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New rules for All-Star Race make this anyone’s event to win

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How will Saturday night’s All-Star Race unfold at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a new rules package virtually untested in the real world?

“We will just have to wait and see,” Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman said, succinctly summarized the thoughts of many.

“The rules package NASCAR is planning to use for the All-Star Race is definitely going to be interesting and something different,” Bowman said in a release this week. “It’s cool that NASCAR is trying to constantly make the racing better.”

This week’s prerace releases have been filled with uncertainty. Martin Truex Jr. hopes to use that to his advantage because the rules won’t carry over to the Coca-Cola 600. He isn’t the only one experiencing a change in attitude this year.

Locked into the All-Star Race because of his 2008 victory in the event, Kasey Kahne has the opportunity to deliver Leavine Family Racing one of its biggest successes. Much like racing on the restrictor-plate superspeedways, conventional wisdom will not apply, and this likely will be a wild-card race.

“With us not having run this rules package, we go into this weekend not exactly sure how the cars are going to feel in general, how they’ll work around other cars, or what the speeds will be like,” Kahne said. “It’s tough to say how it will all work out, but we won’t be learning much from this weekend to carry over into the 600 like we may have in years past. Teams will try to go out and win the All-Star Race with this package, and then next weekend, we’ll go back to racing what we’ve been racing all season long.”

“This package is going to be different, there’s no question about it,” David Ragan said. “Charlotte Motor Speedway is a place where the field tends to get strung out really fast, but these rules will slow everybody down a little, and I think we might see more side-by-side racing. And maybe it can spark some new conversation in the industry on a direction we need to go.”

The teams aren’t exactly working in a vacuum. NASCAR used a version of this rules package at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Xfinity race last year, and the general consensus was that it did, in fact, create more side-by-side racing.

“I think we have to try this new aero package and see where it goes,” Chris Buescher said. “I know the (Xfinity cars) were able to use it at Indy, and I think as far as statistics go, there was a lot of movement in the field and green-flag passing, and I know that’s what NASCAR is after to try and create something different for the All-Star Race.”

Because no one really knows what to expect, a new rules package levels the playing field and may just well give a less experienced driver a chance to shine.

“Hopefully, what I learned with that aero package last year at Indy (in Xfinity) will apply,” William Byron said. “I feel like maybe I’ll have a little bit of the upper hand just knowing what my car needs to do because I think a lot of guys may be up in the air on what to do with their cars (with the new package).”

What will actually happen in the race is anyone’s guess – much the same as on plate tracks.

Without points on the line, there is an incentive to take risks one might not otherwise. This race is already prone to high-risk moves. If the rules package slows the cars arbitrarily and the entirety of the race is run in a pack or multiple packs, the proximity of these enthusiastic drivers to one another could be a recipe for excitement – or disaster.

What other drivers said:

  • “This year’s race in particular will be interesting with the new rules package. I can’t really give any opinion one way or the other until we get on the racetrack around other cars to see what it will be like.” – Jamie McMurray
  • “I’m excited to get on track with the new package we’ll run and see how it feels and how it races.” – Kyle Larson
  • “You never know what is going to happen, especially with the new aero package that we will run. Anyone can win the race.” – Ty Dillon
  • “Obviously, speeds are going to be slower, a lot more downforce, a lot more drag. But it’s still a big question mark. Nobody knows how it’s really going to play out.” – Michael McDowell

What drivers said after Kansas Cup race

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Kevin Harvick – Winner: “Well, I think this weekend shows really how good the race team is. Everything didn’t go exactly smooth, and everybody just kept a good demeanor about things and kept calm and kept working through things. The same thing tonight. Everybody just kept working through trying to make the car better, and we were able to wind up in Victory Lane. Those are the days that you just grind it out.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 2nd: “I thought we were going to be all right there. Like three or four to go, my car just got real tight, and I chattered the right front off of turn four, and I was like, ‘Oh boy, that’s not good.’ We had been so tight all night and I didn’t know where to go once he was getting there. If I go to the top, he’s just going to catch me on the bottom. I might as well run where I feel I can run the fastest, and I did and it just wasn’t enough. Good strategy call by Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and overall, just a hell of an effort by everybody on our team. We had to fight hard. We were awful at the start of the race. We’re missing something right now, just can’t get the thing turned, so we felt tight all night long. Got better for sure the last three or four runs of the race but still have to find some turns. We’ll get to work on that.”

Joey Logano – Finished 3rd: “I really just had two bad restarts in a row, which is frustrating to me. As the leader, I feel like I probably took the wrong lane, which cost me the lead in the first place and then the last time I was trying to time him on the bottom, and he just read it really well and kind of stopped me, and then I spun the tires after that. The car behind me wasn’t the best of pushers. He wanted to win the race, too, and I don’t blame him. He’s not my teammate. He’s there to win, too. I just hate being that close. It’s a great run for AAA and Team Penske, but when you’re that close to winning it’s pretty frustrating as a driver and probably as a team we’re all probably a little frustrated right now.”

Kyle Larson -Finished 4th: “Yeah, we just had a really good car tonight. Our Clover Chevy was fast. I always run pretty good here at Kansas, so it was nice to lead some laps. I thought we were going to have a really good shot to win there, and Kevin (Harvick) was able to get to my outside. And then, I was tight in traffic there. Yeah, then (Ryan) Blaney was side-drafting really hard and I was as high as I could get and we made contact, whatever, and we had a bunch of damage, so I hate that we didn’t turn today into a win, but it’s satisfying to see how much speed our car had tonight. And, it’s definitely good to show that Chevy has a lot of speed, at least in the No. 42 team; so, we’ll just keep working hard and try to get as fast as the No. 4. I thought, myself, the No. 4 and the No. 12 were all pretty equal tonight. It was kind of just whoever got out in clean air and could get to the top quick enough would be the fastest throughout the run. So, it was a fun race but a little bit disappointing there in the last 20 laps.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 5th: “I thought it was average. It felt balanced on the short run, and I lost the balance there toward the middle and end of the race. We optimized our finish. I certainly don’t think we had a fifth-place car, but we just did a good job with the track position there. Got a good finish out of it.”

Paul Menard – Finished 6th: “We had a good car all weekend. We made some good adjustments coming into tonight and kept working on it all night long. The track changed a lot as the sun went down. We kind of saved our best for last, I guess. We had a couple cars crash in front of us. We avoided it and the further up you can restart the better off you can stay up there and the more likely you are to stay up there, so clean air was everything tonight.”

Erik Jones – Finished 7th: “We had a really good car. Our Reser’s Camry was about a seventh-place car, and that’s where we ended up. We have to keep working. We’re getting close. There are some other teams that have some more speed right now and we’re trying to close the gap on them. We have to keep working on that and hopefully find our way to get there sooner rather than later.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 10th: “We were just a little off all weekend. But even though we were, we were able to run up near the front with our M&M’S Caramel Camry. We just ended up getting back in traffic there on the last couple of restarts and dropped too far down. We’ll go back and hopefully figure out where we are off, learn from it and move onto the next one.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 11th: “Overall, we were pretty much an 18th-place car all day. Our Ford wasn’t affected by any of the adjustments we were making, but with pit strategy and late-race cautions we were able to salvage an 11th-place finish. Not a bad points day. We’ll go back to the shop and keep working on our cars.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 12th: “Yeah, just scratching and clawing to run mediocre. We have a lot of work to do.”

David Ragan – Finished 13th: “We made good adjustments Saturday night to start the race and I felt like our car was OK the first run, and then we made a good improvement that first pit stop, so that really helped us stay on the lead lap a little bit longer, and then we just caught a couple of lucky breaks at the end, but we were just good enough that we could take advantage of those lucky breaks. I feel like we’ve made some more progress with our 1.5-mile cars. It was a fun race. We still have some more improvement we can do, but it was fun to race there with some good cars.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 15th: “It was a solid run. All weekend long it was just not our weekend. We had tech issues and didn’t get to qualify. We started in the back and got up through there pretty good, but then kind of stalled out. We got wrecked there. I was trying to get us up in the top five and got wrecked there. That’s just part of it I guess.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 16th: “It was a hard-fought night for sure. We didn’t have a good Friday, so made kind of wholesale changes on it. Fortunately, Chris (Buescher) was really good all weekend, so we kind used a little bit of his, and that helped. Just kind of all day, I could be loose or tight, just felt like I was at a certain speed, and that was about as good as I was going to go there. The track definitely changed a lot. I thought we fought hard. I did everything I could on the restart there to get all the spots and a little fortunate from a couple of cars falling out. We salvaged a decent night from a tough weekend and hopefully just learn from this and keep going the right direction and try to make it better.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 17th: “We had a challenging night at Kansas Speedway as we battled a lack of grip and handling issues, but I am proud of this Richard Childress Racing team because they never give up. We hit a snag in the race during a green flag pit stop. Our car was gurgling in the middle of three and four and I panicked. I came down pit road too abruptly and earned us a commitment line violation. We could have made it another lap and we ended up multiple laps down. We kept digging and we were able to earn back one of our laps when the caution came out with 30 laps remaining but didn’t have enough laps left in the race to get back on the lead lap.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 20th: “It’s good to get some points and get some momentum back of just finishing races. We just started out really loose and got behind a little bit and made good changes at the end, but by then we were two laps down, and it’s just hard to make up. Everybody fought hard, and it’s still good to get a top 20. I’m really happy for my teammate, David Ragan, top 15. That’s a great run for them, and they’ve been having a good streak. That’s not what we hoped for, but all in all an OK day.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 30th: “We were just an innocent bystander really. They crashed kind of underneath me, in front of me and just got all wadded up. I mean I had no place to go. It’s just unfortunate, kind of a ho-hum race I guess you could say for so long and then to get 14 laps from the end and tear up a bunch of cars like that just kind of sucks.”

William Byron – Finished 33rd: “Yeah, that one hurt really bad. But I’m fine. We took two tires there and couldn’t get it turned on the bottom and then got sucked around at the last minute. It just should have been lower than that. Just couldn’t rotate. Couldn’t cut. I think overall, we were trying to kind of push some things there and it just didn’t work out. But, we’re going to wherever is next and that was definitely the hardest hit I’ve been in. But, I’m thankful to be walking, so that’s good.”

Chris Buescher: – Finished 34th: “It was pushing and shoving (on a) late-race restart, and everybody gets impatient so just wadded up a bunch of cars. I thought we had cleared it, and we were in the grass and just had somebody come from the top and wipe us out. Not what we wanted with our Breyers 2 N 1 Camaro. We had good speed in the sun, and the sun went down, and we lost a little something. We were working hard to get it back and trying to be fighting for the lucky dog there, and we were for a long time. We just got swiped and something that who knows, I haven’t seen a replay. I don’t know. I’m sure just uncalled for.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished 36th: “I expected us to be a little more competitive than that, so it was a really tough weekend all around. We obviously have some work to do. The good news is it’s got to get better.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 37th: “I don’t know. It was hard racing. I definitely take the blame on that one. I was just trying to side draft hard and the car was kind of light down the frontstretch there and it was just hard racing at the end. I got about spun out in one and two on the restart, getting sucked around. We were making some spots back up and just trying to get back up to the front and tried too hard. That stinks. We had a really fast race car and I hate it for REV. The two races they’ve been on our car this year and we’ve led a bunch of laps in both of them and ended up wrecked. I wish we could get over that hump, but I thought we made a good gain tonight and where our cars need to be. Hopefully, we can carry that forward into the next upcoming weeks, but it was definitely my fault just trying too hard. I made contact and it cut my right-front down. I hate I got the 42, but it was just hard racing.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 38th: “This weekend was a rough one for our Twisted Tea team. From the moment we hit the track for practice and throughout the entire race, we struggled with our Camaro ZL1. Then we got caught up in the wreck at the end. I tried to avoid it, but drove in the grass and knocked the radiator out of it. Tough ending for our Germain Racing team, but we will go back to the shop and continue to push to make our cars better.”

Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney involved in incident with 20 laps left in Kansas Cup race

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Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson, the drivers who won Stage 1 and Stage 2 respectively, were involved in an incident with 20 laps to go in the Cup race at Kansas Speedway

The two were in the top five when they made contact entering Turn 1. The damage from the contact cut a tire on Blaney’s car and sent him into the wall.

Blaney was eliminated from the race and Larson continued. Larson had to pit twice, the second time in order to tighten lug nuts.

Blaney led 53 laps and Larson has led 100 laps after having to start last for changing tires after qualifying.

“It was hard racing,” Blaney told Fox Sports 1. “I definitely take the blame on that one.  I was just trying to side draft hard and the car was kind of light down the frontstretch there and it was just hard racing at the end.  I got about spun out in one and two on the restart, getting sucked around.  We were making some spots back up and just trying to get back up to the front and tried too hard.  That stinks. … I hate I got (Larson), but it was just hard racing.”

A few laps after the race restarted, a seven-car wreck brought out the red flag on Lap 253.

The wreck eliminated William Byron, Matt Kenseth, Ty Dillon, Chris Buescher, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman. Clint Bowyer was also involved.

Byron’s car was lifted off its rear wheels when Newman plowed into him

“That one hurt really bad,” Byron told FS1. “I’m fine. We took two tires there and just couldn’t get it turned on the bottom and then got sucked around at the last minute. Couldn’t rotate. Couldn’t cut. Overall tried to push some things there, and it didn’t work out.”

Byron added, “That’s the hardest hit I’ve been in. I’m thankful to be walking.”

NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Kansas in last three years

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It has been four weeks since NASCAR last visited a 1.5-mile track, but with four races on them in the next eight points races and another on the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway, it’s back to basics for the team.

The 2018 season has been about domination for Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. But Martin Truex Jr. was the driver to beat last year at Kansas Speedway with a sweep of victory lane.  Those three are going to be on virtually everyone’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster this week, so difference will come down to the other two active drivers on the roster.

1. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 5.20 in five starts)
In the garage last week, Busch said he knew what went wrong with the drive train on the No. 18. Kansas is a good place for him to rebound because he has five top fives in the last six races there that includes one win.

2. Kevin Harvick (9.50)
If not for a penalty in the 2015 Hollywood Casino 400 that cost him a lap, Harvick would probably have a six-race streak of top 10s at Kansas. What he has instead is a victory, two runner-up finishes and a third since the start of the 2015 season.

3. Ryan Blaney (14.60 in five starts)
Blaney has been close to perfect at Kansas. Ignoring a 27th-place finish in his spring 2017 debut, Blaney has never finished outside the top 15. Three of his last four efforts were fifth or better and he was the only driver except Martin Truex Jr. last year to sweep the top five.

4. Kurt Busch (8.50)
Busch’s three-year average is great, but his consistency leaves a little to be desired. In the last six races at Kansas, he has earned two top fives, another pair of top 10s and two results in the teens. Since the last two races of this season ended in a second at Talladega Superspeedway and a fifth at Dover International Speedway, he should land on the high side of that range.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (8.50)
Nobody really cares about Truex’s three-year average finish this week. The only thing fantasy NASCAR players will focus on is that he won both races last year and showed so much mastery on the 1.5-mile tracks in the past two seasons.

6. Jimmie Johnson (10.00)
One has to look closely at statistics before drawing conclusions. Johnson has been great on the similarly configured, 1.5-mile tracks in the past and with three victories, Kansas is no exception. Unfortunately, Kansas has not been immune to his recent struggles with three results outside the top 10 in his last four attempts.

7. Kasey Kahne (12.83)
Since Kahne’s most recent track records came in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5, they can be easy to discount. But last year Michael McDowell, the former driver of the No. 95, swept the top 20 and that suggests Kahne is going to be able to battle for a comparable finish.

8. Brad Keselowski (13.17)
Keselowski’s numbers would be much better if not for an accident in fall 2016. Otherwise, he has swept the top 15 in the last three years with a runner-up finish in last year’s spring event. Equally important, with the exception of his accident, he has finished all but one lap in the other 15 races.

9. Matt Kenseth (13.67)
It is only fitting that Kenseth makes the top-10 list in his first race back in a Cup car. Entering last fall’s Hollywood Casino 400, he had a 14-race, top-15 streak that included back-to-back wins in fall 2012 and spring 2013. Even with the struggles at the No. 6 that occasioned his being named as the temporary driver, Kenseth should be able to finish in the teens.

10. Chris Buescher (17.25 in four starts)
Buescher makes the top-10 list this week based on consistency. In four career starts, he has improved in each outing and never finished worse than 24th. His upward trajectory probably ended with a sixth-place finish last fall, but he will be a driver worth watching in the KC Masterpiece 400.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Truex won two of the last four poles at Kansas and started on the second row in the other two races.

Segment Winners: Harvick swept Las Vegas Motor Speedway with both segment wins and the race victory. He also has segment wins at Texas Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Truex swept Auto Club Speedway, so both should be on the radar this week.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

What drivers said after Dover Cup race

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Kevin Harvick — Winner: “I felt like we had a really good car from the time we unloaded, and I think you could tell that from when we qualified. That’s usually not my strong point, qualifying up here, and to be able to qualify on the front row, we had three great practices and everything just kind of fell into place, and when they dropped the green flag, it was definitely still good. It was just one of those weekends where the car was spot‑on from the time we got here, and the guys are just doing a great job.  Everybody is just so detail oriented right now, and I feel like we’re playoff racing on a weekly basis, and if you’re going to win a bunch of races, that’s what you have to do.’’

Clint Bowyer Finished 2nd: “We had a really good car all weekend long, and I would say speed‑wise, sheer speed‑wise, Kevin was a little bit better. That’s a pretty good man to have happy right there, know what I mean? But I mean, it just ‑‑ I needed a run in clean air to work on my car. That was the first time that we took off on stickers in that clean air, and the cars just drive way better, way different. You can carry momentum and do things that you can’t do mired back there in traffic. Battled through a lot of adversity today, having that bad pit stop and having to come back in and go to the back and battle back up through them. This is a fun racetrack. This is a challenging racetrack, a very competitive racetrack, one of the most competitive and challenging tracks I think we go to. The balance of your car is just so important, balancing those front tires to the rear. You’ve got to enjoy places like this.’’

Daniel Suarez — Finished 3rd: “My pit crew did an amazing job right there in the last stop picking – I don’t know, four, five spots. They did it right when it counts, so very proud of those guys. The team actually did great adjustments to help me in the short run when we were struggling a little bit and we were able to keep the third-place, which is good for us. In the beginning of the season, we had some struggles and now finally it seems like we’re going in the right direction.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 4th: “It was up and down, you know? We – I thought we were pretty good at the beginning of the race and lost that lap and had to come from the back. Just really hard to pass here today. Our car was fast in clean air, but I couldn’t pass anybody – especially those last 200 laps once we got somewhere up towards the front, so it was all about where we come off pit road and how we restarted and it’s frustrating, but we just couldn’t seem to make the car turn off the corner all day long. It was tight from the get go and that really hindered me in traffic.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 5th: “It’s all about the team effort. Good day for us. The way that the pit stops went, we had to come back from a penalty. Restarts went fair the early part of the race and went good in the latter part. Those restarts are close quarters and you need to grab spots then. These cars are really aero-sensitive. Thanks to Haas Automation and Ford we had a top-five day.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 6th: “We led some laps which was good. We kind of fell apart on the last two runs. We’ll just keep working on it.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 9th: “All in all, it’s been a really good day for our Lowe’s for Pros Chevy. We had a couple of restarts being in the wrong lane. We pitted and we expected a lot more (cars) to come but they didn’t, so we had to start in the teens and start all over again. It’s a good driving car. I’m was really happy with it. It’s amazing how much faster I was when I was up in third and fourth; just had a half a second of speed on our side just due to the cleaner air.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 10th: “It was a hard-fought top 10 for sure. We were three laps down at one point. I guess happy about the top 10. I was hoping we could pick off some cars there that last run once we finally got on the lead lap, but it was just so hard to pass. Everybody was the same speed until the very end of the run and then you could kind of move around. Found a little bit of time and was catching a few of them in front of me, but just ran out of time.”

William Byron – Finished 14th: “It was hard for us to get track position. We had a couple of times we had to go to the back, but overall once we got up there it felt like we were a 10th to 15th kind of day. We kept making the car better, we just kind of needed to end on a short run there on the last run and also have some rubber in the race track. Long race, it was good to get all 400 laps in and hopefully we can definitely come back stronger here in the fall. I think we have a lot of ideas on what to work on, so looking forward to that.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 15th: “I feel like we’ve had a top-15 to top-10 car throughout the race. We decided to stay out on that caution not to use up another set of tires. We had a great restart. I tried to gap myself as much as I could knowing that the guys on four tires were going to be coming. I wish it would have rained really bad when I was leading (laughs). All in all, we gained a lot of track position making that strategy call. It’s been a decent day for us. A decent weekend.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 19th: “We just didn’t have any grip when the track rubbered up.  Every time the track cleaned up for a few laps we would be OK, but the more rubber got down the worse our performance was.  We just couldn’t get the car to turn in the middle like we needed it to and every time we tried to make it turn better we just took the back end out and got it too loose in and never fixed the center.  I fought being on the splitter early in the run all race long and that hurt us, so we finished 19th.  That’s not the day we wanted for sure, but we also gave it everything we had.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 20th: “It wasn’t a bad day for us, but I wish it could have been better. Just got a little off on the last run of the day as you would have it. Unfortunately, we lost rear grip there. During the weekend, we made some good progress from practice and qualified good. There’s a lot of positives, but still a lot to work on yet.” 

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 21st: “Thanks to my guys for always working hard. It was a tough day overall for us. We started off comparable to where we had been all weekend. Then the end of the second stage the car got really loose. It jumped sideways on me so quick I thought something broke. I don’t know what happened there, but I killed the right side of the car. It was just really loose and it took the side force we had away from it. Chris (Buescher) and I were pretty comparable during the race. We would kind of go back and forth. We still have got to keep working on stuff. I didn’t help us at the last half of the race. It was just survival at that point and we got what we could.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 23rd: “Just got off on pit sequence there and there was no coming back from it. I feel like we had a solid top 10 race car, but you just can’t make up two laps without some help. There weren’t very many cautions today and it’s a bummer because we had a decent race car. Proud of my guys.  We were really bad yesterday in practice and we made a lot of gains, but it’s just part of it.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 24th: “Today was a challenge for our GEICO Racing team. Dover is such a tough track to get a handle on, and we struggled with overall grip and speed throughout the weekend. Our GEICO Camaro ZL1 certainly wasn’t perfect, but we kept working at it and made the most of what he had. This Germain Racing team has been gaining momentum over the past few weeks, and this weekend will not get us down. We are always building and improving our program so that we can keep growing as a team each and every week.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 35th: “We started the race with (a vibration) unfortunately and it just kept getting worse and worse as the day was going. I don’t know why we started the race with it – we hadn’t had anything like that in a long, long time. I know what it was, but not sure why we had the problem to begin with, so, you know, we had a really fast Pedigree Camry. I thought we were going to be top-three car for sure – no question about that – but then what was going to happen with the guys in front of us. I felt like if we could have jumped them In track position, maybe we could have done something better about keeping the clean air and keeping the lead and stuff like that, but it just got so bad there that last run vibrating it even blew the shifter ball off the shifter and when it finally broke, I couldn’t even grab the shifter in order to knock it out of gear so I could just push the clutch in, so I had to nurse it back and get out of everybody’s way.”

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