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Darrell Wallace Jr. leads first laps of Cup career, ‘devastated’ with Bristol result

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Darrell Wallace Jr. gave fans his “raw” response to the Food City 500 that saw the rookie driver lead the first laps of his Cup career, but finish 16th after falling off in the closing laps at Bristol Motor Speedway.

In a video recorded in his RV after the race, an emotional Wallace was “devastated, absolutely devastated” with the outcome.

After starting 20th on Sunday, Wallace managed to finish 10th in Stage 2 for his second top-10 stage finish of the season. His first came in the Daytona 500.

The driver of Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 Chevrolet passed Brad Keselowski to take the lead on Lap 375. Six laps later, Wallace lost the lead to eventual race winner Kyle Busch. Wallace then slowly fell through the field before he eventually was lapped.

“That last caution came out (with 30 laps to go) and we were struggling with left front problems there late in runs, locking up easily, but still was able to make decent ground,” Wallace said immediately after the race. “Then all of a sudden it went away there and man, just blindsided there by that.”

The blindsided feel hadn’t left Wallace in his motorhome.

“I don’t know what happened, I have no idea,” Wallace said. “My guys gave me an absolute great car. We went up there and led our first laps in a Cup race and holy (expletive) I don’t know what went wrong. My mind is about 1,000 mph right now just trying to figure out what in the hell went wrong.”

Wallace’s finish came a week after his earned his second top 10 of the year at Texas Motor Speedway. Wallace said he expected a “solid” top 10 or even a top five at Bristol.

“I was pumped, I was excited,” Wallace said of leading his first Cup laps in his 12th career start. “I’m just as shook as all of you guys. … We went from leading the race to probably the absolute worst car out there. My mind is blown right now.”

Wallace’s six laps led were the first for RPM since Aric Almirola led two in the 2017 Daytona 500. They were the first laps led at Bristol since Brian Scott led five laps in 2016.

Wallace’s No. 43 car was sponsored by STP and had a paint scheme he helped design.

“(Gave them) a run they deserved, not a finish they deserved,” Wallace said. “We still got momentum on our side.”

Today’s Cup race at Talladega: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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While the focus is on Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he makes his final Cup start at Talladega Superspeedway, there’s still a playoff race taking place in the Alabama 500, the middle event of the Round of 12.

Ford has won all three restrictor-plate races this year. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won at Daytona in July and Talladega in May. Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500. Fords also won the last three restrictor-plate races of last season with Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.

Here are the details for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern):

START: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will give the command to start engines at 2:01 p.m. Green flag is set for 2:13 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 188 laps (500 miles) around the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 55. Stage 2 ends on Lap 110.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Cup garage opens at 9:30 a.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is at noon. Driver introductions are at 1:20 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: The 313th United State Army Bad will perform the anthem at 1:55 p.m.

TV/RADIO: NBC will broadcast the race at 2 p.m. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. on NBCSN with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 1:30 p.m. on NBC. The Motor Racing Network radio broadcast begins at 1 p.m. at mrn.com and affiliates. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts a temperature of 82 degrees and a 15 percent chance of rain at race time.

LAST TIME: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the race in May. Jamie McMurray placed second. Kyle Busch finished third. In this race last year, Joey Logano led the final 45 laps to win. He was followed by Brian Scott and Denny Hamlin.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for starting lineup

Preliminary entry lists for NASCAR at Talladega

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NASCAR makes its return trip to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend with the Cup and Camping World Truck Series.

The Xfinity Series is off this week.

The Cup Series holds the Alabama 500, the second race of the Round of 12 in the playoffs. The Truck Series competes in the Fred’s 250, its first playoff elimination race.

Here are the entry lists for both races.

Cup – Alabama 500

Forty cars are entered.

J.J. Yeley will driver the No. 7 Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing. Brendan Gaughan is entered in the No. 75 Chevrolet for Beard Motorsports.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the last race at Talladega in May after a last-lap pass of Kyle Busch. He beat Jamie McMurray and Busch to the finish.

This race was won last year by Joey Logano after he led 45 laps. He beat Brian Scott and Denny Hamlin.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Fred’s 250

There are 32 trucks entered. No full-time Cup drivers are entered.

This race was won last year by Alabama native Grant Enfinger, who led 45 of that race’s 94 laps.

He beat Spencer Gallagher, Timothy Peters and Rico Abreu.

Click here for the entry list.

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.

What Xfinity Series drivers said after the U.S. Cellular 250 (video)

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Ryan Preece claimed victory in his second Xfinity race of the year and the 38th of his career.

He is the third Xfinity driver to earn his first-career win at Iowa Speedway. He is the ninth driver in series history to get his first-career pole and first-career win in the same race.

Here’s what the other top finishers had to say about the U.S. Cellular 250.

Kyle Benjamin– Finished second

Benjamin earned his first top five and top-10 finishes of his career in his fourth start of the year. His previous best was 16th at Pocono.

“I just needed more laps,” Benjamin told NBC. “I think our car was better on the long run there. I didn’t want to see the caution. … I was real surprised at the fire-off speed we had.  able to get beside (Ryan Preece) there at the end. But most importantly I learned a lot today. … There’s a lot I can carry throughout the year.”

Brian Scott – Finished third 

Brian Scott retired from full-time NASCAR competition after the 2016 season and made his first start of the year for Richard Childress Racing. It was his first Xfinity start since the 2015 finale.

“We weren’t very good in the first segment,” Scott told NBC. “We weren’t very good in the second segment but we made a big adjustment at the end of Segment 2. From then on I knew if we could battle back from the loss of track position and it came down to a long run that we had a shot. The restarts at the end (were) not what I wanted to see I thought but it ended up working to our advantage. It was fun. It was fun to be back out there. Congrats to Ryan Preece.’’

Brennan Poole – Finished fourth

Poole earned his first top five of the season. His previous best finish was seventh twice (Daytona II, Indianapolis).

“I felt like we had a shot at the win there at the end,” Poole told NBC. “I spun the tires a little bit on that last restart and I couldn’t quite roll up to (Ryan Preece) enough to try to make a move to make anything happen.  I was just behind a little it.”

Cole Custer – Finished fifth

Custer earned his fourth top five and his second in as many races.

“We definitely made huge gains on it since the last time we were here,” Custer told NBC. “Our short-track program definitely hasn’t been our strong suit, but we brought something completely different and it paid off. I was really proud of that.