After last event as Cup driver, Tony Stewart still has a lot of work to do

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Tony Stewart has probably lost count of the number of times he’s had to remind people of a simple fact.

He’s not retiring from driving race cars, just the kind that have NASCAR labels on them.

Stewart brought up this point in what was technically his last interview as a NASCAR driver at Friday night’s Sprint Cup Awards banquet in Las Vegas.

“This isn’t the last time I’m going to talk to you guys,” Stewart said after the ceremony, which included a surprise appearance and tribute by musician Eddie Vedder. “I’ve said it all along through this whole year, the reason this isn’t a big deal to me is I’m going to be around, I’m going to see you guys like I always see you, just a different role. If I was retiring and walking away from the sport I would be a lot more emotional about it. But it’s literally just changing roles. I’m not going anywhere.”

In fact, Stewart will only have about 14 days of downtime in the coming months because of his other commitments in the racing community.

“If I showed you my phone you would cry,” Stewart said.

After Dec. 16, Stewart will have 10 days off before diving into a schedule that begins with working at the Tulsa Shootout in Oklahoma.

After four days at home in Columbus, Indiana, Stewart then goes to Talladega to watch another dirt race before returning to Tulsa for the Chili Bowl.

Eventually, Stewart will be back at a NASCAR facility, but firmly in his role as an owner while Clint Bowyer takes over for him in the No. 14 Ford.

“I’m looking forward to having Clint even though I think I’m going to have a lot more gray hairs from Clint than I have now,” Stewart joked.

Bowyer wasn’t in attendance at the Awards Banquet, but instead was an enjoying a day of hunting while his future boss was being honored for his 18-year NASCAR career.

“He sent a picture today, he was deer hunting and I said ‘You look a lot happier deer hunting than I am about putting a tuxedo on here in 30 minutes,'” Stewart said of Bowyer, who will join Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch in Stewart-Haas Racing’s stable of drivers.

Bowyer spent 2016 with HScott Motorsports, an experience that ended with him 27th in points and filing a lawsuit against the team, which was quickly settled.

“I know he’s excited about it,” Stewart said. “I know last year wasn’t at all the year he wanted to have. I kept telling him, you could tell when he was really getting down, I told him to be patient. ‘There’s light at the end of the tunnel.'”

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.