John Hunter Nemechek

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Xfinity Series practice report from Charlotte Motor Speedway

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CONCORD, N.C – Tyler Reddick swept both Xfinity Series practice sessions Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In the final session he posted a top speed of 180.536 mph around the 1.5-mile track.

He was followed by Christopher Bell (179.946 mph), Justin Haley (179.485), Cole Custer (178.571) and Austin Dillon (178.130).

Chase Briscoe recored the most laps in the session with 58. He was eighth on the speed chart.

Click here for the speed chart.

First practice

Reddick posted a top speed of 180 mph in the first practice session.

He was followed by Custer (179.509 mph), Austin Cindric (179.093), Dillon (178.613) and John Hunter Nemechek (178.283).

Ross Chastain was sixth on the speed chart (178.083).

Rookie Justin Haley was seventh and recorded the most laps in the session with 26.

Mason Diaz slid and hit the inside wall during the session.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

Christopher Bell takes third Xfinity win of season at Dover

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Christopher Bell rallied in the second half to win his second straight race at Dover International Speedway, the third win of this season and the 11th of his Xfinity Series career in Saturday’s Allied Steel Buildings 200.

In addition to the win, Bell also earned a cool $100,000 as the highest finishing Xfinity Dash 4 Cash driver, out-dueling Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe and Gray Gaulding.

Bell led 44 of the race’s 200 laps around the 1-mile concrete oval. Justin Allgaier finished second, followed by Reddick, Cole Custer and Briscoe.

“Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had really fast race cars but just weren’t able to capitalize on it,” Bell told Fox Sports 1. “This one is really out to my pit crew. They did a great job to get me out first to control the restarts. I knew once we got to the front, we were going to be tough to beat.

“This is one of my favorite tracks because you can move around, kind of find different lines and get going.”

Click here for full results.

Click here for the updated Xfinity Series point standings.

Custer led a race-high 156 laps but fell back in the latter quarter of the race as Bell would not be denied.

“It’s really frustrating when you lead that many laps,” Custer told FS1. “You just can’t give up your track position here. Everybody wants to win here at Dover, that’s why it’s so frustrating.

“It’s about the hardest track to pass at that we go to. We just couldn’t get it all back. We were so good and feel like we didn’t take advantage of a great car today. It’s good we had so much speed to compete with those guys, but we need to figure out a way of beating them every weekend.”

Finishing sixth through 10th were Austin Cindric, Brandon Jones, John Hunter Nemechek, Zane Smith and Michael Annett.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Cole Custer (led all 45 laps)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer (led all 45 laps)

NOTABLE: Saturday was the final of the four Dash 4 Cash races. It’s also the second time Bell has won the $100,000 top prize this year in those four races.

WHAT’S NEXT: Alsco 300, May 25, Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric are fastest in two Xfinity practices at Dover

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Austin Cindric was fastest in Friday’s second and final Xfinity Series practice at Dover International Speedway.

Cindric was one of only two Ford-powered drivers in the top seven, with a best speed 152.749 mph, tops among the 33 cars that took to the track for the session. However, Cindric’s speed was more than 3 mph slower than Tyler Reddick‘s field-leading speed in the first practice session earlier in the day.

Riley Herbst was second fastest (152.698 mph), followed by Justin Haley (152.659 mph), Tyler Reddick (152.297 mph), who was fastest in the first practice earlier in the day, and Zane Smith (152.233 mph).

Sixth through 10th were Cole Custer (152.033 mph), Noah Gragson (151.515), Justin Allgaier (151.496), John Hunter Nemechek (151.330) and Brandon Brown (151.286).

Qualifying takes place Saturday, prior to the Allied Steel Buildings 200 Xfinity Series race.

Click here for the full speed chart.

FIRST PRACTICE SESSION:

Tyler Reddick was fastest in the first of Friday’s two Xfinity Series practices at Dover International Speedway.

Reddick, in a Chevrolet, was the only driver over 155 mph, covering the one-mile concrete oval at 155.918 mph, hitting that speed in the closing minutes of the session.

Cole Custer and his Ford were second fastest (154.579 mph), followed by Kaz Grala’s Chevrolet (154.540 mph), Zane Smith’s Chevy (154.222) and Austin Cindric’s Ford (153.899 mph)

Sixth through 10th were Justin Allgaier (153.715 mph), Chase Briscoe (153.636), Christopher Bell (153.309), Michael Annett (152.834) and Noah Gragson (152.672).

A total of 33 drivers took to the track. A 34th driver, Tommy Joe Martins, did not record a speed.

Click here for the speed chart from Friday’s first practice.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Friday 5: Is time running out for Cup playoff hopefuls?

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While the Cup playoff field won’t be set for another four months, there is a shrinking window for those not already in the top 16 in points as the series heads this weekend to Dover International Speedway.

Since 2017 — when stage racing and stage points were added — 84.3 percent of the drivers who were in a playoff spot after 10 races made the playoffs that year.

Take out those who already had wins to be playoff eligible at this point in the season and 81.8 percent of the remaining drivers in a playoff spot after 10 races made it to NASCAR’s postseason the previous two years.

That’s good news for the drivers in the top 16 in points now. Last weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway was the 10th of the Cup season.

What’s also telling is that 13 of last year’s 16 playoff drivers are in the top 16 at this point in the season. That’s despite rule changes intended to make the racing tighter and possibly give more drivers chances for better finishes or wins.

The three drivers in a playoff spot this year who were not in that position at this time last year are Chase Elliott (seventh in points this season), Daniel Suarez (12th) and Austin Dillon (14th). They replace Kyle Larson, Erik Jones and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who were all in a playoff spot at this time last year.

So far, those who have earned a playoff spot with a win this season (provided they start every race) are Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Elliott.

With NASCAR’s system of win and you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen. A fuel-mileage race can create a surprise winner or a pit gamble can help someone score an unexpected victory. Maybe a rain-shortened race leads to a new winner.

But it doesn’t always work that way. Last season, no driver outside a playoff spot won any of the final 16 regular-season races.

In 2017, two drivers outside playoff spots won in the final 16 regular-season races to make the postseason. Dillon was 22nd in points entering the Coca-Cola 600 and won that race on a fuel-mileage gamble. Kasey Kahne was 22nd in points later that season entering the Brickyard 400. He won that race in the second overtime.

The question becomes how much will those not in a playoff spot now gamble to score a win and secure a spot instead of having to rely on points to make it? This will be worth watching in the coming weeks.

2. A year later

Talladega winner Chase Elliott has made the biggest jump in the standings compared to where he was after 10 races last year.

A year ago, Elliott was 18th. He is seventh this year, moving up 11 spots. Other big gainers among the top 30 from last year are: Daniel Suarez (up nine spots to 12th this year), Ty Dillon (up five spots to 22nd), Denny Hamlin (up four spots to third) and Austin Dillon (up three spots to 14th).

Those who have fallen the most this year from this point last season: Kyle Larson (dropped 11 spots to 21st), Clint Bowyer (down six spots to 10th this year), Bubba Wallace (down six spots to 28th this year), Erik Jones (down five spots to 18th this season) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (down five spots to 20th this season).

3. Familiar ground

It has been nearly two years since Jimmie Johnson last won a Cup race, but he’s back this weekend at Dover International Speedway, the site of his most recent victory.

Jimmie Johnson winning at Dover in 2017. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Johnson won his 83rd career Cup race June 4, 2017, at Dover to tie him with Cale Yarborough for sixth on the career victory list. That win was Johnson’s 11th at Dover, most of any driver.

In the 69 races since, Johnson has four top-five finishes and 21 top-10 finishes. He’s led 149 laps during that time. His best finish since that last win is third. He placed third at the fall Dover race in 2017 and third at the spring Bristol race last year. His best finish this season is fifth at Texas. He has four top-10 finishes in the first 10 races of this year.

“The first couple of downforce races we were not where we needed to be,” Johnson said of this season. “I think we’ve kind of rallied back and put some speed in our cars and are going the right way. Based on performance, I would say we are at a ‘C’ but I know the distance we’ve made up here recently.

“If there’s an effort score, I want to score my team really high because we’re working really hard to get there. But at the end of the day, the results are results and we know we’ve got to get better. I feel like we’re headed into ‘B’ territory right now.”

4. Tight rookie battle 

In the Xfinity Series, the rookie race features a tie for first. John Hunter Nemechek and Chase Briscoe are tied for first with 295 points each. Noah Gragson is third with 284 points. Justin Haley is next with 273 points. Brandon Brown completes the top five with 180 points.

5. All for some popcorn?

According to LehighValleyLive.com, two eighth graders have been accused of arson after lighting an abandoned building at Nazareth Speedway on fire last weekend.

Nazareth Speedway hosted what is now the Xfinity Series from 1988-2004 but has sat abandoned since. Martin Truex Jr. won the last NASCAR race there.

Police said that the boys, one age 14 and the other 15, showed up on Snapchat recorded by one of the boys at the scene as the fire burned. According to police, the story says that before the fire, one of the boys stole lighter fluid, a lighter and Jiffy Pop popcorn from a nearby supermarket. According to police, the boys attempted to heat the Jiffy Pop from the fire.

 and on Facebook

Michael Annett wins Xfinity pole at Talladega

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Michael Annett, the winner of the season opener at Daytona, claimed the pole for today’s Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He earned the pole with a top speed of 189.264 mph. It the first career pole for Annett in 238 Xfinity starts.

“We got Brenda Jackson riding with us, that’s worth 10 horsepower, right?” Annett told Fox Sports 1. “She’s gonna watch over us all day, all four cars.”

Jackson, the mother of JR Motorsport’ co-owners Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt Miller, passed away earlier this week from cancer.

The top five is completed by Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, Ryan Sieg and Justin Haley.

The top 10 is rounded by Brett Moffitt, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Gray Gaulding, Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell.

Brandon Jones (13th), Noah Gragson (14th), John Hunter Nemechek (15th) and Austin Cindric (17th) were among those who did not advance to the final round.

Green flag for the MoneyLion 300 will start at 1:19 p.m. ET on FS1.

Click here for qualifying results.