Aric Almirola

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Stewart-Haas Racing to partner with Biagi-DenBeste Racing in Xfinity Series in 2018

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Stewart-Haas Racing will partner with Biagi-DenBeste Racing in the Xfinity Series beginning with the 2018 season, the team announced Monday.

The Xfinity team will be called Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste.

The team will field the No. 00 for Cole Custer with sponsorship from Haas Automation. SHR’s No. 41 car, which ran a partial schedule this year, will become the No. 98. Kevin Harvick will drive a part-time schedule in that car with sponsorship from Hunt Brothers Pizza and FIELDS.

“We’re always looking to improve our performance and find ways to make our teams more efficient,” said Tony Stewart, who co-owns Stewart-Haas Racing with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, in a statement. “While we’ve been in NASCAR for nine years, this was our first year in the Xfinity Series. Partnering with Biagi-DenBeste Racing gives our Xfinity Series program added depth as we prepare for next season.”

Biagi-DenBeste, which first competed in the series in 2001, has three Xfintiy wins. Aric Almirola won for the team at Talladega in May.

“Racing is our passion and to ensure our presence in this sport for years to come, it made sense to partner with an established team that also fields entries in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series,” said Fred Biagi, co-owner of Biagi-DenBeste Racing with Bill and Lori DenBeste, in a statement. “We look forward to competing for wins and defending our victory at Talladega.”

Martin Truex Jr. wins at Kansas; Kenseth, Larson, McMurray, Stenhouse Jr. eliminated

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Given he already was locked into the upcoming Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Martin Truex Jr. had nothing to lose in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 — so he went out and won his third race of the playoffs (Chicago, Charlotte and Kansas) and seventh race of the season.

Truex led a total of 91 laps — including the last 57 laps — to capture the win at Kansas Speedway, his second win there this season and an uncanny sixth win on a 1.5-mile track in 2017, a new single season NASCAR record by a driver. His seventh win was on the road course at Watkins Glen.

Truex’s seven wins are the most in a season by a driver since Matt Kenseth won seven in 2013. And Truex still has four more races — including 1.5-mile races at Texas and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway — to add to his wins total.

Truex has now doubled the number of wins he had coming into this season, from seven to 14 now.

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch, who was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, finished second, followed by Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

Sunday’s race was the cut-off race for the Round of 12. The four drivers that were eliminated from advancing to the Round of 8 semifinal round were Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson.

Those advancing to the Round of 8 are Truex, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.

Following the first two stages, among incidents in the 167 laps of the final stage:

* Jimmie Johnson spun coming out of Turn 4 on Lap 187. He tore up a good chunk of the frontstretch grass but did not hit any other cars. He brought his car to pit road to fix some damage to the hood, strapped on four new tires and fuel and returned to the track. Shortly after the restart on Lap 192, Johnson spun again, clipping the Turn 3 wall and flatspotted all four of his tires.

* A big wreck on the restart on Lap 197 involved a number of cars, including playoff contenders Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray. The incident brought out a red flag race stoppage. The wreck occurred when Erik Jones got loose, turned right and head-on into the wall, and collected a number of other drivers including Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Danica Patrick, Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer.

* Kenseth suffered a huge penalty on the ensuing pit stop. Because he had seven crew men over the wall, violating the damaged vehicle policy, NASCAR ruled Kenseth was out of the race. As a result, he will not advance to the Round of 8 and has been eliminated from the playoffs in his final season with Joe Gibbs Racing.

* As for McMurray, his car could not be repaired and his championship hopes are done. “We just unfortunately had two bad races in a row and couldn’t do nothing about it,” McMurray told NBCSN. “You race all day to the end and we didn’t make it today.”

MORE: Stats, results for Cup playoff elimination race at Kansas

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. remains at top of heap as NASCAR Cup playoffs advance to Round of 8

STAGE WINNERS: Kyle Busch won Stage 1, Denny Hamlin won Stage 2.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Runner-up Kurt Busch had his best outing of the season since winning the season-opening Daytona 500. … Sixth-place finisher Chris Buescher tied for his best finish of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kyle Larson came into the race third in the standings, 29 points above the cut-off line. Unfortunately, his engine blew up – the first time in his career with Chip Ganassi Racing – on Lap 74, and he was eliminated from advancing to the Round of 8. … Matt Kenseth was eliminated from the race and advancing in the playoffs when seven crew men went over the walls on a pit stop, violating NASCAR’s damaged vehicle policy.

NOTABLE: When Truex climbed out of his car, he looked up to the sky and then paid tribute to Furniture Row Racing crew member Jim Watson, who died Saturday night in a local Kansas City hospital from a heart attack at the age of 55: “We were racing with heavy hearts and just wanted to do good for him and know he’d love to be celebrating here with us today.”

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “I can’t believe how this day went. That’s why you never give up, because you never know what can happen.” – Race winner Martin Truex Jr., who overcame the death of a team member, as well as a restart penalty and a vibration in the race, to win Sunday.

WHAT’S NEXT: Sunday, Oct. 29, First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray eliminated from race after massive Lap 198 crash

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Matt Kenseth and fellow playoff driver Jamie McMurray were involved in a 14-car crash on Lap 198 of the elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

The crash began when Erik Jones got loose, spun and began collecting cars.

The crash caused a red flag.

Kenseth was ruled out of the race after too many crew members went over the wall to repair his No. 20 Toyota. That effectively eliminates the Joe Gibbs Racing driver from contending for the championship. McMurray is also eliminated from contention.

“I don’t know what any of the rules are,” Kenseth told NBCSN. “It seems like we’ve got a lot of stuff that kind of gets changed so often I honestly can’t keep up with it. My head kind of spins, from putting lug nuts on out of pit boxes to one too many guys over the wall, you’re not allowed to race anymore. I just don’t get it to be honest with you. I really don’t have a lot good to say right now. I’m more than disappointed.”

The crash involved Jones, Kenseth, McMurray, Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Trevor Bayne, Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski.

Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliffe, blamed the mistake on miscommunication and simply not counting the number of crew members who were over the wall.

“We missed a head count there. It’s a shame that that’s a rule that takes competitors out of an opportunity for the championship,” Ratcliffe said. “Somebody just missed the call there or I didn’t communicate properly. Typically it boils down to communication and I think that’s what happened there.”

Said McMurray: “I was really looking forward to just getting to the end of the race. Like I said earlier, we just needed the pit stops to go our way or the strategy to get shook up, and it was kind of happening right there. You just hope that you’re going to be on the right end of the strategy. And then if the race would have gone long, we had one of the best cars on the long runs. But, you just don’t know. You race all day to the end, and we just didn’t make it today.”

Six cars to miss time in final Cup practice session

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Six Cup teams, including playoff contenders Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray, will each miss 15 minutes of today’s final practice session at Kansas Speedway because of inspection issues, NASCAR announced.

Three teams were penalized 15 minutes in Saturday morning’s first practice – Derrike Cope, Landon Cassill and AJ Allmendinger. Each were penalized for being late to qualifying inspection Friday.

Teams penalized 15 minutes in final Cup practice will be Elliott, McMurray, Cope, Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard and Aric Almirola.

Bayne, Elliott and Almirola were penalized for failing qualifying/race inspection twice at Talladega.

Cope, McMurray and Menard were penalized for failing qualfiying qualifying inspection twice at Kansas.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 1:30 – 2:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Aric Almirola returns to Kansas for first time since May’s crash there

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The last time Aric Almirola left Kansas Speedway, it was in an ambulance after being involved in the hardest wreck of his racing career.

That three-car wreck on May 13th – which also involved Joey Logano and Danica Patrick – fractured the Tampa native’s back and sidelined him for two months. Almirola missed seven NASCAR Cup races in the process.

He climbed back behind the wheel for the first time after the wreck on July 16 at New Hampshire, where he qualified 21st and finished 24th.

Almirola returns this weekend to Kansas Speedway with confidence and some unfinished business in the race.

“I have no hesitation heading back after the accident there in the spring,” Almirola said in a team media release. “It had nothing to do with the track and was just a product of hard racing.

“I’m fully healed and ready to head back out there. We had a good week last week (fifth at Talladega) and really fought for a top-five finish. We’ll try to use that momentum this week to get a good finish as we near the end of the season.”

Where Almirola goes after this season remains a question mark. Almirola has already announced he will not return to Richard Petty Motorsports next season.

So for the remaining five races of the season, Almirola will continue to give a best effort and keep talking with other teams for a potential ride next season.

“I always like going to Kansas,” he said. “It’s a track where we’ve been able to compete up front in the past, so we are always excited to see if we can improve on that.”