Kurt Busch fastest in Sprint Cup happy hour at Martinsville


Kurt Busch took a big step toward defending last year’s spring Sprint Cup race win at Martinsville by being the fastest in Saturday’s final practice session for Sunday’s STP 500.

Busch led all drivers with a top lap of 97.098 mph, followed by Jimmie Johnson (96.810), Jeff Gordon (96.726), Denny Hamlin (96.652) and Ryan Newman (96.597).

Kasey Kahne was sixth-fastest (96.568), followed by pole-sitter Joey Logano (96.460), points leader Kevin Harvick (96.455), Carl Edwards (96.450) and Greg Biffle (96.371).

Final Sprint Cup practice speeds:

1 Kurt Busch … 97.098 mph … 69 laps
2 Jimmie Johnson … 96.810 … 62 laps
3 Jeff Gordon … 96.726 … 65 laps
4 Denny Hamlin … 96.652 … 50 laps
5 Ryan Newman … 96.598 … 52 laps
6 Kasey Kahne … 96.568 … 71 laps
7 Joey Logano … 96.460 … 94 laps
8 Kevin Harvick … 96.455 … 81 laps
9 Carl Edwards … 96.450 … 62 laps
10 Greg Biffle … 96.371 … 44 laps
11 Matt Kenseth … 96.322 … 52 laps
12 Martin Truex Jr. … 96.288 … 39 laps
13 Danica Patrick … 96.244 … 50 laps
14 Casey Mears … 96.239 … 57 laps
15 Brad Keselowski … 96.195 … 65 laps
16 Josh Wise … 96.117 … 35 laps
17 AJ Allmendinger … 96.107 … 60 laps
18 Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 96.102 … 67 laps
19 Tony Stewart … 96.000 … 65 laps
20 Aric Almirola … 95.951 … 56 laps
21 Kyle Larson … 95.947 … 67 laps
22 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 95.932 … 37 laps
23 Sam Hornish Jr. … 95.922 … 39 laps
24 Austin Dillon … 95.922 … 53 laps
25 David Ragan … 95.879 … 69 laps
26 Paul Menard … 95.830 … 72 laps
27 Chase Elliott … 95.786 … 60 laps
28 Jamie McMurray … 95.782 … 60 laps
29 Brett Moffitt … 95.694 … 74 laps
30 Justin Allgaier … 95.569 … 61 laps
31 Landon Cassill … 95.559 … 41 laps
32 Alex Bowman … 95.525 … 42 laps
33 Trevor Bayne … 95.328 … 47 laps
34 Michael Annett … 95.295 … 56 laps
35 Clint Bowyer … 95.079 … 33 laps
36 David Gilliland … 95.070 … 53 laps
37 Mike Bliss … 95.046 … 46 laps
38 Jeb Burton … 94.865 … 26 laps
39 Chris Buescher … 94.856 … 54 laps
40 Cole Whitt … 94.742 … 31 laps
41 Matt DiBenedetto … 94.242 … 45 laps
42 Alex Kennedy … 94.055 … 41 laps
43 JJ Yeley … 93.943 … 38 laps

Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average:

1 Carl Edwards … 95.941 mph
2 Kurt Busch … 95.918
3 Denny Hamlin … 95.912
4 Jeff Gordon … 95.893
5 Kasey Kahne … 95.878
6 Joey Logano … 95.850
7 Kevin Harvick … 95.830
8 Matt Kenseth … 95.777
9 Ryan Newman … 95.752
10 Jimmie Johnson … 95.615

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Alex Bowman tops field in opening Cup practice at Auto Club

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Alex Bowman posted the fastest lap in opening Cup practice Friday at Auto Club Speedway. Bowman ran a top lap of 179.439 mph.

Bowman was followed by Kyle Larson (177.703 mph), Tyler Reddick (177.607), Kurt Busch (177.375) and Matt DiBenedetto (176.609).

Click here for full practice report

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 5:35-6:25 p.m. ET today. Qualifying will be Saturday.

Xfinity practice report at Auto Club Speedway

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Harrison Burton was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver recorded 22 laps and posted a top speed of 174.474 mph in the 25-minute session.

The top five was completed by Noah Gragson (173.779 mph), Austin Cindric (173.775), Chase Briscoe (173.578) and Brandon Jones (173.578).

Burton also had the best 10-lap average at 170.422 mph.

Gragson recorded the most laps in the session with 25.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

Noah Gragson led the way for the Xfinity Series in the opening practice session that saw more than half the 50-minute period under caution at Auto Club Speedway

Gragson ran a top lap of 177.139 mph. He was followed by Austin Cindric (176.022), Daniel Hemric (175.400), Brandon Jones (175.366) and Harrison Burton (175.187).

Click here for full practice report

Alex Labbe brought out the caution when an oil line came loose and he put oil down on the track. The cleanup took about 20 minutes.

Tommy Joe Martins brought out the caution late in the session with smoke coming from the car and then a small fire in the right front of the car.



Kyle Busch on Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson chasing bounty: ‘Bring it on’

Kyle Busch
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Twenty-four hours made quite a difference for Kyle Busch‘s tune regarding the $100,000 bounty placed against him in the Truck Series.

Thursday had the Joe Gibbs Racing driver outright dismissing the idea any full-time Cup driver would pursue the bounty, citing the $140,000 cost to rent a truck.

Then Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson dropped the hammer Thursday night, courtesy of a deal with GMS Racing. Elliott will have two shots at it, on March 14 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and May 30 at Kansas Speedway. Larson steps to the plate March 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Busch’s response?

“Bring it on.”

Busch addressed Elliott and Larson entering the bounty ring Friday during his media session at Auto Club Speedway.

“It’s all good,” Busch said. “I think it’s going to be interesting, exciting, whatever you want to term it.  I guess Cup drivers in the truck series do sell tickets. You know, take that for what it’s worth. I think it’s a unique opportunity for more attention on the series, which is good. Maybe if more drivers had more teams than had rides, there would be something else there besides just myself.”

The bounty is a joint effort by Kevin Harvick and Gander RV & Outdoors CEO Marcus Lemonis in the wake of Busch winning the last seven truck series races he’s entered, dating back to 2018.

If no Cup driver beats Busch in his remaining four Truck Series starts, the $100,000 will go to the Bundle of Joy Fund, the organization founded by Kyle and Samantha Busch that helps couples who require fertility treatments to conceive.

Atlanta Motor Speedway

“It’s brought a whole new chatter to (the truck series,” Busch said. “Whether that’s excitement or just chatter, I’m not sure which. I think we’ll see when we get to Atlanta what the grandstands look like and how the race goes.”

Even before the announcement by the drivers Thursday night, Busch had already given thought to the Cup competitors he could potentially square off against for the bounty and who his biggest threat was.

“I don’t remember who I told, but once Harvick kind of put the idea out there, I was like, ‘The guy who is really, really, really, gonna have a shot is Larson at Homestead,” Busch said.

The 1.5-mile track in Florida is widely viewed as Larson’s best track. He’s made three starts there in the truck series. He has two top fives, including placing fourth there in 2016 with GMS Racing.

But the first stop in the bounty challenge is Chase Elliott and his home track of Atlanta.

Harrison Burton, who raced for Busch last year in the truck series, shared his experience competing against Busch at Atlanta last year, a race Busch won.

“It’s going to be hard to beat Kyle, I know that much,” Burton said Friday. “I ran trucks last year and ran second to him for a lot of laps at Atlanta especially. I remember thinking, ‘Well, I’m about a tenth better than the field and he’s about three-tenths better than me so this is pretty impressive.’ Ran second most of that day. Didn’t finish second, but Chase is going to have his work cut out for him there and (Kyle) Larson is going to have his work cut out for him at Miami. Kyle hasn’t raced Miami in a truck in a long time because of the playoff schedule so that might be — Chase has a steeper hill to climb than Larson.”

Atlanta and its owner, Speedway Motorsports, also are getting involved in the show.

SMI and the track announced Friday a way for fans to contribute $5 to the charities of Elliott, Busch or Harvick through ticket purchases.

Fans who purchase a ticket to the March 14 NASCAR doubleheader – which includes the truck series race (1:30 p.m. on FS1) and a Xfinity Series race (4:00 p.m. on FS1) – can choose the driver and driver foundations that will benefit.

If additional challengers emerge, the drivers and their respective charities will also become eligible.

Fans can ensure their ticket purchase helps the driver charity of their choice by purchasing through the AMS ticket office (877-9-AMS-TIX) and stating the driver and foundation of choice or by going to https://www.atlantamotorspeedway.com/bounty/ and choosing their preferred driver. Tickets for the Saturday NASCAR Doubleheader – which includes the Georgia 200 bounty challenge race – are free for children 12 and under.

“The anticipation for this race and the buzz around this bounty is growing every day,” said SMI CEO Marcus Smith in a press release. “Where the drivers saw a chance to inject more fun and excitement into this race, we see a chance to step it up even more and help some people in need through some very worthy driver charities.”

Four Cup, eight Xfinity teams will lose practice time at Auto Club

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NASCAR announced that four Cup teams and eight Xfinity teams will lose practice time Friday at Auto Club Speedway for inspection issues last week at Las Vegas.

In Cup, Chase Elliott‘s team will lose 15 minutes of practice in the final session for failing inspection twice last weekend. The cars of Michael McDowell and JJ Yeley will lose 15 minutes each in the final practice session for being late to inspection. Also, the car of Garrett Smithley will lose 30 minutes of final practice for failing inspection three times.

Final Cup practice will be from 5:35 – 6:25 p.m. ET

In Xfinity, the cars of Ryan Sieg, Austin Hill, Stephen Leicht, Mike Harmon, Vinnie Miller and Josh Williams each will miss 15 minutes of first practice for being late to inspection. Also, the cars of Brandon Brown and Josh Bilicki each will miss 15 minutes of first practice for failing inspection twice.

First Xfinity practice will be 3:05 – 3:55 p.m. ET.