NASCAR America: Breaking down the playoff’s bottom four

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Heading into Saturday’s playoff race at Richmond Raceway, the bottom four drivers aren’t your usual suspects.

The drivers currently outside the top 12 are seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin.

On NASCAR America, Parker Kligerman broke down each of the driver’s chances at the short track.

Hamlin, who is 20 points behind the cutoff spot, hasn’t finished worse than sixth in his last six starts there.

“This is not a driver I expected to be 20 points behind the cutline right now going into Richmond,” Kligerman said of Hamlin, who has three Richmond wins. “Short tracks are his thing, that’s what he’s known for. He’s led (1,659) laps here. … But the question of the 11 team comes down to, are we going to get the 11 team that was at Indianapolis, which was going to win that race and leading laps? Or are we going to get the 11 team we saw at Vegas, which looked a little lost, didn’t have the speed and wasn’t executing?”

Watch the above video for Kligerman’s analysis of the other three bubble drivers.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Fantasy advice, Richmond preview

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and previews this weekend’s races at Richmond Raceway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut.

On today’s show:

  • The Cup Series playoffs continue this weekend on the 3/4-mile short track of Richmond Raceway. Alex Bowman holds the final transfer position by six points, while teammate Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin are among those trying to knock him out. Does their past performance at Richmond indicate where they’ll run Saturday night?
  • Around the world for more than 50 years, Team Penske has set the standard in motorsports excellence. As Roger Penske and his organization celebrate their 500th major motorsports victory, we take a special look back on the journey to, perhaps, their greatest accomplishment yet.
  • We’ve got some last-minute NASCAR Fantasy Live advice as we head into the second race of the Cup Series Playoffs…
  • Plus: The next generation of an American sports dynasty is entering the IndyCar Series. He’s only 22, and if you know your baseball, he has a very familiar name! But who are the top young prospects he’ll be backing in 2019?

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online athttp:/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.

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson’s job is to drive fast, not work on his car

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There are drivers who have a deep understanding of every part and piece of their car. They can crawl underneath and work on the chassis or tune the engine.

Kyle Larson is not that kind of driver.

“I remember one time I put the gears in upside down,” Larson said in Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America. “We went to Placerville (Speedway). It was like bogging really bad in hot laps, and I’m like ‘I know what I did wrong.’ “

Larson’s ability to work on the car has not improved since that race.

Larson sees value in both types of drivers – those who know the intricacies of the car and how the mechanical parts are affecting the handling, and those who trust their engineers and crew to make right changes based on their feedback.

“I’ve probably looked underneath a stock car maybe two or three times,” Larson said. “In the shop, I’ll get under there and they’ll show me this new trick aero thing or whatever. … I don’t really know what I’m looking at. I don’t really care.”

While running sprint cars, Larson’s team would find little things he could work on. Nothing major – change some gears (after that early Placerville race, presumably always right side up), grease some parts, do a little maintenance. But as his career progressed and the cars became more complicated, his effort was best concentrated on finding the fastest way around the track.

“Once I started driving for people and driving was my job … any team owner I raced for, all they cared about was just driving … the best you can,” Larson said.

What truly makes a driver “is different for a lot of people. … For me, I feel like I don’t work that hard at it. … It just comes natural to me. But then there’s guys like Jimmie Johnson who’s got the natural talent, but also works way harder than anyone else that makes him the driver that he is.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

NASCAR America: Racing the high line has been good to Kyle Larson

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Larson will both race at Richmond this weekend. That gave them the opportunity to discuss racing the high line at Richmond and other tracks.

“I’ve got a one-day show, which I’m kind of excited about,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America.

Earnhardt will compete in Friday’s Xfinity race in one of his cars (7:30 p.m. ET on Friday on NBCSN). Since Cup regulars are excluded from racing in that series during their playoffs, Larson will have to wait until Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday on NBCSN).

Since both will compete this weekend, it gave them a chance to compare racing lines.

“Richmond is a track that I enjoy. Sometimes it gets multiple grooves, not every time, but sometimes. I don’t know what really controls that. What do you think controls that?” Dale Earnhardt Jr. asked Kyle Larson.

“I think it depends on the drivers in the field maybe that get it to widen out some,” Larson answered. “Xfinity racing gets about halfway up … and then creeps back down. The Cup race, it gets all the way up to the wall and works its way back down too. It’s become one of my more favorite tracks to go to the last couple of times.”

Larson won last year’s Federated Auto Parts 400 and finished seventh this spring.

Earnhardt has seven combined wins at Richmond in the Cup (three wins) and Xfinity series (four) – including the most recent of his 24 career Xfinity wins in April 2016.

Larson has a reputation for running the high line and explained why on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America.

Driving close to the wall allows him to use the air bouncing off it to create more side force on his car.

“Early in a race, I take my time getting up there, but once it rubbers up then I’m committed to it,” Larson said. “Like this week, we moved to the top in Vegas and you’re trying to move the rubber up to the wall so you can get to the wall and kind of use the air.”

Simply popping up to the outside groove is not successful, however. Larson says that it is the angle of entry that matters most.

“To me, it all comes down to committing on entry. … You can’t drive up to the wall. You kill a lot of speed once you get to it. The wider you can make your entry the more speed you make through the corner. And you need to get close to the wall to kind of feel the air working.”

That is one of the reasons Larson has been so successful at Homestead.

“(At) Homestead (it’s) super easy to run the wall because you’re already committed on entry … the way the shape of the corner is. You can feel it down the straightaway when you get close to the wall. I just kind of stay within that pocket.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Wednesdale with Kyle Larson

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and features Rutledge Wood, Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt Jr. along with driver Kyle Larson from the Big Oak Table in Charlotte.

On today’s show:

  • Dale Jr., Wood and Jarrett welcome special guest Kyle Larson to the Big Oak Table in Charlotte. Larson will discuss his strong start to the playoffs last week in Las Vegas, his days as a young racer in California and a certain big event in his near-future.
  • Everybody knows it: NASCAR in the 90s was, quite simply, the bomb. And this Friday following the Xfinity Series on NBCSN, you can relive all your 200 mph memories with the premiere of ‘NASCAR Decades: The 1990s.” Tune in for today’s show, and catch a sneak preview!
  • And don’t forget: You can send in your questions for Dale Jr. and Kyle Larson on social media using the hashtag #Wednesdale. Watch and see if they’ll answer yours.

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.