Denny Hamlin wins pole for Bank of America 500

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CONCORD, North Carolina — Denny Hamlin won the pole for Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Hamlin won his first pole of the year and his first since the 2016 regular-season finale with a speed of 191.598 mph.

He will be joined one the front row by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth (191.489).

It is Hamlin’s 25th Cup pole.

“You always like keeping streaks alive and I hadn’t had a pole this year,” Hamlin told NBCSN. “Had one every other year (except 2011) . It’s good. We’ve been so close and we’ve made so many final rounds, been in the top five but not as fast as our other teammates. Today we adjusted on it, got it a little bit better each round and had some good results.”

Completing the top five for Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET on NBC) are Kevin Harvick (191.394), Kyle Busch (190.941) and Clint Bowyer (190.584).

Brad Keselowski (sixth), Chase Elliott (seventh) and Kyle Larson (10th) are the other playoffs drivers who will start in the top 10.

Danica Patrick qualified 12th. It is the fourth time she has qualified in the top 12 this year (Daytona 500, Sonoma, Daytona II).

Four playoff drivers only made it to the second round: Ryan Blaney (15th), Martin Truex Jr. (17th), Jamie McMurray (18th) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (22nd).

Truex’s start is his worst since he started 25th at Daytona in July.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 23rd in his final Cup start at Charlotte. In the first round Earnhardt knocked teammate Jimmie Johnson out of the top 24. The eight-time winner at Charlotte will start 25th.

“Multiple trips through the inspection line doesn’t help by any stretch,” Johnson told NBCSN. “We just missed it. Another frustrating Friday, unfortunately. … It sucks getting behind, starting the weekend behind like this. It is what it is and we’re going to have to go to work on Sunday.”

Johnson is the only playoff driver who will start outside the top 24.

Erik Jones was unable to make a qualifying lap after his No. 77 Toyota made it through inspection but not in time for him to get on track. He will start 38th Sunday. BK Racing’s two entries of Brett Moffitt and Corey LaJoie also did not make qualifying runs.

Click here for the full qualifying results.

BRANDT returns for third year with JR Motorsports in Xfinity Series

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BRANDT Professional Agriculture will return as a sponsor for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, the team announced Wednesday.

The company will be a primary sponsor of Justin Allgaier‘s No. 7 Chevrolet in 19 races and an associate sponsor of Allgaier and his three teammates the rest of the season.

Brandt has sponsored Allgaier for eight years, including the last three with JR Motorsports.

Allgaier is a native of Riverton, Illinois, which is 15 miles from Springfield, Illinois, where the company is headquartered.

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Allgaier, 31, is coming off his second season that ended with him in the Championship 4. He earned two wins, 10 top five and 17 top-10 finishes. He also led a series-high 495 laps among Xfinity regulars.

He will be teammates with Elliott Sadler, Tyler Reddick and Michael Annett this year.

The Xfinity season begins Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway.

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NASCAR revamps Rookie of the Year points system in national series

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NASCAR has changed how it determines the Rookie of the Year in all three national series, it announced Thursday.

The new system, which will debut in a month at Daytona International Speedway, reflects the points system that decides the champion in each series, including the stage format in races.

A race win will earn a rookie candidate 40 points and five playoff points. A second-place finish will is worth 35 points and a third-place finish is 34 points, etc.

A rookie candidate who wins a stage will earn 10 points and one playoff point.

“The focus on our rising stars has never been stronger and simplifying the Sunoco Rookie of the Year system made perfect sense,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing operations in a press release. “Our fans track closely the progress of our young drivers and matching the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points structure with the championship points will help them follow this prestigious program and award more closely than ever before.”

Erik Jones was Rookie of the Year in the Cup Series last year. William Byron won the honor in the Xfinity Series and Chase Briscoe won it in the Camping World Truck Series.

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Watkins Glen, Michigan announce multi-year sponsor deals

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Watkins Glen International and Michigan International Speedway announced multi-year sponsorship deals for their Cup Series races Thursday.

WGI announced the Aug. 5 race at the road course will be sponsored by GoBowling.com. The 90-lap race will be called “Go Bowling at the Glen.”

This is not the first time the bowling brand has sponsored a Cup event. It sponsored the spring race at Kansas Speedway from 2016-17 and the August event at Pocono Raceway from 2013-14.

As part of the deal, Go Bowling will have two bowling lanes at the track for the race weekend.

Michigan has renewed its sponsorship deal with FireKeepers Casino Hotel for its June Cup race for “many years.”

The hotel in Battle Creek, Michigan, began its relationship with MIS by sponsoring pole day in 2014. It began sponsoring the June race in 2016.

TheFireKeepers Casino 400 is scheduled for June 10.

ISM Raceway (Phoenix) also announced the title sponsor for its March 11 Cup race.

The event will called the TicketGuardian 500.

TicketGuardian is a mobile ticketing insurance provider. When fans purchase tickets to events at ISM Raceway, they will be given the option to add TicketGuardian’s ticket protection coverage. This allows fans to have insurance on the tickets they’ve purchased in advance.

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Hendrick, Kelley Blue Book extend relationship through 2020

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Hendrick Motorsports and Kelley Blue Book have extended their sponsorship deal three years through 2020, the team announced Thursday.

The car pricing, research and valuation guide will be a primary sponsor on Chase Elliott‘s N0. 9 Chevrolet in two races each year.

This season it will be on the No. 9 for the Aug. 18 race at Bristol Motor Speedway and the November playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kelley Blue Book has been partnered with Hendrick since 2014 when it had a one-race deal to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It went to a two-race deal beginning in 2016.

MORE: Driving the No. 9 feels like going home for Chase Elliott

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