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Kevin Harvick’s ‘Happy Hours’ to return this week

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SiriusXM NASCAR Radio announced that Kevin Harvick‘s weekly “Happy Hours” show will return Wednesday (March 25) and continue to the resumption of the racing season.

The show will air from 1-3 p.m. ET. Matt Yocum is back as co-host.

“Matt and I figured it would be good to get back on SiriusXM to talk to the fans and try to entertain folks during this downtime,” Harvick said in a statement. “Even though we are not racing, there’s still plenty to talk about, both the things involving our sport as we look ahead to the season, and also what’s happening in our daily lives away from the track. I hope we can take your mind off other things and maybe make you laugh a little bit along the way.”

SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Happy Hours” aired from 2017-19. Harvick put the show on hold before this season to focus more on racing and his family.

Add Erik Jones to those chasing $100,000 Truck bounty

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Former NASCAR team owners Billy Ballew and James Finch have come together to run a Truck for Erik Jones this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway in pursuit of the $100,000 bounty Kevin Harvick and Marcus Lemonis have put up for any full-time Cup driver who beats Kyle Busch in a Truck race.

Ballew made the announcement Tuesday afternoon on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Sirius Speedway” program.

Jones becomes the third Cup driver to seek the bounty.

Chase Elliott will run in a Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race March 14 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the next race Busch also will compete. Elliott also is scheduled to compete in the May 30 Truck race at Kansas Speedway against Busch. Elliott will drive for GMS Racing in both events.

Kyle Larson is scheduled to drive a Truck for GMS Racing on March 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway against Busch.

Busch has won the past seven Truck races he’s entered.

Ballew was a Truck series owner from 1996-2012. Busch drove for Ballew’s team from 2005-09, winning 16 of 62 races (25.8%).

Finch, who will appear on this week’s “The Dale Jr. Download” (5-6 p.m. ET Wednesday on NBCSN), owned cars in either the Xfinity or Cup Series from 1989-2013. He won one Cup race, which came in 2009 at Talladega with Brad Keselowski.

“We decided we would come and do a joint effort and come get us a driver,” Ballew told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “After some things that we’ve done with Erik Jones in the past, winning the Snowball Derby, … we put a deal together.”

Ballew said the $100,000 bounty put up by Harvick and Lemonis, chairman of Camping World, spurred this effort.

“I don’t know that I would have overtaken this, even with James’ help, if it wasn’t for that (bounty),” Ballew said.

Friday 5: Matt Tifft on the road to recovery from December seizure

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Even on his honeymoon, Matt Tifft exercised as he prepared to race again this season. But about 30 minutes after his workout, Tifft began to feel “weird.”

The only way he can describe it now is that it felt like he stuck his finger into an electrical outlet.

He tried to tell his bride something was wrong, but he couldn’t speak. His tongue rolled back. And then eyes rolled back.

“I could see it,” Tifft told NBC Sports. “I could actually see my other eye. It was the freakiest thing out of a nightmare movie that you could ever imagine.”

As his body convulsed, he couldn’t breathe.

Eleven weeks later, Tifft describes the Dec. 12 seizure — his second last year — in a way he admits he could not have done so a month ago. But understanding what likely led to both seizures and using a cannabidiol (CBD) product help his anxiety, Tifft says he feels much better and looks forward to two weeks before his 24th birthday when he can return to driving a street car. As for racing again? He hopes to do so but knows there’s no guarantee.

Matt Tifft says the use of a CBD product has helped him in the last month. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Tifft, a Cup rookie last year, suffered his first seizure shortly shortly before practice Oct. 26 in the Front Row Motorsports’ hauler at Martinsville Speedway. After the Dec. 12 seizure, there was one common theme: Tifft had been off his keto diet both times. He suffered food poisoning that led to what he said was an “extreme stomach infection” about a week before the seizure at Martinsville.

While off his diet during his honeymoon, the combination of eating foods he hadn’t — and forcing his body to process carbs and sugars it had not in some time — along with his body reacting to his workout “spiked me into the danger zone.”

But it took time for that cause to be found. Tifft, who had brain surgery in July 2016 to remove a slow-growing tumor, worried about what was happening to him and panicked about being in public.

“My battle with this anxiety and panic attacks have gotten a lot better … (with) CBD,” Tifft said of cannabidiol, a naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of cannabis. “It has actually been, I would say a life-changing thing for me to go from being terrified of leaving my house (to) being able to go in public when I started taking that. It’s made such a huge difference that I can function socially and go to places and do things.

“I find it interesting still that that’s illegal in our sport because I know so many times after intense races or you go to Dover or Bristol and your body is all twisted up and it feels terrible and you just have to take ibuprofen or Tylenol because that is what is legal. If we could take something like (CBD), I think it’s a much more natural and efficient way of helping our bodies.”

The NASCAR Rule Book addresses CBD products in its Substance Abuse Policy in a section titled: Dietary and CBD Supplements.

Section 19.3.4.a states “Dietary and CBD supplements may contain (either purposefully or through contamination) a prohibited substance under this Policy.”

Section 19.3.4.b states: “Any product sold with a warning advising non-use if the purchaser is subject to a drug testing program should be avoided even though such products may be available without a prescription.”

Sports leagues are split on CBD. The World Anti-Doping Agency announced in 2018 that CBD had been removed from its list of banned substances making this year’s Olympics the first in which athletes can legally use CBD.

MORE: Questions and answers about CBD from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency

The Pain Management Committee of the NFL and NFL Players Association held a fact-finding forum in January with manufacturers of products that use CBD in sports medicine. The NFL’s drug policy includes a ban on THC, a substance found in marijuana and some CBD products. Mike Bass, NBA executive vice president of communications, told NBC Sports Philadelphia that “we have regular discussions with the players’ association about a variety of matters, including … CBD. Those conversations are ongoing.”

Tifft said he began using a CBD product in January and felt better about 20 minutes later.

Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (right) celebrates after Kurt Busch won the 2017 Daytona 500. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“I think the thing that initially brought me to it was athletes like Rob Gronkowski, guys who have been advocates of it afterward from their healing and recovery,” Tifft told NBC Sports. “Someone like me, who has dealt with brain issues, it’s known as a neuro protective, so for someone like me, I’ve always been interested from the outside of it and studied the results of it and effects of it.”

Should Tifft get a chance to race again in NASCAR, he knows he could be at a crossroads with CBD.

“If it came down to and I was cleared to race again and that was kind of the choice, I’d have to weigh out, if I go off of this can I feel I feel OK and be fine,” he said. “If that’s the case, I’d be fine with doing that. I think an optimal sense if we can have something that can benefit folks but also be able to come back to racing, that’s the ideal scenario.

“It depends on the time where right now I’m excited to get my normal’s drivers license June 12 because it’s a six-month process (after the last seizure). For me, right now, honestly, driving anything other than iRacing is just far-fetched.”

2. On target for 250

Last March, Kyle Busch collected his 200th career victory among NASCAR’s top three national series — Cup, Xfinity and Trucks — and the idea was posed that he could be on his way to 250 or more career series wins before he retires.

Busch remains on target heading to Auto Club Speedway this weekend with 209 career NASCAR victories, including his Truck win last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Kyle Busch has won 209 career NASCAR races across the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

His success in the Truck series — he’s won his past seven starts — led Kevin Harvick and then Marcus Lemonis to tweet that they would give a total of $100,000 to a Cup driver who could beat Busch in the Truck Series. Busch has four Truck races remaining this season. Both Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson will take that challenge

Since 2015, Busch has averaged 13.4 victories a year in those three series combined. He turns 35 in May, giving him plenty of years to reach 250 career wins, but his efforts will be slowed in the future. Busch has stated that once he hits 100 career Xfinity victories (he has 96) he would stop racing in that series except for if car owner Joe Gibbs requested him to drive in particular races.

What Busch is doing is something that won’t be seen again in NASCAR unless series officials relax the rule that limits veteran Cup drivers to no more than five Truck and five Xfinity races a season.

So just as Richard Petty’s record of 200 Cup wins is viewed as one that will not be broken — because the number of races was cut from more than 60 to 36 — Busch’s ever-increasing total also will be one that will never be touched. The next closest active driver to Busch is Harvick, who has 110 combined wins in Cup, Xfinity and Trucks. The active driver after Harvick is Jimmie Johnson with 84 wins (83 in Cup and one in Xfinity).

3. Aggressive driving

Xfinity rookie Harrison Burton had an interesting take on aggressive driving when asked about it earlier this week on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On Track” show. This is what he said:

“I think that aggression is becoming more and more acceptable in our sport,” Burton said. “From my perspective last year in the Truck Series, Ross Chastain came in and was the most aggressive guy, right? Everyone was like mad at him for like two weeks. After that, it was like ‘OK, why don’t we all race like that?’ and then it just turned up the wick of the flame and everyone kind of rose to that level and it made the racing a lot tougher, a lot more challenging, a lot more fun and it was good for the overall racing in Truck Series.

“I think that has kind of happened everywhere, not necessarily because of Ross, but the packages and the way things have been changing in the sport. It’s super aggressive now, which is super fun. That’s becoming a little bit more acceptable, but you also have to still use your head and respect the guys that have been there for years and years before you and try to find a balance there.”

4. Where’s the tax benefits?

Eddie Gossage, president and general manager of Texas Motor Speedway, raised questions this week during TMS’ media day about the need for a better infrastructure near the track with the development that has taken place.

“Our local, state and federal officials have collected our tax money and spent it somewhere else apparently because they’re not building us roads,” Gossage said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram“We desperately need roads improved yesterday.”

Gossage went on to say:

“It’s just inappropriate for the elected officials and the bureaucrats to have that kind of development without building the proper infrastructure to support it. I call on all of them to get out here today to start building those roads because it doesn’t matter if you’re a business or a resident, there’s too little concrete out here to get where you need to get going.”

5. Testing

William Byron will stay in California longer after Sunday’s race to test the Next Gen car on Monday and Tuesday.

He’ll become the fourth driver to test the car. Austin Dillon drove it at Richmond in October, Joey Logano tested it at Phoenix in December, and Erik Jones drove it at Homestead in January.

NASCAR’s next test after the Auto Club test is scheduled to take place March 16-17 at Atlanta.

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Todd Gordon explains reason he called Ryan Blaney to pit road

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Crew chief Todd Gordon says he has a scar from Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a pit call he made in the 2017 race there. Sunday’s decision to pit Ryan Blaney from the lead cost Blaney the win and left Gordon with a deeper scar.

Instead of possibly winning, Blaney finished 11th.

Gordon spoke Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” about his pit call late in Sunday’s race.

Blaney led when the caution came out for Ross Chastain’s spin. It set up a two-lap shootout for the win. When pit road was opened, Blaney and Alex Bowman, running second, both peeled off the track, but Joey Logano, running third stayed out.

Logano was one of seven drivers who did not pit. He assumed the lead for the restart and went on to win the race

Here’s what Gordon told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about his decision to pit:

“You knew you were going to come back to a two-lap run. We had scanned down pit road and it sounded like most of the top 10 were coming for tires. I wish I had that one back. I wish we had left him out there and let him defend. … I thought if we could (restart on the) second row on four tires or third row on four tires, we’d be alright, but to (restart on the) sixth row on four tires and just that in debacle back there and four-wide, didn’t look like maybe (Erik Jones‘) spotter let him know he had two outside and got caught up in (the last-lap accident).”

Gordon said a similar situation at the end of the first stage in the 2017 race at Las Vegas lingered in his mind as he decided what to do Sunday on the final pit stop.

“I think in the situation, I was waffling,” Gordon told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “When it first came out, I thought we would stay. The more we talked about it, the more we scanned people, I let the information we gathered from that point forward skew me to pit and looking at it, and you think about this race track and where we were and you’ve got less than a second of falloff (in the tires from the beginning of a run to the end), so we don’t have a ton of power. So being able to hook up the rear tires on a restart isn’t as detrimental as it used to be.

“I’ve got a scar that comes back to me from the 2017 spring race. There was a caution, we had 40 laps on tires and there was a caution with like eight (laps) to go in a stage. We were leading and I stayed out because I felt like we’d have guys stay out to score stage points. We were the only car to stay out. We ended up 14th I think in five laps there.

“That scar still stuck, but you have to identify that’s when we had more power, we had less downforce. Getting good restarts was tough because you could hook the power up to the rear tires. We don’t really have that now.

“With this intermediate package, we’ve got with less power and more downforce and more drag. In hindsight, probably I wish I had it to do over again and went with the original (decision). … Kudos to Joey and (crew chief) Paul (Wolfe) to adapting the call. I think they were talking about coming in, but when Joey saw he could get the front row, I think he made a diversion to it and ultimately won the race that way. Had (I) to do it all over again, probably leave Ryan in a position to see whether he could go and secure and defend the lead we had.”

While there seemed to be some communication issues between Logano and crew chief Paul Wolfe if to pit during that late caution, Logano said it wasn’t the case.

“We talked about this scenario, whether it’s at the end of a stage or end of the race,” Logano said. “If it comes down to it, can we get clean air, or at what point are we comfortable staying out?

“So Paul came over the radio and said, stick to the plan. I said, okay, I’ll stick to the plan. That was it. You know, ultimately it was a good call, obviously, and got us in position to have a good restart. I had a good push with Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) behind me and had a good block on (William Byron) once I got the push.

“At that point, once you get that clean air, you’re in good shape. If I didn’t have a good restart and got swallowed up by the field, I’d have had the backup lights on pretty quick. But the call and then the execution to go together is what we needed to do.”

Said Wolfe about Logano not pitting at the end:

“It’s really about the clean air. If you can get clean air, it’s worth so much. The tires obviously were wearing some. Obviously that’s why we saw a lot of guys pit, obviously, from the lead. It seemed like … the left side (tire) wear was more accelerated than what we’ve seen in the past, and I think that was making guys favor wanting tires.

“But really still the falloff, if you look at the start of our run to the end, it wasn’t extreme, and in practice we were out there on older tires. When they have a chance to cool down, seemed to re‑fire and have decent speed.

“It’s kind of what we had talked about. If you can get to the front row and get that clean air, then it’s worth the gamble.

“Obviously we had a lot of cars behind us. At that point I felt pretty good as long as he executed the restart, the guys on tires weren’t going to catch you in two laps. Just not enough time.”

Corey LaJoie texts with Ryan Newman, thanks fans for support

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Corey LaJoie told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he texted with Ryan Newman on Wednesday night after Newman was released from a Florida hospital and they were able to share a laugh.

Newman’s car crashed in front of LaJoie’s on the last lap of Monday’s Daytona 500. LaJoie had no chance to avoid hitting Newman’s upside down car on the driver side. The contact catapulted Newman’s car before it landed on its roof and slid down the frontstretch, coming to rest beyond the exit of pit road. Newman was extricated after the roof was cut off his No. 6 Ford. He was immediately taken to Halifax Health Medical Center and was in serious condition that evening with injuries that were not life threatening.

LaJoie spoke Thursday with Danielle Trotta and Larry McReynolds on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On Track’ show.

“It truly is a miracle the condition that Ryan Newman is in today vs. what we all assumed on Monday night,” said LaJoie, who finished eighth in the Daytona 500 for his career-best result in that race. “It goes to show how nasty of a wreck and how good of a job that NASCAR has done to make these cars safer and just the power of prayer, really.

“It’s been a very emotional week for everybody. I wanted to thank everybody for reaching out and supporting all three of us (Ryan) Blaney, myself and (Newman). It seems like all three of us are doing well for the circumstances.”

Bubba Wallace stated on social media Wednesday that he had been supporting Blaney, who was “devastated” by Newman’s accident. The incident was triggered by a bump from Blaney’s car as he sought to push Newman to the victory.

LaJoie noted that two extra bars, referred to as a Newman bar, to reinforce the window could have been pivotal in this crash.

“I kind of thanked him for flipping at Talladega over (in 2009) because if it wasn’t for that visor bar, that second roof bar that they put in after that crash that Ryan had, I told him, I said, we would have been able to split the ambulance fare because I would have been right there next to him … there was no telling how bad it could have been,” LaJoie said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio of what he told Newman.

“I think the previous crashes and the advancements that the R&D Center and the guys at NASCAR have made to make the car safer through that wreck is what really kept him and I both safe.”

LaJoie said the crash happened so fast, he had no chance to avoid Newman’s car.

“It was crazy how fast it happened,” LaJoie said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “People don’t realize how much it hurts when you hit something that hard that fast.”

LaJoie also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he doesn’t think changes need to be made to the type of racing seen at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

“I’m comfortable,” he said. “It’s what you sign up for. There’s an element of danger. Like I was explaining to someone the other day, you’re trying to make a 3,600-pound piece of metal go 200 miles an hour, sometimes you’re going to have bad crashes.

“I think it’s a testament to what NASCAR is learning and trying to keep these cars safe because that was the worst, the worst, angle of a crash, the worst area of a car to get hit on Monday night the way Ryan was and for him to be literally to be walking out 36 hours later, why would we change what many would consider the best form of racing that we have in the superspeedways?

“My opinion, we don’t change a thing. We just keep learning from these wild crashes, especially with this new Next Gen car coming in, the cars are even 30-40% safer than this. I’m excited to get into that car and continue to put on a great show for the fans.”