Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano among those who fail to make playoffs

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RICHMOND, Va. — Joey Logano, who raced for the championship in Miami in two of the last three years, was among those who failed to qualify for the playoffs Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., in his final full-time season in Cup, also will not compete for the championship.

Earnhardt took the lead on Lap 335 while others in front pitted under green. Earnhardt stayed in front through Lap 347 of the 404-lap race before Brad Keselowski, on fresher tires, passed. Earnhardt soon fell back.

“I think that’s all we could do to try to win,’’ Earnhardt said. “I don’t know if we could have outrun the top three. We had a long-run car that was really fast. We tried out butts off to get ourselves a good car. It was a really good car.’’

Still, a 13th-place finish wasn’t what Earnhardt needed to make the playoffs.

“I’m disappointed,’’ he said. “We had some odd luck, but when we didn’t have bad luck, we didn’t capitalize. We had a long summer. We just didn’t capitalize. We didn’t run like we should have. It’s on us. We can’t really put it on nobody else. We just didn’t do the job. We’ll try these next 10 to keep running well. I’d like to win a race, but, damn, if we can just run as well as we did tonight the next several races, that would be great for all these guys.’’

Logano won a race this season — Richmond in April — but the victory did not count toward playoff eligibility because his car failed inspection after the event.

With Logano not qualifying – and Carl Edwards not racing this year – half of last year’s championship four will not be in the playoffs.

“It stings a little bit,’’ Logano said after finishing second Saturday.

“This is the test of our character, not only as a driver but as a team and the way we handle these next 10 races. We don’t want to roll over. We want to help our teammates try to win a championship, and ultimately we want to win 10 races.’’

Clint Bowyer, in his first season at Stewart-Haas Racing, missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Bowyer was fifth off pit road after Stage 1 but was penalized for having the crew over the wall too soon. He restarted 34th.

Bowyer’s woes continued just after a caution at the 250-lap mark. An ambulance was on the apron near pit entrance when the field came down for stops. The field slowed around the stopped ambulance, creating an accordion effect. Matt Kenseth ran into the back of Bowyer’s car. Both suffered damage. Kenseth could not continue and finished 38th.

Erik Jones, who finished third in the second stage and spent part of the race in the top five, also failed to advance. He had a final chance, restarting fifth on the final restart but missed a shift and couldn’t make a charge, placing sixth.

The playoffs begin Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway on NBCSN.

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Matt Tifft fastest in first of 2 Xfinity practices at Kentucky Speedway

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Matt Tifft ran 25 laps during Friday afternoon’s first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series practice sessions at Kentucky Speedway.

But it was just one lap that mattered the most, as Tifft (180.427 mph) emerged from the 55-minute practice as the fastest in the 36 cars that took to the track.

Brian Scott was second (179.253 mph), followed by Ryan Preece (178.465), Brandon Jones (178.288), Justin Allgaier (178.271), Ben Kennedy (178.136), Elliott Sadler (177.573), Tyler Reddick (177.544), Spencer Gallagher Jr. (177.503) and Brennan Poole (177.381).

Interestingly enough, only four of the top-10 were playoff contenders. The seven-race Xfinity playoffs begin with Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

There will be one more practice session today from 6:30-7:25 p.m. ET.

Qualifying and the race are Saturday.

Click here for the full practice speed grid.

Christopher Bell fastest in final Truck practice at New Hampshire

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Christopher Bell was fastest in the second and final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice session Friday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Bell covered the 1.058-mile flat track with a top speed of 132.877 mph.

Ben Rhodes was second (132.301 mph), followed by Todd Gilliland (132.213), Matt Crafton (132.122) and Noah Gragson (132.071).

Sixth through 10th were Johnny Sauter (132.016), Austin Cindric (131.865), Grant Enfinger (131.683), Ryan Truex (131.656) and Kaz Grala ((131.533).

Qualifying for the UNOH 175 takes place Saturday at 10 a.m. ET, while the green flag for the race drops three hours later at 1 p.m. ET. Both qualifying and the race will be televised on FoxSports1.

Click here for the full speed grid from the final Truck practice.

New Hampshire to host September spectacular next year

Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR
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LOUDON, New Hampshire – Although the Cup series will not race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway next September, the track still will have racing.

Officials from New Hampshire Motor Speedway and NASCAR announced Friday that the track will host multiple series Sept. 21-22. The track will host:

  • A 250-lap NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race, the longest race in series history.
  • A 125-lap NASCAR K&N Pro Series race that will include series champions from the Mexico and Europe series.
  • A 100-lap NASCAR Pinty’s Series race in the first race for the Canadian series in the United States.

Practice and qualifying will take place on Sept. 21. Racing will be Sept. 22.

“We are creating a short-track weekend that I think fans from across the Northeast are going to be so excited about,” said David McGrath, executive vice president and general manager of the speedway.

McGrath estimates the track will attract 15,000 – 20,000 fans for the inaugural event.

“We will start there and certainly hope to grow there,” McGrath said. “We certainly have the space to do it.”

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, has high hopes for this event.

“Anytime we enter into a conversation about a special event like this, it’s done thinking about the long term and building,” Cassidy said. “I would like to look at this as certainly a building block on a big-time weekend for racing.”

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ready to move past Chicagoland woes

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LOUDON, New Hampshire — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was blunt as he looked back at last weekend’s 25th-place finish in the opening playoff race.

“It’s the worst playoff race I’ve ever had,’’ he said before quickly adding, “actually, it was the only playoff race I ever had.’’

A week after he hit the wall, had a commitment line violation and sped on pit road to finish last among the 16 playoff drivers, Stenhouse heads to a New Hampshire Motor Speedway that has been unkind to him. His average finish of 20.44 at this track is the worst among the playoff contenders.

It’s easy to peg Stenhouse, whose best finish at New Hampshire is ninth, as one of the four drivers who won’t advance to the second round after next weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway.

Stenhouse says don’t end his title hopes just yet.

“I think there are tracks you look at where you feel like, ‘Hey, we don’t run well there,’ ‘’ Stenhouse said Friday. “There are tracks you look at and average finishes aren’t as good as what you really ran, and I think New Hampshire is one of those race tracks for us.

“I can count two or three times where we’ve been in the top 10 and we come down on our last pit stop and we’ve had freak accidents on pit road that we end up restarting tail end. I think that skews a little bit on the finishes, so I think we’ve got confidence that we can run with those cars that we’re chasing.’’

He better or his playoff experience will be brief. He enters Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN) four points out of the cutoff spot.

“We keep our head up because we’re only four points out, so I think that’s the key message around the shop this week,’’ Stenhouse said. “We had, by far, the worst race we could have ever thought of having and we’re still close. I think that’s the key.”

For him to turn in a good run — and a good finish Sunday — Stenhouse said the key will be where he starts and how strong he is on restarts.

“We’ve always been really good on the long runs and you get quite a few long runs here,’’ said Stenhouse, who was 24th on the speed chart after Friday’s practice. “That seems to be our strong suit. Restarts seem to be some of the areas that we need to get better at. I was on the plane ride up today just looking at our notes from this last race and that was it. 

“We were strong on the long runs, needed to get our restarts better, and need to qualify better. These first two stages you can really run without pitting, so that first stage it’s going to be important to qualify well and make sure we put ourselves in a position to maybe get some stage points if it does go green, and our car is good on the long runs.’’

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