Kyle Busch returns after two races off, earns pole for tonight’s Trucks race at Kentucky, seeks 5th win of 2014

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After a couple of races off, Kyle Busch is back racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in Thursday’s UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway.

And not surprisingly, Busch, who has won four of the first seven NCWTS races this season, is ready to go out and win his fifth after earning the pole position during Thursday afternoon’s qualifying session.

Busch’s best lap around the 1.5-mile tri-oval at was 175.884 mph (30.702 seconds).

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., who won the last NCWTS race two weeks ago at Gateway Motorsports Park in suburban St. Louis, qualified on the outside of the front row (175.615 mph).

That puts two Kyle Busch Motorsports trucks side-by-side at the front of the field for tonight’s race, the first time that has happened in team history.

“I can’t say enough about the KBM guys, another nice job this weekend,” Busch said on Fox Sports 1. “I’m also proud to see Bubba right there with us, as well, too. Hopefully, we can finish it the way we started like we should have been last week (Erik Jones drove for Busch in the No. 51 truck at Gateway, but was involved in a late wreck while leading the race, preventing a 1-2 finish with Wallace).”

Jeb Burton qualified third (175.194 mph), followed by Ben Kennedy (175.046), points leader Johnny Sauter (174.978) and German Quiroga Jr. (174.893), who was fastest in both practices earlier in the day.

“It’s good. When we start there, it’s fine,” Quiroga said. “We know we have a very good truck, have been very fast all day long and am pretty confident we can make a very good start, run in the top three all night and hopefully finish winning the race. I’m hoping to get my first win here.”

Quiroga said after finishing second to Wallace at Gateway that he felt his first career NCWTS win may be right around the corner. If he can get by Busch tonight, no easy feat obviously, that’s a distinct possibility.

Quiroga’s Red Horse Racing teammate, Timothy Peters, qualified seventh (174.814), followed by Ron Hornaday Jr. (174.160), Joey Coulter (173.667), Ryan Blaney (172.966), Matt Crafton (171.892) and Tayler Malsam (174.379).

Also of note, Busch, Keselowski and Joe Nemechek are entered in all three races this weekend at Kentucky — the Truck Series, Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup events.

Busch is also hoping to win all three for only the second time in NASCAR history, having become the first and only driver to date to do so back in August 2010 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Here’s how the field for tonight’s UNOH 225 will take the green flag:

Row 1: Kyle Busch, Darrell Wallace Jr.

Row 2: Jeb Burton, Ben Kennedy

Row 3: Johnny Sauter, German Quiroga Jr.

Row 4: Timothy Peters, Ron Hornaday Jr.

Row 5: Joey Coulter, Ryan Blaney

Row 6: Matt Crafton, Tayler Malsam

Row 7: Max Gresham, Brad Keselowski

Row 8: Corey Lajoie, Bryan Silas

Row 9: John Wes Townley, Joe Nemechek

Row 10: Chase Pistone, Mason Mingus

Row 11: Caleb Holman, Tyler Young

Row 12: Austin Dillon, JJ Yeley

Row 13: T.J. Bell, Jimmy Weller

Row 14: Jennifer Jo Cobb, Justin Jennings

Row 15: Charles Lewandoski, Norm Benning

Row 16: Adam Edwards, Ryan Ellis

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‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”