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Danica Patrick explains why she isn’t racing in The Clash

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Danica Patrick answered the question before it was even asked.

Introduced as “a former pole winner” in a news conference Saturday morning about her final NASCAR start in the Daytona 500, Patrick immediately interrupted the moderator.

“Being a former pole winner and watching myself not out there in Clash practice, you mean?” Patrick asked, glancing at a TV monitor showing cars turning laps at Daytona International Speedway for Sunday’s season-opening exhibition race.

Well, yes. Exactly.

Patrick, who became the first woman to win a pole position and lead laps in NASCAR’s premier series when she qualified first for the 2013 Daytona 500, is eligible for The Clash, and the 75-lap warmup on the 2.5-mile oval provides a good refresher for drivers getting re-acclimated to the draft.

But the No. 7 Chevrolet is here only for the Great American Race, a fact that Patrick recently was lamenting.

“A couple of days ago I was thinking to myself that we should have run the backup car in the Clash,” said Patrick, who had made four consecutive starts in The Clash with a best finish of fourth last year. “We don’t want to crash the primary anyway, so we are going to be careful in the (Can-Am Duel qualifying races Thursday), then you don’t have to worry about practicing too hard because you will have already had The Clash race.

“I was like, ‘Man, where was I on that one?’ It would have just been a good gamble to use the backup but didn’t think of it soon enough and was honestly just really concerned about the work getting done to put the primary car out there for the 500. Just came together too late and thought of it too late. It would have been good practice. It always is. It’s good for these guys too.  It’s good for everybody.”

A sponsorship deal with GoDaddy to close her racing career with Daytona and the Indianapolis 500 was announced last month and was followed by confirmation of Premium Motorsports as the NASCAR team fielding her car. Patrick has said the hunt for funding took longer than expected and The Clash wasn’t offered as part of the sponsorship package.

“It was really just to do Daytona and Indy and The Clash wasn’t a priority,” she said. “If it would have come together sooner, I’m sure that we would have been able to put something together for The Clash. But I’m sure it would have been extra, you know what I mean? It’s not free. Turning a wheel, turning the engine on, it’s never free.

“So, we would have surely found a way to put something together, but it just didn’t come together fast enough.”

Because NASCAR is using a new optical scanning inspection system, the team also considered it prudent to focus on car preparation for the one-off.

“There was no time to really worry too much about anything other than the primary (car),” Patrick said.

Patrick will have the comfort of being reunited with Tony Eury Jr., her 2010-12 crew chief with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series.

“It should all be familiar, but it’s a new team, and it is new stuff to sit in,” she said. “It should all be really, really, close, but hopefully it feels familiar and I slip right into it.”

NASCAR Open starting lineup at Bristol

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Michael McDowell will start on the pole for the NASCAR Open at Bristol Motor Speedway after a random draw. Aric Almirola joins him on the front row.

Click here for NASCAR Open starting lineup

The winners of each segment advance to the All-Star Race, along with the fan vote winner. Last year, Kyle Larson won a segment in the Open to advance to the All-Star Race and then won that event. Other segment winners last year were William Byron and Bubba Wallace. Alex Bowman advanced through the fan vote a year ago. Bowman has already qualified for this year’s All-Star Race.

 

NASCAR Open at Bristol 

Race Time: 7 p.m. ET Wednesday

Track: Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tennessee (0.533-mile speedway)

Length: 85 laps over three segments, 45.3 miles

Segments: Segment 1 is 35 laps. Segment 2 is 35 laps. Segment 3 is 15 laps.

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Performance Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: Fox Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Texas (200 laps, 300 miles), 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Truck race: Saturday at Texas (167 laps, 250.5 miles) 8 p.m. ET on FS1

Martin Truex Jr. to start on pole for All-Star Race at Bristol

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Martin Truex Jr., who is seeking his first All-Star Race win, will start on the pole for Wednesday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway after a random draw.

Truex will be joined on the front row by Alex Bowman.

Rookie Cole Custer, who earned a spot in the All-Star Race with his win Sunday at Kentucky, will start eighth.

Click here for All-Star Lineup

  • Positions 17-19 will go to segment winners from the NASCAR Open. The 20th starting spot goes to the fan vote winner, which will be announced after the NASCAR Open

Among the special rules for the race:

# The Chose Rule will be used. As drivers approach a designated spot on the track, they must commit to the inside or outside lane for the restart.

# The car number will move from the door toward the rear wheel to give sponsors more exposure.

# Cars that have automatically qualified for the All-Star Race will have underglow lights on their cars.

 

NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol 

Race Time: 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

Track: Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tennessee (0.533-mile speedway)

Length: 140 laps over four segments, 74.6 miles

Segments: Segment 1 is 55 laps. Segment 2 is 35 laps. Segment 3 is 35 laps. Segment 4 is 15 laps (only green flag laps count in this segment).

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Performance Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: Fox Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Texas (200 laps, 300 miles), 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Truck race: Saturday at Texas (167 laps, 250.5 miles) 8 p.m. ET on FS1

Xfinity playoff grid after Kentucky doubleheader

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The Xfinity Series went to Kentucky Speedway for a doubleheader and Austin Cindric left the track with two wins and a spot in the playoffs.

Cindric, who claimed the first oval track NASCAR wins of his career, is now third on the playoff grid among the six drivers locked into the postseason. He has 15 playoff points.

Noah Gragson, who is second on the grid, won three of four stages in Kentucky and has 18 playoff points.

Six spots remain to be filled on the playoff grid. The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Ryan Sieg (+57 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+14).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-14 points from cutline), Jeremy Clements (-30), Alex Labbe (-42) and Jesse Little (-47).

Cup playoff grid after Kentucky Speedway

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Cole Custer delivered the first curveball to the NASCAR Cup Series’ playoff chase Sunday when he won at Kentucky Speedway.

Custer entered the race 25th in the points, nine spots back from the cutoff line for 16-driver field.

Now, Custer is one of nine drivers locked into the playoffs, meaning the cutoff for the postseason is 15th in points.

Among those currently in the playoff grid who are not locked in, the last two are William Byron (+30 points) and Jimmie Johnson (+24).

The first four drivers sitting outside a playoff spot are Austin Dillon (-24 points from cutoff), Tyler Reddick (-41), Erik Jones (-42) and Bubba Wallace (-84).