‘Game of Thrones’ excitement grabs some in NASCAR garage but not all – NBC Sports

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After 19 agonizing months of waiting and pondering what might happen in Westeros, fans finally get to see Sunday night what is in store for the final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

“What’s that?” reigning Cup champion Joey Logano said. “Do they race cars in it?”

Uh, no.

“Then I guess I’m not a fan.”

No cars. But there are dragons, humanoid creatures called White Walkers and plenty of violence.

That’s OK if Logano isn’t a fan. There are bound to be fans in the NASCAR garage of a show that attracted 12.1 million viewers in its season seven series finale in August 2017 (the number grew to 16.5 million when including night-of streams of the show).

“Do you have to be a millennial (to like it)?” asked Richmond winner Martin Truex Jr., who is 38 years old. “Definitely too old to be a millennial if you’re asking.”

No. The show’s fan base has grown since its debut in 2011. The season seven ratings saw a 20% increase in both total viewers and in the adult 18-49 demographic.

But let’s check with someone younger that Truex, such as 22-year old Erik Jones. Is he fan of the show?

“Maybe I am and I just don’t know,” Jones said, “but I’ve never watched it.”

OK, let’s try another young driver, such as 24-year-old Chase Briscoe.

“Never seen it,” he said. “Couldn’t even tell you what it’s about.”

So nothing on Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen? OK, but Briscoe can talk about a few other shows.

“This is going to be embarrassing, but I watch ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘The Bachelorette,’ ‘American Idol.’ I used to never watch those kind of shows and now that my fiance watches them, I watch them with her.”

OK, well, there’s got to be somebody in the Cup garage who is looking forward to the final season of “Game of Thrones.”

Paul Menard.

“I’m up to date on it,” he said.

But he won’t be watching with millions of others when the show first airs.

“I’ll wait for the whole season to go and I’ll watch in the offseason,” he said.

For those who aren’t into it, Menard admits that “it is a really weird show.” But it’s one where “there’s people you can root for and people you can hate.”

He’s not alone in his interest in the show. Chris Buescher likes it but also won’t be watching Sunday night.

“I wait until it’s on DVD because I don’t have cable,” he said. “I’m not home enough (to have cable).”

Reigning Xfinity champion Tyler Reddick has cable and will have a “Game of Thrones” watch party with his girlfriend and friends.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Reddick said.

He wasn’t a fan when the show first aired but then started watching and the show “sucked me right in.”

His interest grew at a Barnes and Noble. He went to get a book but his friends had been talking about “Game of Thrones.” So he bought the first season of the show.

“Then I bought season two, three and four,” Reddick said. “Then I’ve been caught up ever since.

“It constantly takes the turns you least expect. So it always keeps you on your toes. You never know who is going to die. You never know what is going to happen. Take the most ridiculous outcome possible and that’s what happens 90 percent of the time. It’s entertaining.”

WINNERS

Joe Gibbs Racing —Martin Truex Jr. becomes the third different JGR driver to win this season. Joe Gibbs Racing has won six of the first nine Cup races. JGR drivers led 287 of the 400 laps Saturday night. The team placed three of its drivers in the top eight.

Clint Bowyer— His third-place finish was his fourth consecutive top-10 finish.

Austin Dillon— His sixth-place finish was his best result of the year. It also was his best finish since last year’s playoff race at Richmond.

Cole Custer —He won Friday night’s Xfinity race, giving him his second victory of the season. This is what he needs to do to make a move to Cup. Last September, car owner Gene Haas was asked about Custer (who had two career Xfinity wins at the time) possibly moving to Cup to replace Kurt Busch for this season. Haas said then: “We think Cole is a good talent. I think he’s talented. He’s very marketable. I think a lot of things are positives, but he has to win the Xfinity (Series) before he really move up to Cup racing.”

LOSERS

Kyle Larson —Contact led to a tire rub. Even after pitting, he still had problems and hit the wall to finish last in the 37-car field. Larson has not finished in the top 15 in the last four races. He’s placed 37th or worse in two of the last three races.

No. 20 Cup teamErik Jones qualified second only to lose that starting spot when his car was among eight that failed inspection before the race. That forced him to start at the rear. He steadily moved into the top 10 but then two slow pit stops doomed him. On a night that a JGR car won, Jones saw his hopes go away. Now this is the only team at JGR that has yet to win a Cup race this season. 

Hendrick MotorsportsNone of its cars was a factor. Jimmie Johnson finished 12th, Willam Byron 13th, Chase Elliott 15th and Alex Bowman 17th.

There’s friendly competitor ribbing, then there’s just downright roasting.

Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace offered a prime example of this on Thursday.

While golfing, Wallace took a picture of a golf cart identified by the No. 12, which happens to be Blaney’s car number.

Wallace took the opportunity to poke fun at Blaney’s late-race struggles this season.

Blaney didn’t take it lying down, but may be regretting his response after finishing two laps down Saturday in Richmond.

Some big space news was announced earlier this week when the first picture of a black hole was revealed.

But according to Martinsville Speedway’s Twitter account, you can see plenty of black holes on the half-mile short track if you look closely enough.

Driver introductions are a spectacle these days.

The lights! The music! The crowd! The lasers! (There are lasers, right? There should totally be lasers.)

But there’s also “fog cannons.”

All this might be exciting for some, but it may not be the most kid-friendly scenario.

You know the saying, “Don’t selfie and cycle”?

Oh, well, you do now thanks to Noah Gragson.

In NASCAR if two people share the same unique last name, there’s a good chance they might be related.

Well, that’s not the case with the Moffitts.

Brett Moffitt, the defending Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion, wants everyone to know he is not related to ARCA driver Thad Moffitt.

If he were, he’d be a member of Richard Petty’s family.

Jimmie Johnson had an uneventful Saturday night in Richmond, which he’s probably OK with. Rain didn’t delay the Cup race at all as he finished 12th. That means his effort to compete in Monday’s Boston Marathon won’t be hindered and he gets a full day of rest.

While Kyle Busch has been the best driver and gotten the most headlines this season in Cup, the other Kyle – Kyle Larson – has become virtually a forgotten man whose year has been one of forgettable finishes for the most part.

Larson finished last in Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway, the victim of a crash on Lap 125 of the 400-lap event.

It extended Larson’s rough and frustrating season.

The California native has plummeted in the last five races, both in finishes and in the standings.

Since his best finish of the season (sixth at Phoenix), Larson has had last-place showings at Texas (39th) and Richmond (37th), both due to crashes. He also was 12th at Fontana, 18th at Martinsville and 19th at Bristol.

The expression on Larson’s face tells the tale of how frustrating the season has been for him. Getty Images.

Also since Phoenix, Larson has fallen from sixth in the Cup standings to 19th.

When asked his thoughts about how the first quarter of the 2019 season has been for him, Larson didn’t try to sugarcoat things.

It’s been a pretty crappy start to the year,” he said bluntly. “I hate the start to the season I’ve had.”

More specifically about Richmond, it was more of the same bad luck for Larson.

We didn’t have great speed tonight, but on the weeks that we have speed, we still run into issues,” Larson admitted. “On that restart (the start of Stage 2), I got stuck in the middle.

I probably squeezed whoever was underneath me (Daniel Hemric) and caused some tire damage and we had to pit to fix that. But they didn’t do a good job of pulling the fenders out and then I got a flat and was back in the wall.”

Larson is hopeful that with having next weekend off for Easter, the break will give him a break, as well and that his luck will turn around once the series resumes April 28 at Talladega.

In 10 career starts at NASCAR’s largest oval, Larson has two top-10 finishes. He crashed and finished last in last spring’s race but rebounded for an 11th-place finish in the fall playoff race there.

Hopefully, this (Easter) break is a good time and we can re-group,” he said.

And just maybe, people will start talking about the other Kyle in a positive fashion once again.

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RICHMOND Va. — Joey Logano watched someone else celebrate a win he thought he could have had.

“We had a car that was capable of winning for a third week straight and we didn’t win,” Logano said. “That part is frustrating.”

Logano finished second to Martin Truex Jr. on Saturday night at Richmond Raceway after running out of laps. It came a week after Logano gave up the lead to pit late at Bristol and finished third.

Logano passed Clint Bowyer for second on Saturday night with four laps to go but couldn’t make the run he needed to get by Truex.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” said Logano, who won the second stage. “You go to the bottom, you can’t get enough drive to clear them. You are never going to pass them. Getting to the outside is pretty tough. We ran out of time. Needed a few more laps.”

Unlike the last time Logano was second to Truex (at Martinsville last fall), there was no contact on the last lap.

“I think he drove me as hard as he could without hitting me, which is what I always expect, that’s kind of how I’ve always raced him,” Truex said. “I don’t know if we’re cool, but I certainly have a lot of respect for Joey as a person and his accomplishments. I really appreciated the way he raced me tonight. I don’t know if he tried to hit me or not. Maybe he didn’t, maybe he did. I don’t know. I’m glad he didn’t. Hopefully, we can race clean for the rest of the year.”

Logano had an eventful race beyond the finish.

He lost the lead on pit road to Truex on Lap 247.

“We lost control at that point,” Logano said of the race.

He fell to third and had to fight his way back in what many drivers said were difficult conditions in the dirty air behind cars.

With less than 80 laps left Logano was held up by Brad Keselowski, leaving a frustrated Logano to yell on his radio about his teammate.

“I think we’ll talk about it,” Logano said. “We’ll be fine, we’re friends. You want to make sure one of our cars wins. That’s just usually the goal.

“We were better. It is what it is. We’ve raced each other hard for wins and we’ve always raced each other fine. I’m not complaining. He’s racing for his spot. I’m racing for my spot. It’s frustrating when you’re in the car and you know you’re better and you know you have a shot at winning and that’s the frustrating part. He’s racing. I’m racing. I’m a hard racer. He is too. That’s what you’re going to get.”

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