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Drivers appreciate Brian France’s appearance at meeting

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski both praised NASCAR Chairman Brian France for attending Friday night’s meeting with the Sprint Cup Drivers Council at Talladega Superspeedway.

France met with the nine-member drivers group for about an hour before leaving for a prior commitment. The meeting went an additional two hours with drivers talking with other NASCAR senior executives including Steve O’Donnell, executive vice president and chief racing development officer.

“There’s a tremendous amount of good faith that is earned when Brian comes to a meeting,’’ Keselowski said Saturday.

France previously had said he felt it would be best not to be at the meetings to avoid stifling any of the discussion. Tony Stewart suggested in January that France should be more visible in part by attending the meetings.

“It was great that Brian came,’’ Earnhardt said.

Keselowski called the meeting “productive” without revealing details of what was discussed.

“I think there were a lot of takeaways to make the sport better, so that was a really positive step in the right direction,’’ Keselowski said.

“I think three or four years ago, someone asked me, ‘How is this sport going to move forward?’ I pointed to the NFL model of councils and committees. That’s how you can collaborate key stakeholders to get them to the same agenda. That’s exactly where we are going. I think that’s an extremely positive step for everyone.’’

Earnhardt said “nothing groundbreaking” came from the meeting. “It was just a good, positive meeting. A lot of good things moving in a good direction.’’

Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson top list of drivers docked practice

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HAMPTON, Georgia — Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson both will be held during the final Cup Series practice Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Because his No. 78 Toyota failed to clear prequalifying inspection three times Friday, Truex will miss the final 30 minutes of the 80-minute session that will begin at noon ET. Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet will be out for the last 15 minutes because it failed the new Optical Scanning Station twice.

Harrison Rhodes also will miss 15 minutes for failing inspection twice. Jeffrey Earnhardt, Gray Gaulding Jr., Michael McDowell and Cole Whitt each will miss 15 minutes because they were late to qualifying inspection.

NASCAR changed its policy on how practice holds will be conducted this season. Instead of serving the penalty in the pits at the start of the session, drivers will park their cars for the length of the penalty up until the end of the session.

Today’s Xfinity race at Atlanta: Start time, lineup and more

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A week after Tyler Reddick‘s victory over Elliott Sadler by 0.0004 seconds to win at Daytona, the Xfinity Series is back in action at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Today’s race is the first in a doubleheader. The Camping World Truck Series will race after the Xfinity Series event.

Here are the details for today’s Xfinity race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Larry “The Cable Guy” will give the command to start engines at 2:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:16 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 163 laps (251 miles) around the 1.54-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 40. Stage 2 ends on Lap 80.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 7 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 11:45 a.m. Driver introductions are at 1:35 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race beginning at 1:30 p.m. Race coverage begins at 2 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 1:30 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high of 77 degrees and a 15 chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Kyle Busch led the final 19 laps to win this race last year. Brad Keselowski was second. Kyle Larson placed third.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying is at 9:10 a.m. ET

Atlanta team rosters: Who is working the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

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HAMPTON, Georgia — NASCAR has released the weekend team rosters for the 36 teams competing in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Under a new initiative to limit at-track personnel in 2018, NASCAR is providing a list of team rosters before each race this season. In addition to the crew chief, Cup teams will be permitted 12 road crew members each weekend and a five-member pit crew (which is down a person from last year and also under new regulations).

Click here for the Cup team rosters provided by NASCAR at Atlanta.

Teams fielding one to two cars also are allowed three management-style spots (competition vice president, technical director, IT support). Teams fielding three to four cars get those spots plus a fourth staff member for IT.

NASCAR will monitor the rosters by scanning identification chips. It also will use rosters in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series.

Cup teams presented the idea of having a defined number of team members to NASCAR, which helped formalize the structure.

Saturday’s schedule at Atlanta: Cup practice; Xfinity, Trucks qualifying and races

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As the late Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks used to say, “Let’s play two today.”

And that’s what will at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Both the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series race today.

Here’s how today’s schedule plays out:

(Times Eastern)

7 a.m. – Xfinity/Truck Series garages open

9:10 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (Fox Sports 1)

10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Cup garage open

10:35 a.m. – Truck Series qualifying; single truck/two rounds (FS1)

11:45 a.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting

Noon – 1:20 p.m. – Final Cup practice (FS1)

1:15 p.m. – Truck driver-crew chief meeting

1:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

2 p.m. – Rinnai 250; 163 miles/251.02 miles (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

4 p.m. – Truck Series driver introductions

4:30 p.m. ET – Active Pest Control 200; 130 laps; 200.2 miles (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)