Blake Koch

Numerous wrecks fill final segment of Xfinity race at Mid-Ohio (videos)

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Drivers got pretty aggressive in the final 35 laps of Saturday’s Mid-Ohio Challenge NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And with aggressiveness usually comes wrecks, and that was certainly the case here.

First, as almost a warm-up of things to come, five drivers were involved in a wreck on Lap 53, when Brennan Poole spun out Blake Koch and collected Spencer Gallagher, Jeremy Clements and Regan Smith.

Then on Lap 59, Justin Marks and Regan Smith tangled, with Ryan Reed being unable to avoid Marks, virtually wiping out the front end on Reed’s Ford.

Then, almost as if the previous wrecks built up to a crescendo, the biggest wreck of the race occurred with just six laps to go. The wreck involved 10 drivers and brought out a red flag.

It was a wild day, indeed.

 

Sam Hornish Jr. feels right at home, takes Xfinity pole at Mid-Ohio

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Given that he’s an Ohio resident and has made countless trips to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as both a driver and a fan, it’s not surprising Sam Hornish Jr. felt right at home in Saturday’s Xfinity Series qualifying there.

Hornish was fastest of the 40 drivers in the field to earn the pole for this afternoon’s Mid-Ohio Challenge (3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Hornish covered the course at a top speed of 96.863 mph. Elliott Sadler was second at 95.779 mph, followed by Blake Koch (95.574), Ryan Reed (95.439) and Matt Tifft (95.232).

Sixth through 10th were Daniel Hemric (95.188), Ben Kennedy (95.037), Justin Allgaier (94.997), Cole Custer (96.760) and Brennan Poole (92.535).

There was one significant incident in the closing laps when Cole Custer wrecked at the end of his qualifying lap. His Ford suffered significant front end damage, and will likely have to go to a backup car for this afternoon’s race.

Click here for the full qualifying grid.

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Breaking down NASCAR’s rule to further limit Cup drivers in Xfinity, Trucks (video)

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NASCAR announced Tuesday further limitations on Cup drivers in the Xfinity and Truck Series for 2018.

Here’s a look at the new guidelines and what all this means.

WHAT ARE THE NEW GUIDELINES?

In 2018, any driver who scores Cup points will be barred from competing in the final eight races of the Xfinity and Truck Series in 2018 (that’s the regular-season finale and the playoffs).

Any driver who scores Cup points will be barred from competing in the Dash 4 Cash races in the Xfinity Series in 2018.

Cup drivers with more than five years of experience in that series, will be limited to seven Xfinity races and five Truck races.

WHAT CHANGED?

This year, Cup drivers with less than five years experience are allowed to compete in the playoffs in the Xfinity and Truck Series. The exception is that any driver scoring Cup points is prohibited from competing in the Xfinity and Truck championship race at Homestead.

This year, Cup drivers with less than five years experience were allowed in compete in the four Dash 4 Cash races.

This year, Cup drivers with more than five years experience in that series are allowed to compete in 10 Xfinity races and seven Truck races this year.

WHY IS THIS BEING DONE?

NASCAR states it is being done to give younger drivers more opportunities to compete in the Xfinity and Truck races. Also, NASCAR is not tone-deaf to complaints by fans about seeing Cup drivers dominate the Xfintiy Series in particular.

Cup drivers won 11 of the first 13 Xfinity races this season. Cup drivers won three of the four Dash 4 Cash races, no doubt a reason for barring Cup drivers in those events next year.

IS THIS BEING DONE TO THWART Kyle Busch?

Your viewpoint depends on if you are a Kyle Busch fan. It could make his quest for 100 series wins (he’s at 89) take longer with fewer races per year. He has won 19 of the 39 Xfinity races he’s started since 2015. He’s won six of the 13 Truck races he’s started since 2015.

WILL THIS WORK IN ALLOWING MORE DRIVERS OPPORTUNITIES TO RACE IN THE XFINTY OR TRUCK SERIES?

It will come down to sponsorship. With top Xfintiy rides costing about $160,000 a race, the question is if enough drivers will be able to find that money to pay to race.

Kevin Harvick has raised the issue that Xfinity teams are able to offer lower rates for young drivers to pay to race because those teams have Cup drivers in their cars that bring higher sponsorship dollars.

Will this rule change those dynamics and raise the price for young drivers to buy their opportunities?

Will teams decide it’s not worth it to lower the cost for drivers to pay and decide to skip some races?

If that happens, will NASCAR eventually decide to cut the field size further?

Will fans who have complained about Cup drivers in the Xfinity and Truck Series begin attending or watching more of these races?

WHAT CUP DRIVERS HAVE WON XFINTIY RACES THIS YEAR?

3 – Kyle Busch (Atlanta, Kentucky, New Hampshire)

3 – Kyle Larson (Auto Club, Richmond, Dover)

2 – Erik Jones (Texas, Bristol)

1 – Joey Logano (Las Vegas)

1 – Aric Almirola (Talladega)

1 – Ryan Blaney (Charlotte)

1 – Brad Keselowski (Pocono)

1 – Denny Hamlin (Michigan)

ANY CONSIDERATION OF LIMITING A CUP TEAM’S PARTICIPATION IN EITHER SERIES?

“Not any serious consideration,’’ Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It’s something that we’ve not taken a hard look. I suppose we could. I think there are different ways of going about it. I think the path we’re on will continue to satisfy both sides for the fans as well as our current teams. We certainly don’t take for granted the interest and the participation of some of our Cup teams in the Xfinity and the Camping World Truck Series.

WHAT XFINTIY RACES WILL CUP DRIVERS NOT BE ALLOWED TO RACE IN 2018?

Las Vegas (Sept. 15), Richmond (Sept. 21), Charlotte (Sept. 29), Dover (Oct. 6), Kansas (Oct. 20), Texas (Nov. 3), Phoenix (Nov. 10) and Homestead (Nov. 17).

All Cup drivers will be barred from the Dash 4 Cash races. Those races for 2018 have not been announced. In 2017, those races were the spring events at Phoenix, Bristol, Richmond and Dover.

WHAT TRUCK RACES WILL CUP DRIVERS NOT BE ALLOWED TO RACE IN 2018?

Bristol (Aug. 15), Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Aug. 26), Las Vegas (Sept. 14), Talladega (Oct. 13), Martinsville (Oct. 27), Texas (Nov. 2), Phoenix (Nov. 9) and Homestead (Nov. 16).

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:

Xfinity drive Blake Koch told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “I prefer standalone races with the Xfinity guys. The one thing I love about going to Iowa is that every fan you meet, every fan you see, they’re there to watch your race and watch your series compete. … I always like racing against my competitors that we’re racing for in points. Every single car you’re racing against, every single person, it matters and you want to beat every car. Put seven or eight Cup guys in there and they don’t really have anything to lose, they’re just going for a win and it’s a different race. It’s almost like two different races going on the race track.’’

Kyle Larson tweeted: “I don’t mind the rule but the bar is set higher with Cup guys racing and I believe it helps the future competitiveness of our sport by…. Allowing them to compete and learn off of us. I would not have been ready for Cup in 14 without getting beat by the 18/22 and others.’’

Garrett Smithley told NBC Sports: I always have mixed feelings on the matter. I understand personally and in a business sense why the Cup drivers come down to the Xfinity series and race. But, with that said, you look at Iowa last weekend. Ryan Preece got in the 20 car. He wouldn’t have had the opportunity if there was a Cup guy in it. So I think there is a place for Cup drivers in the Xfinity Series. Me personally I’ve learned from them. I’ve tried to gain their respect. I feel I’ve done a pretty good job of that. When you get up behind those guys and run with them you learn from them. You see different lines and do different things. I enjoy running with them, but at the same time the less Cup drivers that are in the races, the more opportunities that guys like myself would get.

Ben Kennedy roars to top of speed chart late in final Xfinity practice at Iowa

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Ben Kennedy was fastest in Friday’s final Xfinity Series practice at Iowa Speedway.

Kennedy covered the 7/8-mile track with a field-best speed of 129.929 mph late in the session. Ryan Preese continued to have a strong weekend with a second-best speed of 128.977 mph.

Sam Hornish Jr., who was fastest in the first practice, was third in the second practice (128.877 mph), followed by Kyle Benjamin (128.845) and Blake Koch (128.566).

Only one incident took place during the session. With about 17 minutes left, the No. 78 of Tommy Joe Martins spun in Turn 4. He did not hit anything and took his car onto pit road.

Fourty trucks took to the track. Qualifying for and the actual U.S. Cellular 250 race will both be held Saturday.

Click here for the speed chart for final practice.

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Eleven Cup teams to lose practice time at New Hampshire

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Kyle Larson and Clint Bowyer each will sit out 30 minutes of Saturday’s final Cup practice for failing inspection before last weekend’s Monster Energy Cup race at Kentucky Speedway, NASCAR announced Friday.

They are among 11 Cup teams and seven Xfinity teams that will miss practice time this weekend because of inspection issues at previous events.

Four Cup drivers – Landon Cassill, Gray Gaulding, Cole Whitt and Michael McDowell – will each miss 15 minutes of practice in today’s practice session, which runs from 11:30 a.m. – 12:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App. Each is penalized for being late to inspection before last weekend’s event at Kentucky.

Five Cup drivers – Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Chase Elliott, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. – each will miss 15 minutes of Saturday’s final practice session. Each is penalized for failing inspection before last weekend’s race at Kentucky.

In the Xfinity Series, the cars of Ben Kennedy, Michael Annett and Blake Koch will be held 15 minutes for failing inspection before the Kentucky race.

The cars of BJ McLeod, Carl Long, Brennan Poole and David Starr also will miss 15 minutes of practice. Each had penalties that were deferred from Kentucky.

The Xfinity teams will miss time during today’s first practice, which is scheduled to go from 1 – 1:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.

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