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Tony Stewart’s fellow drivers glad to see him back racing

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While he may be one of their toughest rivals on a racetrack, several NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers are happy to see Tony Stewart back in a car this weekend at Richmond International Raceway.

The three-time Sprint Cup champion will make his first start of the season in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400. He missed the season’s first eight races while recovering from a Jan. 31 accident in an ATV.

Kevin Harvick:

“I came to Stewart-Haas Racing to race with Tony. To see where he was from a personal standpoint over the time from when he got hurt and everything that happened, and see his interaction from the owner’s standpoint over the last several weeks has been very interesting to me, just to see how engaged he was and how excited he was and how relaxed and into what was going on.

“You add all that enthusiasm and engagement that he’s had with us at the racetrack and now you put him back in the car, and you can see that excitement to another level.

“It’s big to have him back in the car. We’re all excited as a sport and as his teammates to have him back in the car is always a good thing; and have that consistency moving forward with just one driver.

“Mike (Bugarewicz, crew chief) has done a great job and the team has done a great job and the organization has done a great job in supporting him, but to have that consistency is going to be big for everybody.”

Kurt Busch:

“It’s great to have our team owner and our lead driver back in the car. It’s great to see him recover as quickly as he did, to push through the rehab side of it to get back to the car. This is his retirement year. He is supposed to enjoy it. He wants to go out there and do well.

“I think Richmond is a perfect track for the body to come back to a race, because of the lower demands physically on the body because there is not a lot of banking here. There is not a lot of G-Force and you have to get up on the wheel and turn the wheel, but he will be able to settle in.

“He has had good history here at Richmond. He has had multiple wins, and it’s just nice to see him jump back in the car so soon. We just want him back in the car to work the bugs out of it to be as competitive as soon as possible.”

Joey Logano:

“We are glad to have him back. The 14 number has been out there every week, but Tony hasn’t been in it, so it is nice to have Tony back out in his final year. I can imagine he wants to go out on a good note, and it is nice to have him back in the car and be in that position where he loves to be and try to end his career on a high note.”

Brad Keselowski:

“Any time you welcome back a three-time champion, regardless of what his name is, is a big deal for our sport. I am glad to have him back, and I think it is a big deal for our fans as well.”

Denny Hamlin:

“It’s good. This is a retirement season for him and it was a little bit delayed, but he’s now going to be going to some of these race tracks for the final time, and I know just in general Tony has been around and traveling each week to the race tracks and been very hands-on with his race team.

“I know it’s all special memories for us to be able to go out there and compete with him. I know me coming into the Cup Series and being a teammate of his in my rookie season was awesome, but our relationship has grown so much further now that we’re not teammates. It’s a great season — would love to see him make a Chase push if he can and end on a good note.”

Carl Edwards:

“From a competitor’s standpoint, Tony is one of the fiercest competitors in the sport, so to have him there and have someone to battle against is fun. I’ve really enjoyed racing Tony, and it’s good to see him back in a car. I think he adds a lot and definitely makes it fun out on the racetrack.”

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NASCAR community pays tribute to World of Outlaws driver killed in crash

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The NASCAR community paid tribute to World of Outlaws driver Jason Johnson, who died after a sprint car crash Saturday night at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway.

Johnson crashed after a restart racing for the lead. Witnesses said that Johnson’s car flipped and went through billboards outside Turn 3, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Johnson won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals. He finished sixth in the points last year in the World of Outlaws.

 

Today’s Cup race at Sonoma: Start time, lineup and more

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There has been a different winner in each of the last nine Cup races at Sonoma Raceway, site of today’s Cup race. Those nine winners have been Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick.

Will there be a 10th different winner at the road course?

Here is all the information for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley will give the command to start engines at 3:01 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:13 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 110 laps (218.9 miles) around the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 25. Stage 2 ends on Lap 50.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 10:30 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 1 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:20 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEMBroadway Under The Stars in Sonoma Valley, Transcendence’s Meggie Cansler will perform the anthem at 2:55 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race beginning at 3 p.m. Coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 80 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Kevin Harvick led the final 22 laps to win last year’s race. Clint Bowyer placed second. Brad Keselowski finished third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for full qualification results.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at Sonoma

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at Sonoma Raceway.

Nate Ryan

Martin Truex Jr. He probably had the best car at Sonoma last year; his team closes the deal this season.

Dustin Long

Kevin Harvick. No one can stop him on an oval or a road course.

Daniel McFadin

William Byron pulls off a shocking win in his first Cup race at Sonoma.

Dan Beaver

Jamie McMurray seesaws through the field, but gets track position in the closing laps.

Race results, Truck Series point standings after Gateway

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Justin Haley survived two late-race restarts to win his first career Camping World Truck Series race in the Eaton 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park.

His victory was aided by a push into turn one by rookie Todd Gilliland, who finished second.

Johnny Sauter finished third to score his 10th top-five finish in 10 races.

Myatt Snider and Zane Smith rounded out the top five. Smith was making his first career Truck start.

Click here for complete results.

Johnny Sauter maintained his points lead with a third-place finish, extending the advantage to 73 points over Noah Gragson, who finished 10th.

Brett Moffitt is third in the standings and has two wins to his credit.

Grant Enfinger and Stewart Friesen round out the top five

Hayley climbed from eighth to sixth in the standings with his win, but more importantly that victory gets him a berth into the playoffs.

Click here for the complete points standings.