CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Car owner Richard Petty told NBC Sports that he’s confident that sponsor Smithfield will return to the team after this season and would like to have Darrell Wallace Jr. back if they have a place for him.
Smithfield is in the final season of a three-year extension announced in January 2014. The executive who oversees the motorsports program recently left the company, but Petty said that won’t impact the team’s discussions with Smithfield.
“He’s like everybody else, he’s just a worker,’’ Petty told NBC Sports on Wednesday after unveiling the throwback paint scheme Aric Almirola will drive in the Southern 500. “We work with the top guys. It’s just another movement within the company and they’ve revamped their company in the last year anyway. We’re not worried about that part of it. We’re still looking forward to having Smithfield again back next year.’’
If Smithfield remains at the same level — the company has sponsored the No. 43 car in 15 of the first 18 points races this season — then the focus will be on RPM’s second car.
The organization cut back to one car for this season but has two charters. It leased a charter to the Go Fas Racing for the No. 32 car. Charters can only be leased once every five years.
That charter returns after this year. RPM could lease the charter of the No. 43 car and use the charter returning for that car. Another option would be to sell the charter returning from the No. 32 team if RPM doesn’t believe it will return to a two-car operation. Or it can keep both charters and be a two-car team. If so, it will need a driver.
Darrell Wallace Jr. could be a candidate.
“We were very impressed,’’ Petty said of Wallace, who finished his four-race run with the team with an 11th-place finish last weekend at Kentucky Speedway. “He got to know the crew and crew got to know him and he got better. If we had a place for him I’d like to have him back again. Right now, our focus is getting our team back … getting Aric back to winning races and doing good and then we’ll look at the next step.’’
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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 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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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.
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.