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2018 Cup Season in Review: Kurt Busch

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Kurt Busch

CREW CHIEF: Billy Scott

TEAM: Stewart-Haas Racing

POINTS: Seventh

WINS: One (Bristol II)

LAPS LED:  644 (Best since 2015 – 788)

TOP 5s: Six

TOP 10s: 22 (Career best; earned 21 top 10s four times previously in 2004, 2009, 2015 and 2016)

POLES: Five (Texas I, Michigan I, New Hampshire, Charlotte Roval and Talladega II)

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Scored eight consecutive top 10s from July through September, including his Bristol win in August … Part of the Stewart-Haas juggernaut that placed all four of its drivers in the playoffs.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Busch’s consistency failed him at Phoenix in the fall; he suffered his fourth accident of the season and did not finishBusch began to hint that he would not return to Stewart-Haas in August … Started and ended 2018 on cold streaks. He finished outside the top 10 in six of the first nine races and five of the last 10.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2019: Busch moves to Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 1 for 2019Jamie McMurray failed to make the playoffs in this car in 2018, finishing 20th in the points … When announcing his move to CGR, Busch said 2019 could be his last full time season in Cup competition; this will be the fourth team Busch has raced with since leaving Team Penske in 2011.

Will Canada honor Cole Pearn like it does its NHL players? And would he bring the NASCAR Cup?

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Cole Pearn is the first Canadian-born crew chief to win a NASCAR Cup championship.

Which got us thinking …

Pearn is a native of Strathroy-Caradoc, Canada, near London (Ontario, not England). He grew up following both racing and, quite naturally, hockey (he’s a huge Toronto Maple Leafs fan, but has also come to follow the Colorado Avalanche, given that Furniture Row Racing’s headquarters is in suburban Denver). Heck, he still plays hockey himself in a weekly Denver recreation league.

As is a longtime NHL tradition, many players grow playoff beards for good luck en route to what they hope will end with a Stanley Cup championship, That kind of tradition rubbed off on Pearn, 35, who also grew a beard leading up to the Cup championship.

Ok, so that’s at least one thing he has in common with his Canadian-born NHL brethren.

Now, how about another NHL-like tradition for Pearn?

During the offseason, players on every NHL Stanley Cup-winning team get an opportunity to bring the Stanley Cup to their hometown for a day or two of celebration on their home turf, where it all began for them. It can be anywhere in the U.S., Canada or even Russia.

While we haven’t heard of a “Cole Pearn Day” being organized yet north of the border, wouldn’t it be cool to see him take the 65-lb. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup back home to celebrate his championship – Stanley Cup-style?

After all, Pearn and Truex and the rest of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team have been big news in the great white north, and have developed quite the loyal Canadian fan base.

“It’s been pretty neat, all the coverage we’ve gotten national media-wise in Canada,” Pearn said this past week in Las Vegas.

“It’s hard if you’re not a hockey player to get much attention there, so it’s pretty neat how much they’ve embraced it and embraced the sport, and deservingly so,” Pearn said.

While hockey is the undisputed king in Canada, racing – stock car, sports car and drag racing – are among the country’s other top sports.

“There’s tremendous racing there,” Pearn said of his native land. “The short track scene in Canada is awesome, that’s what I grew up in. To get that coverage and get the sport covered there is really cool.”

To show how big Pearn and Truex’s championship has been in Canada, check out a video of Pearn’s interview (starts about 17 minutes in) with Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole of Canada’s The Sports Network, the day after the No. 78 team won the Cup crown.

So we started thinking again … wouldn’t it be a great promotion and publicity for NASCAR if Pearn went back home for a day or two — and he brought NASCAR’s version of the Stanley Cup with him? Heck, maybe even take a few side trips to Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, even Vancouver. He’s earned it, not to mention Canada has a lot of NASCAR fans who would probably like to share the celebration with him.

Pearn and Truex captured the NASCAR Cup championship one week before one of Canada’s biggest sports days of the year, the annual Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup championship (Toronto upset Calgary on Nov. 26). Toronto already had a big downtown celebration for its championship Argonauts this past Tuesday.

So hey, Strathroy-Caradoc — or even the big city a few miles down the road, London — how about a championship parade and a “Cole Pearn Day” for your native son?

NASCAR’s entry lists for Dover International Speedway

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For the first time since February, all three of NASCAR’s national series will be at the same track this weekend. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series travel to Dover, Delaware, to race at the “Monster Mile.”

The Cup Series competes in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism, Xfinity teams gear up for the OneMain Financial 200 and the Truck Series starts things with off with the Bar Harbor 200.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race.

Cup Series – AAA 400

There are 39 cars on the entry list for this race.

The final blank driver entry was filled Wednesday when Richard Petty Motorsports announced Regan Smith will once again be behind the wheel of the No. 43 Ford, substituting for the injured Aric Almirola. This will be the third race that Smith has driven for Almirola, having also piloted the No. 43 in the All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600.

Ross Chastain, a Xfinity Series regular, will make his Cup Series debut driving the No. 15 Chevrolet for Premium Motorsports.

Ryan Sieg will also make his Cup debut driving the No. 83 for BK Racing.

In this race last year, Matt Kenseth won after a battle with Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott in the closing laps. Last fall, Martin Truex Jr. led 187 laps on the way to winning the Dover playoff race. It was his third win in six races.

Click here for the full entry list.

Xfinity – OneMain Financial 200

There is a full field of 40 cars entered into the race, including six Cup drivers: Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Erik Jones.

The only driver not announced is for the No. 93 Chevrolet owned by RSS Racing.

Last year, Erik Jones won this race after leading 76 laps in the main event. Daniel Suarez won the fall race.

Click here for the entry list.

Truck Series – Bar Harbor 200

There are 32 Trucks on the entry list. None will be driven by Cup regulars.

Todd Gilliland is entered into his first career Truck race driving the No. 46 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Harrison Burton will make his second Truck start of the season in the No. 51 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

There are two trucks without drivers attached: the No. 97 Toyota and the No. 12 Chevrolet. Two other seats that had been unfilled now have drivers: the No. 63 Chevrolet (Todd Peck) and the No. 36 Chevrolet (Camden Murphy).

Matt Crafton won this race last year for his first win at the “Monster Mile.”

Click here for the full entry list.

Tickets on sale today for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last NASCAR Cup race

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Come mid-November, make sure you have some vacation or sick days left to use. Take the kids out of school. And don’t forget to make your hotel reservations now.

Why?

You’ll want to be there when Dale Earnhardt Jr. competes in the final NASCAR Cup race of his career on Nov. 19 in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Single-day tickets for Junior’s last race go on sale today. Click here for ticket information or call (866) 409-RACE (7223).

Tickets also will be on sale for the Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 on Nov. 17, as well as the Xfinity Series Ford EcoBoost 300 on Nov. 18. Children 12 and under will be receive free general admission seats.

“Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been a tremendous ambassador for NASCAR and has helped catapult it to the forefront of the sports industry and pop culture,” Homestead-Miami Speedway President Matthew Becherer said in a statement. “He has done so much for the sport both on and off the track through his prowess behind the wheel and numerous philanthropic endeavors.

“We are honored to host him at our track for the final Monster Energy Series race of his career.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

 

Jimmie Johnson tops final practice session at Texas Motor Speedway

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Jimmie Johnson was fastest in the final practice for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The six-time winner at the 1.5-mile track posted a speed of 194.812 mph. He was followed by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott (194.252).

Filling out the top five was Kyle Larson (193.618), Aric Almirola (193.555) and Matt Kenseth (193.465).

Kevin Harvick, who is the pole-sitter for the race, was 12th fastest.

Kyle Busch had the best 10-lap average at 190.862 mph. Busch recorded the most laps in the session with 47.

The session was slowed by one accident, when Trevor Bayne hit the outside wall in Turn 2. Bayne had to go to a backup car.

Click here for the full practice report.