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Shane Lee fulfills 2nd grade prediction at Charlotte Motor Speedway

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In Shane Lee‘s trophy room sits an accurate prediction of the future from the early 2000s.

On the left side of an open booklet is a crudely drawn portrait of a race car with the No. 00 on the side. The car is depicted racing along a road under yellow sun and whipping by green grass.

On the right side, on page 25 of the booklet he used in second grade, Lee fulfilled a teacher’s assignment: Write what you want to be when you grow up.

Courtesy: Shane Lee

Lee wrote:

“When I grow up I am going to be a NASCAR driver. I am going to race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. My number is going to be 00 because my daddy’s number was 00 when he raced.”

Lee, now 24, fulfilled two-thirds of that prophecy Monday.

In two years and 30 starts in ARCA, Lee raced at other NASCAR tracks – Pocono, Michigan, Kansas, Chicago, Kentucky and even Daytona – but for whatever reason Charlotte wasn’t one of them.

“I’ve lived 20 minutes from there and never made a lap on the track in my life,” Lee told NBC Sports the Tuesday morning after he first drove a stock car at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Instead of a No. 00 car, it had come in an open Xfinity test with Lee driving Richard Childress Racing’s No. 3 Chevrolet.

Did it meet his expectations?

“It had more character to it than I thought.” Lee said. “Getting into both turns on that track is way rougher than it looked like on TV.”

Monday’s test in Charlotte was Lee’s only time in the car until the June 2 race at Pocono Raceway, a track Lee made four starts at in ARCA and earned a career-best result of fourth in 2016.

Lee admitted he was “probably more cautious” than he needed to be in the test.

“Guess I had a little bit left in me to make the car go faster,” Lee said. “Trying to make sure I don’t happen to wreck the car they’re planning on taking back for Ty (Dillon) to race (on May 26). … We went there to do what we want to do and learn as much as we could.”

Lee’s first Charlotte race will actually be on the road course layout in September.

On Jan. 24, RCR announced the five-driver lineup for its No. 3 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series.

Joining veterans Austin and Ty Dillon, Brendan Gaughan and Jeb Burton was Lee.

A native of Newton, North Carolina, Lee spent the previous two seasons competing in ARCA after a few years competing in late models.

He had earned the 2012 and 2013 Limited Late Model Track Championships and been recognized as the 2013 North Carolina NASCAR Late Model Rookie of the Year. During that time he drove the No. 00, which his father Mike Lee used when he raced late models at tracks like Hickory Motor Speedway.

Monday’s test wasn’t Lee’s first time in a Xfinity car. That came three weeks ago at Bristol Motor Speedway, another track Lee had never been on before.

Shane Lee practices a Bristol Motor Speedway (Getty Images).

You wouldn’t have known it.

“After the first day of practice I figured we’d run in the top 10 just because of how the average practice speed was,” Lee said. “Everybody looked at me like I was crazy, but I thought with the Cup guys not in there, a lot of them guys are people I’ve raced with since I started racing. You sort of know whose going to be really good and who you’re going to compete with.”

Lee qualified eighth and finished eighth in Stage 1 and placed fourth in Stage 2. But with 17 laps to go, Lee lost his right front tire and brought out the caution. He was relegated to a 14th-pace finish.

Two races later, Lee was back in the No. 3 at Talladega, a track he made two ARCA starts at, finishing 11th and fifth. But after running in the top 10 most of the day, he ran out of gas as the field took the green flag in overtime. He placed 15th.

Lee thinks he’s “definitely pretty quick” at adapting to new forms of racing, but said “every track’s going to be different.”

“Most of them will still be new tracks to me, so every time I go to the track almost (there) will be a learning curve,” Lee said. “It sort of hurts, especially in the first practice with just me learning the car before I tell them what kind of adjustments they’re looking for. Just making sure to yourself you’re not doing something wrong to mess up the car.”

Lee’s learning curve is helped slightly by a two-year engineering degree he earned at a tech school in Gaston, North Carolina, before his ARCA deal came along.

“I figured I’d better have something if something don’t come up,” Lee said. “It helps when I look at (engineer) graphs and stuff when they’re trying to explain it. Everything they’re graphing, the data stuff we’re looking at is stuff I’m used to seeing, even though it’s in different words. It helps out on that part pretty good.”

While he uses his engineering education to work on his own late model stock car, Lee would like to never have to get his four-year degree and have to use it outside racing.

“Hopefully the racing works out,” Lee said, “so I don’t ever have to apply it.”

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NASCAR’s Saturday schedule at Miami

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Today marks the final two practice sessions of the season for the Cup Series and the last race of the year for the Xfinity Series.

Here is the day’s schedule at Homestead-Miami Speedway:

8:30 a.m. –  Xfinity garage opens

10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

11:35 – 12:25 p.m. – Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

12:35 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (NBCSN)

1:40 p.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting

2 – 2:50 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

3 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

3:30 p.m. – Ford EcoBoost 300; 200 laps/300 miles (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Truck results, point standings after Miami

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Brett Moffitt beat Grant Enfinger to the checkers by two seconds to take his sixth race of the season.

Playoff contender Noah Gragson finished third.

Stewart Friesen was fourth with Sheldon Creed rounding out the top five.

Click here for complete results.

Moffitt’s victory earned him the championship. This is the first time since 1999 that the champion won the final race of the season.

With his third-place finish, Gragson finished second in the standings.

Justin Haley finished eighth in the race and third in the standings.

Johnny Sauter finished 12th in the race and fourth in the standings.

Grant Enfinger rounded out the top five.

Click here for the complete points report.

Brett Moffitt wins Truck race at Miami, takes championship

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Brett Moffitt beat Grant Enfinger by two seconds Friday night to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and the championship.

It was his sixth victory of the season.

Moffitt’s first win of the season came at Atlanta in the season’s second race but even then he was unsure if the team would have the financing to go to every race and be eligible for the playoffs.

“It’s unreal,” Moffitt said on FoxSports 1 from victory lane. “I didn’t know if I was going to get the opportunity to compete for a championship even after I got my first win.

“Everyone pulled together hard here. Back at Chicago (in June) we didn’t know if we were going to make it to the racetrack.”

Chicago was another race won by Moffitt.

Friday night, Enfinger finished second to Moffitt.

Fellow playoff contender Noah Gragson finished third. Stewart Friesen finished fourth with Sheldon Creed rounding out the top five.

MORE: Brett Moffitt seeks to join pantheon of NASCAR ‘stache champions

Moffitt achieved the title in just 36 starts – the fewest since Mike Skinner won the inaugural championship in 1995 in 20 races.

Moffitt’s championship comes with an uncertain future. He announced Thursday that he does not have a contract for next year.

Playoff contender Justin Haley finished eighth.

“We just struggled.” he said. “I don’t know why.”

Former champion Johnny Sauter battled handling problems for most of the race and was not a factor.

“It was awful,” he said. “Just no grip. We laid an egg tonight. I don’t know why.

“When you suck that bad, it’s whatever, you just go home and go what the hell happened? I’ll ask myself that for three months.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Grant Enfinger

STAGE 2 WINNER: Brett Moffitt

MORE: Click here for complete results.
MORE: Click here for the complete points report.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Jesse Little tied his career best finish of sixth (which he first scored at Iowa this June). … Tyler Dippel finished 15th to score his fourth top 15 in five Truck starts.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Robby Lyons slapped the wall on Lap 78; he finished 29th. … Chris Windom started 10th but hit the wall with a handful of laps remaining to finish 24th. 

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “We were just too tight there (at the end). Needed to make better adjustments on pit road and that’s where it comes down to me,” Noah Gragson told FS1 after the race. “This one is going to hurt for a while.”

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Myatt Snider scored three top fives and eight top 10s on his way to rookie honors. Snider’s best finish this season was runner-up at Talladega. His best unrestricted finish was a third at Martinsville.

NOTABLE: This is the first time since 1999 that the champion won the season finale.

WHAT’S NEXT: Nextera Energy Resources 250 on Feb. 15, 2019 at Daytona International Speedway.

Should Denny Hamlin’s team take No. 1 pit stall or leave it for Kyle Busch?

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Denny Hamlin’s pole-winning effort Friday night made for an emotional moment in his final Cup race with close friend Mike Wheeler as his crew chief.

Hamlin’s pole also created a quandary.

With the pole, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing team has the first pick of pit stalls. Any other race, it’s an easy call: The team takes the No. 1 pit stall at the exit of pit road.

MORE: Denny Hamlin will have a new crew chief in 2019

But things are complicated because Hamlin is not in the title race and teammate Kyle Busch, who qualified second and whose team has second pick of pit stalls, is racing for a championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

If Hamlin’s team takes a different pit stall, it would allow Busch to have the No. 1 stall, which is viewed as the best on pit road. That could be the difference in having the lead off pit road and could impact who wins the championship.

So, what will Wheeler do when crew chiefs make their pit stall selection Saturday morning?

“We’re paid to win races for JGR and (sponsor) FedEx,” Wheeler told NBC Sports. “It’s definitely on my mind and my heart to be aware of that for Denny and our team. Obviously, we want to win a championship for JGR, too. That’s one of the biggest goals, a bigger goal this weekend. There’s some chatter going on about that.”

In one sense, it could be an easy call — let Busch have the No. 1 pit stall. The focus in any organization at this point is on the team racing for a championship. So why not give that team that advantage?

On the other hand, Hamlin is winless this year and could have one of his best chances to score a victory and extend his streak of consecutive seasons with a win to 13. He won this race in 2013 to keep that streak alive. 

“I think everything is earned,” Hamlin said. “Nothing is given. With us having the No. 1 pit stall, nobody else — none of the other competitors will have it. I don’t know. It’s a discussion. I mean, certainly I would think that (Wheeler), with the pressure always to win, you’ve got to do everything you can to win. We’ll have that discussion.”

The pit stalls at Homestead-Miami Speedway are 30-feet, 8-inches long. The camera at the end of pit road is about 40 feet from the No. 1 pit stall. That’s closer than some other tracks. That means a driver in that stall can fire out of the pit stall and surge ahead of those coming down pit road.

Last year, Hamlin’s team faced a similar issue but it was an easier call. Hamlin, who was not in the title race, won the pole. Martin Truex Jr., a title contender, qualified second last year. Truex’s team — which has a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing — asked if Hamlin’s team could take another pit stall so Truex could have the No. 1 stall. Hamlin’s team declined.