Drivers agree: Charlotte Roval race is ‘going to be crazy’

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Whether drivers and teams are ready, Roval week is here for the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series.

Four drivers will be eliminated from title contention in Sunday’s Cup race (2 p.m. ET on NBC) at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The Xfinity race (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN) is the second race in the opening round of that playoffs. Xfinity teams will get to run the road course/oval configuration for the first time Thursday. When Cup teams tested in July, a number of them got off course. 

Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer are the four drivers outside the cutoff line to advance to the next round. Ryan Blaney holds that final cutoff spot heading into Charlotte. Click here for the standings.

Here’s what drivers are saying about the Roval:

Denny Hamlin (29 points out of final cutoff spot)

I learned quite a bit from the Charlotte test, I thought we were one of the best cars there at that test. I am optimistic, but I tell you it’s going to come down to qualifying well with the limited amount of passing zones at that race track, you can definitely get stuck behind somebody for an extended period of time.”

Jimmie Johnson (6 points out of final cutoff spot)

“I learned a lot at the road course test, but I don’t know if I have a better feeling about how the race is going to go. The track has countless areas for bad things to happen; things will just end your day. So passing zones are going to be extremely difficult to figure out, I think it’s going to be a day about really minimizing your own mistakes and you’ll be able to maintain track position pretty well. But, it’s going to be crazy.”

Alex Bowman (5 points ahead of first driver outside cutoff)

“Best places on the track to pass are going to be pit road. I have one of the best pit crews in the business so, I plan on using that. And the most treacherous is the whole track, so it’s going to be interesting for sure. It’s a very treacherous race track. There are really very few passing opportunities at all. It’s super narrow. Obviously you’re out on the oval for some of it, but I don’t really think you’re going to have the opportunity to use that to pass. All the breaking zones are pretty tight and technical and it’s going to be pretty tough to pass. … If you’re going in there and need to make up points, or whatever, it is going to be a tough day.”

Austin Dillon (10 points ahead of first driver outside cutoff)

“I think the whole track is treacherous, there are places that you could bust your tail at any moment being over aggressive. (It) can gain you speed but also can take you out from jumping a curb.”

Kurt Busch (15 points ahead of first driver outside cutoff)

“That Roval cutoff race is going to be gut-wrenching for plenty of different reasons. The extra stress that is going to come with the Roval, that one’s going to be a tough one.”

Kyle Larson (17 points ahead of first driver outside cutoff)

“It’s really easy to step over the line and crash. I think it is going to be a crazy race. Don’t really know what to expect. And it is hard to pass, I don’t really know where you can pass. We will find out when we get out there on the track.”

Aric Almirola (23 points ahead of first driver outside cutoff)

“I think the hardest part of the Roval is all of it. I really don’t know what the best opportunity to pass is. I have got some ideas but until you get cars on the race track running around each other … it is going to be hard to identify that. Running by yourself, you know you can gauge on what you could think would be an opportunistic place. I could tell you one place that is going to be incredibly hairy to pass and it is going to be that chicane on the back straightaway or trying to run two wide through there is going to be about impossible. So it is just the matter of whether or not you get position on the other guy and if he is willing to give it up or not.”

Ryan Blaney fastest in final Cup practice at New Hampshire

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Ryan Blaney was fastest in the Cup Series’ final practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Blaney posted a top speed of 133.572 mph.

He was followed by Denny Hamlin (133.226 mph), Kyle Busch (132.739), Kevin Harvick (132.688) and Martin Truex Jr. (132.646).

Brad Keselowski (sixth) and Kurt Busch (14th) each recorded the most laps in the session with 61.

Blaney also had the best 10-lap average.

Click here for the speed chart.

Alex Bowman wrecked in Turns 1 and 2 in the middle of the session.

Bowman, who was already in a backup car after he had a driveshaft failure in qualifying Friday, will now go to a second backup car. The No. 88 team will use Jimmie Johnson‘s backup car.

Matt DiBenedetto‘s left-rear tire shredded twice during the session.

“Not a lot of warning, I’ll tell you that,” DiBenedetto told NBCSN after the first tire problem. “I went down into (Turn) 1 and I was passing (Landon Cassill), as soon as we got down into the corner I don’t know if we ran over something or what but the left rear went down in a hurry.”

DiBenedetto, who qualified seventh for Sunday’s race, was able return to the track to make a lap right before the session ended.

 

Practice mayhem at New Hampshire as Alex Bowman crashes backup

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LOUDON, N.H. — Alex Bowman will be moving to his third Cup car of the weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and this Camaro isn’t even his.

After suffering a driveshaft failure in qualifying Friday that ruined his primary car, Bowman crashed his backup No. 88 Chevrolet in final practice Saturday on the 1.058-mile oval.

Hendrick team members immediately began scrambling to prepare the backup No. 48 Chevrolet of teammate Jimmie Johnson for Bowman (Hendrick’s fourth driver, William Byron, already was in a backup after crashing Saturday morning).

Hendrick Motorsports vice president of competition Jeff Andrews told NBCSN’s Dave Burns that the team elected to use Johnson’s car instead of Chase Elliott‘s No. 9 because Johnson’s car had a traditional paint scheme that made the switchover more favorable to wrapping the car in the No. 88’s sponsor colors and logos.

“To rewrap the 48 vs. the 9, that’s a better option for us in terms of body tolerances and things like that,” Andrews said. “There’ll be only decals to rip off (Johnson’s car) due to the fact that the base coat is a paint and then we’ll apply the 88 wrap to that 48 chassis and body.

“Obviously we’ve got a great group of guys. Unfortunately, we’ve been put through a lot the last couple of days, but we’ll get through it, and we’ll line up and go racing tomorrow. It’s been a tough day, but we’ll get through it.”

Crew chief Greg Ives gathered all of Bowman’s team in the No. 88 hauler after the wreck.

“I think for Alex and the team, you just have to keep track of the big picture here, and we have to stay focused and not panic and go out tomorrow and do the best we can in the race,” Andrews said. “Certainly yesterday was not Alex’s fault. We had a mechanical failure there, and today we’re not really sure what happened there, but obviously at this point in time, we just need to get the best car underneath Alex and the race team.”

There are five drivers who will start from the rear in backup cars for Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire: Bowman, Kyle Larson, Byron, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin.

Newman and Hamlin crashed in practice Friday, and Byron and Larson had trouble in the first session Saturday morning.

Matt DiBenedetto also suffered two tire problems on his No. 95 Toyota (without sustaining major damage) during the final practice, which was paced by Ryan Blaney.

Tyler Reddick, girlfriend Alexa De Leon expecting first child

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Defending Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick has a new title: Father-to-be.

Reddick, 23, announced on Instagram Saturday that he and girlfriend Alexa De Leon are expecting their first child.

The Richard Childress Racing driver made the announcement while the Xfinity Series is competing in New Hampshire.

The birth of the child will make Reddick one of only two drivers in the top 10 in Xfinity points who have children. Justin Allgaier, who is 33, is the other.

 

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

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Cole Custer, Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick have combined to win 10 of the last 11 Xfinity Series races heading into today’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Bell won this race a year ago. Will the dominance of the Xfinity Series’ Big 3 continue or will a new winner emerge?

Here is all the info you need for today’s 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.

PRERACE: Garage opens at 7:30 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. The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. by Pastor Mark Warren. Ellen Kane will perform the National Anthem at 4:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (211.6 miles) around the 1.058-mile track.

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

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

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for mostly sunny skies and a temperature of 94 degrees and a 2% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Christopher Bell beat Brad Keselowski and Ryan Preece to win his second of three consecutive Xfinity races. 

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.