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Truck Series practice report from Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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Johnny Sauter was fastest in the last of two Camping World Truck Series practice sessions Thursday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The winner of last month’s Daytona race topped the session with a speed of 179.319 mph.

He was followed by Brett Moffitt (179.081), Noah Gragson (178.903), Stewart Friesen (178.678) and Kyle Busch (178.483).

Moffitt was second fastest in both sessions.

Busch recorded the most laps with 40.

Sauter had the best 10-lap average at 176.905 mph.

First practice

Justin Marks was fastest,  posting a top speed of 178.141 mph around the 1.5-mile track.

Marks is making his first Truck Series start since 2016.

He was followed by Atlanta winner Brett Moffitt (178.118), Noah Gragson (177.954), Johnny Sauter (177.942) and Kyle Busch (177.672).

Gragson led the session in laps led with 31.

Ben Rhodes had the best 10-lap average at 175.189 mph.

The second practice session is scheduled for 7:05 – 7:55 p.m. ET.

Speed Chart for Practice No. 1

Speed Chart for Practice No. 2

Cole Custer to make Cup debut at Las Vegas

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Cole Custer will make his Cup debut with Rick Ware Racing in the March 4 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the team confirmed Wednesday.

The 20-year-old Custer, who is in his second full season in the Xfinity Series, will drive the No. 51 car. That car has a charter and is guaranteed a starting spot. Custer took part in the Cup test at Las Vegas last month.

Haas Automation will be Custer’s sponsor.

“This is a dream come true to compete in the Cup Series,” Custer said in a team release. “I can’t thank Rick Ware Racing and Haas Automation enough for the opportunity to race at Las Vegas. It’s going to be a new experience for me, but I feel that we can have a productive day by completing all the laps and seeing the checkered flag.”

Custer has two career starts at Las Vegas. He placed third in the 2016 Camping World Truck Series race and was 11th in last year’s Xfinity race.

Custer will drive a Ford for Rick Ware Racing. Justin Marks drove for Rick Ware Racing in the Daytona 500 when the team fielded a Chevrolet. Harrison Rhodes will make his Cup debut this weekend in Atlanta for the team. That car also will be a Chevrolet.

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Overlooked stories from the Daytona 500

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The two defining stories coming out of the 60th Daytona 500 are Austin Dillon’s win and Darrell Wallace Jr.’s historic runner-up finish.

But there were 38 other drivers in the “Great American Race” with a few having career days at the 2.5-mile track.

Here’s a look at some of the overlooked stories of the race.

JTG-Daugherty Racing

The two-car team put both of its entries in the top 10 for the second year in a row.

A.J. Allmendinger brought his No. 47 Chevrolet home in 10th while Chris Buescher and his No. 37 Chevrolet finished fifth. It was Buescher’s seventh top 10 of his career.

Michael McDowell

In his first start with Front Row Motorsports, McDowell drove his No. 34 Ford to a ninth-place finish.

It is McDowell’s sixth top-10 finish in 250 Cup starts. It’s his second straight top 10 at Daytona after earning a career-best fourth-place finish last July.

It is FRM’s third top 10 at Daytona in 49 combined starts at the track.

Justin Marks

Though he didn’t finish on the lead lap, Marks still managed to earn the best finish of his four-race Cup career.

Driving the No. 51 for Rick Ware Racing and Premium Motorsports, Marks finished 12th. Previously he had finishes of 40th (Talladega, 2017) and 30th (Sonoma, 2013 and 2015).

Marks, 37, also led his first lap in Cup competition on Sunday.

Gray Gaulding

Driving BK Racing’s No. 23 Toyota, Gaulding made his first start in the Daytona 500 and finished 20th.

It capped off a week where Gaulding did not make a qualifying attempt for the race and BK Racing filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy the day of the qualifying duels.

Mark Thompson

A veteran of 100 ARCA Racing Series races, the 66-year-old driver from Cartersville, Georgia, made just his third Cup Series start on Sunday and his first in the Daytona 500. The race was also his final start in any racing series.

A Vietnam war veteran, Thompson drove the No. 66 for Carl Long to a 22nd-place finish.

Thanks to wrecks, Thompson finished ahead of Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, William Byron, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.

His previous two starts, in 1992 at Pocono and last year at Talladega, resulted in DNFs.

Thompson, who won the pole for the 2015 ARCA race at Daytona, failed to qualify for the Pepsi 400 at Daytona in 1993 and the 1994 Daytona 500.

D.J. Kennington

Making his second start in the Daytona 500, the Canadian driver earned his career-best result in six Cup starts when he placed 24th.

It topped his 26th-place finish last November at Phoenix.

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Todd Parrott joins Premium Motorsports as crew chief

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Todd Parrott, who won the 1999 Cup championship as crew chief for Dale Jarrett, has joined Premium Motorsports in the same role, the team announced Tuesday.

Parrott, who has 31 Cup wins, joins a leadership team that includes owner Jay Robinson, Scott Eggleston, Pat Tryson, Tommy Baldwin and Brian Keselowski.

“The addition of Todd Parrott is the culmination of a plan that started a couple of years ago,” Robinson said in a press release. “We wanted to assemble the most experienced professionals available to our team in an effort to stay relevant and competitive. We are very pleased to have Todd join our staff and are looking forward to this season as we continue to build this team.”

Parrott previously served as crew chief for Michael McDowell at Leavine Family Racing.

“I’m excited for my first day here at Premium Motorsports,” Parrott said in a team release. “I’ve been talking to Jay (Robinson) for about a month or so regarding the possibility of coming here to help him with this program. He has quite a few good people here like Pat Tryson, Scott Eggleston, Brian Keselowski and Tommy Baldwin who I actually worked with before. As I walked around the shop this morning I recognized several other people that I’ve worked with in the past as well, so I’m really looking forward to this new and different opportunity for me here. I just can’t wait to get going and get racing.”

Premium Motorsports will field entries for Danica Patrick and Justin Marks in the Feb. 18 Daytona 500. Patrick will drive the No. 7 Chevrolet and will be paired with crew chief Tony Eury Jr. Marks will drive the No. 51 Chevrolet that is also operated by Rick Ware Racing.

The team also fields entries in the Camping World Truck Series, an operation overseen by Keselowski.

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Justin Marks to drive No. 51 car in Daytona 500

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Rick Ware Racing and Premium Motorsports have aligned for Justin Marks to drive the No. 51 car in the Daytona 500.

Marks is guaranteed a starting spot because Rick Ware Racing has a charter, which is leased from Richard Petty Motorsports. Marks will drive a Chevrolet Camaro and be powered by ECR engines with sponsors Harry’s Shaving Products and Katerra on the car.

“Racing in the Daytona 500 is a dream come true,” Marks said in a statement from the team. “The team has taken a dramatic step forward for 2018 and I think we’re going to have some real good equipment for this year’s 500. Going down there in the race, without the drama of having to qualify, is going to relieve a lot of pressure and we can focus on our race car’s handling and race ability so were fully prepared for the event. Additionally, it’s awesome to welcome a new company, Harry’s, to NASCAR.  The car looks great, they’re excited, and it’s going to be fun to introduce NASCAR fans to a new way of shaving.”

This will be Marks’ fourth career Cup start and first in the 500. He has one victory in the Xfinity Series in 32 career starts.  Marks is competing fulltime in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for Michael Shank Racing. He told “Tradin Paint” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he was looking at running Cup road course races this year.

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