Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin leads morning Cup practice at Bristol

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Denny Hamlin, who celebrated the birth of his second daughter earlier this week, was the fastest in Friday morning’s Cup practice at Bristol Motor Speedway with a lap of 129.230 mph.

Hamlin was followed by Kyle Busch (129.221 mph), Kasey Kahne (128.943), Ryan Blaney (128.917) and Clint Bowyer (128.382). Matt Kenseth (128.356) was sixth. Points leader Martin Truex Jr. (128.313) was seventh and Furniture Row Racing teammate Erik Jones (128.176) was eighth.

Toyotas took five of the top eight spots.

Jamie McMurray had the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 126.604 mph. Hamlin was next at 126.469 mph.

Click here for full practice report

Kyle Larson spun down the frontstretch but did not hit the wall in the session’s only incident.

Final Cup practice begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Eight Cup teams will be penalized 15 minutes of practice in that session.

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Matt Kenseth focused on making playoffs, not 2018 plans

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Matt Kenseth, who holds the final playoff spot with three races to go, says he’s more focused on that than what he’ll do in 2018.

Kenseth does not have a ride for next year with Erik Jones replacing him at Joe Gibbs Racing after this season.

Asked if he had any plans for 2018 on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kenseth said: “No, not at the moment. When I do I’ll tweet something. Like on a Monday or something. No plans right now. Just raise kids and hang out with my family.

“I’ll be honest with you … I’m not worried about (2018) even really one percent anymore to be honest with you. I’m just not concerned about it. I’m really concerned about 2017 and that’s the truth. I mean we’ve got 13 races or something left. Three to try to get into … the playoffs. We’re not in there yet. Kind of got ran over at the end of the race last week by the 24 (Chase Elliott), trying to race him. But hopefully we get a win, get in the playoffs and try to race for a championship. That’s our goal every year, and really that’s what I’m been concentrating on.’’

Kenseth leads Clint Bowyer by 31 points heading into Saturday’s race at Bristol (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC). Kenseth was in position to build that lead last week until the final restart at Michigan. He restarted third but contact caused him to fall back. He finished 24th, the last car on the lead lap, breaking a streak of four consecutive top-10 finishes. Kenseth lost 21 points from where he restarted to where he finished.

Kenseth said his strategy hasn’t changed even with his position in the points.

“I’ve never been in a race I didn’t want to win,’’ he said. “I’ve never been in a race where I didn’t feel like I needed the win. I don’t know that it really changes. You know ever since Daytona we’ve been trying to win and know that quote unquote needed that win. To me it doesn’t really change. You’re going to race as hard as you can and try to get that win anytime you can.

“It’s really hard to win races at this level. I’ve been doing it a long time, really haven’t won that many races compared to how many I’ve started, so I realize how hard it is to win. You always try to take advantage of those opportunities if you have them.”

Kenseth has six career Cup wins on a short track. That ranks tied for fifth with Kevin Harvick behind Jimmie Johnson (14 wins), Kyle Busch (10), Kurt Busch (nine), Denny Hamlin (nine).

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Retro Rundown 2017: Throwback paint schemes for the Southern 500

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It’s almost time for the annual Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway that is capped off by the Sept. 3 Southern 500 on NBCSN.

That means what was once old is new again and that goes with the latest parade of retro paint schemes.

Here’s your guide to all the paint schemes that will be driven in the Southern 500.

This post will be updated.

Brad Keselowski – Keselowski will pilot the “Midnight” paint scheme Rusty Wallace made famous in the mid-90s during his time in Team Penske’s No. 2 car. This isn’t the first time Keselowski has driven this look. It was on his No. 2 Ford in August 2015 at Michigan.

Austin Dillon – This year marks the 30th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s 1987 win in the Southern 500. Richard Childress Racing is honoring that achievement by putting Earnhardt’s Wrangler paint scheme from that year on Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet and Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet.

Kevin Harvick – The No. 4 Busch Chevrolet will have a paint scheme that is based on the “Head for the mountains” commercials from the 1980s. Harvick won the 2014 Southern 500.

Kasey Kahne  Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet will pay tribute to Geoffrey Bodine, the first driver to win for Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series. The paint scheme is the same one Bodine had on the No. 5 in 1985 when it was sponsored by Levi Garrett.

Danica Patrick – The No. 10 Ford will have the paint scheme that Dale Jarrett used in his 1999 Cup Series championship year when he drove for Robert Yates Racing. Patrick also will be sponsored by Ford Credit, which was a sponsor on Jarrett’s No. 88 Ford that season.

Denny Hamlin – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will pay tribute to famed modified driver Ray Hendrick (no relation to Rick Hendrick). “Mr. Modified” was named one of the 50 greatest NASCAR drivers in 1998.

Ty Dillon – Germain Racing’s No. 13 Chevrolet looks similar to the way it did in last season’s Southern 500. The car will yet again have a paint scheme that Smokey Yunick once used on the No. 13 car he owned in the 1960s.

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford will have the sponsor and paint scheme that NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin drove in the Xfinity Series from 1988-1991. All three of the Southern 500 Throwback Weekends have featured Martin paint schemes.

 

Ryan Blaney – The Wood Brothers Racing car will have the same look as it did in 1987 when Kyle Petty drove for the team. That year Petty won the Coca-Cola 600 for one of his eight Cup victories.

Joey Logano – The No. 22 Ford will bear the paint scheme used by Jimmy Vasser in IndyCar in 2002, the year Shell and Pennzoil merged.

Team Penske

Corey LaJoie – The No. 23 Toyota will pay tribute to Davey Allison. LaJoie’s paint scheme will be the one used by Allison in 1984 when he drove a No. 23 Miller High Life Pontiac in the Busch Series (now Xfinity Series).

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Chase Elliott – The Hendrick Motorsports’ driver will drive the light blue paint scheme his father Bill Elliott had in his first Cup start on Feb. 29, 1976 at Rockingham Speedway.

Ryan Newman – Like Austin Dillon, Newman’s No. 31 Chevrolet will evoke Dale Earnhardt’s 1987 Wrangler paint scheme.

Matt DiBenedetto – The Go Fas Racing driver will have the scheme used by Bobby Allison in 1988 when he won the Daytona 500 for his 84th and final NASCAR Cup Series victory.

Aric Almirola – Four months after Almirola was born in March 1984, Richard Petty won his 200th and final Cup race in the July 4 Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Almirola will sport the same paint scheme “The King” took to victory lane that day.

AJ Allmendinger – The JTG Daugherty Racing driver will have the paint scheme Terry Labonte drove in 1986 when his No. 44 car was sponsored by Piedmont Airlines.

Jimmie Johnson – The paint scheme for the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet is inspired by the trucks Lowe’s used in 1986.

Hendrick Motorsports

Derrike Cope – The 1990 Daytona 500 winner will have his own throwback for the Southern 500. Cope will have his paint scheme and sponsor from the 1994 Cup season when he drove the Mane ‘n Tail No. 12 car for Bobby Allison Motorsports.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.  – In his final Southern 500 start, Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet will bear the paint scheme Earnhardt used during his two championship seasons in the Xfinity Series in 1998-99. Earnhardt drove the No. 3 AC Delco car for Dale Earnhardt Inc., winning 13 races over the course of the two seasons.

Michael McDowell – The No. 95 Chevrolet, owned by Leavine Family Racing, will bear the paint scheme 1992 Cup champion Alan Kulwicki drove in his Rookie of the Year season in 1986. LFR operates out of the same shop Kulwicki did until his death in a 1993 plane crash.

Other Throwback Weekend paint schemes:

Kevin Harvick (Xfinity) – Harvick will drive the original Hunt Brothers Pizza paint scheme that was first used in 2008 by Ken Schrader.

Matt Tifft (Xfinity) – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will honor Dale Earnhardt Sr., driving the paint scheme Earnhardt used in one race in 1977 when he drove the No. 19 car at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Erik Jones (Xfinity) – Jones will pay tribute to Davey Allison with his 1988 rookie paint scheme.

Jeremy Clements (Xfinity) – The No. 51 car will pay tribute to A.J. Foyt and his 1964 win in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Clements’ grandfather, Crawford, served as Foyt’s crew chief for the race.

Brad Keselowski Racing (Camping World Truck Series) – The two trucks owned by BKR, the No. 19 driven by Austin Cindric and the No. 29 of Chase Briscoe, will have paint schemes dedicated to the Keselowski family’s racing history for the Sept. 3 race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Austin Cindric – The purple and white paint scheme was used on cars driven by Keselowski’s uncle, Ron Keselowski, in both USAC and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. From 1970-74, he earned 11 top-10 finishes in 68 starts as a driver, including a pair of fifth-place finishes in back-to-back seasons at Michigan International Speedway.

Chase Briscoe – The No. 29 truck will bear the paint scheme driven by Brad Keselowski’s father, Bob, to victory lane in 1997 at Richmond. It was his only win in 86 Truck series starts.

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Denny Hamlin, Jordan Fish welcome second daughter

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Denny Hamlin announced the birth of his second daughter Wednesday afternoon, welcoming Molly Gold Hamlin in a Twitter post.

Hamlin’s girlfriend, Jordan Fish, gave birth to Molly on Tuesday, five days after the original due date. The couple announced they were expecting their second child together in February.

Molly joins older sister, Taylor, who is seen holding the baby in a picture Hamlin posted.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had substitutes on standby during the last two Cup races at Watkins Glen and Michigan in the event Fish went into labor during either race weekend.

NASCAR America live from 5-6 p.m. ET: Playoff picture, cast your vote, more Darlington throwback schemes

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs live from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Carolyn Manno hosts in our Stamford studio. Kyle Petty, Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte join from our NBC Charlotte studio.

Among the topics on today’s show:

* With just three regular seasons remaining, three playoff spots remain up for grabs. The Bristol Night Race is known for its wild action, but it could go to the next level as the drivers on either side of the cut-off line face the pressure of trying to make the playoffs with a win. Kyle, Dale and Steve will look ahead to Saturday’s race.

* Where does Kyle Larson’s overtime restart last Sunday at Michigan stack up with other amazing restarts from this season? Let us know your thoughts by casting your vote at NBCSports.com/NASCARVote.

* How did the No. 42 team put Kyle Larson in position to win Sunday in the Irish Hills? We’ll hear how in our Tuesday tradition, as we Scan All Michigan!

* And the Darlington throwbacks keep on coming! The retro looks from Danica Patrick, Jimmie Johnson, and Denny Hamlin highlight our Social Pit Stop.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com.

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.