Talladega newcomer Erik Jones is fastest in sole Xfinity practice


Erik Jones didn’t let the fact he’s never driven an Xfinity Series car at Talladega Superspeedway affect him during Friday’s lone practice session.

Jones, 18, shot to the top of the speed charts – not an easy thing to do for a veteran driver, let alone a relative newcomer to both ‘Dega and the Xfinity Series – with a speed of 188.861 mph.

Darrell Wallace Jr., an Xfinity Series rookie, was second-fastest at 188.727 mph, followed by Daytona winner Ryan Reed (188.727) and Regan Smith (188.086).

Here’s how the only Xfinity practice session of the weekend played out:

1 Erik Jones … 188.861 mph … 19 laps

2 Darrell Wallace Jr. … 188.727 … 21 laps

3 Ryan Reed … 188.727 … 20 laps

4 Regan Smith … 188.086 … 23 laps

5 Daniel Suarez … 187.621 … 23 laps

6 Kasey Kahne … 187.141 … 18 laps

7 Aric Almirola … 187.053 … 35 laps

8 John Wes Townley … 187.017 … 41 laps

9 Brian Scott … 186.903 … 19 laps

10 Chris Buescher … 186.827 … 26 laps

11 Brendan Gaughan … 186.758 …12 laps

12 JJ Yeley … 186.362 … 17 laps

13 Elliott Sadler … 186.180 … 18 laps

14 Brennan Poole … 185.989 … 33 laps

15 Chase Elliott … 185.924 … 14 laps

16 Dakoda Armstrong … 185.902 … 29 laps

17 Boris Said … 185.895 … 23 laps

18 Jeffrey Earnhardt … 185.823 … 20 laps

19 Eric McClure … 185.635 … 17 laps

20 Joey Logano … 185.366 … 21 laps

21 Kenny Wallace … 185.051 … 21 laps

22 Blake Koch … 181.618 … 33 laps

23 Cale Conley … 181.604 … 26 laps

24 Jeremy Clements … 181.594 … 28 laps

25 David Starr … 181.446 … 25 laps

26 Ty Dillon … 181.069 … 23 laps

27 Austin Dillon … 180.870 … 23 laps

28 Mario Gosselin … 179.168 … 15 laps

29 Mark Thompson … 178.964 … 2 laps

30 Benny Gordon … 178.961 … 25 laps

31 Chris Cockrum … 178.543 … 29 laps

32 Chad Boat … 176.627 … 21 laps

33 Ryan Sieg … 176.601 … 20 laps

34 Mike Bliss … 176.523 … 12 laps

35 Bobby Gerhart … 176.026 … 26 laps

36 Derek White … 175.955 … 12 laps

37 Jeff Green … 175.761 … 17 laps

38 Landon Cassill … 175.080 … 6 laps

39 Peyton Sellers … 174.499 … 13 laps

40 Harrison Rhodes … 174.328 … 8 laps

41 Derrike Cope … 174.258 … 18 laps

42 Mike Harmon … 173.945 … 17 laps

43 Ross Chastain … 173.929 … 7 laps

44 Joey Gase … 173.724 … 10 laps

45 Carlos Contreras … 172.864 … 23 laps

Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average:

1 Chris Buescher … 179.246 mph

2 John Wes Townley … 169.106 mph

3 Mark Thompson … 162.614 mph

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Denny Hamlin hopes teams don’t shoot selves in feet with pit guns

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Denny Hamlin is the hottest driver on the Cup circuit. He has two wins – including Saturday night at Bristol – as well as two runner-ups, and a third- and fifth-place finish in the last six races. He’s also moved up to third in the rankings in that string.

But Hamlin isn’t taking anything to chance, particularly some of the smallest details – such as loose lug nuts and wheels.

Hamlin appeared Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On-Track” show and was asked about how not only his team, but also other Cup teams, can overcome the loose lug nuts and wheels issues.

Hamlin said a significant part of the problem – particularly at a place like Bristol Motor Speedway – is pit guns, which are allocated and issued in a pre-race lottery by NASCAR, rather than have teams use their own guns.

MORE: Denny Hamlin earns hard-fought win over Matt DiBenedetto at Bristol

Hamlin does not like that system and explained why:

“(Bristol) puts probably some of the biggest loads we have on our tires. Truth be told, over the last two years since we’ve had these guns issued to us, they’re not capable of getting all the wheels tight, they really aren’t.

“It’s a lottery whether you get a gun that’s good enough to get ‘em tight. Through JGR, Stewart-Haas and other teams that have documented it, in the spring race there were over 20 loose wheels. This is not just a team thing. It’s just that the equipment is not quite up to par as far as what it’s capable of.

“We keep track of all the guns and how good they are and how bad they are. It’s a lottery system of whether you’re going to get (a good or bad one). It doesn’t matter how fast you go, you can hold the gun on there and it’s just not going to get the torque quite tight enough.”

Hamlin experienced a loose wheel that forced him to pit under green on Lap 186 of Saturday night’s race at Bristol, leaving him two laps behind the leaders. Hamlin had another loose wheel on Lap 374 and pitted while running 10th.

Thus far this season, in addition to several loose wheels in races, Hamlin’s team has also been penalized four times for loose lug nuts after races: Fontana, Bristol spring race, Chicagoland and the July race at Pocono.

This isn’t the first time Hamlin has publicly complained about pit guns and loose lug nuts and wheels.

NBC Sports has reached out to NASCAR for comment.

Check out what Hamlin said about that after Saturday night’s race in the video above (Hamlin talks about this issue starting around the 6:00 mark).

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Preliminary entry lists for Xfinity, Trucks this weekend

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While the NASCAR Cup Series will be off this weekend, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any racing.

On the contrary, the Xfinity Series will be racing Saturday at Road America and the Truck Series will compete Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Here are the entry lists for both series:

Xfinity – CTECH Manufacturing 180 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

There are 39 cars entered.

Regan Smith will be in the No. 8 J.R. Motorsports Chevrolet.

A.J. Allmendinger will drive the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

Saturday’s Cup runner-up, Matt DiBenedetto, will drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

There is no driver listed yet for the No. 117 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Chevrolet Silverado 250 (2:30 p.m. ET FS1)

There are only 28 Trucks listed for the entry list.

All seats are filled.

Click here for the entry list.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. thanks all who have ‘lifted us up’ since plane crash

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. issued his first public comments Monday since he and his family survived a plane crash last Thursday afternoon at Elizabethton (Tennessee) Municipal Airport.

Earnhardt offered thanks to “everyone who has lifted us up with phone calls, messages and prayer since last Thursday. We are truly blessed that all on board escaped with no serious injuries, including our daughter, our two pilots and our dog Gus.”

Earnhardt also thanked the pilots, emergency personnel, law enforcement and hospital staff.

He stated that wife “Amy and I continue to be very appreciative of the privacy extended to us to process everything. It has been important to do that together and on our own time.”

Earnhardt stated that because of the ongoing investigation “we will not be speculating or discussing the cause of the accident.”

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board is expected this week. Ralph Hicks, a senior investigator for the NTSB said in a briefing last Friday that “the airplane basically bounced at least twice before coming down hard on the right wing landing gear. You can actually see the right wing landing gear collapsing on the video (from nearby buildings). The airplane continued down the runway, off to the end, through a fence and came to a stop … on highway 91.”

Both pilots have been interviewed and Hicks stated that what they said was “very consistent” with what the video showed. Hicks also said investigators had talked to the Earnhardt family.

NASCAR America 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Recapping Hamlin’s Bristol win

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs on NBCSN at a special time, from 6-7 p.m. ET, and will recap Denny Hamlin’s win at Bristol.

Steve Letarte will be joined by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett and A.J. Allmendinger to discuss Hamlin’s win and other storylines.

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 for the special start time at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.