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

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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.”

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NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kyle Busch ends the season No. 1

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The 2019 season is over and Kyle Busch is the NASCAR Cup champion. And not surprisingly, the younger Busch brother also ends the season as No. 1 in this week’s Power Rankings.

Busch received 39 of 40 possible points to take the No. 1 spot, followed by the other three Championship 4 contenders: Martin Truex Jr. (35 points), and Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick (tied for third place with 28 points each).

The biggest surprises in this week’s standings were Xfinity Series champ Tyler Reddick in fifth and Gander Outdoors Truck Series champ Matt Crafton in sixth.

Here’s this week’s Power Rankings:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): Finally gets that second title. Last week: Second.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (35 points): Inexcusable pit mistake left him as the championship runner-up for the second year in a row. Last week: Fourth.

(tie) 3. Denny Hamlin (28 points): Came so close to his first championship, only to be fall short yet again. Could this be the closest he’ll get? Last week: First.

(tie) 3. Kevin Harvick (28 points): Needed a bit more help than he got going against the Joe Gibbs Racing juggernaut. Still, a very strong season regardless. Last week: Third.

5. Tyler Reddick (18 points): It’s hard enough to win one championship, but back-to-back championships with two different teams? Last week: Unranked.

6. Matt Crafton (14 points): Wins the championship without even winning a race (in fact, his last win was more than two years ago). Thrived on his underdog status. Last week: Unranked.

7. Ryan Blaney (12 points): Finished 11th or better, including a win at Talladega, in five of the last six playoff races. Last week: Fifth.

(tie) 8. Joey Logano (11 points): Ends year with four consecutive top 10s, but he fell short in making it to the championship round and defending last year’s title. Last week: Eighth.

(tie) 8. Erik Jones (11 points): Ends season with four top 10s in last five races. That bodes well for next season. Last week: Seventh.

10. Christopher Bell (6 points): Missed his chance to add an Xfinity title to his Truck championship. Still, with eight wins, had an outstanding season. Up next: a promotion to the Cup Series. Last week: 10th.

Others receiving votes: Kyle Larson (5 points), Clint Bowyer (5 points), Cole Custer (4 points), Austin Hill (2 points), Brad Keselowski (1 point), Brett Moffitt (1 point).

Zane Smith joins GMS Racing for full-time Truck Series ride

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Zane Smith will compete full-time for GMS Racing in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series next year, the team announced Tuesday.

Smith, 20, joins the team after competing part-time with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series this year, where his best result in 10 races was fifth twice.

He will be GMS Racing’s fourth full-time entry next year, joining Brett Moffitt, Sheldon Creed and Tyler Ankrum. Sam Mayer will compete part-time.

Smith will have veteran Kevin “Bono” Manion as his crew chief.

“When I got the offer from Mike Beam asking me to run a truck full-time for GMS Racing, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” Smith said in a press release. “GMS is a championship-caliber team and to be a part of an organization like theirs is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m looking forward to working with Manion again. He has a lot of experience and I know we will be a great team.”

Manion, who has 24 wins across all three national NASCAR series since 2003, joins GMS Racing after serving as a crew chief for DGR-Crosley in 2019, including working with Rookie of the Year Tyler Ankrum. Manion was crew chief for Smith in 2018 when he made his Truck Series debut at Gateway and finished fifth.

“I am really excited to join GMS Racing and Zane (Smith) for the 2020 season,” Manion said in a press release. “With GMS Racing’s championship caliber equipment and Chevrolet support, we have all the resources to win some races and be in the hunt for the 2020 Championship. I got the opportunity to crew chief Zane (Smith) in his first Gander Trucks start in 2018 at Gateway and we worked really well together. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish next season.”

Sponsorship and an assigned truck number for Smith will be announced at a later date.

Penalty report from Homestead-Miami Speedway

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NASCAR issued four fines and one suspension for lug nut violations during its championship weekend in Miami.

Cup Series

Mike Wheeler, crew crew chief on Matt DiBenedetto‘s No. 95 Toyota, was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut.

Xfinity Series

Mike Shiplett, crew chief on Cole Custer‘s No. 00 Ford, was fined $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut.

Truck Series

Steve Lane, the owner of On Point Motorsports and crew chief on Danny Bohn‘s No. 30 Toyota, was fined $5,000 and suspended one points race for two unsecured lug nuts. The No. 30 truck competed part-time this season and made 16 starts. The team told NBC Sports it will not appeal the penalty.

Trip Bruce III, crew chief on Stewart Friesen‘s No. 52 Chevrolet, was fined $2,500 for one unsecured lug nut.

Other

NASCAR issued an indefinite suspension to Jeffrey Schmidt for violating its substance abuse policy.

Truck Series gets minor name change for 2020

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Four days after the end of the Gander Outdoors Truck Series season, NASCAR announced the series will receive a minor name change for the 2020 season.

The series will be called the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series when the season starts in February at Daytona International Speedway.

This is the second name change for the series in two years.

This season saw the name change from the Camping World Truck Series, which had been the title from 2009-2018.

Gander Outdoors and Camping World are owned by the same company.

Next year will also see a different name for the Cup Series. With the series going to a new sponsorship model, it will simply be called the NASCAR Cup Series.