Chevy Camaros struggle in first outing at intermediate track

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A week ago, the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 made its Cup debut in the best way possible.

The Camaro finished 1-2 in the Daytona 500 with Austin Dillon winning and Darrell Wallace Jr. second.

Dillon snapped a winless streak for Chevrolet of 10 races, or the entirety of the 2017 playoffs.

Five Chevrolet drivers finished in the top 10.

But that was Daytona.

Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway was the model’s first run at an intermediate track in race conditions. That came on one of the sport’s oldest track surfaces on an overcast day that threatened rain.

The result was no Chevrolet driver even sniffing the front after the first 85-lap stage. Ryan Newman was a brief bright spot, leading the first 17 laps after starting second.

At the end of the 325-lap race, only three Chevrolets placed in the top 15. That’s the fewest since three finished in the top 15 in the fall Texas race last year.

The Chevrolet cars were led by Kyle Larson in ninth. Chase Elliott followed in 10th and Dillon finished 14th, the first car a lap down.

Larson pointed at the rain-delayed race finishing under the lights as cause of some of his problems.

“Our car was just too tight on the last run to pick up spots,” he said. “Racing into the night was obviously not really in the plan yesterday, but our guys did a good job keeping up with the track.”

Despite his fourth top 10 in the last five races, Elliott was blunt about his day, which began with him starting 27th.

“Not real good to be honest with you,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do. Fighting to stay on the lead lap is not where you want to be. We will go to work and great job by our NAPA team today to salvage what we could.  I don’t know how much more we really could have got there, maybe a spot or two there at the end, but I felt like we did a pretty good job making the most of what we had.”

Can his Hendrick team figure out its problems in the next month?

“I hope so,” Elliott said.

The next stop for the series is Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where a two-day organizational test was held earlier this month.

Larson had the fastest speeds for both days of the test. 

Elliott wasn’t the Hendrick driver who made the trip to Vegas, though he took part in a January tire test at Texas Motor Speedway.

Rookie William Byron took part in the test in the No. 24 Chevrolet. He was second fastest on the first day and fifth fastest on the second day.

On Sunday, Byron was the top finishing Chevrolet driver after Dillon, placing 18th, two laps down in his first Cup race at a 1.5-mile track.

“We started the race so loose and I just had to work on dropping the trackbar quicker,” Byron said. “I just didn’t do it quick enough.  I’m not used to having that, so, we gained on it a lot. I felt like by probably the seventh or eighth pit stop we were at our best potential. And then from there we just kind of leveled off. Just trying to find rear grip, but overall it was fun out there.”

Going forward, Byron said the most important thing he learned was “trying to keep the tires underneath you” and keeping up with adjustments “so you just stay ahead of the game with the way your car is handling.”

Kurt Busch fastest in final Cup practice at Sonoma

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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.

Friday Truck Series practice report from Gateway

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Second 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.

First practice

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 offers advice on how to deal with critics on social media

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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 leads opening Cup practice at Sonoma

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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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