Jeff Burton

NBC Sports

NASCAR America at 6 p.m. ET: Bristol recap, Dale Jr. joins the show

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will recap all the action from the weekend’s racing at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte are joined on today’s show by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

They’ll have a lot to talk about Sunday’s Food City 500, including Kyle Busch’s win, the late race pit strategy that potentially cost Joey Logano the victory and more.

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 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

NASCAR America today at 6-7 p.m. ET; what was Sunday’s turning point?

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will recap all the action from the weekend’s racing at Texas Motor Speedway.

Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett will analyze the past weekend’s racing at Texas Motor Speedway.

Among the high points they’ll discuss: the turning point of Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.

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.

Harrison Burton to make Xfinity debut at Bristol for Joe Gibbs Racing

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
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Harrison Burton will make his Xfinity Series debut this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, one of eight races he’ll drive for Joe Gibbs Racing this season, the team announced Monday.

Burton’s Xfinity races this season will be Bristol (April 6), Iowa (June 16), New Hampshire (July 20), Richmond (Sept. 20), Charlotte Roval (Sept. 28), Dover (Oct. 5), Kansas (Oct. 19) and Texas (Nov. 2). DEX Imaging will be Burton’s sponsor.

“It’s going to be a life-changing experience for me,” Burton said during the announcement on Joe Gibbs Racing’s Facebook page. “I’ve been working my whole life for this.”

The 18-year-old son of NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton, is competing full-time this season in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

In five Truck races this season, Harrison Burton’s best finish is fifth at Las Vegas. His career-best finish in the series is third at Iowa and Phoenix in 2018.

Friday 5: Will 2021 Cup schedule add more short tracks, road courses?

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With the 2020 Cup schedule receiving positive reviews from many fans, the expectations for the 2021 schedule grow bigger.

While there will be talk of ending the season sooner, whether any tracks lose dates and if doubleheaders will be used more often, just as big of a question will be where the short track and road course events come from that fans want to see more of in the future?

Iowa Speedway could be an option. And there’s plenty of talk about Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee. But are there others that are feasible and could make the upgrades necessary to host NASCAR’s top series?

What about road courses? Would Indianapolis Motor Speedway be better off holding its Cup race on the road course? Or would it make sense to put a Cup race at Mid-Ohio or Road America or Canadian Tire Motorsports Park?

There’s excitement with the 2020 schedule because NASCAR mixed up the races among the same tracks. That’s all NASCAR could do because the five-year sanctioning agreements with tracks go through the 2020 season. After that year, NASCAR has the ability to make more radical changes to the schedule.

Denny Hamlin says that as NASCAR looks at revamping the schedule, one thing must remain constant.

“I love the idea of more short track racing for sure,” Hamlin told NBC Sports. “I just want to make sure that the tracks are investing the proper money to make sure their facilities are good.”

In other words, make sure there are premier facilities for the premier series in NASCAR.

“It’s hard to sell this is big time if it doesn’t appear that way,” he said.

2. Will Texas be a true indication of the top teams?

Now that teams have had a little time to take what they learned from the West Coast swing and work on their cars, will the gap between Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing to the rest of the field shrink?

NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton suggests on this week’s NASCAR on NBC podcast with Nate Ryan that some teams could close the margin.

“I heard Clint Bowyer make a comment on the West Coast swing and he’s like, ‘Look we know we’ve got to get better, but it’s going to be hard to do it now. There’s things that we can’t evolve in our cars, there’s not enough time,’ ” Burton said. “So I think potentially that Texas is a place where you can see not just Stewart-Haas Racing but other teams improve as well. … They learned at Vegas. They learned at Atlanta. They learned at (Auto Club), and I think you’ll see teams pop up.”

Among the teams to watch this weekend:

Will this be the weekend Stewart-Haas Racing scores its first victory of the season. The organization has had at least one car finish in the top five in each race since the Daytona 500.

Hendrick Motorsports has not had a car finish better than ninth at Atlanta (1.5-mile track), Las Vegas (1.5) and Auto Club Speedway (2-mile track) this season. Can that organization get a car into the top five at Texas?

Richard Childress Racing has shown speed — Austin Dillon won the pole at Auto Club Speedway and started fourth at Las Vegas — but can that translate into stronger runs? Dillon finished 20th Las Vegas and overcame illness to finish 10th at Auto Club.

JTG Daugherty Racing’s Chris Buescher placed ninth at Atlanta, 18th at Las Vegas and 16th at Auto Club Speedway. That’s been a good start for that organization but how much better can it be?

“We spent a lot more time, a lot of resources and at JTG getting everything ready to hit the ground running to make sure we were prepared for this season,” he said. “It worked out really good to start. We’ve got to stay ahead of it. I promise, nobody is sitting idle at this point. We’re still trying to figure out how to make our cars better each and every week.”

3. Same old, same old?

NASCAR announced modifications to group qualifying this week. The biggest change was an incentive to make a lap in each round after all 12 cars in the final round at Auto Club Speedway failed to complete a lap before time expired.

Cars sit on pit road during the final round of Cup qualifying at Auto Club Speedway. Photo: Fox Sports

Now, if a car fails to record a lap in a round of qualifying because the team waited too long, the car will start at the back of the field.

With the draft still a factor, will the rule make much of a difference this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway?

“I don’t think it will be much different from what we’ve seen in the past,” Denny Hamlin told NBC Sports about what he expects qualifying to look like today. “I don’t know that it will be such a detriment to be the first car out because I think Turn 1 and 2, they are so quirky in the sense that it’s really one lane. I don’t know if you will want to be back in the pack or so. 

“I think (Turns) 3 and 4 will be … more wide open and you’ve got all the grip you need so you want to be behind someone. I’m not sure you want to be behind someone in (Turns) 1 and 2. It’s such a flat corner. It really depends on whether that (traction compound) works the way we think.

“My general feeling is that teams will overreact and make sure we leave extra early, and then there will be an opportunity for us, the guys that really push the limit will get the pole, the ones that decide to lay back.”

4. Back behind the wheel

Greg Biffle, who last competed in Cup in 2016, ran 14 laps Thursday at Texas Motor Speedway in Kyle Busch’s truck. Biffle did this as preparation for the June 7 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race he’ll compete in for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He and Busch had talked for a while about doing this. 

As of now, it’s a one-race opportunity.

Greg Biffle talks to the media after running 14 laps in the first of two Truck practice sessions Thursday for Kyle Busch Motorsports. (Photo: Dustin Long)

“I could be talked into some more,” said Biffle, a former Truck and Xfinity series champion. 

While he might consider running more Truck races, he’ll need to fit it into his schedule of racing.

He will compete in the SVRA vintage and historic event this weekend at Road Atlanta and a couple of others this season. He also will take part in four off-road competitions with his UTV sand drag.

He’ll also drive in the 24 Hours of Lemons race April 27-28 at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina. Those are races with cars that have been bought and track-prepared for $500 or less (not including safety equipment, brakes and wheels/tires).

“The last 24-hour race I did was the Rolex 24 in Daytona (in 2005 where his team finished 15th overall), so this will be a lot of fun,” Biffle said. “I don’t know why I wanted to do it, but it just sounded like a lot of fun.”

5. Racing for a bonus 

The top four finishers in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway will qualify for the first Dash 4 Cash event the following weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The highest finishing eligible driver in a Dash 4 Cash race wins a $100,000 bonus. The four Dash 4 Cash races will be Bristol, Richmond, Talladega and Dover. Also, any driver that collects points in the Cup series is not eligible to compete in Dash 4 Cash races.

Nate Ryan contributed to this report 

NASCAR America: What was the turning point at Martinsville?

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NBC Sports’ four analysts on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America agreed that the turning point in Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway was when Chase Elliott passed Brad Keselowski on Lap 324 of the 500-lap event.

In my eyes, the turning point happened when Chase Elliott took the lead from Brad Keselowski,” Jeff Burton said. “This was the beginning of Brad and his team having to do something different.”

Added Dale Jarrett: “That was the textbook way to make a pass at Martinsville by Chase Elliott. But this had not happened all day. Okay, so what is going to happen from this point on? Is Brad going to be able to recover from it?”

Elliott would go on to lead the next 49 laps, while Keselowski bided his time and watched the young driver’s tendencies, all of which Keselowski took advantage of when he regained the lead on Lap 373 and held on for the remaining 127 laps.

And this happens,” Burton said of Matt Tifft hitting the wall on Lap 373 to bring out the caution, which allowed Keselowski to exit pit road first and regain the lead. “Always something happens that changes the game. And now, the pressure gets put on the pit crews and who can get that track position and make it happen when pressure is high.”

But all four analysts – including Rick Allen and Kyle Petty – agreed that while it may have seemed like Sunday’s race was a two-horse race between Keselowski and Elliott, there was one other wild card that both drivers had to worry about in the final laps.

But the way our analysts saw it, Busch was more of a threat to Elliott than Keselowski.

That’s the hardest thing as a driver at Martinsville, knowing a guy like Kyle Busch is willing to stick his nose in there,” Jarrett said. “You didn’t want to take too much of a chance, but Kyle Busch made life a little more difficult for Chase Elliott in that respect at that point in time.”

Added Petty: “I thought Chase showed great patience beyond his years because he did know he had a good car. He got hung on the outside, left Kyle to roll on the inside, but would put himself in position to accelerate off and eventually cleared Kyle and took that position.”

One other thing to note: As dominant as Keselowski was, leading 446 of the race’s 500 laps, one stat jumped out that potentially was the biggest key in Sunday’s outcome.

Check this out: (Keselowski) entered the pits first all but one time and left the pits in first each time,” Burton said. “Track position at Martinsville is king and Brad was able to take advantage of it and do his job.

But if not for (Keselowski’s) pit crew, we might be talking about a different winner today.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski