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Zane Smith gets eight-race deal to drive JR Motorsports’ No. 9 car

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Zane Smith, a member of the 2018-19 NASCAR Next class, has signed a deal with JR Motorsports to drive its No. 9 Chevrolet in eight Xfinity Series races in 2019.

Smith, 19, will compete at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (March 2), Bristol Motor Speedway (April 6), Richmond Raceway (April 12 and Sept. 20), Dover International Speedway (May 4 and Oct. 5) and Iowa Speedway (June 16 and July 27).

He will be sponsored by The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for the Las Vegas race.

Smith joins JR Motorsports after making 36 starts in the ARCA Racing Series since in 2016. He finished second in the standings this year after earning four wins and 12 top fives in 20 starts.

The native of Huntington Beach, California, also made his Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut in June at Gateway Motorsports Park with DGR-Crosley. He finished fifth.

The move confirms that the No. 9 team will be piloted by multiple drivers next season.

“Zane is going to be an important part of the lineup for the No. 9 team next year,” said team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said in a press release. “It’s a great opportunity for him. The team is going to take on a different feel with a handful of drivers taking turns throughout the year, but the goal remains the same – to help these drivers gain experience and continue to advance their careers. We started the Xfinity program with that mindset and it’s something we’re proud to continue.”

The other drivers for the No. 9 as well as the crew chief and partner lineup will be named at a later date.

“I’m super pumped to be a part of JR Motorsports with the No. 9 team for eight races,” Smith said in the press release. “I’m counting down the days until Las Vegas, which will be my debut in the Xfinity series. I can’t thank The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas enough for making this happen, along with all of my other partners who have gotten me this far. Having Dale and Kelley (Earnhardt Miller) as bosses and to lean on is going to be awesome. They are huge icons of the sport. It is unreal to be a part of their team, so I’m just going to try and take it all in.”

Smith joins a JRM lineup that includes full-time drivers Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett and rookie Noah Gragson.

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Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman ‘clear the air’ about All-Star incident

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CONCORD, N.C. — Five days after Clint Bowyer threw several punches at Ryan Newman as Newman sat in his car after the All-Star Race, the two sat side by side during an autograph session at a Bass Pro Shops near Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Bowyer was upset with Newman for contact that led to Bowyer crashing after last weekend’s race. After Bowyer drove to pit road, he ran to Newman’s car while still wearing his helmet — earning a rebuke from his team owner for not removing his helmet. After reaching Newman’s car, Bowyer unleashed a number of punches.

Both drivers talked this week before they got to the autograph session.

“It was good to have a conversation about it,” Bowyer said Thursday night after qualifying eighth at Charlotte Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. “At the end of the day there were a lot of things that escalated very fast and obviously got out of hand.

“There’s one thing I can always promise you about something like that and it is unfortunate, and you hate having things like that happen, (but) that’s probably the best attended autograph session at Bass Pro Shops that I’ve had in a long, long time.

“Obviously I don’t want to do that every weekend. At the end of the day we all love this sport, we are all passionate about this sport and every now and then that shows a little brighter.”

Bowyer was asked if he thought Newman would retaliate.

“I don’t know,” Bowyer said. “Hopefully it’s behind us. We both have a little better understanding of how it escalated into that and you’ve just got to get stuff like that behind you.”

Newman said it was good to talk to Bowyer about what happened.

“It was good to kind of clear the air,” Newman said. “It is what it is. It’s the past. Just something you always remember. You learn about somebody in a situation like that.”

Newman was asked if he’ll race Bowyer differently.

“I try to race everybody the same way and that’s hard because that’s what I get paid to do,” said Newman, who qualified 18th for the Coca-Cola 600. “I try to give-and-take when I came. The way it works anymore with stage points, especially in the All-Star race, you don’t give and take. You take.”

Starting lineup for the Coca-Cola 600

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William Byron will start first and Aric Almirola will start second for Sunday’s 60th running of the Coca-Cola 600.

Byron, 21, is the youngest pole-sitter in the race’s history.

The top five is completed by defending race winner Kyle Busch, 2017 race winner Austin Dillon and two-time 600 winner Kevin Harvick.

Click here for the starting lineup.

William Byron wins pole for Coca-Cola 600

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CONCORD, N.C. —  William Byron won the pole for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Byron claimed the top spot with a qualifying speed of 183.424 mph. At the age of 21, he’s the youngest Coca-Cola 600 pole-sitter.

It’s Byron’s second career Cup pole, joining his pole in this year’s Daytona 500.

He beat out Aric Almirola (183.069 mph), Kyle Busch (182.933), Austin Dillon (182.766) and Kevin Harvick (182.741).

“This is awesome, a dream come true,” Byron told FS1. “Obviously, I grew up in Charlotte so I came to this race every year. It’s a dream come true to qualify on the pole next to Hendrick Motorsports across the street over there. … Can’t think of a better way to start the weekend.”

Byron has qualified on the front row five time this year and four times in the last seven races.

The pole is the 12th for Hendrick Motorsports in the 600, which leads all teams.

Busch has qualified in the top three for the last three 600s.

Corey LaJoie‘s No. 32 Ford failed pre-qualifying inspection twice, resulting in the ejection of an engineer.

Click here for qualifying results.

Joey Logano and family mourn their dog

Photo: Logano family
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CONCORD, N.C. — Joey Logano provided a sobering update Thursday night about the family’s lost dog, Luigi.

The dog had been missing since Tuesday.

Logano’s wife Brittany wrote on a Facebook post for lost and found pets in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area that the family’s French Bulldog got out of their fence Tuesday night.

“Our little Luigi I believe he’s stolen, I think,” Joey Logano said earlier Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “We can’t really put a match to anything. We put a bunch of signs up and things on social media and we watched the cameras at our house and we see him running around the backyard and then you don’t see him again. Not really sure what happened there.”

“We’ve learned that Frenchies are one of the most stolen dogs around. It’s kind of sad that someone does that. It’s a member of your family. It’s a jerk move. Hopefully, we can figure it out.”