Tony Stewart will keep racing after Cup retirement

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Revealing the choice “was 100 percent mine,” three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart announced he will retire from the Sprint Cup Series after the 2016 season.

Stewart said he wasn’t retiring from racing but wouldn’t compete again in the Sprint Cup Series after next year. He said he’d be open to racing in any series such as sprint cars or sports cars but said he hadn’t made any plans (though he did rule out racing again in the Indianapolis 500). He also wants to race a truck at Eldora Speedway (which he owns) and didn’t rule out races in NASCAR’s Xfinity or modified series.

“There wasn’t any pressure,” Stewart said Wednesday about the retirement decision during a news conference at Stewart-Haas Racing headquarters in Kannapolis, N.C. “If anything, it was the opposite. I had more people trying to talk me out of it than anything.”

Stewart will turn his No. 14 Chevrolet over to Clint Bowyer beginning with the 2017 season after a career highlighted by 48 victories in NASCAR’s premier series, 15 since becoming a co-owner of SHR in 2009.

Stewart said he planned to remain around the NASCAR team in the future, with the only difference being he wouldn’t be driving a Cup car for the first time since 1999.

“It’s nothing you plan,” he said. “Deep down, you know when it’s time to do something different. It’s a bittersweet day.”

Stewart, 44, hasn’t won since June 2, 2013 at Dover International Speedway. Since that victory, he broke his right leg in an August 2013 sprint car crash and missed the final 15 races of that NASCAR season. Last year, he missed three races after his sprint car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. in an Aug. 9 race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park.

Stewart, who is ranked 25th in this season’s points standings, said the events had “zero percent” impact on his decision.

“This is strictly what I want to do,” he said. “My leg feels fine. The tragedy of (Ward’s death), nothing’s going to change that. It happened. It’s not going to direct the rest of my life.”

Was he retiring from Cup on his terms?

“Absolutely,” he said. “There’s nothing to this other than I feel it was the right time. To get someone like Clint Bowyer, that’s when you seize the opportunity. He’s the perfect driver to fill in for us.”

 

Starting lineup for Texas Cup race: Brad Keselowski wins pole

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Brad Keselowski will be at the front of the field to start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway (3:30 pm ET, USA Network).

Keselowski, who is not a part of the 12-driver playoff group, won the pole Saturday afternoon with a speed of 188.990, edging Joey Logano‘s 188.805.

MORE: Texas Cup starting lineup

The race is the first of three in the second round of the Cup playoffs. Round of 12 races will follow at Talladega Superspeedway Oct. 2 and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval Oct. 9.

MORE: Waffle House a headquarters for race winners

Also starting in the top five Sunday will be William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Michael McDowell.

Brad Keselowski wins Cup pole at Texas Motor Speedway

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Brad Keselowski, hoping to extend Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s turnaround, won the pole Saturday for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

It was the second piece of good news for RFK Racing in two weeks. Chris Buescher,  Keselowski’s teammate, won last week’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the first victory for the team under the RFK banner.

Keselowski, who ran 188.990 mph, is not a part of the 12-driver playoff group. Nine of the first 14 starting positions were filled by playoff drivers.

MORE: Texas Cup qualifying results

Following in the top five Saturday were Joey Logano, William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Michael McDowell. Playoff point leader Chase Elliott will start sixth.

“Texas is a really tough track,” Keselowski told NBC Sports. “As hot as it’s going to be, that will be even tougher.”

Race-time temperatures are expected to be in the mid-90s Sunday.

The race (3:30 p.m. ET), the first event in the second round of the playoffs, will be televised by the USA Network.

Sunday Texas Cup race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The first race in the second round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is scheduled Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

Twelve drivers are racing for eight spots in the next round. Chase Elliott leads the standings by 15 over Joey Logano entering Sunday’s 500-mile event, the only Cup points race at TMS this year. Ryan Blaney, who is in the playoff group, won the All-Star Race at the track in May.

Chase Briscoe, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and Austin Cindric are below the cutline entering the 3:30 p.m. ET (USA Network) race.

MORE: Big race celebration? Try Waffle House

The playoffs will continue at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9).

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway:

START: The command to start engines will be given by “Top Gun: Maverick” actors Jay Ellis and Lewis Pullman at 3:38 p.m. (ET) … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Bret Shisler of Texas Alliance Raceway Ministries at 3:30 p.m. … The 1st Cavalry Division Band will perform the anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 334 laps (501 miles) on the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 105. Stage 2 ends at Lap 210.

MORE: Ryan Blaney’s team to appeal penalty

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 2:30 p.m. on USA Network. The post-race show will air on USA Network. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and also will stream at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy skies. High of 96 with a 5% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Kyle Larson won by .459 of a second over William Byron last October. Larson led 256 of the race’s 334 laps.

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Brandon Jones wins Xfinity pole at Texas Motor Speedway

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Playoff driver Brandon Jones won the pole position Saturday morning for Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Jones was clocked at 185.637 miles per hour. He has won three of the past four Xfinity poles.

MORE: Texas Xfinity qualifying results

MORE: Texas Xfinity starting lineup

Scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on the USA Network, the race is the opening event of the Xfinity playoffs.

Following Jones in the top five were Noah Gragson (winner of three consecutive Xfinity races), Daniel Hemric, John Hunter Nemechek and Sam Mayer.

MORE: Post-race celebration? Try the Waffle House

The race is 200 laps (300 miles) on the 1.5-mile track. Drivers will be battling heat in the mid-to-high 90s.