Matt DiBenedetto

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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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Keep up with all the Silly Season changes for 2018 with this scorecard

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Aric Almirola became the latest driver to secure a ride for 2018 when Stewart-Haas Racing announced Wednesday that he’ll drive the No. 10 car.

Even with that announcement, more questions remain on which drivers will be in what rides next season.

Here’s a look at where Silly Season stands as Cup teams head to Phoenix Raceway for Sunday’s playoff race.

ANNOUNCED RIDES FOR 2018

— Aric Almirola will join Stewart-Haas Racing and drive the No. 10 car. (announcement made Nov. 8)

Darrell Wallace Jr. will join Richard Petty Motorsports and drive the No. 43 car. (announcement made Oct. 25)

Kasey Kahne will join Leavine Family Racing and drive the No. 95 car. (announcement made Sept. 19)

Ty Dillon signs a multi-year contract to remain at Germain Racing and drive the No. 13 car. Sponsor Geico also extends its deal with the team (announcement made Sept. 5)

Chris Buescher signs a multi-year contract to remain at JTG Daugherty and drive the No. 37 car. (announcement made Aug. 18)

Matt DiBenedetto will remain with Go Fas Racing in the team’s No. 32 car (announcement made Aug. 12)

William Byron will drive the No. 24 at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Kasey Kahne (announcement made Aug. 9)

Paul Menard moves to Wood Brothers Racing to drive the No. 21 car (announcement made July 26)

Ryan Blaney moves to Team Penske to drive the No. 12 car and signs a multi-year contract extension (announcement made July 26)

Brad Keselowski agrees to contract extension to drive the No. 2 car for Team Penske (announcement made July 25

Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. (announcement made July 20)

Erik Jones will drive the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing, replacing Matt Kenseth (announcement made July 11)

OPEN RIDES

— No. 27: Richard Childress Racing states it will announce plans for a third Cup team at a later date with Paul Menard joining the Wood Brothers for next season. Key will be sponsorship money on what happens with that car.

— No. 34: Front Row Motorsports informed Landon Cassill on Oct. 9 that he would not be returning to the team next season. The team has not announced its driver lineup for next season. 

— No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing declined to pick up the option on Kurt Busch’s contract for next year on Aug. 1. Even so, the team tweeted that it expected Busch back with sponsor Monster Energy for next year. Busch said Nov. 3 that “we are in negotiations’’ to remain in the No. 41. Co-owner Tony Stewart said Nov. 5: “That’s our goal, is to have Kurt back in that car for next year.’’

AVAILABLE DRIVERS

Matt Kenseth: He said Nov. 4 on the NASCAR on NBC podcast that he has “decided to take some time off” after the 2018 season. Kenseth isn’t using the word retirement but says he has no ride for 2018.

Kurt Busch: With Stewart-Haas Racing declining to pick up his option for next year, Busch is a free agent. Even with Stewart-Haas Racing’s action, there’s still a good chance Busch signs a deal to remain with the organization.

Danica Patrick: She will not return to Stewart-Haas Racing after this season. Patrick has not announced any plans for next season. She’s not looking for a ride in the Xfinity Series. “Cup only,’’ she said.  

Michael McDowellWill not return to Leavine Family Racing with Kasey Kahne joining the team next season.

Landon CassillSearching for a ride after being informed he will not be back at Front Row Motorsports. He said Oct. 10 that he did not have sponsorship to bring with him at the time.

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Big wreck brings out red flag late in race at Talladega; 17 cars involved

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With just 16 laps to go, a major wreck prompted NASCAR to throw the red flag for cleanup in the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The 17-car pileup seemed to begin when David Ragan lost control of his No. 38 Ford, triggering havoc in virtually every direction.

Six playoff-eligible drivers were involved: Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth.

“(Ragan) ended up just parked in front of us,” Stenhouse told NBC. “We felt we had a car that was capable of contending for a win. It’s a bummer we didn’t get the win. … Just wasn’t our day.”

Added Kyle Busch, “Just never saw it coming. Unfortunately, we got caught up in the mess, none of our doing. We’ll just have to go on and go to Kansas.”

Added Truex, “I tried to get in a hole that was closing up at the wrong time. I got into the 38 in the right rear and it all got squirelly. We had nothing to lose today, but at the same time you don’t want to be the person that causes others problems. I’ve never been that guy here before, but today it looks like it was. I just wish I didn’t make that mistake. Bad judgment. I should have been more patient.”

Non-playoff drivers involved included pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. (who only had minor damage and was able to continue on), along with Austin Dillon, Landon Cassill, Michael McDowell, Brendan Gaughan, Matt DiBenedetto, Ragan, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Ty Dillon and Danica Patrick.

The race was red-flagged for 12 minutes, 30 seconds before resuming under caution.

Jimmie Johnson complained that NASCAR officials gave his team approval to work on the car on pit road, but it was subsequently sent to the garage for doing so (repairs aren’t permitted under the red flag), leaving Johnson to question the call.

22 Cup cars to miss practice time at Talladega for inspection issues

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TALLADEGA, Alabama — Twenty-two Cup cars will miss practice time Friday at Talladega Superspeedway because of inspection issues.

Nineteen cars that are missing practice time are holdovers from last weekend at Charlotte when rain canceled two sessions .

Two cars will miss practice time in Friday’s opening practice. AJ Allmendinger and Martin Truex Jr. both will miss 30 minutes Friday. Both also will miss 15 minutes of practice in the final session.

Missing 15 minutes in the final practice will be: Austin Dillon, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, DJ Kennington, Chris Buescher, Jimmie Johnson and Michael McDowell.

Missing 30 minutes of final practice will be: Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Trevor Bayne, Chase Elliott, Matt DiBenedetto, Erik Jones and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Opening practice today is from 1-1:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Final Cup practice today is from 3-3:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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19 Cup cars to miss part of final practice at Talladega for inspection issues

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CONCORD, North Carolina — Nineteen Cup teams will miss at least 15 minutes of practice in next week’s final session at Talladega SuperSpeedway for inspection issues, NASCAR announced.

Teams were to have served the penalties Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway but rain washed out the final practice session.

NASCAR stated that teams that must miss 15 minutes of practice are those of Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez, Gray Gaulding, Chris Buescher, Jimmie Johnson and Michael McDowell

Teams that will be forced to miss 30 minutes of practice time are those of Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Trevor Bayne, Chase Elliott, Matt DiBenedetto, Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The cars of McMurray, DiBenedetto, Gaulding and Earnhardt were penalized 15 minutes each for failing inspection before last weekend’s race at Dover twice.

The cars of Kahne, Bayne, Elliott and Truex were penalized 30 minutes each for failing inspection three times before last weekend’s race at Dover.

The cars of Bowyer, Harvick, Dillon, McDowell, Patrick, Suarez, Stenhouse, McMurray, Johnson, DiBenedetto, Earnhardt, Busch and Buescher were penalized 15 minutes each for failing qualifying inspection twice Friday at Charlotte.

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