Sidelined by heart surgery, Mike Wallace will be replaced by brother Kenny next week at Talladega

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Due to recent heart surgery, veteran NASCAR driver Mike Wallace will not be driving in next week’s Winn Dixie 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.

After experiencing heart pain last week, Wallace, 56, underwent triple bypass surgery and is recovering from the procedure.

“Well this isn’t what the plan was,” Mike Wallace said in a team release. “I felt a little chest pain last week, so I went to the doctor, and the next thing I know, I am going in for surgery.

“My dad had heart surgery about 35 years ago, so I thought I was being proactive and taking all of the necessary precautions. This just goes to show that you never know, and there are a lot of people walking around out there in the same situation.

“No matter how healthy we think we are, no one can be careful enough when it comes to our health, so everyone needs to go get checked out.”

Wallace and JGL Racing didn’t have to look far for his replacement in the No. 26 Toyota: Kenny Wallace will replace his older brother behind the wheel.

Kenny Wallace, 51, will join JGL teammates JJ Yeley (No. 28 Toyota) and Eric McClure (No. 24 Toyota) In the race.

Kenny and Mike Wallace are brothers of NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace.

Mike Wallace drove the No. 26 in the Xfinity Series season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway in February. He started 16th and finished 36th.

Mike Wallace hopes to travel to Talladega to watch his brother “and root him and the JGL Racing team on.”

The elder Wallace said there’s no timetable for his return to racing, only that “I am focused on getting back to full strength and returning to the driver’s seat in the near future.”

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NASCAR champion Mike Stefanik killed in plane crash

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Nine-time NASCAR champion Mike Stefanik was killed in a plane crash Sunday, NASCAR confirmed. Stefanik was 61.

Stefanik, a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee, won seven modified titles and two K&N Pro Series East crowns. In 2003, he was named one of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s 10 greatest drivers.

NASCAR issued a statement on behalf of Chairman Jim France:

“Mike Stefanik was one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history, but even more so, he was a true representative of our sport. His tough, competitive nature and excellence on the race track won him the respect and admiration of fans and competitors alike.

“His career stretched more than 30 years, bridging the generations between Jerry Cook and Richie Evans to our current drivers. He recorded achievements in this sport that are likely untouchable, and his legacy as a champion will endure. We will keep his wife Julie and his family and friends in our prayers.”

In 1997-98, Stefanik won back-to-back championships in the modified and K&N East Series. Stefanik was the rookie of the year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 1999.

Stefanik was first nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015. He told RaceDayCt.com that the nomination  “humbled” him. “I’m not in, but it’s quite an honor,” Stefanik told RaceDayCt.com. “I never really thought much about it. I didn’t get into racing to get into a Hall of Fame. But it’s humbling for sure.”

Chaos or calm? What do drivers expect in playoff opener?

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LAS VEGAS — When the Cup drivers last raced at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, they were slowed only by two cautions for stage breaks in March. When they ran at this track in last year’s playoff race, there were 12 cautions, many for accidents.

So what do drivers expect for today’s playoff opener (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway? Chaos or calm?

“I think you’re going to have more cautions than you did in the spring, without a doubt, maybe not to the extent of last year,” said playoff contender Ryan Newman, who starts 17th.

He starts next to defending race winner and playoff contender Brad Keselowski, who also shares Newman’s belief.

“I’m a little bit thinking there will be more this time than in the spring,” Keselowski said. “It’s hotter this fall than what I remember last fall and we’re way faster through the center of the corners. So I expect it to be very difficult on the tires. Probably see some tire failures, accordingly, that will kind of add to the cautions.”

The wunderground.com forecast for today’s race calls for a high of 100 degrees at the start. The temperature will still be in the 90s when the race is scheduled to end. This will be the hottest race of the season, topping the 96 degrees that drivers battled at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July.

MORE: Today’s Cup race details, start time & lineup

Playoff contender Kurt Busch, who starts fifth, says the heat will impact the racing.

“Track is hotter, (there’s) less grip, it’s the playoffs, everybody is on edge,” Busch said for his belief there will be more cautions than the spring race.

Playoff contender Alex Bowman, who starts 19th, also sees an increase in cautions from the March race.

“I think we’re going to have cautions,” he said. “I think you’re going to have tire failures with it being so hot. I think you’re going to have guys crashing their stuff. I think it’s just going to be a really slick race track, tough to drive and nobody is going to give an inch. I think that is going to create some cautions. I don’t think it will create the 12 we had last year.”

Aric Almirola, who starts fourth, notes that “if I was a betting man, which I’m not … I’d say we will have more cautions than just the stage breaks.

“As teams have gotten smarter and tried to make their cars go faster, the cars are trimmed out more and because of that are less stable, they’re harder to drive. It makes really, really challenging on restarts and around guys. We’ve seen that the last couple of months. I don’t think it’s specific to Las Vegas, just the last few months in general we’ve seen wreck on restarts and things just because the cars are a lot more difficult to drive.”

Newman adds another key factor that could lead to more cautions today.

“I think give-and-take is kind of gone in our sport now,” he said of how drivers race each other. “It’s still there, don’t get me wrong, but it’s less than it has been by a long shot then the last few years, let’s say five years ago.

“I think that you see that with guys blocking. When you start doing the blocking deal, give-and-take is gone. I think it’s going to be pretty amped up. Sixteen guys, eight of them kind of on the bubble already in the first race, it’s going to be intense.”

Today’s Cup race at Las Vegas: Start time, lineup and more

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The NASCAR Cup Series begins its 10-race playoffs with today’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Sixteen drivers will take the green flag in what each hopes will be the first step toward winning the Cup championship.

Here is all the info for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by actor Cole Hauser at 7:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:16 p.m.

PRERACE: The Cup garage opens at 3 p.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 5 p.m. Driver introductions are at 6:30 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7 p.m. The National Anthem will be performed at 7:01 p.m. by Sierra Black.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. with NASCAR America on NBCSN. Countdown to Green begins at 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN. The Performance Racing Network broadcast begins at 6 p.m. and also can be heard on goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING ONLINE: Click here for NBCSN’s live stream of the race.

FORECAST: Wunderground.com forecasts mostly sunny conditions with a temperature of 100 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Brad Keselowski won this race last year, leading 75 of 272 laps over Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. Joey Logano won in March, leading 86 of 267 laps over Keselowski and Kyle Busch.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

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Ryan Sieg’s car fails inspection at Las Vegas, 14th-place finish disqualified

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Ryan Sieg‘s 14th-place finish in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was disqualified by NASCAR after his No. 39 Chevrolet failed heights in post-race inspection. The car was found to be too low in the right and left front.

Sieg is now credited with a last-place finish.

The disqualification does not impact Sieg’s playoff eligibility or his seeding. He will start the playoffs in 11th with 2,001 points.

As a result of the disqualification, Ryan Truex is the new 14th-place finisher.

Sieg’s disqualification is the fifth time that has occurred this season in the Xfinity Series.

Denny Hamlin had a win at Darlington taken away and given to Cole Custer after his car failed heights.

Christopher Bell had his third-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway in June taken away when his car failed inspection. His car was found to be too low in the front and too high in the rear.

Kaulig Racing has twice had AJ Allmendinger‘s car disqualified. The car was disqualified after Allmendinger’s third-place finish at Daytona in July when inspection showed that the engine would not hold a vacuum. Allmendinger’s second-place finish was taken away when his car failed to meet minimum height requirements at Watkins Glen.