Kurt Busch fastest in Sprint Cup’s first Auto Club practice session

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For the second straight week, Kurt Busch led the first Sprint Cup practice session, this time at Auto Club Speedway.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver took the spot with a speed of 186.741 mph.

He was followed by Denny Hamlin at 185.385 mph and Martin Truex Jr. at 185.385 mph.

Brett Moffitt, substituting for Brian Vickers in the No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, finished 27th on the speed chart at 181.548 mph. Chris Buescher, Moffitt’s replacement driver in the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford, came in at 29th with a speed of 181.310 mph. His eight laps were the first he’s ever taken at Auto Club Speedway.

While Carl Edwards finished the session in 11th at 183.814 mph, the Joe Gibbs driver will go to a backup car after his No. 19 Toyota hit the frontstretch wall late in the session.

The red flag came out a few minutes into the session after Greg Biffle hit the outside wall coming out of Turn 4. Biffle finished the session 26th fastest at 181.892 mph.

1. Kurt Busch … 186.741 … 8 laps
2. Denny Hamlin … 185.385 … 5 laps
3. Martin Truex Jr. … 185.180 … 9 laps
4. Brad Keselowski. … 185.019 … 13 laps
5. Jimmie Johnson. … 185.000 … 7 laps
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 184.871 … 17 laps
7. Ryan Newman … 184.767 … 15 laps
8. David Ragan … 184.379 … 15 laps
9. Jeff Gordon … 184.280 … 22 laps
10. Danica Patrick … 184.058 … 12 laps
11. Carl Edwards … 183.814 … 9 laps
12. Kevin Harvick … 183.645 … 6 laps
13. Austin Dillon … 183.538 … 12 laps
14. Matt Kenseth … 183.486 … 9 laps
15. Kasey Kahne … 183.369 … 13 laps
16. Joey Logano … 183.253 … 12 laps
17. Jamie McMurray … 183.211 … 14 laps
18. AJ Allmendinger … 183.155 … 10 laps
19. Kyle Larson … 183.006 … 11 laps
20. Alex Bowman … 182.997 … 3 laps
21. Aric Almirola … 182.871 … 7 laps
22. Clint Bowyer … 182.857 … 10 laps
23. Tony Stewart … 182.514 … 11 laps
24. Brian Scott … 182.436 … 8 laps
25. Paul Menard … 182.380 … 12 laps
26. Greg Biffle … 181.892 … 6 laps
27. Brett Moffitt … 181.548 … 14 laps
28. Justin Allgaier … 181.420 … 12 laps
29. Chris Buescher … 181.310 … 8 laps
30. Casey Mears … 181.219 … 12 laps
31. Michael Annett … 180.800 … 14 laps
32. Sam Hornish Jr. … 180.777 … 8 laps
33. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 180.786 … 7 laps
34. Cole Whitt … 180.628 … 7 laps
35. Trevor Bayne … 179.847 … 7 laps
36. Jeb Burton … 179.641 … 11 laps
37. Josh Wise … 179.574 … 3 laps
38. Landon Cassill … 179.439 … 7 laps
39. Mike Bliss … 178.753 … 9 laps
40.David Gilliland … 178.713 … 8 laps
41. JJ Yeley … 178.625 … 7 laps
42. Reed Sorenson … 178.540 … 13 laps
43. Travis Kvapil … 177.940 … 9 laps

44. Matt DiBenedetto … 175.174 … 4 laps

45. Brendan Gaughan … 174.571 … 6 laps

Dale Earnhardt Jr. named honorary starter for 2020 Daytona 500

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It looks like Dale Earnhardt Jr. will complete a row on his Daytona 500-themed Bingo card next year.

Daytona International Speedway announced Monday that the NBC Sports analyst will be the honorary starter and will wave the green flag to begin the Feb. 16 Daytona 500.

A two-time winner of the “Great American Race,” it will mark the third year in a row Earnhardt has been part of the pre-race ceremonies for the event. In 2018, he gave the command to start engines and this year he was the honorary pace truck driver.

Include a win in the race, his 2011 pole as one box and that’s Bingo.

“The only thing left for Dale now is for him to sing the National Anthem prior to the Daytona 500,” said Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile in a press release. “That probably won’t happen. But what will happen, come February, will be another outpouring of support from race fans about Dale’s involvement. There’s no way to exaggerate how much he means to the fans and to NASCAR. Any role he plays on a Daytona 500 weekend is significant.”

In the press release, Earnhardt joked “One thing is certain, I’m not doing any singing at Daytona no matter how hard they ask. But I am going to enjoy waving the green flag in February. The start of the Daytona 500 is a special moment in not only NASCAR but all of sports. I am truly honored to be part of that.”

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Championship weekend recap

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will recap all of the action from championship weekend in Miami

Jeff Burton is joined by Steve Letarte and Dale Jarrett.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

2019 Cup Series season by the numbers

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That’s it, it’s over.

After 10 months the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season came to an end Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway as Kyle Busch claimed his second series title.

A lot happened between Denny Hamlin‘s win in the Daytona 500 in February and Busch’s crown-seizing moment 290 miles south in Miami.

More: Miami weekend ends with never-before-seen achievement

Here’s a look at some of the interesting stats that made up the 2019 Cup campaign, courtesy of Racing Insights:

— The Cup Series competed in 36 races that accounted for 10,255 laps and 13,776 miles.

— Sixty-four drivers competed in Cup in 2019

— There were 13 different winners

Kevin Harvick led the series with six poles and Martin Truex Jr. had the most wins (seven).

— Two drivers earned their first Cup wins: Justin Haley (Daytona II) and Alex Bowman (Chicagoland). It was the first time there were first time winners in consecutive races since 2007

— Hendrick Motorsports led the series with 10 total poles (William Byron led the team with five)

— Hendrick Motorsports swept the front row in qualifying seven times

— Five races were won from the pole

—  Three races were won from a starting position outside the top 20: Denny Hamlin at Kansas II (23rd), Martin Truex Jr. at Las Vegas II (24th) and Justin Haley at Daytona II (34th)

— Kyle Busch continued his active streaks of the most consecutive seasons with a win – 15 (2005-2019) – and a pole – 12 (2008-2019).

Ryan Newman is the first Roush Fenway Racing driver with at least 13 top-10 finishes (14) since Carl Edwards in 2014 (14).

— Both Chip Ganassi Racing drivers won in 2019, the first time since 2010 they had two drivers win in the same season

— Five drivers ended winless streaks of 30 or more races in 2019: Denny Hamlin (47 races), Kurt Busch (30), Erik Jones (42), Kyle Larson (75), Ryan Blaney (37)

— The Stage 2 winner (plus Stage 3 in the Coke 600) went on to win 15 races

— Six races had an overtime finish in 2019: Daytona 500, Kansas I, Michigan I, Kentucky, Pocono II and Kansas II

— Three of the six races with overtime finishes were won by Denny Hamlin (Daytona 500, Pocono II and Kansas II)

— Kyle Busch won 40 times in the 2010s, the most of all drivers

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Miami weekend ends with never-before-seen achievement

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Never before has there been a championship weekend like the one just completed at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kyle Busch (Cup), Tyler Reddick (Xfinity) and Matt Crafton (Truck) each captured championships and set a standard for the sport.

This past weekend marked the first time in the history of the Truck, Xfinity and Cup series that each champion won more than their first series title. That goes back to 1995, the first season of the Truck Series.

Busch earned his second Cup crown Sunday night. Reddick won his second consecutive Xfinity championship Saturday. Crafton captured his third Truck title on Friday night.

The closest it has come in recent years to having all three national series champs winning multiple titles was 2010 when Jimmie Johnson won his fifth consecutive Cup championship and Todd Bodine claimed his second Truck title, but the Xfinity championship was won by Brad Keselowski, who collected his first and only championship in that series.

Crafton, who did not win a Truck race this season, opened Miami’s final championship weekend by finishing second to collect the series title.

Asked if he was worried about any criticism that he was a champion despite not winning a race this season, Crafton said: “I’m going to sleep really good all winter long with this trophy because when you win a race, that’s very sweet, but usually you only have one week, like four or five days to gloat about it, but I think I’ve got like two-and-a-half months to gloat about this championship before next year.”

Reddick topped Cole Custer in a late duel before pulling away to win the Xfinity championship. Reddick became the first driver in that series to win back-to-back championships with two different teams. He won the 2018 championship with JR Motorsports and this year’s crown with Richard Childress Racing.

“Just real awesome to be able to have two back‑to‑back championships with two different teams,” Reddick said. “And what made this one so much more special is we were consistent week in and week out.”

Busch completed the weekend by becoming the only active Cup driver, other than Johnson, to have multiple titles.

“I would love to be sitting here right now talking about eight,” Busch said. “I’ve been in the sport for 14, 15 years, whatever this season is for me, and so we’re only talking about two.  It’s nice to have the success that we have, take it when you get it, but there’s certainly a few missed opportunities for sure.”