track with Bubba Wallace and William Byron at the Glen. Wallace drove for Busch’s Truck team in 2013-14, Byron drove for Busch’s Truck team in 2016.

“I would say it’s kind of surprising, I guess, that you get into with two former drivers because, I guess, you would kind of expect a little bit more or different from them than you would say some other competitors out there,” Busch said Friday at Michigan International Speedway. “I guess I just didn’t quite get that. Overall, as far as conversations went … was better understanding between the both of them. Move forward.”

MORE: Ryan Blaney upset by Jimmie Johnson’s comments in TV interview 

MORE: Anger building in NASCAR’s season of rage

Said Wallace of his meeting with Busch: “We both agreed to disagree on what led up to those events and what happened and obviously frustrations were high.”

“We had a good conversation. We were kind of pissed off with each other. I’d say something and piss him off and vice versa but at the end of the day we shook hands and it was over with. He finished 11th (at Watkins Glen), I’m not a threat to him. But at the same time I’ve still got to get my respect.”

Busch said that issues with Wallace began before Watkins Glen.

“There were two other races prior to that one that had kind of built up to the backstretch,”  Busch said. “I set up my pass on him for the inner loop back in Turn 2, got a run on him through 2, got a run on him through 3. He messed up Turn 3 pretty bad and I was on him and actually to his outside through Turn 4 and he didn’t know I was there and he ran me off in the dirt off Turn 4. I had to get off the gas.

“And so I figured the next time I get to him, If I get him and I’m alongside him or not and he comes over and chops my nose, it is what it is. That’s what happened in the carousel. Did I mean to crash him? No. I didn’t mean to crash him. Did I mean to move him? Sure. It escalated from there.”

Busch was upset with Byron after spinning on Lap 2 as he tried to pass Byron.

“He came down and chopped and hit me in my left front, which just spun me out,” Busch said. “Yes, I think it was avoidable.”

“If you look at lap 3, (Martin Truex Jr.) was passing (Kyle Larson) getting into Turn 1 and (Larson) gave a car width and half of room and everything was fine. And if you fast forward again to Lap 13 and (Truex) was passing (Byron) the exact same way I was getting into Turn 1 and (Byron) broke hard enough to where he got behind (Truex) before they got to the corner and made the corner single file. There’s different things at different times. Now, if it was the last lap, I would have expected him to do exactly what he did. Lap 2, you expect different I guess.”

Said Byron about the incident: “We got a chance to talk, and obviously I have a lot of respect for Kyle, having driven for him and winning the races that we did. That year in 2016 was a big deal for my career. But as far as racing goes, I felt like I gave enough room. He feels like I didn’t give enough room. Obviously, it’s just racing. Stuff like that happens and you learn from it. I learned a little bit about Turn 1 and what maybe I could have done differently. Hopefully he learns a little bit too.”

Byron retaliated by running into the back of Busch’s car under caution after crew chief Chad Knaus told him to do so on the radio. Busch saw Byron coming and hit the brakes, causing Byron to ram into the back of Busch’s car harder and damaging Byron’s car.

“I mean ultimately I’m driving the race car and have got to make good decisions,” Byron said of what Knaus told him to do. “If he tells me something to do, I ultimately make the decision. It’s up to me, obviously it’s my space and everything. I felt like I was done a little wrong and that’s kind of how I handled it. Unfortunately, it cost me a lot more so I learned from that for sure.”

For Byron, this is his second high-profile incident this summer with a veteran driver. Brad Keselowski wrecked Byron in practice at Daytona when Byron came down to block. So does Byron feel as if he’s being picked on veteran drivers?

“I feel like there is a way it could be handled and not, I guess, be taken out quite so much on me with the brake check and the (Daytona) practice crash,” Byron said. “I don’t know. They’re racing me how they feel I need to be raced. I race them as well.”

2019 Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award finalists announced

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Comcast has announced the three finalists for this year’s Community Champion of the Year Award, which recognizes the philanthropic efforts of individuals within the NASCAR industry.

Through the award Comcast has donated $600,000 to 15 different NASCAR-affiliated organizations to honor their efforts and help further the impact of their causes.

The three finalists are:

  • Artie Kempner, NASCAR on FOX Coordinating Director and Co-Founder of Autism Delaware
  • David Ragan, Cup Series driver and Ambassador for Shriners Hospitals for Children
  • Mike Tatoian, President and CEO of Dover International Speedway and USO Delaware Chairman

The award winner will be selected by a panel composed of Comcast and NASCAR executives, as well as defending Cup Series champion Joey Logano, who won the award in 2018. Comcast will award $60,000 to the winner’s affiliated charity, and $30,000 to each of the two remaining finalists’ selected charities.

The winner will be announced Nov. 14 at W. South Beach Hotel in Miami in conjunction with the NASCAR Championship Weekend.

Artie Kempner (Wilmington, Delaware) – In 1998, a small group of parents got together in the living room of Marcy and Artie Kempner’s house in Wilmington, Delaware. The Kempner’s had three boys and their middle son, Ethan, had been diagnosed with autism a year earlier. All of the parents at the table had children on the autism spectrum. That gathering was the beginning of Autism Delaware and Artie became the group’s first president. The organization started as a simple support group, but 20+ years later it’s a statewide service agency, fielding more than 1,500 calls from families annually, offering lifespan services, as well as social and recreational program for families in a safe and welcoming environment.

Kempner’s work on the Drive for Autism Celebrity-Am Golf Outing, helped the group raise the necessary money to launch its critically acclaimed adult vocational and employment program known as POW&R, Productive Opportunities for Work & Recreation. Now in its 11th year, POW&R assesses an individual’s strengths and vocational goals, and matches them with community-based employment, volunteer and recreational opportunities. Today, the program serves over 150 adults with autism in paid employment.

David Ragan (Unadilla, Georgia) – Since 2012, Front Row Motorsports driver David Ragan has been dedicated to supporting Shriners Hospital for Children as a part of their ambassador program. Ragan spends much of his off-time visiting hospitals, fundraising, as well as inviting patients to the race track for once-in-a-lifetime experiences at NASCAR events. Ragan’s passion for the hospital goes beyond just the bare-minimum appearance, he makes an effort to remember each patient’s name + story and will continue to stay in touch long after he meets them. Ragan knows the children and families he meets are likely struggling and wants to do what he can to put a smile on their face. His association with the Shriners, as well as being a Shriner himself, has not only brought attention to the hospitals and the great work they are doing, but has increased donations from race fans and team partners. Many people aren’t aware of the great work that the Shriners do, but Ragan has been a strong voice for them for the past 10 years and has changed countless lives because of his great work.

Mike Tatoian (Dover, Delaware) – Mike Tatoian has been a staple of the Delaware and mid-Atlantic charitable communities, particularly with local military organizations at Dover (Del.) Air Force Base, since he began his tenure at the “Monster Mile” in 2007. One of his longest commitments has been with United Service Organizations. Established during World War II, the USO supports U.S. service members wherever they are, including on-base, deployed abroad, passing through an airport or in local communities at more than 200 locations around the world. One-particular duty that distinguishes USO Delaware is it’s the only USO in the world that shares the responsibility of bringing home fallen service members, working alongside other units such as the Air Force Mortuary Affairs, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System, the Joint Personal Effects Depot and the Families of the Fallen. For 13 years, Tatoian has assisted USO Delaware with countless programs and currently serves as the Chairman of the Advisory Council for the organization.

NASCAR America’s The MotorSports Hour live at 5 p.m. ET

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This week’s episode of NASCAR America’s The Motorsports Hour airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Krista Voda is joined by Parker Kligerman and AJ Allmendinger as they discuss the major storylines in multiple racing disciplines, including NASCAR.

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.

Clint Bowyer returning to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2020

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Stewart-Haas Racing announced Thursday afternoon that it has extended its deal with Clint Bowyer through the 2020 season.

Bowyer, 40, will drive the No. 14 Ford for a fourth season after joining the team in 2017.

Bowyer joins teammate Aric Almirola in recently renewing deals with SHR.

The news comes after Bowyer made his 500th career Cup start last weekend at Talladega and ahead of the Cup Series playoff race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC), which is Bowyer’s home track.

“I’m proud to be back with Stewart-Haas Racing next year and very happy to announce it the week leading into my home race,” Bowyer said in a press release. “This is a team filled with racers who love to compete, and as a racecar driver, it’s exactly where you want to be. Great equipment, great teammates, and we’re all backed by great people, which starts at the top with Tony and Gene. They know how to build some fast Ford Mustangs and I’m the lucky guy who gets to drive ‘em.”

Said team co-owner Tony Stewart: “Clint Bowyer is a racer to his core who brings passion and energy to our race team. He’s exactly who I wanted to drive my No. 14 car and we’re very happy to have him continue with Stewart-Haas Racing.”

Bowyer enter’s Sunday’s race facing elimination from the playoffs. He is 11th in the standings and 24 points behind the cutoff line to advance.

Through 31 races this year Bowyer has no wins, seven top fives and 15 top-10 finishes.

Xfinity Playoff primer for Kansas Speedway

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Did you miss the Xfinity Series last weekend?

While Cup and Truck Series teams battled it out at Talladega Superspeedway, Xfinity teams were enjoying a much deserved week off after 15 straight weekends of racing.

Now it’s time to go back to work this weekend at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC),as the Round of 8 begins. Texas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway complete the round.

Here’s how things looks for the eight remaining playoff drivers.

TOP GUNS

The second round begins with the “Big 3” of Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick still holding sizable points advantages over the rest of the field.

In the reseeded standings, Bell is 48 points above the cutline and leads Custer (+36 points) and Reddick (+30). Bell and Custer padded their playoff point totals (62 for Bell and 50 for Custer) with their respective first round wins at Richmond and Dover.

Reddick (44 playoff points) will try to rebound from a lackluster first round where he only had one top five (Charlotte Roval) and finishes of 10th and 12th.

Bell earned his first career Xfinity win at Kansas in 2017 but was eliminated in a wreck on the first lap of this race last year.

While Custer was also involved in the Lap 1 crash and finished 26th, he rebounded in the Texas race to earn his first win of the year. Entering this weekend he has finished 10th or better in the last seven races.

“I think we need to go in the same way we have all year and that mentality is that we will have one of the cars to beat when we unload,” Custer said in a press release. “All year we have had speed off the truck and that has shown in practice speeds along with our seven wins. If we keep our heads up at these tracks that haven’t been kind to us in the past, then our luck is sure to turn around at some point and our goal is for that to happen this weekend in Kansas.”

NEEDING A LITTLE MORE

Outside the prolific “Big 3”  – who have won 19 of 29 races so far – the most consistent drivers this season have been Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier and Chase Briscoe.

Cindric (+3 points above cutline) remains the only non-“Big 3” Xfinity regular with more than one win this season. He earned the most points in the Round of 12 with 146.

Allgaier (-3 points from cutline) is winless in his last 37 starts. He earned the second most points in the first round with 145. In this round last year, his best result was fifth at Texas, sandwiched between a 38th at Kansas (Lap 1 wreck) and a 24th at ISM Raceway.

Briscoe (-4 points) enters Kansas with tops 10s in 12 of the last 13 races. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver finished ninth or better in all three first round races.

“We’ve been running pretty well recently and have really shown a lot of speed, so hopefully we are fast right out of the box when we get to Kansas,” Briscoe said in a press release. “We have had two straight poles (Charlotte and Dover) and probably should have had two wins in those races. It’s all about sealing the deal now and capitalizing on the speed that we have shown these last few weeks. I feel like Kansas and Texas are my two best tracks in this round and we’ll look to have a couple great runs, ideally a win, and get ourselves in solid position for the championship round.”

WORK TO DO

The last two spots in the Round of 8 are occupied by JR Motorsports’ Michael Annett and Noah Gragson.

This is the deepest in the playoffs that Annett (-8 points) has reached since returning to the Xfinity Series (two visits). He had two top 10s in the first round and has not finished worse than 15th in the last 13 races.

Outside of Allgaier, Gragson (-12 points) is the only other remaining playoff driver without a win this season.

He had one top five in the first round (fifth at Charlotte Roval) and two seventh-place finishes.

Playoff standings