Jimmie Johnson says Hendrick will know his future within 4-6 months

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Jimmie Johnson has heard questions about his NASCAR future throughout this career-worst season, especially since a recent extension of primary sponsor Ally came without a new driver deal.

Soon, he knows the definitive question about how much longer the seven-time champion will drive the No. 48 Chevrolet in Cup will come from the most important person of all: team owner Rick Hendrick.

“I’ve got to start spending some time on it first and foremost, because in the next four to six months, Rick is going to start asking me,” Johnson told NASCAR on NBC’s Jeff Burton in an exclusive sitdown interview that will air Sunday on NBC before the race at Kansas Speedway (coverage will begin at 1 p.m. ET). “I know it’s out there.”

Has the Hendrick Motorsports owner asked about whether Johnson’s future will include racing in Cup beyond the end of his current contract (which expires after the 2020 season)?

“He’s hinted,” said Johnson, who turned 44 last month. “He hasn’t put the true pressure on me yet. I’m very thankful to have Rick as an owner and to be in this position with Ally that, ‘Hey look, we’re going to (sponsor the car). We want you as long as you want to drive.’

“I don’t think many drivers get that opportunity. So I’m so thankful for that. I want to keep racing. I’d like to not race 38 times a year at some point in the next couple of years. I love racing in general. I love our sport. I want to be involved in our sport. I also love other types of racing. I’ve got to balance family, the schedule and then some other goals that I have to complete in other series, too, at the same time and make a decision on all that within four to six months.”

Johnson said on Wednesday night’s NASCAR America Motor Mouths that he remains interested in running IndyCar races on road courses.

He told Burton that he would make the decision with the input of Jeff Gordon (who hand-picked Johnson to drive for Hendrick); longtime friends such as Rick Johnson; his wife, Chandra and their two young daughters, Genevieve, 9, and Lydia, 6.

“My kids, in this next phase of my life, need to have a seat at the table when we have that conversation. All that is going to be very difficult to communicate with a 6-year-old. I don’t know how that’s going to work out, but I want her to be a part of it.

And of course, he also will rely on the advice of Hendrick, whom he has driven for since entering the Cup Series in 2002.

“He’s like a dad, and everybody who has worked for him knows that,” Johnson said. “In some ways, that takes a lot of pressure off. In other ways, it puts pressure on.

“It’s a big decision that I know he doesn’t want to put unneeded pressure on me for, and I feel like through his experiences with drivers retiring, he doesn’t want to push on a driver staying any longer than they feel like they want to, so I think we’re in a good spot, and we’ll just see where it ends up here. Hopefully, I can defer as long as I can and wait maybe nine months, but I don’t think that’s really going to happen.”

Processing the decision probably will be tabled until after the final five races of the 2019 season.

Johnson said he is most focused on ending a 90-race winless drought that dates to June 4, 2017 at Dover International Speedway. He is encouraged that his qualifying and finishing averages are “way up” since the arrival of crew chief Cliff Daniels two months ago.

“I really feel like there aren’t any big obstacles ahead of us,” Johnson said. “Cliff has really brought me back up and has me so excited and so ready for each and every week, that I’m in the best place I’ve been mentally for years. So, absolutely, I am ready for this fight.

“I expect to win this year.”

Johnson, who has 83 career victories, missed the playoffs this year for the first time since NASCAR introduced the postseason structure in 2004. On Motor Mouths, he told Kyle Petty and Marty Snider about the lack of respect he feels he’s received from playoff drivers (video below).

“I used to be feared on the track and there was a certain level of respect that took place,” he said. “That hasn’t been there in a couple of years. I’ve been used up way more (by other drivers), and I’ve let it slide. I’m not where I should be. I get it.

“But when my car is right, I expect that same respect back. And I’m not getting that respect back. And I just have to go fight for it.”

Today’s Las Vegas Cup race: Start time, lineup and more

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One down and only 35 to go.

With the Daytona 500 now in the record books, the NASCAR Cup Series moves on to its second race of the season – and the start of the three-race western swing.

Can Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin make it back-to-back wins to start the 2020 season?

How about defending Cup Series champ Kyle Busch, looking for his second career Cup win in his hometown? What about older brother Kurt Busch, still searching for his first career hometown Cup triumph?

Here is all the info for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic “Miracle” hockey team will give the command to start engines at 3:37 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:46 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage opens at 11:30 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 1:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 3 p.m. The invocation will be given by Motor Racing Outreach chaplain Billy Mauldin at 3:30 p.m. The National Anthem will be performed by Carnell Johnson at 3:31 p.m., followed by a flyover by four F-16 “Vipers” from the 57th Wing Adversary Tactics Group from Nellis Air Force Base at 3:32 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race with coverage beginning at 3:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s broadcast begins at 2:30 p.m. and can also be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The Wunderground.com forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 68 degrees and a 0% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Joey Logano won this race last year, followed by teammate Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. Martin Truex Jr. won last September’s playoff race, followed by Kevin Harvick and Keselowski.

TO THE REAR: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell will start from the rear after L1 level infractions in qualifying inspection. Garrett Smithley will also start from the rear due to three inspections failures.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Rain postpones Las Vegas Xfinity race to 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday

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Rain has forced the conclusion of today’s Xfinity Series race in Las Vegas to be postponed until Sunday after the Cup Series race at approximately 7:30 p.m. ET. The race will resume on FS2.

The race had been red flagged since late Saturday afternoon, with the race paused on Lap 51 of 200, only six laps after Chase Briscoe won Stage 1.

The top 10 is currently scored as:

  1. Joe Graf Jr. (stayed out of pits)
  2. Chase Briscoe
  3. Austin Cindric
  4. Ross Chastain
  5. Brandon Jones
  6. Justin Allgaier
  7. Michael Annett
  8. Justin Haley
  9. Harrison Burton
  10. Brett Moffitt

Kevin Harvick, Gander RV CEO put up $100K bounty to beat Kyle Busch in trucks

Kyle Busch
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Kevin Harvick and Gander RV & Outdoors CEO Marcus Lemonis issued a bounty poster in tweet form Saturday.

WANTED: A full-time Cup Series driver to beat Kyle Busch in any of his remaining four Truck Series starts this year (without wrecking him).

REWARD: $50,000 each from Harvick and Lemonis.

The bounty comes the night after Busch won his seventh consecutive Truck Series race, which includes all five starts he made in 2019.

Saturday’s race was his first of five in the trucks this season. He’ll be back in the series March 14 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, March 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, March 27 at Texas Motor Speedway and May 30 at Kansas Speedway.

Busch won at Atlanta and Texas last year.

Busch himself didn’t seem too impressed with the bounty when told about it in the media center.

So what is in it for Busch?

If no full-time Cup driver is able to beat Busch in those four races, the bounty will be given to the Bundle of Joy Fund, the organization founded by Kyle and Samantha Busch that helps couples who require fertility treatments to conceive.

Lemonis wasn’t done there. Later Saturday night, he put another proposition out into the Twitterverse. If Fox Sports moved any of the races to prime time, he’d increase the purse among the top-five finishers to $250,000.

Needless to say, the original bounty got the attention of a few drivers, including Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin.

Disclaimer on the following tweet by Hamlin: As noted above, none of Busch’s remaining four truck races are at Richmond Raceway. But…..Richmond is the site of the first Triple Truck Challenge race on April 18.

Richmond’s track president, Dennis Bickmeier chimed in with his thoughts.

Las Vegas Xfinity race under red flag for rain on Lap 51

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Today’s Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is under its second rain delay and its first since the start of race.

The race was paused by a red flag on Lap 51, shortly after the end of Stage 1.

The race is official after the end of Stage 2 on Lap 90.

Joe Graf Jr is listed as the leader after he stayed out during pit stops.

The top five is completed by Stage 1 winner Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ross Chastain and Brandon Jones.

The green flag for the race was originally scheduled for 4:16 p.m. ET. The finally waved at 5:48 p.m. ET.

The rain forced the cancellation of qualifying for Cup and Xfinity. The field was set by last year’s owner’s points.

If the race resumes tonight, coverage will be on FS2.

Check back for more.