NASCAR weekend schedule at Daytona: Friday’s practices through Sunday’s Sprint Cup race

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As NBC makes its return to NASCAR this weekend, what better place to start off our 10-year package than at one of the most historic places in racing: Daytona International Speedway.

NBCSN kicks things off and celebrates July 4th on Saturday night with the Subway Firecracker 250 Xfinity Series race.

NBC brings you the Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup race Sunday evening.

As a reminder, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is off until July 9 (Kentucky).

Here’s the weekend schedule (all times listed are Eastern):

FRIDAY, JULY 3

9 am – 7:30 pm – Sprint Cup garage open
9 am – 9 pm – Xfinity garage open
2 pm – 2:55 pm – Xfinity practice (NBCSN)
3 pm – 3:55 pm – Sprint Cup practice (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network)
4 pm – 4:55 pm – Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)
5 pm – 5:55 pm – Final Sprint Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)
6 pm – Xfinity inspection begins

SATURDAY, JULY 4

10:30 am – 7:30 pm – Sprint Cup garage open
12:30 pm – Xfinity garage open
2:35 pm – Xfinity qualifying (NBCSN)
4:15 pm – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting
4:35 pm – Sprint Cup qualifying and impound (NBCSN, MRN)
7 pm – Xfinity driver introductions
7:30 pm – Subway Firecracker 250 Xfinity race (100 laps, 250 miles) (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

SUNDAY, JULY 5

2 pm – Sprint Cup garage open
5:45 pm – Driver/crew chief meeting
7:15 pm – Driver introductions
7:45 pm – Coke Zero 400 race (160 laps, 400 miles) (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

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New details of road course race at Charlotte Motor Speedway

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CONCORD, North Carolina — The Sept. 30 Cup race on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course will be on a slightly altered 2.28-mile circuit.

The race, which airs on NBC, will serve as the conclusion of the first round of the playoffs. It is the first road course race in the 14-year history of the playoffs.

The alterations shorten the original 2.4-mile, 13-turn layout of the circuit. The track is now 2.28 miles and 17 turns after the removal of two of the last three infield turns. There will be more than 35 feet of elevation changes between Roval Turn 4 – the lowest point in the track – and Roval Turn 9, the highest point.

The distance for the race will be announced at a later date.

NASCAR held a test on the road course last October with Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Hemric and Jamie McMurray. During it Busch suggested the elimination of those turns in order to “speed up the track.”

“There are a lot of slow sections with Turns 5, 6 and 7,” Busch said. “Those are good rhythmic corners. … (But) a 3,500-pound car going 35 mph too many times isn’t too exciting.”

Truex was part of Monday’s presentation and gave his thoughts on the change.

“The lap times were so long that we were going to be looking at a race that was, I don’t even know how many hours,” Truex said. “Way too long. Basically taking out those two turns cut out quite a bit of lap time off the laps. It’s more so like a regular road course like Watkins Glen … we’ll be in kind of that realm.”

A chicane has also been added to the backstretch right before the entrance of Turn 3.

The track is adding 440 temporary rumble strips.

There will be a March test on the road course.

Check back for more.

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ThorSport Racing partners with Ford in Truck Series

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ThorSport Racing has partnered with Ford in a multi-year deal in the Camping World Truck Series, the team announced Monday.

The team’s announcement comes a week after it revealed the mutual decision to part ways with Toyota.

“With 23 years in the NCWTS, we look forward to our new partnership with Ford Performance in NASCAR,” team owner Duke Thorson said in a press release. “Our pursuit of wins and championships remains at the forefront of our objectives.”

ThorSport, based in Sandusky, Ohio, had been paired with the Toyota for six years, winning two titles with Matt Crafton.

“We’re excited that ThorSport Racing has decided to switch to a F-Series truck for the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports in a press release. “ThorSport is a proven championship-level team in the series, and we look forward to providing them the aero and simulation technical support that will ensure they remain at the top level of the Truck Series.”

In 2017, Brad Keselowski Racing fielded the only two full-time Ford entries in the series. That team shut down following the end of the season.

Crafton will be returning to ThorSport for his 17th season – and 14th consecutive – with the team. The rest of the team’s driver lineup will be announced at a later date.

The Truck Series season begins Feb. 16th at Daytona International Speedway.

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D.J. Kennington to attempt to qualify for Daytona 500 with Gaunt Brothers Racing

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Canadian driver D.J. Kennington will try to qualify for the Daytona 500 with Gaunt Brothers Racing for the second year in a row, the team announced Monday.

Kennington, a native of St. Thomas, Ontario, will drive the No. 96 Toyota sponsored by Lordco Auto Parts and Castrol.

The team, sponsor and driver combination made the 2017 edition of the race, making Kennington the first Canadian driver to compete in the Daytona 500 in 29 years.

Kennington started 28th and finished 36th following a multi-car crash at the start of Stage 2.

“Last year was an awesome experience for my sponsors, Lordco and Castrol, and me,” Kennington said in a press release. “We knew once it was over, we wanted to do it again. (Team owner) Marty (Gaunt) and everybody at GBR is pulling out all the stops for us this year. I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the Lordco/Castrol Toyota Camry and seeing the difference a year makes.”

The 40-year-old driver has five Cup starts with a best finish of 26th in last November’s race at Phoenix.

Gaunt Brothers Racing does not own a charter, meaning Kennington is not guaranteed a starting spot in the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

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Love’s Travel Stops returns as Front Row Motorsports sponsor

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Front Row Motorsports and Love’s Travel Stops have extended their relationship into a sixth year, the team announced Monday.

The company will sponsor the No. 34 Ford of Michael McDowell in 18 races, including the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

It will also be on the No. 34 for both races at Texas Motor Speedway, the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway and the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

“We look forward to kicking off another great season in Daytona with Front Row Motorsports and welcoming our new driver of the No. 34 Love’s Ford, Michael McDowell,” said Dave Frankenfield, vice president of marketing for Love’s Travel Stops, in a press release. “(Team owner) Bob Jenkins and (General Manager) Jerry Freeze continue to provide great value and flexibility in our partnership while working tirelessly to put a competitive car on the track each week. They also help create a unique race-day experience that allows our customers and employees to be a part of the Love’s race team.”

The team also announced McDowell, entering his first year with FRM, will be paired with crew chief Derrick Finley. The veteran crew chief has been with the team since 2011 and worked with David Ragan last season.

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