NASCAR America: Christopher Bell’s three-peat quite a feat

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Christopher Bell overcame contact with another car in the closing laps at Iowa Speedway and two late-race restarts to win his third consecutive Xfinity race. In doing so, he became the first Xfinity regular to perform the feat since Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 1999.

The three-peat put Bell in rarified air along with Earnhardt, Larry Pearson and Sam Ard as the only regulars in the series who have won three consecutive races.

It has the question being asked once again about Bell’s future in the Cup series.

“I see no reason in holding this young man back,” Dale Jarrett said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “And that has not been Toyota’s forte that they say, ‘Ok, we’ll let these guys hang around a couple of years.’ They want to move them on to the Cup series. They know that’s what they have in mind for Christopher Bell.”

MORE: Christopher Bell taking a step in goal to ‘conquer’ Xfinity Series
MORE: Third consecutive victory in Xfinity for Christopher Bell
MORE: Can Toyota make room for Christopher Bell in Cup?

The decision comes down to sponsorship, but there is already a path that has been blazed by Joe Gibbs Racing to develop drivers when its Cup organization is full.

“If there’s money available, I don’t know why they wouldn’t go back to Furniture Row where Joe Gibbs Racing took Erik Jones last year and have him perform there,” Jarrett continued. “Supposedly, all of the employees were kept.”

Putting Bell in the Cup series might solve two problems.

Furniture Row continues to look for full-time sponsorship of Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78, but instead of that uncertainty lessening the appeal of running a second car, Jarrett believes it could improve the financial considerations.

“I think the money would also help that Furniture Row organization in that they are looking for a major sponsor right now for the 78 car,” Jarrett said. “If you know you have these dollars it would help in that situation – maybe you could take a little bit less than what you were thinking about for the 78.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Pocono, Iowa reviews

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NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET today on NBCSN. Carolyn Manno hosts and is joined by Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman in the Stamford, Connecticut studio.

On today’s show:

  • We’ll look back at Kyle Busch’s overtime win at Pocono Raceway, which ties him with Kevin Harvick for the most victories this season. We’ll see how Busch’s victory impacted the playoff picture in the Monster Energy Cup Series. Busch withstood a charge from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez on several restarts during the race’s waning laps. We’ll hear from both winner and runner-up during this hour.

 

  • We’ll also examine Bubba Wallace’s dramatic crash at Pocono and how NASCAR’s safety enhancements allowed Wallace to safely climb out of the car.

 

  • Plus, we’ll look at the thrilling overtime finish in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway. When it was all said and done, Christopher Bell stood in victory lane with his third consecutive win.

 

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.

Driver-to-Driver with Jimmie Johnson: ‘I’ve got a lot to prove still’

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Jimmie Johnson is in his 17th year of full-time Cup racing and is in the midst the longest winless streak of his career at 42 races.

But the seven-time champion’s competitive drive is as strong as ever.

Johnson sat down with NBC Sports’ Dale Jarrett to discuss his career at this point in the latest edition of Driver-to-Driver.

“I can honestly say I spend more time now than I did my rookie year focusing on my job,” Johnson said. “I think that the support I have from my wife (Chandra), my kids are 7 and 4, to have them watch me be passionate about something has another meaning I didn’t anticipate coming. I’m lovin’ what I’m doing. I wish the results were a little better than what we have right now, but the process of what I’m going through is really fun.”

Hendrick Motorsports as a whole is in a slump. The team is in the middle of the second longest winless streak in its history at 35 races.

Johnson admits it’s hard to know when the right time will be for him to retire.

“The thing I can pull out of it is, don’t pick a number, make sure that fire’s gone out and that fire hasn’t gone out,” Johnson said. “The other thing that’s weighing on me, I don’t want to go out not at my fullest potential and not on my terms. The last thought that’s going to run through my mind is to walk away or, ‘Oh, it’s not going right, time to stop.’ Uh uh. I know I still got it. I’m going to go down swinging. I’ve got a lot to prove still.”

Watch the above video for more.

 

NASCAR America: It’s time to start points racing

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Martin Truex Jr.’s victory in the Toyota/SaveMart350 at Sonoma Raceway set a mark that many of his competitors don’t want to consider. Through 16 races, there have been only six different winners and that is the least NASCAR has seen since 1978.

Unless there is a unique winner in every remaining Cup race, someone is going to qualify for the playoffs based on points. And in all likelihood, the number of drivers qualifying on points is going to be considerably higher.

“Right now the focus is, how do we make the playoffs,” Dale Jarrett said in Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America. “If you’re inside that top 16 right now, then you’ve got to figure out how do we stay there. If you’re outside? What can we do?

“Obviously winning takes care of all that, but we’ve seen that Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer are pretty set on letting the rest of the field battle for stage points and as many points as they can gather, because they’ve won 12 of 16 races.”

Two Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers are currently in playoff contention based on the points’ standings. It was reflected in the way they raced last Sunday.

Chase Elliott is a perfect example of what he did on Sunday. … He put himself in a great position by gathering as many points as he did,” Jarrett continued. “He actually garnered the most points of anybody in the race. He had 49 points because of the stage points he got. He finished fourth and second (in the stages), I believe. And then he finished fourth in the race.”

Johnson scored the second-most points in the race with 42.

“You can’t wait until five races to go and say now we’ve got to start points racing. You have to start this weekend at Chicagoland and there’s a lot of these teams that are going to have to figure that out.’

For more, watch the video above.

NASCAR America: Chris Buescher, Matt DiBenedetto run well in the pack

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While most eyes are focused at the front of the pack, some incredible performances often go unnoticed outside of the top 10. On Tuesday, NASCAR America showcased three drivers who had outstanding runs in the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

“I’m going to go with Chris Buescher and his 12th-place finish,” Landon Cassill said. “I thought he had a solid day. You know, his teammate is AJ Allmendinger … is an animal at these road courses, but Chris just put together a solid day and he’s a good driver at Sonoma. I worked with Chris when we both drove for Front Row Motorsports and I can tell you that I’m pretty sure he still holds the record in the Ford simulator for the fastest lap at Sonoma. … I used to use his car as a Chase car in the sim to help my laps at Sonoma.”

That was Buescher’s third consecutive top 20 on a road course and it comes on the heels of an 11th last August at Watkins Glen International.

Matt DiBenedetto has never been known as a road racer. In six previous starts on this type of track, he had never cracked the top 20 – until Sunday’s race at Sonoma when he scored a career-best 17th.

“My ‘Running with the Pack’ guy’s also not a road course guy: Matt DiBenedetto finished 17th at Sonoma after starting 30th and that is the ninth time in 16 races that he’s outperformed where he qualified,” Nate Ryan said. “I think that’s significant, I think that tells you how good GoFas Racing is, making the most of what they have.”

Dale Jarrett went a little deeper in the field.

“I’m going with somebody, who his team has only ran their seventh race at Sonoma and that’s our colleague Parker Kligerman. … He’s an outstanding road racer. He has that background, but he’s a good racer everywhere he goes. He ran inside the top 20 most of the day.”

For more, watch the video above.