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Daniel Hemric moves forward with new contract, but without key crew members in Xfinity playoffs

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CONCORD, North Carolina — It’s been an uneven week for Daniel Hemric.

The 26-year-old driver arrived at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a new contract with Richard Childress Racing, keeping him in the team’s No. 21 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series next year.

But the rookie, one of 12 drivers in the Xfinity playoffs, also entered the 1.5-mile track without three key crew members who are suspended for the next four races.

Crew chief Danny Stockman Jr., car chief Clint Almquist and engineer Luke Mason were suspended after a piece of tungsten ballast fell off Hemric’s car on pit road at Dover.

They will not be eligible to return until the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The suspension comes with Hemric sitting fifth in the standings, 37 points above the first driver outside a transfer spot. The Round of 8 field will be decided by Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 300.

But Hemric believes his team will be unfazed by the suspensions due to RCR’s depth and experience. Randall Burnett, a former Cup crew chief, will serve as crew chief of the No. 21.

“Obviously, we accepted what happened,” Hemric said Friday. “We know it’s unacceptable and we’re not very proud of how it all went down on our end. But I talked about the depth of the company earlier and how we answer those calls, that depends on us. I feel solid with the group of guys we have to move forward with. I know Danny Stockman and my engineer back at the shop are still very, very, heavily involved in what’s going to happen at the race track, throughout the race weekends and know those guys have been a huge part of what’s gotten me into this situation we’re in.

“I know as a whole, RCR is rallying around myself and Brendan Gaughan here in the Xfinity Series to make sure that we have the best possible shop to run for the championship. We’re going to take what was given to us throughout the week (in) stride and feel like it’s not going affect us in any form of a negative way going forward.”

If Hemric falters and isn’t able to advance to the next round, he can be at ease knowing a disappointing end to the season won’t hurt his career prospects come February. Hemric and Matt Tifft were both announced as part of RCR’s Xfinity lineup for next season. 

“It’s obviously a very humbling situation to be a part of,” said Hemric, who is a native of nearby Kannapolis. “Just so pumped up to be part of Richard Childress Racing. … everybody knows we’re kind of in a rebuilding mode. I think we’ve done that all year on the Xfinity side. I know the Cup side’s doing the same thing.”

While RCR won two Cup races this year, the team’s five Xfinity cars have not won this season. The last year RCR did not win a Xfinity race was 2011, when it only made three starts with Tim George, Jr.

“I look forward to being able to stay with the progression of where the company’s going,” Hemric said. “Anytime you can be a part of that, it’s a very trying time because you can get down. But I think Richard Childress is a great leader, we’ve got a bunch of great leaders, a lot of depth in our company that’s allowed us to take these strides, staying together good or bad.”

Hemric has six top fives and 14 top 10s in 28 starts this season. He’s still looking for his first NASCAR victory after 49 starts in the Camping World Truck Series proved fruitless.

When RCR made its announcement regarding Hemric, it did not announce if Stockman would remain his crew chief next year.

“Danny Stockman has done an incredible job of not only assembling a race team from scratch, which is what we did over the offseason leading into this year,” Hemric said. “A group of guys that never really worked hand-in-hand together. What we did in such a short amount of time was pretty impressive from my side, on the outside looking in and being involved in it. I’m proud of that. We’ll get through the four-race suspension with those guys and kind of reevaluate everything over the offseason. That’s our time to figure out what’s best for my career and what’s best for the company moving forward.”

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New Hampshire to add traction compound to racing surface

Photo: Dustin Long
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New Hampshire Motor Speedway officials will add the PJ1 traction compound to the racing surface before this weekend’s racing, a track spokesperson confirmed to NBC Sports.

Track officials are scheduled to put the traction compound on the track today and are expected to do so again Saturday and Sunday, pending NASCAR approval. The track reapplied the traction compound the morning of last July’s race.

The traction compound is to be applied to the first groove (lowest groove) and third grove (just outside the main groove) in all four corners. A track spokesperson said the traction compound would be applied on the 12 feet at the bottom of the track from the yellow line on up. Then there will be a 12-foot section that will not be applied (the main groove) and the traction compound is to be applied on another 12 feet above the main grove

The track used the PJ1 compound for both Cup weekends last year to help enhance the passing.

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Weekend schedule for Cup, Xfinity at New Hampshire

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The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity teams will make their lone visit of the year to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend. Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch combined to win 14 of the first 19 races. Will their dominance continue? In Xfinity, there have been six different winners in the last seven races. Will that streak continue.

Here’s a look at the track schedule for the weekend:

(ALL TIMES ARE EASTERN)

FRIDAY, JULY 20

8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. — Cup garage open

10 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Xfinity garage open

Noon – 12:50 p.m. — Cup practice (NBCSN)

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

3:05 – 3:55 p.m. — Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

4:45 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (NBCSN, Performance Racing Network)

SATURDAY, JULY 21

7 a.m. — Xfinity garage opens

8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. — Cup garage open

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. — Cup practice (CNBC)

11:05 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (CNBC)

12:35 – 1:25 p.m. — Final Cup practice (NBCSN)

1:30 p.m. — Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

3:30 p.m. — Xfinity driver introductions

4 p.m. — Lakes Region 200 Xfinity race; 200 laps/211.6 miles (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

SUNDAY, JULY 22

8:30 a.m. — Cup garage opens

Noon — Cup driver/crew chief meeting

1:20 p.m. — Cup driver introductions

2 p.m. — Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 Cup race; 301 laps/318.46 miles (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch believes Martin Truex Jr. is his biggest competition

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Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. have been so strong in 2018 that many believe the championship will come down to them – and only them.

Busch has five wins, Harvick matches him with five and Truex earned his fourth win last week on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway.

Who is Busch’s greatest competition? Busch does not think the other five-time winner will be the driver to beat. Instead, he picked Truex as the top contender at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Wednesday’s NASCAR America.

“If you had to choose just one, I’d have to say Martin,” Busch said. “Just with the successes that they’ve had on mile-and-a-halves. Even though Harvick’s been just as good at mile-and-halves.”

Last year, Truex dominated the 1.5-milers – including a win in the final race that crowned him champion.

“Overall, the 78’s just so strong and they certainly know how to turn up the wick when it matters most,“ Busch said.

Busch is not ready to concede the title to Truex, however.

“I think you’ve seen the 78’s dominance of last year toned back,” he said. “They’re third, they’re fourth, they’re fifth – they’re still competitive, They’re still right there, but they’re not nine seconds out front. So I think the field has been closed up. … But they still have that little bit of edge when they need it.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch would have accepted Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s call on Friday

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If Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had called Kyle Busch as late as Friday morning before the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, none of last week’s verbal conflict between the two would have happened.

At least that is Busch’s opinion of the situation.

“If he would have made the call: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – even Friday morning still counts,” Busch said. “He could have talked about how I hurt his feeling for the things I said over the radio when I blasted him because I was mad over knocking a wall down.

“He could have said, ‘Hey man I’m sorry I got into you – you know I pushed up,’ or whatever happened … and ‘Hey, by the way, those things that you said after the crash were pretty rough.’ And I would have been, like ‘Ricky, you’re totally right. That was over the top.’

Then, when the question was posed about whether they the two had talked, the answer would have been “yeah, we’re all fine.”

And that would have been the end of the story.

“I learned, after making that mistake a few times that it’s just easier to make the call,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “Sometimes you don’t even think you’re in the wrong. … But it’s just easier to go ahead and make the call, because that guy’s annoyed. It goes into the next week – and then, like (happened with) you guys, y’all had it play out in front of everybody at Kentucky.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.