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Travis Mack named crew chief for Kasey Kahne in 2018

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Kasey Kahne will be paired with crew chief Travis Mack in 2018 in his first season in the No. 95 Chevrolet owned by Leavine Family Racing.

It will be Mack’s first full season as a Cup Series crew chief. He currently serves as the car chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports.

Kahne will replace Michael McDowell in the No. 95 after six seasons driving the No. 5 for Hendrick.

Mack experienced his first race as a crew chief this season in the regular-season finale at Richmond when Greg Ives was suspended.

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Mack joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2004. He moved to JR Motorsports in 2013, where he served as car chief for Regan Smith and Chase Elliott during Elliott’s 2014 championship season in the Xfinity Series. He became car chief on the No. 88 Cup car in 2015.

“As crew chief, Travis brings leadership and a solid experience to Leavine Family Racing,” said Jeremy Lange, VP and general manager of LFR in a press release. “His passion for racing and desire to win will fit well in our organization and, collectively, we all are looking forward to 2018 and beyond.”

Mack will remain with the No. 88 team through the end of the season.

MORE: Travis Mack delivers own baby daughter

Cody Coughlin fastest in first of two Truck practices at Talladega

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Given that it’s Friday the 13th, it’s fitting that Cody Coughlin — driver of the No. 13 Toyota — was fastest in the first of two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practices Friday morning at Talladega Superspeedway.

Coughlin had a top speed of 191.719 mph around the 2.66-mile, high-banked oval, the largest track in NASCAR.

John Hunter Nemechek was second at 191.260 mph, followed by Regan Smith (190.518), Las Vegas winner Ben Rhodes (190.465), Grant Enfinger (190.374), Justin Haley (190.370), Johnny Sauter (190.208), Parker Kligerman (189.858), Matt Crafton (189.451) and Kaz Grala (189.058).

Points leader Christopher Bell was 17th fastest at 181.470 mph.

A total of 30 Trucks took to the track for the session.

The second and final practice session will be this afternoon from 2 – 2:55 p.m. ET on FS1.

Click here for the full practice speed chart.

Johnny Sauter wins Truck Series race at Chicago

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Johnny Sauter led the final 28 laps to win the Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

The win, in the regular-season finale, is the second of the year for the GMS Racing driver.

Sauter beat Chase Briscoe, Christopher Bell, Ryan Truex and Grant Enfinger. Sauter took the lead from Bell before racing to the win.

“This is what we needed, this is the momentum, this is the shot in the arm,” Sauter told Fox Sports 1.

Ben Rhodes, who finished sixth, earned the last spot in the playoffs via a tiebreaker over Truex.

Rhodes bounced back from a pit penalty and a second pit stop under yellow to race into the playoffs.

“Man, I still can’t believe it,” Rhodes told FS1. “They gave me the (playoff) hat and I’m like, ‘Are you sure this is ours?’ They said we were tied and we got the tiebreaker. I can’t believe it. The truck, all night we struggled. Ever since we unloaded here this has been by far our worst performance overall. It couldn’t come in a worse week to do it. I’m glad we’re in. Overall, everything worked out for us.”

Competing for the Truck Series title will be Bell, Sauter, John Hunter Nemechek, Matt Crafton, Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Rhodes and Kaz Grala.

Truex lost out on a playoff spot after sitting on his first pole and leading 30 laps.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Ryan Truex

STAGE 2 WINNER: Christopher Bell

MORE: Points standings

MORE: Race results

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: John Hunter Nemechek finished seventh for his eighth top 10 … Myatt Snider finished 10th after bouncing back from a spin with six laps to go in Stage 1. It’s his second top 10 in five Truck Series starts … Regan Smith finished 12th. He’s finished in the top 15 in eight of his nine starts. He’s finished 12th four times. … Tyler Young finished 13th for his best result in six starts this season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: After making contact with Rhodes during the Stage 3 restart, Matt Crafton dropped through the field before spinning on Lap 106. He finished 16th … Gray Gaulding only made it one lap before his No. 15 truck stalled, bringing out the caution. He continued but fell out on Lap 25 with a fuel pump issue.

NOTABLE: Christopher Bell enters the postseason as the regular-season champion thanks to his four wins. That gives him 15 extra playoff points … Chase Briscoe remains winless despite five finishes in the top three this season.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “It’s tough, but it’s racing. We did everything we could aside from win.” – Ryan Truex after missing out on the playoffs due to a tiebreaker with Ben Rhodes.

NEXT: UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway at 1 p.m. ET on Sept. 23 on Fox Sports 1.

Who’s hot, who’s not, heading into Darlington

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Just two races remain for drivers to make – or miss – the upcoming NASCAR Cup playoffs.

This weekend, the series moves to the Track Too Tough To Tame, Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500.

The 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval is considered by many drivers as the most difficult track on the NASCAR Cup circuit.

This will be the 114th NASCAR Cup race to be held at the track also nicknamed the Lady In Black.

Johnny Mantz won the first NASCAR Cup race at Darlington in 1950. Martin Truex Jr. won the most recent race there, last year’s Southern 500.

There have been 11 different winners in the last 11 races.

There are only two races left in the regular season for drivers to qualify for the 16-driver NASCAR Cup playoffs. Drivers below the playoff cutoff line are in must-win situations, including Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Here’s the hottest of the hot and, well, the not so hot:

Cup – Who Is Hot

No. 18 Kyle Busch (Hot)

  • Won the Trifecta at Bristol: Truck, NXS and Cup races
  • Two wins this season, both came in the last four races (Wins at Pocono and Bristol)
  • Finished top 10 in the last four races, best streak this season
  • One Southern 500 win, 2008
  • Worst finish in the last seven races at Darlington is 11th with five top 10s

No. 11 Denny Hamlin (Hot, Great at Darlington)

  • Third at Bristol
  • Top 4 finishes in seven of the last 10 races including a win at NH
  • One Darlington win, 2010
  • Nine top 10 finishes in 11 races at Darlington, average finish of 6.2, the best all-time among drivers with more than two starts there

No. 4 Kevin Harvick (Hot)

  • Finished 8th at Bristol
  • Finished top-10 in 13 of the last 18 races of 2017
  • One Darlington win, 2014 from the pole
  • Finished top five in the last four races at Darlington
  • Led over 200 laps in two of the last three races at Darlington

No. 77 Erik Jones (Hot but must win, points no longer an option)

  • Finished career best second at Bristol after winning his first career pole and leading 260 laps
  • Finished top 10 in the last four races, best streak of his career
  • One start at Darlington, NXS last year, finished sixth

No. 42 Kyle Larson (Hot in 2017, Good at Darlington)

  • Finished ninth at Bristol, second straight top 10 finish
  • Three wins in 2017, all came on 2.0 mile tracks
  • Finished second in seven races this year
  • Top 10 finishes in all three career Darlington starts, best finish of third last year

No. 19 Daniel Suarez (Hot)

  • Finished 15th at Bristol
  • Finished top-15 in five of last six races including four top-10s
  • Won the Open at Charlotte
  • Will be first Cup start at Darlington, finished top five in both NXS starts at Darlington

No. 78 Martin Truex Jr (Hot, Good at Darlington)

  • Finished 21stat Bristol, speeding penalty
  • Finished in the top-10 16 times this season, the most
  • Won 15 stages this season, the most
  • 35 Playoff Points this season
  • Wins at Las Vegas, Kansas, Kentucky and Watkins Glen
  • Led a series high 1372 laps in 2017, led the most laps in seven races
  • Won this race last year at Darlington, led 28 laps
  • Furniture Row Racing’s first career win came at Darlington with Regan Smith in 2011

No. 20 Matt Kenseth (Hot, Great at Darlington)

  • Finished 4th at Bristol, five top 10 finishes in the last six races, all but Michigan, flat tire in OT while 
running 3rd
  • Now 15th in the playoff standings, +61
  • One Darlington win, 2013
  • Finished top six in four of the last five races at Darlington

Cup – Who is Not

No. 3 Austin Dillon (Has a win but is NOT HOT)

  • 39th at Bristol, only one top 10 finish in the last 12 races
  • Won on fuel mileage at Charlotte
  • Only three top 10 finishes this season, had 10 at this point last year
  • Three Darlington starts, best finish of 11th in 2014

No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr (Running out of time)

  • 23rd at Bristol, last top 10 was Sonoma in June (sixth)
  • Only two top-10s in the last 12 races
  • Finished top 10 in his last three Darlington starts including runner up in 2014. DNC in 2016 at Darlington

No. 5 Kasey Kahne (Not, Not, Not… won)

  • Finished 24th at Bristol, only one top 10 finish in the last 14 races, win at Indy
  • Six DNFs from accident this season
  • Won at Indianapolis ending a 102 race winless streak, took a super lucky timed caution and turned it 
into a win
  • Best finish at Darlington in 14 starts is third in 2005
  • Won the pole four times at Darlington
  • Two truck wins at Darlington

No. 22 Joey Logano (Reason for concern, Good lately at Darlington)

  • 13th at Bristol
  • 10 finishes outside the top 20 in the last 15 races
  • Won at Richmond in April but was encumbered
  • Now 117 points outside the bubble, he must win to make the playoffs
  • Finished top five in his last two Darlington starts including fourth in 2015, his best finish there

Bump & Run: Favorite throwback paint schemes for Southern 500

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1. What is the Throwback paint scheme you’re looking forward the most to see this weekend at Darlington Raceway?

(Images here)

Nate Ryan: Danica Patrick’s Ford Credit No. 10. It’s a true throwback that pays homage to a champion who always carried himself well in and out of the car. Though most fans probably associate Dale Jarrett with UPS, this is the primary sponsor that evokes the fondest memories of DJ’s career for me.

Dustin Long: Matt DiBenedetto’s car resembles Bobby Allison’s 1988 Miller High Life car, which was one of my favorite cars. Dylan Lupton’s Xfinity car, which resembles Jeff Gordon’s “Rainbow Warrior” paint scheme also looks sharp.

Daniel McFadin: I’m going to go with Clint Bowyer‘s Carolina Ford Dealers scheme, which is what Mark Martin drove from 1988-91 in the Xfinity Series. It hits that very specific sweet spot of looking both incredibly tacky in a way only a late 80s/early 90s scheme could while looking awesome at the same time.

Jerry Bonkowski: Nothing looks cooler or more intimidating than a black car. And when it channels the fabled “Midnight” car Rusty Wallace used to drive in the mid-1990s, it’s all the more badass. That’s why I’m picking Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford as the scheme I’m looking forward to the most at Darlington.

2. What’s another underdog win in NASCAR that compares to Jeremy Clements’ victory at Road America?

Nate Ryan: It ranks as the biggest upset since David Gilliland’s 2006 victory at Kentucky Speedway. That win catapulted Gilliland into a Cup ride with Robert Yates Racing. Clements has paid his dues to be deserving of a similar shot with a decent team.

Dustin Long: David Gilliland’s 2006 Xfinity win at Kentucky Speedway in an unsponsored car for a team that went away after that season. 

Daniel McFadin: Greg Sacks winning the 1985 Firecracker 400. He made 263 Cup starts from 1983-2005 with only one full season (1994). In an unsponsored research-and-development car for DiGard, Sacks led 33 laps and beat Bill Elliott by 23.5 seconds for his only Cup victory.

Jerry Bonkowski: A.J. Allmendinger‘s 2013 win at Road America stands out to me. After missing a good chunk of 2012 serving a suspension for violating NASCAR’s Substance Abuse policy, Allmendinger earned his first career Xfinity win driving for Team Penske, which gave him a second chance. Ironically, Allmendinger would make just two Xfinity starts in 2013 for Team Penske, and won both of them (the other coming at Mid-Ohio).

3. There have been 11 different winners* since 2006 in the Southern 500. What kind of odds do you put at there being a 12th different winner this weekend?

Nate Ryan: About 10-1. There are four drivers who are serious threats, and each already has a victory this season — Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick. Matt Kenseth has the best chance of the winless candidates.

Dustin Long: 75-1 that there will be a different winner than there has been since 2006. Darlington isn’t a track everyone has an even chance at. The winner will be someone who has won at Darlington since 2006.

Daniel McFadin: Seeing as how five of those 11 drivers are no longer competing in Cup or are retired, I think there are good odds. But Kyle Busch (2008) and Martin Truex Jr. (2016) should be favorites. 

Jerry Bonkowski: I think it goes 12-for-12 Sunday, with the most likely suspects to win being those who are most in dire need of a win to make the NASCAR Cup playoffs: Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Erik Jones. And don’t count out Kurt Busch, who has never won at the Track Too Tough To Tame.

* Previous winners at Darlington

2006 — Greg Biffle

2007 — Jeff Gordon

2008 — Kyle Busch

2009 — Mark Martin

2010 — Denny Hamlin

2011 — Regan Smith

2012 — Jimmie Johnson

2013 — Matt Kenseth

2014 — Kevin Harvick

2015 — Carl Edwards

2016 — Martin Truex Jr.