NASCAR community surprises Tony Stewart with tribute during awards banquet

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Tony Stewart thought his short appearance early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards meant he was done for the night.

Stewart had a brief interview on stage with NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider about finishing the year 15th in points. But NASCAR wasn’t finished with Stewart, who was participating in the banquet for the final time as a driver.

“I’m glad I didn’t start drinking after I made my deal because I thought I was done,” Stewart told the media backstage. “I’m totally blown away and caught off guard. I don’t even – I really don’t know what to say, to be honest.”

After 18 years, three championships and 49 wins, Stewart is now retired from Sprint Cup competition. In a video clip, Stewart’s fellow drivers reflected on his career before NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton took the stage to introduce another video package. Then came a surprise for Stewart as his friend, and Pearl Jam member, Eddie Vedder appeared.

It didn’t end there.

As Stewart came to the stage, to give a speech he wasn’t prepared for, Rick Hendrick had an announcement to make. On Stewart’s behalf, the NASCAR community made a $1.8 million donation to the EB Research Partnership, which is the largest global non-profit dedicated to curing EB.

The non-profit was co-founded by Vedder. EB, Epidermolysis Bullosa, is a skin disorder and those with it lack the critical proteins that bind the layers of skin together. Without those proteins, the skin can tear apart, blister and sheer off, and lead to severe pain and disfigurement. EB can also affect the body internally by causing blisters in the eye, mouth, esophagus and fusing together fingers and toes.

Stewart met Vedder earlier this year and the two bonded over racing, their love of music, and their commitment to charity work.

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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.