Keselowski, Earnhardt, Harvick fastest in first of two Sprint Cup practices at Richmond

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Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick were at the top of the speed charts in the first of two Sprint Cup practice sessions Friday at Richmond International Raceway.

Keselowski, who won at Richmond last season in the final race before the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, was the only driver to crack the 126 mph barrier, recording a top speed of 126.086 mph.

Earnhardt was second-fastest (125.593 mph), followed closely by Harvick (125.517).

Here’s speeds from Friday’s first practice:

1 Brad Keselowski … 126.086 mph … 70 laps

2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 125.593 … 50 laps

3 Kevin Harvick … 125.517 … 65 laps

4 Jimmie Johnson … 125.203 … 94 laps

5 Clint Bowyer … 125.174 .. 63 laps

6 Martin Truex Jr. … 125.127 … 36 laps

7 Kyle Larson … 125.000 … 66 laps

8 AJ Allmendinger … 124.873 … 39 laps

9 Joey Logano … 124.827 … 75 laps

10 Denny Hamlin … 124.804 … 52 laps

11 Trevor Bayne … 124.786 … 45 laps

12 Carl Edwards … 124.769 … 50 laps

13 Aric Almirola … 124.625 … 41 laps

14 David Ragan … 124.619 … 57 laps

15 Kurt Busch … 124.453 … 71 laps

16 Greg Biffle … 124.315 … 43 laps

17 Casey Mears … 124.309 … 45 laps

18 Matt Kenseth … 124.275 … 56 laps

19 Landon Cassill … 124.252 … 61 laps

20 Paul Menard … 124.206 … 49 laps

21 Chase Elliott … 124.189 … 70 laps

22 Austin Dillon … 124.138 … 36 laps

23 Jamie McMurray … 124.098 … 43 laps

24 Brett Moffitt … 124.081 … 45 laps

25 Jeff Gordon … 123.950 … 52 laps

26 Ryan Newman … 123.802 … 39 laps

27 Kasey Kahne … 123.796 … 46 laps

28 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 123.570 … 68 laps

29 Tony Stewart … 123.451 … 36 laps

30 Josh Wise … 123.423 … 56 laps

31 Justin Allgaier … 123.170 … 52 laps

32 David Gilliland … 123.141 … 73 laps

33 Sam Hornish Jr. … 123.074 … 39 laps

34 Alex Bowman … 123.052 … 42 laps

35 Reed Sorenson … 122.194 … 53 laps

36 Jeff Green … 122.194 … 38 laps

37 Matt DiBenedetto … 122.155 … 47 laps

38 Cole Whitt … 121.742 … 40 laps

39 Michael Annett … 121.572 … 33 laps

40 Brendan Gaughan … 121.518 … 45 laps

41 Danica Patrick … 121.501 … 51 laps

42 Joey Gase … 121.365 … 34 laps

43 Jeb Burton … 121.033 … 50 laps

44 Alex Kennedy … 120.968 … 59 laps

45 JJ Yeley … 120.643 … 55 laps


Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average:

1 Landon Cassill … 123.336 mph

2 Jimmie Johnson … 123.293

3 Clint Bowyer … 123.015

4 Kevin Harvick … 122.944

5 Martin Truex Jr. … 122.847

6 Kyle Larson … 122.437

7 Brad Keselowski … 122.400

8 Carl Edwards … 122.314

9 Brett Moffitt … 122.274

10 Kasey Kahne … 122.228

11 Matt Kenseth … 121.970

12 David Ragan … 121.935

13 Joey Logano … 121.819

14 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 121.573

15 Josh Wise … 121.395

16 Kurt Busch … 121.239

17 David Gilliland … 120.962

18 Casey Mears … 120.941

19 Denny Hamlin … 120.931

20 Jeff Gordon … 120.514

21 Matt DiBenedetto … 120.511

22 Danica Patrick … 120.473

23 Chase Elliott … 120.413

24 Austin Dillon … 120.409

25 Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 119.963

26 AJ Allmendinger … 119.944

27 Sam Hornish Jr. … 119.760

28 JJ Yeley … 119.714

29 Jamie McMurray … 119.707

30 Alex Kennedy … 119.175

31 Alex Bowman … 118.457

32 Jeb Burton … 117.025

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Kyle Larson injured ribs in ‘probably the hardest hit I’ve ever had’

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Kyle Larson says he plans to drive the full distance Sunday at Kansas Speedway despite injuring his ribs in “probably the hardest hit I’ve ever had.”

Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet ran into the No. 88 Chevy of Alex Bowman near the end of the second stage of Monday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway (video above).

Though the Chip Ganassi Racing driver hasn’t had an X-ray, Larson doesn’t think he broke his ribs, but they were hurting enough to require an icing after two Friday practices at Kansas. Larson posted a photo to his Instagram Story of his wrapped midsection with the caption, “Big fan of Super Speedways.”

Because everybody says there really is nothing you can do about ribs anyway,” Larson said when asked why he hadn’t gotten an X-ray. “It’s not broken. It definitely hurts to sneeze and cough, and when I’m in the seat, it’s tender. I’ve never broken a bone, but it’s definitely not broken.

Though he already has secured a spot in the third round of the Cup playoffs through his Oct. 6 victory at Dover International Speedway, Larson said he will run the 400 miles Sunday.

“Yeah, I think so,” he said after qualifying fifth Saturday, pausing to smile. “As long as I don’t hit the wall or anything. It should be fine.”

Larson also crashed in the April 28 race at Talladega, going airborne and rolling several times in a wreck that was reviewed by NASCAR.

Starting lineup for Sunday’s Cup playoff elimination race at Kansas

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Daniel Hemric will own prime real estate when the green flag drops for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup playoff race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

Hemric, who it was announced Sept. 17 that he would not return to drive the No. 8 for Richard Childress Racing next season, captured his first career Cup pole Saturday.

Cup veteran driver David Ragan, who announced August 14 that he will be retiring from full-time competition after this season, will start alongside Hemric on the front row.

The rest of the first five rows for Sunday’s race will be Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski in Row 2, Kyle Larson and Michael McDowell in Row 3, Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez in Row 4 and Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace in Row 5.

Kevin Harvick failed pre-qualifying inspection and did not make a qualifying attempt. He will start Sunday’s race last in the 40-car field.

This will be the second elimination race of the 10-race playoffs. The playoff field will be reduced from 12 to eight drivers.

Click here for the starting lineup.

Kevin Harvick to start at the rear after team passes inspection, then fails

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kevin Harvick will start at the rear of Sunday’s Cup race after his team found an issue with its car and went though inspection after having passed it previously.

Harvick enters the race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) 36 points ahead of Alex Bowman, who is the first driver outside a transfer spot. Sunday’s race will cut the playoff field from 12 to eight drivers.

Harvick’s No. 4 Ford failed its first attempt in inspection before qualifying Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

The team passed the second time but then found an issue with the car and made an adjustment. By doing so, the team had to go back through inspection. That meant that the second attempt — which the team had passed — then counted as a failure. NASCAR ejected a crew member (the team’s car chief) and docked the team 15 minutes of practice next week at Martinsville.

The team then went through a third time and failed. Teams are not allowed to attempt to qualify after a third failure. Harvick’s team also lost an additional 15 minutes of practice next week at Martinsville.

Here’s how crew chief Rodney Childers explained to NBC Sports what happened:

“We went through tech the first time, the back of the decklid was like 10 (thousandths of an inch) too low, which that is on us. Everybody pushes that as much as they can at a place like this. We raised the decklid and went back through and passed and everything was fine.

“As we were pushing it back to the garage, you could feel something just barely, barely ticking … on the body as you were pushing it. We got back to the garage and looked up under the back and the weight on the driveshaft was just barely at the tunnel, the driveshaft tunnel. So we kind of stood around for 30 minutes trying to decide should we just kind of go for it and hope it doesn’t become a problem or should we just fix it. Looking back on it maybe we should have just went for it, but we voluntarily went back and through tech and fixed it and then failed right rear toe by .03.

“When you’re doing big changes like that … you’ve got to lengthen the track bar out a couple of rounds. When you lengthen the track bar out a couple of lengths, since the day I stated Cup racing, if you did the track bar two rounds, you did the slug an eighth of an inch. That’s what we did. Then we failed right rear toe.

“It’s disappointing. It was a decision we made to try to be safe and not  have a problem in the race or anything like that. The biggest disappointment is just having to start in the back over something we did voluntarily. That’s what is disappointing.

“I think everybody in this garage would vote for each other and have each other’s back so that if you found a problem on your car and you went back through voluntarily that’s on the team and not counted as a failure. I don’t think that’s right.”

Childers said starting at the rear will be a challenge.

“That’s what we didn’t want to do (start at the rear),” he said. “I hate that it turned out that way. Our car has been fast all weekend. We’ve just got to get back up there and get some stage points and do all the right things. I’m sure he can pass 20 of them in the first five laps and hopefully get up there and contend as best we can.”

Harvick didn’t express too much concern about his situation.

It’s like I’ve talked from the very beginning, you deal with the situations as they approach you,” Harvick said. “It doesn’t matter if it this is the first race or an elimination race. You go about the circumstances that you are dealt. This is why I always tell you guys you just never know what the circumstances are going to be and you have to adopt and adjust as they present themselves.”

Daniel Hemric earns first Cup pole at Kansas; Kevin Harvick fails to make attempt

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Daniel Hemric captured the first pole of his Cup career and will lead the field to green in Sunday’s playoff race at Kansas Speedway.

Hemric covered the 1.5-mile oval at a speed of 178.047 mph, the only driver to surpass 178 mph.

It’s pretty special,” Hemric told NBCSN. “I kind of felt when I got out of the car I’d be fifth to eighth. But these guys have done a great job all year. No matter what’s been thrown at us, they’ve risen to the occasion and showed up at the racetrack, ready to work.

“With so much going on around us (Hemric learned a couple weeks ago that he would not be back in the No. 8 car next year), you can get lost in the distraction of things, but to know these guys have continued to have my back through all this stuff has meant the world to me.”

David Ragan, the final driver to make a qualifying effort, will start alongside Hemric on the front row in Sunday’s race with an effort of 177.842 mph.

Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney (177.754 mph) and Brad Keselowski (177.667 mph) qualified third and fourth, respectively.

Fifth through 10th were Kyle Larson (177.667), Michael McDowell (177.585), Ryan Newman (177.497), Daniel Suarez (177.363), Austin Dillon (177.352) and Bubba Wallace (177.328).

Several playoff drivers struggled in qualifying, including Kyle Busch (qualified 18th), Clint Bowyer (21st), Denny Hamlin (23rd), William Byron (25th), Joey Logano (29th) and Kevin Harvick (40th).

Speaking of Harvick, his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang did not make a qualifying attempt and will start Sunday’s race from the back of the 40-car field.

According to NBCSN, Harvick’s car failed the first round of pre-qualifying inspection, passed on its second try, but crew chief Rodney Childers apparently didn’t like something he saw around the drive shaft and withdrew the car from qualifying so the team could work on it. As a result, the pass became a fail and car chief Robert Smith was ejected from the track for the remainder of the weekend. The team also lost 15 minutes of practice next weekend at Martinsville.

After making repairs, the team went through inspection a third time and failed, meaning the loss of another 15 minutes of practice next week at Martinsville. The team passed on its fourth attempt, but did not take part in qualifying, leaving it to start at the back of the field for Sunday’s race.

Crew chief Rodney Childers told NBC Sports, “It’s disappointing. It was a decision we made to try to be safe and not  have a problem in the race or anything like that. The biggest disappointment is just having to start in the back over something we did voluntarily. That’s what is disappointing. I think everybody in this garage would vote for each other and have each other’s back so that if you found a problem on your car and you went back through voluntarily that’s on the team and not counted as a failure. I don’t think that’s right.”
Contributing: Dustin Long.

Click here for qualifying results.

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