Cole Custer

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Cole Custer fastest in final Xfinity practice at Iowa Speedway

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The final Xfinity Series practice at Iowa Speedway was led by Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer.

In his No. 00 Ford, Custer posted a top speed of 132.164 mph around the short track.

The top five was filled by Christopher Bell (131.398), Blake Koch (130.939), Brandon Jones (130.792) and Ben Kennedy (130.657).

Sam Hornish Jr. was 10th fastest in the session.

Tyler Reddick recorded the most laps in the session with 70.

Bell had the best 10-lap average at 129.196 mph.

Click here for the full practice report.

NASCAR suspends winning Xfinity crew chief two races

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NASCAR has suspended crew chief Chris Gabehart two races, fined him $25,000 and docked Joe Gibbs Racing 25 car owner points for a violation with Denny Hamlin‘s winning Xfinity car.

NASCAR stated that the splitter was not flat. The finish is encumbered.

Joe Gibbs Racing does not plan to appeal the penalty, a team spokesperson told NBC Sports.

NASCAR also docked Xfinity crew chief Jeff Meendering $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut on Cole Custer‘s car at Michigan International Speedway.

There were no penalties in the Cup series.

In the Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR suspended crew chief Bruce Cook one Truck race, fined him $5,000 and docked the team 10 car owner points and Austin Hill 10 driver points for post-race front body inspection heights. Hill’s 14th-place finish at Gateway Motorsports Park is encumbered.

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Spencer Gallagher, Ryan Reed fastest in first Xfinity practice at Michigan

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Spencer Gallagher and Ryan Reed were the fastest drivers in the first of two Xfinity Series practices today at Michigan International Speedway in preparation for Saturday’s Irish Hills 250.

Gallagher was the fastest of the 40 drivers that took to the two-mile, high-speed track, clocking in a speed of 190.305 mph. Reed was second-fastest at 190.119 mph.

NASCAR Cup regular Brad Keselowski was third-fastest at 189.708 mph, followed by fellow Cup regular Kyle Busch (189.499).

Elliott Sadler was fifth-fastest (189.459), followed by Brennan Poole (189.334), William Byron and Cole Custer (tied for seventh-fastest at 188.971 mph), Cup regular Denny Hamlin (188.952) and Brandon Jones (188.897).

The second and final Xfinity practice takes place later this afternoon from 3 to 3:55 p.m. ET.

Click here for the full field rundown of the first Xfinity practice.

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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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Michael Annett driving Brad Doty sprint car scheme in Xfinity Darlington race

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The paint scheme Michael Annett will sport in the Xfinity Series’ Sept. 2 race at Darlington Raceway has never been run in NASCAR, but it means a lot to Annett.

JR Motorsports announced Wednesday Annett’s No. 5 Chevrolet will be based on a paint scheme used by Brad Doty in the World of Outlaws sprint car series in the 1980s.

Source: JR Motorsports

Annett’s father, Harrold Annett, is the owner of TMC Transportation and was once a major team sponsor in the World of Outlaws series and is close friends of Doty.

Doty competed against Steve Kinser, Doug Wolfgang and Sammy Swindell, who all drove the No. 1 TMC machine owned by Annett’s team.

Doty’s racing career ended in 1988 when he was involved in a first-lap crash in an event that fractured a thoracic vertebrae and left him paralyzed from mid-chest down.

The following year, Harrold Annett was a promoter of the inaugural Brad Doty Classic, a benefit race for Doty and his family, at Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park. The event has been held 28 times since.

“I’m very humbled and honored that they would do something like that,” Doty said in a press release. “I’ve never been to Darlington, just seen it on TV, but it looks like they’ll be rubbing the TMC off the quarter panel from what I’ve seen!”

The announcement of Annett’s scheme comes the same day Stewart-Haas Racing revealed Cole Custer’s tribute scheme to Sam Ard.

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