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Preliminary entry lists for NASCAR at Talladega

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NASCAR makes its return trip to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend with the Cup and Camping World Truck Series.

The Xfinity Series is off this week.

The Cup Series holds the Alabama 500, the second race of the Round of 12 in the playoffs. The Truck Series competes in the Fred’s 250, its first playoff elimination race.

Here are the entry lists for both races.

Cup – Alabama 500

Forty cars are entered.

J.J. Yeley will driver the No. 7 Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing. Brendan Gaughan is entered in the No. 75 Chevrolet for Beard Motorsports.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the last race at Talladega in May after a last-lap pass of Kyle Busch. He beat Jamie McMurray and Busch to the finish.

This race was won last year by Joey Logano after he led 45 laps. He beat Brian Scott and Denny Hamlin.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Fred’s 250

There are 32 trucks entered. No full-time Cup drivers are entered.

This race was won last year by Alabama native Grant Enfinger, who led 45 of that race’s 94 laps.

He beat Spencer Gallagher, Timothy Peters and Rico Abreu.

Click here for the entry list.

Sam Hornish Jr. fastest in final Xfinity practice at Mid-Ohio

Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway
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Sam Hornish Jr. posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s final Xfinity practice session at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Hornish toured the road course at a speed of 94.857 mph for Team Penske. James Davison, who finished 20th in this year’s Indianapolis 500, was next on the speed chart with a lap of 94.846 mph. Matt Tifft (94.542 mph) was third and followed by Regan Smith (94.507) and Cole Custer (94.379).

Both Davison and Smith are in Joe Gibbs Racing cars this weekend.

Click here for full practice report

Saturday morning’s session was added after rain washed out both of Friday’s practices.

Qualifying is at noon ET on CNBC. The race is at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Aric Almirola cleared to race this weekend at New Hampshire

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Richard Petty Motorsports announced Wednesday that doctors have cleared Aric Almirola to race this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Almirola has been out since suffering a T5 compression fracture in a May 13 crash at Kansas Speedway. He was expected to be out eight to 12 weeks.

Almirola received approval after a test Tuesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“It felt great to be back in the racecar yesterday,” Almirola said in a statement. “After racing in the Monster Energy Series for five and a half years, it got to be routine, and I took it for granted. When something gets taken away from you at a moment’s notice like that, it has certainly made me appreciate my passion for racing and my desire to compete at this level. The thrill of running 200 miles per hour in a stock car was something that I had honestly lost a little bit. After being out of the car for eight weeks, the passion is back, now more than ever.
“Physically, I felt great in the car and had no pain associated with the injury during (Tuesday’s) test. I’d like to sincerely thank all of the medical personnel that have helped me through this process, my family, my friends, my team and all the fans that supported me. I’m very grateful to Bubba (Wallace), Regan (Smith) and Billy (Johnson) for all of their efforts subbing for me both on and off the track. I’m excited to get back to racing against all my friends and peers in the Monster Energy Series.”

Regan Smith filled in for Almirola in the Monster Energy Open during All-Star weekend, the Coca-Cola 600 (finished 22nd) and Dover (34th). Darrell Wallace Jr. drove the car at Pocono (26th), Michigan (19th), Daytona (15th) and Kentucky (11th). Billy Johnson finished 22nd in the car at Sonoma.

Aric Almirola looks to be back in No. 43 car in July

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MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Aric Almirola says he hopes to be back in a car next month, returning about two months after he suffered a T5 compression fracture in a May 13 crash at Kansas Speedway.

Almirola told NBC Sports on Tuesday that doctors were encouraged by what they saw in a scan of his vertebrae last week. He is scheduled to have another scan June 28. That will give doctors a better idea of when Almirola can return to driving the No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports.

He’s hoping it will be New Hampshire (July 16) or Indianapolis (July 23), if not sooner. Darrell Wallace Jr. is driving the car until Almirola returns. Wallace finished 26th Sunday at Pocono in his first race in the car. Regan Smith drove the No. 43 for three races, including the Monster Energy Open, before Wallace took over the ride.

Almirola was injured May 13 when his Ford slammed into Joey Logano’s Ford with such force that it lifted the car’s rear about 6 feet in the air before it slammed to the ground. Almirola was kept overnight in a Kansas City hospital before returning home.

He is undergoing laser therapy, massage therapy and swimming as part of his rehabilitation. His range of motion has returned, as he exhibited Tuesday by swinging his arms high above his head and squatting — things he couldn’t do after the accident.

Almirola said the bone split all the way around. The laser therapy helps regenerate that area. Swimming also works his back and helps with his range of motion.

The key, Almirola admits, is not doing too much during his recovery.

“You want to start doing everything you used to do,’’ he told NBC Sports. “I feel great standing here. I want to go up in the gym and I want to grab the 60-pound dumbbells and go sit down and start bench-pressing, but I can’t do that. I feel like I could right now because there’s no pain. I physically can’t do that. The torque on my back, the load on my spine, I can’t take that right now.

“I have to be aware of what my limitations are because I don’t want to set myself back. I’m doing so well in the recovery process. It’s about getting my range of motion back, getting my mobility back, getting my cardio back. I’m going to have to slowly work on my strength until the bone is all the way healed because I don’t want to re-injure or do something to slow down my recovery and put myself four to six weeks further behind.’’

Almirola also has been getting help from his children, Alex, 4, and Abby, 3. They’ve made sure he’s not exerting himself too much.

“We’ve been going on a month of telling them, ‘No, daddy can’t do that, I’m sorry my back is hurt,’ ‘’ he said. “Now, they’re just accustomed to it. I think it’s going to be weird for them now when my back is actually healed.

“Now, they’re so used to not getting a piggyback ride upstairs because my back is hurt. Now, they automatically respond, ‘Oh daddy, don’t pick that up, your back is hurt.’ ‘’

Almirola can’t wait until he can pick his children up.

“It will be awesome,’’ he said. “I miss that.’’

Watch the above video for Marty Snider’s interview with Almirola.

Today’s Cup race at Pocono: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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Joe Gibbs Racing continues to look for its first points win of the season but has Kyle Busch on the pole for the second consecutive race. Busch also posted the fastest lap in the Saturday’s final practice session.

Here are the particulars for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command for drivers to start engines will be given at 3:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 3:18 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 160 laps (400 miles) around the 2.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 50. Stage 2 ends on Lap 100. 

PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Cup garage opens at 9:30 a.m. The drivers meeting is at 1 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:30 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Lauren Hart will perform the Anthem at 3:02 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race at 3 p.m. Its coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at mrn.com. MRN’s coverage begins at 2 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 84 degrees at race time with a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Kurt Busch led the final 32 laps to win this event a year ago. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second. Brad Keselowski placed third. Chris Buescher won the rain-shortened race in August. Keselowski was second. Regan Smith placed third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for starting lineup