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Austin Wayne Self apologizes for failed drug test; NASCAR explains process

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NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver Austin Wayne Self apologized Tuesday for failing a random drug test that led to NASCAR indefinitely suspending him Monday.

In a post on his official Twitter account, Self did not state what led to the failed drug test. Nor did NASCAR reveal what type of substance was found in his system.

Self said the drug test took place earlier this season at Daytona. He finished ninth at Daytona (Feb. 15) and was 27th at Atlanta (Feb. 23) and 15th at Las Vegas (March 1). AM Racing announced before the Martinsville race (March 23) that Self was being replaced by Bubba Wallace, who also drove for the team at Texas last weekend.

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports that once the sanctioning body became aware of a positive test from Self, he was asked to “stand down” from competing at Martinsville and Texas, and was given the option of requesting additional testing on the initial sample or waive that and accept any penalty.

Drug Free Sport in Kansas City, Missouri, collects the samples for NASCAR. Those samples are sent for testing to the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The NASCAR spokesperson explained the time gap from the initial test to the notification of Self through Monday’s suspension.

Because (SMRTL) tests athletes in Major League Baseball, the NFL and a number of other sports and clients, there’s an expected amount of time from sample collection to actual results; it’s not instantaneous and we know that,” the NASCAR spokesperson said. “Ideally, it would be great to get a confirmed test result within 24 hours, but that’s just not realistic. We’re very happy with our partners, SMRTL and Drug Free Sport. They’re the best in the business as far as we’re concerned, they do a good job for us and there’s a reason why just about all the professional sports leagues use them.”

Dr. Doug Aukerman, NASCAR’s Medical Review Officer, informed both NASCAR and Self of the initial positive test result prior to the Martinsville race. Upon being told, Self was given 72 hours to decide to have another test from the remaining sample or to waive that option.

The NASCAR spokesperson said the 23-year-old driver has entered NASCAR’s “Road To Recovery” program of mandatory follow-up testing and education. The spokesperson also said those who have entered the Road To Recovery have returned to the sport in as little as six weeks.

“Once (the Road To Recovery administrator has) determined that the individual has sufficiently recovered from the situation and is confident that he or she will be able to perform without fear of getting involved with the substance again, they notify us and the competitor is allowed to request reinstatement,” the NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports. “We’re very happy with our policy, we believe our policy is fair to competitors and creates an environment that keeps the safety of competitors and everyone first and foremost. As important, if we do have someone who has an issue, we do provide a path back to the sport for them.”

Here is Self’s apology that he posted on social media:

To each of my fans, team partners, crew members, and fellow NASCAR members, I ask for your grace and understanding in this difficult season of adversity, and ask that you would accept my apology for what has happened. It is an honor to be involved in a premier sport so great as ours, and I am truly crushed for what has happened.

It has been incredibly disheartening since learning of the results from the random drug test taken earlier this season at Daytona, through our sanctioning body, and for the news announced (Monday).

The news and positive results have caught me as a surprise. Being a driver, I am expected to be a steward for our sport – someone who pays attention to even the most minute of details, just as our race team does with our trucks in competition. Moving forward I promise to those who will follow this journey, that I will aim to the utmost of my ability to do a better job at paying close attention to what I consume, and allow into my body, as an athlete.

I will work closely with NASCAR through this process to learn more about what has happened, and to ensure that I am able to return to competition as quickly as possible.

Moving forward, I would be grateful to have your prayers as I prepare for the days ahead. I take comfort in knowing that God has a plan for the through this, and that as 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 explains, will come through this stronger ready to tackle what lies ahead. Thank you for your support and understanding.”

Shortly after Self’s suspension was announced Monday, the team said it was working on finding a replacement in Self’s absence. The next Truck Series race is May 3 at Dover International Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Harrison Burton, Paul Menard exchange words after trading hits

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LOUDON, N.H. – There’s a 20-year gap between Paul Menard and Harrison Burton and seemingly just as wide a gulf in how they viewed their incident Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Burton, 18, finished 29th in the Xfinity Series race after being wrecked by Menard, 38, with 45 laps remaining.

Parking his No. 18 Toyota after completing 169 of 200 laps, Burton waited for more than 20 minutes until the race ended and then strode purposefully from the entrance of the Xfinity garage to the pits and confronted Menard for a terse but civil conversation.

“I wanted to get across to him that I got wrecked for no reason,” said Burton, who competes full time in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series was making the third start of his Xfinity career and the first on a track at least a mile in length. “I barely touched him. There’s barely a mark on his door. I don’t know if he’s heard of NASCAR before, but this isn’t F1 where if you touch someone, there’s a 5-second penalty.

“I barely touched him, and I got wrecked. He says that I got into him on the restart. I’m on the apron, and he comes down across my nose and then gets mad about it. When he watches the film, I think he’ll see that. I think that we just worked our butts off and didn’t get the result we deserve. We’ll just come back and race harder and beat him next time.”

Menard said he was justified to tap Burton in the left rear and spin the Joe Gibbs Racing driver into the Turn 1 wall.

“He ran into me a couple of times,” said the driver of the No. 12 Ford for Team Penske. “So I voiced my displeasure. He’s a young kid. He’s got a long time in this sport. He’s got to figure that stuff out pretty early. As he races more in Xfinity, and especially if he gets to the Cup level, they don’t put up with that stuff. I felt it was my place to tell him that’s not cool.

“A lot of these kids are good clean racers. He kind of stood out from the crowd. He had a fast enough car he could have been clean. I hate tearing up race cars. I didn’t really want to tear up his race car, that’s for sure. But sometimes enough is enough.”

Menard singled out Chase Briscoe and Noah Gragson, both in their early to mid-20s, for having raced him cleaner than Burton.

“Some of these kids are really fun to race with, and some of them just don’t get it,” said Menard, a veteran of 14 seasons in the Cup series who was teamed with Burton’s father (and NASCAR on NBC analyst), Jeff, for three seasons at Richard Childress Racing. “So I think you have to cut that shit out at an early age.”

“Some of these kids have a lot of talent and don’t have to run into you to try to pass you. Harrison, I’ve never met the kid before. I know his dad really well. I’ve got a lot of respect for Jeff. Really good man. But the kid ran into me a couple of times, and that was enough of that.”

Though he had the chance to air his grievances, Burton was skeptical it would make any difference with how Menard would race him in the future.

“He doesn’t care,” Burton said. “He doesn’t care about anyone else but himself. But I’m going to just go out and beat him on the racetrack like I was going to today. I was driving away from him. I was gone.

“We were going to beat him on the racetrack, and that’s all you can do is just beat people on the racetrack and show them you’re going to outwork them. I’m fired up and ready to go for the next one.”

Results, points after Xfinity race at New Hampshire

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Christopher Bell led 186 of 200 laps on his way to winning Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Bell beat Cole Custer to claim his fifth of the year.

The top five was completed by Justin Allgaier, Tyler Reddick and Paul Menard.

Click here for the race results.

Points

Tyler Reddick continues to lead the standings despite having two few wins than Bell and Custer.

He has a 56-point lead over Bell and 76-point advantage over Custer in third.

The top five is completed by Justin Allgaier (-146 points) and Austin Cindric (-163 points).

Click here for the full standings.

Christopher Bell wins Xfinity race at New Hampshire

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Christopher Bell won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in dominating fashion, leading 186 of 200 laps and beating Cole Custer.

With the win, Bell’s second in a row on the 1.058-mile track, he is again tied with Custer for the most wins on the season with five.

Bell and Custer have finished 1-2 four times this year.

“I just had a really good race car,” Bell told NBCSN. “This track’s been really good to us and our team.”

The top five was completed by Justin Allgaier, Tyler Reddick and Paul Menard.

Bell’s win is the 13th of his Xfinity career in just his 59th start, tying him for the most by that point with Darrell Waltrip.

Custer, who started from the pole, never led a lap.

“There at the end I felt like we had a car that could compete with him, but I just wasn’t driving the car right at the start of the race and I got us behind on adjustments,” Custer said. “From there, we were kind of playing catchup.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brandon Jones won in a three-wide finish over Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Christopher Bell won with a 6.5 second lead over Justin Allgaier

MORE: Race results and points

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Justin Allgaier earned his first top-five finish at New Hampshire in his ninth start … Ryan Sieg placed eighth for his first finish better than 15th at New Hampshire in six starts.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: John Hunter Nemechek finished 36th after he wrecked in Turn 1 on Lap 32 … Harrison Burton finished 29th after he was spun from contact with Paul Menard with 46 laps to go. That was after Burton had fought his way back into the top five following a slow early pit stop when a pit gun malfunctioned. The drivers had a tense post-race discussion on pit road.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I don’t care what series he races in or who he is. He raced me in a terrible way and I just decided I needed to hear from him what his story was. I didn’t like his story so I’ll race him accordingly.” – Harrison Burton to NBCSN after his discussion with Paul Menard.

WHAT’S NEXT: U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway at 5 p.m. ET July 27 on NBCSN

Check back for more

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.