Clint Bowyer

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Cup Playoff Grid: Denny Hamlin becomes 11th driver to qualify for Cup postseason

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After repeat winners at Daytona and Kentucky, Denny Hamlin became the latest driver to win his way into the Cup Series playoffs Sunday at New Hampshire.

Hamlin, with his first victory of the season, is the 11th driver to clinch a spot in the 16-car field for the playoffs.

He would be the 12th if not for Joey Logano‘s Richmond win being encumbered due to an inspection failure.

If the postseason began this weekend, the drivers getting into the 16-car field on points would be Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth.

With his win, Hamlin has seven playoff points. That puts him eighth on the playoff grid among those who have clenched a playoff spot. He is ahead of Kurt Busch (five playoff points), Ryan Newman (five) and Austin Dillon (five).

In the graphic below, drivers in green are in the playoffs on wins. Drivers in yellow would be in on points and drivers in orange would not make the playoffs.

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New NASCAR President addresses start times for Cup races

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The debate of when a Monster Energy Cup race should begin reignited this weekend on social media after some complaints by those in the sport and a response Monday by new NASCAR President Brent Dewar.

Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway marked the first of five consecutive races that have listed start times of 3 p.m. ET.

Clint Bowyer posted a tweet shortly after Sunday’s race that simply read “3:00 starts suck!”

Samantha Busch, wife of Kyle Busch, tweeted Sunday that she was not a fan of later start times but asked what fans thought.

Dewar, promoted to NASCAR president last week from his role as chief operating officer, addressed the matter Monday on “The Morning Drive’’ when asked about possible changes to the schedule beyond 2018.

Dewar mentioned that the schedule was an example of collaboration with NASCAR’s partners, which includes TV networks, and noted that “there were tradeoffs that we needed to make both for broadcast, tracks, teams, etc.

“We did some later start times this year and some in the industry have not liked that, but it was important to interact with our West Coast audience,’’ Dewar said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Still our largest audience is California, and 1 o’clock starts is too early for them on the West Coast. So we’re trying to find the right balance of that. But yes, I think you’ll see more innovation to make it a win-win for the industry. We will do it together as an industry. It won’t be unilateral on NASCAR’s part.’’

Last year, 12 of the 36 Cup points races had start times listed as 1 or 1:30 p.m. ET. This year, there are three such races.

Last year, five Cup points races had start times listed as 3 or 3:30 p.m. ET. This year, there are 13 such races.

The remaining Cup races scheduled to start before 3 p.m. ET are all in the playoffs:

(All times listed are Eastern)

Sept. 24 — New Hampshire … 2 p.m.

Oct. 1 — Dover … 2 p.m.

Oct. 8 — Charlotte … 2 p.m.

Oct. 15 — Talladega … 2 p.m.

Oct. 29 — Martinsville … 1 p.m.

Nov. 5 — Texas … 2 p.m.

Nov. 12 — Phoenix … 2:30 p.m.

Nov. 19 — Homestead … 2:30 p.m.

Among the comments made on social media Monday about the start time and Dewar’s comments:

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Kyle Busch wins Stage 2 of New Hampshire Cup race

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Kyle Busch led every green-flag lap in Stage 2 of the Overton’s 301 to claim his fifth stage win of the season.

Busch, who has gone winless in the last 34 races, led 72 laps on the way to the stage victory.

The top 10 after 150 laps were Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Clint Bowyer.

The only caution of the stage came on Lap 88 when Austin Dillon made contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and spun exiting Turn 4. Pole-sitter and Stage 1 winner Martin Truex Jr. narrowly avoided Dillon, diving to the inside as the No. 3 Chevrolet went around in front of him.

Dillon finished the stage in 24th.

Before Stage 2 went green the race was briefly put under a red flag to make repairs to the track surface in Turn 3.

The Overton’s 301 is scheduled to end on Lap 301.

Martin Truex Jr. leads second Cup practice at New Hampshire

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Pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. topped the speed chart in the second NASCAR Cup Series practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Overton’s 301.

Truex posted a speed of 131.338 mph in 35 laps around the track.

Filling out the top five were Kyle Larson (131.333), Jimmie Johnson (131.184), Chase Elliott (131.162) and Brad Keselowski (131.071).

Larson posted the best 10-lap average at 130.624 mph and was followed by Kyle Busch (130.372), Elliott (130.045), Clint Bowyer (130.012) and Truex (129.786).

Johnson recorded the most laps in the session with 60.

Click here for the full practice report.


Eleven Cup teams to lose practice time at New Hampshire

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Kyle Larson and Clint Bowyer each will sit out 30 minutes of Saturday’s final Cup practice for failing inspection before last weekend’s Monster Energy Cup race at Kentucky Speedway, NASCAR announced Friday.

They are among 11 Cup teams and seven Xfinity teams that will miss practice time this weekend because of inspection issues at previous events.

Four Cup drivers – Landon Cassill, Gray Gaulding, Cole Whitt and Michael McDowell – will each miss 15 minutes of practice in today’s practice session, which runs from 11:30 a.m. – 12:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App. Each is penalized for being late to inspection before last weekend’s event at Kentucky.

Five Cup drivers – Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Chase Elliott, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. – each will miss 15 minutes of Saturday’s final practice session. Each is penalized for failing inspection before last weekend’s race at Kentucky.

In the Xfinity Series, the cars of Ben Kennedy, Michael Annett and Blake Koch will be held 15 minutes for failing inspection before the Kentucky race.

The cars of BJ McLeod, Carl Long, Brennan Poole and David Starr also will miss 15 minutes of practice. Each had penalties that were deferred from Kentucky.

The Xfinity teams will miss time during today’s first practice, which is scheduled to go from 1 – 1:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.

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