Nate Ryan’s ballot for the 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame class

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After six years of voting for USA TODAY Sports, Nate Ryan cast a ballot Wednesday for the NASCAR Hall of Fame as NBC Sports’ digital representative. Ryan is one of 59 members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting panel (including one online vote determined by fans). His ballot for the seventh class (followed by his ballot for each of the preceding six years):

1. Curtis Turner: Often called the “Babe Ruth of NASCAR,” he is one of the sport’s most colorful characters and hard-charging drivers. Turner drove in the first race in NASCAR’s premier series in 1949 and earned his first victory three starts later. He is the only driver in Sprint Cup history to score two consecutive victories by leading every lap from the pole. The Floyd, Va., native’s career suffered after being banned by Bill France for four years for trying to organize a union. He died at 46 in a 1970 plane crash.

2. O. Bruton Smith: Perhaps the most influential and pioneering track owner and promoter in stock-car history, Smith, 88, built Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1959, and the Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman and CEO remains highly involved in NASCAR almost a half-century later. In 1995, SMI was the first motorsports company to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange, and it owns eight tracks that play host to 12 Sprint Cup races – Charlotte, Texas Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway, Bristol Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.

3. Rick Hendrick: The most successful team owner in NASCAR history has a record 11 Sprint Cup championships, most recently with Jimmie Johnson last season. Hendrick, 65, has compiled 219 victories over 30 years with a diverse driver lineup that includes Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, Tim Richmond, Darrell Waltrip, Ricky Rudd, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne. Hendrick Motorsports’ sprawling 12-building campus sits on 140 acres in Charlotte, N.C., and is the industry standard.

4. Ray Evernham: Voted the greatest crew chief of all time in a 2006 media poll, the impact of Evernham, 57, transcends his sterling statistics. He won three championships with Jeff Gordon during a virtually unbeatable stretch of 1995-98 while introducing innovations in car building, pit crews and strategies that still are used today. His legacy remains visible through the many careers he shaped as a team leader and car owner: The past two championships have been won by crew chiefs (Chad Knaus and Rodney Childers) who spent time in Evernham’s tutelage.

5. Bobby Isaac: The tenacious native of Catawba, N.C., scored 37 victories in NASCAR’s premier series – more than any other Hall of Fame candidate this year than Mark Martin – including 11 wins during his 1970 championship season. Named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers in 1998, he holds the single-season record for pole positions (19 in 1969) and also took on the commendable task of teaching himself to read while driving in the big leagues. He died at 45 in 1977.

Ryan’s previous NASCAR Hall of Fame ballots:

2010: Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, David Pearson, Bill France Jr.

2011: Pearson, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Lee Petty

2012: Waltrip, Yarborough, Dale Inman, Raymond Parks, Curtis Turner

2013: Fireball Roberts, Tuner, Fred Lorenzen, Herb Thomas, Tim Flock

2014: Roberts, Turner, Lorenzen, Flock, Joe Weatherly

2015: Lorenzen, Turner, Weatherly, O. Bruton Smith, Rick Hendrick

Natalie Decker not medically cleared for Las Vegas Truck race

Natalie Decker
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NASCAR announced right before Friday night’s Truck Series race that Natalie Decker hadn’t been medically cleared to compete.

No details were provided about the issue that prevented Decker from being cleared.

The Niece Motorsports driver would have started 23rd. Due to her No. 44 truck having cleared inspection and having been placed on the starting grid she will be credited with a last-place finish.

Decker has made 11 starts this year. She missed the June 28 race at Pocono after she was hospitalized due to bile duct complications related to her gallbladder removal in December

Check back for more.

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.