Kasey Kahne will end his tenure with Hendrick Motorsports at season’s end by making his first appearance in the NASCAR Cup playoffs since 2014, when the 10-race playoff was expanded to a 16-driver field.
Kahne comes into the playoffs ranked 13th. He earned an automatic playoff berth when he won the Brickyard 400, his first Cup win since the 2014 season.
Kahne finished 12th in Saturday’s race, his second-best showing since the Brickyard 400.
“I’ve been here (with Hendrick Motorsports) five or six years,” Kahne said in a post-race interview with NBCSN. “So to finish as high as I possibly can, with these guys.
“Doing it all together, putting in the best effort we can each week, when it’s all said and done, we’ll be happy about our effort and finish out what’s next.”
Stenhouse, meanwhile, qualified for his first playoffs in his fifth full-time season in NASCAR Cup.
Stenhouse has had his long-awaited breakthrough season in 2017, winning the first two races of his Cup career — the spring race at Talladega and the summer race at Daytona.
Even though he finished 19th in Saturday’s race, Stenhouse enters the playoffs in eighth position, 43 points behind top-ranked Martin Truex Jr.
“It’s cool to be in our first playoffs and can’t wait to see if we can’t advance a few rounds and put a 10-race stretch together,” Stenhouse told NBCSN. “We have to find a little bit more speed in our cars.
“We’ve been searching for that all summer long. I like the tracks coming up and have had success there. Looking forward to our first playoffs and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Kurt Busch posted the fastest single lap in the final practice for the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway with a speed of 94.061 mph.
He beat second-place Denny Hamlin (94.012 mph) by .040 seconds.
Martin Truex Jr. (93.718) had the third fastest lap, but the team will have some work to do before Saturday’s qualification. With nine minutes remaining on the clock, he ran into the back of Bubba Wallace in the esses and did significant damage to his nose. Wallace landed 34th on the chart with a speed of 91.641 mph.
Jamie McMurray (93.549) and Kevin Harvick (93.441) rounded out the top five.
Harvick (91.468) had the quickest 10-lap average – leading a sweep of the top three by Stewart Haas Racing. Busch was second quickest at 91.452 mph with Clint Bowyer third quick at 91.443 mph.
William Byron broke an axle seal in final practice, but the team was able to get him back on track with 24 minutes remaining in the session. His speed of 92.279 mph was 25th fastest.
Click here for the full report from final practice.
Last week’s winner, Brett Moffitt topped the speed chart in Friday evening’s practice session for the Eaton 200 with a speed of 137.191 mph.
He beat second-place Myatt Snider (136.658 mph) by .128 seconds.
Johnny Sauter (136.608), Riley Herbst (136.355), and Ben Rhodes (136.219) round out the top five.
Herbst is making his Truck Series debut this week.
Also making his Truck debut is Zane Smith, who posted a lap of 136.120 mph to land sixth on the chart.
Christian Eckes (135.906) failed to back up his series-leading speed from the first practice session and was only ninth fastest, but he had the quickest 10-lap average of 135.039 mph.
Click here for complete results from practice 2.
Rain canceled the practice session at Gateway that was scheduled to run from 3:35 – 4:25 p.m. Eastern time.
When they finally got on track, Eckes posted the fastest single lap in the first practice session with a speed of 134.360 mph. He is making his Truck series debut this week.
Eckes’ speed was .009 seconds faster than Noah Gragon (134.324), who landed second on the speed chart.
Rhodes (134.120), Moffitt (133.817) and Matt Crafton (133.706) rounded out the top five.
Rhodes had the quickest 10-lap average of 133.466 mph.
With the first practice canceled at Gateway, NASCAR added a final practice session scheduled for Noon – 1 p.m.
Click here for complete results from practice one.
Denny Hamlin, who has been fined by NASCAR for comments on Twitter, and was vocal toward critics after this year’s Daytona 500, says he’s found peace on how to deal with those on social media who don’t agree with him.
“I’ve been very good this year about not replying to mean people, and you all should do the same,’’ Hamlin said Friday at Sonoma Raceway.
“I’m making a (request) right now to every driver, every team owner, every NASCAR executive and every media member, stop replying to people who make nonsense comments. They have 16 followers. Don’t give them your 100,000. Do not give them your 100,000 as their stage. No one will ever see their comment, just brush it by, talk about the positives and I’m not a positive person.”
Asked how does one ignore such divisive comments, Hamlin said: “You just scroll by it. Forget it. That person doesn’t exit. They’re an admirer that has lost their way.’’
Hamlin has been better at doing so since the Daytona 500. He faced negative reaction on social media to the contact he and Bubba Wallace had at the end of the Daytona 500.
They engaged in a brief shouting match in the garage area after Hamlin learned that Wallace had taken a dig at him on national TV about a recent comment about drivers using Adderall.
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Clint Bowyer was the fastest in the first of two Cup practices Friday at Sonoma Raceway.
Bowyer, the winner of the most recent Cup race two weeks ago at Michigan, posted a lap of 93.590 mph. He was followed by Ryan Blaney (93.546 mph), Joey Logano (93.172), Jamie McMurray (93.049) and Daniel Suarez (92.746).
Sixth was Jimmie Johnson (92.661). He was followed by Michael McDowell (92.650), Martin Truex Jr. (92.614), AJ Allmendinger (92.596) and Ryan Newman (92.595).
Click here for full practice report
Final Cup practice will be from 5:40 – 6:55 p.m. ET. Qualifying will take place Saturday.
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