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Helmet Heaven: 2017 helmet designs for Cup Series drivers

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With a new NASCAR season approaching, teams are slowly beginning to unveil everything from paint schemes to fire suits and sponsor deals.

However, last week at the NASCAR Media Tour, most Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers had their 2017 helmets on display.

Here’s a rundown of most of the helmets that will be worn this season, plus one helmet from the Xfinity Series.

We lead off with Dale Earnhardt Jr., who once again has a skeleton-themed design on his helmet. Here’s a look at Earnhardt’s helmets from the last decade.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 25: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 25, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
 (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Aric Almirola

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: A detail of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Aric Almirola helmet during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
 (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Austin Dillon

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 25: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Austin Dillon poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 25, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Brad Keselowski

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 25: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 25, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
 (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Chase Elliott

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup driver Chase Elliott poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Clint Bowyer

 

 

 

 

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: A detail of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer's helmet during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Danica Patrick

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: A detail of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Danica Patrick's helmet during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Daniel Suarez

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 25: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Daniel Suarez poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 25, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

David Ragan

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 25: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver David Ragan poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 25, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Erik Jones

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Jamie McMurray

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Jimmie Johnson

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Monster Energy NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Joey Logano

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 25: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Joey Logano poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 25, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kasey Kahne

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 25: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 25, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: A detail of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick's helmet during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kurt Busch

 

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: A detail of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kurt Busch's helmet during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: A detail of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch's helmet during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kyle Larson

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 25: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 25, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Martin Truex Jr.

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Matt Kenseth

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Michael McDowell

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup driver Michael McDowell poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Paul Menard

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 25: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Paul Menard poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 25, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: A detail of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. helmet during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Ryan Blaney

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 25: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 25, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
 (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Ryan Newman

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: A detail of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Newman's helmet during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
 (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Trevor Bayne

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Trevor Bayne poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Ty Dillon

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Ty Dillon poses for a photo during the 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Spencer Gallagher

Gallagher, who drives full-time in the Xfinity Series for GMS Racing, showed off this Las Vegas-themed helmet last week.

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Ryan Preece is fastest in final Xfinity practice Friday at Kentucky

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Ryan Preece soared to the top of the speed chart in the final Xfinity practice Friday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Preece covered the 1.5-mile oval with a top speed of 181.629 mph. He hit that speed on his first of 38 laps run during the session.

Justin Allgaier was second (180.777 mph), followed by Spencer Gallagher Jr. (180.114), Tyler Reddick (179.832) and Daniel Hemric (179.712).

Sixth through 10th: Matt Tifft (179.665), who was fastest in the first practice session earlier in the afternoon, William Byron (179.605), Brennan Poole (179.581), Sam Hornish Jr. (179.521) and Brandon Jones (179.521).

Five of the 12 Xfinity playoff contenders ended up in the top 10: Allgaier, Hemric, Tifft, Byron and Poole.

Others playoff contenders on the speed chart were Elliott Sadler (12th, 179.194), Ryan Reed (16th, 178.944), Cole Custer (17th, 178.838), Brendan Gaughan (19th, 178.453), Blake Koch (20th, 178.159), Michael Annett (21st, 178.124) and Jeremy Clements (25th, 176. 286).

Qualifying for Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 takes place at 5:30 p.m. ET, with the race set to take the green flag at 8 p.m. ET.

Click here for the full speed chart from the final Xfinity practice.

Starting lineup for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 NASCAR Cup race at Loudon

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Up until this season, Kyle Busch wasn’t necessarily looked upon as a prolific qualifier.

He earned a career-best three poles in 2013 and 2014.

But that’s nothing compared to 2017, as Busch earned a career-best eighth pole Friday for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It’s also his second consecutive pole, having won the pole for last weekend’s playoff-opening race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kyle Larson was next and will join Busch on the front row Sunday.

As for the other 14 NASCAR Cup playoff contenders: Denny Hamlin (134.763) was third, followed by Ryan Blaney (134.720), Chicagoland winner Martin Truex Jr. (134.188), Kevin Harvick (134.108), Kurt Busch (133.985), Kasey Kahne (133.966), Matt Kenseth (133.589), Jamie McMurray (133.680) and Jimmie Johnson (131.989).

Of the top 12 qualifiers, 11 are playoff drivers. The only non-playoff driver was Erik Jones (eighth, 133.971).

As for the other five playoff contenders, Brad Keselowski was 13th (133.422), Chase Elliott (133.357) was 14th, Austin Dillon was 17th (133.133), Ryan Newman was 18th (133.007) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified 24th (131.628).

Click here for the starting lineup.

 

Kyle Busch gets past Kyle Larson to take Cup pole at Loudon

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In a battle between Kyle and Kyle, it was Kyle Busch who emerged with the pole for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 Friday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The younger Busch brother was the only driver over 135 mph, taking his 27th career Cup pole with a speed of 135.049 mph.

“Just went out there and gave it what she had,” Busch told NBCSN. “It certainly would be great to finish this out in victory lane on Sunday.

“We knew we were going to have a shot for the pole, just didn’t know if we were going to get it. For as ugly as that session looked or felt from my vantage point, it certainly worked out.”

Busch has now won the pole for the first two playoff races, having won the pole last week at Chicagoland.

What’s more, this is the most prolific season of qualifying for Busch in his career: this is his eighth pole in 2017, most of all drivers in the Cup series and his most in a single season. His previous mark for most poles in a single season was three in both 2013 and 2014.

As for the other Kyle, Kyle Larson, he qualified on the outside of the front row with an effort of 134.911 mph.

“I feel overall that my lap was pretty good,” said Larson, who finished second in the July race at New Hampshire. “The 18 has been real fast, especially in qualifying all year. For us to be second to him is not bad.”

Denny Hamlin (134.763) was third, followed by Ryan Blaney (134.720), Martin Truex Jr. (134.188), Kevin Harvick (134.108), Kurt Busch (133.985), Erik Jones (133.971), Kasey Kahne (133.966), Matt Kenseth (133.589), Jamie McMurray (133.680) and Jimmie Johnson (131.989).

Of the top 12, 11 are in the NASCAR Cup playoffs. The only non-playoff driver was Jones.

As for the other five playoff contenders, Brad Keselowski was 13th (133.422), Chase Elliott (133.357) was 14th, Austin Dillon was 17th (133.133), Ryan Newman was 18th (133.007) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified 24th (131.628).

Elliott and Johnson both wrecked their primary cars in the Cup practice session earlier in the day.

While Johnson was able to get back on-track for that practice session with his back-up car, Elliott qualified cold with his back-up, unable to get back on-track during the morning practice.

Joey Logano did not take a qualifying lap after failing pre-qualifying inspection four times. Logano will start last (40th position) in Sunday’s race at NHMS, which he considers his “home track.”

Click here for the full qualifying grid.

Matt Tifft fastest in first of 2 Xfinity practices at Kentucky Speedway

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Matt Tifft ran 25 laps during Friday afternoon’s first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series practice sessions at Kentucky Speedway.

But it was just one lap that mattered the most, as Tifft (180.427 mph) emerged from the 55-minute practice as the fastest in the 36 cars that took to the track.

Brian Scott was second (179.253 mph), followed by Ryan Preece (178.465), Brandon Jones (178.288), Justin Allgaier (178.271), Ben Kennedy (178.136), Elliott Sadler (177.573), Tyler Reddick (177.544), Spencer Gallagher Jr. (177.503) and Brennan Poole (177.381).

Interestingly enough, only four of the top-10 were playoff contenders. The seven-race Xfinity playoffs begin with Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

There will be one more practice session today from 6:30-7:25 p.m. ET.

Qualifying and the race are Saturday.

Click here for the full practice speed grid.