Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. praise NASCAR for restraint on debris cautions

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A week after Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were critical of NASCAR for debris cautions late in races, both applauded the sanctioning body for allowing the final half of Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma to run caution-free until an accident on the final lap.

“There was a lot of opportunity that you could have got that debris caution or whatever during the race, but it was nice to see that the race actually got to play out,’’ Stewart said after Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick won at Sonoma.

A week ago, Stewart tweeted his frustration with a debris caution on Lap 181 of the 200-lap race at Michigan International Speedway. Two cautions for accidents followed, including one for Stewart’s driver, Clint Bowyer. Stewart later tweeted how “so many drivers and teams day was ruined by the result of another “debris” caution towards the end of the race.’’

Earnhardt joined in his displeasure, saying on Periscope after the Michigan race that “with the stages, I don’t know why they’ve got to throw so many damn debris caution yellows.’’

Monday morning on Periscope, Earnhardt was appreciative of NASCAR allowing the Sonoma race to run without a caution for so long.

“We talked about NASCAR throwing a lot of debris yellows at Michigan and in the weeks prior to that, there were a lot of questionable cautions in the Cup races,’’ Earnhardt said. “This particular weekend, I think they were trying to make a statement to not throw any unnecessary yellows. Guys were spinning off the race track and crashing. A lot of things going on late in that race in Sonoma and they let it play out.

“I saw some of Tony Stewart’s comments postrace about how he was proud of NASCAR for letting the race play out naturally. I thought that was a great way to put it.’’

The next-to-last caution period was from Lap 52-54. There wasn’t another caution until Lap 110, the final lap, when Kasey Kahne crashed.

Of the six caution flags in Sunday’s race, one was for debris.

Since 2010, the Cup race at Sonoma has averaged 0.75 debris cautions per race. There were no debris cautions at Sonoma in 2010, ’12 and ’13. Last year’s race had two debris cautions, the most since 2010.

A study by NBC Sports revealed that debris cautions this season have been among their lowest total in years. Entering the Sonoma race, the 12 debris yellows this season were the fewest in 14 years at that point.

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Erik Jones tops final Cup practice for Brickyard 400

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Rookie Erik Jones was fastest in the final Cup Series practice session for the Brickyard 400 with a top speed of 185.845 mph.

Jones’ top speed came on his third of nine laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Completing the top five were Kevin Harvick (185.824), Ryan Blaney (185.816), Jimmie Johnson (185.487) and Jamie McMurray (185.460).

Matt Kenseth, 20th fastest, recorded the most laps in the session with 34.

Johnson had the best 10-lap average at 180.951 mph. Kyle Busch followed him at 180.864 mph.

Click here for the full practice report.

During the practice session the spotter for Harvick, Tim Fedewa, told the driver over radio that he had his hard card taken by NASCAR after the sandwich he was eating fell from his perch on the Pagoda. NASCAR confirmed it returned his hard card after practice.

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Toyotas dominate opening Cup practice at Indianapolis

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Toyotas took the top three spots and four of the top six spots in the opening Cup practice session Saturday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Denny Hamlin, driving a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, led the way with a lap of 187.414 mph. He was followed by Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., whose Toyota went 185.559 mph. JGR driver Matt Kenseth was next at 185.200 in his Toyota.

Kasey Kahne was fourth for Hendrick Motorsports, leading his Chevrolet to a lap of 185.151 mph. Kyle Larson was next at 185.002 mph in his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. The top Ford was Ryan Blaney. He was eight in his Wood Brothers Racing ride at 184.453 mph.

There were no incidents in the 55-minute session.

Final Cup practice is scheduled to go from 11 – 11:55 a.m. ET on CNBC.

Click here for full practice report

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Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch among those penalized practice time at Indy

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NASCAR announced that the teams of Jimmie Johnson and Corey LaJoie will miss 15 minutes of practice in Saturday’s first session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for being late to inspection before last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The teams of Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon will each miss 15 minutes in Saturday’s final practice session for multiple inspection failures before last weekend’s race at New Hampshire.

Today’s Xfinity race at Indianapolis: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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Points leader Elliott Sadler continues his quest for his first Xfinity Series championship in today’s Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Sadler has made five previous Xfinity starts at the historic Brickyard. His two best finishes there have come in the last two races – fifth in 2015 and sixth last year.

Sadler holds a 45-point edge over JR Motorsports teammate William Byron and a 90-point lead on teammate Justin Allgaier.

Here are the particulars for tonight’s Xfinity race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 3:37 p.m. Green flag is set for 3:49 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 100 laps (250 miles) around the 2.5-mile speedway.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 15

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 30. Stage 2 ends on Lap 60.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Xfinity garage opens at 9 a.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is at 2:15 p.m. Driver introductions are at 3 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Corey Cox will perform the Anthem at 3:31 p.m.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will broadcast the race. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. with Countdown to Green. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network will broadcast on radio and the Performance Racing Network at 3 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the IMSRN/PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 90 degrees at race time with a 23 percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Kyle Busch started from the pole and led 62 of the race’s 63 total laps. Kevin Harvick finished second, while Paul Menard was third. Busch also won the 2015 race.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 12:45 p.m.