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NASCAR Xfinity practice report at Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. – Cole Custer posted the fastest lap in an abbreviated final Xfinity practice Friday at Richmond Raceway.

Teams were limited to seven minutes of practice because of morning rain.

Custer led the field with a lap of 119.798 mph. He was followed by Daniel Hemric (119.638 mph), Ross Chastain (118.707), Ryan Truex (118.593) and Shane Lee (118.535).

Hemric had the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 118.251 mph. He was followed by Chastain (117.867) and Justin Allgaier (117.828).

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for final Xfinity practice report

OPENING PRACTICE

Christopher Bell posted the fastest lap in Friday’s opening Xfinity practice at Richmond Raceway.

Bell led the way with a lap of 120.854 mph. He was followed by Cole Custer (120.681 mph), Brandon Jones (120.460), Ty Majeski (120.353) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (120.283).

Las Vegas winner Ross Chastain was 15th on the speed chart with a top lap of 119.053 mph. This is his final scheduled race in the No. 42 car.

Austin Cindric has the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 118.686 mph. He was followed by Matt Tifft (118.574 mph) and Elliott Sadler (118.198).

Cody Lane crashed late in the session. He spun off Turn 2 in front of Ross Chastain and hit the SAFER barrier. Chastain ducked underneath Lane’s car and avoided contact.

The Xfinity Series’ opening playoff race is at 7:30 p.m. ET today on NBCSN.

Click here for Xfinity practice report

Long: A decision where the head won out over the heart

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LAS VEGAS — Car owner Barney Visser stood outside the Furniture Row Racing hauler Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and chatted with team members, some he had not had the chance to talk to personally since announcing that the team would cease after this season.

It was his first time back at the track since the Sept. 4 announcement. He plans to be at many of the remaining nine races as Martin Truex Jr. seeks a second consecutive Cup championship.

Each week, though, brings Visser closer to the end of a remarkable run in NASCAR that saw his organization start as a part-time team in Denver, elevate to full-time status, score its first win in the Southern 500, align with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing, expand to a second car, win the Cup title, downsize to one car and seek to repeat as champion.

Visser admits it was a hard decision — and an easy decision — to not continue the team after this season.

“You got your soul and you got your heart and you got your mind,” Visser told NBC Sports. “Two of the three are hurting, and my mind is saying you got to do this.”

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The announcement in July by 5-hour Energy to leave the team and the sport after this season left Visser facing a gap of millions of dollars. With budgets already set for many companies, the likelihood of replacing 5-hour Energy’s millions with one company was slim. Visser would have to put more of his own money into the team if he wanted to continue. Then, he would need to renew deals with Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing and sign Truex to an extension. 

“The family, we had all sat down and decided together that there would be a limit on what we could put in any given year,” Visser said. “We were talking about that the last couple of years. This (gap) was so far off.”

Visser’s tale could prove cautionary for the sport. He was an outsider who came into NASCAR, built his team, won races and captured a championship. There are few such success stories in Cup in recent years.

It’s not that others don’t try but they don’t have the success for various reasons. Ron Devine and a group of investors started BK Racing in 2012, ran as many as three full-time teams, but never had the success, struggled to find sponsorship, fell behind in payments on loans and to the IRS, among others, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy before this year’s Daytona 500 and was sold for $2.08 million to Front Row Motorsports in August.

Visser, though, doesn’t think that his exit will mean the end of outsider owners coming into NASCAR. But change will need to take place, he admits.

“Hopefully they’re going to standardize the equipment more, and they’re going to find a way to maybe protect sponsors from leaving, from going with drivers and protect the teams, just some kind of standard contract, that would be good,” Visser said, although he admits such a contract “wouldn’t have saved us” with 5-hour Energy.

“There’s not going to be a shortage of drivers in this sport, there’s going to be a shortage of quality teams. We’ve got to get that figured out.”

Standing about 30 feet from Visser on Sunday was Gene Haas, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and also the owner of Haas F1.

He’s searching for a driver for the No. 41 car for next year and noted the importance of a driver bringing sponsorship.

Haas laments the decline in the number of teams.

“We used to have 40-50 cars showing up for some of these races and now you’re barley filling the field,” Haas told NBC Sports. “From an economic standpoint it’s not working. There’s not enough money for teams to do that.”


Can friendship carry over to the track? And should it?

The issue came up at the end of the first stage in Saturday’s Xfinity race.

Ryan Preece was two laps down after an early incident. Leader Ross Chastain, a teammate to Preece at JD Motorsports in 2016, slowed his Chip Ganassi Racing ride coming to the line to end the first stage. That allowed Preece to beat Chastain to the line and get a lap back.

“I was hoping,” Preece told NBC Sports that Chastain would allow him to get a lap back there. “That was something he didn’t have to do. I’m sure one day I’ll return the favor.”

Mike Shiplett, crew chief for Chastain, told his driver on the radio not to do that again.

He was already a couple of laps down and he was torn up,” Chastain said of letting Preece get a lap back. “I’ve been on the other side of that. I wish they would just give that little bit. I know Mike wasn’t happy, and I didn’t do it again.

“I ran as hard as I could to prove a point to him that I listened to him. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change it. I would do it again. It did let the second-place car close up to us for pit road, but our guys were so fast it didn’t matter.

“It didn’t matter if it was Preece or whoever. Those are the guys that I have raced with for years and I just wanted to be nice. Be nice every now and then. It’s not going to kill you. Just give a little bit.”

Preece got back on the lead lap less than 20 laps later when there was a caution and he got the free pass. He ended up having issues later in the race and never put himself in position to challenge for the win, but the move by Chastain to allow Preece to get a lap back could have backfired.

When he got the free pass later, I was like uh oh,” Chastain said. “I didn’t know if he was fast or what. If he comes back and beats me, I’m never going to live that down. It all worked out. I was just trying to be nice.”


When a car doesn’t have the speed to challenge the top cars, a team has to do other things to win.

Such is the case for Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 team, led by crew chief Paul Wolfe.

After each of Keselowski’s last three wins, Keselowski or Wolfe have talked about needing to find more speed. So, how have they won three races in a row?

It has helped that the Big 3 have had their issues in those races. Martin Truex Jr. was among the strongest at Darlington in the first half of the race before an uncontrolled tire put him a lap down and he didn’t get back on the lead lap until the end.

At Indy, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch had issues on pit road that kept them from leading much of the race.

At Las Vegas, Harvick crashed and Busch spun.

So in each of those races, Keselowski didn’t have to beat each of the Big 3 head-to-head on speed.

Still, Keselowski had to outrun others to win. He did it with restarts, short-run speed and pit stops.

At Las Vegas, Keselowski fended off the field on the final three restarts and was stronger on short runs than Truex, whose car was set for long runs there.

“Our car was very good on restarts, would run fast for a few laps,” Wolfe said. “I think our car had some good stability. That’s really what it comes down to those first couple laps when everyone is jammed up and you don’t have a lot of clean air is having a lot of security, and our car seemed to be able to fire off really well, and the pit crew was really flawless.”

Four times Keselowski was first off pit road, gaining positions, and a fifth time he entered pit road first and left first at Las Vegas.

At Indy, Wolfe’s pit strategy put Keselowski in position to win on a late restart because of fresher tires than Danny Hamlin.

At Darlington, Keselowski beat Kyle Larson off pit road for the lead on the final pit stop and shot out to the lead on the restart. Keselowski led the final 22 laps to win.

“We have not been the best car the last three weeks,” Keselowski said after his Las Vegas win. “This week we were probably a top‑three or ‑four car. I didn’t get to see (Kevin Harvick) before he had his issue, but I thought he was running pretty good. He was obviously in front of me at one point. And him and (Martin Truex Jr.) were very strong. 

“The 78 (Truex) was clearly the best car, and we put everything together when it counted, and kind of stole it today. Same scenario the last two weeks. 

“I thought (Larson) was the best car in Darlington, and we hit the strategy right and executed the last pit stop and that put us in position to win. 

“And in Indy, we were nowhere near probably even a top‑10 car. We were probably a 15th‑place car, and Paul Wolfe hit the strategy right, and I hit the restart right to make all the passes when it counted and won that race. With that in mind, no, I feel like we stole the last three races. We’re not complaining, but we still have a lot of work to do to go out there and win heads up without those issues.”


It has been a rough year for the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Xfinity team.

Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe and Ty Majeski have shared the ride throughout the season but last weekend’s race provided an all-too-familiar scene for that team — the car hitting the wall.

Briscoe’s crash at Las Vegas marked the 10th time in 26 races this season the No. 60 car has been eliminated by an accident.

The team has had only four top-10 finishes. Its best finish is seventh at Iowa with Ty Majeski.

Briscoe’s crash at Las Vegas was eerily reminiscent of Jeff Gordon‘s crash there in 2008 before a SAFER barrier was placed on the inside wall.

“I’m really disappointed right now in this speedway for not having a soft wall back there, and even being able to get to that part of the wall,” Gordon said after the crash. “That kind of hit shouldn’t happen. It’s just uncalled for. There’s no reason why any track should have that (kind of opening).”

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Results, point standings after Xfinity regular-season finale

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Ross Chastain survived three restarts inside the final 20 laps to score his first Xfinity Series win Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Chastain led 180 of 200 laps on the way to winning the DC Solar 300.

He beat Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer, Christopher Bell and Elliott Sadler.

Click here for results.

Points

Saturday’s race marked the regular-season finale and finalized the 12-driver playoff field.

Allgaier secured the regular-season title and 15 bonus playoff points.

The top five through 25 races is Allgaier, Custer (-44 points), Bell (-48), Sadler (-69) and Hemric (-78).

The remaining seven drivers who will compete in the playoffs are Brandon Jones, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Truex, Matt Tifft, Chastain, Austin Cindric and Ryan Reed.

Click here for the point standings.

Cole Custer wins Las Vegas Xfinity pole

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Cole Custer will starts first in the Xfinity Series’ regular-season finale Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Custer qualified first for the DC Solar 300 with a speed of 179.295 mph. It is his series-leading fifth pole of the year.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is followed by Austin Cindric (177.866 mph), Elliott Sadler (177.825), Christopher Bell (177.708) and Ross Chastain (177.317).

With Custer and Cindric both 20, they make up the youngest front row for a Las Vegas Xfinity race.

Custer earned the pole after he took the green flag with roughly 40 seconds left in the first round after narrowly making it through inspection

“That was the craziest qualifying session I’ve ever been a part of,” Custer told NBCSN.

Five drivers – Daniel Hemric, Ryan Preece, Brandon Jones, Ryan Truex and Matt Tifft – did not make a qualifying attempt after they failed to get through inspection in time. They will start from the rear.

Jones’ car failed inspection three times. His car chief, Joey Elliott, was ejected from the event.

Tifft’s car failed four times. His car chief, Cam Strader, was ejected. Tifft will have to serve a pass-through penalty to star the race. It also will result in a 10-point penalty in driver and owner points.

Both drivers will serve a 30-minute practice hold next week at Richmond.

Garrett Smithley will go to a backup car after he suffered a hard wreck in Turn 4 with about five minutes left in the first round. He was able to exit the car.

Shane Lee qualified a career-best sixth. Ryan Sieg qualified a season-best 10th.

Click here for the results.

 

 

Today’s Xfinity race at Las Vegas: Start time, lineup and more

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The Xfinity regular season comes to an end today in the inaugural DC Solar 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Ryan Reed, Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric hold the final three playoff spots entering this race.

Here is all the info for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: Jeff Carpoff, president and CEO of DC Solar, will give the command to start engines at 5:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 5:16 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 10:30 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 3:15 p.m. Driver introductions are at 4:30 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Victoria La Mala will perform the anthem at 5:01 p.m.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will broadcast the race beginning at 5 p.m. Coverage begins with Countdown to Green at 4:30 p.m. on NBCSN. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 4:30 p.m. and can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for sunny skies with a high of 100 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

QUALIFYING: Daniel Hemric, Ryan Preece, Brandon Jones, Ryan Truex and Matt Tifft will start from the rear after failing to pass inspection in time to make a qualifying attempt.

LAST TIME: Kyle Larson won at this track in March. Christopher Bell was second and Justin Allgaier was third. 

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.