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NASCAR ‘aggressively pursuing’ new manufacturers

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NASCAR is in “aggressive conversations” with manufacturers to join the sport, Steve O’Donnell told “The Morning Drive’’ on Monday.

“We are aggressively pursuing new (manufacturers),’’ O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio without divulging details. “We want to make sure that they come in similar to how Toyota did and it’s really changed the sport. They’ve done a tremendous job and really helped the industry.

“Those conversations are ongoing. It’s a tough process. There’s a lot to consider doing this, but that is a huge goal for the sport right now.’’

Toyota was the last manufacturer to move to the Monster Energy Cup Series, joining in 2007. Toyota debuted in NASCAR’S Goody Dash Series in 2000 and moved to the Truck series in 2004 before going to Cup and Xfinity three years later.

Toyota won its first Cup title in 2015 with Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing.

The Cup series last had four manufacturers in 2012 with Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota. Dodge left the sport after that season, going out with Brad Keselowski and Team Penske winning the Cup title for the manufacturer. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters in December that he thought the Dodge brand, owned by Chrysler, possibly could return to NASCAR but didn’t give any timetable.

Talk of manufacturers come as Keselowski stated last week on “Race Hub” on Fox Sports 1 that adding a fourth manufacturer is the “most important things that we could do to this sport right now. … Everyone wins with the increased competition, the increased investment and the return to our fans and to the sport in general.’’

After crashing Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, Keselowski was vocal about the car design, saying that changes need to be made.

“It is time for the sport to design a new car that is worthy of where this sport deserves to be and the show it deserves to put on for its fans,’’ he said.

O’Donnell said he was “disappointed” in Keselowski’s comments about the current car.

“My immediate (reaction) is that Brad Keselowski had input on this rules package,’’ O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday. “I think he was frustrated. He had a tough night, and the cars are supposed to be hard to drive. These are the best drivers in the world. You’ve got one of the best seasons we’ve had in a while in the terms of different winners. I’d chalk that up with frustration, heat of the moment, but it’s something we always work on improving the racing.

“Brad is a leader of our sport. Understand heat of the moment but definitely disappointing to see that because I think you’ve got to take the entire context and that’s more of our job. You can’t react just to one event, obviously, unless it’s a safety thing where you’ve got to make an immediate change. For us it’s balancing what we’ve seen over the entirety of the year to so far.’’

O’Donnell said last week on the NASCAR on NBC podcast with Nate Ryan that NASCAR would meet with team owners this month to begin working on the long-term strategy for the Gen 7 car, which could make its debut in two to four years.

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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.