Cole Whitt

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Kevin Harvick penalized time in final Cup practice

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HOMESTEAD, Florida — Title contender Kevin Harvick will miss 15 minutes of Saturday’s final practice because of inspection issues last weekend at Phoenix.

Harvick is the only one among the four title contenders who will miss practice time Saturday.

Final practice is from 1 – 1:50 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

David Starr is the only driver who missed time in Saturday’s first practice. He missed 15 minutes because his team was late to qualifying inspection Friday.

Jimmie Johnson, David Ragan and Michael McDowell will each miss 30 minutes of final practice because their cars failed qualifying inspection three times Friday.

Harvick, Chase Elliott, Cole Whitt and Starr each will miss 15 minutes of final practice because their cars failed inspection twice before last weekend’s Phoenix race.

Austin Dillon and Matt DiBenedetto each will miss 15 minutes of final practice because their cars failed inspection before qualifying twice Friday.

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Justin Allgaier ‘in the best place mentally’ a year after disappointing title finish

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The biggest disappointment of Justin Allgaier‘s NASCAR career has turned into “the best thing that’s ever happened” to it.

It only took “about a week” for the 31-year-old driver to accept that.

The JR Motorsports’ driver is one of the four competing for the Xfinity Series title in today’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

It was in this race a year ago that Allgaier was within arm’s reach of a possible championship, his first in NASCAR.

But it was snatched away on the final restart.

With three laps to go, Allgaier restarted in the third row on the outside. In front of him was fellow championship driver Erik Jones. In front of Jones was Cole Whitt in a car normally found toward the back of the pack. Whitt had not pit under the caution because his team had used up its tire allotment.

Elliott Sadler (far right) and Daniel Suarez pull away on the final restart of last year’s Xfinity race at Homestead as Justin Allgaier (red car, middle) boxed in. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

At the green flag, Whitt spun his tires and backed-up the outside lane. That allowed Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez to get separation from Allgaier and Jones and race each other for the win and championship, which Suarez claimed.

“We’re sitting here and not standing on that (championship) stage over there like I think all of us would have liked to have been,” Allgaier said after he finished sixth.

Before Allgaier could come to terms with anything positive from the experience, he spent the following week just wanting to be left alone.

“If I could have locked myself in a dark room and not talk(ed) to anyone, I’d have been perfectly okay with that,” Allgaier said Thursday during the NASCAR championship media day in Miami Beach, Florida.

Allgaier got back in touch with those year-old feelings this week when he watched a replay of the race while flying to Florida.

“It still bugs me that we didn’t have a shot because of somebody else’s decision,” Allgaier said.

But Allgaier views the end of the 2016 race through a wiser lens. One where he accepts there’s only so much he can do in a 200-lap race against 39 other drivers.

“What if I had broken a transmission or run into the wall a little bit too hard on one of those times that I got (into) the wall like 37 times in the race last year and cut a tire?” Allgaier said. “What if a meteor fell out of the sky? … There’s so many things that, when you have 40 competitors on the racetrack every week, there’s so many things that can happen that are out of your control.”

His attitude has been helped by the best year of his career. Allgaier enters the championship race with a career-best two wins – including at his home track Chicagoland Speedway.

Allgaier also leads all Xfinity regulars with 497 laps led.

 “I look at 2017 as we have done everything we can do up to this point,” Allgaier said. “We’ve had the best race cars I’ve ever had. We’ve had great pit stops. We’ve got guys that work together on the race team that are incredible. I feel like for me personally I’m in the best shape of my life, on and off the track. I’m in the best place mentally.

“And at the end of the day, no matter what happens on Saturday night, I know that we have the best product on the racetrack and we’re in the best position we can be. And if it doesn’t work, it’s not because we weren’t in the right spot or because we didn’t do things right. It’s because circumstances are out of our control. And that’s taken so much pressure off of me this year.”

MORE: Previewing the Xfinity championship drivers

 

Six Cup teams docked practice time at Phoenix

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AVONDALE, Arizona – Six Cup cars, three Xfinity cars and two trucks will miss practice time this weekend at Phoenix Raceway for inspection issues, NASCAR announced Friday.

The Cup cars of Trevor Bayne, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chris Buescher and Cole Whitt will miss 15 minutes of Friday’s Cup practice because those cars each were late to inspection at Texas. That session goes from 1 – 2:25 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The cars of Buescher, Joey Logano and playoff contender Chase Elliott will miss 15 minutes of Saturday’s final practice for failing inspection before last weekend’s race at Texas.

In the Xfinity Series, the car of playoff contender Matt Tifft will miss 30 minutes of final practice for failing inspection three times before last weekend’s race at Texas. The cars of Ryan Blaney and playoff contender Daniel Hemric will each miss 15 minutes of final practice for failing inspection twice before last weekend’s race. That session is from 4:30 – 5:25 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

In the Camping World Truck Series, the vehicles of Ray Ciccarelli and Ted Minor will each miss 15 minutes of final practice for failing inspection twice before last weekend’s race at Texas. That session is from 11 a.m. – 12:50 p.m. on Fox Sports 2.

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Landon Cassill will not return to Front Row Motorsports in 2018

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MARTINSVILLE, Virginia — Landon Cassill will not return to Front Row Motorsports after this season. Cassill said the team told him of the decision Monday.

“We’re thankful for the last two years having Landon as a teammate and an ambassador for our sponsors, and we’ll keep working hard with him and the No. 34 team for the best possible results the remainder of the 2017 season,’’ Front Row Motorsports said in a statement Tuesday.

Cassill’s departure was first reported by JeffGluck.com

I think it’s definitely upsetting,” Cassill said during a break in testing Tuesday at Martinsville Speedway. “I think I did a good job for the team and for my sponsors. I certainly work hard for everyone, but it is the business, it is how the sport goes. It’s definitely a challenging time in the sport for these teams and drivers and sponsors.

It’s definitely tough, but I’ve been through this before. It seems like my work ethic and my ability to work with these teams has always kind of carried me.

Cassill said he was told by the team it was making radical changes, but those changes weren’t detailed.

Cassill, whose wife is expecting the couple’s second child next week, said he does have sponsorship to take to another ride. He says he already has had some phone calls about his status.

“I’ve been through these situations, and I’ve learned that you take every phone call, and I’ve definitely received a few and I’ve definitely made a few,” Cassill said.

Cassill, who was testing for Ford at Martinsville Speedway, is in his second year with Front Row Motorsports.

The 28-year-old Iowa native will make his 254th career Cup start this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. His best finish this season is 16th in the Daytona 500. His best finish with Front Row Motorsports is 11th at Talladega in May 2016.

Front Row Motorsports stated Tuesday it had nothing to announce at this point on its 2018 driver lineup. The organization has three charters, leasing one to Tri-Star Motorsports for the No. 72 car driven by Cole Whitt and using the other two for the No. 34 and No. 38 cars.

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NASCAR America: This week’s Pit Crew All-Star nominees

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On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, we revealed this week’s Pit Crew All-Star nominees.

Here’s the three:

  • Kenyatta Houston, front tire changer for Jamie McMurray in NASCAR Cup and Xfinity driver Brennan Poole. Is also a rapper and has a NASCAR-themed song out called “Life In the Pits.”
  • Kevin White, tire specialist for TriStar Motorsports (driver Cole Whitt).
  • Will Boutin, tire specialist for the No. 34 Ford of Front Row Motorsports (driver Landon Cassill)