Hamlin fastest, then spins in weather-shortened final Cup practice at Michigan

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The final NASCAR Sprint Cup practice session early Saturday afternoon was shortened due to approaching inclement weather.

The session was red-flagged with about 27 minutes remaining in the scheduled 50-minute session when reports of lightning within eight miles of Michigan International Speedway surfaced.

Drivers were able to get a little over 20 total combined minutes of practice time in for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 before NASCAR halted the session after the lightning report.

A band of rain storms also began closing in on the racetrack, prompting officials to cancel the remainder of the session.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is slated to race at 1 p.m. ET.

In addition to the lightning problem, there was one incident of note in the final practice, involving Denny Hamlin, who had the fastest speed (197.878 mph) during the session before its stoppage.

Hamlin spun exiting Turn 3 and entering Turn 4 and wound up in the infield grass. His car bounced hard once it left the track and ended up in the grass, but damage appeared minimal.

“I just got loose,” Hamlin told CNBC. “It was definitely out of the blue, for sure. The tire and the track combination, you’re so on the edge that when you break traction, you fully pretty much break traction.

“We were going to patch it, just put the splitter on it. But it has a little bit of structure damage to the bumper bars and whatnot, so I think we’ll want to call it a practice. We’ve got a real good baseline. … We’ll make sure it’s right when we go to the green flag tomorrow.”

The session was red-flagged while Hamlin exited the racetrack and took his Toyota Camry to the garage for repairs.

The session resumed shortly after before it was red-flagged again and then cancelled due to the weather issues.

Hamlin retained the fastest speed of the session, followed by three Hendrick Motorsports drivers: Chase Elliott (197.788), Jimmie Johnson (197.694) and Kasey Kahne (197.455).

Brad Keselowski was fifth fastest (197.412), followed by Kurt Busch (197.336), Joey Logano (197.271), Kyle Larson (197.195), Carl Edwards (197.034) and Alex Bowman (196.979), subbing for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway

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Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

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

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.