Christopher Bell

Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick ‘knock the dust back off’ with Atlanta rookie test

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The Cup Series test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway isn’t the only NASCAR action that took place this week.

Three rookie drivers from the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series got to make their first laps as well.

Christopher Bell of Joe Gibbs Racing and Tyler Reddick of JR Motorsports joined GMS Racing’s Dalton Sargeant in the two-day test at the 1.54-mile track.

The test, held Monday and Tuesday, was Reddick’s first time in action behind the wheel of JR Motorsports’ No. 9 Chevrolet.

MORE: Social Roundup from the Las Vegas test

The 22-year-old driver is taking over for 2017 champion William Byron after he spent last season driving the No. 42 part-time for Chip Ganassi Racing. It was Reddick’s first time at Atlanta in a stock car after making two starts there in the Truck Series.

“This track’s definitely got one of the older surfaces on the schedule … so when you come here and test, that makes it difficult to get it going,” Reddick said in a team release. “Obviously, the track is going to wear the tires out really quickly.”

Atlanta’s surface hasn’t been repaved since the track was reconfigured in 1997, the year after Reddick was born.

“Tracks like these are a lot of fun; they kind of knock the dust back off in a sense and get your feet planted back where they need to be,” Reddick said. “This is a track that, even if your car is handling pretty good, it’s still going to be a handful. You have to really work for it as the tires fall away.”

Bell returned to the No. 20 Toyota to begin his rookie campaign.

The two-time defending winner of the Chili Bowl made his debut in the series last year, making eight starts and earning his first win, in October at Kansas Speedway.

The 23-year-old driver earned one win at Atlanta in the Truck Series. His victory last year in February was the first of five on the way to winning the Truck Series title for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

“I’ve run here at Atlanta twice and ran exceptionally well both times,” Bell said in a track press release. “It’s one of my favorite race tracks. This place is a blast and one of the most fun places we go to.”

The Xfinity season opens on Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. Reddick, Bell and the rest of the Xfinity field will be back at Atlanta on Feb. 24 for the Rinnai 250.

“Just getting the jitters out (was the biggest goal at this test),” Bell said. “I was pretty nervous, and I think everybody is the first time they get in their cars since November. I’m glad today went smoothly.”

Sargeant, 19, made his first laps at Atlanta driving the No. 25 Chevrolet for GMS Racing.

The native of Boca Raton, Florida, has only six Truck starts since 2015. He placed second last year in the ARCA Racing Series.

“Hopefully I’m a quick learner, and we’ll see what we can do,” Sargeant said in the track press release. “We’ve been trying a bunch of different things on these trucks with the new motor and everything. It’s just a little bit different than what they were used to last year and years before, so we’re just out here testing as much as we can.”

Sargeant’s best finish in his six Truck starts was ninth at New Hampshire in 2015.

“It’s definitely a really cool place,” Sargeant said of Atlanta. “I’m looking forward to coming here and racing in February. I think it’s going to be a tough challenge. I know it’s going to be warmer then, so we might be slipping and sliding around a little bit more, but my first overall thoughts is that track is really awesome.”

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Brad Keselowski wins pole for New Hampshire Xfinity race

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Brad Keselowski will start first in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Keselowski claimed the pole for the Lakes Region 200 (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) with a speed of 130.296 mph.

It’s his second pole in three starts this season and his fifth pole in 10 starts at the 1-mile track.

Keselowski is trying to win his fourth straight Xfinity race.

The Team Penske driver will be joined on the front row by Christopher Bell (130.126 mph).

The top five is completed by Ryan Preece, Cole Custer and John Hunter Nemechek.

Ryan Truex, Matt Tifft, Austin Cindric, Kaz Grala, Jeremy Clements, Michael Annett and Ross Chastain did not advance out of the second round.

During the first round the red flag came out with 6:25 left due to fluid on the track from Ryan Reed‘s No. 16 Ford.

Reed will start last.

Click here for qualifying results.

 

Today’s Xfinity race at New Hampshire: Start time, lineup and more

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Last year, Ryan Preece finished second to Kyle Busch in this race. Preece takes over the car that beat him last year and hopes to improve by one position. He’ll have to beat Cup regulars Brad Keselowski and Austin Dillon to do so.

Here’s all the info for today’s Xfinity race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:16 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 200 laps (211.6 miles) around the 1.05-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 7 a.m. Qualifying is at 11:05 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 1:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Boston Sports Team Vocalist John Robert Murphy will perform the anthem at 4:01 p.m. The Canadian National Anthem will be performed by Jodie Cunningham at 3:58 p.m.

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

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 78 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Kyle Busch beat his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Ryan Preece by more than 10 seconds. William Byron came home third, with Cup regulars Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top five.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Denny Hamlin posts fastest lap in Saturday morning Cup practice

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LOUDON, N.H. – Denny Hamlin had the fastest lap in Saturday morning’s Cup practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, leading the field with a lap of 132.942 mph.

He was followed by Ryan Blaney (132.526 mph), Martin Truex Jr. (132.462), Kyle Busch (132.406) and Kevin Harvick (132.356).

Harvick ran the most laps at 50. Harvick told NASCAR on NBC broadcaster Rick Allen in the garage that he ran so many laps to see how much the speed falls off as the tires wear. Jimmie Johnson was next with 42 laps run.

There were no incidents in the 50-minute session.

Ryan Blaney had the best 10-lap average at 131.767 mph.

Click here for the speed chart.

Start time of Sunday’s Cup race moved up to 1 pm ET

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LOUDON, N.H. – The start time for Sunday’s Cup race has been moved up to 1 p.m. ET because of the threat of rain, NASCAR announced.

NBCSN will broadcast the race. NBCSN’s coverage begins at noon ET.

The wunderground.com forecast for 1 p.m. ET Sunday calls for a 49 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms. There is a threat of rain throughout the day.

Kurt Busch won the pole for Sunday’s race.