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NASCAR weekend schedule for Cup and Xfinity at Daytona

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NASCAR kicks off the final 20 races of the 2017 NASCAR Cup season with this weekend’s racing action at Daytona International Speedway.

It also marks the return of NASCAR to NBC Sports and NBCSN for that 20-race stretch, which includes the 10 races leading up to the playoffs and the playoffs.

The main event this weekend is Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400. Brad Keselowski is the defending race winner. It will also be Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s final Cup start.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series also will be at Daytona with the Coca-Cola Firecracker 400 on Friday. Aric Almirola won last year’s race. Almirola will not  defend that win because he continues to heal from injuries sustained in a wreck during the May 13 Cup race at Kansas.

Here’s the full race weekend schedule at Daytona (all times Eastern):

Thursday, June 29

8 a.m. – 5 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

9:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

2 – 2:55 p.m. – Xfinity first practice (NBCSN)

3 – 3:55 p.m. – Cup first practice (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network)

4 – 4:55 p.m. – Xfinity final practice (NBCSN)

5 – 5:55 p.m. – Cup final practice (NBCSN, MRN)

Friday, June 30

9:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

12 p.m. – Xfinity garage opens

2:10 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying (single vehicle/two rounds) (NBCSN)

3:45 p.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

4:10 p.m. – Cup qualifying impound (single vehicle/two rounds) (NBCSN, MRN)

7 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

7:30 p.m. – Xfinity Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 race (100 laps, 250 miles) (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Saturday, July 1

3 p.m. – Cup garage opens

5:45 p.m. – Cup driver/crew chief meeting

6:50 p.m. – Cup driver introductions

7:30 p.m. – NASCAR Cup Coke Zero 400 race (160 laps, 400 miles) (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

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Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne fastest in first Cup practice at Loudon

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Kyle Larson was fastest in Friday’s lone NASCAR Cup practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Larson covered the 1.058-mile flat track at 135.714 mph, followed by Kyle Busch (135.342) and Kasey Kahne (135.198).

Points leader and Chicagoland winner Martin Truex Jr. was the early speed leader before the other three surpassed his speed, dropping him to fourth (135.188 mph).

Ryan Blaney was fifth (135.030 mph), followed by Denny Hamlin (134.973), Matt Kenseth (134.901), Erik Jones (134.606), Jamie McMurray (134.340) and Kurt Busch (134.240).

Jones was the only non-playoff driver in the top 10.

Two incidents occurred within minutes of each other and involved Hendrick Motorsports teammates.

About 21 minutes into the session, Jimmie Johnson hit the Turn 3 wall, his No. 48 Chevrolet suffering heavy right rear damage.

About 10 minutes later, Chase Elliott drifted up the track and couldn’t catch his No. 24 Chevy before it skimmed the wall.

Both drivers went to backup cars as a result.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott hit wall early in practice

Even in backup cars, both drivers struggled for speed.

Johnson was 22nd fastest (133.021 mph), while Elliott was 32nd (131.320 mph).

Other playoff drivers that struggled included Austin Dillon (23rd, 133.017) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (24th, 132.836).

The only other Cup related on-track action takes place late this afternoon at 5:15 p.m. ET with qualifying for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300.

The Cup cars have two additional practice sessions on Saturday.

Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott hit wall early in practice

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LOUDON, New Hampshire – Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott each hit the Turn 3 wall within minutes of each other in Friday’s opening practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Both will go to backup cars.

Johnson slammed the wall on his second lap of practice. He had recorded what was the second-fastest lap of the session on the previous lap before drifting from the top lane and bouncing off the Turn 3 wall the next time by. Johnson drove the car back to the garage but his team quickly unloaded a backup car. Johnson’s incident happened 21 minutes into the 85-minute session.

“I just got in there with a lot of speed and anticipated it sticking and it didn’t quite stick,” Johnson told NBCSN. “Definitely not the way we wanted to start.”

Elliott hit the wall less than 10 minutes after Johnson. He also drove his car back to the garage.

Elliott is without crew chief Alan Gustafson and car chief Joshua Kirk this weekend. NASCAR suspended both one race, along with docking Elliott and the team 15 points each, for modifying components to affect aerodynamic properties of the car last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

“It’s not what we needed,” Elliott told NBCSN, adding his car also didn’t stick when he went into Turn 3. “We’re behind this weekend and that is never good.”

NBCSN’s Marty Snider reported that Elliott’s team did not plan to run the backup car in this session – the only session before qualifying today. Johnson made it on track in his backup car with less than 15 minutes left in the session.

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Cup playoff contenders docked practice time

Cup playoff contenders docked practice time
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LOUDON, New Hampshire – Playoff contenders Martin Truex Jr. and Jamie McMurray will each miss 30 minutes of practice in Saturday’s final session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for inspection issues last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Both are being docked practice time because each car failed inspection before the race three times at Chicagoland.

Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones each will miss 15 minutes of the 50-minute final practice session Saturday because their cars failed inspection twice before last weekend’s race at Chicagoland.

Final Cup practice will be from 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. ET Saturday.

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Friday’s schedule for New Hampshire (Cup, Trucks) and Kentucky (Xfinity)

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In what will be a busy weekend,  on-track action starts today at both New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.

The Cup Series will have one practice and qualifying in Loudon. The Truck Series will have two practices there.

At Kentucky, the Xfinity Series will have two practice sessions in preparation for Saturday’s race there.

Here is today’s schedule for both tracks:

(All times are Eastern):

At NEW HAMPSHIRE

9 a.m. – 7 p.m. – Cup garage open

11:30 a.m. – 12:55 p.m. – Cup practice (NBCSN)

11:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. – Truck garage open

1:30 p.m. – 2:25 p.m. – First Truck practice (FoxSports1)

3:30 p.m. – 4:25 p.m. – Final Truck practice (FS1)

5:15 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (NBCSN, Performance Racing Network)

At KENTUCKY

1:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

4 – 4:55 p.m. – Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

6:30 p.m. – 7:25 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)