NASCAR Notes: Kyle Busch Motorsports lays out Truck plans for 2014

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Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch may have had to shut down his Nationwide Series operation, but his Camping World Truck Series side is still raring to go for 2014.

While Busch has already said that he and 17-year-old Erik Jones would split time in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra that won last year’s CWTS owner’s championship, the exact details of that hadn’t been revealed until very recently.

Jones, who became the youngest winner in CWTS history last fall at Phoenix International Raceway, will drive a 12-race schedule this year in the No. 51 that begins with the March 29 event at Martinsville Speedway.

That victory was part of Jones’ tremendous 2013 season, which also saw him take two of the top late model races in the country – the Winchester 400 at Indiana’s Winchester Speedway and the Snowball Derby at Florida’s Five Flags Speedway. He also earned his first career win in the ARCA series last August (Berlin, Mich.).

“I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the No. 51 Tundra and representing Toyota and [sponsor] ToyotaCare,” Jones said in a team release.

“I really learned a lot last year from Kyle and everyone at KBM. I felt like each time out we all grew as a team and at the end of the season I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream by winning in one of NASCAR’s top three divisions. Going into this season, I feel like we have a great chance to get back to victory lane and go out and defend our Owner’s Championship.”

As for Busch, he will be in the No. 51 for 10 races, including the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway on Friday night, Feb. 21.

“Rowdy” earned five CWTS wins in 11 starts last year, including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway that enabled the No. 51 to take the CWTS owner’s title on a tie-breaker over Matt Crafton’s No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota.

Darrell Wallace Jr. is already confirmed to drive KBM’s sister truck, the No. 54 Toyota Tundra.

More sponsor news has come in from Front Row Motorsports, which will welcome back transportation company CSX for a four-race swing as primary sponsor on David Ragan’s No. 34 Ford Fusion in Sprint Cup.

CSX will enjoy primary status on the No. 34 at the Daytona 500, Darlington, the August race at Michigan, and the September race at Richmond. The company will also be what the team calls a “major associate” sponsor at Pocono in August and Charlotte in October.

Ragan won last year’s spring race at Talladega Superspeedway with primary sponsorship from FarmRich Foods. They too will be back with the No. 34 this season, serving as its primary sponsor for the Phoenix race on March 2.

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.