WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 5 p.m. ET

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After Auto Club Speedway delivered what many NASCAR observers called the best Sprint Cup race of 2013, observers were anxious to see what would happen at the two-mile oval in yesterday’s Auto Club 400.

It’s likely they weren’t disappointed. While tire failures were a continuous storyline throughout the day on the abrasive track, there was still plenty of side-by-side racing to be had in Southern California

It all came down to a green-white-checkered finish, and in the end, Kyle Busch successfully defended his Fontana title after taking a four-tire stop under the final yellow and then using the fresh rubber to jump from sixth to the lead.

However, one could argue that the biggest star of the weekend was California phenom Kyle Larson, who held off Busch and Kevin Harvick for the Nationwide Series win on Saturday and almost hunted Busch down on the final lap yesterday before finishing second.

It’s a lot of ground to cover, but the NASCAR AMERICA gang – host Carolyn Manno and analysts Kyle Petty and Jeff Burton – will break it all down later today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and on NBC Sports Live Extra for online/mobile devices.

Also, NBCSN reporter Kelli Stavast will report from Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters on Busch’s big win and provide an update on the ailing Denny Hamlin, who was hospitalized for a sinus infection yesterday and missed the race as a result (he has since been released).

In case you wish to watch today’s show online, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you plug those pieces of information in, you’ll have access to the stream.

Again, CLICK HERE at 5 p.m. ET to watch NBCSN’s NASCAR AMERICA.

Dodge to celebrate 50th anniversary of Hemi motor at NHRA U.S. Nationals

Photo courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
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When this year’s NHRA U.S. Nationals plays out from August 29 through September 3 at Indianapolis Raceway Park, a lot of folks are going to be channeling one of the most famous lines in motorsports:

“Hey, that thing got a Hemi?”

Dodge and parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Thursday – on National Hemi Day, no less – announced that it will celebrate the Hemi’s 50th anniversary of Super Stock cars with the 18th annual Dodge Hemi Challenge during the U.S. Nationals.

Cars that will take part in the Challenge will be 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda cars – “The most iconic of the Mopar package cars,” touted a Dodge press release – in a head-to-head battle.

The Dart and Barracuda were purpose built for use solely on a drag strip. The 23 entrants in the Challenge will drive their personally owned versions of the ’68 ‘Cuda and Dart.

The winner of the Challenge – which will be held August 30-31 – will take home a $15,000 purse, while cash rewards will be available for all 16 drivers that qualify for final eliminations.

“The Dodge brand is proud to serve as title sponsor of the NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge, an event that spotlights the legacy and power of the 426 HEMI engine,” said Steve Beahm, Head of Passenger Cars, Dodge//SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA North America.

Beahm added, “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda Super Stock cars that debuted back in 1968 and are still competing today, which makes our support of this edition of the HEMI Challenge extra special.”

One special incentive for contestants is the 42.6-pound NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge trophy, created in the spirit of the 426 (cubic inch) HEMI engine.

Jimmy Daniels has won the Challenge the last two years and goes for a three-peat in this year’s race within a race. His father, Jim Daniels, won the race in 2010.

The Challenge’s all-time winningest driver is Charlie Westcott Jr. of Parma, Michigan, who captured the Challenge in six different years: 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Follow @JerryBonkowski