NASCAR America: 2018 marked by winless streaks ending

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Aric Almirola came close to snapping a more than 100 race winless streak so many times this year many questioned if it would ever happen. When Kurt Busch’s engine sputtered exiting Turn 4 at Talladega Superspeedway last week, Almirola was in position to capitalize and he held the field at bay during the run to the checkers.

Almirola’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 win was his second career victory and first in 149 races. His first win also came on a restrictor-plate track in July 2014 at Daytona – a race that locked him into that year’s playoffs. Sunday’s win guarantees he will advance to the Round of 8 as a championship contender.

Almirola’s win was one of several conclusions to winless streaks of 50 or more races.

MORE: Aric Almirola laments lost opportunity at Dover win 
MORE: Aric Almirola leaves New Hampshire frustrated after third-place finish 
MORE: Aric Almirola’s speed neutralized by loose wheels, pit gun problems 

These drivers “have been put in the right situations and trying to find that right mix for a driver – you just never know when that is,” Dale Jarrett said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “You keep trying to put yourself in that position. Clint Bowyer went a year at least … when he was not in contention whatsoever, but he knew what was on the horizon for him.”

When Bowyer won in March, he snapped a 190-race winless streak. Chase Elliott’s first win at Watkins Glen came in his 99th start.

Busch broke a 58-race winless streak at Bristol in August while Ryan Blaney’s visit to victory lane at the Charlotte Roval was his first in 50 races.

There are two common threads among these drivers.

Almirola, Bowyer and Busch compete for Stewart-Haas Racing who is having a breakthrough season.

Elliott, Blaney and Almirola each scored their first or second career wins in breaking their streaks.

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Kyle Busch, Martin Truex struggle at Dega while Aric Almirola shines

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Today’s NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN with Carolyn Manno and Nate Ryan from Stamford. Dale Jarrett will join from Charlotte with a look back at all the action for last week’s playoff race at Talladega.

  • We’ll recap Sunday’s race at Talladega that saw Aric Almirola end his 149-race winless streak and advance to the Round of 8. What does his victory mean for Almirola’s championship hopes going forward?
  • Plus, we’ll examine the run of dominance of Stewart-Haas Racing in the Round of 12. Can all 4 of the team’s drivers find their way to Miami to battle for a championship?
  • We’ll discuss the recent struggles of Cup Series champions Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. How does their performance of late bode for their chances to make it to Miami?
  • Kyle Larson had a lot to say following Sunday’s race and it wasn’t positive. Facing elimination, how will Larson approach Kansas this weekend? Dave Burns reports from the Chip Ganassi Shop on the state of the 42 team.
  • Plus, we begin our celebration of NASCAR America’s upcoming 1,000th episode (Friday, 6 ET) with highlights from our vault.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it 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.

Bump & Run: Who will win an 8th Cup title first? Jimmie or Chad?

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With Hendrick Motorsports announcing Wednesday that seven-time champions Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus will not paired together next year for the first time since 2001, the NASCAR on NBC team debated some of the key topics moving forward.

Who wins an eighth title first? Jimmie or Chad?

Jeff Burton: Jimmie Johnson

Kyle Petty: There will be no 8th title. Remember I’ve seen this show with my Dad and Dale Inman. My Dad was never really a threat again. Dale won an 8th championship with Terry Labonte. I don’t believe William Byron to be the next Terry Labonte. Together they were once “The Team.” Time and the sport changes.

Dale Jarrett: I think if it’s done, it’s going to be Jimmie. I think he’s got a couple of more opportunities at this.

Parker KligermanJimmie. Nothing against Chad, as I think he is as much a part of their success as Jimmie, but the tool with which Chad will go to battle with is still being sharpened and shaped. Jimmie, on the other hand, has experience and cunning to make up for any pitfalls.

Nate Ryan: Just like Dale Inman, Knaus will win his eighth with another driver.

Dustin Long: Neither. They both remain with seven titles.

Daniel McFadin: Knaus. His expiration date as a crew chief is further out than Johnson’s as a driver but not by much. I don’t think Johnson will ever reach eight.

Dan Beaver: Perhaps Chad, but probably neither. All good things must come to an end and Jimmie Johnson will not earn another. He’ll come close a time or two just like Richard Petty after winning his seventh in 1979 but something will continue to keep him from advancing to the final round. Chad’s opportunity to win another championship will not come with William Byron, but it is hard to know with whom he’ll be paired in the future.

 

Which of the last six races is the best for Jimmie and Chad to win together this year?

Jeff Burton: Martinsville

Kyle Petty: My Magic 8-Ball says … ”None”

Dale Jarrett: I think they have two. I think this weekend at Talladega, obviously, is an opportunity for anybody, but I think Martinsville is probably still their best shot that they have. With Jimmie’s experience and the things they’ve been able to do short-track racing, I think that is their best shot. I think even that’s a long shot from what I’ve seen this year.

Parker Kligerman: Martinsville – Need I say more?

Nate Ryan: Texas Motor Speedway. The top-five speed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway bodes well for their final race together at the 1.5-mile oval they’ve conquered seven times.

Dustin Long: Martinsville but even that won’t be easy. While he won the playoff race there in 2016, Johnson has two top-10 finishes in his last eight starts. Still, this is a track with so much history for Hendrick Motorsports that it would be fitting if it happened there.

Daniel McFadin: Martinsville. Their nine grandfather clocks speak for themselves.

Dan Beaver: Jimmie Johnson has nine wins at Martinsville with the most recent coming in 2016. That is a track where they can pull a little strategy at the end to get track position and Johnson knows how to do the rest.

 

Who is the next driver at Hendrick Motorsports to win the title?

Jeff Burton: Chase Elliott

Kyle Petty: Chase Elliott… or ask me again when Jimmie retires and we see who takes his place!

Dale Jarrett: Chase Elliott. That’s the next at Hendrick Motorsports and could be this year.

Parker Kligerman: Jimmie Johnson. He will win one more before he hangs up the helmet. At least that is what the race fan in me wants to believe.

Nate Ryan: Chase Elliott. He’ll be among the championship four this season and could capture the 2019 title.

Dustin Long: Chase Elliott. It won’t be this year but his time is coming.

Daniel McFadin: Chase Elliott, just due to his current success and amount of experience in top equipment. Though I wouldn’t put it past Alex Bowman to sneak one in before William Byron starts heating up.

Dan Beaver: Chase Elliott in 2018.

NASCAR America: Pit road woes a familiar refrain for No. 4 team

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Kevin Harvick continues to be plagued by pit road problems. Last week on Lap 321 of the Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover International Speedway, a lug nut knocked a valve stem off his tire during a green-flag stop, forcing the No. 4 back into the pits on the following lap. He lost a lap to the leaders in the process.

It was an instance of bad luck, but it underscores a problem the driver and team have had before.

“All of these issues that we talk about and have for four years now is always things happening in the pits,” Dale Jarrett said on Tuesday’s NASCAR America. “The pit crew makes mistakes, they make a call, they have things like lug nuts flying off and hitting a valve stem. … With the level of competition and as these rounds move forward, you can’t have these types of mistakes and expect to win the championship.”

Stewart-Haas Racing has made substantial changes to the pit crew since Harvick won his first – and so far only – championship in 2014. Only two members (Mike Morneau and Justin White) who went over the wall that year remain with the team. Still, the problems persist.

“What they do … and what constantly amazes me … is they dominate a race, they let it slip away, but they come back and get something out of it,” Kyle Petty said.

On Sunday, Harvick got back on the lead lap when an axle came out of Ross Chastain’s car on Lap 339. The race restarted on Lap 349 and in the final 55 laps, Harvick was able to climb back to sixth as the checkers waved.

For more, watch the video above.

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NASCAR America: Chase Elliott’s restart skill was key to Dover win

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Before last week, Chase Elliott had a reputation he wanted to shed.

In several races during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Elliott lost the lead on late-race restarts.

Notably, he was in position to win both Michigan International Speedway races of 2016 before finishing second to Joey Logano in June and Kyle Larson in August.

“The Chase Elliott of a couple of years ago got spanked on restarts,” Kyle Petty said on Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America.

Elliott put that behind him at Dover. On Lap 393, he stayed on track along with Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. while the remainder of the field pitted. Most of the top 10 cars on the restart had two fresh tires. Aric Almirola in sixth had four.

With four laps remaining in regulation, Elliott beat Keselowski on the restart and watched as a multi-car accident erupted behind him. The crash collected Keselowski and Truex, leaving Elliott as the only driver without any fresh rubber.

Elliott was forced to prove his new found skill was not a fluke. On a green-white-checkered restart, he held off the two fresh tires on the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin to take the win.

“On Sunday though, he did an outstanding job at one of … the most difficult places,” Dale Jarrett said of Elliott. “He’s on old tires … on a concrete surface but did two restarts almost to perfection.”

For more, watch the video above.

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