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Carl Edwards brings helmet and suit to Atlanta, laughs off rumors

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Halfway through an impromptu news conference at the back of the hauler for the No. 19 Toyota he was scheduled to drive this season, Carl Edwards paused and smiled.

“I should have started this a lot differently,” said Edwards, who was clad in a black button-down shirt branded with an Arris sponsor logo. “I could have messed with you guys somehow on the rumors and stuff. (Mexican multibillionaire) Carlos (Slim) pays me a million dollars a race to come hang out. Penske wants me to spy on the Toyotas.

“No, it’s pretty cool just to be here (and) that they want me here. I’m having fun.”

About six weeks after announcing he was stepping away from NASCAR this season, Edwards returned to a Cup race weekend for the first time this season, serving as a consultant to rookie Daniel Suarez.

But while he spoke highly of his replacement’s ability and learning curve (“He’s doing really well”), Edwards lamented about his absence from the cockpit of the orange Camry.

“Everybody calls it retirement; I haven’t called it retirement officially,” he said. “I admit I brought my helmet and driver suit today, just in case somebody needed something. But I’m having a lot of fun. I’m just so grateful to Coach (Joe Gibbs) and everybody for letting me make the decision I made. But it is cool coming back here and seeing everybody. It’s really fun.”

Someone asked if he would consider a ride in the truck or Xfinity series?

“I thought you said this evening,” he smiled. “I might be in this evening! I don’t know. I think it’s actually hard to come here and be half-in and half out, so I’m going to try really hard to stick to my plan, step away and make sure I get my perspective right, and if I decide I’m going to drive something, I’m going to do it 100%, but right now, I don’t know.

“I’m certain I wouldn’t agree to something full time right now.”

The main question might be if Edwards wanted to climb into his former Joe Gibbs Racing ride if he would have been allowed.

“That’s a great question,” Edwards said when asked if he were licensed. “I don’t know. I’ve snuck into a lot of racetracks and driven stuff, so I’m not above doing that. I don’t know. I haven’t filled out any paperwork.

“I did tell Richard Buck this morning I’m pretty sure that I passed the drug test, so that’ll be good.”

NASCAR confirmed Friday that Edwards hadn’t been issued a license yet this year.

Suarez said the team hadn’t discussed whether Edwards might take some laps in his car. “I don’t even think he has a license anymore,” Suarez said, adding with a smile. “I don’t even know how that (would) work. Honestly, we didn’t think about it. Definitely, he’s going to be here to help.”

Edwards flew his Cessna in Friday morning from his home of Columbia, Mo., where he lives with his wife and two young children. He deflected questions about how things were going at home. “You know I don’t talk about them, but everything’s been going really well,” he said. “I’m really, really grateful to have made the decision I made.”

Edwards, who has been using his plane to ferry medical patients who can’t fly commercial, said he could leave “at any minute” but might stick around through Saturday’s practices.

“Whenever they say they’re done with me, I’ll take off,” he said.

Suarez, who asked Edwards to attend during a commercial shoot Tuesday, seemed to acclimate quickly to the 1.54-mile oval, turning the 16th-fastest lap in the first practice.

“I thought it would be more talking to him about the racetrack, but he’s super quick and learning the place, obviously,” Edwards said. “He’s pretty fast.

“It’s been pretty neat just to be able to help him a little bit. I guess the proof will be in qualifying here. He’ll have somebody to blame it on if it goes poorly.”

That would be unlikely as Suarez clearly appreciates the help.

“He’s a great guy, very good friend,” he said of Edwards. “He just asked me, ‘Hey Daniel, do you want me to go over there? Do you think it would be helpful?’ I said, ‘Man to have a driver like you who has a bunch of wins here in Atlanta, it’s a big deal.”

Edwards, who has three Cup wins at Atlanta (including the first of his career 12 years ago), said he missed the people as much as anything about the NASCAR garage, said he didn’t have a schedule for future Cup races where he might help Suarez.

“I think some (tracks) I can help them,” Edwards said. “Some places I can’t. I think very quickly, I’ll be out of the picture because it’s his team. He’s proven himself. He doesn’t have to have me here. I’m only in addition to what he’s already got, and it’s only because he wants me here.

“I definitely don’t want to get in the way. I’m not a hanger-on type of guy. If they don’t want me here, I won’t be here.”

Edwards said he’d stay for Sunday’s race if asked but added it might not be that fun based off the Daytona 500.

“It was hard to watch the start of the 500,” he said. “But once they started wrecking a little bit, it wasn’t that hard to walk away from the TV. But this place, I love this place. I miss driving while I’m standing here.”

Edwards joked that at home, he mostly had been “spending a lot of time with my chainsaw in the woods. Probably end up in an emergency room soon. I’ve been doing stuff outside the house. I’m not good in the house yet.”

Was he still interested in running for Senate as a report indicated in January?

“I haven’t decided on the political stuff,” he said. “Like I talked about at that press conference, I really believe in individual freedom and liberty and what the United States is based upon. I think, like anybody, I’ve been paying attention. It’s a little scary what’s been going on as a whole in our country and in the world.

“If I can help with that down the line, great. But I don’t have any firm plans right now.”

Natalie Decker not medically cleared for Las Vegas Truck race

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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. During the final stage of the race, NASCAR announced she had been treated and released from the infield medical center.

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 was 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.