A quiet moment among a chaotic scene

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JOLIET, Illinois — Amid the celebration, there was a moment of reflection for Martin Truex Jr.

A day after former NASCAR modified champion Ted Christopher died in a plane crash, Truex won the Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Christopher, 59, and a pilot were killed when their plane went down in a wooded area near Guilford, Connecticut. They were the only people onboard.

Truex, who is from New Jersey, raced against Christopher and credited Christopher with helping him.

“I definitely thought about him,’’ Truex told NBC Sports. “It was such shocking news to hear it. I initially thought back to the days racing with him and thought of the respect I had for him and what he means to short track racing in the Northeast where I grew up and where I cut my teeth.

“Racing with guys like him is what gave me the opportunity and skills to move to North Carolina and get hired to drive cars for a living. I flashed back to my Busch North days initially and remembered racing with him at Stafford and New Hampshire and Thompson and all those places we got to race with him.

“Even before I started racing, watching him race modifieds and knowing how much he meant to Northeastern motorsports and the kind of driver he was. He was definitely a hard-nosed driver and somebody you had to respect on the race track or he would show you. Definitely cool to win and say that we were thinking about his friends and family, and hopefully they can find some peace and celebrate him as a person.’’

STEADY AS THEY GO

While a number of playoff teams and drivers had mistakes or misfortune, reigning champion Jimmie Johnson drove a steady race and finished eighth.

It tied for his best finish since his June 4 win at Dover.

Johnson’s run Sunday was not spectacular but it wasn’t hurt by some sort of issue that plagued so many of his competitors (Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon had pit road penalties, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the wall and had a commitment line violation, Jamie McMurray spun.) He ran between eighth and 12th much of the day and scored the finish he needed. For that, it was a win for Johnson, who is 20 points ahead of the cutoff with two races to go.

“Playoff pressure gets everybody at some point (but) we’re usually not as sensitive as others,’’ Johnson told NBC Sports.

His finish Sunday was his best at Chicagoland Speedway since a fifth-place result in 2013 — when he won the sixth of his seven titles. Johnson finished 12th last year on the way to winning the crown.

HALF FULL AND HALF EMPTY LOOK

Jamie McMurray said he thought he had a fifth-place car.

He finished 10th.

So a loss there, but McMurray spun after contact with Ryan Newman’s car with just under 100 laps left.

“The backstretch is curved here and I think I just didn’t leave Ryan enough room,’’ McMurray said. “I really wasn’t racing anybody. It was a restart and you’re just trying to get all situated. I knew he was there, I could see him. I guess I didn’t leave him enough room.’’

After falling back to 16th for the restart, McMurray scored his third top-10 result in the last five races.

So, it was a win in that sense.

It helped that there weren’t many cars on the lead lap after his spin and that McMurray said he had a good car on restarts.

By gaining six spots — and six points — McMurray is five points ahead of the cutoff with two races to go. He has 2,031 points. Austin Dillon and Kurt Busch each have 2,026 points after Chicagoland.

That’s significant for McMurray, who has never made it out of the first round of the playoffs and entered this year’s postseason with the fewest playoff points (three) of the 16 drivers.

PIT STOPS

Landon Cassill’s 20th-place finish was his first top-20 at a non-restrictor-plate track this season. In the last three races, Cassill has finished 21st (Darlington), 39th (Richmond) and 20th (Chicagoland) … Seven drivers were caught speeding on pit road Sunday: Corey LaJoie (twice), Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, Matt DiBenedetto, Kurt Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

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Kyle Larson leads final Cup practice at Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. – Kyle Larson posted the fastest lap in Friday’s final Cup practice session at Richmond Raceway.

He led the way with a lap of 120.235 mph.

Joey Logano, who needs to win Saturday night to earn a playoff spot, was next at 120.208 mph. He was followed by rookie Daniel Suarez (119.925 mph), points leader Martin Truex Jr. (119.697) and Matt Kenseth (119.564).

Erik Jones, who had to sit out 60 minutes of the 85-minute session for inspection issues last weekend at Darlington, ran only five laps. He ranked 26th on the speed chart at 117.976 mph. Landon Cassill, who also was penalized 60 minutes of practice time, ran 11 laps in the session and ranked 20th on the speed chart at 118.172 mph.

Truex had the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 117.480 mph. Kyle Busch was next at 117.362 mph.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for full practice report

NASCAR docks 7 Cup teams practice time at Richmond

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Erik Jones and Landon Cassill each will miss one hour of Friday’s final practice session for failing inspection multiple times last weekend at Darlington Raceway.

They are among seven Cup teams that will lose time in the final practice session, which will be held from noon to 1:25 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Those penalized are:

Jones will lose 60 minutes of final practice after failing qualifying inspection three times and inspection before the race three times at Darlington.

Cassill will lose 60 minutes of final practice after failing inspection before the race four times at Darlington.

Clint Bowyer will sit for 30 minutes of final practice because his team failed qualifying inspection at Darlington three times.

Matt Kenseth will be docked 30 minutes of final practice because his team failed qualifying inspection at Darlington three times.

Jamie McMurray will miss 15 minutes of final practice after failing qualifying inspection twice at Darlington.

Austin Dillon will miss 15 minutes of final practice after failing race inspection twice at Darlington.

Kevin Harvick will miss 15 minutes of final practice after failing race inspection twice at Darlington.

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Results, stats for the 68th Southern 500

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Denny Hamlin overcame missing pit road with 54 laps left to win Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

The door was opened for Hamlin when Martin Truex Jr. hit the wall with a flat tire, allowing Hamlin to lead the final three laps.

It is Hamlin’s second win in the Southern 500 after claiming victory in 2010.

Hamlin beat Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Erik Jones.

Click here for the full results.

Retro Rundown 2017: Southern 500 throwback paint schemes

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It’s finally here!

NASCAR’s throwback week is capped off by tonight’s Southern 500 on NBCSN.

That means what was once old is new again and that goes with the latest parade of retro paint schemes.

Here’s your guide to all the paint schemes that will be driven in the Southern 500.

Jamie McMurray – The No. 1 Chevrolet will be modeled after the No. 1 car David Pearson won his final Cup race withat Darlington in 1980.

Brad Keselowski – Keselowski will pilot the “Midnight” paint scheme Rusty Wallace made famous in the mid-90s during his time in Team Penske’s No. 2 car. This isn’t the first time Keselowski has driven this look. It was on his No. 2 Ford in August 2015 at Michigan.

Austin Dillon – This year marks the 30th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s 1987 win in the Southern 500. Richard Childress Racing is honoring that achievement by putting Earnhardt’s Wrangler paint scheme from that year on Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet and Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet.

Kevin Harvick – The No. 4 Busch Chevrolet will have a paint scheme that is based on the “Head for the Mountains” commercials from the 1980s. Harvick won the 2014 Southern 500.

Kasey Kahne  Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet will pay tribute to Geoffrey Bodine, the first driver to win for Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series. The paint scheme is the same one Bodine had on the No. 5 in 1985 when it was sponsored by Levi Garrett.

Trevor Bayne – The No. 6 Ford will resemble the car Mark Martin drove when the No. 6 was sponsored by Stroh Light from 1988-89. Darrell Wallace Jr. drove the paint scheme in the 2016 Xfinity race at Darlington.

Danica Patrick – The No. 10 Ford will have the paint scheme that Dale Jarrett used in his 1999 Cup Series championship year when he drove for Robert Yates Racing. Patrick also will be sponsored by Ford Credit, which was a sponsor on Jarrett’s No. 88 Ford that season.

Denny Hamlin – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will pay tribute to famed modified driver Ray Hendrick (no relation to Rick Hendrick). “Mr. Modified” was named one of the 50 greatest NASCAR drivers in 1998.

Ty Dillon – Germain Racing’s No. 13 Chevrolet looks similar to the way it did in last season’s Southern 500. The car will yet again have a paint scheme that Smokey Yunick once used on the No. 13 car he owned in the 1960s.

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford will have the sponsor and paint scheme that NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin drove in the Xfinity Series from 1988-1991. All three of the Southern 500 Throwback Weekends have featured Martin paint schemes.

Reed Sorenson – His car honors car owner Bud Moore, who was inducted with the 2011 class into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Brett Bodine originally raced this paint scheme in 1989.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – The Roush Fenway Racing driver will once again pay tribute to former No. 17 driver Darrell Waltrip. Stenhouse’s paint scheme is modeled after the one Waltrip drove in the 1997 season.

Matt Kenseth – The scheme for the No. 20 is loosely based on the one Kenseth had when he won his first Xfinity Series race in February 1998 at Rockingham.

Ryan Blaney – The Wood Brothers Racing car will have the same look as it did in 1987 when Kyle Petty drove for the team. That year Petty won the Coca-Cola 600 for one of his eight Cup victories.

Joey Logano – The No. 22 Ford will bear the paint scheme used by Jimmy Vasser in IndyCar in 2002, the year Shell and Pennzoil merged.

Team Penske

Corey LaJoie – The No. 23 Toyota will pay tribute to Davey Allison. LaJoie’s paint scheme will be the one used by Allison in 1984 when he drove a No. 23 Miller High Life Pontiac in the Busch Series (now Xfinity Series).

NASCAR

 

Chase Elliott – The Hendrick Motorsports’ driver will drive the light blue paint scheme his father Bill Elliott had in his first Cup start on Feb. 29, 1976 at Rockingham Speedway.

Ryan Newman – Like Austin Dillon, Newman’s No. 31 Chevrolet will evoke Dale Earnhardt’s 1987 Wrangler paint scheme.

Matt DiBenedetto – The Go Fas Racing driver will have the scheme used by Bobby Allison in 1988 when he won the Daytona 500 for his 84th and final NASCAR Cup Series victory.

Jeffrey Earnhardt – The grandson of Dale Earnhardt Sr. will drive a Lowes Food paint scheme “The Intimidator” used in the Xfinity Series in 1989.

Landon Cassill – The Front Row Motorsports Ford will have the same paint scheme it used last year. It’s based on the look of Love’s Travel Stops’ first store, opened in Amarillo, Texas, in 1981.

Chris Buescher  The No. 37 Chevrolet will resemble the No. 37 driven by Patty Moise in the Xfinity Series in 1988.

David Ragan – The No. 38 Ford will have a paint scheme based on the 1960s look of sponsor Good Sam.

Kyle Larson – The Chip Ganassi Racing driver will pay tribute to team co-owner Felix Sabates and NBCSN analyst Kyle Petty with a paint scheme based on their 1995 Coors Light car. Petty drove for Sabates’ Team SABCO.

Aric Almirola – Four months after Almirola was born in March 1984, Richard Petty won his 200th and final Cup race in the July 4 Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Almirola will sport the same paint scheme “The King” took to victory lane that day.

AJ Allmendinger – The JTG Daugherty Racing driver will have the paint scheme Terry Labonte drove in 1986 when his No. 44 car was sponsored by Piedmont Airlines.

Jimmie Johnson – The paint scheme for the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet is inspired by the trucks Lowe’s used in 1986.

Hendrick Motorsports

Cody Ware – He and Rick Ware Racing will use this weekend’s car to offer prayers to those in Texas impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The car also resembles the Mello Yello paint scheme Kyle Petty once drove.

Derrike Cope – The 1990 Daytona 500 winner will have his own throwback for the Southern 500. Cope will have his paint scheme and sponsor from the 1994 Cup season when he drove the Mane ‘n Tail No. 12 car for Bobby Allison Motorsports.

Cole Whitt – The TriStar Motorsports driver will have a paint scheme that his grandfather, Jim Whitt, nicknamed “Gentleman Jim Whitt,” had when he won the Cajon Speedway Track Championship in a No. 60 car known as the “Lime Green Machine.”

Erik Jones – The Furniture Row Racing rookie will have a special paint scheme that pays tribute to the Cup Rookie of the Year award winners from 1984-89.

Martin Truex Jr. – The Furniture Row Racing car will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Bass Pro Shops’ TRACKER Boat line.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.  – In his final Southern 500 start, Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet will bear the paint scheme Earnhardt used during his two championship seasons in the Xfinity Series in 1998-99. Earnhardt drove the No. 3 AC Delco car for Dale Earnhardt Inc., winning 13 races over the course of the two seasons.

Michael McDowell – The No. 95 Chevrolet, owned by Leavine Family Racing, will bear the paint scheme 1992 Cup champion Alan Kulwicki drove in his Rookie of the Year season in 1986. LFR operates out of the same shop Kulwicki did until his death in a 1993 plane crash.

 

Other Throwback Weekend paint schemes:

Elliott Sadler (Xfinity Series) – Sadler will drive a tribute to Cale Yarborough and his Hardee’s paint scheme.

Michael Annett – The JR Motorsports driver will have a paint scheme used by Brad Doty in the World of Outlaws sprint car series in the 1980s.

Justin Allgaier – The JR Motorsports veteran will have a paint scheme based on the Mom ‘n’ Pops scheme that Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Kerry Earnhardt used when they competed in late models.

William Byron – The JR Motorsports rookie will pay tribute to the late Ricky Hendrick, the son of Rick Hendrick, with a paint scheme inspired by the one he drove to his only Truck Series win in 2001.

Blake Koch – The Kaulig Racing driver will again drive an old Darrell Waltrip paint scheme. Koch’s No. 11 Chevrolet is inspired by Waltrip’s 1985 Budweiser scheme that he won that season’s Cup title in.

J.J. Yeley – The No. 14 car will be based on an old A.J. Foyt car that the four-time Indy 500 winner raced in NASCAR.

Ryan Reed – The Roush Fenway Racing driver will have the Zerex paint scheme Alan Kulwicki drove in 1989.

Daniel Hemric – The Richard Childress Racing driver will have the paint scheme that Jeff Green drove in 2002 when he competed for RCR.

Dakoda Armstrong – The JGL Racing driver has a more faithful tribute to Cale Yarborough’s Hardee’s paint scheme.

Ryan Sieg – The RSS racing drive will pay tribute to his brother, Shane Sieg, who died two weeks ago at the age of 34. The paint scheme was used by Shane Sieg in late model racing.

Kevin Harvick – Harvick will drive the original Hunt Brothers Pizza paint scheme that was first used in 2008 by Ken Schrader.

Matt Tifft – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will honor Dale Earnhardt Sr., driving the paint scheme Earnhardt used in one race in 1977 when he drove the No. 19 car at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Erik Jones – Jones will pay tribute to Davey Allison with his 1988 rookie paint scheme.

Jeremy Clements – The No. 51 car will pay tribute to A.J. Foyt and his 1964 win in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Clements’ grandfather, Crawford, served as Foyt’s crew chief for the race.

Dylan Lupton – The JGL Racing driver will pilot the “Rainbow Warrior” paint scheme of his childhood idol, Jeff Gordon.

Spencer Gallagher – The GMS Racing driver will have Michael Waltrip‘s Cup rookie paint scheme from 1986.

Cole Custer – The Stewart-Haas Racing driver will pay tribute to two-time Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard.

Brendan Gaughan – An eight-time winner in the Camping World Truck Series, Gaughan will be sponsored by NAPA and feature the paint scheme he had for his first two Truck wins at Texas Motor Speedway in 2002.

Brandon Brown – The No. 90 Chevrolet will pay tribute to the late Dick Trickle, who made 303 Cup starts from 1970-2002. The scheme is based on Trickle’s Heilig-Meyer’s car.

Brad Keselowski Racing (Camping World Truck Series) – The two trucks owned by BKR, the No. 19 driven by Austin Cindric and the No. 29 of Chase Briscoe, will have paint schemes dedicated to the Keselowski family’s racing history for the Sept. 3 race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Austin Cindric – The purple and white paint scheme was used on cars driven by Keselowski’s uncle, Ron Keselowski, in both USAC and the NASCAR Cup Series. From 1970-74, he earned 11 top-10 finishes in 68 starts as a driver, including a pair of fifth-place finishes in back-to-back seasons at Michigan International Speedway.

Chase Briscoe – The No. 29 truck will bear the paint scheme driven by Brad Keselowski’s father, Bob, to victory lane in 1997 at Richmond. It was his only win in 86 Truck series starts.

John Hunter Nemechek – The son of Joe Nemechek will have the BellSouth paint scheme “Front Row Joe” had in the Cup series in 1999 when he won his first of four Cup races.

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