Alex Bowman defends actions against Bubba Wallace

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CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman declined to repeat what Bubba Wallace said to him just before Wallace splashed him with liquid from his drink bottle but Bowman added it was “nothing classy by any means.”

Such was how Bowman “celebrated” a runner-up finish that secured the final transfer spot to the second round of the playoffs.

A day that began with Bowman recovering from an illness and starting in the rear because he was in a backup car also included an incident in the first lap, wrecking Wallace and rallying to keep his title hopes alive.

But it was the incidents with Wallace during and after the race that marked a second consecutive weekend he’s had issues with the Richard Petty Motorsports driver.

Bowman took the blame for the Lap 1 incident on the backstretch chicane when he lost control and hit Wallace’s car, forcing Wallace to also miss the chicane.

“That was just a mistake,” Bowman said after exiting the infield care center for treatment of overheating. “I got flipped off for every single straightaway on the entire race track for three laps. I got flipped off by him for like three or four laps in a row at Richmond, so I’m just over it.”

Bowman retaliated later in Sunday’s race, wrecking Wallace to bring out the caution on Lap 43.

“I’ve got to stand up for myself at some point,” Bowman said. “Probably wouldn’t have gotten wrecked if he had his finger back in the car.

“I’d be mad too, but he put himself in that spot.”

Bowman said his issue was how Wallace repeatedly flipped him off — something Daniel Suarez said angered him when Wallace did the same thing at Pocono in July and led to a pit road disagreement.

“Just don’t flip me off,” Bowman said. “If you do it once, I get it, I ran into you on the first lap, that’s on me, I messed up. Don’t do it three laps in a row every single straightaway.”

Bowman said he later raced with Wallace without incident in the 109-lap race.

But that was just only part of the issues Bowman had this weekend.

Bowman wrecked in the final seconds of final Cup practice Saturday, forcing his Hendrick Motorsports team to go to a backup car and give up its second starting spot. Bowman had to start toward the rear of the 40-car field because he was in the backup car.

Then came the issue on the first lap that required him to pit for new tires. He had to come back down pit road for a pass through penalty since he never stopped in the designated spot after missing the backstretch chicane.

He was last at that point. With temperatures in the 90s Sunday and temperatures inside the car much hotter, Bowman became exhausted.

“Probably Lap 10 of the race I was pretty done and out of it from a physical standpoint,” Bowman said. “Just tried to keep digging.”

Bowman was 12 points out of the final transfer spot when the caution waved on Lap 90 for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s spin. Bowman was running 13th at the time. He pitted and was soon in the top 10 and steadily moved to the front in the final laps.

But Bowman’s struggles were not over. A red flag on Lap 102 left drivers baking in their cars for 8 minutes and 22 seconds.

“I saw them coming with water to all the guys behind me and I was out of water in the car and they didn’t get to me,” Bowman said. “They got to about four cars behind me and they started rolling and I was like ‘Dang it man, I could have used that water.’”

Bowman got through that and climbed to second to finish behind teammate Chase Elliott to give Hendrick Motorsports its second 1-2 finish of the year. The two combined for the other at Talladega Superspeedway, where Elliott won and Bowman was second.

Bowman’s run combined with a failed strategy for Aric Almirola allowed Bowman to beat Almirola by five points for the final transfer spot to the second round.

“You know, nobody tries any harder than Alex does,” car owner Rick Hendrick said. “He just didn’t give up.  I mean, and he was quick, but he ‑‑ I mean, he just refused to lose today.  I thought, ‘Man, if he gets up there to Chase, we might have a problem.’ But no, Alex is committed. He’s a 100% in.  Greg (Ives, crew chief), that’s such a good team. I’m excited to see where they’re going to go here in the next round. But he did ‑‑ when you think about where (Bowman) came from and finished second, that was unbelievable. Proud of him.”

Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson to pursue $100K bounty in Truck Series

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The $100,000 bounty on Kyle Busch has its first contenders.

Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson each confirmed Thursday evening on Twitter that they’ll take a shot at the bounty placed by Kevin Harvick and Marcus Lemonis last week.

Elliott will compete in the March 14 Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the May 30 race at Kansas Speedway with GMS Racing. Larson will compete with GMS Racing in the March 20 event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Elliott will be sponsored by Hooters for the Atlanta race.

The declarations by the two drivers came the same day that Busch said he didn’t believe any full-time Cup Series drivers would go after the bounty.

Elliott has 12 career Truck Series starts. His last two, at Atlanta and Martinsville in 2017, came with GMS Racing. Elliott won the Martinsville race. Busch was not in that race.

“Once the word got out about the challenge, we were able to put this together with Mike Beam at GMS in just a couple of days,” Elliott said in a press release. “Atlanta is one of my favorite tracks, so I’m really looking forward to getting back into a GMS truck there with Hooters on the truck and make a run for a win.”

Larson has 13 career starts and his last three, including a win at Eldora and top five at Homestead in 2016, came with GMS Racing.

“When I heard about the $100,000 bounty I wanted in!” Larson said in a press release. “I’m thankful for GMS and Chevy giving me this opportunity, Homestead is one of my favorite tracks so looking for to the challenge!”

There’s a potential third bounty hunter waiting in the wings.

Not long after Larson’s announcement, Denny Hamlin, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, tweeted that he’s acquired the funding to field a ride. There’s just one hangup, and it’s Kyle Busch Motorsports:

The $100,000 bounty against Busch was proposed by Harvick and Lemonis, CEO of Gander RV & Outdoors, last week. It will go to any full-time Cup Series driver who beats Busch in any of his remaining four Truck Series starts this year. Busch has won the last seven Truck Series races he’s entered.

If Elliott or no other Cup driver beats Busch in those four races, the bounty will go to the Bundle of Joy Fund, the organization founded by Kyle and Samantha Busch that helps couples who require fertility treatments to conceive.

“We are blessed with this opportunity. To have an owner that is up for the challenge and a manufacturer that will support the extra effort necessary is really special,” said Mike Beam, President of GMS Racing, in a press release. “It’s great to have these two talented young men back behind the wheel for us and to have the extra attention on the Truck series is great.”

Kyle Busch: $100K Truck Series bounty is a losing proposition

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Kyle Busch doesn’t believe any full-time Cup Series driver will attempt to claim the $100,000 bounty placed on him last week by Kevin Harvick and Marcus Lemonis.

Harvick and Lemonis, the CEO of Truck Series sponsor Gander RV & Outdoors, said they’d award that bounty to any full-time Cup Series driver who is able to beat Busch in any of his four remaining Truck Series starts this year.

Busch, who has won the last seven Truck races he’s entered, sees the challenge as a losing investment, especially if someone attempted it in one of Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Toyotas.

Thursday on the Barstool Sports’ “Rubbin’ is Racing” podcast, Busch said it costs $140,000 to rent one of his Trucks for a race.

“Right off the bat (it’s a losing proposition),” Busch said. “It’s not going to happen. Nobody is going to pay the 140 grand to rent a truck, whether it’s from me or from somebody else. (Show co-host Clint) Bowyer didn’t tell you the fact he can’t even rent a truck from me because I’m a Toyota team and he drives for a Ford team. So he has to go find a Ford truck in order to drive. So there’s those complications that fit into all of this, too.”

Denny Hamlin, Busch’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, expressed his interest in the bounty, as well Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon, who said he was “working on” a deal.

After his win last Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Busch’s four remaining Truck Series starts are:

March 14 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

March 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

March 27 at Texas Motor Speedway

May 30 at Kansas Speedway.

If no one beats Busch, the bounty will go to the Bundle of Joy Fund, the organization founded by Kyle and Samantha Busch that helps couples who require fertility treatments to conceive.

NASCAR America presents MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America’s MotorMouths airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Marty Snider hosts and is joined by Kyle Petty, Steve Letarte and Nate Ryan.

James Hinchliffe will call into the show to discuss his new role as an analyst for NBC’s coverage of IndyCar, Indy Lights, IMSA and NASCAR.

You can call into the show via 844-NASCAR-NBC or submit your questions/comments via Twitter using #LetMeSayThis.

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.

Auto Club Speedway’s old surface provides ‘moving target’ for drivers

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Auto Club Speedway has a lot of character.

It’s a character that comes from the 2-mile track’s racing surface being among the oldest on the NASCAR circuit.

The surface hasn’t been repaved since the track first opened in 1997. That’s the same year that the surface for Atlanta Motor Speedway was last resurfaced (a planned repave was put on hold indefinitely in 2017 after outcry from drivers).

In the 23 years since, races at the track in Fontana, California, have turned into producers of multi-groove spectacles (especially on restarts) that come at the cost of high levels of tire wear.

The aged surface provides a “moving target” to drivers throughout the race weekend, according to Tyler Reddick.

“During the start of the weekend, you have to watch for the seams since it’s so slick out there,” the rookie Cup driver said in a media release. “Normally, the Xfinity cars are the first ones on the track, so I’m normally very careful. Now that I’m in the Cup Series, it may be a little different. I think this weekend will be fairly similar to Las Vegas where we started out running wide open, and I’ll have to run like that until the handling starts to go away in our No. 8 I Am Second Chevrolet (and) you have to start lifting. Then it’ll be important to assess why the handling is changing and how to adjust our car correctly to battle that.”

Cup and Xfinity teams only visit Auto Club Speedway once a year and this will be the second year they’ll do so with the high downforce aero package.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones believes Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox) will be a “different race” from the one seen last year.

“Going into Fontana last year, no one really knew what we needed car-wise, balance-wise and this year we have a whole notebook to look back on to try to get better,” Jones, who finished 19th in last year’s race, said in a media release.

“I think there will be a lot more lifting, the cars will be faster. Everybody has just gotten their cars better and more efficient and faster on the straightaways and that makes for more lifting in the corners. It will probably be a little different race, but Fontana is always a good show.”

But that show depends on where a driver chooses to run around the track.

Racing along the top of the track compared to running in the bottom lane proves for “two completely different types of racing” according to defending race winner Kyle Busch.

“You can run from the top to the bottom but, when you run the bottom, you really feel like you’re puttering around the racetrack,” Busch said in a media release. “You feel like you aren’t making up any time on the bottom. But when you are running the top groove, you feel like you’re getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top.”

When it comes to how rough the track is, Matt DiBenedetto cites how bumpy Turns 3 and 4 are, but said in a media release that traversing the “back straightaway is like going over jumps.”

But just like with the old surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway, there are those who never want to see Auto Club’s surface actually improve.

“I did an appearance at Auto Club Speedway not too long ago and I told the track officials, ‘Whatever you do, don’t repave it!'” Austin Dillon said in a media release. “Or, wait to repave it until you can figure out how to make an asphalt that is very similar to what is on the track now.”

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