NASCAR: Live from Texas

Updated: April 13, 2013, 2:40 PM ET
ESPN.com

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Sorry about that, bro.

Little brother Kyle Busch knocked Kurt Busch off the pole Friday night for Saturday's Sprint Cup Series race with a Texas Motor Speedway track-record lap of 196.299 mph.

"My guys used the whole tool box today to get us the speed when needed," Kyle said.

Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch

It will be an all-Busch front row Saturday night at TMS. Kurt could be the surprise of the weekend.

Kurt, who had been near the top of the speed chart since the teams unloaded Thursday, thought he had a blazingly fast lap at 195.688 mph in the No. 78 Chevrolet.

But Kyle's lap topped the TMS qualifying record that had held up for seven years. Brian Vickers had the previous mark from 2006 when he turned a lap at 196.235 mph.

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Contingency plans for JJ?

Jimmie Johnson and his wife, Chani, are expecting their second child in September, but Johnson said he hasn't made any contingency plans yet for a possible backup driver when the time comes.

 

"We know that we need to, but we still have some time," Johnson said Friday. "We are not sure who will be available come that time. We'll just have to see, but we will definitely have a plan like always. We will be buttoned up.

 

"Our doctor has told me that a father has never missed a birth [of his patients]. That gives me a lot of confidence that I will be able to do my weekend job and then be around during the week to meet number two."

 

-- Terry Blount

Rated rookie

The shocker of the day came when 19-year-old rookie Alex Bowman knocked Kyle Busch off the Nationwide Series pole for Friday night's O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2 and WatchESPN). Bowman turned a lap at 183.418 mph, topping Busch's lap of 183.187 mph.

Bowman is off to an impressive start this season. The Tucson, Ariz., native finished third in the season opener at Daytona and eighth in Las Vegas. He ranks 10th in the standings.

-- Terry Blount

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NRA sponsorship raising issues

NASCAR plans to become more involved in race-sponsorship decisions by speedways in light of the continuing controversy surrounding the National Rifle Association's sponsorship of the Sprint Cup race Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway.

"The NRA's sponsorship of the event at Texas Motor Speedway fit within existing parameters that NASCAR affords tracks in securing partnerships," said NASCAR spokesman David Higdon. "However, this situation has made it clear that we need to take a closer look at our approval process moving forward, as current circumstances need to be factored in when making decisions."

In some respects, this weekend at TMS has become more about politics than racing for the NRA 500, as the sponsorship coincides with the current national gun control debate to become the prevailing storyline.

Full story ...

-- Terry Blount

RPM up, RCR down

Richard Petty Motorsports must feel good about its chances Saturday after posting two of the top three laps in the final practice Friday.

Marcos Ambrose had the best lap at 191.354 mph. RPM teammate Aric Almirola was third with a lap at 190.503 mph. Kyle Busch was second at 190.988.

A team that probably has some concerns at this point is Richard Childress Racing. Kevin Harvick blew an engine Friday and RCR teammate Paul Menard did the same Thursday. But RCR officials said the two engine failures were not related.

-- Terry Blount

Junior's Hall thoughts

Dale Earnhardt Jr. thinks his boss, Rick Hendrick, will be among the next five inductees who make it in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

"Yeah, I think Rick gets in," Earnhardt said. "He's accomplished a lot. The other thing that might keep him out is that he is technically still an active owner. There are a lot of guys that aren't with us anymore that started this sport back in the '50s and '60s that maybe should go in before him because of that reason. But I think he's got a great chance."

Earnhardt was also asked about new nominee Bruton Smith, the chairman or Speedway Motorsports Inc.

"Yeah, I think he deserves to be in there," Earnhardt said. "I think he probably has a real good shot, too. He's going to get a lot of exposure, probably more exposure than some of the other names on the list, through the press and through the media, building up to the voting for the five. So I think he's got a good shot."

-- Terry Blount

Vickers' side of the story

Brian Vickers said he's trying to settle whatever issues Kevin Harvick has with him from Martinsville.

"The 29 [Harvick] wrecked us after the checker," Vickers said. "I have tried to reach out to him and have called him, but he didn't answer. I'd still like to spend a few minutes with him.

"Kevin is under the impression that I forced him into a three-wide restart. But I was on the inside and he passed someone to put himself three-wide, and he took his frustration out on us. But I guess that's Martinsville racing."

Vickers also said he didn't intentionally run into Danica Patrick's car after the race.

-- Terry Blount

Better race ahead?

The Texas Cup race one year ago was a snoozer, but the new Gen-6 car could improve things, as it has at some other tracks this season.

"I honestly think we've had some of the best racing in a decade," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. "I mean, there's some really hard racing. Vegas was an outstanding race, best race we've had there. Fontana was the best race we've had there."

Martin Truex Jr., who finished fourth at TMS a year ago and 13th in November, is optimistic about what fans will see Saturday night.

"The cars definitely have been different than we expected at some places,'' Truex said. "They put on a good race at the big tracks, where we thought passing was going to be more difficult than we had last year. So far, so good, and hopefully it will be more of the same this weekend."

Carl Edwards expects great racing, but doesn't think the Gen-6 will have much to do with it.

"The tires are falling off quite a bit," Edwards said. "I believe that was the key to the spectacular finish at California, so I'm really excited about this race. It's a fun place to race for me and I think it's going to be a good show."

-- Terry Blount

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Keselowski's new ride

After winning the championship last year, Brad Keselowski said he wanted to buy a tank.

Has he?

"I have a lot of stuff going on there," Keselowski said. "But I don't want to say anything until it's done."

Keselowski has some other plans at the moment, like buying a vehicle and transforming it into a TV icon.

Keselowski
Keselowski

"I just bought a van," he said. "This is going to sound kind of weird, but I'm going to make it into an 'A-Team' van. It will be a replica van.

"I'm going to paint it the A-Team colors and put the spoiler on it, and I will use it to drive to races at Martinsville and Bristol, someplace short -- Charlotte, Darlington. It isn't built yet, so I won't have it until the late fall, but I think that will be really neat. I like stuff that is kind of quirky."

Keselowski won't be taking his quirky van to the White House. But he'll be there Tuesday, along with team owner Roger Penske and most of the No. 2 team, for an annual ceremony where the president honors the Sprint Cup champion.

-- Terry Blount

Danica's wardrobe upgrade; attitude upgrade

One thing stood out about Danica Patrick's apparel Friday morning. It was her blinding, giant Texas belt buckle, a gift from boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

There's a message on the buckle: Fastest Girl in Town.

"This started at the beginning of last year," Patrick said. "He wanted some Twitter followers. So I was like, 'Well, if I help you with that, can I have a belt buckle?' So he had it made.

"I got it just before the second Texas race last year. It's very nice. I know these things are handmade. They are not cheap, and it's really cool to have. He didn't actually need to live up to that bet, but it was nice that he did."

Patrick also has a new pair of cowboy boots, but she wasn't wearing them Friday.

Patrick
Patrick

"I put them on this morning," Patrick said. "But my jeans are too short, and you just can't wear boots if the jeans are too short. They look really good, but man, I kind of feel like I'm dressing up for the track.

"Being someone who likes to dress up, you think that would be OK, but I felt weird walking through the garage with boots instead of tennis shoes. I'm going to wear them tomorrow, though. Race day they are going to be my game-day shoes. I've got to find some longer jeans. I will be a little taller, but I will look the part."

Patrick also talked a little about racing, including her impressive 12th-place finish last weekend at Martinsville.

"It was a satisfying moment and a reminder that that's what we work hard for," she said. "It's a nice reminder sometimes that I can drive a race car. Sometimes you get down on yourself and those days help bring you back.

"No one for us knew what to expect at Martinsville, but if you go in with an open mind and a good attitude, keep trying, stay positive and take what comes, you can have success. But we know we'll have some of those days and some that are trying days."

Patrick said she hasn't spoken to Brian Vickers about Vickers bumping into her car at the end of the Martinsville race.

"But I did talk to Kevin Harvick," Patrick said. "He was a little upset with Vickers, also, but I think there were a lot of drivers a little upset with Vickers after Martinsville."

-- Terry Blount

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A Hall of a time

Jack Roush became the newest member of the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame on Thursday night at the annual induction ceremony gala in the Speedway Club Ballroom at TMS.

No team owner has won more races at Texas than Roush. Entering this weekend, his drivers had won nine Nationwide races and eight Cup races on the 1.5-mile oval since TMS opened in 1997.

Roush is a brilliant guy, but making an entertaining public acceptance is not his calling. Roush rambled on for more than 30 minutes Thursday night, which included a lot of highly technical engineer-speak that left many of those in the audience a little glassy-eyed.

One of the highlights of the night was Kurt Busch getting a little choked up in his speech as the winner of the Major General Thomas Sadler Award for his humanitarian efforts. Busch helped raise more than $40,000 for the Texas chapter of Speedway Children's Charities.

Certainly the highlight of the night for me was having the honor to talk about the late Chris Economaki, winner of the Bruton Smith Legends Award, and present it to his daughter, Corinne.

Chris meant a lot to me in my career, but I also told a story about my youth. When I was a young teen, I would take an old cassette recorder, turn down the sound of the TV and pretend I was broadcasting the Indy 500.

When Economaki would interview drivers in the pits, I would pretend I was Chris, and my little brother would pretend he was the driver.

When the race ended, we would listen to the tape. I asked my brother how I did. I'll never forget what he said: "Well, it was OK, but you're no Chris Economaki."

He was right. No one will ever be Chris Economaki as a motorsports broadcaster and journalist.

-- Terry Blount

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