Weekend preview: Busch in search of first All-Star Race win
(AP) -- Staff Report, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
He's only 32 years old, but Kyle Busch boasts quite the NASCAR resume.
The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver owns 38 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins, the 2015 premier series championship and 172 victories across the sport's three national series.
One of the few accomplishments missing in Busch's already illustrious career -- a checkered flag in the Monster Energy All-Star Race. He'll get the chance to achieve that feat -- and earn the $1 million-prize that comes with it -- under the lights on Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1).
Busch has won 14 races at Charlotte in the NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series but never in the Monster Energy Series.
"We've been very lucky to check off a lot of things on my list over the last couple of years with the championship in 2015 and wins at the Brickyard 400, Martinsville, Kansas. It's been quite a ride. I'm looking forward to this weekend, for sure, in our debut with our M&M'S Caramel car," Busch said.
In 12 all-star starts, Busch has three top-five and six top-10 finishes. He leads active drivers in all-star driver rating (101.9) and poles (3).
"This is always a pretty cool race and it has good atmosphere around it," Busch said. "The crowd gets jacked up and, of course, there is nothing important on the line besides a million bucks. You just go out there and race as hard as you can."
Rhodes ready for Charlotte following Kansas heartbreak
Less than three years ago, Ben Rhodes looked well on his way to NASCAR superstardom. He dominated the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East with five wins on the way to its 2014 championship. Soon after, the Louisville, Ky., native signed a deal to run part-time in JR Motorsports' No. 88 "star car" in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Rhodes struggled in the No. 88, posting only two top-10 finishes in 10 starts during the 2015 season. In 2016, he moved on to ThorSport Racing, recording two top-five and five top-10 finishes in 23 starts -- a solid, yet unspectacular campaign considering ThorSport's resources were depleted following a mid-season fire at its race shop.
Last week at Kansas, Rhodes had a hefty lead with eight laps remaining and was on his way to his first NASCAR national series victory. His perseverance through two tough seasons seemed ready to pay off. But then a piece of debris went through Rhodes' radiator, blowing his engine, and relegating him to 23rd.
"Ben Rhodes had that race won," eventual race winner Kyle Busch said. "I was trying everything I could to try to chase him back down but I just didn't have enough speed."
Rhodes will attempt to bounce back at another 1.5-mile track in Friday's North Carolina Education Lottery 250 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1).
"We've moved on from Kansas," the 20-year-old Rhodes said. "You have to move forward if you expect to win a race. We are actually having fun with it now. My crew chief (Eddie Troconis) has taken the 'debris' that went through the radiator and made a necklace out of it. He says it will be our good luck charm at Charlotte."
Rhodes tested his Toyota Tundra at Charlotte two weeks ago and finished 17th there last year.
"Last week we proved that what we learned at the Charlotte test, all the hard work we put in, is enough to win a race," he said. "We plan to do just that at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday night."
Race Weekend Guide
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Race: Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race
Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Date & Time: Saturday, May 20 at 8 p.m. ET
Tune-In: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 105 miles (70 laps); Stage 1 (Ends after 20 Laps), Stage 2 (Ends after 40 Laps), Stage 3 (Ends After 60 Laps), Final Stage (Ends After 70 Laps)
What to Watch For: Kyle Busch, Chris Buescher, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. go for their first Monster Energy All-Star Race wins. ... Jimmie Johnson attempts to extend his All-Star Race wins record to five. ... Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick highlight the group of drivers attempting to qualify for the All-Star Race in the Monster Energy Open (6 p.m. ET on FS1). ... Joey Logano tries to defend his 2016 Monster Energy All-Star Race victory. ... Monster Energy will host four Bellator MMA fights at its midway footprint on Saturday prior to the races at Charlotte Motor Speedway. ... Platinum recording artist MGK (aka Machine Gun Kelly) will perform at Charlotte Motor Speedway following the Monster Energy All-Star Race.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Race: North Carolina Education Lottery 200
Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Date & Time: Friday, May 19 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 201 miles (134 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 40), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on lap 134)
What to Watch For: NASCAR Next alumnus John Hunter Nemechek heads to Charlotte coming off a season-best third-place finish at Kansas. ... Two-time series champion Matt Crafton goes for his third career victory at Charlotte. ... Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Chase Briscoe -- currently fourth in the points standings on the strength of five top-five showings -- attempts to continue his ascent up the standings.
Updated May 19, 2017