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Kurt Busch wins pole at Talladega, Stewart-Haas sweeps first two rows

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Stewart-Haas Racing swept the top four positions in qualification with Kurt Busch winning the pole for the 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway with a speed of 195.804 mph. This is Busch’s first restrictor plate pole.

He beat teammate Clint Bowyer (195.301 mph) by .126 seconds with Kevin Harvick (195.186) and Aric Almirola (194.571) rounding out the top four.

Starting spots are unofficial until after post-qualification inspection.

Hendrick Motorsports took the next four positions. Chase Elliott (194.394), Jimmie Johnson (194.172), Alex Bowman (193.768) and William Byron (193.768) qualified fifth through eighth.

HMS was the last team to sweep the top four positions before today’s qualification session. In April 2011 at Talladega, Jeff Gordon won the pole with Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. lined up behind him.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch (193.693) in ninth and Denny Hamlin (193.380) in 10th round out the top 10.

Playoff contender Martin Truex Jr. (192.928) qualified 11th.

Team Penske has six Talladega wins in the last eight races but failed to advance any car into the final round of qualification. Brad Keselowski (191.900), Ryan Blaney (191.731) and Joey Logano (191.386) will line up 18th through 20th.

Kyle Larson (188.731) was the slowest among the playoff contenders in 34th.

David Starr failed to qualify.

Click here for qualifying results

Leavine Family Racing signs Matt DiBenedetto, joins Toyota for 2019

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Leavine Family Racing announced that it will field Toyotas and has hired Matt DiBenedetto for next season.

DiBenedetto will not join the team early. Car owner Bob Leavine said that Regan Smith will finish the season in the No. 95.

“There is no rush to get him in there,” Leavine said of DiBenedetto, noting his confidence in the driver and also allowing DiBenedetto finish the season with Go Fas Racing.

Levine said the team signed DiBendetto to a 2-year deal. Levine said the team’s deal with Toyota is “the same with JGR …  two years with a third-year option. Hopefully, a long time but that is what it is on paper.”

Leavine said the crew chief, engineer and car chief positions have yet to be determined.

As part of the partnership, Joe Gibbs Racing will be aligned with Leavine Family Racing. JGR will provide cars to the team. As part of its current deal with Furniture Row Racing, JGR provides the chassis but Furniture Row Racing hangs its own bodies. JGR also will provide the pit crew for Leavine Family Racing, same as Joe Gibbs Racing has done for Furniture Row Racing. Toyota Racing Development will provide engines and technology to the team.

“Our vision is to get better from where they are today,” said David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development.

Car owner Bob Leavine and Matt DiBenedetto at the announcement that Leavine Family Racing will drive for the team in 2019. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Leavine Family Racing debuted in 2011, running four races with David Starr. The team never ran more than about half a season until 2016 when it switched from Ford to Chevrolet and ran a full season with Michael McDowell and Ty Dillon splitting duties.

The move to Toyota means the organization will have been with all three Cup manufacturers within a decade.

Leavine Family Racing replaces Furniture Row Racing in the Toyota camp beginning next season. Furniture Row Racing will cease operations after this season.

Furniture Row Racing had won two races before joining Toyota and being aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2016. The organization has since won 16 races (15.7 percent of all the races run in that time) and a championship with Martin Truex Jr. He is among the 12 drivers racing for a championship this season.

Leavine Family Racing has never won a Cup race. The team has had Kasey Kahne and Regan Smith driver for it this season and is 25th in the owner standings.

DiBenedetto moves to the best ride he’s had in Cup. The 27-year-old is in his fourth season in Cup. He is 30th in the points, which would be his best career finish.

He drove for BK Racing in 2015-16 before moving to Go Fas Racing in 2017. He announced in September that he would not return to Go Fas Racing after this season.

DiBenedetto made his Xfinity debut in 2009 at age 17 at Memphis for Joe Gibbs Racing. DiBenedetto drove six Xfinity races for the team in 2010. He ran in the K&N East Pro Series in 2011 before returning to Xfinity in 2012 to start and park seven races. He made six Xfinity starts in 2013 and never finished any of those races. In 2014, he ran 29 Xfinity races, starting and parking in more than a third of those starts.

NASCAR docks seven Cup cars practice time at Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS – Martin Truex Jr. and Daniel Suarez will be penalized 30 minutes each in the first practice Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for inspection issues last weekend at Indianapolis. They are among seven Cup cars that will be penalized.

Truex and Suarez are being docked practice time for failing pre-race inspection three or more times at Indy.

The cars of Austin Dillon and Reed Sorenson will miss 15 minutes each in the first practice for failing pre-race inspection. Dillon’s team failed it at Darlington and Sorenson’s team at Bristol.

Also missing 15 minutes of the first practice is Kyle Larson (late to inspection), B.J. McLeod (late to inspection) and Ross Chastain (missing the rookie meeting).

Opening Cup practice is from 2:05 – 2:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

In the Xfinity Series, two cars will be docked 30 minutes of practice in the first session and 10 cars will be docked 15 minutes each of the opening practice.

Penalized 30 minutes will be the teams of Brandon Jones and Spencer Gallagher for failing pre-race inspection three or more times.

Missing 15 minutes of Xfinity practice will be the teams of Matt Tifft, Justin Allgaier, Max Tullman, Joey Gase and David Starr for being late to inspection.

Missing 15 minutes of Xfinity practice for failing inspection twice are the teams of Ryan Truex, Ryan Preece, Austin Cindric and Ross Chastain.

Missing 15 minutes of Xfinity practice for inspection interference after a race is the team of Cole Custer.

Xfinity practice is from 3:05 – 3:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

NASCAR suspends two Xfinity crew chiefs for New Hampshire violations

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NASCAR suspended the crew chiefs for Ryan Preece and John Hunter Nemechek for the next three Xfinity races after both their cars failed inspection after last weekend’s New Hampshire race.

NASCAR announced Tuesday that it also had fined crew chiefs Eric Phillips (Preece) and Mike Shiplett (Nemechek) $10,000 each. NASCAR penalized both drivers 10 points and docked the teams 10 owner points each. Their finishes will not count if needed in any tiebreaker. Preece placed third, and Nemechek was fourth at New Hampshire.

Both teams were penalized for failing post-race height requirements. It is an L1 infraction.

Joe Gibbs Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing both stated that they would not appeal the penalties.

NASCAR also fined Timothy Brown, the crew chief for David Starr, $5,000 for having one lug nut not safe and secure after the race.

In Cup, NASCAR fined Darian Grubb, crew chief for William Byron, $10,000 for one lug nut not safe and secure on Byron’s car after the race.

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Seven Cup cars to be penalized practice time at New Hampshire

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LOUDON, N.H. – Seven Cup cars will be docked practice time Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for inspection issues last weekend at Kentucky Speedway. Six Xfinity cars also will be penalized practice time.

In Cup, the teams of Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Weatherman, BJ McLeod and Blake Jones will be docked 15 minutes of opening practice for being late to pre-qualifying/race inspection last weekend at Kentucky.

The teams of Daniel Suarez and AJ Allmendinger will miss 15 minutes of the opening practice for failing inspection before last weekend’s race twice.

Opening Cup practice is from noon – 12:50 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Denny Hamlin‘s team will be penalized 15 minutes of final practice on Saturday for failing inspection before last weekend’s qualifying at Kentucky twice.

In Xfinity, the teams of Josh Bilicki and David Starr will be held 15 minutes in opening practice for being out of the garage late. The teams of Ty Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Brandon Hightower and Austin Cindric will be penalized 15 minutes for failing inspection twice last weekend at Kentucky. Opening Xfinity practice is from 1:05 – 1:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN.