Kyle Larson loses pole position on another inspection failure; Martin Truex Jr. starts first

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LOUDON, New Hampshire – After appearing to bounce back from a penalty, Kyle Larson’s team ran afoul of the law again Friday.

Larson turned the fastest lap (133.324 mph) in qualifying at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but the speed was disallowed afterward for an unapproved rear deck fin on his No. 42 Chevrolet.

That put Martin Truex Jr., who won at Kentucky Speedway last weekend, on the pole position for the first time in 2017.

“Not the way we wanted to get our first pole of the year but looking forward to starting up front and getting a good pit stall,” Truex said in a statement distributed by Furniture Row Racing.

Jimmie Johnson qualified second, followed by Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne.

NASCAR announced Larson’s disqualification at 6:50 ET, roughly 45 minutes after he seemed to have captured his fourth pole position of the season.

Larson’s car passed a prequalifying inspection, but a postrace inspection revealed that the part improperly had shifted.

Larson will start last for the second consecutive race after the latest of numerous run-ins with NASCAR inspectors. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver also started from the rear at Kentucky Speedway after failing to get through inspection in time to make a qualifying attempt (which also happened at Texas Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway).

Larson is working at New Hampshire with interim crew chief Tony Lunders in place of Chad Johnston, who was suspended three races for an improper rear brake cooling assembly at Kentucky.

Larson also was docked 35 points for the infraction, knocking him from atop the standings behind Truex.

“I honestly know nothing about race cars, so I don’t honestly know what it was that got us in trouble,” Larson said Friday when asked about the Kentucky penalty. “Yeah, it was a big penalty, so it must have been something important in their eyes.”

Larson will be held 30 minutes from the final practice Saturday at New Hampshire after failing prerace inspection multiple times at Kentucky (where his car was last to be rolled to the starting grid before it completed a race-high 90 green-flag passes in finishing second).

The disallowed speed serves as the penalty for Friday’s infraction, meaning there will be no further penalties for the unapproved rear deck fin next week.

Click here for the Cup qualifying results at New Hampshire.

Silly Season scorecard features many drivers still looking for rides

Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Image
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Kasey Kahne is off the job market after signing to drive next season with Leavine Family Racing. His arrival means that Michael McDowell, the current driver of the No. 95 car, will be gone after the season.

Leavine Family Racing, which has never won a Cup race, gets an 18-time Cup winner in Kahne, who won the Brickyard 400 in July.

Here’s a look at where Silly Season stands as Cup teams head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Sunday’s playoff race.

ANNOUNCED RIDES FOR 2018

— Kasey Kahne to join Leavine Family Racing and drive the No. 95 car. (announcement made Sept. 19)

Ty Dillon signs a multi-year contract to remain at Germain Racing and drive the No. 13 car. Sponsor Geico also extends its deal with the team (announcement made Sept. 5)

Chris Buescher signs a multi-year contract to remain at JTG Daugherty and drive the No. 37 car. (announcement made Aug. 18)

Matt DiBenedetto will remain with Go Fas Racing in the team’s No. 32 car (announcement made Aug. 12)

William Byron will drive the No. 24 at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Kasey Kahne (announcement made Aug. 9)

Paul Menard moves to Wood Brothers Racing to drive the No. 21 car (announcement made July 26)

Ryan Blaney moves to Team Penske to drive the No. 12 car and signs a multi-year contract extension (announcement made July 26)

Brad Keselowski agrees to contract extension to drive the No. 2 car for Team Penske (announcement made July 25

Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. (announcement made July 20)

Erik Jones will drive the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing, replacing Matt Kenseth (announcement made July 11)

OPEN/POSSIBLY OPEN RIDES

— No. 10: Danica Patrick is out after this season at Stewart-Haas Racing. No replacement has been announced. 

— No. 27: Richard Childress Racing states it will announce plans for a third Cup team at a later date with Paul Menard joining the Wood Brothers for next season.

— No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing declined to pick up the option on Kurt Busch’s contract for next year on Aug. 1. Even so, the team tweeted that it expected Busch back with sponsor Monster Energy for next year. Busch told reporters Aug. 5 at Watkins Glen that “there are a couple of offers already, so we’ll see how things work out.’’  

— No. 43: Richard Petty Motorsports announced Sept. 12 that Aric Almirola will not return to the team. Smithfield also is not returning. Smithfield and Richard Petty Motorsports exchanged terse statements about their parting. RPM is selling Darrell Wallace Jr. to prospective sponsors.  

— No. 77: Furniture Row Racing has sold the charter to this team. Although the team is still looking for sponsorship for the team, Joe Garone, team president, said the chances of the organization running only one car next year is “high.’’

AVAILABLE DRIVERS

Matt Kenseth: Out of the No. 20 after this season. Doesn’t have anything announced for next year. At Bristol, Kenseth was asked about his plans for 2018. He said: “I’m not worried about (2018) even really one percent anymore to be honest with you. I’m just not concerned about it.’’  

Kurt Busch: With Stewart-Haas Racing declining to pick up his option for next year, Busch is a free agent. Even with Stewart-Haas Racing’s action, there’s still a good chance Busch signs a deal to remain with the organization.

Danica Patrick: She will not return to Stewart-Haas Racing after this season. Patrick has not announced any plans for next season. She’s not looking for a ride in the Xfinity Series. “Cup only,’’ she said.  

Aric Almirola: Won’t return to Richard Petty Motorsports, team announced Sept. 12.

Michael McDowell: Will not return to Leavine Family Racing with Kasey Kahne joining the team next season.

Darrell Wallace Jr.: Richard Petty Motorsports is selling Wallace to prospective sponsors for the No. 43 car for next season. He gained interest from RPM after driving in four races for the team while Aric Almirola was injured.

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NASCAR America: Top Xfinity contenders break down playoffs

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Forget being called NASCAR’s junior league, it’s time for Xfinity Series drivers to shine as their own playoffs, a seven-race series, begin Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

During Tuesday’s Xfinity Series media day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, several of the top contenders for the Xfinity championship — No. 1 seed William Byron, regular-season champion Elliott Sadler, Brendan Gaughan and series rookie Cole Custer — talked about their hopes and how they feel they stack up against the competition in the playoffs.

Let’s hear what some of those drivers said — and check out the full video of interviews above:

Sadler: “We’re as prepared as any race team as I’ve ever been on to make a run in the playoffs, and I can’t wait to get started. … I want to be that champion.”

Byron: “You have to make sure you don’t make any mistakes and really put yourself in a good position. … I feel it’s a big goal for me. And knowing how it felt to lose (a championship) last year (in the Truck Series), I definitely want to win one.”

Gaughan: “Right now, we’re back to racing hard. Round 1, race hard. We have a brand new Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, so we want to see how fast it can be, that’s the goal this week, and then we’ll see what Round 2 and Round 3 will be.”

Custer: “It would be awesome, especially for a first-year team, it would be unreal to get a championship. I think we have the speed to do it, I think we can definitely accomplish that and that’s our goal. So, I think we’ll definitely have a shot at it.”

NASCAR America: Tony Stewart on Stewart-Haas Racing, Danica Patrick’s future, Cole Custer (video)

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Tony Stewart was our special in-studio guest during Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America.

The former three-time NASCAR Cup champ spent the entire hour with Carolyn Manno, Kyle Petty and Jeff Burton, giving his unique take on all things NASCAR.

Among the things Stewart talked about were:

The future of Stewart-Haas Racing: “We don’t know exactly who’s going to be in the 10 car, but we’re working on it. We’re excited about the partnership with Smithfield. The 41 car is still up in the air. We fully intend on having (Kurt Busch) there next year, but it’s dictated on sponsorship. We need to make sponsorship for that car before we commit to him next year.”

What will Danica Patrick do after she leaves SHR: “I see a lot of options, really. Danica is one of the few people that has the ability to stay in NASCAR if she wants, go back to IndyCar, or go road racing. There’s not a lot of drivers that have been released this year that have the option to go do so many things. It shows how versatile and talented she is, to have that many options. It’s a matter of  what does she want to do, where her heart and mind is and what does she want to do for the next five, 10, 15 years.”

The potential of SHR Xfinity Series driver Cole Custer: “I’m really proud of Cole. For the first two years I knew Cole, he never spoke to me. For about 75 percent of the time he was in front of me, he couldn’t look me in the eyes, that’s how shy of a kid he is. When he puts that helmet on, it’s amazing the transformation. This kid is a talented race car driver.”

Check out the full video above to get more of Stewart’s observations.

 

 

 

NASCAR America: Josef Newgarden celebrates IndyCar championship (video)

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On Tuesday’s NASCAR America, we checked in with the new king of IndyCar racing, 2017 season Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden.

Among the things the Knoxville, Tennessee native spoke about was the help he got in his amazing first season with Team Penske from all his teammates.

“My teammates were great, letting me just being part of that group right from the beginning and trying to contribute and help me learn so I could contribute and help us be stronger overall,” Newgarden said.

He also talked about the surge in U.S. drivers in the series, much like NASCAR is enjoying with several young drivers including another teammate, Ryan Blaney, who texted Newgarden at length to offer him congratulations and compared the youth movement in both racing series.

“We’ve got a lot of young talent that’s trying to show the way and prove themselves against the already proven people in the sport,” Newgarden said. “It’s a fascinating thing to watch.”