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Kurt Busch hopes to be the first and last ‘Sprint’ Cup champion

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There are only five races left in the ‘Sprint’ era of NASCAR.

The cell phone company departs as the title sponsor of the Cup Series following the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20. Clinching this particular title would have a little more meaning for Kurt Busch.

Busch, at 25 and in his fourth year in the series, kicked off Sprint’s 12-year relationship with NASCAR in 2004 when he won the inaugural title, then the Nextel Cup. A corporate merger made it the Sprint Cup in 2008.

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 03: 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Champion Kurt Busch stands on top of his car while posing with the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup trophy prior the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Awards outside of the Waldorf Astoria on December 3, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kurt Busch in New York City in December 2004 prior to the Nextel Cup Awards. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

“That would be fun to be able to bookend the championship run with Sprint sponsorship of our series,” Busch said Tuesday during a test at Homestead-Miami Speedway  “It’s been an amazing run for them, a brand builder for both NASCAR and a cell phone company. When you’re the first champion with a new sponsor it came with some fun responsibilities and good promotions.”

Busch won the 2004 title, the first of the “Chase” era, while driving for Roush Fenway Racing.

“It’s neat to see what (Sprint) benefited from and here we are now, it’s at the end,” Busch said. “2004 was a long time ago. It’s time to upgrade the championship trophy to a 2016 one.”

If Busch can survive in the standings until the finale, he’ll have the chance to score the third Cup title for Stewart-Haas Racing – where he has been since 2014. Heading into the Alabama 500 at Talladega, Busch is sixth on the Chase grid, 17 points up on the bubble.

“Last year we came out of Kansas with a top-(six) finish and had 13 points as our cushion,” Busch said. “This year we have a 17-point cushion after we finished 13th (at Kansas). It’s a numbers game, and we feel comfortable where we sit.”

But the fates of Busch and nine other drivers hinge on their result at Talladega, the 2.66-mile track notorious for wrecks that threaten to eliminate half the field.

“All we have to do at Talladega is finish 16th or better, no matter what anybody else does,” said Busch of his best possible clinch scenario outside a win. “It’s the same as having sixth or better or 36th or better because you never know when you’ll get caught up in the big wreck and end up 36th or worse.”

In his 17 years competing in the Sprint Cup Series, Busch has never won a points paying restrictor-plate race. He’s finished third five times at Talladega but hasn’t earned a top five there since 2007.

His average finish at Talladega through 31 starts? Just on target at 16.3.

“It’s nice to have points in our pockets,” said Busch. “That’s the best feeling.”

Kyle Larson fastest in final practice for Coca-Cola 600

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kyle Larson topped the final practice session for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 with a speed at 186.400 mph.

The Cup points leader, Larson will start 39th in the race because his No. 42 Chevrolet didn’t clear inspection in time to qualify.

Ryan Blaney (185.861), Matt Kenseth (185.046), Kurt Busch (184.856) and Erik Jones (184.818) rounded out the top five.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was seventh fastest at 184.433 mph. Pole-sitter Kevin Harvick was 20th fastest at 182.648 mph.

Jimmie Johnson recorded the most laps in the session with 47.

Jamie McMurray had the best 10-lap average at 180.914 mph.

The session was stopped for a caution once after Brad Keselowski spun exiting Turn 4.

Click here for the full practice report.

Justin Allgaier wins pole for Charlotte Xfinity race

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CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won the pole for the Xfinity Series’ Hisense 4K TV 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

With a speed at 182.488 mph, Allgaier earned his fifth Xfinity pole and his first since the March 2013 race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Allgaier is joined on the front row by Austin Dillon (181.519).

The top five was completed by Ryan Blaney (181.378), Daniel Hemric (181.324) and Kevin Harvick (181.245).

Christopher Bell will start seventh in his first Xfinity race.

Brad Keselowski and Dakoda Armstrong will start from the rear after not passing inspection in time to qualify.

Click here for full qualifying results.

Ryan Blaney leads second Coke 600 practice

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CONCORD, N.C. — Ryan Blaney posted the top speed in the second practice session for the Coca-Cola 600.

Blaney’s No. 21 Ford produced a speed of 188.055 mph Saturday morning around Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The top five was filled out by Erik Jones (187.598 mph), Martin Truex Jr. (187.084), Daniel Suarez (186.838) and Trevor Bayne (186.239).

Pole-sitter Kevin Harvick was ninth fastest at 185.567 mph. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 14th quickest at 185.141 mph.

Kyle Busch recorded the most laps in the session with 48.

Click here for the full practice report.

Eight teams lose 15 minutes of Coke 600 practice for failing pre-qualifying inspection

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CONCORD, N.C. — Eight Cup teams were held 15 minutes during Coca-Cola 600 practice today for failing pre-qualifying inspection on Thursday

Drivers include Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, David Ragan, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Corey LaJoie and Chris Buescher.

Buescher’s team also loses pit selection for Sunday’s race because it failed inspection three times.

Larson and LaJoie’s loss of practice time comes after neither qualified Thuraday because their cars didn’t clear inspection in time.