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Michael Waltrip finds family he befriended hours before Las Vegas tragedy (UPDATE)

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Michael Waltrip joined in the chorus of voices from the NASCAR community in sending out thoughts and prayers to the victims of Sunday night’s horrific tragedy in Las Vegas.

But Waltrip’s thoughts and written words were much more poignant and hit home a lot more because he had originally planned on attending the Route 91 concert’s final night, a show that featured country music stars Big and Rich, Jake Owen and the main headliner, Jason Aldean — who was onstage when the shooting began.

Waltrip decided to skip the concert and went to bed early in his Las Vegas hotel, not far from the Mandalay Bay, only to be awoken by a phone call from his frantic daughter, checking to make sure he was okay after news of the shooting broke.

Still in Las Vegas, Waltrip took to Instagram Monday afternoon to recall a chance meeting with a fan and father Sunday morning who sought a photo of Waltrip with his family, as they were in Las Vegas and planned to attend that evening’s concert to celebrate his daughter’s 21st birthday.

Waltrip had been in Las Vegas for the Fox Sports 1 telecast of the Camping World Truck Series race Saturday night. Now he’s wondering if the father, daughter and the rest of the family he met earlier in the day are okay.

Tuesday, Waltrip provided an update:

Read Waltrip’s touching and heartfelt Instagram post:

Yesterday morning in Las Vegas, at the MGM, I met a man who was a fan. He asked me if it was ok if his daughter took a photo of us. They were in Vegas celebrating her 21st birthday. The whole family was in town, wife and sister too. Daughter was happy and excited to be headed to the concert. Route 91 was the reason she chose Vegas for her 21st. As they walked off I smiled and I was a bit sad too. My daughter Macy turned 20 just a couple days before and I couldn’t be with her. His daddy daughter time made me a bit envious. At 4:45 this morning I was awaken by my phone ringing. It was Macy. ‘Are you ok dad?’ She asked. I was. I didn’t attend the concert as I had planned to. I called it an early night. After we shared our ‘I love yous’ and hung up the phone the first thing I thought of was the dad I met with his daughter. I prayed they were ok. I have no way of knowing if they are safe or not. I can’t stop thinking about them. So much joy, such beautiful family time and then….. This is my personal story to the unthinkable attack last night. I know there are many more who are hurting. I pray for everyone. To the first responders that helped save lives and comfort the hurting, thank you. Your courage and commitment is amazing. I appreciate each and everyone of you. My heart hurts for all who were effected by the horrific tragedy. I pray for everyone involved. Fortunately, friends that I know who were there are all physically ok. The emotional scars will likely never heal. To the father I met who was doing what every dad dreams of, being with his girl celebrating a significant moment I will do all I can, pray.

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Christopher Bell wins first career Xfinity Series race at Kansas

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Christopher Bell passed teammate Erik Jones with four laps left in the Kansas Lottery 300, withstood contact from behind by Jones and went on to claim his first career Xfinity Series win.

Bell, driving the No. 18 Toyota, earned the win in his fifth career start. It comes in the opening race of the second round of the playoffs.

Jones had dominated the race until the pass by Bell. He led 186 of the race’s 200 laps and swept the first two stages. He finished 15th, one lap down due to damage from running into the back of Bell.

It is the first win for Joe Gibbs Racing since Denny Hamlin won at Darlington Raceway, a five-race stretch. JGR has won 11 Xfinity races this season.

Bell, 22, is a full-time driver in the Camping World Truck Series.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Erik Jones

STAGE 2 WINNER: Erik Jones

Check back for more

Dale Earnhardt Jr. bursting with joy over thoughts of baby girl

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — They laughed.

When the doctor told Dale Earnhardt Jr. and wife Amy that Amy was pregnant, the couple laughed.

It wasn’t the kind of laugh one makes after a joke or a funny story. It was … well, let Dale explain:

“Something just comes out,’’ Earnhardt said Saturday at Kansas Speedway. “You just burst out like joy. It wasn’t funny ha-ha. It was a joyful moment.’’

And then they got to hear the heartbeat.

“Somebody says you’re wife is pregnant, that registers a little bit but, man, when you hear that heartbeat, it’s like yep, it’s real,’’ Earnhardt said. “This is a real thing in there. It’s here. My God, it’s happening. Just all this emotion pops out.’’

The prelude to the excitement was the waiting. It was almost too much for Earnhardt when they first went to the doctor’s office to confirm that Amy was pregnant.

We went to the doctor and I’m still thinking man, I’m not believing crap until this doctor tells me,’’ Earnhardt said. “So, we’re sitting in there for like 20 minutes. And they’re talking woman language and I’m not understanding. They are just talking about things and I’m like well, when is she going to say it? I want to hear it from the doctor’s mouth that she’s pregnant, so we can rejoice.

“It took them a while. I was scared to speak up. Finally, they said something that confirmed it for me and I was like, awesome. And then we had the ultrasound and got to hear the heartbeat and all that right there, and that was great. We go back for another checkup here soon, in a couple of days, and those are awesome. They are so much fun because it’s like the closest you can get to it before they’re born and I’m looking forward to each and every one of them.”

Earnhardt said on his podcast this week that the baby is due May 2.

“I know that Amy has changed my life a lot, and I imagine this baby is going to have the same impact and just can’t wait to meet her,’’ Earnhardt said Saturday. “It’s just taking forever.”

Earnhardt says he understands the excitement friends and family have had with their children.

“I guess the thing that hits me is I’ve watched all my friends, a lot of them, have kids and my sister have kids,’’ he said. “I was happy for those milestones in their lives, but I had no idea what that really meant. And as we found out and were going through these little moments through the pregnancy it’s just hitting home how impactful that child has been in all the lives of my friends and family. And I just really didn’t understand or appreciate, I guess, how incredible that moment must have been for them and how their lives completely changed. I saw it from a completely different point of view when I wasn’t experiencing it myself. 

“I look at my friends completely different. I look at my sister completely different knowing what I know now and what I’m learning as I go. And I know there is more to be exposed to and more enlightening and more eye-opening experiences that will make me not only appreciate what me and Amy, what we have, but what my friends and family and folks that I am very close to have and what they have experienced. 

“Because I thought I knew, childbirth is exciting, it’s awesome to have children and everybody says it changes your life and everybody says it’s the greatest thing ever, but you just don’t know until you really go through it.’’

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Ryan Blaney fastest in final Cup practice at Kansas

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Ryan Blaney was fastest in the final NASCAR Cup Series practice at Kansas Speedway.

Blaney, who will start last Sunday after failing post-qualifying inspection, posted a top speed of 182.057 mph.

He was followed by Kyle Busch (181.143), Kevin Harvick (181.720), Danial Suarez (181.665) and Matt Kenseth (181.543).

Pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. was 12th fastest.

Harvick posted the best 10-lap average at 180.120 mph.

Jimmie Johnson, who was 15th fastest, recorded the most laps with 53.

There were no accidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

Tyler Reddick wins pole for Xfinity race at Kansas Speedway

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Tyler Reddick claimed his first career Xfinity Series pole Saturday at Kansas Speedway, winning the top spot with a speed of 181.117 mph.

Rounding out the top five are Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Austin Dillon

William Byron was the highest qualifying playoff driver in sixth, but he will start from the year because of unapproved adjustments.

Reddick’s pole comes in his 17th Xfinity start. It also continues an impressive stretch for Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet. Both Reddick and Alex Bowman earned their first Xfinity wins in the last three races. Reddick won at Kentucky Speedway. Bowman won at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks ago.

“This cooler weather might be helping us,” Reddick told NBCSN. “We were really tight yesterday. I think that’s going to help us in the race.”

The pole also comes the week after one of his grandmothers, Carolyn Joyce Brown, passed away. Her name is on the roof of his car.

“The last two weeks have been rough,” Reddick said. “She was battling health for a long time and just finally lost the battle. She watched every single race and ever lap on track. She was there watching it at the race track or at home. Hopefully we can do something special for her. This will be the first race she hasn’t been here to see.”

Here is where the playoff drivers qualified:

William Byron – sixth

Cole Custer – seventh

Matt Tifft – eighth

Brennan Poole – ninth

Daniel Hemric – 10th

Elliott Sadler – 11th

Justin Allgaier – 13th

Ryan Reed – 15th

Click here for the qualifying results.