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Justin Haley fastest in final Xfinity practice in Las Vegas

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Justin Haley led a 1-2 sweep by Kaulig Racing of the top spots in Friday’s final Xfinity practice session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Haley posted a top speed of 180.307 mph around the 1.5-mile track. He was followed by Austin Dillon, who posted a speed of 178.194 mph in the No. 10 Chevrolet.

The top five was completed by Kyle Busch (177.977 mph), Christopher Bell (177.930) and Tyler Reddick (177.778).

Busch, who had the best 10-lap average at 176.792 mph, scrapped the outside wall in Turn 2 early in the 50-minute session but won’t have to go to a backup car.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

In a session that was heavily impacted by 23 cars incurring pre-practice inspection penalties, Justin Allgaier was fastest in Friday’s first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series practices at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Allgaier covered the 1.5-mile track at a speed of 178.737 mph and was followed by Busch (178.642 mph), Reddick (178.642), Haley (178.625) and Cole Custer (178.536).

Sixth through 10th were Dillon (178.394), Bell (177.819), Austin Cindric (177.427), Noah Gragson (177.282) and Zane Smith (177.264 mph), who is making his Xfinity Series debut this weekend.

Those drivers penalized due to inspection issues and the amount of practice time they lost due to the penalty were:

Late to inspection (15 minutes): Jeremy Clements, Cole Custer, Mike Harmon, John Jackson

Two-time failures (15 minutes): Jeff Green, Garrett Smithley, Justin Haley, Tyler Reddick, Brandon Jones, John Hunter Nemechek, Christopher Bell, Stephen Leicht, Chase Briscoe, Josh Williams, Vinnie Miller, Kyle Busch, Matt Mills, Timmy Hill

Late to inspection and two-time failures (30 minutes): Ryan Sieg, BJ McLeod, Ja Junior Avila, Cody Ware

Three-time failures (30 minutes): Joey Gase

Click here for the full practice speed list.

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New NASCAR Cup team owners invest in minor league hockey team

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You might say that the newest NASCAR Cup team owner is now in a Rush.

Spire Sports + Entertainment, which recently purchased the Cup charter of former NASCAR championship team Furniture Row Racing, has branched out, taking a minority ownership share in the Rapid City (South Dakota) Rush of the 27-team East Coast Hockey League.

Spire co-founders Jeff Dickerson and T.J. Puchyr will become active minority partners in the Rush, hoping to bring the team back to past prominence.

“We aren’t going to be saviors here,” Spire co-founder Jeff Dickerson said in a press conference at the team’s Rushmore Plaza Civic Center home. “There’s no magic bullet. It’s going to take all of us to create the culture that builds excitement and value. The city loves the Rush and we hope to get it back to where it was.”

Rush majority owner, Rapid City businessman Scott Mueller, sees better days ahead for his club.

“The biggest thing is (Spire’s) sports industry knowledge,” Mueller said, according to the Rapid City Journal. “It’s about putting people in seats, selling advertising and they have a lot of knowledge on that. (Dickerson) sees so many venues, and I think he’s going to be involved in changes that are needed.

“We’ve taken some steps in the last few months. These are great days for us, and we’re really excited about our future.”

The Rush is mired in sixth place in the ECHL’s seven-team Mountain Division.

In addition to purchasing Furniture Row Racing’s charter, Spire represents several race car drivers including NASCAR’s Kyle Larson, Landon Cassill, Ross Chastain, Justin Haley, Todd Gilliland, Garrett Smithley and Vinnie Miller and IndyCar’s James Hinchcliffe.

Spire isn’t the only NASCAR Cup team owner involved in other sports. Roush Fenway Racing’s co-owner John Henry owns Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox and the Liverpool Football Club of soccer’s Premier League, while Chip Ganassi previously was a minority owner in MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates. Felix Sabates, who also holds a minority ownership stake in Chip Ganassi Racing, is also a minority owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

“We have been looking for several years to find something in minor league sports and see if what we do in motorsports translates to this space,” Puchyr said, according to The Journal. “Our due diligence indicates that it does.”

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Tommy Joe Martins returns to BJ McLeod Motorsports for 2019 Xfinity season

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B.J. McLeod Motorsports on Thursday announced that Tommy Joe Martins will return to the Xfinity Series team for a third season.

Martins joined the team in 2017. In 28 starts, his best finish with the team has been 11th at Iowa (in 2017).

“It is with great enthusiasm to have Tommy Joe Martins back with the team,” team co-owner Jessica McLeod said in a media release. “Martins has played a great part in helping us improve our on-track performance over the last two years and we are looking forward to what’s to come.”

The team, which recently moved into a new shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, will field three full-time cars in the Xfinity Series in 2019, its fourth year of operation.

Its two full-time drivers will be Vinnie Miller in the No. 78 and Matt Mills in the No. 8, while Martins will be part of a rotating cast of drivers in the No. 99 that will also include team co-owner B.J. McLeod, J.A. Avila Jr., and other drivers that may be added.

Click here to read the full press release.

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New owners purchase Furniture Row Racing’s charter

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Spire Sports + Entertainment, an agency that represents drivers and sponsors and works with some NASCAR teams, has purchased Furniture Row Racing’s charter, NBC Sports confirmed Tuesday.

The new team’s car number will be 77. The team will field Chevrolets. Driver, sponsor and an alliance will be announced at a later date.

The team will be co-owned by Jeff Dickerson and T.J. Puchyr, among the founders of Spire.

“We think this is the perfect time to buy in,” Dickerson told NBC Sports about why the company was moving into the role of a car owner and purchasing a charter. “Our guys sit in board rooms and tell people how much they believe in the sport. We believe in this sport. We believe in the leadership.”

The Furniture Row Racing charter is the most valuable charter to be sold. Part of the money paid to teams with charters is based off performance the past three years. With a championship and runner-up finish the past two years, the Furniture Row Racing charter will provide more money than any of the previous charters that have been sold. Furniture Row Racing ceased operations after this season.

A NASCAR spokesperson said that the sanctioning body does not reveal the price of charters but NBC Sports has learned that this is the most paid for a charter. The only charter price that has been revealed came from the sale of BK Racing’s charter through bankruptcy court in August. Front Row Motorsports purchased that charter and team equipment for $2.08 million.

There are 36 charters in Cup. A charter team is guaranteed a starting spot each race. To maintain the charter, a team must compete in every race.

This will be the first time for Dickerson and Puchyr to be Cup car owners. They can provide the new ownership that some have questioned for the sport as the current group of owners age.

Spire Sports + Entertainment was founded in 2010. Among the drivers the company represents are: Kyle Larson, James Hinchcliffe, Landon Cassill, Ross Chastain, Todd Gilliland, Justin Haley, Vinnie Miller and Garrett Smithley.

Spire Sports + Entertainment also provides services to Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, GMS Racing and Toyota Racing Development.

 

 

One Cup, six Xfinity teams docked practice time Friday

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Chase Elliott is the only Cup driver who will be penalized practice time Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, while six Xfinity teams, including one title contender will miss practice time.

Elliott will miss 15 minutes for being late to inspection last weekend at Phoenix. Cup practice is from 1 – 2:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Xfinity title contender Christopher Bell will miss 30 minutes of opening practice for failing inspection three times last week at Phoenix. The cars of Josh Bilicki and Chase Briscoe also will miss 30 minutes for the same infraction.

David Starr will be docked 15 minutes of practice for being late to inspection last week at Phoenix. The cars of Vinnie Miller and Stephen Leicht will miss 15 minutes for failing inspection twice.

Opening Xfinity practice is from 2:35 – 3:25 p.m. ET on NBCSN.