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NASCAR penalizes seven Cup teams practice time at Michigan

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Six teams will be docked practice time in Saturday’s first practice session, and one team will lose time in the final practice session at Michigan International Speedway, NASCAR announced.

Martin Truex Jr. will lose 15 minutes of practice in the first session for being late to pre-race inspection last weekend at Watkins Glen.

Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez and Ryan Newman each will lose 15 minutes in the first practice Saturday because they didn’t come to a complete stop in the inner loop during last weekend’s practice at Watkins Glen.

Bubba Wallace and BJ McLeod will miss 15 minutes in the first practice Saturday because their cars were late to pre-qualifying inspection Friday at Michigan.

First Cup practice Saturday is from 8:35 – 9:25 a.m. ET on CNBC.

Michael McDowell will be docked 15 minutes of the final practice Saturday because his car failed pre-qualifying inspection twice Friday at Michigan.

Final Cup practice Saturday is from 11:30 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports App and online.

Denny Hamlin wins Cup pole at Michigan

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Denny Hamlin swept all three rounds of Cup qualifying Friday to win the pole at Michigan International Speedway with a lap of 202.794 mph.

It is Hamlin’s second pole of the season and 28th of his career. He also won the pole last weekend at Watkins Glen. This is his first pole at Michigan.

“I honestly wasn’t that confident,” Hamlin told NBCSN if he though his lap in the final round was good enough to win the pole. “I didn’t get all of it … but the team definitely gave me a great driving car. We got faster every run on the race track today. These guys are really stepping up and we’re starting to make a little hay now.”

Hamlin will be joined by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch (202.731 mph) on the front row. Hamlin beat Busch by 11-thousandths of a second. Kevin Harvick (202.100) will start third. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones (201.805) qualified fourth.

Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon (201.748) and Ryan Newman (201.658) will start fifth and sixth respectively. Dillon tied his best qualifying effort of the season. He qualified fifth at Auto Club Speedway in March.

Seventeen drivers topped 200 mph in qualifying.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the first driver outside a playoff spot, qualified 13th. Clint Bowyer, who won June’s rain-shortened race, qualified 16th. Watkins Glen winner Chase Elliott qualified 21st.

Daniel Suarez crashed early in the first round of qualifying. He bounced off the wall exiting Turn 2.

“Sorry guys,” Suarez radioed his team.

“I got loose,” Suarez told NBCSN. “In practice my car was very, very fast but it was a little bit tight so I said to my guys, hey, we have to make the front work a little bit better. We just crossed the line.”

As for starting at the rear?

“I think we’re going to see the 19 … passing a lot of cars Sunday.”

Fifteen cars top 200 mph in Cup practice at Michigan

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Denny Hamlin had the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Michigan International Speedway, going 202.230 mph.

He was followed by Kurt Busch (201.901 mph), Daniel Suarez (201.850), Ryan Blaney (201.794) and Kyle Busch (201.782).

Joey Logano was sixth at 201.596 and the rest of the top 10 was completed by Clint Bowyer (201.596 mph), Kyle Larson (201.455), Alex Bowman (201.387) and Paul Menard (201.337).

Click here for full practice report

There were no incidents in the 50-minute session.

Qualifying will take place at 5:05 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Bump & Run: Who had more impressive Watkins Glen performance?

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Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen was 2 hours and 13 minutes. Too short? Just right? Or did you even notice?

Nate Ryan: It seemed to go by quickly, but that also could have been because it was so highly entertaining. I didn’t know the actual duration until now, but that length seems perfect. If NASCAR can consistently package that amount of drama and storylines into that window of time, that’s the sweet spot for how a race unfolds.

Dustin Long: Didn’t notice. The racing was entertaining and the drama was taut. Shows that a race at just over two hours can be satisfying. Didn’t see anyone complaining the race wasn’t three hours or longer.

Daniel McFadin: It’s almost in that sweet spot. The race could stand to be padded by 10 laps, with five added to each of the first two stages. Other than that, I was a happy camper on Sunday.

Dan Beaver: Much too short. Road racing’s popularity is on the rise and with limited slots on the Cup schedule, one way to give the fans more would be to extend the races. And an excellent way of doing that at the Glen would be to add the extra half mile or so of the boot.

Who had the more impressive drive Sunday at Watkins Glen: Chase Elliott in battling Kyle Busch early and then Martin Truex Jr. late for the win or Kyle Busch for charging up to third without the aid of a caution after his issues on pit road?

Nate Ryan: A strong case can be made for Kyle Busch because there probably is no other Cup driver who could make a swift rally so efficiently. But Chase Elliott bookended his first career victory by winning two battles against probably the reigning two greatest drivers at Watkins Glen. Give a slight edge to the No. 9 for most impressive.

Dustin Long: While Chase Elliott’s drive was impressive, Kyle Busch’s drive was memorable. Busch was right after the race. He drove his “ass off” after falling to 31st after the pit road issue.

Daniel McFadin: Chase Elliott. Not just because he bested two members of the “Big 3,” but because he did it in such dominating fashion and with a tenacity Elliott hadn’t shown before Sunday.

Dan Beaver: The heart says Elliott because a first time winner is always a great story – but the head has to go with Kyle Busch’s drive from the back. It ranks as one of many great runs for him at the Glen.

Will there be any more new winners in the final four races before the playoffs? If so, who do you think it will be?

Nate Ryan: If there is one, it’ll be Daniel Suarez this Sunday at Michigan.

Dustin Long: Two more. Hard to think Kyle Larson won’t win before the playoffs. And I’ll throw out Ryan Blaney as joining the young drivers in Victory Lane.

Daniel McFadin: The possibility of Kyle Larson winning at Michigan is high, but I’m looking more to Bristol. Both Larson and Ryan Blaney had strong days there in April before Blaney was caught in a wreck while leading and Larson was passed by Kyle Busch with six laps to go. It’ll be interesting to see if Bubba Wallace’s team can improve on their brief time at the front in that race.

Dan Beaver: Now that the Big 3 have proven to be beatable, Kyle Larson will do just that at Michigan this Sunday.

Who is hot, who is not in Cup heading to Michigan

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The Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for Sunday’s race (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Here is a look at the drivers who are hot and who are not (courtesy of Racing Insights) heading into the 23rd race of the season.

WHO IS HOT

Kevin Harvick

  • Finished 10th at Watkins Glen (25th in Stage 1, 7th in Stage 2)
  • Won 6 of last 21 races
  • Won 10 stages in 2018 (had 6 in all of 2017)
  • Finished in Top 5 in 7 of last 9 races 
  • In 22 races in 2018, 18 finishes of 10th or better (including 6 wins) & 4 finishes of 19th or worse
  • Finished in Top 5 in 8 of last 11 Michigan races (2nd in June)

Chase Elliott

  • Won at Watkins Glen (18th in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 52 laps led)
  • Finished 7th or better in 3 straight races
  • Finished in Top 10 in 6 of last 9 races
  • Won a stage in 3 straight races
  • 3 stage wins in 2018 tied his season total for 2017
  • Top 10 in all five Michigan races, including three runner-up finishes
  • Michigan is 1 of 2 tracks where he’s never finished outside Top 10 (Atlanta)

Kyle Busch

  • Finished 3rd at Watkins Glen (14th in Stage 1, 2nd in Stage 2, 31 laps led); team did not get car full of fuel on lap 55 (came out first and had to pit for a second time), drove from 31st to third in the final stage
  • Won 6 of last 16 races
  • Finished in Top 5 in 9 of last 10 races
  • Won at Watkins Glen (18th in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 52 laps led)
  • Finished in the Top 10 in 10 of last 11 races
  • Finished in the Top 5 in 16 of 22 races this season

Daniel Suarez

  • Finished 4th at Watkins Glen (28th in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2)
  • Finished top 5 in the last two races of 2018
  • Has not finished better than 24th in three career starts at Michigan

Erik Jones

  • Finished 5th at Watkins Glen (22nd in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2); ran out of fuel on last lap while 3rd
  • Finished 5th in 2 straight races and top 10 in six of the last seven in 2018
  • Finished 13th or worse in 2 of 3 career starts at Michigan (15th in June)

William Byron

  • Finished 8th at Watkins Glen (3rd in Stage 1, 12th in Stage 2)
  • Three top 10s in 2018, two have come in the last two races
  • Back-to-back top 10s for first time in career

Kurt Busch

  • Finished 9th at Watkins Glen (30th in Stage 1, 32nd in Stage 2); started 36th after failing post-qualifying inspection; had flat RR tire under caution on lap 54
  • Finished top 10 in the last four races of 2018

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Finished 2nd at Watkins Glen (1st in Stage 1, 5th in Stage 2, 4 laps led); ran out of fuel on last lap
  • Finished top 5 in 6 of last 7 races
  • Won 3 of last 9 races
  • Finished in the top 5 in 10 of last 12 races
  • Finished 6th or better in 4 of last 7 Michigan races (18th in June)

WHO IS NOT HOT

  • Finished 17th at Watkins Glen (5th in Stage 1, 15th in Stage 2)
  • Finished 17th or worse in 3 straight races and 4 of last 5
  • Finished 16th or worse in 2 of last 3 Michigan races, but top 10 in 7 of last 9 (6th in June)
  • Started 1st, 1st in Stage 1, 2nd in Stage 2, 105 laps led, finished 17th in this race one year ago
  • Finished 9th or better in 11 of last 13 races on 2.0-mile tracks

Austin Dillon

  • Finished 27th at Watkins Glen (11th in Stage 1, 23rd in Stage 2); ran off track in turn 6 on lap 84 while running 25th
  • Finished 13th or worse in 4 straight races
  • Finished 12th or worse in 16 of last 17 races
  • Finished outside Top 10 in 19 of 21 races since Daytona 500 win
  • Finished 14th or worse in 3 of last 4 Michigan races (14th in June)

Aric Almirola

  • Finished 22nd at Watkins Glen (32nd in Stage 1, 24th in Stage 2); spun in turn 7 and made contact with wall on lap 3 while running 7th after contact with #12
  • Finished 22nd or worse in last 2 races and 4 of last 6 (1 finish outside Top 20 in first 16 races of 2018)
  • Has dropped from 11th in Playoff standings in Chicagoland to now 14th in Playoff Standings following Watkins Glen
  • Has never finished in the top 10 in 12 Michigan races

Denny Hamlin

  • Finished 13th at Watkins Glen (17th in Stage 1, 3rd in Stage 2, 2 laps led); penalized for removing equipment from pit box on lap 55 (air gun got wrapped around LR tire and pulled out of box)
  • Finished 13th or worse in 4 of last 5 races
  • Finished 12th or worse in 6 of last 9 races
  • Finished 12th or worse in the last two Michigan races, but top-1o in 4 of last 8 (12th in June)
  • Finished 12th at Watkins Glen (26th in Stage 1, 9th in Stage 2)
  • Finished 12th in last 2 races
  • Top-10 in two of the last four races of 2018
  • Finished top-10 in 2 of last 4 Michigan races, but 15th or worse in 5 of 7 career starts at Michigan (8th in June)