Kyle Busch fails to pass inspection, starts 39th for today’s Nationwide race

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The most dominant force in the NASCAR Nationwide Series will have to start from the back in today’s 300-mile Nationwide race at Auto Club Speedway.

The No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch, who has already won twice in four Nationwide starts this season, was unable to pass inspection and could not take part in the first round of qualifying.

“Initially, we went around because our wheel studs were too short and when we came back through, we’d fixed the wheel studs and we had too much skew in it,” crew chief Adam Stevens said to Fox. “We didn’t do anything to change the skew but the numbers jumped on the [inspection] platform.

“We all go across the same platform, and we rolled through last night and we were happy with all the numbers that we had. So we start backing skew out of it, a little bit at a time, and the numbers aren’t moving…For some reason, the adjustments we’ve made haven’t moved the needle and baby-stepping it hasn’t done it, and we’ve run out of time.”

Dustin Long of Motor Racing Network reports word from NASCAR managing director of competition John Darby that a rear axle housing issue on the No. 54 was behind them failing to pass inspection.

As a result, Busch will start 39th in the TreatMyClot.com 300, which could make for a wild show as he attempts to rip through the field once again.

Two weeks ago in the Nationwide race at Las Vegas, he was forced to start from the rear due to his team having to make an unapproved adjustment after the cars had been impounded post-qualifying.

He was back in the Top 10 by the time the race had reached 20 laps, and went on to finish second to Brad Keselowski.

As for who will be on the pole for today’s race, that honor goes to one of Busch’s JGR teammates, Elliott Sadler. His final-round lap of 176.991 miles per hour in the No. 11 JGR Toyota was enough to out-hustle a third JGR man, Matt Kenseth (176.948 mph).

Ty Dillon and Joey Logano will start from Row 2, with the JR Motorsports tandem of Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick following in Row 3. Turner Scott Motorsports partners Dylan Kwasniewski and Kyle Larson make up Row 4, while Richard Childress Racing’s Brian Scott and Brendan Gaughan sit in Row 5.

Nationwide points leader Regan Smith will start on the inside of Row 6 along with James Buescher. Trevor Bayne, who sits just one point behind Smith in the championship, qualified 13th.

JGR has won the Fontana Nationwide race nine consecutive times and could very well make it a 10th straight triumph later today. The green flag is set to drop shortly after 5 p.m. ET.

Danica Patrick to sign off driving career at 2018 Indy 500

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With her full-time career in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now coming to an end, following the end of the 2017 season this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Danica Patrick is embarking on a new path in 2018 with the two biggest 500-mile races in North America.

Patrick confirmed plans to participate in North America’s most marquee 500-mile races, the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, during a press conference today in Miami. A team for the Indianapolis 500 has not been determined, and her options for the Daytona 500 are limited to NASCAR teams with three or fewer full-time cars, because a four-car full-time team cannot enter a fifth for the Daytona 500.

Patrick ended her full-time career in IndyCar after 2011 to head to NASCAR. She drove 10 races in 2012 before her first full Cup season in 2013, where she won the pole for that year’s Daytona 500 and ultimately finished eighth.

Her Cup career has seen her finish between 24th and 28th in points with seven career top-10 finishes, all between sixth and 10th place. She ranks 27th heading into this week’s finale too.

It was her IndyCar career though where she first entered the national conversation after a few years of apprenticeship driving for Bobby Rahal’s Barber Dodge and Formula Atlantic teams. A fourth place finish in the 2005 Indianapolis 500 with a number of laps led launched her into the racing stratosphere and helped produce the Indianapolis 500’s biggest rating in years.

Ultimately her best finish in the ‘500 in seven starts was third place in 2009, behind Helio Castroneves and the late Dan Wheldon.

She won at Motegi, 2008, for her first and only win in IndyCar.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 29: Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 Team GoDaddy Dallara Honda, makes a pit stop during the IZOD IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 29, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

A visibly emotional Patrick announced this was the end of her full-time driving career to kick off the press conference, but switched to her future plans once she got through the opening remarks.

Patrick “never thought” she’d do the Indianapolis 500 again but when tossing around future ideas, the concept of running both Daytona and Indianapolis came up.

“I never thought I would do it. I always thought never, but I never said never. Here I am,” she said.

“Out of my mouth came, ‘What about Indy?’ That was really the first sort of idea that got me excited. Let’s do it. I called Haley (Moore, longtime PR rep). What did I just say I would do? She said, ‘Hell yes that’s a good idea.’

“I’m still surprised.”

Patrick will need to participate in the Indianapolis 500 refresher program for drivers that aren’t full-time drivers, so that will provide her a couple hours additional track time before practice opens to the full field in mid-May.

The new 2018 Dallara universal body kit comes into being this year too, and Patrick thinks she has improved as a driver over the last six seasons to be able to come back.

“(Going) 240… it’ll be no problem,” she deadpanned. “It’ll take a bit of adjusting. It’s different for sure. But I think I’m a better driver now. It’ll take a bit of acclimating. Yeah, I would like to get in a car before I get to Indy.”

Patrick said running the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 “could” occur with her same teams she last ran with full-time, Stewart-Haas Racing and Andretti Autosport, respectively. But her options remain open for both.