Denny Hamlin beats William Byron in Michigan Xfinity race in narrow finish

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Denny Hamlin edged William Byron by 12-thousandths of a second in the closest Xfinity Series finish at Michigan International Speedway.

Byron had led at the white flag of the Irish Hills 250 after a restart with two laps to go. Hamlin caught Byron on the backstretch and the two battled all the way to the finish line.

The previous closest margin of victory – 0.192  – was in in August 2000 when Todd Bodine beat Michael Waltrip.

It is Hamlin’s 16th Xfinity win. The finish was setup by a Matt Tifft spin with five laps to go.

“(Byron) did a great job,” Hamlin told Fox Sports 1. “I knew he had a really good car during that last long run we had, he was about to pass me. He’s done a great job. … I wanted to race him clean. I wasn’t going to turn him or anything like that. I stayed below him and it got him a little bit loose through (Turn) 1 and 2. That allowed me to get into position. Then into Turn 3, we both got sideways. He slid up enough to let just let me get to the right rear. It was just enough to drag race by him.”

For Byron, it’s the best career finish for the JR Motorsports rookie and his third top five of the season.

“We were so close, it really hurts to be that close and not win,” Byron told Fox Sports 1. “(Hamlin) got the side-draft off of me off of (Turn) 4 and that’s the run he need to the line. Just couldn’t quite get enough to get back to him … It hurts, but we’ll get one soon.”

Filling out the top five was Byron, Elliott Sadler, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch.

Stage 1 winner: Brad Keselowski

Stage 2 winner: Elliot Sadler

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Pole-sitter Kyle Busch bounced back from a Lap 1 accident to finish fifth in his fourth Xfinity of the year … Elliott Sadler finished third for his best result at Michigan in 13 starts … Ty Dillon finished sixth to tie his best result of the year … Paul Menard finished seventh for his first top-10 finish in three Xfinity starts this season.

WHO HAD A BAD DAYMichael Annett, Ben Kennedy, JJ Yeley and Brandon Jones were in a Lap 38 wreck at the start of Stage 2 that began when Jones got loose on the backstretch. Annett, Kennedy and Yeley were eliminated from the race. Jones bounced back to finish ninth … Justin Allgaier finished 16th in his first finish outside the top 15 since Atlanta.

NOTABLE: Denny Hamlin is the 10th different driver to win a Xfinity race this season … Joe Gibbs Racing has four wins with three different drivers.

WHAT’S NEXT: American Ethanol E15 250 at Iowa Speedway at 8:30 p.m. ET on June 24 on Fox Sports 1

AJ Allmendinger making return to Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2018

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After a one-year absence, AJ Allmendinger will return to the Rolex 24 at Daytona next month.

Allmendinger, who drives for JTG Daugherty Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, will once again drive for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance race at Daytona International Speedway, which will be held Jan. 27 – 28.

A winner in the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Allmendinger will split time in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 in the GTD class with Justin Marks, Lawson Aschenbach and Mario Farnbacher.

Allmendinger drove for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance race from 2014-16. His best result during that stretch was fifth in the Prototype class in 2015.

“I am pumped to be back racing for Shank in the (Rolex) 24. I missed the race last year and I hated to, so I’m really glad to be back,” Allmendinger said in a press release. “His whole team did an awesome job with the Acura last year and it is awesome to be back with him for the Rolex. After racing for the overall win so many years in Prototypes, it will be a completely different experience to be racing in the GTD class, but I’m looking forward to it. Mike (Shank) always puts an awesome team together and this year is no different so I am counting down to get my first shot in this car.”

Allmendinger is coming off his fourth full year of driving the No. 47 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing. He finished the season 27th in the standings, his worst during his tenure with the team. He earned one top five and five top 10s.

Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s to sponsor RCR in Cup, Xfinity in 2018

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Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s will sponsor Richard Childress Racing in multiple races in the Cup and Xfinity Series next year, the team announced Monday.

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s merged in September 2017.

The outdoors brands will be on Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet during the 60th Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 and in several other races during the season.

Richard Childress Racing

They will also be a primary sponsor for Austin and Ty Dillon on the No. 3 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series for several races.

“Our relationship with Bass Pro Shops dates back to the mid-1990s and we’re thrilled to be able to continue it during the 2018 season,” team owner Richard Childress said in a press release. “Austin, Ty and Ryan are terrific ambassadors for the great outdoors. They are all passionate about our hunting, fishing and conservation heritage which has made this partnership thrive.

“Next season will be exciting as we welcome Cabela’s, the iconic outdoor brand acquired by Bass Pro Shops, to the RCR family.”

Bass Pro Shops, founded in 1972 by Johnny Morris, is also a primary sponsor of Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota owned by Furniture Row Racing.

The store chain will be on the hood of the No. 78 in 16 races and on the sides of it in 14 others.

Here’s the eligible drivers for the 2018 Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona

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NASCAR has officially announced the 20 drivers who are eligible to take part in the Cup Series’ season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway.

The 75-lap exhibition event is set for 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 11, the same day as qualifying for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

The race will be divided into two segments. A competition caution on Lap 25 will divide them.

Drivers become eligible for the Clash by winning a pole the previous season, being a Daytona 500 pole-winner who competed full-time the previous season or being a playoff driver the previous season.

Here are the eligible drivers.

2017 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (14)

Former Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (3)

2017 Playoff Drivers (3)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth are not expected to compete in the race. Earnhardt retired from Cup competition following the 2017 season and Kenseth doesn’t have a ride for the 2018 season.

Danica Patrick, the 2013 Daytona 500 pole-sitter, announced last month she was done as a full-time driver but that she planned to race in the Daytona 500. No definitive team plans have been announced for her.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram injury update: still in ICU, but continues to show progress

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram continues to show improvement from the serious injuries he suffered in a December 3 car crash in his native Asheville, North Carolina.

In an update Sunday written on CaringBridge.org, Ingram’s daughter, Ingrid Jones, said her father remains in the Intensive Care Unit at Asheville’s Mission Hospital.

According to Jones:

“Daddy continues to hold his own, making healing steps forward and then a step back, which we fully expected-but he’s surprising us each and every day with his strength and courage to overcome this. Overall, he’s doing amazingly well.”

Ingram’s family had hoped he could have moved out of ICU and into the Trauma Unit as the next phase of his recovery, but he remains in intensive care.

Said Jones:

“For now, he’ll remain in ICU until he can go a full 24 hours without ventilator assisted breathing. We’re almost there … but may still be a few days.”

Ingram, who turns 81 on Dec. 28, was able to sit in a chair and watched part of Sunday’s NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings with his family. Jones wrote that Ingram also was surprised to learn that the mountain near the family’s Asheville-area home received a total of 16 inches of snow Friday and Saturday.

Jones added, “We continue to be optimistic for his health, and we also continue to appreciate the prayers and encouraging thoughts.”