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Denny Hamlin: ‘No remorse’ for retiring Dale Jr. in final Daytona start

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Denny Hamlin made it pretty clear how he would approach a hypothetical last-lap battle with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the July 1 race at Daytona International Speedway.

“I don’t have any remorse for the retiring drivers,” Hamlin said Thursday at an event promoting the Coke Zero 400.

It’s a topic Hamlin said is raised around him “all the time” in the lead up to Earnhardt’s final Cup start at the superspeedway, a track that is an important part of both driver’s careers.

Earnhardt will return to Daytona for the final time as a driver seeking his 18th career win at the 2.5-mile track, including points and non-points races (11), as well as six Xfinity victories. Two of Earnhardt’s wins have come in the sport’s biggest race, the Daytona 500 (2004 and 2014).

Hamlin, meanwhile, has seven total Cup Daytona wins, including the 2016 Daytona 500. He also has one Xfinity win.

Of course the “What if?” scenario of two of the best restrictor-plate drivers battling in the closing laps at Daytona would be an enticing one.

“‘Would you do anything different racing Dale Jr. for a win’?” Hamlin said, repeating the question he’s been asked. “We all are on our own different agendas. Even though we kind of sympathize, ‘Hey, he’s going to be retiring, take it easy on the old guy.’

“I remember a guy that was retiring last year that took me out at Sonoma on the last lap.”

That “guy” was Tony Stewart. He and Hamlin exchanged the lead twice in the last few turns of the road course where Stewart had won twice before.

Stewart caught Hamlin on the final turn and slammed the No. 11 Toyota into the pit road wall before streaking to the finish line to claim his 49th and final Cup win.

Hamlin won’t give Earnhardt an inch, but such a showdown is exactly what he wants.

“Ideally, I’d like to beat Dale Jr. on the last lap at Daytona,” Hamlin said. “I know it might be a bad thing for the fans, they might not like it. My fans surely will and I know it would be a great moment for me.”

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Staff picks for today’s Cup race at New Hampshire

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Kyle Busch. He puts last week’s disappointment behind him with another fast car and (this time) a clean day in the pits.

Dustin Long

Denny Hamlin. He sweeps New Hampshire and Toyota continues its dominance at this track.

Daniel McFadin

Kyle Larson. After charging through the field from the rear in July and finishing second, the No. 42 team finishes the job today.

Jerry Bonkowski

Kevin Harvick. He hasn’t been heard from much recently, but this is the kind of track Harvick is at his best. He wins and moves on to the Round of 12.

Today’s Cup Series race at New Hampshire: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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LOUDON, New Hampshire – The middle race of the first round of the playoffs offers teams that had a bad start a chance to recover or fall further behind.

The pressure builds with the 16-team field cut to 12 after next weekend’s race at Dover.

Here are the details for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern):

START: Marc Del Vecchio, chief technology officer, ISM Connect, will give the command to start engines at 2:07 p.m. Green flag is set for 2:15 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 300 laps (317.4 miles) around the 1.058-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 75. Stage 2 ends on Lap 150.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Cup garage opens at 8:30 a.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is at noon. Driver introductions are at 1:30 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Marine Corps Veteran, “The Singing Trooper,” Daniel M. Clark will perform the Anthem at 2:01 p.m., followed by a flyover from two F-15C Eagles from the 104th Fighter Wing, Barnes Air National Guard Base.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will broadcast the race at 2 p.m. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. on NBCSN with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 1:30 p.m. The Performance Racing Network radio broadcast begins at 1 p.m. on and affiliates. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: The site predicts a temperature of 81 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at race time.

LAST TIME: Denny Hamlin led 54 of 301 laps to win the July race. Kyle Larson placed second. Martin Truex Jr. was third. Kevin Harvick led the final six laps to win this race last year. Matt Kenseth was second. Kyle Busch placed third.

 STARTING LINEUP: Click here for starting lineup


Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer tied at top of Xfinity playoff standings

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Justin Allgaier and Cole Custer are tied for the top spot in the Xfinity playoff standings after the playoff opener at Kentucky Speedway.

Each driver has 2,057 points.

Allgaier finished third after bouncing back from losing a tire on Lap 19 and going two laps down. He was two laps down for 27 laps and one lap down for 30 before getting back on the lead lap.

Custer, who finished fifth, won the first two stages of the race, earning two playoff points in the process.

The top five in points are Allgaier, Custer, Elliott Sadler (-2), Daniel Hemric (-5) and William Byron (-6).

Click here for the points standings.

Results from Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway

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Tyler Reddick scored his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win, leading a 1-2 finish for Chip Ganassi Racing on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Reddick beat teammate Brennan Poole by 14.5 seconds in the playoff opener.

Reddick is the seventh different winner in the last seven series races. He led twice for 66 laps. Reddick had not led any laps until Saturday night.

Playoff contender Justin Allgaier rallied from two laps down after a right front tire went down early in the 200-lap race to finish third. Ryan Preece placed fourth. Rookie Cole Custer, who won both stages, finished fifth.

Click here for race results