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Matt Tifft driving JGR’s No. 19 Xfinity car, will be sponsored by Tunity at Daytona

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Matt Tifft will take over for Daniel Suarez in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 Xfinity Series car this season and will be sponsored by Tunity for multiple races, beginning with the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Tifft will be JGR’s only full-time Xfinity driver this season. Joe Gibbs Racing’s website lists Suarez and Kyle Busch as driving the No. 18 car and Erik Jones as driver of the No. 20.

Tifft replaces Suarez after his unexpected promotion to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series following Carl Edwards‘ departure from the sport.

Surface Sunscreen and BrainGear will also be full season partners on the No. 19 car as associate sponsorship roles at Daytona and in primary sponsorship roles that will be announced later.

This season will be Tifft’s first full-time campaign in a national NASCAR series after three part-time seasons in the Camping World Truck Series and two in the Xfinity Series.

The Ohio-native climbs into the No. 19 less than a year after he missed a large portion of the 2016 season recovering from surgery that removed a low-grade brain tumor.

Tifft will look to defend the No. 19 team’s Xfinity championship.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to compete full time in NASCAR, so the chance to drive for the best team in the industry and coming off the No. 19’s championship run is pretty cool,” Tifft said in a press release. “Already (crew chief Matt) Beckman and I have gone to work and I’m really looking forward to getting started this year. I think it’ll be an incredible opportunity and I can’t wait to get rolling.”

Beckman is entering into his first season as a crew chief in the Xfinity Series.

“To date, the off-season has been pretty hectic, but productive at the same time. We have expended considerable energy assembling a great group of guys to compete in the Xfinity Series with Matt Tifft,” Beckman said in a press release. “Ultimately, our goal is to live up to the standards of the No. 19 JGR effort from 2016 and compete for the Championship, once more, as the season winds down in Homestead later this year.”

In 36 starts in the Xfinity and Truck series, Tifft has one top five in each series, both coming last season. His best finish in Xfinity was fifth at Kentucky and in Trucks he finished fifth at Charlotte.

Tifft makes his debut in the No. 19 on Feb. 25 in the Powershares QQQ 300.

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Matt Kenseth wrecks out of Auto Club 400 on late restart

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Matt Kenseth crashed out of the Auto Club 400 on a restart with 16 laps remaining in the race at Auto Club Speedway.

Kenseth had restarted fourth following a caution for an incident involving Gray Gaulding.

Kenseth was in the middle groove exiting Turn 2 when he was tapped from behind by Martin Truex Jr. and slid toward the inside wall, which his No. 20 Toyota hit hard. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was cleared and released from the infield care center.

It is Kenseth’s third DNF in the first five races of the season and his second in as many races. He had four in all of 2016.

Kenseth entered the race 20th in the point standings.

Martin Truex Jr. has commanding performance in Stage 2 win at Fontana

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Martin Truex Jr. has taken over as the most dominating driver in today’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

After pole-sitter Kyle Larson won the first 60-lap stage, Truex won Stage 2. During the session, Truex’s car showed supremacy with nearly a seven-second lead in the closing laps of the stage.

Truex has now won three of the last six stages, having captured both stages two weeks ago en route to his overall race win at Las Vegas.

Larson is in second place, followed by Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.

There has been just two cautions in the race – both coming in Stage 1.

We now move to the final stage, an 80-lap shootout to determine the race winner.

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Kyle Larson wins Stage 1 of Auto Club 400 at Fontana

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Pole-sitter Kyle Larson is almost one-third of the way to winning Sunday’s Auto Club 400. The California native won Stage 1 of the race at his home-state Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

Larson (43 laps) and Martin Truex Jr. (12 laps) have led the majority of the laps during the opening 60-lap segment. That segment will be followed by another 60-lap segment, and then an 80-lap final section for 200 laps (400 miles) around the 2-mile low-banked track.

It was Larson’s first stage win of the 2017 season under the new enhanced scoring format in the NASCAR Cup Series. Larson has finished runner-up in each of the last three races and four of the last five (dating back to the 2016 season finale). He has just one career Cup win, last year at Michigan.

Truex is running second, followed by Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Busch.

Sixth through 10th are Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin.

Each of the top 10 finishers in Stage 1 will earn stage points in the NASCAR Cup standings.

Two incidents of note occurred early in the race, both involving Brad Keselowski:

* On the first lap, Keselowski’s car suffered left rear damage when several cars were involved in an accordion-like wreck. Others involved included Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin, but there was no caution called.

* Keselowski continued on without repairing the damage and was spun out on Lap 3 when he was hit from behind by Jimmie Johnson, causing further damage to Keselowski’s Ford Fusion. The caution came out for Laps 5 through 7. Johnson claimed there was little or no damage over his team radio, but Johnson has continued to have struggles this weekend. He’s running 32nd, one lap down.

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Bad race start results in damaged cars for Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick

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A bad start by the inside lane at the beginning of the Auto Club 400 resulted in damage to the cars of Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman.

Denny Hamlin struggled to get to speed at the drop of the green flag, causing the first few rows of cars to bunch up. It resulted in Newman making contact with Keselowski’s left rear and causing damage. Harvick then ran into Newman as the inside bottlenecked.

On Lap 4, after falling back to 17th, Keselowski was hit from behind by Jimmie Johnson on the front stretch, which sent the No. 2 car spinning through the infield grass. Keselowski, the Atlanta winner, was 19th and the first car a lap down when the first stage ended.

During pit stops in the resulting caution, large amounts of tape were put on the front bumper and grille of Harvick’s car and the right-front fender of Newman’s.

With 35 laps left in the first 60-lap stage, Harvick was forced to pit for a flat right-rear tire. He now runs in 28th, a lap down. Newman, who won last week at Phoenix, a lap down in 22nd.

Johnson, a six-time Auto Club winner and the defending winner, was told his No. 48 had damage that could easily be fixed in the pits.  He runs in 20th a lap down. Johnson is winless this season.