Jeffrey Earnhardt

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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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Brad Keselowski wins Stage 1 of Alabama 500 at Talladega

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Brad Keselowski won Stage 1 of the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in a one-lap sprint following a late caution.

Keselowski edged out his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano to lead his only lap in the stage. The shootout was caused by a caution when Paul Menard hit the wall with five laps left in the stage.

The top 10 through 55 laps is Keselowski, Logano, Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Michael McDowell, Kurt Busch, Trevor Bayne and Kasey Kahne.

Logano led 37 laps.

There were two cautions for accidents in the stage.

The first caution came out on Lap 26 as a number of Chevrolet cars attempted to pit in a group. Jamie McMurray, a playoff driver, was slowing down to move to the apron when he was hit from behind by Erik Jones. The impact sent McMurray shooting to the outside wall where he collided with Jeffrey Earnhardt.

The impact with Earnhardt caused McMurray’s No. 1 Chevrolet to become briefly airborne. McMurray,  Earnhardt and Jones were eliminated. Kyle Busch was also involved. McMurray will finish in 37th.

“We wanted to pit a couple of laps earlier, and you’re somewhat dependent on the spotters to tell you when you’re going to pit,” McMurray told NBC. “You assume everyone is working as a group. It was my fault. I assumed that they said the 18 was going to let me in, so I thought we were all going to pit. I didn’t even know where the 77 was. When I got on the brakes, I thought we were all coming to pit road as a group. I’ll take the blame for that. I just kind of assumed we were coming to pit road right there. Obviously not everyone was.”

Mark Thompson was also involved and eliminated from the race.

Six drivers, including pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Paul Menard, Austin Dillon and Michael McDowell, were penalized for pitting too early.

Earnhardt, who led seven laps in the stage, was penalized again during the caution for Menard for speeding on pit road. He finished the stage in 27th.

The second incident was Menard hitting the wall with five laps left in the stage.

Stage 2 of the 188-lap race will end on Lap 110.

Jamie McMurray takes big hit to playoff advancement hopes in Talladega wreck

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Jamie McMurray came into today’s Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in the final transfer spot for the upcoming Round of 8.

Unfortunately, McMurray will likely leave Talladega below the transfer line heading to the cutoff race next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

McMurray was involved in a five-car wreck on Lap 27. He was attempting to come to pit road when he was pushed from behind by Erik Jones, turned hard right into the wall and collected Jeffrey Earnhardt, Mark Thompson and Chris Buescher.

“It was my fault, I had assumed (Kyle Busch) was going to let me in, I didn’t even know where (Jones) was,” McMurray said. “We were all coming to pit road as a group and I’ll take the blame for that.

“There’s nothing you can do about it, right? It’s part of Talladega and we know you can come out of here with a lot of points and be a winner, or come out in the position we’re in now, go to Kansas and do our best.”

Added Erik Jones:  “(Kyle Busch) started checking up in front of me and swerved, and (McMurray) was basically stopped on the track, it looked like he was trying to get from the top of the racetrack to the bottom. Unfortunately, there’s nothing we could really do. It’s just one of those things that happens here.”

 

Jeffrey Earnhardt to return to No. 33 car for 2018

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TALLADEGA, Alabama — Circle Sport Racing with TMG announced Sunday morning at Talladega Superspeedway that Jeffrey Earnhardt will return to drive the No. 33 next season.

Earnhardt is in his first season with the team. His best finish this season is 26th in the Daytona 500 and at Indianapolis.

Today’s race at Talladega Superspeedway marks Earnhardt’s 53rd career Cup race.

Despite struggles, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. advances in playoffs

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DOVER, Delaware — After multiple brushes with the wall and penalties in the opening round of the playoffs, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. found a way to advance.

Barely.

His emotion after Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway was relief mixed with the feeling that he and his team had not performed well in the first three races of the playoffs.

Still, Stenhouse’s 19th-place finish Sunday was good enough to beat Ryan Newman by two points for the final transfer spot to the Round of 12.

“It was a battle,’’ said Stenhouse, who advanced despite an average finish of 19.7 in the opening round. “The first three races were definitely not near as good as what we wanted. We didn’t have fast enough cars, we made too many mistakes.’’

He and his team fought through their woes the past three weeks and were rewarded with some luck at Dover.

A key point came when the caution waved on Lap 88 after Jeffrey Earnhardt spun into the barrels at pit entrance, spilling sand.

Stenhouse was to have pitted that lap but by staying out he was one of five drivers on the lead lap who had yet to pit. That put him in position to score points when the first stage ended on Lap 120. Stenhouse finished fourth in that stage, scoring seven points.

“Great strategy and it paid off,’’ said Stenhouse, who had not scored stage points in the previous six races. “We were able to get (seven) stage points and really that was the turning point of our day and gave us a lot of buffer.’’

Without those seven points, he wouldn’t have advanced in the playoffs.

Crew chief Brian Pattie said that with Stenhouse’s car not fast, it made sense to stay out as long as possible while “just hoping you weren’t the caution.

“I didn’t want to pit while I was on the lead lap. I didn’t want to pit while I was (in position for the free pass). It was just an educated guess.’’

Now, Stenhouse heads into a round that includes Talladega. He’s won the past two restrictor-plate races and suddenly becomes one to watch to advance to the Round of 8.

“Definitely, Talladega is our best track to grab a win,’’ Stenhouse said of the Oct. 15 race. “We knew coming into Dover that we probably didn’t have a car capable of winning. But Talladega, we feel confident going in that we’ve got that car. We’ve been working hard on all of our other programs, we just can’t get them up to speed. It’s been a struggle. We’ll see how it all plays out.’’

Stenhouse begins the next round in the final transfer spot. He holds a two-point lead on Ryan Blaney, a four-point lead on Chase Elliott, a five-point edge on Matt Kenseth and a seven-point lead on Jamie McMurray heading to Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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