NASCAR America: Expect big things from Erik Jones

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Erik Jones is one of two drivers making their first appearance in the playoffs. Alex Bowman is the other.

Often, knowing what one doesn’t know is the right first step. But Jones has some insight into what to expect this week.

Jones’ biggest obstacle will be “the pressure of it,” he told NBC’s Dave Burns at NASCAR’s Playoff Media Day on Thursday. “Making sure you’re doing everything you need to do to be locked in and riding, ready to go. There’s so many things you … can’t control, but you want to do everything in your power to make sure you’re doing the right thing.”

Jones was part of the Xfinity playoffs in 2016 – finishing fourth in the standings. He enters the Cup playoffs as among the hottest drivers with an average finish of 6.9 during the past nine races. That is second to Kevin Harvick’s 6.4 and ahead of Kyle Busch with a 9.0.

“I expect big things from him,” Kyle Petty said of Jones on NASCAR America. “I think he is a Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin-type driver that’s going to be in the playoffs every year.

“If he can make it as far as the third round – make it as far as that elite eight … that speaks volumes for where he is a driver, where they are as a team and what to expect from them for next year.”

Parker Kligerman has raced alongside Jones in the Cup series and knows firsthand what Jones brings to the track.

“What he’s been able to do in the last couple of weeks is definitely going to play into the playoffs momentum-wise and you’re starting to see what he’s capable of. And I feel like many of us that are in the sport who have raced against Erik and seen what he can do in a race car expected this out of him.”

For more, watch the video above.

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NASCAR America: Playoff contenders are hard to predict

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Most experts agree that the Big 3 of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. will make their way to Homestead with a shot at winning the NASCAR Cup championship. NASCAR America analysts Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman are no exception.

The biggest unknown is who will advance to the Round of 12 and eventually the Round of 8. The difference between one round and the other is likely to come down small factors.

“(The Contenders) to me is the largest group in the playoffs,” Kligerman said on Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America. “We couldn’t really separate these from each other because they are all separated by about 12 points and they’re all right on top of each other.“

Advancing to the Round of 8 is going to come down to a little bit of luck and a lot of execution because Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski have each shown flashes of speed at various times on various tracks.

Meanwhile, none have shown the same kind of consistency as the Big 3.

MORE: 16 drivers, 16 questions: Analyzing the Cup playoff competitors

“I look at that and I say, ok there is not really one team that I would take or draft or bet on or pull for in this group that really raises its head above the others,” Petty said.

“Whoever in there executes best; whoever gets the lucky break is going to be the teams that separate themselves into the Round of 12 and … into the Round of 8, but I don’t think when I look at that group that I can pick a solid contender out of them and say you’re the fourth best or you’re right there with our favorites,” Kligerman added.

One driver who has separated himself from the remainder of The Contenders is Erik Jones.

“Erik Jones, over the last five or six weeks, has really done himself proud,” Petty said. “They have run up front, finished second at Indy. They have made moves; they have run fast on the racetrack. They have adjusted that car. At Indy, he was out to lunch much of the day and comes back and finishes second.”

Kligerman agreed: “Erik Jones has kind of been a surprise to many people since his win at Daytona; they’ve really turned it on there. … I’d say the biggest issue or question mark with this race team is this is their first time in the playoffs.”

For more, watch the video above.

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Indy review; playoff preview

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Today’s NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, looking back at Monday’s Indianapolis races and looking ahead to the beginning of the Cup playoffs this weekend in Las Vegas.

Krista Voda hosts and is joined by Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut. Kyle Petty joins from Burton’s Garage.

  • We’ll look back at Brad Keselowski’s Brickyard 400 win. Heading into the playoffs with back-to-back wins, where does he rank among the best drivers in 2018?

 

  • We also have reaction from team owner Roger Penske, who continues to add his Indianapolis Motor Speedway legacy.

 

  • Plus, we look ahead to the Monster Energy Series playoffs that begin on Sunday at Las Vegas. Our panel of experts break down all 16 drivers and determine who are the favorites and long shots.

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.

NASCAR America: Don’t look for an immediate falloff from Martin Truex Jr.

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With Furniture Row Racing entering their final 11 races as a team, the question must be asked whether they will experience a falloff in competitiveness.

NASCAR America analysts Parker Kligerman and Nate Ryan don’t think so – unless they start to lose personnel or if they fail to advance in the playoffs.

“I do not expect (a falloff) immediately and I don’t expect it for the first couple of weeks,” Kligerman said on Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America. “But if there is cracks in the armor – if for whatever reason, this team finds a way to fall out of the playoffs in terms of getting knocked out of a round … then I’d start to see performance start to fall off.”

MORE: Furniture Row Racing to cease operations after 2018 season
MORE: Furniture Row Racing’s demise leaves lingering questions
MORE: Martin Truex Jr., Cole Pearn belong together

As long as the team is performing well, team members will have a common goal. But they also have to face the realization that next year is right around the corner.

“Later in the year, if key members are … cherry picked by other race teams and will have no choice but to leave midway through the playoffs,” Kligerman added.

“That’s the key: personnel losses. If people start leaving the team, it gets really difficult,” Nate Ryan added.

For more, watch the video above.

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NASCAR America: Xfinity Down force rules package on slate for second year

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Last year’s Xfinity race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway brought the conversation about NASCAR’s aero package to the front of many fans minds.

The rules package used in that race contributed to 1,500 green flag lead changes throughout the field. William Byron won by .108 seconds over Paul Menard.

Parker Kligerman breaks down the rules and their impact in the video above.

That rules package provided the basis for the one used in this year’s All-Star race. As the conversation so often has since May, questions about its viability in the Cup series were addressed on Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America.

“There was pushback from teams and the engine builders,” Nate Ryan said. “Very difficult to get this package ready for some of these tracks because of the changes with the horsepower, with the (restrictor) plate.

“But, it sounds as if … it’s definitely on the drawing board for next year, potentially more than a dozen races,” Ryan added. “And I think Indianapolis would be very much at the top of the list.”

The timing of the prospective rules change is another factor that must be considered. Substantial changes in the middle of the season contribute to major cost increases.

“These team owners and NASCAR have been trying really hard to keep costs down,” Kligerman said. “And many of the Cup owners looked at adding a whole new package midseason was going to force them to build separate cars, different engine packages.”

One way or another, answers should become within a few weeks.

“I think we’ll get clarity on it probably at the end of this month,” Ryan said. “The proposed rules package went out at the end of August to teams for 2019 and we’ll probably hear in a few weeks what it will look like for 2019.”

For more, watch the video above.

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