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Team Penske hires Robby Benton as NASCAR team manager

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Team Penske has hired Robby Benton as team manager of its NASCAR operations, the team announced Monday.

Benton, a former owner in the Xfinity Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, will be responsible for administrative and competition-related duties for the team’s Cup and Xfinity teams.

He will report to Competition Director Travis Geisler.

Penske will field Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney in the Cup Series.

As an Xfinity owner, Benton fielded cars in 220 starts from 2008-15. The team’s only victory was in 2010 with Boris Said at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. Benton himself made four Xfinity starts and three Camping World Truck Series starts.

Benton owned Change Racing in IMSA.

 “I’m very happy to join an operation like Team Penske,” Benton said in a press release. “Anyone that is involved in this sport has a tremendous amount of respect for Roger Penske. He has a world-class operation and expects nothing but the best from his people, and that shows on and off the track. I’ve emulated many of Team Penske’s values through my own programs, so it’s especially meaningful to now be a part of this team. I’m honored to receive this opportunity and I hope I can help the organization continue moving forward as they continue to expand their NASCAR operations.”

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Circle Sport parts ways with The Motorsports Group

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The Motorsports Group announced Tuesday that it is parting ways with Circle Sport, a “sudden” move decided upon by Circle Sport owner Joe Falk on Monday.

As Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group, the two managed the No. 33 Chevrolet primarily driven by Jeffrey Earnhardt in 2017. Boris Said drove it in two races.

TMG said it plans to field its own Chevrolet in 2018. It does not have a driver or sponsor attached yet.

“This is sudden for us, but we put a plan together rather quickly,” TMG owner Curtis Key Sr. said in a press release. “We’ve had discussions with potential drivers, but it’s only been a day since the news and we have more calls to make. We look to have a driver announce(d) in early January.”

Circle Sport owns the charter used on the No. 33. Circle Sport did not respond to a request for comment.

ESPN reports Earnhardt, the grandson of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr., was released from a contract extension by the team and is in search of a ride.

Eddie Pardue will stay with TMG as crew chief. He assumed the duties on the No. 33 following the July Daytona race.

Earnhardt’s best finish in 34 starts was 26th three times.

Before the teams merged for 2017, The Motorsports Group fielded the No. 30 Chevrolet in 2016.

Martin Truex Jr. has just enough gas to beat Matt Kenseth to win at Watkins Glen

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While Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch ran out of fuel or made late pit stops, Martin Truex Jr. saved just enough gas to win Sunday’s I Love New York 355 at Watkins Glen International.

Truex had saved fuel for the final 20 laps and had just enough to hold off Matt Kenseth‘s charge on the final lap to earn his fourth win of the season.

It was Truex’s 11th career Cup win and his first at The Glen.

“I’m a little bit lost for words, I’ve been thinking about this one a long time, all weekend, all day,” Truex told NBCSN. “Man, it’s so hard to let guys pass you for the lead, you just have to listen to your crew chief (Cole Pearn), and luckily for me, I have the best one in the business.”

Kenseth finished second, followed by Daniel Suarez, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer.

“Overall it was a good day, good finish, but hate to be that close and not get it,” Kenseth told NBCSN.

Sixth through 10th were Kurt Busch, pole sitter Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, A.J. Allmendinger and Erik Jones. All four Joe Gibbs Racing cars made finished in the top 10.

Several incidents of note occurred early in the final stage, including:

It was an emotional win for the entire team. Not only was  Truex’s girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, on hand to watch him win, crew chief Cole Pearn dedicated the win to one of his best friends who passed away earlier this week.

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

STAGE WINNERS: Kyle Busch won Stage 1 (his ninth of the season).  Daniel Suarez captured Stage 2, his first stage win of 2017

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Matt Kenseth came close to earning his first win of the season. … Daniel Suarez led 14 laps and finished a career-best third place. … Clint Bowyer appeared in contention, but settled a fifth-place finish, his fifth top-10 finish in the last seven races.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Dale Earnhardt Jr. had his ninth finish of 30th or worse this season (40.9 percent). … Kevin Harvick had a decent day going until he slammed into Brett Moffitt on pit road. Harvick finished 17th.

NOTABLE: Sunday was Boris Said’s final race of his long and successful racing career. He finished 30th.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This is a dream come true. I used to walk around the garage here as a kid, dreaming of racing here. We’ve been coming here a long time, us Truex’s, and we finally got us one (a win).”

WHAT’S NEXT: Pure 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Sunday, August 13, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Kyle Busch leads all 20 laps to capture Stage 1 at Watkins Glen

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Pole-sitter Kyle Busch captured Stage 1 of Sunday’s I Love New York 355 NASCAR Cup race at Watkins Glen International.

Busch dominated, leading all 20 laps in Stage 1. It’s his fifth win in the last six stages and ninth stage win of the season. Busch is going for his second consecutive season win today, having won his first race of 2017 last week at Pocono.

Martin Truex Jr. was second, followed by Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has taken his car to the garage for a valve train issue.

Prior to the green flag, seven drivers were sent to the back of the starting lineup due to unapproved adjustments on their race cars: Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Gary Klutt, Boris Said, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman and Matt DiBenedetto.

UPDATED: Kyle Busch had to take his car back to pit road for a second time following Stage 1 due to a loose left wheel. He dropped back to 27th when Stage 2 began.

Also of note, veteran road course racer Boris Said is making the final start of his career in today’s race.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Starting lineup for today’s Cup race at Watkins Glen

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Kyle Busch will start on the pole for today’s Cup race at Watkins Glen International after posting the fastest lap in Sunday’s session.

It’s his third consecutive pole.

Kyle Larson starts second.

Denny Hamlin will go to the rear for unapproved adjustments after having brake issues in qualifying.

Hamlin was to have started 11th.

Hamlin is one of seven cars going to the rear for unapproved adjustments. Also to the rear will be Clint Bowyer, Matt DiBenedetto, Boris Said, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman and Gary Klutt.

Green flag is scheduled for 3:18 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Click here for Cup starting lineup