Jeff Gordon earns Sprint Cup pole in Hendrick Motorsports onslaught at Talladega

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Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne led a Hendrick Motorsports onslaught during Saturday’s Sprint Cup qualifying for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Gordon will take the field to the green flag in Sunday’s race, thanks to a top qualifying speed of 194.793 mph.

In his final season as an active Sprint Cup driver, Saturday marked Gordon’s second consecutive pole of 2015 on a restrictor plate track, having won the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500.

“We definitely have a fast Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet,” Gordon told FOX. “I think we’ve showed that all weekend long, but you don’t really know what you’ve got until you put it on the clock.

“I’m so proud of this pole because we got the pole in Daytona, but it was a totally different format. We knew the car was fast there. For this team to bring another car, a different car, here and all the hard work of the engine shop and what they do with the bodies, chassis and prep, a lot of hard work goes into this.

“That’s very awesome for Hendrick Motorsports to be on the front row. This was all them. I played a small role in Daytona, I played no role today, but it was fun.”

Gordon, who was more than .3 seconds quicker than Kahne’s effort, is seeking his 13th career restrictor plate win; he leads all active drivers with six wins at Talladega.

Fellow Sprint Cup driver Greg Biffle told FOX about Gordon’s run in the new single-qualifying format: “What I cannot get over is how fast Jeff Gordon’s car is. It’s been a long time since we’ve done single-car qualifying and a car that was .3 of a second faster than the whole field, not just second, but from second to 20th, to see Jeff’s car that fast.”

HMS drivers made up four of the top five cars in the qualifying results with Kahne second-fastest at 193.685 mph, his best qualifying effort this season, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. (4th at 193.599 mph) and Jimmie Johnson (5th at 193.427 mph) rounding out the top five.

“The Hendrick cars are really strong and the engines are running great,” Kahne said. “I told Jeff that coming to the front row, I knew I wouldn’t beat him because he’s really quick, but I knew we could get up to second. I was real happy with that. It’s a good starting spot. Hopefully tomorrow we stay out of trouble, we’re there at the end and we have a shot.”

Rookie Ryan Blaney was the only non-HMS driver in the top five, qualifying third at 193.611 mph.

Here’s how Sprint Cup qualifying played out:

1 Jeff Gordon … 194.793 mph

2 Kasey Kahne … 193.685

3 Ryan Blaney … 193.611

4 Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 193.599

5 Jimmie Johnson … 193.427

6 Tony Stewart … 193.419

7 Paul Menard … 193.412

8 Matt Kenseth … 193.357

9 David Ragan … 193.006

10 Clint Bowyer … 192.808

11 Casey Mears … 192.703

12 Sam Hornish Jr. … 192.343

13 Kyle Larson … 192.792

14 Austin Dillon … 192.789

15 Brad Keselowski … 192.777

16 Brian Scott … 192.765

17 Denny Hamlin … 192.738

18 Ryan Newman … 192.715

19 Kurt Busch … 192.680

20 Greg Biffle … 192.672

21 Joey Logano … 192.622

22 Carl Edwards … 192.587

23 Michael Waltrip … 192.181

24 Kevin Harvick … 192.050

25 Danica Patrick. … 191.835

26 Trevor Bayne … 191.727

27 Jamie McMurray … 191.627

28 Aric Almirola … 191.616

29 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 191.581

30 Landon Cassill … 191.497

31 AJ Allmendinger … 191.252

32 Bobby Labonte … 191.176

33 Brendan Gaughan … 191.016

34 Josh Wise … 190.757

35 Justin Allgaier … 190.738

36 Martin Truex Jr. … 190.715

37 Alex Bowman … Owner Points

38 Chris Buescher … Owner Points

39 David Gilliland … Owner Points

40 Michael Annett … Owner Points

41 Cole Whitt … Owner Points

42 JJ Yeley … Owner Points

43 Matt DiBenedetto … Owner Points

DID NOT QUALIFY: Michael McDowell, Jeb Burton

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Brandon Brown hopes to shed underdog role in Xfinity playoffs

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Brandon Brown knows the odds are against him advancing beyond the first round of the Xfinity playoffs.

“If I went out and we did a survey and we asked 1,000 NASCAR fans to create a playoff bracket, I guarantee that 90 to 99 percent of them have me getting eliminated in the first round,” he told NBC Sports.

But that’s not stopping him.

Brown is in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time, earning the final spot last weekend with his family-run team. He enters Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) last in the 12-driver field. Brown has 2,000 points and is 10 points behind Ross Chastain, who holds the final transfer spot, entering the first round.

MORE: Saturday’s Xfinity race start time, lineup, forecast

Regardless where he is in the standings, Brown still met the team’s preseason goal of making the playoffs.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” the 27-year-old said of making the playoffs. “It’s so exciting and so thrilling. We’re just happy. Life is good. We’re seeing the fruits of our labor.”

Much of the Xfinity playoff focus will be on Chase Briscoe, who enters with a series-high seven wins. Or Austin Cindric, who won the regular-season title. Or Justin Allgaier, who has won three of the last seven races and could be the favorite if he makes it to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

Brown, who is in his second full season in the series, has four consecutive top-20 finishes going into this weekend. He knows the challenge he faces.

He said a key for this weekend is to have no mistakes, be running at the end and try to take advantage of any mistakes other playoff drivers have.

Then, he’ll look to Talladega. He’ll have an upgraded Earnhardt Childress Racing engine for that race, the team spending the extra money for the engine upgrade.

“I go into that track with confidence,” he said. “I need to go out there and make it happen, go win and make an name and go ahead and punch my ticket.”

While Brown knows most look at him as the underdog of these playoffs, he hopes to drop that title someday.

“The goal will be to get rid of that underdog title and to build that program that is going to be looked on as a powerhouse of the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” he said. “I enjoy the ride (as underdog), but now I’m ready to advance past it.”

Points entering Xfinity playoffs 

2,050 – Chase Briscoe

2,050 – Austin Cindric

2,033 – Justin Allgaier

2,025 – Noah Gragson

2,020 – Brandon Jones

2,018 – Justin Haley

2,014 – Harrison Burton

2,010 – Ross Chastain

2,002 – Ryan Sieg

2,002 – Michael Annett

2,001 – Riley Herbst

2,000 – Brandon Brown

First Round races

Sept. 26 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 3 – Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 10 – Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC)

Saturday Las Vegas Xfinity race: Start time, TV channel

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs get underway with the Saturday Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The race is the first of seven to determine the champion.

Chase Briscoe is on the pole after his win last weekend at Bristol

Here is all the info for the Saturday Las Vegas Xfinity race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 7:38 p.m by Cup driver Bubba Wallace. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:47 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 1 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 7:20 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:30 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Mackenzie Mackey at 7:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

TV/RADIO: Coverage begins on NBCSN with Countdown to Green at 7 p.m. Race broadcast begins at 7:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 7 p.m.. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the link.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for clear skies with a high of 95 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Chase Briscoe beat Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric at Bristol.

LAST RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Chase Briscoe beat Austin Cindric and Ryan Sieg for the win.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Xfinity starting lineup

General Motors announces leadership for technical center

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General Motors has announced the leadership for its new performance and racing technical center in Concord, North Carolina.

GM has tapped Dr. Eric Warren of Richard Childress Racing to be the director of NASCAR operations at the facility, which was unveiled in January.

Warren will be responsible for competition duties for NASCAR programs, “as well as expanding the involvement of GM’s product development resources in the technical strategy for the Chevrolet race teams,” GM said in a statement.

GM’s 75,000-square-foot facility will feature Driver-in-the-Loop simulators, vehicle simulation, aero development and other practices designed to advance racing and production capabilities.

Warren had been RCR’s Chief Technology Officer since 2017 and part of the team since 2012.

GM also named Mark Stielow to its new Director of Motorsports Competition Engineering position. Stielow will be responsible for overall engineering and technical direction for the NHRA, IndyCar, IMSA and Motorsports Operations. He will have a direct link to GM’s vehicle integration organization.

Charlotte Roval to host limited number of fans

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Charlotte Motor Speedway will host fans for its NASCAR Xfinity and Cup races and its IMSA race on the Roval Oct. 10-11, the track announced Friday.

The announcement comes after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper stated this week that outdoor sports venues with a capacity in excess of 10,000 could have up to 7% capacity.

The track stated that because of the limited capacity allowed, no additional tickets will be sold for the Oct. 11 Cup playoff race. Remaining ticket holders will have the option to receive a 120% credit toward a 2021 event or a refund for the full purchase amount.

Tickets remain for the Oct. 10 Xfinity playoff race and the IMSA WeatherTech  SportsCar GT Championship Series event. Adult tickets are $50. Tickets are available by calling 800-455-FANS (3267) or online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com. Kids 13 and under get in free.

“Throughout the summer, we’ve been working with local and state officials to bring fans to the Bank of America Roval 400 weekend for what promises to be one of the season’s most anticipated events,” said Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter in a statement. “While we regret that we cannot accommodate every fan who would like to be part of this spectacular race weekend, we are committed to providing the best and safest experience possible for those who are able to attend.”

Among the safety protocols for the events:

  • Mandatory temperature checks at entry gates
  • Contactless ticketing
  • Socially distanced grandstand seating
  • Cashless souvenir and concession purchases.
  • Fans and staff must wear approved face coverings at all times, except while eating and drinking.
  • Limited grandstand seating will be in groups of up to six people properly socially distant from any other group.

Fans can bring food and unopened beverages in a soft-sided clear bag no larger than 14 inches on its longest side. To limit contact, cash will not be accepted.