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NASCAR’s preliminary entry lists for Sonoma, Iowa

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NASCAR heads back out west this week as the Cup Series gears up for its first road course race of the year at Sonoma Raceway, which marks the halfway point of the season.

Meanwhile, the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series go to Iowa Speedway for the first time this season.

Here’s the entry lists for all three races.

Cup – Toyota/Save Mart 350

There are 38 cars on the entry list and they include four drivers who are making their Cup debuts.

Richard Petty Motorsports announced that sports car driver Billy Johnson will drive the No. 43.

Israeli-born driver Alon Day will make his debut in the No. 23 Toyota for BK Racing. Tommy Regan will drive the No. 15 Toyota for Premium Motorsports. Josh Bilick will drive the No. 51 for Rick Ware Racing. He replaces Cody Ware who is out indefinitely with back issues.

Last year, Tony Stewart won his 49th and final Cup race after swapping the lead twice with Denny Hamlin on the last lap, including passing Hamlin in the final turn.

Click here for the full entry list.

Xfinity –  American Ethanol E15 

There are 41 cars on the entry list, meaning one car will not qualify for the race.

There are no Cup drivers entered into the event.

Sam Hornish Jr. is set to make his first start of the year in Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford.

Joe Gibb Racing will have Kyle Benjamin in its No. 18 Toyota and Christopher Bell in the No. 20.

Ben Kennedy will make his second start for Richard Childress Racing in the No. 2 Chevrolet.

Ty Majeski will make his Xfinity debut driving the No. 60 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.

Last year, Hornish led 183 laps and won this race driving the No. 18 for JGR in his first NASCAR start of the year. Erik Jones won the August race.

Click here for the full entry list.

Truck – Iowa 200

There are 29 Trucks entered into the race. A full field would be 32 trucks.

The No. 52 truck of Stewart Friesen has withdrawn from the event.

Last year, William Byron won this race, his third of the year, after leading 107 laps.

Click here for the full entry list.

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Denny Hamlin beats William Byron in Michigan Xfinity race in narrow finish

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Denny Hamlin edged William Byron by 12-thousandths of a second in the closest Xfinity Series finish at Michigan International Speedway.

Byron had led at the white flag of the Irish Hills 250 after a restart with two laps to go. Hamlin caught Byron on the backstretch and the two battled all the way to the finish line.

The previous closest margin of victory – 0.192  – was in in August 2000 when Todd Bodine beat Michael Waltrip.

It is Hamlin’s 16th Xfinity win. The finish was setup by a Matt Tifft spin with five laps to go.

“(Byron) did a great job,” Hamlin told Fox Sports 1. “I knew he had a really good car during that last long run we had, he was about to pass me. He’s done a great job. … I wanted to race him clean. I wasn’t going to turn him or anything like that. I stayed below him and it got him a little bit loose through (Turn) 1 and 2. That allowed me to get into position. Then into Turn 3, we both got sideways. He slid up enough to let just let me get to the right rear. It was just enough to drag race by him.”

For Byron, it’s the best career finish for the JR Motorsports rookie and his third top five of the season.

“We were so close, it really hurts to be that close and not win,” Byron told Fox Sports 1. “(Hamlin) got the side-draft off of me off of (Turn) 4 and that’s the run he need to the line. Just couldn’t quite get enough to get back to him … It hurts, but we’ll get one soon.”

Filling out the top five was Byron, Elliott Sadler, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch.

Stage 1 winner: Brad Keselowski

Stage 2 winner: Elliot Sadler

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Pole-sitter Kyle Busch bounced back from a Lap 1 accident to finish fifth in his fourth Xfinity of the year … Elliott Sadler finished third for his best result at Michigan in 13 starts … Ty Dillon finished sixth to tie his best result of the year … Paul Menard finished seventh for his first top-10 finish in three Xfinity starts this season.

WHO HAD A BAD DAYMichael Annett, Ben Kennedy, JJ Yeley and Brandon Jones were in a Lap 38 wreck at the start of Stage 2 that began when Jones got loose on the backstretch. Annett, Kennedy and Yeley were eliminated from the race. Jones bounced back to finish ninth … Justin Allgaier finished 16th in his first finish outside the top 15 since Atlanta.

NOTABLE: Denny Hamlin is the 10th different driver to win a Xfinity race this season … Joe Gibbs Racing has four wins with three different drivers.

WHAT’S NEXT: American Ethanol E15 250 at Iowa Speedway at 8:30 p.m. ET on June 24 on Fox Sports 1

Xfinity Series Spotlight: A Q&A with Kyle Benjamin

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Kyle Benjamin, a first-generation racer,  doesn’t know whose idea it was to set him down the path of auto racing. But his earliest memory of visiting a track, a dirt track for go-karts, at the age of 5 is … distinct.

“I was so excited when I got to the track, I took off running and ran a lap around it,” Benjamin told NBC Sports. “When I finished my lap I puked. … I ran a lap around the track and puked everywhere. That’s probably my earliest memory of racing. I think it’s actually the first time I went to a track.”

Within 10 years, the native of Easley, South Carolina, would make history by becoming the youngest winner in the ARCA Racing Series, winning at Madison International Speedway in his sixth start with Venturini Motorsports.

“It was really cool, especially since you’re making the jump to a heavy car and you want to perform in a heavy car because that’s what you’re going to be in if you continue to move up the ladder,” Benjamin said.

He has continued to master “heavy cars,” winning five K&N Pro Series East races in the last three years. That resulted in a five-race deal to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series this year.

In his first two races, Benjamin qualified on the front row, including his first career pole last weekend at Pocono Raceway. He’ll be back next weekend at Iowa Speedway driving JGR’s No. 18 Toyota. Right now, Benjamin is only scheduled to compete in less than 10 races all year, including this weekend’s ARCA race at Michigan International Speedway.

“My off-time in the summer time is just doing some summer classes and doing some school. That’s pretty much it,” Benjamin said. “There’s not a whole lot in-between, which is why I’d like to be racing. I like to be at the track. It’s tough this year because I’m used to racing about 30-something races a year and I’m down to I think eight total or seven total. It’s been kind of tough.”

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

 Kyle Benjamin drives the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pocono Green 250 at Pocono Raceway. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

NBC Sports: On your website, it says your hobby is collecting trophies. Where do you keep all your trophies?

Benjamin: I keep all the cool ones in the house, but there’s too many of those to keep them in the house so we gotta have to a storage facility for that one. But all the cool ones, the ones I really love, like the ARCA trophies and all the really big late model trophies, I keep in my house.

NBC Sports: Which trophy means the most to you?

Benjamin: The coolest trophy I have has to be the Dover trophy in K&N. The Monster Mile. You can’t beat Miles. Probably the coolest trophy in NASCAR, for sure.

NBC Sports: What’s on your bucket list that’s not related to racing?

Benjamin: That’s a tough one. One thing I’ve wanted to do is go skydiving. That’s probably on my bucket list. It’s one the things I think is on most people’s bucket lists, but I think it would be a really cool thing to do.

NBC Sports: Is driving at 180 mph not enough for you?

Benjamin: I guess not. You’re probably falling at 180 mph, too, out of an airplane I guess it would be kind of similar. It would be a really neat feeling to go experience that and also have bragging rights to say you’ve done it.

NBC Sports: If you were in the Bristol Cup race, what would your introduction song be?

Benjamin: That’s an even tougher one. Let me think for a second … It would have to be something funny, which is a problem. Probably “Another One Bites the Dust” (by Queen). That’s the only one I can think of that would be a funny one to play.

 

NBC Sports: What was the last song you got stuck in your head?

Benjamin: You’re going to laugh, but it’s actually a Katie Perry song. Me and my sister got it stuck in our head probably a week ago. I was singing it non-stop. I think it was “Roar” by Katie Perry. It’s funny when you get it stuck in your head. I would never just listen to that song, but it was stuck in my head for a week. It’s such an off-the-wall song.

NBC Sports: What’s the coolest merchandise you could imagine seeing your name or face on?

Benjamin: Someone having a tattoo with my face or name on it would be cool. That’s what I want to see. That would be cool. People do it, it’s amazing, but people do it.

NBC Sports: If you could add a track to your Xfinity schedule, what would it be?

Benjamin: I’d probably add Bristol, that’s probably one of my favorite tracks. Either that or Dover. Between those two, probably Bristol because you can’t beat that place. It’s such a cool place as far as the size and how fast you run around that place. It’s a different track and it’s also not a track you have to deal with the aero on, which is what I like about it too.

NBC Sports: You’re from Easley, South Carolina. What’s the coolest thing about Easley?

Benjamin: Probably Clemson right now. I know it’s not in Easley, but it’s so close to Easley. It’s about five minutes away. It’s right next to it, so I kind of include that. But it’s pretty cool to have a (college football) national championship team here right by your house.

NBC Sports: What’s the most emotional reaction you’ve had to a sporting event that wasn’t racing?

Benjamin: Probably the first (Clemson) loss to Alabama (in 2016 national title football game), that was pretty tough. I thought we had that game won. I was on the edge of my seat the whole game and I couldn’t believe how that thing ended.

Kyle Benjamin celebrating his win in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 at Greenville Pickens Speedway on April 8, 2017. (Getty Images).

NBC Sports: So you had more of an emotional reaction to Clemson losing the national championship than winning it?

Benjamin: Yeah, probably because I really thought that we had it. The whole game I thought we had them beat. I forget exactly how we did it, but we gave up a big play that allowed them to win the game. It was a heartbreak because at halftime I thought we had it and it wasn’t long after that that we lost it, so I was kind of emotional.

NBC Sports: If you have a day without any racing or family obligations, how do you spend you day?

Benjamin: If it was in the winter time, at the beginning of the race season, I’d probably be snowboarding. If it was in the summer time, I’d be mountain biking for sure.

NBC Sports: What’s your best snowboarding story?

Benjamin: Probably the time I almost broke my legs. I just started, I wasn’t really ready to hit it. My friend talked me into it. I don’t really know how to describe what I jumped. I guess you could call it a box jump or a pipe jump. But I hit that thing, I didn’t know what I was doing. I probably sailed 20 feet past the landing, way up in the air. … I thought I was going to break my legs, I don’t know how I didn’t. I must have landed perfectly, cause I was so high in the air it should have hurt something, but I got lucky on that deal.

Previous Xfinity Spotlights

Justin Allgaier

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Michael Annett

Ryan Reed

Brandon Jones

Daniel Hemric

William Byron

Spencer Gallagher

Cole Custer

Ross Chastain

Elliott Sadler

Ben Kennedy

Blake Koch

Brennan Poole

Matt Tifft

Tyler Reddick

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GMS Racing adds former Cup crew chief Mike Ford to team

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Former NASCAR crew chief Mike Ford has joined GMS Racing as competition director for its Xfinity Series program, the team announced Wednesday.

Tom Ackerman will continue to serve as competition director for the team’s Camping World Truck Series program.

Ford has 21 career Cup wins as a crew chief. He won 17 races with Denny Hamlin from 2006-11. He won four races with Bill Elliott from 2001-03.

“We are very excited to welcome Mike Ford here at GMS Racing,” said Mike Beam, GMS Racing General Manager, in a statement. “Mike will bring a lot of knowledge and experience to the Xfinity Series program. We want to continue to elevate this program, and I feel like he will be able to help us accomplish that goal.”

The organization fields Xfinity cars for Spencer Gallagher and Ben Kennedy.

Xfinity Spotlight: Tyler Reddick on being a nervous street driver, his disdain of bootleg hero cards

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There are two “California Kids” driving Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series this year.

When Kyle Larson, a native of Elk Grove, can’t drive it, the duty falls to Tyler Reddick of Corning.

The former Camping World Truck Series driver has been behind the wheel of the No. 42 five times this season and earned his first top 10 two weeks ago at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Larson has won three times this season, but there’s no added pressure for Reddick, 21, as he navigates his part-time Xfinity schedule.

“It gives me a lot of confidence through knowing that car is capable of doing what it has so far this year,” Reddick told NBC Sports. “I would be honest by saying I would feel a little bit pressured if Kyle wasn’t having such a good year on the Cup side (where he is second in points). But he’s just doing really good right now. You can argue he’s one of the best Cup drivers at this point in the year. That makes me feel a little bit better about trying to compare myself to him.”

Reddick, a three-time Truck winner with Brad Keselowski Racing, took a huge stride in his development as a Xfinity driver following an open test at Charlotte last month.

“We were able to … put up on the screen how I drive the car and how he drives the car,” Reddick said. “It really helped me bridge a gap it seemed I was forever away from where I needed to be to run competitive lap times. Having the ability to look at that data brought stuff I needed to work on to full attention, and we were able to work on it really well over the next couple of weeks. How bad we were when we tested at Charlotte to where we ended up being speed wise and everything in the Charlotte race, I feel like we literally jumped over a mountain.”

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

Tyler Reddick drives his No. 42 Chevrolet at Texas Motor Speedway. (Getty Images)

NBC Sports: How did you get interested in racing out in California?

Reddick: Well it all started with automobiles in general. Both my parents worked at a dealership. I grew up at the dealership with them. So I was with them before I was old enough to go to school. So I had an obsession with cars from day one pretty much. My dad raced for a short time when I was really, really young. I don’t remember much of those really young days, but my parents noticed how obsessed I was with racing and cars and this and that, anything with wheels on it. I was just sucked right into it. Dad got the idea one day to kind of take me to a go-kart track and really gauge my interest in it. He set me in a car and kind of pushed me around in it, asked me if I wanted to do it and of course I said yes. I don’t know who would have said no.

NBC Sports: What was your first car?

Reddick: I only got my first car a couple of years ago. It was 2011 Ford Mustang GT California Special. They’re still making them now. They brought it back in ’06 or ’07, but way back when in the 1960s they had a Mustang that was called a California Special. At the time, they only built and sold them in California. Now you can get them anywhere they want. I guess you can say it’s the California twist on the Mustang. It’s a little bit nicer interior and the exterior. It’s really just like a trim package now, it’s not really anything performance wise. I still have that car, I love it to death. I don’t think I’m ever going to get rid of it. Can’t ask for more out of a street car, it’s wicked.

NBC Sports: You hit a home run on your first one.

Reddick: Yeah, most people’s first cars are something they had to work on. I mean I got really lucky. I don’t want to sound like a brat by saying this but I didn’t want something very nice for my first car. I didn’t want to trash it, but I wanted to … based on my life, I wasn’t sure how I was going to be driving on the road. There’s a chance I might be the world’s worst driver on the road. I just didn’t want to have something nice. I’m one of those crazy people, if I get one scratch, the world ends and I feel like I’m going to die right there on the spot, so I decided I didn’t want something nice. But it’s still in one piece. I feel it’s survived pretty well.

NBC Sports: Have you ever named a car, whether it be a street car or race car?

Reddick: Quite a few. BKR, this is just BKR’s thing, they didn’t put numbers on the truck, they gave them names. They have a pool to decide what the names will be. What we would do, it kind of depended, sometimes we would come up with a batch of four names if we were having four trucks made. Some of the first trucks we had were ‘Bonnie’ and ‘Clyde.’ We just named the trucks after certain things. We named four trucks after The A Team. … Actually, Clyde is the truck I won at Dover with and BKR at the Christmas party last year gave it to me. It’s now sitting at my parent’s house in Nashville covered up. They gave me ‘Clyde’ and that was my crew chief’s favorite truck. He damn near cried. He’d probably kill me if I told you that, but he cried when he gave it to me. It was his favorite truck, he won multiple races with it and it was my favorite truck too. I wish I could describe it.

NBC Sports: If you were in the Cup race at Bristol, what would you choose as your intro song?

Reddick: These are things I never really think about. You’ve got me on the spot. I feel like it has to be something upbeat … I’m going to have to go with a Sevendust or a Slipknot song, one or the other. They get me pumped up for a race.

Tyler Reddick driving at Eldora Speedway in 2016. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

NBC Sports: What’s the most fun race you’ve ever been a part of?

Reddick: Anytime I’m at Eldora (Speedway), it’s just a blast. The late model racing there, it’s hard to duplicate that anywhere else. Probably racing a late model at Eldora is one of the funnest things I’ve ever done. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the best luck. We’ve been really faster there. You can go anywhere on that race track. When it slips off, it really widens out. It’s really something else.

NBC Sports: If you could add any track to the Xfinity schedule, what would it be?

Reddick: Unfortunately, a lot of people are going to say what I’m going to say. It’s a track that’s been on the schedule before. I wish they would add Lucas Oil Raceway (located just outside Indianapolis) back to the schedule. If that’s what it’s still called today.

NBC Sports: Do you remember the first time you saw your name or face on merchandise?

Reddick: Yeah, when I was racing go karts at the tail end my mom and dad had shirts made for family and friends and some other people ended up buying them. My dad had a couple of hero cards made for people and fans that wanted them, he was just trying to get my name and face out there a little more. I was so young I didn’t care. … We still got some of those hero cards. What is kind of sad and depressing is people have started … Someone has started copying those hero cards and making a smaller version and selling them on eBay. I’ve been coming across them more and more. That kind of pisses me off, I’m not going to lie. I guess at the end of the day we were giving them out for free, but there’s someone out there printing them and making money off of them and I don’t like that. I wish I knew who that was, but I can’t really do much about that, you now?

 

Previous Xfinity Spotlights

Justin Allgaier

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Michael Annett

Ryan Reed

Brandon Jones

Daniel Hemric

William Byron

Spencer Gallagher

Cole Custer

Ross Chastain

Elliott Sadler

Ben Kennedy

Blake Koch

Brennan Poole

Matt Tifft

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