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Miami represents final race for many Cup drivers with current teams

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In case you haven’t heard, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is making his final Cup start this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

He will retire from Cup competition after his last race driving Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 Chevrolet. He will be replaced by Alex Bowman next season.

But the 14-time most popular driver is one of many drivers making their last start with their current team.

The driver landscape in Cup will shift dramatically following Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

Here’s a breakdown of the rest of the drivers making final starts with their current teams.

Matt Kenseth – Making final start in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota in likely his last Cup race. Will be replaced in 2018 by Erik Jones. Kenseth has driven the No. 20 since 2013.

Erik Jones – Last start in Furniture Row Racing’s No. 77 Toyota after one season in the car, which the team won’t run in 2018 due to a lack of sponsorship. (Announcement made July 11)

Danica Patrick – Last start in Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 10 Ford, which she has driven since 2013. Losing ride due to lack of sponsorship. Will be replaced by Aric Almirola in 2018. (Announcement made Sept. 12)

Aric Almirola – Last start in Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 Ford, which he has driven since 2012. He will be replaced by Darrell Wallace Jr. in 2018 as he moves to Stewart-Haas Racing. (Announcement made Nov. 8)

Kasey Kahne – Last start in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevrolet, which he has driven since 2012. Losing ride due to lack of sponsorship. He will be replaced by Xfinity Series driver William Byron in 2018 as the No. 5 will become the No. 24. Kahne will drive the No. 95 Chevrolet for Leavine Family Racing. (Announcement made Sept. 19)

Michael McDowell – Last start in Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 Chevrolet, which he began driving in 2014 as an part-time ride. It became a full-time effort this season.

Ryan Blaney – Last start in Wood Brothers Racing’s No. 21 Ford, which he began driving part-time in 2015. He became a full-time driver in 2016. He will join Team Penske in 2018 driving the No. 12 Ford. Blaney will be replaced by Paul Menard(Announcement made July 26)

Paul Menard – Last start in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 27 Chevrolet, which he has driven since 2011. RCR has not announced plans for the No. 27 next season. Menard will be the 44th driver to compete for Wood Brothers Racing as he takes over the No. 21 Ford. (Announcement made July 26)

Landon Cassill – Last start in Front Row Motorsports’ No. 34 Ford, which he began driving this season. He joined Front Row Motorsports in 2016 driving the No. 38 Ford. FRM has not announced a new driver for the No. 34. Cassill has not announced his plans for 2018. (Announcement made on Oct. 9)

MORE: The future of Kurt Busch is still unknown. Busch has driven Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 41 Ford since 2014. The team announced in August it wasn’t picking up the option on his contract. Busch said after winning the pole at Texas two weeks ago that he and the team were still in negotiations.

“That’s our goal, is to have Kurt back in that car for next year,” co-owner Tony Stewart said at the time.

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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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Cup test begins today at Homestead-Miami Speedway

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Eight teams, including five in the playoffs, are scheduled to take part in an organizational test today and Thursday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in preparation for the Nov. 19 race that will crown the Cup champion.

Each organization is permitted to have one team at the test. Not all organizations are participating.

Scheduled to test are:

Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing)

Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing)

Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports)

Brad Keselowski (Team Penske)

Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing)

Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing)

Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas Racing)

Trevor Bayne (Roush Fenway Racing)

Each manufacturer will have its own car. Alex Bowman will drive the Chevrolet car, Landon Cassill will drive the Ford car, and Drew Herring will drive the Toyota car.

Testing is set to go from noon – 7 p.m. ET today and 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Thursday.

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Stats, results for Cup playoff elimination race at Kansas

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Martin Truex Jr. led 91 laps and bounced back from an early restart violation to win his seventh Cup race of the year in the playoff elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

The win by Truex in the Hollywood Casino 400 is a Cup record sixth win this year on a 1.5-mile track.

Truex was followed by Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were eliminated from the playoffs.

Click here for the full results.

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. wins at Kansas; Kenseth, Larson, McMurray, Stenhouse Jr. eliminated

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. remains at top of heap as NASCAR Cup playoffs advance to Round of 8

Six cars to miss time in final Cup practice session

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Six Cup teams, including playoff contenders Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray, will each miss 15 minutes of today’s final practice session at Kansas Speedway because of inspection issues, NASCAR announced.

Three teams were penalized 15 minutes in Saturday morning’s first practice – Derrike Cope, Landon Cassill and AJ Allmendinger. Each were penalized for being late to qualifying inspection Friday.

Teams penalized 15 minutes in final Cup practice will be Elliott, McMurray, Cope, Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard and Aric Almirola.

Bayne, Elliott and Almirola were penalized for failing qualifying/race inspection twice at Talladega.

Cope, McMurray and Menard were penalized for failing qualfiying qualifying inspection twice at Kansas.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 1:30 – 2:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN.