NASCAR Cup

These are the broken records Jimmie Johnson doesn’t want to hear about

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Jimmie Johnson’s career has been marked with breaking countless NASCAR records. But there’s two broken records of a different sort that Johnson is tired of hearing about. Still, they keep spinning him around and around.

First, Johnson’s winless streak – the longest of his NASCAR career – has hit 79 races. His last win was more than two years ago, June 4, 2017 at Dover. Since then, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott has four wins and Alex Bowman one win to Johnson’s zero. 

Second, Johnson heads to Pocono Raceway this week on the outside of the 16-driver playoff bubble. He is 17 points behind the 16th and final playoff eligible driver, Clint Bowyer, and 31 points out of 13th place (currently held by Kyle Larson). 

So Johnson still has wiggle room and time to get back in the top 16. He also knows he needs just one win and he’ll be in the playoffs.

We’ve been trying all year, it’s not like we can magically flip a switch and all of a sudden have more (wins),” Johnson said. We’ve been able to run in the top five and we need to get back to doing that. That’s really what it boils down to.”

He’s not likely to reach the playoffs if his current run of bad luck continues. After having his two best finishes of the season — fourth at Chicagoland and third at Daytona — Sunday’s race at New Hampshire marked Johnson’s second consecutive 30th-place finish. That’s the 12th time he has finished outside the top 10 and fifth time he’s finished outside the top 20 in 2019.

Johnson’s struggles on Sunday can be blamed on mechanical issues that cost him valuable time on pit road while his team made repairs. He finished 13 laps off the pace.

It was certainly a letdown to say the least,” Johnson said. “We had some issue with the power steering and the water pump pulleys. I thought it might have been from some contact on a restart. I got in the back of the car in front of me. They told me that wasn’t the case.

So, I assume some debris got in the pulley system and took out my power steering and the water pump as well. So, it’s just unlucky on that front. Certainly the wrong time of the year to have some bad luck.”

Johnson dropped from 15th to 17th in the standings after Loudon. Conversely, Erik Jones and Ryan Newman both passed Johnson and moved up in the points to 14th and 15th respectively. And Daniel Suarez gained 12 points to tie Johnson for 17th, each with 488 points.

So as he heads to Pocono this weekend, Johnson will once again be faced with a situation where he has to bounce back from outside the playoff bubble — this is the fourth time he’s been 17th in the standings this season. If he can leave Pocono 16th or higher, it’s a spot he needs to remain in for the following five races lest he misses the 10-race postseason for the first time in his career.

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Updated entry lists for NASCAR at New Hampshire

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The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series will be in action this weekend at the 1-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.

The Gander Outdoors Truck Series is off until July 27 at Pocono Raceway.

Here are the entry lists for the Cup and Xfinity races at New Hampshire:

Cup – Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

There are 37 cars entered.

Quin Houff will be back in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet.

Andy Seuss is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Ford and will make his Cup debut. Austin Theriault will also make his Cup debut in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 Chevrolet.

Click here for the full entry list.

Xfinity — Roxor 200 (4 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 41 cars entered.

Cup regular Paul Menard will be driving the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang.

Ryan Truex will be making his third Xfinity start of the season in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

Tyler Matthews will make his third Xfinity start of 2019 in the No. 15 JD Motorsports Chevrolet.

Harrison Burton makes his third start of the season in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Kaz Grala is entered in his fourth race of the year in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet.

Canadian driver Alex Labbe makes his third start of 2019 in the No. 90 DGM Racing Chevrolet.

CJ McLaughlin will make his Xfinity Series debut, driving the No. 93 RSS Racing Chevrolet.

Click here for the full entry list.

Clint Bowyer looking for some of his old magic at ‘Magic Mile’

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While the next race on the NASCAR Cup schedule is Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Clint Bowyer is already thinking four months and 17 races ahead to mid-November’s season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Winning a championship is the reason we are in this sport,” the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said in his weekly media release. “It’s why everyone puts in these long hours during a long season.

Winning a championship is what we dreamed about ever since we started racing. It was a great feeling to win the Xfinity title in 2008, and I can’t imagine the feeling of satisfaction you would get by winning a Cup title.”

But Bowyer also knows all too well that to make it to the four-driver, winner-take-all championship-deciding race in South Florida, he has a bit of work to firm up his position just to make the playoffs, which begin Sept. 15 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Clint Bowyer hopes to be smiling and partying after winning what would be his third career triumph this Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Photo: Stewart-Haas Racing.

Heading to New England, Bowyer is tied for 14th place with seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. They’re eight points ahead of 16th-ranked Erik Jones, who holds the final playoff spot. Ryan Newman, the first driver outside a playoff spot, is 10 points behind Bowyer and Johnson. Daniel Suarez is 12 points behind the duo.

A win would lock Bowyer into the playoffs. That’s why Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) is so important to the Kansas native.

Of Bowyer’s 10 career Cup wins, two have been at New Hampshire’s “Magic Mile.” He won there in 2007 and 2010. He also has four top fives and nine top 10s in 25 career starts at that track.

I love New Hampshire,” Bowyer said. “That place just fits my driving style.

We don’t get up to that part of the country a lot, so it’s good to see the race fans there. They have so many tracks and they love their racing, from Modified to Late Models to our stuff. The support races they put on at New Hampshire are some of the best of the year. Man, do they like to party there.”

Bowyer will be partying himself if he can win Sunday’s race. Still, it’s not been a bad season for Bowyer to date, either. He has five top fives and four other top-10 finishes.

Bowyer is coming off a sixth-place finish at Kentucky last Saturday, a marked improvement from what he suffered through in three of the four previous races with finishes of 35th (Michigan), 37th (Chicagoland) and 34th (Daytona).

We dug ourselves a hole in June and we are trying to climb out of it,” Bowyer said. “We aren’t a 16th-place team. I know we are better than that.”

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What Drivers Said after Kentucky

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In a race that wound up in a battle of brothers, older sibling Kurt Busch beat younger brother Kyle to the finish in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

Here’s what the Busch brothers and other drivers had to say afterward:

Kurt Busch – Winner: “Hell yeah, hell yeah! You know, racing your little brother every week and watching him win a lot, I’m proud of him, but I’m proud of him he gave me a little bit of room on that outside. He could have clobbered us against the wall, and third place probably would have got it. What an awesome run. Well, we got a yellow at the end that put us back in position. Whatever last week was, it’s this week right now, and we’ve got the trophy.”

Kyle Busch – finished second: I’m glad it was a thriller. Unfortunately we were on the wrong end of the deal … Obviously great to put on great races and great finishes. Been part of a lot of them, but none with my brother like that. So that was a first. No hard feelings.”

Erik Jones – finished third: (How much did you have to overcome?) “A lot early. We just didn’t have the track position. We qualified not where we wanted to and had to work back from that. Right from the start I knew that the Craftsman Camry was pretty good. I felt comfortable in practice in race trim. Just had to work back from it and it took until the second stage to get up there and we were finally in position and got some good restarts and some good pit stops and got up in contention on the last restart. You can’t ask for much more. You want to be there and want to have a shot. We did that. We just didn’t have quite enough car and didn’t have quite the right circumstances, but good day overall.”

Kyle Larson – finished fourth:I thought the race for the lead there was really good from what I could see. It was good, maybe a little better than your normal Kentucky. … (On the final restart) I was satisfied with the launch I got. I was going to be committed to Kurt (Busch)’s back bumper no matter how much of a run I had because I knew I couldn’t get to the lead from the third row so if I could help a teammate out, I was happy with that. I’m happy for Kurt (Busch), Matt McCall and everybody on the 1 team. They have been really strong all year long. They should have won last week, so it’s nice for them to get some redemption today. … (What was it like at the end of the race?) I couldn’t believe we didn’t crash. Kyle (Busch) was loose a couple of times below him and they made contact I think a couple of times. There was some really good car control and it was fun to watch from my seat.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fifth: We definitely had a fast car – a car that was fast enough to run up there with those guys, but obviously going to the back of the pack there with 80 (laps) to go was detrimental to try to win the race. We had to make a call with no tires there and we didn’t gain track position. We had worse tires than everyone around us and still was able to come up to fifth, so pretty happy with that effort. We have fast cars every week. As long as we have a clean race, we have chances to win and we just can’t have the penalties that we have and wrecks that we’ve had. It’s just a combination of things where we’re really, really close.”

Clint Bowyer – finished sixth: It was a positive night for us. We finally got some stage points the last two races. It didn’t start out good but we did a good job of working together, staying in it and not giving up. We got some track position and right there at the end, I don’t know. Our SHR cars are extremely fast, we show that in qualifying, but they aren’t the best in race trim and traffic yet. We have work to do there and we know that. We are going to the magic mile next weekend but given the month of June that we had, we had to get that monkey shook off our back. Right there at the end, you hate to give up fifth right there at the line but we could have just as easily wrecked in turn one on the restart and had another finish like we had in June. We needed a good solid finish and we got that and got some good positive mojo back with our team and we will build on it.”

Joey Logano – finished seventh: The caution came out at the wrong time. It happens. You try to think through your notebook on how to have a good restart. I thought I was going to have a decent one but I got stopped on the left rear there when Kyle (Busch) got into me. That is what it is. That stopped all my momentum. (Kurt Busch) had a huge run and I didn’t have anywhere to go. I couldn’t block them all. I tried to stop (Kyle Busch) on his right rear by side-drafting. I saw (Kurt Busch) coming and felt like if I could get in front of him that we were so low at the time if I blocked (Kurt Busch) he would just go to the middle and pass me. I felt like I couldn’t stop (Kurt Busch). I was in a bad spot. Once I got stopped on the left rear on the restart I was a sitting duck and they just went by me on both sides. … (How frustrating is it?) “It is frustrating when you are fast enough to win and you don’t win, yes it is frustrating. … (Was the racing good?) “Yeah, it was a great race. It was a lot of fun. You had strategy and cautions and it was probably the best Kentucky race we have ever had. If I was a race fan I would say that was a cool finish. I am a little too close to the fire to say it was a cool finish right now. … (On the final restart) “We were in a perfect position when the caution came out. I did what I could to clear (Kyle Busch) before Turn 1. I got a decent launch but he stopped my momentum. … I just didn’t do a good enough job. We had the fastest car and we didn’t win. That’s the takeaway.”

Daniel Suarez – finished eighth:t was an eventful night for sure. We just had a fast race car but we got a bit tight. I feel like we made the car better but we never got the track position back. We had a tire going down and then I was speeding coming to pit road because I was wheel hopping because of the tire. It was one problem after another. We were fast enough to overcome that but not enough to get a better finish. I feel like the good thing is that we have the speed we just have to keep working to have a cleaner day and keep working to try to keep that speed the whole race. … (Is it an empty feeling to be on the pole and not come away with any stage points?) “It is. I feel like the first stage the call that we made on four tires instead of two tires kind of messed us up a little bit. That is part of it. We made our bed on that. There was one caution after another and we couldn’t recover. After that we had the flat tire. It was just bad decisions and a little bad luck but we were able to overcome with a decent finish.”

Ryan Newman – finished ninth: “It was a good run. To start where we did and get back up into the top 10, that was good. We had a crazy last restart, lost a few spots but got it back in (Turns) 3 and 4. I’m proud of the guys. … (Restarts like the final one) are crazy, but this aero package makes it that way. … I think we got five or six cars there coming to the white. It was a good run for our Acorns Ford. We still have to get our performance better. The guys did a good job on pit lane but we just have to have faster race cars. We didn’t have the balance quite right but you can’t come to the race track and qualify damn near wide open six-tenths of a second off the pole. We have some work to do and we know what to do.”

Chris Buescher – finished 10th: “Our Planter’s Camaro was pretty good tonight at certain times, but we definitely fought it. We worked hard to keep it where we needed to be all day long. That was good strategy on top of the pit box; hats off to our group. We’ve got some work to do yet, but that was a great finish. … (Are you encouraged by the speed you’ve shown?) “Yeah, absolutely. It’s encouraging to see it. To be 100 percent honest, tonight was not one of our better 1.5-mile tracks compared to where we have been in the last couple of months. With that being said, we definitely got a finish out of it. We ran good; we ran on the lead lap all night long. We are trying to find some more speed. We hadn’t qualified really well and I think tonight was about trying to figure out a way to get some more raw speed out of it. At the end there, it was a wild restart and we were able to come out with a good top ten finish.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — finished 12th: “Our Fifth Third Bank Ford showed speed all night. It was good to be able to lead laps and get some stage points in the backyard of Fifth Third Bank. All in all it was a good day for our No. 17 team.”

Ryan Blaney — finished 13th: “You come into every weekend expecting to run well, no matter if it is your best track or worst track. I don’t really go into any weekend expecting to run a certain way. You just try to do your best. My team did a great job overcoming adversity early in the race to get us back on the lead lap. Our DEX Imaging Ford Mustang was just so tight. The last restart was crazy and almost got into the wall. We will move on to New Hampshire.”

Aric Almirola — finished 14th: “We had a really fast Valley Tech Ford. Johnny (Klausmeier, crew chief) and the team did a great job adjusting on it all night after we started off tight and eventually got our Mustang freed up. We were in a great position to come out of Kentucky with a good finish, but we ended up going the wrong direction on the final restart. It wasn’t the ending we wanted, but we had a strong weekend, and we’ve got a chance to do it all again in New Hampshire.”

Brad Keselowski — finished 20th: “I don’t know, we’ll need to get back to the shop and figure out what happened tonight. We just didn’t have the speed with the Discount Tire Ford Mustang. I thought we had a good shot to compete for the win but that just wasn’t the case.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 24th: “Our No. 8 Caterpillar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was faster than our 24th-place finish indicates tonight at Kentucky Speedway. Starting in the top 10 was a positive step for this team, and it was great to earn Stage points at the conclusion of Stage 1. Throughout Stage 2, we chipped away at the lead and gained solid ground until we were assessed a stop and go penalty during our pit stop on lap 150. The penalty put us two laps down, but we kept fighting and grinding it out because there’s no quit in this team. It wasn’t the finish we hoped for, but I know we have a resilient group that will be ready to rebound next weekend in New Hampshire.”

Ty Dillon – finished 26th: Kentucky is a tricky track. I really enjoy racing here, but it always has its challenges. Tonight wasn’t the night that we had hoped for, but we learned a lot. Our GEICO Military team has seen strong improvements in our superspeedway and short-track packages, and these intermediate tracks are next on the list. We may not be getting the finishes that we deserve because of one thing or another, but we’re taking valuable notes that we’re able to apply as we keep growing and building.”

Austin Dillon — finished 35th: “The AAA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was really fast to start the race today at Kentucky Speedway. We were able to run within the top-five for much of the first two Stages and earn Stage points, which is definitely an improvement over last year. We have speed, and that’s a testament to all of the hard work RCR and ECR is doing. Unfortunately we had transmission and alternator issues today and spent time in the garage making repairs. I hate breaking stuff, but when you do, this No. 3 team just keeps working and never gives up. We’re going to get this monkey off our back and we’ll be just fine.”

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Quick friendship makes Ryan Preece, Chris Buescher better teammates

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Since Ryan Preece joined Chris Buescher at JTG Daugherty Racing for the 2019 season, their relationship has become one of more than just teammates.

Did we just become best friends?” Buescher laughed during a recent interview at Chicagoland Speedway.

To which Preece quickly replied with a smile of his own: “We did.” That left Buescher to put a spin on their friendship: “So which one are you, Will Farrell or John C. Reilly?”

They’re not Ricky Bobby nor Cal Naughton Jr. of “Talladega Nights” fame, but their fast friendship underscores the fact they’re more than just NASCAR teammates.

Rather, they’ve become bro’s both on and off the race track, as they strive to not only make each other better as drivers, but also build JTG Daugherty Racing into a stronger and more consistent NASCAR Cup organization.

And like brothers, there is a considerable amount of good-natured back-and-forth between Preece and Buescher.

We have very similar personalities,” Preece told NBC Sports. “We’re both a little goofy, we love racing and we love anything with a motor and wheels. It makes it easy when you get along with a teammate and have similar interests.

And when you talk about racing and race cars, your feels are pretty similar to where you can diagnose kind of the same issues you’re having and hopefully communicate those things with others and make the cars better. At the end of the day, that’s how you get better.”

Buescher concurs.

It’s been really good,” he said of their relationship. “This season, Ryan coming board, it’s been pretty seamless. It’s been cool to be able to have similar personalities, definitely similar interests and the same career. All those things add in where it makes it either work together and try to figure out how to make things faster.

It’s always nice to have background from different places to pull, like Ryan coming from short-track racing and modifieds, whereas I’ve been in stock cars and big cars my whole career. They’re little things that help you bring in more information and things that you know have worked on along the way and that’s what has helped us get dialed in over the course of this season.”

At 28, Preece has become an older brother of sorts to the 26-year-old Buescher. But it’s the latter who has become a teacher. Buescher, a Texas native, is in his fourth full season in Cup, while Connecticut native Preece is a rookie in NASCAR’s biggest circuit.

He’s kicking my butt right now, so he’s pushing me to be better,” Preece said of Buescher. “Usually, I’m kind of the person that’s pushed people to be better, and right now Chris is pushing me to be better.

I’ve been getting a little bit more familiar with it. It’s more than just throttle and brake. What’s this feel that he has and try to find it. We’re narrowing down on it. Once we get there, it’ll be easier. Even though he’s younger than me, he’s pretty much my teacher and I’m okay with that. That’s fine.”

Added Buescher, “I think we learn from each other. We try and tune in on some of those little things. Because at the end of the day, it’s those little things that you build on to find that little bit of speed. It’s not as easy as one thing is going to find you a half-second on a weekend, it’s more like three or four things that will maybe get you a tenth of a second.”

The duo moves on to Daytona International Speedway for Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400.

It’s one of those that’s a wild card of sorts,” Buescher said of Daytona. “There are a handful of drivers that have definitely adopted very well to it and typically can get real good finishes out of. For me, there’s a good amount of luck that goes into it as well, not getting caught in someone else’s mistake. That frustrates me from time to time, especially when you end up in one of those accidents.”

Buescher has enjoyed a decent start to the season, including three top-10 finishes (sixth at Charlotte, ninth at Atlanta and 10th at Kansas). He sits 22nd in the season standings, 82 points out of the final playoff spot.

Preece is 26th in the standings, with one top-five (third at Talladega) and one other top-10 finish (eighth at Daytona).

Buescher wrecked at NASCAR’s two biggest super speedways this season: 37th at Daytona and 30th at Talladega.

For us, it’s so hard to give up any valuable points week in and week out,” Buescher said. “You look at the beginning of the season and have a certain amount of mulligans that you feel you may have to be able to still be where you want to be in terms of points and good runs, but we’ve used up two already on super speedways this season and that hurts.

I try to have a positive attitude going into them and see them as an opportunity – and they are – but at the same time, they’re not my favorite races. We’ll put on a show one way or other. It may not be my favorite, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to sit back and ignore the race, so we’re going to put all the effort we can into it.”

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