Getty Images

Podcast: NBC’s Jeff Burton understands Kyle Busch parking car at Roval

2 Comments

With a broken suspension hindering his car and nothing to gain, Kyle Busch parked his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota late in Sunday’s playoff race at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval.

While some observers criticized Busch, NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton understands why Busch did it, even if a part of him doesn’t totally agree with the move. Burton gave his take on Busch’s decision to exit early in this week’s NASCAR on NBC podcast

Part of me is like never quit,” Burton told co-host Nate Ryan. “I grew up in an era where you took pride in doing whatever it took to be on that race track when that checkered flag flew. However, (Busch) was right. There really wasn’t anything to gain (to remaining in the race).

If they come down pit road and if they can fix it, what is he going to gain that will help him win the championship? He’s not going to get a playoff point, so what is he going to gain? That’s probably one of the negatives in this rules package, is that Kyle and his team really could say there isn’t anything to gain.”

Busch, winless in his last 15 races after placing 37th at the Roval, tweeted after the race that the problem with his car was a broken sway bar. Given how few laps (nine) remained when he exited while the race was under a brief red flag, replacing the piece would have been futile.

(A broken sway bar doesn’t make it undriveable) but it makes it completely uncompetitive,” Burton said on the podcast. “The thing is horrible to drive and you might pass some guys that are horrible that might have had some issues but listen man, Paul Menard ran good all day and he finished 16th. Ryan Preece finished 21st. You weren’t going to pass him. So I hear what Kyle is saying with that.”

Now the focus for Busch is on Dover International Speedway. Last weekend at Charlotte, Busch was asked about his expectations for Sunday’s race at Dover (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Not very optimistic. Let’s just go with that,” he said.

Busch applauded teammate Martin Truex Jr., who won the spring race at Dover while Busch finished 10th, leading just one lap.

Yeah, my teammate was really, really good there in the spring obviously,” Busch said. “He passed everybody and won the race. I sat there in 10th to 14th all day and just complained about it. I guess I need to get better at passing.”

In this week’s race preview media release, Busch further expressed his frustration.

Obviously, the race in the spring there was really frustrating for us, so I’m hoping that we find more than we did there the last time with these cars the way they are now,” Busch said.

Even with last spring’s disappointment, Busch has a good record on Dover’s 1-mile concrete oval with three wins, 12 top five and 18 top 10 finishes in 29 Cup starts.

It’s definitely a roller-coaster ride and you need to treat it like it’s fun and not to be scared of the place, I think, because you can get so much out of that place,” Busch said. “There are two ways about it – you can probably be really, really good there, or really, really bad there. Some days you’re going to be better than others, obviously, with how you can get your car set up compared to the competition.”

Despite some struggles in the opening round, Busch enters the second round as the points leader because of his season-high 46 playoff points, including 15 for winning the regular-season title. 

Kyle’s going to haul ass at Dover,” Burton said. However, the former Cup driver also understands if Busch isn’t exactly optimistic about returning there after his showing in May.

It’s going to be hard to pass at Dover, period, end of story, and Kyle’s going to have to brace himself for that, brace himself for a very difficult race where aerodynamically if you’re in second, you’re going to be disadvantaged. It is what it is and he’s going to have to find a way to get above his dislike for the package. I believe that. I believe you can’t race with anger, you have to race with passion. But he’s an extraordinary race car driver that can get by with some things that I surely couldn’t get by with.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Kyle Busch dominates to Truck win at Las Vegas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kyle Busch extended his NASCAR Truck Series victory record to 57 in his hometown Friday night, leading 108 of 134 laps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion swept both stages and finished 5.958 seconds ahead of Johnny Sauter. Busch has won seven straight races in the series, including all five he entered last season.

Austin Hill was third, followed by defending series champion Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes. Grrant Enfinger, who opened the season with an overtime victory at Daytona, did not finish after an accident with 43 laps to go.

Christian Eckes was right behind Busch in the opening two stages, but he finished 23rd after an early final-stage wreck.

Results

Driver standings

Jimmie Johnson tops final Cup practice at Las Vegas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jimmie Johnson was the fastest driver in Friday’s second and final NASCAR Cup practice of the weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The seven-time Cup champion hasn’t won a race since 2017, but showed plenty of speed, pacing the 38 cars that took to the 1.5-mile track, clocking a best speed of 179.432 mph.

Johnson and his Chevrolet were followed by five Fords.

Clint Bowyer, who was second-fastest in the first practice earlier in the day, was once again second-fast in the final session at 179.271 mph.

Aric Almirola, who was fastest in the first practice, was third-fastest in the final session at 179.170 mph.

Rounding out the top-5 were Kevin Harvick (179.015 mph) and Matt DiBenedetto (178.814 mph).

Sixth through 10th were Ross Chastain (178.660 mph), who will be filling in for the injured Ryan Newman in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, followed by Kyle Larson (178.424), Ryan Blaney (178.359), John Hunter Nemechek (178.259) and Alex Bowman (178.089).

Final Cup practice results

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Next goals for Daytona winner Denny Hamlin: double-digit wins, Cup crown

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There was a time when Denny Hamlin’s best memories of the Daytona 500 were to just go home relatively unscathed.

Consider this: In Hamlin’s first six appearances in the Great American Race, his highest finish was 17th.

But after a breakthrough 4th-place finish in 2012, he has become the best overall performer in the 500 among active drivers.

“I don’t know what it is, but I think I started studying more about superspeedway racing around that time because I had been so unsuccessful for a very long time,” Hamlin said Friday during a media session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“We went a long time and I’ve won a lot of the Clashes and Duel races, but not many like Talladega – I think I have one win there – but it just seems like it’s that seven or eight years ago that the car came around and whatever techniques I use or I’ve adapted to this car have seemed to work.”

In the last seven editions of the 500, Hamlin has finished 2nd (2014), 4th (2015), 1st (2016), 17th (2017), 3rd (2018), 1st (2019) and 1st again this past Monday.

Do the math and that’s three wins – making him only the sixth driver in NASCAR history to win the 500 three or more times – and seven overall top-5 finishes in the last nine season openers.

Hamlin knew that getting his second 500 win in a row – both outcomes being the closest finishes in the race’s 62-year history – and third in the last five years was basically going to come down to a battle between him, Ryan Newman and Ryan Blaney.

With emphasis on Newman, that is, before he was involved in that horrific last lap crash on the front stretch heading toward the checkered flag.

“I pulled the block on (Newman) coming to the white (flag) and I stayed in front and I knew he was going to back up to (Blaney),” Hamlin said. “I was trying to back up myself, but once (Newman) was attached (to Blaney), I knew they were going to come with a run I could not stop.

“I just held my line because if I started going sideways, the next thing you know (Newman) starts moving sideways and (Blaney) is already hooked to him, so he’s probably going to push him sideways into me.

“I just wanted to hold a straight line to let them know hey, pass this way, and when I did I was able to back to (Blaney) and was able to unattach him from (Newman). When I slowed his momentum, that allowed me to really tuck in right behind him. I don’t know if he checked up to keep us attached but once we got attached, I knew we were going to have a run back on (Newman).

“I knew he was going to get there, I didn’t know what was going to happen when he did get there, but certainly it worked out in my favor. I thought I was going to get back around (Blaney) at the (finish) line if there was no crash, but I wasn’t sure I was going to get all the way back to (Newman). I knew those two were going to jostle and I was just hoping to be in the right place when it happened and I was.”

Not having any 500 wins of his own, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch is envious of Hamlin’s three triumphs.

“Denny has really gotten way better ever since this car,” Busch said of Hamlin and how he’s adapted to the Gen 6 car in recent years. “He was always an aggressive plate racer, one that would make moves that you’re kind of, ‘Man, if he would just stay in line, I think this would turn out better.’

“He still does that today, but he’s making it work for himself, that not staying in line is better for Denny. I think since this car came though, he’s been a real good plate racer.

“He’s been fantastic at the game, he’s understood it, he’s made moves that I sometimes wouldn’t make that have worked, he’s able to pass a guy to get in line. … He’s very knowledgeable and skillful In making his moves and passes.”

Going forward from Daytona, Hamlin said his next goal is double-digit wins this season. If so, he’d become the first driver to earn 10 or more wins in a season since Jimmie Johnson did so in 2007 when the seven-time champ won 10 races.

“I’d be satisfied with that and then beyond that would be nice,” Hamlin said. “I think that the championship is an easy goal that anyone just throws out – win a championship, but that comes down to one race.

“If you can win a significant amount of races, it shows a bigger picture of your full year. If you make it to the Final Four, that’s a bigger picture of your entire year (Hamlin has reached the final four just twice since the format was introduced in 2014 — third that year and fourth last season). I think the championship – a successful year is making the Final Four. Anything after that is just whatever it is.

“Certainly we set lofty goals. I think everyone sets huge and lofty goals, but certainly we’re going to push ourselves to better what we did last year and it starts with Daytona and we’re able to repeat there so then let’s get a win now before we get to Texas to keep ourselves on pace or better from last year.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Johnny Sauter on pole for tonight’s Truck race in Las Vegas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Johnny Sauter will start from the pole in tonight’s Strat 200 Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Sauter earned the eighth career pole of his Truck Series career – and first since 2018 – by topping the other 34 drivers that made qualifying attempts with a speed of 177.836 mph.

Sheldon Creed (177.643 mph) will start alongside Sauter on the front row for tonight’s race.

The rest of the top 10 qualifiers were Kyle Busch (177.282 mph), making his first Truck Series start of the season, followed by Christian Eckes (177.189 mph), Ty Majeski (177.189), Austin Hill (176.788 mph), Tyler Ankrum (176.275), Raphael Lessard (176.056), Grant Enfinger (176.010) and Brett Moffitt (175.890).

Tonight’s race starts shortly after 9 p.m. ET (FS1, Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Trucks qualifying results

Follow @JerryBonkowski