Defending Chili Bowl champ Rico Abreu moves closer to repeating with feature win Wednesday

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Rico Abreu moved a step closer to repeating as Chili Bowl champion after winning Wednesday night’s preliminary feature.

Abreu took the lead on a restart just past halfway in the 25-lap feature at River Spirit Expo Center at Tulsa’s Expo Square and led the rest of the way.

He earns a spot in Saturday night’s 55-lap feature. Also qualifying for the Chili Bowl Nationals feature was Tyler Thomas, who finished second on Wednesday, and Thomas Meseraull, who placed third. The top three in each of the four preliminary night features advance to Saturday’s main event.

Abreu’s victory came hours after a report that he’ll have a full-time ride in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season for ThorSport Racing. An official announcement will be made Friday.

NASCAR TIES: J.J. Yeley had a tough night. He was involved in a crash in the B Main after three laps and did not continue, placing 15th. Troubles in his heat race forced him to have to race his way from one of the two C Main races. He won that to advance to the B Main before he couldn’t avoid a spinning car and was hit from behind as well.

NOTABLE: Austin Prock, a development driver for Tony Stewart Racing, finished 12th in the second B Main to see his night end. … Five-time Chili Bowl champ Sammy Swindell raced his way from the C Main and B Main to make it to the night’s preliminary feature but was involved in a couple of incidents late that kept him from a potential top-10 finish. He placed 18th in the 24-car A Main.

NEXT: Thursday’s qualifying races feature NASCAR drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier and Christopher Bell in action, along with IndyCar owner Sarah Fisher.

FEATURE RACE RESULTS: 

1 – Rico Abreu

2 – Tyler Thomas

3 – Thomas Meseraull

4 – Parker Price-Miller

5 – Austin Brown

6 – Chase Stockton

7 – Blake Hahn

8 – Jake Swanson

9 – Brenden Bright

10 – Alex Sewell

11 – Daniel Adler

12 – Steve Buckwalter

13 – Alex DeCamp

14 – Josh Lakatos

15 – Daniel Robinson

16 – Gary Taylor

17 – A.J. Fike

18 – Sammy Swindell

19 – Colby Copeland

20 – Tyler Courtney

21 – Jason McDougal

22 – Payton Pierce

23 – Larry Wight

24 – Kyle Clark

Full results from all of Wednesday’s races

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).

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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.